Thursday, March 22, 2018
Trump and Israel Focus on Iran while Europe Addresses the Security Downside of Brexit
THE NEWS TODAY IS THAT ISRAEL HAS ANNOUNCED THAT IT TOOK OUT SYRIA'S NUCLEAR REACTOR. That was 10 years ago, and it has been known for mosto fthat time, but on Wednesday, Israel formally acknowledged that its air force destroyed Syria's nuclear reactor on September 6, 2007. Israel Today reported : "For over 10 years, Israeli officials have merely "winked" when asked about the operation. Now that it's official, the IDF is calling the covert bombing operation deep inside Syrian territory a warning shot for other enemies. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said : "The message of the attack on the reactor in 2007 is that Israel will not accept the construction of a capability that threatens the existence of the State of Israel. That was the message in ’81. That was the message in 2007. And that is the message to our enemies for the future." If anyone wonders what this means, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz were more direct. Liberman said : "Our enemies’ motivation has increased in recent years, but so has the might of the IDF...This equation should be understood by anyone in the Middle East." Katz tweeted : "the courageous decision of the Israeli government almost 11 years ago to destroy the nuclear reactor in Syria and the successful operation following it sends a clear message: Israel will never allow countries like Iran who threaten its existence to have nuclear weapons." • Meanwhile, Israel Today reports that : "Tension between the Palestinian Authority and the Trump Administration ratcheted up yet again this week when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas insulted the American ambassador to Israel. Speaking to Palestinian officials at his headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas referred to US Ambassador David Friedman as a 'son of a dog.' Trump 'has said that settlement building is legitimate,' Abbas complained. 'That’s what several American officials have said including, first and foremost, their ambassador in Tel Aviv, David Friedman. He said [settlers] are building on their land. Son of a dog, they are building in their land?' " Israel Today said Friedman was made aware of Abbas' remarks just moments before delivering a speech of his own at the Sixth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem, and the Ambassador "decided to bring up Abbas' insult, asking his audience, "Antisemitism or political discourse? Not for me to judge, I will leave that up to you." Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that such rhetoric from the Palestinian leadership has become the norm ever since Trump took office and Washington stopped blindly accepting the Palestinian narrative : "For the first time in decades, the American administration has stopped pampering the Palestinian leaders and says to them : ‘Enough is enough,’ said Netanyahu. 'Apparently, the shock from the truth is causing them to lose their tempers.' " • • • WAS TILLERSON TOO WEAK ON IRAN? The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that : "Almost immediately after the news broke that President Trump intends to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo, media figures speculated that the decision was about Russia. The argument went like this : Tillerson was fired because he had recently criticized the Russian government for its attack using a nerve agent on a former spy living in the United Kingdom. He thereby endangered détente with Russian president Vladimir Putin and so, the critics said, Trump sacked him." Not so, says the Free Beacon : "Tillerson had been engaged in a months-long defense of the Iran nuclear deal that finally reached an impasse when he took Europe's side in debates over the agreement. As Trump said later, he and his Secretary of State disagreed on important policies such as withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and putting 'maximum pressure' on North Korea. When you add his backing of the Iran deal, widespread criticism of his management style, and the fact that he is said to have called his boss a moron, it's a wonder Tillerson made it this far." • The Iran deal may not last much longer than Tillerson, according tot he Free Beacon : "Last fall, Trump refused to certify the agreement. In January, he said he was waiving sanctions on Iran for the last time, barring alterations to the deal that strengthened America's position. Thus began a countdown that will expire in the middle of May. By then, Pompeo likely will have been installed at Foggy Bottom. A longtime critic of both Barack Obama's Iran policy and the Iranian regime's international terrorism and domestic repression, Pompeo will give Iran's rulers plenty of reasons to worry." • Iran is not in a very stable condition domestically, says the Free Beacon : "Protests and riots that broke out throughout Iran at the end of last year exemplified the regime's weakening grip. Beset by inflation, corruption, and a banking crisis, the Ayatollah Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have also to deal with imperial overstretch, changing social mores, and American financial pressure. Additional sanctions, coupled with the increased threat of military action, will make their problems even worse." And, soon Iran will have to worry about Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. The Free Beacon says that the US is already in a conflict wiht Iran -- "one that Iran has been winning." It was Obama diplomacy that gave Iran the resources and opportunity to create chaos and undermine American interests throughout Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Bahrain. Mike Pompeo, says the free Beacon, will "shift the conflict into terrain of our choosing and decide it on our terms. Deterrence is based on fear of reprisal -- a fear magnified by the elevation of elected and appointed officials known to be hostile and unpredictable. We have seen this process at work in the Korean peninsula, where our threats of fire and fury, talk of nuclear buttons, punitive multilateral sanctions, solidarity with democratic allies, and pressure on China have backed Kim Jong Un into an apparent willingness to negotiate." The Free Bacon points out that the Wall Street Journal is "baffled" that "the Iranian fast boats that have plagued commercial and military traffic in the Persian Gulf for years suddenly stopped their provocations. 'It seems like they've absolutely made a conscious decision to give us more space,' a Navy spokesman told the Associated Press." But, the Wshingotn Free Beacon says this isn't so "baffling " -- "Might not the disappearance of the fast boats have something to do with anxiousness on the part of Iran, anxiousness caused by uncertainty that behavior tolerated under Barack Obama would not be tolerated under Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis? And might not the presence at the table of Pompeo rather than Tillerson spook the Iranians even further?" President Trump is calling on Mike Pompeo to join him in getting rid of Obama's Iranian nuclear deal, the deal Trump always calls "the worst deal ever." • • • "EUROPE, THE EU THREAT PICTURE : DEVELOPING A GLOBAL RESPONSE." That is the title of The Washington Institute lecture by Wil van Gemert prepared for the Stein Counterterrorism Series. The lecture was to have been delivered on Wednesday by Wil van Gemert, Europol deputy executive director and head of the Operations Directorate at Europol since May 1, 2014. He manages a department of specialists dealing with serious and organized crime, as well as terrorism and cybercrime. Previously, he held a number of positions in basic policing, financial investigation, policy support, and combating fraud at the National Police Agency, Dutch National Intelligence Service, INTERPOL, and Europol. • Bad weather canceled the event. So, TWI published his prepared statement for the record. • Wil van Gemert addressed the terrorist threat facing Europe : "Europe is facing its most serious terrorist threat in generations. We saw twenty-four jihadist attacks in 2017, very different from what witnessed in the past: diversification in the range of perpetrators (radicalization of youths becoming one of the most important threats of jihadist terrorism, but also lone wolf attackers not associated with any particular group); an increased international dimension, with attackers forming a network in multiple EU Member States (e.g., Paris, Brussels, Barcelona); diversification in modus operandi, with indiscriminate killings rising, and attacks requiring little preparation and using accessible means (e.g., vehicles, knives—hard to foresee or prevent); and intense, professional use of social media for both communication within the network and recruitment and radicalisation. Security threats have become more international, more tech-enabled, and more interconnected." • Wil van Gemert noted that the threat: from returning foreign fighters to home-grown lone actors : "In the past three years, the EU has been confronted with carefully planned attacks carried out by networked groups partially composed of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs), but increasingly with attacks perpetrated by a single person who had never been to the conflict areas -- most of the time an EU national or resident for several years. A substantial number of the perpetrators, one way or another, were known to police but not considered to be an immediate terrorist threat, with minor criminal records unrelated to terrorism." The same three patterns can be seen in the attacks, according to van Gemert : "Indiscriminate killings targeting as many people as possible with weapons not requiring special skills or preparation (London, March and June 2017; Barcelona, August 2017). Attacks on symbols of Western lifestyle condemned by jihadist ideologists as morally corrupt, such as concert venues and nightclubs (Manchester, May 2017). Attacks on symbols of authority such as police and military officers (Paris, February, June, and August 2017)." Wil van Gemert says the evolution of the terrorist threat since 2014 is "closely linked to the rise and fall of the so-called Islamic State (IS). It can roughly be divided into three phases: (1) major flows of FTFs to conflict zones and large-scale attacks coordinated by these networks, supported by IS 'HQ'; (2) Disruption/prevention of travel to conflict zones and smaller-scale attacks by home-grown radicals; and (3) IS losing territory in Syria/Iraq and adapting its tactical response: namely, a change in propaganda to encourage radicalised individuals to carry out attacks wherever they live instead of travelling to conflict zones." Wil van Gemert noted that in 2017, attacks "seem to have primarily been perpetrated by self-organized individuals inspired by IS ideology without links to the group or any other organization. These terrorists, operating alone or, in some cases, with one or two accomplices, are either inspired single-actor terrorists, remotely directed single-actor terrorists, or remotely directed and facilitated single-actor terrorists. Radicalisation of single-actor terrorists makes detection extremely challenging." • Europol can support the efforts of EU countries in their fight against the globalised terror threat, says van Gemert, who sees an unprecedented increase in cooperation among EU Member States and partners, as well as in the support they are requesting from Europol : "The creation of the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) in January 2016 was a major policy statement. For the first time in the EU counter terrorism security policy context, it has been recognised that a cornerstone for cooperation at the EU level, represented by the ECTC, was necessary to support national counter terrorism efforts." Europol is a key to combatting European terrorism becasue it is "the only institution that connects the dots EU-wide, that maps the threat EU-wide, backed by a range of modern tools and capabilities : an information hub for counter terrorism, with unique information and intelligence sharing capabilities for law enforcement authorities in EU Member States and beyond; effective operational support, coordination, and expertise for Member States' investigations, by developing and deploying a comprehensive portfolio of support services; proactive mitigation of the use of social media for radicalization purposes, through terrorist and violent extremist propaganda, as well as support to operational analysis; a central strategic support capability to identify European-wide counter terrorism implications and promote outreach with relevant (international) partners." • A key game changer for ECTC's involvement in Member States' counter terrorism operations was the decision by French authorities in 2015 to share with Europol all investigative files from the Paris attacks. And, van Gemert reported that : "Europol profits from a unique setup : hosting the ECTC at Europol, together with the European Serious and Organised Crime Centre and the European Cybercrime Centre. This provides a response to an increasing need for linking investigation in organized crime and counter terrorism due to the growing connections between the two worlds. And these links are real: we see the merging of social networks, environments, or milieus of criminals and terrorists." Also, according to van Gemert, "Europol's cooperation with key international partners, in particular the United States, has been outstanding, the United States being one of the key providers of information on FTFs." • Wil van Gemert says that a lot has been achieved already : "But...a lot can still be done to integrate and coordinate international efforts...individual nations cannot tackle complex and interdependent criminal and terrorist threats alone. There is a strategic imperative for international cooperation. Multilateral channels like Europol provide numerous benefits in the globalized threat setting and complement the important bilateral cooperation between nation states." • • • GERMANY RESISTS EU INTEL AGENCY. What is also clear is that the threat of terrorist attacks is not going to diminish soon. Wil van Gemert's lecture reminds us "both the EU internally and transatlantic cooperation is moving the focus from collecting to connecting information. Information sharing is often only the start of cooperation. The real challenge is to build on this information exchange by developing proper transnational operations and by jointly working cases." As van Gemert noted, this requires a lot of trust to overcome the sensitivities in the intelligence area, but trust is necesssary and "is developing," says van Gemert. • This is especially true in Europe where the hesitancy to share intel has slowed the EU's overall planning against its terrorist threat. In 2017, Germany rejected creating a European intelligence agency, which has been suggested by EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron. Bruno Kahl, president of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, said : “We don’t need a European intelligence agency or any other additional European intelligence institution. Intelligence is better organized on the national level.” Earlier, Macron called for creating a European intelligence academy “to strengthen links between our countries.” The European home affairs commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, also suggested a united European intelligence system to help prevent terrorist attacks. The EU already has a law enforcement cooperation agency, Europol, but its powers are limited. Kahl told the German parliament that there is also the European Union Intelligence and Situation Center (EU INTCEN), which provides intelligence analysis and early warnings to EU officials. And, the head of Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maaßen, said he was against creating an EU intelligence agency : “I’m also against creating such an institution. If we do, we would create bureaucratic double structures, both on the European and domestic level. This duality would lower our efficiency profoundly.” Kahl and Maaßen both said they are satisfied with the current cooperation among EU member countries’ intelligence agencies, arguing that the most efficient way to get information from other countries is through bilateral exchange “because it’s the quickest way.” Recent terror attacks in Europe boosted the pace and efficiency with which the agencies cooperate, the German intelligence leaders added. An additional EU agency would weaken this coordination, Maaßen said. • • • BREXIT REQUIRES A NEW EU-UK ARRANGEMENT. But, on February 16, 2018, the BBC reported that : "European spy chiefs in joint plea for post-Brexit co-operation" -- Bernard Emie (DGSE), Bruno Kahl (BND), and Alex Younger (MI6), the heads of the British, French and German intelligence agencies have called for continued security co-operation after the UK leaves the EU, in an unprecedented joint statement. Meeting in Munich, they said their countries must jointly fight major security threats such as terrorism, illegal migration and cyber attacks. Brexit may reduce some data exchanges, and the BBC's security correspondent Gordon Corera says the joint statement is "a signal -- to politicians as well as the public -- that the spy chiefs do not want any political turbulence to complicate their relations." Security is part of the immigration negotiations between the UK and its EU partners, as new border arrangements will be needed post-Brexit. France and the UK have co-operated closely at the Channel ports to prevent migrants entering the UK illegally. • And, on March 20, the European Council on Foreign Relations released a long paper saying that : "There is a strong rationale for close EU-UK cooperation on security and defense (CSDP) after Brexit. Each side should preserve the principle of cooperation in different arrangements for different areas, from policing to foreign policy. The EU should embrace the UK’s proposal for a treaty on intra-EU security. Because no such treaty will be ready by March 2019, each side should aim for an interim agreement extending existing arrangements until one is in place. On foreign policy and defense, the UK should not expect a seat at the table in European bodies, including in discussions around possible CSDP operations. Instead, both sides should establish new arrangements that keep them in touch with the other’s thinking. Regular working-level exchanges rather than a treaty are the aim here, such as monthly bilaterals between the British embassy in Brussels and the PSC chair, and UKREP and the EDA chief executive. All this is achievable but needs clear principles if it is to succeed. These include: a broad understanding of the components of European security; agreement that unique arrangements are required for a unique situation; and a commitment not to treat security like just another element within the Brexit negotiations. Now is not the moment for either the European Union or the United Kingdom to risk allowing the political tensions around Brexit to harm their own interests or weaken protection of their citizens. On the contrary, this is a moment that demands cooperation, investment in research and capabilities, and renewed commitment in order to deepen European security, regardless of Brexit." The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) says the needed negotiaitons because of Brexit should prompt the EU "to look critically at the array of threats that Europe is currently facing as well as the ways in which it should respond to them. From that perspective, the issue of EU-UK post-Brexit cooperation on security should not get bogged down in procedural matters around EU treaties and the process side of exit. Instead it should be an inherently political and a strategic matter. The question that we should be asking is about how to develop a new EU-UK security partnership that enhances Europe’s comprehensive security and its power in the world." The ECFR echoes many of the thoughts expressed by Wil van Gemert in his Washington Institute lecture, and adds to his list -- Russian subversion and intimidation from the east; instability and asymmetric threats in the Mediterranean; economic and strategic competition from China and other emerging powers; immigration and integration pressures, linked to climate change, conflict, and resource scarcity; and the challenge of cyber threats; the growth in the scale, and the impact and complexity of terrorism, cyber crime, and organized crime." These threats have become more transnational and globalised in nature. Organised crime in particular now sees a more dominant role played by technology and cross-border movements of suspects, trafficked victims, firearms, and illicit money, blurring the distinction between state and non-state actors, and of who controls the technology and weapons that they use, according to the ECFR, and "growing interlinkages between external and internal security issues, as well as between military and non-military ones, in the form of hybrid threats" are emerging. • But ,while van Gemert sees the US intel cooperation s a plus, the ECFR sees possible "rising doubts concerning the US security guarantee for Europe, which did not begin only under Donald Trump. This has prompted European countries to strengthen their security and defense cooperation. These challenges threaten European security as a whole and are cross-border in nature, pointing towards a collective European security approach as the most effective response. Security is an interest shared by all European citizens, not only by EU citizens. Any dialogue between the EU and the UK on their future relationship on security should start from this point, taking as their guiding principle what is best for achieving this end, and not treating it as part of the wider Brexit negotiations." The ECFR states that : "Even if both the EU and the UK accept that they need each other in the security area and find creative ways of pursuing that cooperation, there is still a substantial risk that this may fail to materialise because of political considerations. There could be a mixture of unintended consequences, spillovers, and path dependencies -- as well as external pressures, including from the US -- which could push the EU and UK further away from the logic of cooperation and towards that of divorce." But, the ECFR recommends that the EU "embrace a security-driven approach right from the start. This should encourage the UK to follow the logic of cooperation, rather than that of divorce. Though enhancing European security is the guiding aim, this should not be to the cost of EU integrity. The cooperation arrangements that emerge should be primarily based on UK engagement with EU structures, rather than building new ones....The UK brings significant weight to diplomatic initiatives in the interests of European security : one notable example is its role with France and Germany in spearheading the Iran nuclear deal. Its military capability is also important in guaranteeing European efforts in regions of strategic interest -- for example, its contribution of a reserve for EUFOR Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a mission of which the UK is a long-standing supporter. The UK is, today, an integral part of the European defense technological and industrial base (EDTIB) which the EU is now seeking to further strengthen. An EU negotiating stance that led to amputation of the UK from these arrangements would be perverse. Apart from that, uncomfortable though this is, full strategic autonomy will never be attained as long as Europe relies on others for the ultimate defense backstop of nuclear deterrence. The Brexit defense settlement needs, at the least, to keep open the possibility that the UK’s nuclear weapons could one day, with those of France, underpin Europe’s strategic autonomy. And finally, there is the unique nature and scale of the UK’s cooperation with EU partners on internal security." The ECFR says that bilateral relationships between the UK and some EU member states "can complement and reinforce this structure, as long as they do not undermine cooperation and consensus-building at the EU level. Such relationships could even be an alternative way to pursue cooperation with the UK if and when the EU political and legal framework becomes an obstacle to such close cooperation with third countries." • In addition, according to the ECFR : "The UK has played a key role in EU sanctions policy. It has not only demonstrated diplomatic leadership on adopting sanctions, it has provided the technical expertise to review and adjust these restrictive measures, and shared intelligence to refine targeting and give them a sound legal basis. The UK often claims to be responsible for at least 50 percent of current EU restrictive measures. Whatever the exact proportion, it is a fact that it has currently no peer in terms of capacity....The fact that the UK currently seems intent on maintaining its sanctions posture close to and consistent with that of the EU is important. Such close cooperation will require arrangements to cover: diplomatic coordination (especially at the PSC and Relex committee, but also in multilateral bodies such as the United Nations Security Council or the G7), sanctions design, intelligence-sharing, implementation and enforcement cooperation, as well as consistent postures against third parties (whether Russia’s counter-measures or US sanctions’ extra-territorial impact)." • The ECFR encourages the remaining EU member states to "start at home and step up their own game. Both the EU and the most interested capitals -- which at this stage would be Paris, but also Berlin, The Hague, as well as Stockholm and Brussels -- will need to increase resources and expertise to take over the current British leadership. Interviews in Paris indicate that the UK is currently considering seconding significant numbers of sanctions experts and is keen to nurture close consultations and exchange of information with some bilateral partners. But in any case, the EU and its 27 remaining member states should seek their own autonomous expertise on these strategic issues. This will not make close and intense cooperation with the UK less useful, but the EU will still need such expertise in order to be able to deploy sanctions in a strategic and effective way." • And, there is the issue of EU defense after Brexit. "All EU partners recognise the quality of both the civilian and, even more importantly, military capabilities that the UK can deploy in crisis management operations and welcome the UK’s focus on stabilization....Cooperation in minilateral European initiatives -- like Emmanuel Macron’s European Intervention Initiative -- and also within the framework of NATO, as well as increasing use of joint deployments in ad hoc coalitions, may also be helpful to keeping the UK close. They could create an indirect channel of cooperation with the EU through its member states. But bilateral relations, minilateral cooperation, and ad hoc coalitions would not exhaust all the opportunities under which the UK and EU member states could cooperate on crisis management, both under civilian or even military missions." • The ECFR also notes that the UK's financial contribution to development and humanitarian aid will be absent after Brexit. But, the ECFR is hopeful that the UK will "sustain its significant financial contributions to European aid levels. In addition, the UK may have quicker decision-making processes at a national level for aid expenditure than the EU budget mechanisms, meaning its potential to be a ‘first mover’ in crisis situations would be an added advantage for the EU in cooperating with it." To some extent this need for coordination might be met by UK diplomats being invited to participate in some aid coordination discussions at the EU, UN, World Bank, and other relevant multilateral forums. The EU should develop specific mechanisms for both strategic longer-term coordination and actual cooperation in specific countries and regions, especially in crisis situations. • Terrorism is also a Brexit issue for the EU. The ECFR says : "The UK has made a significant and leading contribution to the effort...in terms of strategic and thought leadership and the practical implementation of new initiatives. It is currently, for example, the top provider, among all member states, of intelligence contributions to many discrete projects on cybercrime and organized crime....There are precedents of third party access to some EU databases. But precedents may not help, because the EU’s approval has frequently required third parties to sign the Schengen agreement, which is not a requirement that the UK would be willing to meet." But, ECFR states that : "In the end, therefore, the general principle of securing a collective security interest is a very powerful one. The non-EU Schengen states already call for direct access to Europol databases for third parties at the political level. The resource burden on Europol of acting as an information gateway is also increasing and may stretch beyond reasonable levels once the UK becomes a third party. So this may be one of the areas where a practical compromise is required....If measured by the number of Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certificates, a must-have document for information security professionals, the UK has the best cybersecurity workforce in Europe. The UK is the tearaway leader among EU member states, boasting 5,559 CISSPs compared to the EU27 combined total of 8,664. If, in the context of Brexit, the principle of free movement of workers is undone, the British exit might end up being more detrimental to the EU rather than the other way around (unless hundreds of UK security professionals apply for EU citizenship)." • • • DEAR READERS, while the US can stand alone in the matter of security and intelligence measures and programs aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, it seems that the EU -- without the UK after Brexit -- will have a tougher job in doing so. The EU negoitating team has liked to 'bully' the UK, alternately calling for it to get on with Brexit and then asking if the UK would like to reconsider and stay in the EU. This is not helpful -- mostly to the EU if security and intel are the factors being considered. NATO will remain in place and be supported by the US, but the Euroepean Council on Foreign Relations has got it right in saying that : "A continued commitment is needed from not only the UK, but from all European states, to serious investment in and engagement on their security, keeping in mind not only the 2% of GDP target for defense spending, but also the 0.7% target for overseas development aid. The following recommendations for a future framework would underpin European security." • Wil van Gemert is right when he says : "But...a lot can still be done to integrate and coordinate international efforts...individual nations cannot tackle complex and interdependent criminal and terrorist threats alone. There is a strategic imperative for international cooperation. Multilateral channels like Europol provide numerous benefits in the globalized threat setting and complement the important bilateral cooperation between nation states." But, the EU needs to "get over" Donald Trump's election, quit listening to CNN, and get on with the traditional cooperation that has served Europe well since 1945. An EU 'grown-up' political approach to Brexit and a recognition of the major holes that excluding the UK out of spite would produce for EU security and counter-terrorism efforts would be the starting point for an integrated pan-Europe security and intelligence capacity that recognizes the major contributions of non-EU members such as Norway, Switzerland, and now Britain.