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Who Helped Snowden Steal State Secrets?

This orchestration did not occur in a vacuum. Airfares, hotel bills and other expenses over this period had to be paid. A safe house had to be secured in Hong Kong. Lawyers had to be retained, and safe passage to Moscow—a trip on which Mr. Snowden was accompanied by WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison—had to be organized.

The world now knows that the misappropriation of U.S. communications intelligence began appearing in the Guardian and other publications on June 5, and Mr. Snowden left Hong Kong for the Moscow airport on June 21. A question that remains to be answered: Who, if anyone, aided and abetted this well-planned theft of U.S. secrets? (Wall Street Journal op-ed, Posted 28 Jun 13)

How close is Iran to having a nuclear bomb?

IRAN is putting up with sanctions that damage its economy rather than accept a deal limiting its nuclear programme. It has developed the capacity to enrich far more uranium than it needs for generating nuclear power or for medical research. And its outgoing president has talked about wanting to wipe Israel off the map. All of which suggests to outsiders that the country intends, at a time of its choosing, to get its hands on nuclear weapons. Iran, for its part, denies that it wants any such thing and points to a fatwa against both the possession and use of nuclear weapons….

British and American intelligence sources think Iran is about a year away from having enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb, and rather further from mastering the technologies to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile. But David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security, thinks that by mid-2014 Iran will have the capacity to produce enough fissile material for a single bomb in one or two weeks, should it choose to do so. It seems unlikely that Iran could be forced to change course on this matter by foreigners. The best that can be hoped for is that it decides that it does not want or need a nuclear weapon. The alternative is probably a nuclear-armed Middle East in which Iran and Israel—and eventually Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt—all have missiles pointed at each other. (Economist, Posted 28 Jun 13)

CIA report refutes Senate panel’s criticism of agency’s harsh interrogation methods

The CIA has completed a report that challenges the findings of a Senate investigation of the agency’s interrogation program, according to U.S. officials who said the response cites errors in the congressional probe and disputes its central conclusion that harsh methods used against al-Qaeda detainees failed to produce significant results….

The CIA report catalogues errors that teams of agency analysts found in the committee’s research. It also questions the panel’s methodology, noting that the committee collected millions of internal CIA cables and other documents on the interrogation program, but it did not interview anyone directly involved. (Washington Post, Posted 27 Jun 13)

Snowden flap bares hapless U.S.

You can’t help but feel that the Russian Bear and Chinese Dragon are enjoying the chance to tweak ol’ Uncle Sam’s nose over the Edward “I’ve got lots of super-secret laptops” Snowden affair. Their unwillingness to extradite the slippery systems administrator-cum-spy is just the latest example of the waning of American global power and influence courtesy of Team Obama. This isn’t good news….

The big question, naturally, is: With perceptions of our plummeting power quite plausible, who might be the next to take pleasure in challenging our interests? (Boston Herald, Posted 27 Jun 13)

The Taliban is Playing Obama

Now in 2013, the Taliban has once again promised, in a statement announcing the opening of its new political office in Qatar, that it “does not wish to harm other countries from its soil and neither will it allow others use Afghan soil to pose a threat to the security of other nations.”

Don’t believe a word of it. Taliban leaders are not interested in sharing power. Their goal is to get the United States out of the way so they can take over Afghanistan. So why are the Taliban negotiating? Simple. It knows that Barack Obama wants to leave Afghanistan and close Guantanamo Bay— and they want to help him do both. (Washington Post op-ed, Posted 26 Jun 13)

Officials: Obama’s policy team trying to ‘rein in’ Kerry over pledges to allies, rivals

Since succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton as America’s top diplomat, Kerry has issued several as yet undelivered — and perhaps undeliverable — pledges to allies and rivals alike, proving a source of concern for U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy team. It is trying to rein in Kerry somewhat, according to officials, which is difficult considering Kerry has spent almost half his tenure so far in the air or on the road, from where his most dissonant policy statements have come.

The White House quickly distanced itself from both Kerry’s North Korea remarks and has now, since Obama’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Northern Ireland this past week, seen up close the strength of Moscow’s resistance to Kerry’s Syria strategy. All the officials interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to evaluate Kerry’s performance publicly. (Associated Press, Posted 26 Jun 13)

Running Out of Foreign Influence

Now Mr. Snowden may be on his way to Havana, or Caracas, or Quito. It’s been said often enough that this so-called transparency crusader remains free thanks to the cheek and indulgence of dictatorships and strongmen. It’s also been said that his case illustrates how little has been achieved by President Obama’s “reset” with Moscow, or with his California schmoozing of China’s Xi Jinping earlier this month.

But however the Snowden episode turns out (and don’t be surprised if the Russians wind up handing him over in exchange for an unspecified American favor), what it mainly illustrates is that we are living in an age of American impotence. The Obama administration has decided it wants out from nettlesome foreign entanglements, and now finds itself surprised that it’s running out of foreign influence.(Wall Street Journal op-ed, Posted 24 Jun 13)

IRANIAN NAVAL AND MARITIME STRATEGY

The Iranian regime has among its strategic objectives expanding its power in the Middle East and rolling back U.S. influence in the region. Iranian leadership considers the Persian Gulf and much of Central Asia to be a “near abroad” where Iranian culture and interests should have significant influence. Recent developments confirm that Iran is committed to this ambition, has a strategy to realize this outcome, and is making significant progress towards it. Iran also clearly has ambitions to be a significant and relevant actor on the global stage, whose capabilities and intentions must be taken into consideration by superpower nations….

The totality of evidence indicates that Iranian maritime activity in support of the Iranian strategic objective of regional power and influence is evolving and expanding, not contracting. The Iranian regime is not in decline, and it is not a state that is isolated from the international community. Iranian strategic ambition is expanding, and the Iranian regime is using its maritime entities, namely, IRIN, IRGCN, and IRISL, to realize that strategic ambition. (ISW Report, Posted 24 Jun 13)

Meet the New Mullah: Same as the old mullah

With the nuclear negotiations under Rouhani’s successor, the one-legged, religiously zealous, and incorruptible Saeed Jalili (who probably was Khamenei’s preferred presidential candidate), the Islamic Republic has advanced substantially. Given its ever-growing number of increasingly efficient centrifuges and the soon-to-be-operational plutonium-separation facility at Arak, Tehran could be within 18 months of having a two-week nuclear breakout capacity. Soon, its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium will be irrelevant as a stepping stone to weaponization: Iran’s massive low-enriched uranium stockpile, which Rouhani has emphatically said is nonnegotiable, will be all that’s required to dash to a uranium-triggered bomb….

As Rouhani’s promise evaporates over the next few months, President Obama will stare at what he’s staring at now: a choice between preemptively bombing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites and allowing the supreme leader and his guards, who oversee both the nuclear program and terrorist operations abroad, the capacity to build an atomic weapon at any time of their choosing. The president has acknowledged the oncoming breakout capacity for the regime; he’s also pledged to stop it. As former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden has remarked, however, it’s hard to imagine James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, ever walking into the Oval Office and announcing that today is the day when the “red line” has been irretrievably crossed. Intelligence officers don’t do that. (Weekly Standard, Posted 24 Jun 13)

The Obama Age of Proliferation

Bilateral negotiations are an anachronism. Before the Cold War powers cut any deeper, how about some clarity about the size of the Chinese arsenal and its intentions? Beijing hides its warheads and missiles in tunnels and has the industrial wherewithal to build many more quickly. The Pentagon thinks the Chinese have up to 400 nuclear warheads, which sounds low. The Pakistanis possess more than 100….

Meanwhile in the real world, North Korea adds to its nuclear arsenal and tests weapons with impunity. Iran marches ahead toward its atomic capability despite U.N. sanctions. Their neighbors in Asia and the Middle East watch and get ready to build or buy their own weapons in response. The legacy of the President who dreams of nuclear disarmament is likely to be a world with far more weapons and more nuclear powers. (Wall Street Journal editorial, Posted 21 Jun 13)

America Sidelined, Barely Relevant

The war in Syria, started by locals, is now a regional conflict, the meeting ground of two warring blocs. On one side, the radical Shiite bloc led by Iran, which overflies Iraq to supply Bashar al-Assad and sends Hezbollah to fight for him. Behind them lies Russia, which has stationed ships offshore, provided the regime with tons of weaponry and essentially claimed Syria as a Russian protectorate.

And on the other side are the Sunni Gulf states terrified of Iranian hegemony (territorial and soon nuclear); non-Arab Turkey, now convulsed by an internal uprising; and fragile Jordan, dragged in by geography. And behind them? No one. It’s the Spanish Civil War except that only one side — the fascists — showed up. The natural ally of what began as a spontaneous, secular, liberationist uprising in Syria was the United States. For two years, it did nothing. (Washington Post op-ed, Posted 20 Jun 13)

Obama’s starry-eyed view of Putin

IN TOURING Europe this week, President Obama has portrayed Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin as a ruler with whom he can build a “constructive, cooperative relationship that moves us out of a Cold War mind-set.” It’s a blinkered view that willfully ignores the Russian president’s behavior….

Unless and until President Bashar al-Assad loses Syria’s civil war — something Russia is trying to prevent with massive supplies of weapons — Mr. Putin will not alter this stance. Nor is he likely to seriously engage with Mr. Obama on the proposed reductions of nuclear weapons. Instead, he will use the issue to demand a dismantling of NATO’s missile defense architecture in Europe. Any serious progress on economic and commercial issues would require the Kremlin to purge corrupt bureaucrats and end its shakedowns of foreign firms — yet there, too, Mr. Putin is headed in the opposite direction. (Washington Post editorial, Posted 20 Jun 13)

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KAS Exclusive

Keep America Safe Board Member Debra Burlingame on President Obama’s press conference on the eve of September 11: “President Obama’s remarks today, on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, showed a regrettable disconnect with the American people who regard 9/11 as a world-changing event that touched all of our lives.” Read more.

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