Thursday, October 25

John Batchelor drops da bomb: Was Iran involved in Benghazi massacre? Plus Reza Kahlili and NYT reports on secret Obama-Tehran negotiations start uproar in Washington, Tehran and half the Arab world. Plus Benghazi Leak-a-Palooza. (UPDATED)

For more on the mushrooming controversy about whether the U.S. military should have deployed reinforcements while the attack on the Benghazi annex was ongoing, which I touch on in the following writing, see these three reports:

October 20, 2012, CBS News: Could U.S. military have helped during Libya attack?
October 25, CBS News TV: Military response to Benghazi attack questioned
October 25, The New York Times: Panetta Says Risk Impeded Deployment to Benghazi

All three reports, among several published in the past few days, are important but the October 20 one is particularly interesting, given that Chris Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed around 4:00 AM Libya time at the Benghazi annex.

UPDATE October 26
Also, listen to former CIA and State Department officer Larry C. Johnson on John Batchelor's Thursday night show regarding the military response. Here is the flash player replay of the conversation.
I stayed up until 3 AM hoping that John Batchelor would do a write-up for his blog on the interview last night with Reza Khalili and Larry Johnson about the latest twists in the Secret Iran Negotiations soap opera -- and on Batchelor's mention that he has information that Iran had some sort of hand in the Benghazi massacre. That last could mean that Ansar al-Shariah flags seen at the Benghazi site during the attack were stage business to throw suspicion on the group and AQ. 

An Iranian hand in the attack is more plausible than it might sound at first listen, considering rumors of help that Ambassador Christopher Stevens was arranging for the rebels in Syria. That would give Al Qaeda and linked groups, which are also trying to topple Assad's regime, a strong reason not to murder him and disrupt his Benghazi operation at that time. 

That's as much write-up as I'm doing on the interview because I'm still hoping Batchelor will have a write-up posted at his blog later tonight.

In the meantime you can always listen to the podcast or flash player recording of the interview, which starts around the half-hour mark for the 10 PM hour. And there are his raw notes on the interview, which are pretty raw. (See the schedule at his website for his notes.)

Also, WND, which seems to have a publishing exclusive with Reza right now, has a report from him, published a couple hours before he appeared on Batchelor's show, on the soap opera: Clandestine Obama-Iran meetings stir denial.  It's a long, data-rich report but to get you started [emphasis in red is mine]:
Qatar’s prime minister issued a statement today denying that a clandestine meeting between Iranian and American officials took place in Qatar, according to Fars News Agency, Iran’s media outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards, which cited the Al Jazeera news agency.

Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Muhammad Al Thani, who is also Qatar’s foreign minister, was reacting to reports by Al Arabiya news agency reflecting what WND had reported on Oct. 4 that a secret meeting indeed occurred in Qatar but also that similar meetings between the two countries’ officials had taken place in several European capitals.

Almost all Iranian media are now covering the news, with some trying to divert attention by blaming Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his efforts to engage the Americans.

Yet to be determined is whether the Ahmadinejad faction will try to reveal documents of the meeting between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representatives, Ali Akbar Velayati and Asghar Hejazi, and their American counterparts in Qatar as the conflict between the two factions heats up before the Iranian presidential elections next June.

Qatar, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, also will have the chore of explaining to other Arab member states its collaboration with the Islamic regime in facilitating a meeting with America. The other council nations have pushed for tougher U.S. actions to stop Iran from acquiring the nuclear bomb.

Further, in a report today on Iran’s media outlet, Tabnak, titled “What countries worry of U.S.-Iran direct negotiations?” the outlet criticized France, England and Russia for their reaction to the news of negotiations – without denying those direct contacts existed. It said those countries are worried that a deal between Iran and America could derail other international discussions.
Again, there's lots more to the report. The Guardian has also jumped into covering the story, and Batchelor mentioned that the New York Times is sticking to its report on the secret negotiations despite White House denial of the report. (See the Times report for news on the denial.)

According to Reza's report, Iran's top mullacrat is pretty ticked off that news of the secret negotiations was leaked. But the really interesting news is that part I emphasized because if Maddy does release documents, that would signal a showdown between Maddy and his crew, which includes the IRGC and their business cronies, and the mullacrats and their business cronies.

Also, last night WND published a report on the melee; it includes mention of Batchelor's interview with Larry Johnson and Reza last night: Iran nuke exposé seen 'derailing' Obama campaign

I find it doubtful the soap opera will derail the campaign but when combined with yesterday's Leak-a-Palooza, it's certainly causing a lot of mess for the Obama administration. I think the leaks actually started on Monday night, late, or very early Tuesday.

Anyhow, someone or maybe more than one person who had access to emails sent from the Benghazi main compound and annex to the White House, State and other key agencies while the attacks were going on leaked some of them. The uproar caused by the leaks was because the person(s) sending the emails was summarizing what was happening during the attacks. This was further indication that the White House knew right away that the attacks weren't a spontaneous mob action in response to an anti-Islam video.

The emails were leaked to Reuters, Fox News (I can't find the Fox link at the moment), and CNN. Hillary Clinton tried to downplay the leaks yesterday.

(I can't find that link either but just Google "Clinton leaked emails" to pull up the story.)

I don't think Clinton's ploy worked because with the leaked emails the press sees blood in the water.

Meanwhile, the Beeb reported today that a 'Benghazi attack suspect' dies in Cairo shootout :
 A man suspected of involvement in an attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi last month has been killed in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, officials say. The man was killed after an exchange of fire with security services in the Cairo suburb of Madinet Nasr. Authorities named the man only as Hazem.
According to the Egyptian officials the suspect was cornered in a flat in Madinet Nasr early on Wednesday morning. He threw a bomb at the security forces, but it bounced back into the flat.

An exchange of fire with the security services then began and went on for several hours, local media reports say.  The suspect's burnt body was found in the property, along with weapons and explosive materials, officials say.

The area was sealed off by police while emergency services dealt with a blaze caused by the exchange of fire.
One possibility is that the suspect was trying to make his way to the Sinai peninsula, which has become a magnet for militants from across the region, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo reports.
As to whether I buy into the theory that Iran was involved in the attack, or masterminded it --  I always look first to see if there was a profit motive in such situations. There could have been many millions of dollars riding on the outcome of Ambassador Stevens's planned September 12 meeting with Agoco executives.

So I still like my little theory that the perps were intent on derailing the meeting and sending a strong message to Agoco and Washington. But it was still early days when that particular motive occurred to me.(1)  A lot of information has come out since. So I'll concede that there were other strong motives for murdering the ambassador and messing up the U.S. mission in Benghazi:

> It turned out the 'safe house' in Benghazi was actually a CIA operation.

> Then there's the revenge theory: Al Qaeda getting revenge for the U.S. killing of al-Libi or whatever his nom de guerre was -- he was a top al Qaeda figure.

> There were threats from Islamists to Stevens that Washington had to stop supporting the current regime in Libya.

> There was Washington arranging help for the Syrian rebels, which seems to have involved the CIA operation in Benghazi and probably also Stevens. But there's still a lot of mystery to this angle and it could be that very little about it will ever get into public sphere.

> Last but not necessarily least there was the 9/11 anniversary date.

And I'll concede that if Stevens scheduled the Agoco meeting after returning to Libya from his trip to Europe, this wouldn't have given the perpetrators much time to arrange such a complex attack. The animation in Greg Palkot's reconstruction of the strike showed attackers were stationed along the route, in wait for the armored car as it headed from the main compound to the annex. It seems the perps had it all planned out very carefully. I don't think something like that is put together in only a couple days.

So. Given the number of motives for killing him around that time, Chris Stevens was a walking dead man without a heavy-duty security detail. And given the number of motives it'll be hard to come up with a viable prime suspect unless somebody starts singing.

But Tunisia's government isn't allowing the U.S. as yet to question the suspect they have in custody. And another suspect is dead. So the U.S. government really needs a "Kasab" -- the one terrorist in the Mumbai attack who was taken alive. He sang like a bird. But there is no Kasab to emerge from the Benghazi attack because President Obama sat on his hands during the 7-8 hours of the attack.

General Barry McCaffrey (Ret.) told Larry Kudlow last night on The Kudlow Report that there was no way to muster a rescue in time to save Stevens and Sean Smith and maybe even the other two Americans were killed -- Chris Doherty and Tyrone Woods. I don't think everyone would agree with McCaffrey but even assuming he's right, there was enough time to send in U.S. troops from Italy and try to capture some of the attackers.

Of course there's nothing like hindsight. Maybe the White House and State (which was surely advising Obama as the attack unfolded) didn't assume the attack would go on as long as it did.  However comma you should read Shahshank Bengali's October 24 report for the Los Times, Libya militia tensions hampered post-attack U.S. rescue effort: A team trying to reach survivors of the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador was held up by poor communications among the militias providing security

The report is a heart-breaker because it makes clear that if the team hadn't been held up, Doherty and Woods might have survived. And if the team had arrived quickly there was always the possibility it could could have captured at  least one of the attackers.

1)  Pundita's Pet Theory
It's actually a long story but here's the short version:

Agoco has a lot of power in Libya's government not only because it's a big state-run oil company but also because it was a major financier of the revolution.

The foreign oil companies doing business in eastern Libya were ready to throw in the towel because of the crummy security situation there.

Plus the government-arranged militias that were hired to guard all the foreign oil operations had taken to nding payment in cash, would you believe. The report I saw that mentioned this didn't indicate whether they were demanding the cash in hard currencies but they probably were.

Something had to be done right away because Shell had already pulled out of the country -- or announced it was doing so -- although it cited reasons in addition to the bad security situation.

So Amb. Stevens needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat after he got an earful from oil executives in Europe who were doing business in Libya. Libya's government couldn't afford to have the foreign companies race for the exit or even suspend their operations for several months.

What was the quick fix? Well, what you do in that situation? I would have told Agoco that it had to tell the government in Tripoli to bring back the army to guard the foreign installations and institute some law and order in eastern Libya. No one wanted to bring back the army, but what was the alternative? Losing all that foreign exchange and seeing large numbers of Libyans out of a job when the foreign oil companies closed their doors?

But taking this route would mean the militias guarding the oil installations, and the people in the provincial government in Benghazi who were probably getting kickbacks from the militias, would lose a lot of money.

Right there would be a strong motive for killing Stevens, if word had gotten out about his scheduled meeting with Agoco. He had a unique position in Libyan society because he'd been an integral and even pivotal part of the revolution. He had garnered a lot of trust because of this -- even Libyans who didn't like the USA knew he was genuinely trying to help them. So while he could be replaced, his replacement wouldn't have his ability to get things done quickly or jawbone over the touchy issue of bringing back the army.

Just guesswork, but when it comes to the murder of an ambassador, any ambassador, I don't like seeing any stone left unturned.  Murdering an envoy is like murdering people who're carrying a white flag to bring a message to an enemy camp during a battle. It's really bad form. 

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