Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday strongly defended the recently exposed U.S. surveillance programs, which he helped craft in the aftermath of 9/11, but sharply criticized President Obama for his handling of a range of issues from the Syrian civil war to the Benghazi terror attacks.
Cheney said the president has not been “standup” and “forthright” about the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attacks on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. (Fox News, Posted 17 Jun 13)
The Syrian civil war is badly destabilizing our most reliable Arab ally, Jordan. Lebanon is increasingly fragile. In Egypt and across North Africa the Muslim Brotherhood has gained power. Since Mr. Obama withdrew American forces in Iraq, sectarian violence has markedly increased there, with the hard-won gains from the Bush administration’s surge being washed away. The war in Afghanistan is going poorly, while relations with the Karzai regime are quite bad, limiting American leverage in that nation (our much-trumped retreat of forces from Afghanistan have of course limited our leverage as well). Turkey is struggling to contain a political crisis that has threatened the nation’s economy and paralyzed the government. There are no prospects for genuine peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Libyan people are weary of two years of militia violence that has kept the country in chaos and stalled reform, with the government weak and unstable. And al Qaeda is ascendant in North Africa.
After eight years the damage of the Obama legacy will be extraordinary. But the damage may be most acute in foreign policy, where events are continuing to spin out of control and our commander-in-chief doesn’t have any idea how to stop it. (Commentary, Posted 17 Jun 13)
Al-Qaeda will likely become bigger, stronger and more unpredictable over the next five years, according to a Canadian intelligence study that attempted to peer into the future of the evolving terror network….
But the report said the “likeliest” prospect was that al-Qaeda would slowly but steadily gain ground by selling its violent, anti-Western, religious-based zeal to populations frustrated and disillusioned by the failure of their governments. The conflict in Syria “has potentially breathed new life into the al-Qaeda brand,” the study said, adding the demographic of “disenfranchised, disillusioned and marginalized youth” that Islamist extremists draw from had not gone away. (National Post, 15 Jun 13)
Countries in Africa and the Middle East are a greater threat than old nuclear facilities in former Soviet republics as sources of material for a “dirty bomb,” US officials say.
“In north Africa and the Middle East you have terrorist organisations, unstable governments, in some cases actual civil conflict and lack of control over sovereign territory. In the former Soviet Union we still have remaining challenges, but we are dealing with relatively stable governments with which we have a history of engagement,” Simon Limage, a non-proliferation specialist at the US state department, told EUobserver. (EU Observer, Posted 15 Jun 13)
In 1998, after Osama bin Laden orchestrated the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, FBI agents were deployed to collect evidence so they could issue a warrant for his arrest. Twelve years later, Seal Team Six raided his Abbottabad compound, shot and killed him and his guards and then dumped his corpse into the sea.
The difference is that the U.S. is now waging a war on terror, and not a metaphorical war like LBJ’s on poverty. This is a crucial distinction that has been lost amid the growing ruction over the National Security Agency surveillance programs. Another point lost amid the uproar is that the safety of citizens is the first—and in our view, the principal—obligation of government. (Wall Street Journal editorial, Posted 14 Jun 14)
The message regarding terrorism from the Obama administration over the past few years has been that al Qaeda is on the run, its core leadership has been “decimated,” and that the face of the “war on terror” is changing for the better. In his recent speech on U.S. counterterrorism strategy, President Obama said, “Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.”
However, remarks on Thursday by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to the House Committee on the Judiciary paint a less optimistic picture [emphasis added]: Overseas, the terrorist threat is similarly complex and ever-changing. We are seeing more groups and individuals engaged in terrorism, a wider array of terrorist targets, greater cooperation among terrorist groups, and continued evolution and adaptation in tactics and communication. Al Qaeda and its affiliates, especially al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to represent a top terrorist threat to the nation. (Weekly Standard, Posted 14 Jun 13)
The Benghazi attack raises fundamental questions on how to keep America safe and whether to trust the administration. We need a substantive debate on how to protect America against the growing threat of Islamic extremists.
In the aftermath of the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi and three other Americans, the Obama administration did the classic dance of political operatives confronted with an inconvenient truth: deny, deny, deny, and then say, “Oh that doesn’t matter because it was a long time ago.” President Obama has called efforts to get to the bottom of what happened a “sideshow.” But, alas, Benghazi is not a sideshow and it does matter. The administration’s actions in this and other scandals facing the Obama team go to the very foundation of any presidency: can the American people trust their president and his administration? (The American, Posted 12 Jun 13)
President Barack Obama’s top national security advisers met at the White House on Wednesday to air their differences. The administration’s caution persists despite its nearly two-year-old demand that President Bashar Assad step down, its vows to help the besieged Syrian rebels on the ground and its threats to respond to any chemical weapons use….
Obama was flying from Massachusetts to Florida on Wednesday and did not participate in Wednesday’s meeting. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and several other top aides of the president were expected to attend. (Associated Press, Posted 13 Jun 13)
With top national security aides set to meet at the White House on Wednesday to reassess options in light of recent setbacks for the rebels seeking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, the long-term outcome of the war remains far from assured, analysts and military experts say.
But after the Assad regime’s capture of the small but strategic town of Qusair last week — a battle in which the Iranian-backed Shiite militia played a pivotal role — Iran’s supporters and foes alike are mulling a new reality: that the regional balance of power appears to be tilting in favor of Tehran, with potentially profound implications for a Middle East still grappling with the upheaval wrought by the Arab Spring revolts. (Washington Post, Posted 12 Jun 13)
The 26-page document in Arabic, recovered by The Associated Press in a building that had been occupied by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu, strongly suggests the group now possesses the SA-7 surface-to-air missile, known to the Pentagon as the Grail, according to terrorism specialists. And it confirms that the al Qaeda cell is actively training its fighters to use these weapons, also called man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, which likely came from the arms depots of ex-Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
The United States was so worried about this particular weapon ending up in the hands of terrorists that the State Department set up a task force to track and destroy it as far back as 2006. In the spring of 2011, before the fighting in Tripoli had even stopped, a U.S. team flew to Libya to secure Gadhafi’s stockpile of thousands of heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles. By the time they got there, many had already been looted. (CBS News, Posted 12 Jun 13)
U.S. officials say Mr. Xi refused even to acknowledge Beijing’s responsibility and insisted that China is the main victim of cyber spying. In brief public remarks, Mr. Obama responded that the U.S. is going to need better cyber defenses “even as we negotiate with other countries around setting up common rules of the road.”
Rules of the road? Mr. Obama is going to have to do better than that if he wants to stop China’s cyber attacks. The Chinese don’t even concede there’s a road that requires rules. The U.S. strategy seems to be to ask China to join a global cyber arms-control regime when China is the world’s major promoter and beneficiary of cyber warfare. Parchment promises rarely work in world affairs, but they have no chance in this case until China pays a price for its thievery. (Wall Street Journal editorial, Posted 11 Jun 13)
A U.S. Navy assessment warns the service might be unable to afford a planned complement of 12 new nuclear-armed submarines if it is to maintain a 300-vessel fleet of surface ships, Arms Control Today reported in its June edition.
Future budgets might not allow for buying the so-called SSBN(X) ballistic missile submersibles unless other ship procurement suffers, the Navy said in a fiscal 2014 shipbuilding plan submitted to Congress last month. (NTI, Posted 11 Jun 13)