day 8: arms race, a broken France friendship,
NATO, and the State Dept.
by New York Times:
Just a week after President Bashar al-Assad of Syria assured a top State Department official that his government was not sending sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, the Obama administration lodged a confidential protest accusing Syria of doing precisely what it had denied doing.
“In our meetings last week it was stated that Syria is not transferring any ‘new’ missiles to Lebanese Hizballah,” noted a cable sent by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in February, using an alternative spelling for the militant group. “We are aware, however, of current Syrian efforts to supply Hizballah with ballistic missiles. I must stress that this activity is of deep concern to my government, and we strongly caution you against such a serious escalation.”
The Syrian episode offers a glimpse of the United States’ efforts to prevent buildups of arms — including Scud missiles, Soviet-era tanks and antiaircraft weapons — in some of the world’s tensest regions. Wielding surveillance photos and sales contracts, American diplomats have confronted foreign governments about shadowy front companies, secretive banks and shippers around the globe.
American officials have tried to block a Serbian black marketer from selling sniper rifles to Yemen. They have sought to disrupt the sale of Chinese missile technology to Pakistan, the cables show, and questioned Indian officials about chemical industry exports that could be used to make poison gas.
The United States is the world’s largest arms supplier, and with Russia, dominates trade in the developing world. Its role as a purveyor of weapons to certain allies — including Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states — has drawn criticism that it has fueled an arms race. But it has also taken on a leading role as traffic cop in trying to halt deliveries of advanced weapons and other arms to militants and adversaries.
Egyptian officials, who view Iran with deep wariness, privately issued a threat. Omar Suleiman, the chief of Egypt’s intelligence service, told Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Iran not only was providing $25 million a month to support Hamas but also was linked to a Hezbollah cell trying to smuggle arms from Gaza into Egypt, according to an April 2009 cable.
North Korea has abetted the arms race in the Middle East by providing missile technology to Iran and Syria, which then backed Hamas and Hezbollah, according to American intelligence officials and a cable from Mrs. Clinton. The cables tell something of an international detective story: how North Korea’s arms industry has conducted many of its transactions through the Korea Mining Development Corporation, relied on suppliers of machinery and steel from countries including Switzerland, Japan, China and Taiwan, passed money through Chinese and Hong Kong banks and sold weapons to other countries.
According to cables, Syrian leaders appeared to believe that the weapons shipments increased their political leverage with the Israelis. But they made Lebanon even more of a tinderbox and increased the prospect that a future conflict might include Syria.
A major worry was that Syria or Iran had provided Hezbollah with Fatah-110 missiles, with the range to strike Tel Aviv. Israeli officials told American officials in November 2009 that if war broke out, they assumed that Hezbollah would try to launch 400 to 600 rockets at day and sustain the attacks for at least 12 months, the cables note.
A cable noted that the Americans received intelligence reports that the Syrians were about to provide Hezbollah with Scud-D missiles, which are based on North Korean technology. (Some recent intelligence reports conclude that the group has about 10 such missiles stored in a Syrian warehouse, according to American officials. The Defense Intelligence Agency believes that two have probably been moved to Lebanon, according to the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.)
In a classified cable in February, Secretary Clinton directed the embassy to deliver a warning to Faisal al-Miqdad, the deputy foreign minister. “I know you are a strategic thinker, which is why I want to underscore for you that, from our perspective, your operational support for Hezbollah is a strategic miscalculation that is damaging your long-term national interests.”
When fighting broke out between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, a shudder passed through the former Soviet Baltic republics. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had painful memories of Soviet occupation and feared that a resurgent Russia might come after them next. They began lobbying NATO, which they had joined in 2004, for a formal defense plan.
But the request was a delicate one for NATO, an alliance obligated by treaty to respond to an attack on one member as an attack on all. NATO leaders had repeatedly declared that post-Soviet Russia was not a threat, and the incoming Obama administration wanted to pursue what it called a “reset” of relations with Russia.
The cable added that “so far, the U.S. willingness to take a tough line in opposition to Russian actions and in support of Georgia has been well received here, but some key figures are asking if the west is fully prepared to deal with a resurgent Russia.”
The embassy reported that Latvians were gathering for candlelight vigils outside the Georgian Embassy, Georgian flags were on display around Riga, and sales of Georgian wine and mineral water were up.
With significant ethnic Russian minorities, all three Baltic states were alarmed by Russia’s public explanation that it had gone into Georgia to protect the rights of Russian citizens there. Some Latvian leaders said they needed to do more to integrate ethnic Russians into the local culture. Wealthy Latvian businessmen, worried about endangering lucrative deals with Russia, appealed for moderation in the criticism of their giant neighbor.
Now, Germany proposed expanding the Poland defense plan to the Baltic states, and NATO planners began their work. The Latvians expressed “profound happiness” at the decision, and an Estonian official called it an “early Christmas present,” according to two cables. But American officials urged Baltic officials to keep such talk secret.’
In January, with the plan approved, a cable signed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advised NATO members to stonewall press inquiries about the details of Baltic defense.
After France, one of America’s closest allies, announced in February that it hoped to sell a Mistral — a ship that carries helicopters and can conduct amphibious assaults — to Russia, with the option to sell several more, American officials soon raised objections.
The proposed transaction would be the largest sale by a Western country to Russia since the end of World War II. The commander of the Russian Navy has said that if his Black Sea fleet had had such a ship during the 2008 war with Georgia, it would have been able to carry out its operations in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours.
Eastern European NATO members, including Lithuania and Estonia, protested the deal, according to a cable by Ivo H. Daalder, the United States ambassador to NATO. The United States opposed it as well. In a November 2009 cable titled “Mistral Sale Could Destabilize Black Sea,” John R. Bass, the American ambassador to Georgia, recommended that the Obama administration discourage the sale or at least seek a stipulation that the Russians should not deploy the vessel in the Black Sea.
Hervé Morin, France’s defense minister at the time, defended the sale in a February meeting with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, arguing that that a single ship would not change the military balance and that the sale was a “way to send a message of partnership to Russia at a critical time.”
But Mr. Gates argued that the sale would send the wrong message to Russia given France’s role in brokering a cease-fire in Georgia, “which Russia was not fully honoring.” The Russians say that they intend to decide shortly between the French proposal and several other offers. A French shipbuilder said that if France won the contract, the first ship would be built in 2013.
by New York Times:
In Tunisia, a man was spotted sitting in a cafe, watching the road to the American ambassador’s residence, before driving away in a gray Volkswagen. In Nigeria, extremists, possibly including a “well-trained” operative just arrived from Chad, were believed to be “planning a massive terrorist attack.” And Persian-language computer hacking sites had posted dangerous “Trojan horse” programs, suggesting how Iranian agents might attack the United States.
Those were just three of dozens of threats reported in a single issue of a publication with a limited subscriber list: The Diplomatic Security Daily, a classified roundup of potential horrors facing American diplomats or citizens anywhere in the world. A look at one issue, from June 29, 2009, gives a feeling for the nerve-racking atmosphere in which State Department officers routinely operate.
One case involves intelligence reports that “militants attached to Pakistan’s Mumtaz Group” were scheming to kidnap Americans and Britons in Pakistan, conceivably in Peshawar’s University Town neighborhood.
The threatened kidnappings might be linked to another militant known as Imran, an Uzbek connected to a fatal attack on an American contractor in 2008. Someone named Imran had reportedly just been captured by Pakistani intelligence — but American intelligence could not be certain it was the same man, The Daily said in its frustratingly inconclusive report.
One striking aspect of the security warnings sent to embassies is how many involve cyber threats. The June 29, 2009, issue, in addition to mentioning the Persian hacker sites, discussed at length Chinese companies and government agencies specializing in computer security, implying that they might pose a hazard.
Such companies had “recruited Chinese hackers,” including Lin Yong, known as Lion, to support research projects on attacking computer networks, The Daily reported. There is a strong possibility that China “is harvesting the talents of its private sector in order to bolster offensive and defensive” cyberoperations, the report said.
Wow the State Dept. humans have a lot issues on their plate: from the arms race to the constant threats of possible terror attacks. I see why the U.S plays such a large role in other global affairs. Not taking the world leadership role could put Americans at risk at home. Countries likes Iran and terrorist organizations have stated that their mission is the destruction of the United States.
This is the constant state of the affairs of America.
It makes you wonder about the direction the world is heading towards when more and more crazy humans ascend to power.