You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Inside the Ring

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Missile defense concession

The Obama administration is about to make another concession to Russia on missile defense by concluding an agreement with Turkey to base a radar there that would monitor Iranian missile launches.

The deal is raising questions about whether the administration gave in to a Turkish demand that no missile-tracking data from the radar be shared with Israel or other non-NATO members. The demand was based on the Turkish government's increasing Islamist and pro-Iranian policies.

The TPY-2 radar deal has been under discussion for the past year and goes against a plan by the George W. Bush administration to place a radar in one of two former Soviet republics, Georgia or Azerbaijan.

Moscow opposed putting the radar in those states, claiming it would threaten Russia's nuclear missile forces.

Earlier concessions by the Obama administration included canceling plans to deploy 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland in favor of its less-capable "phased adaptive approach" that relies on untested missile defense systems, specifically a future long-range version of the Navy's SM-3 interceptor.

A senior U.S. national security official said the Turkish agreement for the radar is expected to be completed in the next week.

"It's yet another concession to the Russians," the official said. A second official said conclusion of deal was imminent.

Also, placing the radar in Turkey will provide less capability against a future Iranian long-range missile targeted against the United States, the first official said.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said discussions on a forward-based radar have been under way for sometime.

Mr. Toner said the phased adaptive approach missile defense is "not about Russia."

The misslie defense progam "is a better system that will provide fuller protection to our NATO allies and the United States and it will do sooner than the previous system."

William Burns, nominee to be deputy secretary of state, was asked last week if he thought Israel should be blocked from using the TPY-2 radar data, as Turkey suggested in conditioning its role in NATO missile defenses.

Mr. Burns did not answer directly. He replied that the phased adaptive approach and NATO missile defenses "are for the defense of NATO and Europe." He said the Pentagon has "separate and robust missile defense cooperative efforts with Israel."

"The United States has stated consistently that it reserves the right to use information from U.S. sensors in whatever ways it deems necessary," Mr. Burns said in response to written questions posed by Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, as part of the nomination process.

A Turkish Embassy spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

A classified Jan. 26, 2010, State Department cable said the Turkish government was still debating how to respond to U.S. requests to put the radar and possibly other missile defenses in Turkey.

The cable, made public by the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks, said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had told President Obama that "such a system must be implemented in a NATO context to diminish the political cost that his government will likely bear, both in terms of domestic politics and in Turkey's relations with Iran."

"Erdogan is concerned that Turkey's participation might later give Israel protection from an Iranian counterstrike," said the cable, labeled "secret."

The Czech Republic recently pulled out of plans to host a missile early-warning radar as part of the administration's program. Prague officials claimed their participation was rejected because the system would have provided data on missile attacks but was not connected to interceptors that could shoot them down.

In February, four Republican senators wrote to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urging him to put the radar in Georgia instead of Turkey.

"We believe the U.S. should deploy the most effective missile defenses possible - in partnership with our allies - that provide for protection for the U.S. homeland, our deployed forces and our allies," said the letter by Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, James E. Risch of Idaho, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Mr. Kirk.

Leak report

Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' obsession with hunting down leaks was revealed in an inspector general's report that investigated the disclosure to The Washington Post of a preliminary report on gays in the military.

Even though the report did not contain secrets, the inspector general said, Mr. Gates demanded the inquiry because it violated rules on documents labeled "for official use only."

The IG questioned 96 of 101 officials who had access to the report and concluded that the source could not be identified. Five White House officials, likely sources for the leak, refused to be interviewed.

The report provided an inside look at how officials from the military services, public affairs offices and other Pentagon offices tried to gain access to the restricted document on lifting the ban on acknowledged gays.

In response to mounting requests to see one of the 57 copies, Robert Rangel, Mr. Gates' special assistant, sent a memo that stated:
"SecDef directs the following: No additional copies provided. If the Services want to grow the number of officials with access, they need to use [non-disclosure agreements] for all involved [and] submit for [SecDef] approval a list of additional officials (beyond the 9) with a brief rationale why."

The report quotes from numerous emails from The Post reporters about their sources for the article. The report was published Nov. 10 under the headline "Sources: Pentagon Group Finds There is Minimal Risk to Lifting Gay Ban During War," by Ed O'Keefe and Greg Jaffe.

After publication, the IG said Douglas Wilson, assistant defense secretary for public affairs, told officials, "I think we do need to address the fact that this has been leaked. We need to do this without implicitly indicating that the leaker's information is either right or wrong."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell is quoted in the report as attempting to spin or mislead one of the reporters, telling him "you are being taken for a ride to some degree here because this [draft report] is far more nuanced and complex a study than you have reduced it to in your story this morning."

The IG report concluded that "evidence otherwise accessible to us was insufficient to identify the Washington Post's unnamed sources." It noted that because the report was shared with several people outside the Pentagon, "we could not exclude the possibility that persons outside [the Department of Defense] provided information to the Washington Post."

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, the group that obtained the IG report, said the investigation "strongly suggests that the so-called Pentagon 'study' of gays in the military in 2010 was a publicly funded, prescripted production put on just for show."

"The administration misused military personnel, resources and facilities to help President Obama deliver on political promises to gay activists at the expense of unknowing troops who became props in the pro-repeal campaign," she said.

Ms. Donnelly said the IG shows that the Pentagon "effectively skewed perceptions of military opinions even before the official DOD survey of 400,000 troops began."

GATES' CORPS

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates left the Pentagon last week after putting his mark on two wars, gays in the military and a ballooning defense budget.

The latter two would not appear to make him popular within the Marine Corps. Its top brass opposed repealing the ban on acknowledged gays. On the budget, Mr. Gates terminated the Corps' top priority of a new amphibious fighting vehicle to get Marines from ship to shore.

But former Marine Commandant James T. Conway has nothing but admiration for Mr. Gates. The two served nearly simultaneous four-year stints and worked closely together.

Gen. Conway told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough that he mostly admired Mr. Gates' commitment to troop morale and well-being.

He recalled the 2008 Commandant's Marine Corps Birthday Ball, a gala every year in Washington. The guest of honor pulled out at the last moment. When Gen. Conway next went to Mr. Gates, the defense secretary reminded him on that Saturday that he would be returning from one of his more grueling trips.

"I said, 'Mr. Secretary we need a guest of note," he recalled. He said, 'Jim, I'm coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, a 10- or 11-day visit on the very day of your event. But,' he said, 'I'll do it.' He was incredible. He came and spoke to us and brought the house down. azThat is one I love him for."

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.