- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Huawei bid challenged

A group of eight senior Republican senators on Wednesday called on the Obama administration to investigate whether national security will be compromised by the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei seeking to sell equipment to Sprint Nextel, which provides goods to the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies.

The senators, led by Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and Martha N. Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, posing a series of questions about the proposed Huawei-Sprint deal.

“We are concerned that Huawei’s position as a supplier of Sprint Nextel could create substantial risk for U.S. companies and possibly undermine U.S. national security,” they stated.

The senators then outlined what they said was Huawei’s past sales of telecommunications goods to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, along with its current relations with Iran, including the Iranian military.

Huawei’s link to the Iranian military “suggests that Huawei should be prohibited from doing business with the U.S. government” under current Iran sanctions, they said, noting reports that Huawei also is working closely with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is under U.S. sanction for its role in Iran’s nuclear program.

“A Chinese company with such a leading role in Iran’s economy and close relationship with the IRGC should not be able to do business in the U.S.,” the senators said.

However, the “most troubling” aspect of the proposed Huawei-Sprint deal is the Chinese company’s “direct ties” to the Chinese military, the senators said.

Huawei’s connections to the Chinese military have raised concerns among the intelligence services of Britain, France, Australia and India, which have stated that Huawei equipment could “facilitate remote hacking” and compromise telecommunications networks in those countries.

“At worst, Huawei’s becoming a major supplier of Sprint Nextel could present a case of a company, acting at the direction of and funded by the Chinese military, taking a critical place in the supply chain of the U.S. military, law enforcement and private sector,” the senators said.

Scott Sloat, a Sprint Nextel spokesman, declined to comment. Huawei did not respond to a message left on the company’s website.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said he was not familiar with the Huawei-Sprint deal but added, “Chinese corporations like Huawei want to do business and make investment in the U.S. by following rules of market and on the basis of win-win for both.

“We hope that some people in the U.S. will take a rational approach toward these normal commercial activities rather than do anything to stand in the way by abusing ‘national security’ concern,” he said.

A congressional aide close to the issue said U.S. companies doing business with Huawei or other military-linked companies “need to think very carefully about who they’re doing business with.”

“There is clear evidence that Huawei will steal corporate secrets from anyone it does business with, like Motorola and Cisco,” the aide said.

The senators have asked the administration to answer 11 questions about the Huawei-Sprint deal, including Huawei’s relations with the Chinese military and whether the Treasury Department is negotiating a deal that would permit Huawei to acquire or invest in U.S. companies.

The other Republican senators who signed the letter include Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, Richard C. Shelby and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine.

The Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States in 2008 blocked a proposed merger between Huawei and the U.S. telecommunications company 3 Com over what U.S. officials said were security concerns about the Chinese company’s entry into the U.S. telecommunications industry.

China military missions

One of the little-noticed new disclosures in the Pentagon’s latest annual report on Chinese military power is the first mention of U.S. worry over an apparent major shift in Chinese military strategy known as the “four historic missions.”

The missions were first discussed in a speech to the military by Chinese President Hu Jintao on Dec. 24, 2004. However, the text of the speech outlining details of the new missions remain couched in secrecy, although the four missions have been made public, including references that have triggered a debate among U.S. China watchers and policymakers over what they mean.

Some U.S. analysts sympathetic to China have sought to dismiss concerns about the new missions by arguing that Mr. Hu’s use of the word “historic” meant it was related to the past and not new. Others say use of the word “historic” for the missions means monumental or extremely significant.

That view was bolstered by the fact that the four missions were codified by changes to the Chinese Communist Party’s constitution in 2007.

The Pentagon report lists the four new military missions: keeping the Communist Party in power; providing security for national development; supporting the safeguarding of national interests; and playing an important role in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development.

The problem for U.S. defense and intelligence analysts has been a severe lack of information on what the Chinese mean by the new military missions and what impact they will have on the large-scale military buildup now under way.

Specific concerns were raised among U.S. defense officials over recent Chinese military publications calling on Beijing to give the military more money, weapons and technology to fulfill the new missions.

Added to that is the worry that Chinese military leaders appear to be arguing for building new power-projection forces and even Chinese military bases outside the country to be used to protect overseas Chinese with military force, if necessary.

That is a major shift, as China’s communist leaders in the past dismissed aircraft carriers as tools for “hegemons.” Now, however, China is building several aircraft carriers, according to the Pentagon report.

A senior defense official told reporters on Monday that excessive Chinese military secrecy had made it “very, very difficult to draw sort of a clear … analytical conclusion” about the goals of China’s military buildup.

“So we’re forced to say there may be nothing to be concerned about in the sense that China’s acting perfectly consistently with other great powers who as they rise translate economic power into military power,” the official said.

“Alternately, there may be things that in fact are concerning. And this is precisely the conundrum and the challenge that we’re faced with right now that, because of the opacity of the Chinese system and the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] in particular, we don’t have the degree of insight into their capabilities or their intentions that we would like.”

Islamist threat

The White House’s call for officials to stop using the word “Islam” or “Islamist” in any way to describe al Qaeda and other terror organizations is not exactly catching on — here or abroad, reports special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.

Take, for example, the new report from a blue-ribbon panel of experts empowered by Congress to comment on the Pentagon’s four-year strategy-force structure paper, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

The independent QDR panel was headed by Stephen Hadley, national security adviser for former President George W. Bush, and William Perry, defense secretary under former President Bill Clinton.

Contrary to Obama policy, their report, made public earlier this month, mentions radical or extremist Islamists at least seven times.

“Radical Islamist extremism and the threat of terrorism,” reads the heading for one report section, which states: “Salafist jihadi movements, wedded to the use of violence and employing terror as their primary strategy, will remain both an international threat to the global system and a specific threat to America and its interests abroad.”

Pakistan, Mr. Hadley and Mr. Perry stated, “is vulnerable to an Iranian-style revolution that Islamists would exploit.”

The report also said: “Although no one can predict the future with any certainty, three long-term challenges to our ability to protect our interests stand out. [One is] violent Islamist movements.”

German officials have not gotten the White House message, either. Earlier this month, Hamburg police closed the mosque, once known as al Quds, where leaders of the Sept. 11 attacks met and plotted.

“We have closed the mosque because it was a recruiting and meeting point for Islamic radicals who wanted to participate in so-called jihad, or holy war,” said Frank Reschreiter, a spokesman for the Hamburg state interior ministry.

Then there is this lead on an Agence France-Presse story dated Aug. 13: “BEIRUT — Lebanese troops on Saturday killed two Islamist militants, including a head of an al Qaeda-inspired group which fought a battle with the army in 2007 that cost hundreds of lives, a military spokesman said.”

Last spring, John Brennan, President Obama’s chief adviser on combating terrorism, delivered a major policy speech on how the administration describes the enemy.

“Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind and, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear,” Mr. Brennan said. “Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself or one’s community.”

Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at InsideTheRing@washingtontimes.com.