Friday, April 8, 2011

WH dismissed Warnings - from Al Qaeda allies & foes - about Yemen vulnerability

The Obama administration dismissed warnings about a potential uprising in Yemen from friends and foes of Al Aqaeda alike, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

'Hamid al-Ahmar, a wealthy Yemeni businessman, warned an unnamed U.S. embassy official in August 2009 that a massive movement to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh would erupt unless the ruler guaranteed free and fair parliamentary elections due in 2011.'

Various leaders in the Middle East also warned the Obama administration about the situation in Yemen, but the motivation behind these warnings varied, depending on who had issued the warning.

Hamid al-Ahmar is a member of Yemen's Islamic Party, Islah [Al Islah]. U.S. officials reportedly view the Islah Party as a dangerous force, with links to al-Qaeda Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood runs the political apparatus of Al Islah.

A prominent spiritual leader of the Islah party, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, has been designated by the U.S. Treasury Dept. as a terrorist. Al-Zindani’s ties to al-Qaeda include recruitment and weapons procurement. According to the Treasury Dept., al-Zindani has a"long history of working with bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders."

Sadeq al-Ahmar, a Sunni religious scholar, is also among the party's leaders. Hamid al-Ahmar, the aforementioned wealthy Yemeni businessman, is Sadeq's younger brother. Thus, it goes without saying that, Mr. Ahmar, in warning U.S. officials about a potential uprising in Yemen, was essentially seeking to prod the Obama administration to push President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power, so that a more radical government could assume the reigns of power - which would clearly be a boon for Al Qaeda and its ally, the Al-Islah Party.

In October 2009, Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, reportedly told US Ambassador Joseph LeBaron that his nation was "frightened" by what could happen in Yemen. Al-Thani is a major financial backer of the Qatar based Al Jazeera network. Al Jazeera has been fueling some of the current uprisings. However, the Al Qaeda sympathizer network, for the most part, has remained conspicuously silent in the face of the violent government crackdowns in Iran.

Thus, al-Thani's warning to the U.S. ambassador in '09, like Hamid al-Ahmar's warning, was clearly an attempt to cajole President Obama to push President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power.

On the flip side, Saudi Arabia and Oman, who also warned U.S. officials about the situation in Yemen, were, no doubt, hoping that President Obama would act quickly to bolster the Yemeni President and subsequently, to prevent the extremist elements from taking over the reigns of power. While it is true that President Ali Abdullah Saleh has not confronted Al Qaeda to the full extent necessary, he has, nevertheless, taken them on.

But apparently, the White House did not feel a sense of urgency to heed the aforementioned warnings..

It should also be noted that while the administration initially supported President Saleh, it has since changed its tune, and is now supporting the opposition...

Osama is beaming......

Monday, April 4, 2011

Intelligence Expert projects lengthy engagement in Libya, discusses the Al Qaeda, Rebels quandary

Bruce Riedel, a Senior Fellow for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and a former CIA officer and former adviser to President Obama on Afghanistan, told the Washington Examiner on Monday that the U.S involvement in Libya will likely be a protracted one. "Mission creep" is almost a certainty, he said.

"We have to recognize, whether we like it or not, we own this problem now," said Riedel. "The notion that you can intervene and walk away from it is very disingenuous. Half measures are likely to produce failed outcomes. As much as the administration wants to reassure this is no major operation, it is. Once you're in it's very difficult to get out."

Riedel also stated that the U.S. should stipulate to rebel leaders that they must weed out al Qaeda militants from their ranks, if they want to be supplied with weapons and aid from allies.

Appearing on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Monday, Riedel opined that if two percent of the Libyan rebel forces are affiliated with Al Qaeda, "we can live with it, if it's more than that, we've got a big problem."

Experts have assessed the number of Al Qaeda militants in the rebel ranks to be significantly higher than two percent - which means, we're in deep doo-doo!

And, while the White House insists that Europe's involvement in the Libyan conflict will enable the U.S. to engage in a more limited role, Bruce Riedel made the following observation:
"The more the Europeans get drawn into a protracted conflict in Libya, the more likely they're going to start pulling troops out of Afghanistan, which makes the President's decision" to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan "in July even harder, because there are going to be fewer NATO boots on the ground in Afghanistan even if there starts to be NATO boots on the ground in Libya. It's a trade off... What we're going to see is... Europeans saying, 'we've now got this new mission, it's closer to home, it's more vital to us, and anyway, we wanted to get out of Afghanistan..., here's our excuse to start drawing down, which makes this an even more American operation in Afghanistan."
Which means the Obama administration's ongoing search for an exit strategy in Afghanistan - including on-and-off talks with so-called moderate elements of the Taliban - will only increase as Obama seeks to secure his core base for the 2012 Presidential election, while simultaneously, and paradoxically, using the Libyan conflict to bolster his claim to fame and his credentials as a genuine Commander-in- Chief.

Meanwhile, Pajamas Media informs us that "while American intelligence experts search for “flickers” of jihadist involvement in the Libyan rebellion, a French reporter on a brief visit to eastern Libya had no problem finding numerous jihadists on the front."

Good luck, Mr. President!

Blagojevich, Balanoff, Obama - extortion attempt revisited

Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich on Monday asked a federal judge to turn over FBI notes from an interview with President Obama, in 2008, pertaining to the ousted Illinois governor's corruption case.

The Presiding Judge rejected a similar request before Blagojevich's first trial last year.

Blagojevich's defense team say the notes could "go directly to the heart of testimony of several government witnesses," including that of Illinois SEIU State Council President and longtime Obama ally Tom Balanoff, who previously testified about a telephone conversation he had with Obama - on the eve of the 2008 presidential election - concerning Valerie Jarrett, a long time Obama friend.

"Tom, I want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat," Obama said to Balanoff, "I would much prefer she (remain in the White House) but she does want to be Senator and she does meet those two criteria."

Balanoff told Obama: 'Thank you, I'm going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."

A report released by the Obama Presidential transition team in 2008 stated as follows:
The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat... The accounts support [Obama's] statement on December 11, 2008 that he had never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues, [and] that [he] had no contact with the Governor's office.... These accounts were communicated to the Office of the United States Attorney in interviews that were conducted last week.
The report goes on to say that Dr. Eric Whitaker, a family friend, was approached and asked for information by a member of the [former] Governor's circle..., Deputy Governor Louanner Peters.
[The Deputy Governor asked Whitaker] 'who spoke for the President-Elect with respect to the Senate appointment..., and who, if anyone, had the authority to speak for the President-Elect?' Dr. Whitaker said he would find out.[Whitaker, subsequently contacted the President-Elect]. [Obama] told Dr. Whitaker that no one was authorized to speak for him on the matter. The President-Elect said that he had no interest in dictating the result of the selection process, and he would not do so, either directly or indirectly through staff or others. Dr. Whitaker relayed that information to Deputy Governor Peters.
However, contrary to Obama's statements and the aforementioned report, Obama did communicate - via Mr. Balanoff - his endorsement of Valerie Jarret. It goes without saying that Mr. Balanoff had clearly been authorized by the President to speak on his behalf. To infer otherwise, is simply an outright prevarication.

Another important point - which received scant media coverage - is something the New York Times reported in July of 2010, specifically, Mr. Balanoff's attempt to extort Rod Blagojevich. The New York Times' article resolved a nagging question that had been bothering me: Why did Obama specifically choose Balanoff, of all people, to be his emissary to Blagojevich?
Mr. Balanoff’s testimony [at the Blagojevich corruption trial] suggested he had mixed apple-polishing of Blago with tough love. The apple-polishing included telling Blago that his off-the-wall notion about exiting office to run a union-sponsored, tax-exempt nonprofit to lobby on health care was a good one...

The unionist acted with a sense of entitlement and highlighted another reality, namely how money talks. The S.E.I.U. was a huge contributor to Mr. Blagojevich. If Mr. Balanoff wanted a meeting, presto, he got it. And if Mr. Balanoff didn’t like what he heard, he raised the prospect in at least one conversation with the former governor of withholding his union’s ample purse in the next election — in this case, if Blago didn’t quickly pick Valerie Jarrett as Mr. Obama’s successor.

Mr. Balanoff..., initially desired Representative Jan Schakowsky for the seat. Yanking his union’s contributions would be perfectly legal, of course, but it also constituted a slice of the realpolitik that has Blago sitting at the defense table.
I noted at the time:
Hmmm. So, Tom Balanoff, who just happens to be an emissary of Barack Obama, threatens to withhold campaign contributions from Blagojevich if he didn’t choose Valerie Jarrett as Obama’s successor; even though Balanoff's preferred choice was Jan Schakowsky and he wasn't even keen on Valerie Jarrett, Obama's preferred choice.

Oh my! Chicago-style politics at its worst, with Obama right smack in the middle of the corruption, and the extortion attempt.

The question that really needs to be examined, is not whether Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama's senate seat, but whether Balanoff, as an emissary of Obama, tried to purchase the seat from Blagojevich by means of extortion with the abetment of Obama!
And now it is crystal clear why Obama chose Balanoff as his emissary: Money talks!

One can posit that Obama did not explicitly tell Balanoff to threaten Blagojevich with withholding his union’s contributions, but ultimately Obama knew the deal, and so did Balanoff.

One thing is for certain, Balanoff was clearly Obama's emissary, which contradicts both the reports' findings and Obama's statement, specifically, that he did not have any "interest in dictating the result of the selection process, and he would not do so, either directly or indirectly through staff or others", and that he did not have any communications with the Governor's office.

Additionally, the President's former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, spoke with Blagojevich's staff about the vacant senate seat on several occasions. Emanuel is purported, by the Obama team, to have acted on his own behalf. However, he told the FBI in 2008 that one conversation he had with Blagojevich's former Chief of Staff, John Harris, took place [on December 8, 2008] one day after Obama had expressed concern, to Emanuel [on December 7], that a certain candidate might be appointed to the senate seat.

Admittedly, there's no way of proving whether Emanuel spoke to Blagojevich on Obama's behalf or not. But Balanoff is a different story, and that's where the FBI notes come in handy: Since Balanoff was Obama's emissary to Blagojevich, the FBI notes are indeed relevant, not only to Blagojevich, but also to the American people, who have a vested interest in knowing whether the President did or did not lie to the FBI: Lying to the FBI is a criminal offense - and presumably, an impeachable offense.

Conclusion: The FBI notes should be turned over to Blagojevich's defense team forthwith.

Did the WH leak covert information about CIA Operatives in Libya?

Last week Reuters quoted U.S. government officials as saying that American "intelligence operatives were on the ground in Libya before President Barack Obama signed a secret order authorizing covert support for anti-Gaddafi rebels."
The CIA personnel were sent in to contact opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and assess their capabilities, two U.S. officials said...

One U.S. government source familiar with Libya policy said the Obama administration is considering plans under which U.S. special forces personnel experienced in training anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan would work with CIA officers in efforts to organize and train Libyan opposition fighters.
Likewise, the New York Times [on March 30] quoted U.S. officials as saying that "small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military..."
American spies are meeting with rebels to try to fill in gaps in understanding who their leaders are and the allegiances of the groups opposed to Colonel Qaddafi, said United States government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the activities.
Some intelligence experts are questioning why the aforementioned classified information was leaked to the press:
They question whether the Obama Administration was putting the President’s political ambitions ahead of America’s national security.

A former senior CIA official speculated that “there was not one but a multitude of sources that leaked this information and it was done to prove they were tough.”

Another former CIA official went further and stated that, “They should have kept their big flapping mouth shut, and they said exactly the wrong thing. They said the CIA is there to collect information on the opposition to determine who the rebels are which makes the operatives job harder.” A former operative angrily noted that those officers on the ground have been compromised and now have to explain to the rebels that they are not collecting information about them...."

[One] former CIA official sarcastically noted “what part of covert doesn’t the administration understand?”
Incidentally, the New York Times, also reported the following eye-opener:
Several weeks ago, President Obama signed a secret finding authorizing the C.I.A. to provide arms and other support to Libyan rebels, American officials said Wednesday. But weapons have not yet been shipped into Libya, as Obama administration officials debate the effects of giving them to the rebel groups.