Iranian missile support
A researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports that he has acquired internal Iranian documents showing China and North Korea’s close involvement in Iran’s missile program.
Geoffrey Forden, a research associate at MIT’s Science, Technology and Global Security Working Group, stated in a Sept. 14 post on the Web site armscontrolwonk.com that he obtained “internal secret Iranian documents” showing how several countries are helping Tehran develop missiles or are providing technology for them.
“If my understanding is correct, they indicate that representatives from North Korea and China have been present at all phases of production and flight testing,” Mr. Forden stated. “Iran has also gotten important help from Russia, though Russians do not appear to have been as ubiquitous as the Chinese and the North Koreans.”
The backing, outlined with code names, originated from “governmental level” entities, and not individuals operating outside the governments, he stated.
Russian assistance to Iran’s missile program - denied by Moscow in the past - includes “images of engines and turbopumps that are obviously of Russian origin - either their actual production or at the very least their designs - and these internal Iranian memos, make the case overwhelmingly,” Mr. Forden said.
“Iran is clearly mustering its industrial and intellectual infrastructure to produce long range missiles and, more importantly, to assimilate the knowhow to design and produce more advanced missiles in the future,” Mr. Forden stated.
In an e-mail, he declined to elaborate on the documents and has not published the Farsi-language memos in order to protect the sources. He said the documents bear Iranian state-run industry logos.
“I hope I have not provided the Iranian security organs with enough information to track people down,” he told Inside the Ring. “There are, of course, any number of organizations that are involved in missile production or related fields, and they all have different logos, etc.”
Chinese backing for Iran’s missile program has been known to U.S. intelligence agencies since the 1990s. Intelligence documents obtained by The Washington Times in the 1990s outlined extensive covert Chinese support to Iran’s missile programs. The documents showed that China was supplying specialty metals, guidance systems and telemetry equipment used in missile development, and also had trained Iranian missile technicians.
Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong had no immediate comment on China’s role in assisting Iran’s missile program. China’s government in the past has denied any illicit support for Iran’s missile program.
Congress plans to cut millions of dollars from the fiscal 2010 defense budget that the Pentagon says are urgently needed for information operations to counter Iranian propaganda in Iraq and terrorist propaganda worldwide.
Senate and House defense appropriations conferees currently are debating planned cuts by the Senate of $58.8 million requested by military commands for what is called IO, while the House version would cut some $500 million.
The Senate bill would cut $20 million from U.S. Central Command and $20 million from Special Operations Command IO budgets, significantly reducing their funds and operations. It also will further cut $10.9 million from the European Command and $7.9 million from Africa Command. That will effectively kill IO programs in those commands, according to a defense source who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly.
A Senate aide said the cuts were imposed because the Pentagon failed to provide a report to Congress on strategic communications.
A Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee report said the Pentagon has failed to answer questions about its IO programs and only provided an “interim” report on the matter that was required in last year’s legislation.
It also stated that the committee “remains concerned about the Department’s role in broader, regional and theater-wide activities.”
“The committee believes that fundamental questions need to be answered by the administration concerning the role of DoD in these activities, and DoD’s relationship with other agencies that are involved in IO and public diplomacy,” the report said.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen; and military commanders including Central Command commander Gen. David H. Petraeus regard the funding as urgent and are pressing Congress to have it restored.
“Information operations are an essential component of our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world,” Mr. Morrell said. “We are dealing with a very savvy and sophisticated enemy and they know how to manipulated populations, to try to persuade populations through propaganda and we need to be able to counterbalance that.”
One problem for stability in Iraq has been Iranian influence operations in Iraq, he said.
The defense source said the funding cut for information operations would be very damaging and increase casualties. “Basically, two commands will have their IO budget zeroed, while the others will be drastically cut,” the official said.
“Everyone recognizes the importance of IO, and the strength our adversaries have shown in this regard,” he said.
A second defense official said the cuts would hamper U.S. Embassy-based Military Information Support Teams in critical areas of the world.
“It’s critically important we have the resources to execute information operations,” the official said. “We need a whole range of capabilities, not just kinetic.”
The White House also is working on a comprehensive report on information operations that will be completed in December.
A former National Security Agency signals-intelligence official just published the first book, fiction or nonfiction, produced by someone from deep inside the nation’s electronic-spying and code-breaking agency.
M.E. “Betsy” Harrigan’s novel, “9800 Savage Road: A Novel of the National Security Agency,” is a story about how the agency, frequently identified as “supersecret,” tried desperately to recover compromised al Qaeda electronic communications in the months leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in order to uncover and halt the strikes on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The title is taken from the address of NSA’s main headquarters building inside Fort Meade, Md.
Ms. Harrigan said the NSA is the most security-sensitive agency in the world and “is determined to stay as mysterious and secluded as possible.”
“What NSA gets is the enemy talking in his own words, sometimes in real time or close to it,” she said in an interview. “The information is not from an agent in the field who depends on informants to spill second- or third-hand knowledge. It’s listening in on the target himself, planning and scheming. It is often the very best intelligence information available anywhere.”
Ms. Harrigan said the agency constantly bombards its employees with security posters, e-mails, briefings and publications on the need for anonymity and secrecy, both personal and organization.
“My favorite [NSA] security poster is Santa Claus standing by a chimney with a pack full of toys. The caption is: Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to Be Careful.”
Ms. Harrigan said censors at the NSA put up “incredible resistance” to the novel when it was submitted for pre-publication review. “I persevered. I was willing to confront the taboos,” she said.
“Perhaps the most bizarre example of NSA’s pre-pub paranoia was the day the agency’s chief psychologist called me on at work to ask if I was actually planning to murder a senior executive inside the complex and if the book was a cry for help,” she said.
NSA in the past has used its psychologists to intimidate, punish or fire employees by lifting security clearances and claiming they were unbalanced.
However, the former electronic spy said she also makes the point in the book that NSA is “fundamentally good” and “in the forefront of protecting the U.S.,” despite negative publicity.
“NSA wants what we all want, a free and secure America. It’s not perfect, but I don’t know what we would do without it,” she said.
UAE arms to China
The U.S. government has investigated reports that a United Arab Emirates C-130 transport aircraft was illegally shipping American-made weapons to China and found them untrue.
“The American Embassy in Abu Dhabi has looked into these reports and found that the aircraft was not carrying U.S. munitions,” a State Department official said. The official declined to comment further on why UAE is sending arms to China. He also said that UAE and Indian government officials should answer other questions about the shipment. He spoke on condition that he not be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Spokesmen for both the UAE and Indian embassies had no immediate comment.
The investigation was triggered after the Pentagon became aware of reports last week that the UAE may have secretly shipped China some of the advanced weapons sold by the Pentagon to the Persian Gulf state, including Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The Times of India reported Sept. 10 that the weapons shipment aboard the C-130 was held up for several days by Indian authorities and may have included U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The aircraft was eventually allowed to continue on to Xiangyang, China, but not before Indian customs authorities complained that they had not been notified that the aircraft was carrying arms, ammunition and explosives, including what were described by officials as three long metal boxes.
The officials told the newspaper that the boxes contained “combat missiles,” but no details on the type were made public.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman had no immediate comment, but state-run media in Beijing accused India of spying on the Chinese military by holding up the aircraft.
Unidentified Chinese defense officials quoted in the People’s Daily and Global Times dismissed the reports as “groundless and irresponsible” and claimed the arms were from the International Defense Exhibition and Conference held in April.
A Chinese military officer, Dai Xu, was quoted in the Global Times newspaper Sept. 13 as saying “the actions by Indian authorities violated diplomatic rights as the cargo onboard belonged to China.”
“Any inspection onboard, which may have violated China’s property rights and constituted spying on its military secrets, should be approved by both the UAE and China,” he said.
F-16s to Taiwan?
The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said this week that any sale of additional F-16 jets to Taiwan will likely trigger a second cutoff of U.S. military relations with China.
Adm. Timothy J. Keating said after a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies that his Pacific Command role in deciding arms sales to Taiwan is limited. “It’s a national-security-level decision, and we make input, but it’s a national decision, and those decisions are reached at much higher levels,” he said.
China pays close attention to arms sales to Taiwan and “the likelihood of suspension of mil-to-mil should our country make another announcement I suppose is … it’s a fair likelihood,” Adm. Keating said.
The four-star admiral said he hopes China will not react that way and instead take “a longer-term view.”
U.S. policy toward Taiwan is based on the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that requires the United States to sell defensive arms to Taiwan to prevent the mainland from taking military action.
Taiwan has asked to buy additional F-16s for the past several years. The Bush administration declined the request, and the Obama administration has not addressed the issue.
However, China cut off military ties to the Pentagon in October after it announced a package of $6.5 billion in arms to Taiwan, not including F-16s.
Pressure is growing in Congress for the administration to grant the new warplane sale as the military buildup opposite Taiwan has continued for the past decade, with more than 1,000 short-range missiles deployed within striking distance of the island.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, Nevada Democrat and co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus said Tuesday at the Center for National Policy that there is strong bipartisan support for selling F-16s to Taiwan.
Adm. Keating ran afoul of senior Bush administration officials in July 2008 when he confirmed that the White House had imposed a freeze on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. The freeze was lifted with the October arms sale.
“If my understanding is correct, they indicate that representatives from North Korea and China have been present at all phases of production and flight testing. Iran has also gotten important help from Russia, though Russians do not appear to have been as ubiquitous as the Chinese and the North Koreans.”
- Geoffrey Forden, MIT research associate