What Was the CIA Doing in Benghazi? Other Mideast News

> Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2012 18:01:46 -0500 (EST)
> From: “Rachel Ehrenfeld, K.D.M. Jensen” > To: rich.kaplan@cox.net
> Subject: What Was the CIA Doing in Benghazi? Other Mideast News >
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> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ >
> EWI Digest Posting No. 312, November 4-5, 2012
>
> FEATURE:
>
> J. Millard Burr: You Can Kiss Petraeus Goodbye
>
> BENGHAZI:
>
> Robert Zarate, Steve Hayes, Washington Post Editorial Board, >
> Scott Shane, John O’Sullivan
>
> MIDDLE EAST:
>
> Qatari Plan to Unify Syrian Opposition,
>
> Islamic Courts in the Sinai,
>
> Did Israel and the U.S. Just Cooperate on a Dry Run for an Iran Intervention >
> (Jonathan Schanzer and Benny Avni)
>
> PLEASE NOTE: YOU CAN WATCH THE VIDEO OF EWI’S JULY 9 CAPITOL HILL BRIEFING ON ECONOMIC > THREATS AND WARFARE AT
>
> http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL80F8C53F783A1741&feature=plcp >
> To: Friends
>
> From: Ken Jensen, Rachel Ehrenfeld
>
>
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> FEATURE: J. Millard Burr: You Can Kiss Petraeus Goodbye http://EconWarfare.org [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.x4mmtmgab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2FEconWarfare.org] > YOU CAN KISS PETRAEUS GOODBYE
> J. Millard Burr
> EWI EXCLUSIVE
> November 3, 2012
> “Petraeus Throws Obama Under the Bus,” was William Kristol’s headline to his blog
> in the Weekly Standard, on October 26th. In effect, Kristol had cut a tree in the
> forest seemingly with no one around, and if it made a noise in Washington it was > not discernable.
> Kristol noted that a CIA spokesman who reported on “breaking news” on Benghazi,
> declared that “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in
> need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.” This statement was probably
> made “at the direction of CIA director David Petraeus.” But Kristol did not ask: > “Tell us, General, what took you so long to issue that statement?”
> By waiting more than two weeks before issuing the statement, Petraeus had managed > to throw himself under a bus of his own making.
> It is obvious that the CIA fingerprints are all over the Benghazi operation. It
> ran its own safehouse with what seems to be a score of actives. But as it turned
> out, not all the actives were CIA personnel. The Pentagon had issued a commercial
> contract shortly after the demise of Muammar Qaddafi a program to secure and/or
> buyback weapons that had belonged to the Libyan leader’s weapons stockpile. Of
> special importance was the reported plethora of hand-held ground-to-air weapons > whose use by terrorists could be devastating.
> The collection program was one reason for the CIA interest in Libya. The second
> should have been the presence of Islamist-infested armed gangs that had opposed
> Qaddafi. They had not disarmed; rather, they continued to operate in the Cyrenaica
> region and in Benghazi after the death of the Libyan leader. If the CIA made an
> effort to infiltrate or analyze the influence of jihadists groups operating around
> Benghazi and in eastern Libya, then the surprise attack on the US “consulate” on > 9/11 underscores the fact that the effort was a failure.
> But a weapons gathering program more than a year old cannot explain the large number > of actives present in the CIA compound in September 2012.
> Instead, the presence of a large safehouse with many actives indicates the direct
> CIA involvement in the movement of arms collected in Libya and shipped to rebels > seeking to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.
> As suggested here earlier ( http://econwarfare.org/viewarticle.cfm?id=5109 [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.mtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Feconwarfare.org%2Fviewarticle.cfm%3Fid%3D5109]
> ) the direct U.S. involvement in support of Syrian rebel forces was initiated shortly
> after a Petraeus’s visit to Turkey in March 2012. It occurred shortly after the
> Turkish government demonstrated willingness to support the overthrow of the Assad
> regime. Still, neither Washington nor Ankara wanted to show its hand. Both sought
> to hide their involvement through an operation that remains clandestine (albeit > barely so) to the present date.
> The logistics of the operation required some planning, including the quantity and
> type of weapons to be supplied, and the country that supplies them. This led to
> using Libyan vessels transferring arms to Turkish suppliers who moved the weapons > from Turkish ports to Syrian rebels operating along Syria-Turkey border.
> In early September General Petraeus’s “private plane” arrived in Ankara in what
> the local press called a secret mission. In reality, the General may have been concerned
> that the United States-Turkey arrangement was about to unravel. It was known that
> a Libyan vessel transporting arms to the Syrian rebels had departed Benghazi to
> Turkey. There were also reports that the Syrian rebel entities were complaining
> that arms flowing through Turkey had been co-opted by the Islamist mujahedeen.
> Then there was the appearance of Libyan arms in Syria itself. And, finally, it
> appeared as though the CIA had opened a new front along the Jordan-Syria border
> where Special Forces (with historic involvement with the CIA) were active. Turkish-American > plausible deniability was no longer possible, and changes had to be made.
> In sum, it had become clear to observers that the United States was taking a direct
> hand in the Syrian insurgency, and it was doing so at a time when the Obama administration
> was making every attempt to appear lily clean. Given what would prove to be a tough
> election, the involvement in yet another Middle East battlefield, at a time that
> the Obama’s Middle East policy was under severe attack, was something the administration > would seek to avoid at all costs.
> Thus, the obvious effort by the CIA to cloak its operation in Benghazi.
> The men in the Benghazi safehouse may have acted heroically in an effort to save
> the ambassador and other Americans trapped in the “consulate,” but it should not
> have taken the CIA weeks to clarify its activity. Therefore the recent CIA statement
> appears to be a rather clumsy effort to obfuscate what it was doing until after
> the November election. Indeed, that the CIA effort to brief the U.S. Senate on its
> activity in Benghazi caused a teeth gnashing that could be heard from the halls > of Congress to Langley, Virginia.
> Finally, does Ayman al-Zawahiri’s call to avenge the recent death of Yahya al-Libi,
> the mujahedeen survivor and friend to Osama Bin Laden, account for the Benghazi
> attack on 9/11? Perhaps. Certainly, the local mujahedeen knew that the CIA was
> operating a safe house in Benghazi, and it had apparently let the team operate
> without hindrance. It seems logical that they would not interfere with the CIA operation
> if they knew that arms collected in Libya were actually helping to arm the Salafist
> mujahedeen in Syria. On the other hand, if the team had begun collecting arms that
> were being shipped to government forces in Mali and to military units in Mauritania
> and Niger for potential use against the pro-Al Qaeda forces that occupy northern
> Mali, that would be a different matter entirely. Washington has still not bothered
> to inform the public that the United States is involved in what will surely be yet
> another battle in another Muslim country when the attack on Salafist forces begins > in Mali, likely early in 2013.
> **
> To conclude, despite the kind words of journalists like William Kristol, it now
> seems obvious that once it is clear what really transpired in Benghazi, Petraeus
> will never again have the full confidence of the Senate-or the American people.
> EWI BLOG: Kenneth D.M. Jensen: Benghazi, Middle East http://EconWarfare.org [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.x4mmtmgab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2FEconWarfare.org] > Thanks to J. Millard Burr and Benny Avni for item contributions. > BENGHAZI
> I’d gathered another handful of articles on the matter of Benghazi before I received
> J. Millard Burr’s latest exclusive and most interesting piece, which we feature
> today. If Burr is right, something went awry with the CIA operations in Benghazi, > as suggested in the following paragraph:
> “Certainly, the local mujahedeen knew that the CIA was operating a safe house in
> Benghazi, and it had apparently let the team operate without hindrance. It seems
> logical that they would not interfere with the CIA operation if they knew that arms
> collected in Libya were actually helping to arm the Salafist mujahedeen in Syria.
> On the other hand, if the team had begun collecting arms that were being shipped
> to government forces in Mali and to military units in Mauritania and Niger for
> potential use against the pro-Al Qaeda forces that occupy northern Mali, that would
> be a different matter entirely. Washington has still not bothered to inform the
> public that the United States is involved in what will surely be yet another battle
> in another Muslim country when the attack on Salafist forces begins in Mali, likely > early in 2013.”
> As for Burr’s remarks about Mali, we do know that Hillary Clinton was recently in
> Algeria trying to line up government support for an armed international intervention > in the northern part of that country under control of Islamists.
> Robert Zarate and Steve Hayes, in The Weekly Standard, ask the questions that need
> to be answered on the mess. The Washington Post editorial board hammers the Obama
> administration on Benghazi, as the Wall Street Journal did the other day. I also
> include a Scott Shane piece from the New York Times that sort of throws Petraeus > under the bus:
> “In 14 months as C.I.A. director, David H. Petraeus has shunned the spotlight he
> once courted as America’s most famous general. His low-profile style has won the
> loyalty of the White House, easing old tensions with President Obama, and he has
> overcome some of the skepticism he faced from the agency’s work force, which is > always wary of the military brass.
> “But since an attack killed four Americans seven weeks ago in Benghazi, Libya, his
> deliberately low profile, and the C.I.A.’s penchant for secrecy, have left a void
> that has been filled by a news media and Congressional furor over whether it could
> have been prevented. Rather than acknowledge the C.I.A.’s presence in Benghazi,
> Mr. Petraeus and other agency officials fought a losing battle to keep it secret,
> even as the events there became a point of contention in the presidential campaign.”
> I see: Petraeus “left a void that has been filled by a news media and Congressional
> furor.” So, low-profile Petraeus could have saved the president who appointed him
> a lot of trouble, which Shane seems to think is the most important matter under > consideration. Ah, the pesky media and Congress!
> John O’Sullivan, writing in National Review, seems to think that Benghazi has hurt > Obama’s election chances:
> “As a result the Benghazi story, while being kept out of the headlines and the network
> news, has spread throughout the country and subverted the president’s reputation
> on foreign policy. The distaste with which the establishment media has treated
> it may even have made matters worse for the Obama campaign. It gives the impression
> that someone has something to hide and yet it simultaneously mutes or silences voices
> that might have been skeptical about the story. And a gradual movement away from > Obama takes place without people being really aware of the fact.”
> He may be right, but I doubt it. I take the view that because Romney neither hit
> Obama with Benghazi in the third debate nor put up what many expected in the way > of attack ads, the time of Benghazi’s potential effect has passed. > MIDDLE EAST
> West Backs Qatari Plan to Unify Syrian Opposition
> The Guardian UK reports on the proposed gathering in Doha next week to create a
> new Syrian opposition council. Previous reports about a proposed new council seem
> to have had it that Hillary Clinton was a principal mover and that the Obama administration
> had long since quietly taken strong initiatives vis-à-vis Syria. Now, it appears > that the United States is following the Qataris:
> “Britain, the US and other western powers are backing a new attempt to create a
> single coherent Syrian opposition that could take part in peace talks with President
> Bashar al-Assad’s regime or, if talks fail, provide a channel for greater military > support to the rebels.
> “The plan, to be launched in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday, will bring the external opposition
> together with the revolutionary councils leading the insurrection inside Syria,
> behind a common programme for a democratic transition. The Syrian National Initiative
> (SNI) will create a council of about 50 members chaired by Riad Seif, a Sunni businessman > who left Syria in June after being imprisoned by the regime.
> “The Doha initiative has been organised by the Qatari government and has drawn support
> from the US, Britain and France. Russia, however, opposes the plan, arguing it reneges
> on an earlier international agreement to pursue the formation of a new government
> by ‘mutual consent’ of the parties to the conflict. The leadership of the main exile
> opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has also criticised the plan,
> in which its influence will be diluted, and it is not yet clear which of the divided
> rebel forces inside Syria will turn up on Thursday, or whether they will agree on > the common platform once they arrive in Doha.
> Makeshift Islamic Courts Fill Void in the Sinai
> Don’t miss Matt Bradley’s Wall Street Journal piece on the proliferation of Shari’a
> courts in the Sinai Peninsula. As he says, “The rise of such Shariah courts is
> one measure of just how far the remote Sinai Peninsula has drifted from Cairo’s
> orbit and into the hands of fundamentalists intent on imposing a strict form of > religious order.”
> Did Israel and the U.S. Just Cooperate on a Dry Run for an Iran Intervention?
> Jonathan Schanzer, writing for The New Republic online, has unearthed the suggestion
> of some that the Israeli destruction by air of ordinance of some sort at Yarmouk
> in Khartoum was a dry run for an Iran attack and that the United States may have > been complicitous:
> “Within hours of a bombing raid on a weapons factory in Sudan last month, the international
> media was pointing fingers at Israel. Some reports suggested that the strike looked
> like a dry run for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But lost in the reporting
> was the fact that thousands of US troops, including senior military officials, were
> in Israel the day Sudan was attacked. If the U.S. indeed cooperated with Israel
> in the attack, then this might have been a dry run of an entirely different sort-one
> that would belie the very public disagreements between the two countries over intervention > in Iran.”
> You can read the piece and judge what counts for evidence and what doesn’t for yourself.
> Thousands of U.S. troops in Israel on the day of the attack doesn’t do it for me.
> One thing is of acute interest, however, as Benny Avni of the New York Post says
> in a piece entitled “Israel Sends a Message: “The Sudanese target was over 1,100
> miles from Israel’s airport bases-some 200 miles farther than what Israeli planes > must travel to hit Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
> CONTENTS
> BENGHAZI
> ITEM 1: Robert Zarate: Senators to Obama: Who’s Authorizing Benghazi Leaks to Press?
> http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/senators-obama-who-s-authorizing-benghazi-leaks-press_660226.html
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.ntd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.weeklystandard.com%2Fblogs%2Fsenators-obama-who-s-authorizing-benghazi-leaks-press_660226.html] > ITEM 2: Steve Hayes: Papers Blast Obama over Benghazi
> http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/papers-blast-obama-over-benghazi_660248.html
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.ptd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.weeklystandard.com%2Fblogs%2Fpapers-blast-obama-over-benghazi_660248.html] > ITEM 3: John O’Sullivan: Polling Benghazi
> http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/332300/polling-benghazi-john-o-sullivan [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.qtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalreview.com%2Fcorner%2F332300%2Fpolling-benghazi-john-o-sullivan]
> ITEM 4: Scott Shane: Petraeus’s Quieter Style at C.I.A. Leaves Void on Libya Furor
> http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/03/world/africa/petraeuss-lower-profile-at-cia-leaves-void-in-benghazi-furor.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.std8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2012%2F11%2F03%2Fworld%2Fafrica%2Fpetraeuss-lower-profile-at-cia-leaves-void-in-benghazi-furor.html%3Fref%3Dtodayspaper%26_r%3D0] > ITEM 5: WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: A security breakdown in Benghazi
> http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-security-breakdown-in-benghazi/2012/11/02/a34b7dd0-250f-11e2-9313-3c7f59038d93_story.html
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.ttd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.washingtonpost.com%2Fopinions%2Fa-security-breakdown-in-benghazi%2F2012%2F11%2F02%2Fa34b7dd0-250f-11e2-9313-3c7f59038d93_story.html] > MIDDLE EAST
> ITEM 6: Julian Borger, Matthew Weaver: West backs Qatari plan to unify Syrian opposition.
> Britain and US behind drive to create council to represent Syrian rebels, but Russia > and main exile opposition group oppose it
> http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/02/west-backs-qatari-plan-syria [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.utd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.guardian.co.uk%2Fworld%2F2012%2Fnov%2F02%2Fwest-backs-qatari-plan-syria] > ITEM 7: Matt Bradley: Makeshift Islamic Courts Fill Void in the Sinai
> http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443493304578034041459095444.html?mod=WSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.vtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10000872396390443493304578034041459095444.html%3Fmod%3DWSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews]
> ITEM 8: Jonathan Schanzer: Did Israel and the U.S. Just Cooperate on a Dry-Run for > an Iran Intervention?
> http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/109576/did-israel-and-the-us-just-cooperate-dry-run-iran-raid
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.wtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tnr.com%2Fblog%2Fplank%2F109576%2Fdid-israel-and-the-us-just-cooperate-dry-run-iran-raid] > ITEM 9: Benny Avni: Israel Sends a Message
> http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/israel_sends_message_pjH9GOiN6zHFQFwfIHLK1K
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.xtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nypost.com%2Fp%2Fnews%2Fopinion%2Fopedcolumnists%2Fisrael_sends_message_pjH9GOiN6zHFQFwfIHLK1K] > FULL TEXTS
> ITEM 1a: Robert Zarate: Senators to Obama: Who’s Authorizing Benghazi Leaks to Press?
> http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/senators-obama-who-s-authorizing-benghazi-leaks-press_660226.html
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.ntd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.weeklystandard.com%2Fblogs%2Fsenators-obama-who-s-authorizing-benghazi-leaks-press_660226.html] > 10:25 AM, NOV 3, 2012
> In a letter to the White House, four members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
> asked President Obama whether recent disclosures to the press of classified information
> on the Benghazi terrorist attacks were authorized by the Obama administration or
> illegal leaks subject to prosecution. Written by Senators Dan Coats (R-Indiana),
> James E. Risch (R-Idaho), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), the
> letter comes in response to a recent Washington Post article that the lawmakers
> described as being “littered with off the record quotes from ‘senior intelligence > officials’ within” the Obama administration.
> In the letter, the lawmakers pointedly ask: “We write today to ask if these disclosures
> were authorized, and if so, who authorized them and for what purpose? If they were
> in fact leaks, and not authorized disclosures, what steps is your administration > taking to find and prosecute those responsible?”
> The Senators write that they “find it reprehensible that information in the article
> was provided to the press before Congress, and in some cases stands in direct contradiction
> to the information briefed to congressional oversight committees,” adding: “in these
> waning days of the campaign season, and in the shadow of the Benghazi terrorist
> attacks-for which there are still too many unanswered questions-members of your
> administration are not only discussing highly classified matters with reporters,
> but are perceived to be engaging in such activity for the purpose of bolstering > your national security credentials.”
> Here’s the entire text of the letter:
> President Barack Obama
> The White House
> 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
> Washington, DC 20500
> Dear President Obama,
> On November 1, 2012, the Washington Post ran a column by Greg Miller titled “CIA
> Rushed to Save Diplomats as Libya Attack Was Underway.” The article is littered
> with off the record quotes from “senior intelligence officials” within your administration.
> We are resigned to the fact that in these waning days of the campaign season, and
> in the shadow of the Benghazi terrorist attacks – for which there are still too
> many unanswered questions, members of your administration are not only discussing
> highly classified matters with reporters, but are perceived to be engaging in such
> activity for the purpose of bolstering your national security credentials. We find
> it reprehensible that information in the article was provided to the press before
> Congress, and in some cases stands in direct contradiction to the information briefed > to congressional oversight committees.
> We write today to ask if these disclosures were authorized, and if so, who authorized
> them and for what purpose? If they were in fact leaks, and not authorized disclosures,
> what steps is your administration taking to find and prosecute those responsible?
> Finally, given the unprecedented number of leaks that have occurred during your
> administration, going back to information provided to David Sanger, news reports
> identifying sources and methods related to the second underwear bomber, and the
> original “Kill List Story,” we again ask you to reconsider your decision not to
> appoint an independent investigator. These disclosures appear to have come from
> some of the highest individuals in your administration and appointing a Special > Prosecutor would remove even the appearance of political influence. > We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
> Very Respectfully,
> Dan Coats, United States Senator
> James E. Risch, United States Senator
> Roy Blunt, United States Senator
> Marco Rubio, United States Senator
> ITEM 2a: Steve Hayes: Papers Blast Obama over Benghazi http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/papers-blast-obama-over-benghazi_660248.html
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.ptd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.weeklystandard.com%2Fblogs%2Fpapers-blast-obama-over-benghazi_660248.html] > 2:01 PM, NOV 3, 2012
> The lead editorials in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal today offer > stinging critiques of the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi.
> The Post notes that what happened in Benghazi “increasingly looks like a major security
> failure” and argues, “sooner or later the administration must answer questions” > about that failure and “the policies that led to it.”
> Why was there a security failure at the consulate, and how did U.S. forces in Libya
> and outside the country respond to the emergency? The result is a host of unanswered > questions.
> Following a single background briefing, the State Department has mostly refused
> to respond to inquiries about Benghazi, citing an ongoing investigation by a review
> board. But considerable evidence has emerged that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens,
> who died in the attack, and his security staff were deeply concerned about what
> they considered to be inadequate security. Fox News reported this week that a secret
> cable described an Aug. 15 “emergency meeting” at the consulate, at which the State
> Department’s regional security officer “expressed concerns with the ability to defend
> Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures,
> weapons capabilities, host nation support and the overall size of the compound.”
> Fox reported that the cable, dispatched to Washington, said the emergency meeting
> included a briefing about al-Qaeda training camps in the Benghazi area and Islamist
> militias, including those that allegedly carried out the Sept. 11 attack. In another
> cable on Sept. 11, hours before the attack, Mr. Stevens described “growing problems
> with security” in Benghazi and “growing frustration” with the local militias and
> police, to which the State Department had entrusted the consulate’s defense. Separately,
> according to a report on ForeignPolicy.com, Mr. Stevens may have dispatched a letter
> to Benghazi authorities, complaining that a policeman assigned to guard the consulate > was photographing it on the morning of Sept. 11.
> The Journal argues that the Obama administration has sought to avoid accountability
> by offering “evasive, inconsistent and conflicting accounts about one of the most
> serious American overseas defeats in recent years.” The editorial continues: “Unresolved
> questions about Benghazi loom over this election because the White House has failed > to resolve them.”
> Among those unanswered questions: “Why did the U.S. not heed warnings about a growing
> Islamist presence in Benghazi and better protect the diplomatic mission and CIA
> annex?” And: “What exactly happened on the day of 9/11? During the over six hours
> that the compounds in Benghazi were under siege, could the U.S. have done more to
> save lives?” And: “What was President Obama doing and ordering his subordinates
> to do in those fateful hours? Why has the Administration’s story about what took > place in Benghazi been so haphazard and unclear?”
> These questions, and many others, need answers. The administration has managed to
> avoid providing them for nearly eight weeks, with a much needed assist from a suddenly
> lack of curiosity among the truth-seeking journalists at many of America’s most
> influential news outlets. Perhaps after the election that curiosity will return.
> ITEM 3a: John O’Sullivan: Polling Benghazi http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/332300/polling-benghazi-john-o-sullivan
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.qtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalreview.com%2Fcorner%2F332300%2Fpolling-benghazi-john-o-sullivan] > November 2, 2012 12:17 P.M.
> Despite the administration’s unashamed stonewalling over the terrorist attack on
> the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that cost four American lives, the event has nonetheless
> had a subterranean impact on the election campaign. Because the establishment media
> has given Benghazi only cursory coverage – manifestly colluding with the administration
> to ensure that the election would be over before it caught fire – that impact has
> been vague and uncertain. Almost none of the major pollsters have asked people about
> it, presumably thinking that most people would not have an opinion on something > they knew nothing about.
> It’s not an unreasonable assumption. But a Fox News poll of likely voters was published
> Wednesday showing they have decided opinions on what happened in Benghazi and what
> it means for the larger question of the president’s foreign policy. Here are a few > of the poll’s findings:
> 1. On the specific matter of the Benghazi attack Americans are divided: 44 percent
> of voters think the administration tried to mislead Americans about what happened
> there, while 47 percent disagree. Republicans are much more likely to be critical
> than Democrats, as one would expect, but the electorally significant finding is
> that independent voters believe the administration tried to mislead Americans by > a 49-42 percent margin.
> 2. When it comes to the wider question of U.S. policy towards Libya, the picture
> gets a little worse for the president: only 39 percent of voters approve of the > job he is doing compared to 47 percent who disapprove.
> 3. When the question is widened to cover the administration’s policies towards both
> Libya and (the much more important country of) Egypt, 45 percent of voters think
> that they have “mostly failed” in comparison with 39 percent who believe they have > “mostly succeeded.”
> 4. When the question is narrowed down to the administration’s attitude towards “radical
> Muslim terrorists,” only 26 percent of voters think that Obama has got it “about
> right” compared to 55 percent who think it has been “too soft” and a bravely dissenting > 4 percent who call it “too tough.”
> 5. Only when the poll asks a generic question about the president’s handling of
> foreign policy does he get close to an overall majority: 49 percent approve and > 44 percent disapprove.
> These are disappointing results for a president and a campaign that expected to
> enjoy a strong advantage over Governor Romney on foreign policy. It is hard to see
> them as caused by anything other than the Benghazi issue. President Obama failed
> to score a knockout blow over foreign policy in the final debate, but he performed
> quite creditably throughout. He was even handed a win on points by the referee in
> the second debate over Benghazi itself. And in the remainder of the campaign foreign
> policy has not been a major item of controversy. If we were to judge by public discussion,
> speeches on the hustings, and reports in the media, we would expect Obama to be
> resting easily on his international laurels. Instead he’s struggling to stay afloat. > And Benghazi is the only available explanation.
> That tells us something both about modern communications and the likely course of
> the next week in politics. Benghazi entered the public mind – and influenced its
> opinion on wider foreign policy issues – through the informal media. As commentators
> have been pointing out for almost a decade, the establishment media have lost their
> role as gatekeepers. They alone no longer determine what is a news story and what
> is not. Or a scandal. Or a legitimate political issue. Etc., etc., etc. News and
> information now get to people through talk radio, the Internet, social media, opinion
> journals, the blogosphere, and foreign newspapers (that are either more enterprising
> or less ideologically conformist) on the web. As a mainstream-news organization
> that has standards at least as high as its establishment rivals but that is a traitor
> to its liberal class, Fox News plays a crucial role in this new information system
> by using its resources to gather information and break stories in a way its informal
> allies cannot usually do. It is this informal news network that has broken new ground
> about the Benghazi story “under the radar” (i.e., under the nose of its formal rivals.)
> As a result the Benghazi story, while being kept out of the headlines and the network
> news, has spread throughout the country and subverted the president’s reputation
> on foreign policy. The distaste with which the establishment media has treated
> it may even have made matters worse for the Obama campaign. It gives the impression
> that someone has something to hide and yet it simultaneously mutes or silences voices
> that might have been skeptical about the story. And a gradual movement away from > Obama takes place without people being really aware of the fact.
> That is probably one factor – contributory but important – helping to explain the
> long, slow, surge towards Romney that has occurred since the first debate. My own
> sense is that this surge was briefly halted and maybe slightly reversed by the destructive
> arrival of Sandy. But as the partisan battle resumes – and it certainly will whatever
> non-partisan pieties are uttered in the meantime – so the spread of the Benghazi
> story is likely to resume too, inflicting further subterranean damage on the president.
> And it is probably too late for the Obama campaign to risk dragging the Benghazi
> episode into the spotlight in order to get its own version of the story across. > It would look all too much like panic and guilt.
> ITEM 4a: Scott Shane: Petraeus’s Quieter Style at C.I.A. Leaves Void on Libya Furor
> http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/03/world/africa/petraeuss-lower-profile-at-cia-leaves-void-in-benghazi-furor.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.std8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2012%2F11%2F03%2Fworld%2Fafrica%2Fpetraeuss-lower-profile-at-cia-leaves-void-in-benghazi-furor.html%3Fref%3Dtodayspaper%26_r%3D0] > Published: November 2, 2012
> WASHINGTON – In 14 months as C.I.A. director, David H. Petraeus has shunned the
> spotlight he once courted as America’s most famous general. His low-profile style
> has won the loyalty of the White House, easing old tensions with President Obama,
> and he has overcome some of the skepticism he faced from the agency’s work force, > which is always wary of the military brass.
> But since an attack killed four Americans seven weeks ago in Benghazi, Libya, his
> deliberately low profile, and the C.I.A.’s penchant for secrecy, have left a void
> that has been filled by a news media and Congressional furor over whether it could
> have been prevented. Rather than acknowledge the C.I.A.’s presence in Benghazi,
> Mr. Petraeus and other agency officials fought a losing battle to keep it secret,
> even as the events there became a point of contention in the presidential campaign.
> Finally, on Thursday, with Mr. Petraeus away on a visit to the Middle East, pressure
> from critics prompted intelligence officials to give their own account of the chaotic
> night when two security officers died along with the American ambassador, J. Christopher
> Stevens, and another diplomat. The officials acknowledged for the first time that
> the security officers, both former members of the Navy SEALs, worked on contract > for the C.I.A., which occupied one of the buildings that were attacked.
> The Benghazi crisis is the biggest challenge so far in the first civilian job held
> by Mr. Petraeus, who retired from the Army and dropped the “General” when he went
> to the C.I.A. He gets mostly high marks from government colleagues and outside experts
> for his overall performance. But the transition has meant learning a markedly different > culture, at an agency famously resistant to outsiders.
> “I think he’s a brilliant man, but he’s also a four-star general,” said Senator
> Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Four-stars
> are saluted, not questioned. He’s now running an agency where everything is questioned, > whether you’re a four-star or a senator. It’s a culture change.”
> Mr. Petraeus, who turns 60 next week, has had to learn that C.I.A. officers will
> not automatically defer to his judgments, as military subordinates often did. “The
> attitude at the agency is, ‘You may be the director, but I’m the Thailand analyst,’ > ” said one C.I.A. veteran.
> Long a media star as the most prominent military leader of his generation, Mr. Petraeus
> abruptly abandoned that style at the C.I.A. Operating amid widespread complaints
> about leaks of classified information, he has stopped giving interviews, speaks
> to Congress in closed sessions and travels the globe to consult with foreign spy > services with little news media notice.
> “He thinks he has to be very discreet and let others in the government do the talking,”
> said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar who is a friend of Mr. > Petraeus’s and a member of the C.I.A.’s advisory board.
> Mr. Petraeus’s no-news, no-nonsense style stands out especially starkly against
> that of his effusive predecessor, Leon E. Panetta, who is now the defense secretary.
> Mr. Panetta, a gregarious politician by profession, was unusually open with Congress
> and sometimes with the public – to a fault, some might say, when he spoke candidly
> after leaving the C.I.A. about a Pakistani doctor’s role in helping hunt for Osama > bin Laden, or about the agency’s drone operations.
> Mr. Petraeus’s discretion and relentless work ethic have had a positive side for
> him: old tensions with Mr. Obama, which grew out of differing views on the wars
> in Iraq and Afghanistan, appear to be gone. Mr. Petraeus is at the White House
> several times a week, attending National Security Council sessions and meeting weekly
> with James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, and Thomas E.
> Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser. Mr. Donilon said recently that the
> C.I.A. director “has done an exceptional job,” bringing “deep experience, intellectual > rigor and enthusiasm” to his work.
> “When Obama came into office, they were very suspicious of one another,” said Bruce
> Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer and presidential adviser. “Clearly, over the course > of the last four years, Obama has come to trust
> Mr. Petraeus has managed the delicate task of supporting rebels in Syria’s civil
> war while trying to prevent the arming of anti-American extremists. But when his
> C-17 Globemaster touched down in Turkey in September for consultations on Syria,
> the trip went all but unnoticed by the news media. He worked for months to address
> the complaints of Pakistani officials about drone strikes against militants, while
> keeping State Department officials abreast of likely future strikes, a policy called
> “pre-concurrence” that has prevented interagency squabbles. In his travels to the
> tumultuous post-Arab Spring Middle East this week, only a brief mention of his arrival > in Cairo surfaced in local news reports.
> Inside the agency, some subordinates say, he has largely defused the skepticism
> that initially greeted a celebrity general whose stated views of progress in the
> war in Afghanistan, among other things, were far rosier than those of C.I.A. analysts.
> But by comparison with Mr. Panetta, who wooed the work force and often did not question
> operational details, Mr. Petraeus is a demanding boss who does not hesitate to order > substandard work redone or details of plans adjusted.
> “I’ve never seen anyone with his drive – ever,” said Michael J. Morell, the agency’s
> deputy director. “He remembers what he asks for. Three weeks later he’ll say at > a morning meeting: ‘Whatever happened to that? Is that done yet?’ ”
> But the Benghazi crisis has posed an extraordinary test for Mr. Petraeus. After
> the killings, intelligence officials concerned about exposing the extent and methods
> of the large C.I.A. presence in the city would say little to reporters for publication.
> Conservative critics of Mr. Obama seized on a series of reports by Fox News and
> other outlets to make the incendiary charge shortly before the election that four > Americans had died because of the administration’s negligence.
> Mr. Petraeus said nothing publicly, but that did not keep him out of the story.
> Some news reports faulted his secret testimony to Congress days after the attack
> for supposedly supporting the view that it was not a planned strike but a spontaneous
> response to an offensive anti-Muslim video. Then, last week, Fox News reported that
> agency officials had refused desperate requests for help from operatives under fire
> in Libya, and the agency issued a flat denial. “No one at any level in the C.I.A. > told anybody not to help those in need,” its statement said.
> Far from ending the speculation, the statement added to it. William Kristol, the
> editor of The Weekly Standard, concluded that the agency was pointing its finger
> at the White House, which he suggested must have refused the requested intervention.
> “Petraeus Throws Obama Under the Bus” was the headline on the Weekly Standard’s > blog.
> Perhaps worse for a former military commander like Mr. Petraeus, the father of Tyrone
> S. Woods, one of the security officers killed, accused the Obama administration
> in interviews of essentially abandoning his son and others to their fate and not
> caring about their deaths. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that some agency
> employees resented the fact that Mr. Petraeus did not attend the funerals of the
> two security contractors. Officials said he was concerned that his presence would > confirm their agency connection, still officially secret at the time.
> On Thursday, hoping to subdue the gathering public relations storm, intelligence
> officials invited reporters to a background briefing to, in their view, set the
> record straight. They offered a timeline of C.I.A. actions on the night of the
> attack, countering the idea that the besieged Americans were left alone under fire,
> and explaining why some would-be rescue efforts discussed in news reports were never > feasible.
> Notably, they also sought to rehabilitate Mr. Petraeus from some of the negative
> speculation that has surrounded him. The C.I.A. director, said one intelligence
> official, “has been fully engaged from the start of the agency’s response, particularly > in the rescue mission that was swift and aggressive.”
> “This idea that he is somehow not engaged is baseless,” the official said, speaking > on the condition of anonymity.
> For Mr. Petraeus – once pilloried in full-page newspaper ads as “General Betray
> Us” in the debate over the Iraq war – it is nothing new to be at the center of a
> political firestorm. “This is Washington, so naturally all controversies get caught
> up in the political jet stream,” an intelligence officer close to Mr. Petraeus said.
> Whatever the challenges of his first year, said Mr. O’Hanlon, his friend, “I’m confident > in saying that he loves this job.”
> “He may miss the military at an emotional level,” he added, “but he loves this work.”
> Mr. Petraeus’s future has inevitably been the subject of rumors: that he would be
> Mitt Romney’s running mate, or, more plausibly, that he was interested in the presidency
> of Princeton. In a statement in late September, he did not rule that out for the
> future, but said that for the time being he was “living the dream here at C.I.A.” > That was before the recriminations this week over Benghazi.
> ITEM 5a: WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: A security breakdown in Benghazi http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-security-breakdown-in-benghazi/2012/11/02/a34b7dd0-250f-11e2-9313-3c7f59038d93_story.html
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.ttd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.washingtonpost.com%2Fopinions%2Fa-security-breakdown-in-benghazi%2F2012%2F11%2F02%2Fa34b7dd0-250f-11e2-9313-3c7f59038d93_story.html] > November 2
> NEWS REPORTING about the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya,
> has moved from the political and mostly pointless issue of when the Obama administration
> had publicly acknowledged that a terrorist attack had taken place to more essential
> questions: Why was there a security failure at the consulate, and how did U.S. forces
> in Libya and outside the country respond to the emergency? The result is a host > of unanswered questions.
> Following a single background briefing, the State Department has mostly refused
> to respond to inquiries about Benghazi, citing an ongoing investigation by a review
> board. But considerable evidence has emerged that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens,
> who died in the attack, and his security staff were deeply concerned about what
> they considered to be inadequate security. Fox Newsreported this week that a secret
> cable described an Aug. 15 “emergency meeting” at the consulate, at which the State
> Department’s regional security officer “expressed concerns with the ability to defend
> Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures,
> weapons capabilities, host nation support and the overall size of the compound.”
> Fox reported that the cable, dispatched to Washington, said the emergency meeting
> included a briefing about al-Qaeda training camps in the Benghazi area and Islamist
> militias, including those that allegedly carried out the Sept. 11 attack. In another
> cable on Sept. 11, hours before the attack, Mr. Stevens described “growing problems
> with security” in Benghazi and “growing frustration” with the local militias and
> police, to which the State Department had entrusted the consulate’s defense. Separately,
> according to a report on ForeignPolicy.com, Mr. Stevens may have dispatched a letter
> to Benghazi authorities, complaining that a policeman assigned to guard the consulate > was photographing it on the morning of Sept. 11.
> Fox’s aggressive reporting, though undercut by blustery and often scurrilous commentary,
> nevertheless seems to have prompted the CIA and Pentagon to provide reporters with
> their accounts of Sept. 11 – even as the State Department and the White House insist
> that all should await the official investigation results. From these, and a report
> Friday by the Wall Street Journal, it emerges that the CIA mission in Benghazi was
> considerably larger than the consulate and may have been partly responsible for
> its defense. According to the CIA account, on the night of Sept. 11 a six-member
> paramilitary force set out to rescue consulate personnel, arriving some 50 minutes
> after the attack began. Surviving Americans were evacuated to the CIA station, which > itself came under attack hours later.
> The Pentagon and CIA accounts describe a reaction to the attack that, while inadequate,
> was the best that could be mustered. Even if so, that leaves the question of why
> the various agencies were not better prepared for such an emergency, given the
> clear warnings. Did the Obama administration’s political preoccupation with maintaining
> a light footprint in Libya lead to an ill-considered reliance on local militias,
> rather than on U.S. forces? Given the region’s instability, why were no military
> rapid-reaction assets – such as Special Forces or armed drones – within reach of > Northern Africa?
> While the agencies separately defend themselves – or not – the White House appears
> determined to put off any serious discussion of Benghazi until after the election.
> Sooner or later, however, the administration must answer questions about what increasingly > looks like a major security failure – and about the policies that led to it.
> ITEM 6a: Julian Borger, Matthew Weaver: West backs Qatari plan to unify Syrian opposition.
> Britain and US behind drive to create council to represent Syrian rebels, but Russia
> and main exile opposition group oppose it http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/02/west-backs-qatari-plan-syria
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.utd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.guardian.co.uk%2Fworld%2F2012%2Fnov%2F02%2Fwest-backs-qatari-plan-syria] > Friday 2 November 2012 14.51 EDT
> Britain, the US and other western powers are backing a new attempt to create a single
> coherent Syrian opposition that could take part in peace talks with President Bashar
> al-Assad’s regime or, if talks fail, provide a channel for greater military support > to the rebels.
> The plan, to be launched in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday, will bring the external opposition
> together with the revolutionary councils leading the insurrection inside Syria,
> behind a common programme for a democratic transition. The Syrian National Initiative
> (SNI) will create a council of about 50 members chaired by Riad Seif, a Sunni businessman > who left Syria in June after being imprisoned by the regime.
> The Doha initiative has been organised by the Qatari government and has drawn support
> from the US, Britain and France. Russia, however, opposes the plan, arguing it reneges
> on an earlier international agreement to pursue the formation of a new government
> by “mutual consent” of the parties to the conflict. The leadership of the main exile
> opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has also criticised the plan,
> in which its influence will be diluted, and it is not yet clear which of the divided
> rebel forces inside Syria will turn up on Thursday, or whether they will agree on > the common platform once they arrive in Doha.
> “It could go as promised, or it could be a train wreck,” said Salman Shaikh, the
> head of the Brookings Institution Doha Centre, which had helped arrange earlier
> opposition discussions that paved the way for the Doha meeting. Shaikh has argued
> that Syria’s collapse as a nation state can only be avoided by unification of the
> rebels coupled with “a unified, controlled flow of weapons and other support to > the Syrian opposition” to prevent a power vacuum and a “free for all”.
> The US and its western European allies have so far avoided supplying weapons to
> the rebels, although US intelligence appears to have played a role in trying to
> control the flow of arms coming from Qatar and other Gulf opponents of the Assad
> regime. Observers say that if the Doha initiative is successful, Washington’s policy
> might change, allowing heavier weapons to be supplied to the opposition, whoever > wins the US election on Tuesday.
> A western official insisted on Friday that the primary goal of a unified opposition
> would be to engage in peace talks with the regime about a transition, and so the
> Doha plan was a way of implementing the June Geneva agreement, rather than a substitute > for it, as Moscow had alleged.
> The risks that have so far prevented direct western intervention were made clear
> on Friday with the emergence of a video apparently showing the execution of captured
> government soldiers in Idlib province. A rebel fighter from the province, Abu Abdul
> Rahiem, said the killings took place in al-Nayrab to the west of Saraqeb, on the
> highway between Aleppo and Damascus, which the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed
> to have captured on Friday. He claimed the executions were carried out by a Salafist > extremist group, operating outside the command structure of the FSA.
> “Assad’s soldiers were inside a military camp in the town. Fighters from the Salafi
> Dawood brigade overran the camp and captured the soldiers. Initially there were
> only 10 of them so they could not take the soldiers captive, and had to kill them
> immediately. No trial could be held because the fighting was still going on. This > is guerrilla warfare,” Rahiem told the Guardian.
> “We do not wish to turn Syria into another Afghanistan, but we can’t stop these
> extremists groups. We are really worried about the future of Syria. We need weapons > and media support, but there is nothing on the ground.”
> Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN human rights council, said the video still
> had to be verified, but added: “The allegations are that these these were soldiers
> who were no longer combatants. And therefore, at this point it looks very likely > that this is a war crime, another one.”
> Washington’s decision to swing its support behind the Doha initiative marked a decisive
> break with the SNC after months of mounting frustration over the exile group’s failure > to unite the internal and external opposition.
> “We’ve made it clear that the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader
> of the opposition,” the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said on Wednesday.
> “They can be part of a larger opposition, but that opposition must include people
> from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard.”
> SNC leaders dismissed the Doha plan. The group issued a statement saying that any
> attempt to create new bodies to replace the SNC “are an attempt to undermine the > Syria revolution by sowing the seeds of division”.
> The SNC will hold a congress of its own starting on Saturday in Doha, aimed at restructuring
> the organisation and electing a new leadership. That new leadership will have to
> decide by Thursday whether to take up about 15 seats on the 50-member SNI council > which have been reserved for it.
> “The SNC has not been able to provide a broad-based platform,” Shaikh said. “They’ve
> been asked to cut themselves down to size. Fifteen seats would still leave them
> the biggest single group by far. Most other groups will be represented by just one > person.”
> A western official said: “It is important for the SNC to know that there will be
> very little tolerance for them if they try to play the spoilers at the Thursday > meeting.”
> The official said that the Qatar government had made great efforts to ensure that
> the internal opposition, including the revolutionary councils, would take part in
> the meeting. Western observers are also due to attend, including the British envoy
> to the Syrian opposition, John Wilkes, but have not played a central role in the > organisation.
> “The Qataris have played their cards close to their chest and its not clear they > want the same things as us,” the western official said.
> ITEM 7a: Matt Bradley: Makeshift Islamic Courts Fill Void in the Sinai http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443493304578034041459095444.html?mod=WSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.vtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10000872396390443493304578034041459095444.html%3Fmod%3DWSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews] > November 2, 2012, 6:50 p.m. ET
> AL ARISH, Egypt-The walls of Hamdeen Abu Faisal’s courtroom are decorated with children’s
> drawings of dates and palm trees. In place of a jury box are rows of tiny chairs > and desks.
> His chambers are a day-care center during the school week, but every Friday they
> form part of a fast-expanding network of unofficial courts meting out Islamic law.
> The rise of such Shariah courts is one measure of just how far the remote Sinai
> Peninsula has drifted from Cairo’s orbit and into the hands of fundamentalists intent > on imposing a strict form of religious order.
> The revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak and his secular-leaning regime
> early last year emptied this vast desert region of police and most normal government > services, leaving a rush of kidnappings, smuggling and terrorism in its wake.
> Partly filling the justice void are judges such as Sheikh Abu Faisal, who punish
> offenders with fasting periods instead of prison sentences and levy fines paid > in camels rather than cash.
> “The oppressive force that used to practically criminalize religiosity has been
> removed so people have the freedom to choose what suits them,” said Sheikh Asaad
> al Beek, who oversees Sheikh Abu Faisal and a handful of other Shariah judges.
> Shariah courts have a centuries-long presence in Sinai as arbitrators over small
> disputes in which contesting parties agree to follow the judges’ verdicts, say
> legal experts and local politicians. But since the revolution, and with the election
> of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, that system of mixed tribal and religious > justice has begun to expand its role.
> “Before they used to resolve disputes between individuals, but now they’re actually
> mimicking real courts,” said Montasser al Zayat, a Cairo-based defense attorney
> known for defending Islamist extremists such as al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri.
> Mr. Zayat said the Shariah judges’ expanding ambitions threatened state sovereignty
> in the mostly rural Sinai Peninsula, a regional flash point bordering Israel and > the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip.
> Sheikh Beek said he is overwhelmed by a growing caseload. Two years ago, Sheikh
> Beek’s group handled about 50 cases at a time from an unmarked basement office,
> he said. Now, free from the scrutiny of Egypt’s ousted anti-Islamist regime, the
> group is working on 400 cases and will take about 500 more before January, or about > 75% of the case load once handled by Sinai’s official justice system, he said.
> The government tolerates but doesn’t monitor the Shariah courts, said Ministry of
> Judiciary spokesman Ibrahim Abdel Khaleq. While Cairo hasn’t acted to tamp them
> down, Mr. Khaleq said their expansion “could be dangerous” if they challenge state > authority.
> Sheikh Beek said he recently began discussions with police over getting officers
> to enforce his court’s rulings. The Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, > declined to comment.
> Some legal activists in Cairo said they were concerned about the proliferation of
> Shariah courts in Sinai because of their radical outlook. They offer no appeals,
> women’s testimony holds half the weight of men’s and some Shariah judges, including
> Sheik Beek, say they hope one day to impose Islamic hudud-punishments such as stoning > for adultery and cutting off the hands of thieves.
> “If these kinds of courts do spread, it would be a threat to the Egyptian state,”
> said Nasser Amin, director of the Cairo-based Arab Center for the Independence of
> the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, an advocacy organization. “They are not
> judges. These people are a bunch of crooks who are not learned in Shariah or tribal > law.”
> Though they have no formal legal training, Sheikh Beek and Sheikh Abu Faisal dress
> the part. Clad in ceremonial white robes characteristic of the hard-line Salafi
> school of Islam and sporting long beards with a trimmed upper lip, both see themselves > as part of a corrective force in Egyptian society.
> Unlike in conventional Egyptian courts, which incorporate tenets of Shariah law,
> the sheiks endeavor to mediate between aggrieved parties in cases that range from
> theft, financial crime and land disputes to murder. Such a service is valuable among
> the migrating Bedouin of the Sinai Peninsula, where slights can erupt into violent > vendettas among rival tribes.
> For example, the perpetrator of a murder may be forced to pay “diya” to the victim’s > family-a financial penalty that satisfies demands for vengeance.
> While many complainants turn to their courts out of religious conviction, Sheikh
> Beek and Sheikh Abu Faisal said many also hope to avoid the high costs, tedious > bureaucracy and corruption that afflict the official court system.
> One Friday in September, Sheikh Abu Faisal passed ten verdicts in the space of several
> hours. Like arbitration proceedings in the Western legal system, both parties in
> each case signed documents pledging to follow the courts’ rulings. But Sheikh Abu
> Faisal resolved most of the cases by demanding only that the perpetrators apologize.
> When one man, a driver who said he had been falsely accused of assault in an official
> court, demanded monetary compensation, Sheikh Abu Faisal snapped back with the imperious > tone of a reality TV judge.
> “You’ve agreed to accept our judgment and this is the ruling we have decided,” said
> Sheikh Abu Faisal. “This case can’t be appealed and you will both agree that it > will be put to rest and never reopened.”
> Both men agreed, shook hands politely and shuffled out of the makeshift court.
> ITEM 8a: Jonathan Schanzer: Did Israel and the U.S. Just Cooperate on a Dry-Run
> for an Iran Intervention? http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/109576/did-israel-and-the-us-just-cooperate-dry-run-iran-raid
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.wtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tnr.com%2Fblog%2Fplank%2F109576%2Fdid-israel-and-the-us-just-cooperate-dry-run-iran-raid] > November 2, 2012
> Within hours of a bombing raid on a weapons factory in Sudan last month, the international
> media was pointing fingers at Israel. Some reports suggested that the strike looked
> like a dry run for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But lost in the reporting
> was the fact that thousands of US troops, including senior military officials, were
> in Israel the day Sudan was attacked. If the U.S. indeed cooperated with Israel
> in the attack, then this might have been a dry run of an entirely different sort-one
> that would belie the very public disagreements between the two countries over intervention > in Iran.
> According to Michael Ross, a former Mossad officer, there is “no doubt at all” that
> the Yarmouk complex was being used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The Israeli daily
> newspaper Haaretz also notes that members of the Sudanese opposition have fingered
> Yarmouk as an IRGC facility. Ross says that Sudan “has been a hub for IRGC activities
> since 1989.” He adds that, “In 1995, in retaliation for the Argentina AMIA bombings
> in 1994, we were considering retaliating against the Iranians in Sudan. The mission > was scrapped by Prime Minister Rabin for fear of escalation.”
> In recent years, however, Israel has shed those fears. The Israelis are widely believed
> to have carried out several military operations against targets in Sudan. In 2009,
> they reportedly launched three airstrikes in Sudan, targeting Iranian weapons shipments
> destined for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. One of those attacks destroyed a 17-truck
> convoy. Another attack in 2011 targeted a car carrying two men near the town of
> Port Sudan. And Reuters reports that, “Foreign intelligence sources said Israel
> carried out an unmanned drone raid on a convoy south of Khartoum [in September] > that destroyed 200 tons of munitions.”
> As they always do following a covert attack, Israeli officials denied any knowledge
> of the recent raid-“Thereis nothing I can say about this subject,” Defense Minister
> Ehud Barak told Israeli TV-though hardly anyone believes him. The more interesting
> question is whether the United States was involved. The Arabic daily Al-Hayat reports
> that some Sudanese officials believe the United States knew about the strike in
> advance and closed its embassy for fear of retribution. State Department spokesperson
> Victoria Nuland called the article “misreporting,” noting that the embassy has been > closed since September 12 for security reasons.
> But there’s more than innuendo. On October 24, Israel and the United States held
> a large joint military exercise, known as Austere Challenge 2012, in which 3,500
> U.S. troops took part. Austere Challenge involved the deployment of sophisticated
> US missile defense systems in Israel, but no aircraft, according to the US Department
> of Defense. Yet, just hours before the exercise began, four jets – widely believed
> to be Israeli – reportedly bombed a weapons depot tied to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary > Guard Corps in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
> It is also important to note that Yarmouk has been a target of interest for both
> the United States and Israel for some time. A leaked 2006 State Department cable
> notes that the plant had the “potential to make a material contribution to missile,
> WMD, or certain other weapons programs.” Later that year, State also flagged it
> on its federal registry as an entity of proliferation concern. As early as 1998,
> Human Rights Watch also noted its concern that Yarmouk “stored chemical weapons > for Iraq.”
> One American defense official familiar with U.S. operations in North Africa believes
> there is a distinct possibility “the Israelis did this with the American military
> right there, without telling them.” My colleague Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA
> operative, agrees. He adds, “it’s a possible foretaste of what would happen by June
> against [nuclear installations in] Iran. The Israelis will not ask for U.S. permission
> to carry out a raid against Iran.” However, Major Robert Firman, a public affairs
> officer at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told me that the U.S. military
> had “no foreknowledge” and provided “no assistance” in the reported attack on Sudan.
> In all likelihood, according to Jacob Abel, a former Iran analyst at the Defense
> Intelligence Agency, the attack was precipitated by a “game changing” rocket –
> one with a longer range or bigger payload than had previously been smuggled to Gaza
> – that was either being constructed or stored at Yarmouk. “The Israelis were likely > watching the facility or intercepted information that drew deep concern.”
> There is also ample reason to believe the attack was intended as a message to the
> Iranians. Not only did it show (again) that the IRGC’s activities in Sudan are well-tracked.
> It also demonstrated that Israel’s jets can strike targets at great distances –
> specifically, a distance that’s roughly equal to or longer than the distance between
> Israel and Iran’s nuclear sites. In another interesting wrinkle, immediately before
> the jets hit the plant, telecommunicationsin the surrounding area reportedly went
> dark, much as they did in the minutes leading up to Israel’s strike on Syria’s nuclear > reactorin 2007.
> Of course, an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be a very different proposition.
> One of Israel’s targets in Iran, the Fordow nuclear facility, is burrowed deep in
> the side of mountain and is heavily fortified. As a result,the bombs Israel would
> need to do the job would be much heavier, necessitating much more fuel than what
> was needed for Yarmouk. And while Sudan’s air defenses are virtually nonexistent,
> Iran’s are likely much more robust. Finally, Gerecht adds, the number of jets needed
> to attack Iran could be roughly 20 times that which hit Sudan. For that reason,
> it’s difficult to conceive of a direct attack on Iran without some sort of American > involvement.
> That’s precisely why the presence of the U.S. military in Israel during the recent
> large-scale military operation in Sudan is so intriguing. Indeed, whether or not
> the U.S. was involved almost doesn’t matter. Iran must now account for this recent
> episode in its nuclear calculus. The very possibility that Jerusalem and Israel
> have closed the gap in their debate over Iran intervention is a weapon all its own.
> Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism intelligence analyst at the U.S. Department
> of the Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of > Democracies.
> ITEM 9a: Benny Avni: Israel Sends a Message http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/israel_sends_message_pjH9GOiN6zHFQFwfIHLK1K
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vxnlaelab.0.xtd8eelab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0837&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nypost.com%2Fp%2Fnews%2Fopinion%2Fopedcolumnists%2Fisrael_sends_message_pjH9GOiN6zHFQFwfIHLK1K] > Last Updated: 11:22 PM, November 2, 2012
> The before-and-after satellite images said it all: First, the mysterious cargo was
> there, and then – puff – it was gone, leaving behind just large black holes in the > ground.
> In between, Israeli planes flying in the dark of the desert night dropped just enough
> bombs on the Yarmouk military compound in Sudan to destroy the cargo, described
> in news accounts as “volatile.” The planes reportedly came and went undetected by > Sudanese air defenses.
> Jerusalem’s silence aside (officials there won’t confirm or deny Khartoum’s contention
> that the Israeli Defense Force was behind the Oct. 23 attack), the daring and plainly
> successful operation sent a strong message to Sudan and Iran, two of its most powerful > enemies.
> Whoever wins Tuesday’s election better take note, too.
> Sudan denies that the shipping containers seen in that “before” image (published
> by George Clooney’s Satellite Sentinel Project) held Iranian arms. But the two
> rogue countries don’t hide their ties: On Wednesday, two Iranian warships left the
> Port of Sudan after a several-day visit, an obvious sign of a tightening military > alliance.
> That alliance, according to Israeli and other sources, includes Iranian financial
> aid to cash-strapped Sudan and some upgrading of its military assets. In exchange,
> Iran gets to use Sudan’s ports to strengthen its clients in the region, such as
> Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions in Gaza and the West Bank, Hezbollah > in Lebanon and the beleaguered Assad regime in Syria.
> International-law purists denounced the raid, but southern Israelis can sigh with
> relief: The IDF reportedly destroyed a sizable cargo destined for Gaza militants, > including weapons that security officials call strategically significant.
> Among the ordnance were rockets that can reach beyond the Israeli towns right next
> to Gaza (which have been increasingly attacked in the last few weeks) and hit major
> population centers further north. Also, shore-to-sea missiles and shoulder-mounted
> anti-aircraft guns that could change the balance of power between the IDF and the > Gaza factions.
> According to the Israeli military analyst Ron Ben Yishai, Iran has long used Sudan-controlled
> shipping routes to reach Gaza via Egyptian ports. But as Israeli intelligence discovered
> and destroyed the arms, the Iranians shifted to unloading their military wares at
> Yarmouk, smuggling them to Gaza through much longer (but safer) land routes. Now > that option has also become perilous.
> Sudanese officials scoffed at the attack as a political stunt as next February’s
> Israeli election approaches. In fact, the strike is important in itself and for > the messages it sends.
> To Sudan: Despite the distance, you won’t enjoy immunity as long as Iran uses your
> territory for arming Israel’s enemies. (That message may have gotten through: Al
> Hayat reports that Sudanese Foreign minister Ali Karti has warned colleagues that
> the alliance with Tehran puts Sudan at risk of being pulled into the Israel-Iran > dispute and of having its “back exposed” in the Red Sea.)
> To Gaza’s Palestinian factions, which in recent weeks have escalated their attacks > on civilians in southern Israel: Certain types of arms won’t be tolerated.
> To the whole region, a potent reminder: The Sudanese target was over 1,100 miles
> from Israel’s airport bases – some 200 miles farther than what Israeli planes must > travel to hit Iran’s nuclear facilities.
> Yes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s UN speech in September calmed fears > that Israel planned an attack on Iran on the eve of next week’s US election.
> But Iran, whose leaders have never hidden their desire to eliminate the Jewish state,
> remains a menace. And its nuclear program proceeds despite occasional setbacks.
> So last week’s Sudan attack may also serve as a memo to all Americans who still > believe that the tide of Mideast wars has receded.
> Above all, it was fresh proof that, however far off Israel’s enemies, Jerusalem > intends to continue with its unique nonproliferation program. >
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