US intelligence community examines Mideast situation

Ha'aretz carried an important article recently on assessments and recommendations by the US intelligence community relating to national security interests in the Middle East. In the emerging tradition of the US press, this story does not appear to have had much domestic coverage. I have not been able to find the report that is mentioned in the article (I will post it when I can find it).

According to the article,
The four central players in American intelligence - Tenet, Ford, the FBI chiefs and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the Pentagon - have drawn up their full written responses in follow-up to their verbal answers to questions from the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during its annual hearing on "Current and Projected Threats to the National Security of the United States" which was held in February. The original hearing came prior to the Iraq war, and written reponses and updates were promised to follow after the war.
Some of the main points are as follows:

- The US intelligence community sees a clear link between the Israel/Palestine issue and the problems the US is facing in the Middle East: "The U.S. Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) has recommended to the Bush administration to apply "clear and intentional pressure" on Israel regarding the settlements, as part of making headway with the Palestinians, as well as helping to calm the situation heating up in Iraq.

"Ford submitted that the urgency of advancing an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, which necessitates pressure on Israel regarding the settlements, was one of two conditions for stability in Iraq. The other was visible progress on democracy and welfare in Iraq itself. Ford expressed doubts over fulfilling these conditions, and described the chance of achieving success on both counts as "a miracle," but that without it, the U.S. should expect Arab and Muslim hostility to increase further, threatening prospects for the future."

- The Arab League initiative of 2002, now more or less safely in the confines of the memory hole, is seen as one of the best ways to reach a settlement of the Israel/Palestine problem, which can only help the US' national interests: "Stanley Moskowitz, CIA director of congressional affairs, and a former head of the CIA in Israel, wrote to the senators on behalf of Tenet that an arrangement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would be acceptable to the Palestinians and developed Arab states, "such as the plans outlined by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah," are expected to significantly reduce negative feelings toward the U.S. in the region. According to the CIA, the U.S. policy vis-a-vis Israel and the presence of American forces in the Persian Gulf are the prime cause of negative feeling toward the U.S. in the region".

- The US intelligence community still has fears about the stability of the Hashemite regime in Jordan: "From the reponses of the heads of American intelligence, fears were raised over the stability of the Jordanian regime. The response to a question on this matter, which had referred to an earlier assessment of fears for King Abdullah's government following the U.S. war in Iraq and increasing violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was left classified. It is reasonable to assume that the response would have been published had the CIA's earlier estimates of fears, expressed in February, been proved false."

- Israel continues to aggressively direct espionage activities against the US: "According to the reports to the Senate committee, Israel continues to be included in the top ranking of those suspected of industrial and economic espionage against the United States. France, Russia, China, Iran and Cuba appear on the list as well.

It is beyond incredible that this story is not news in the US. It says a lot about the state of American journalism when American citizens must turn to foreign news sources for critical information about US policy.

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