By Ty Cobb* ––
The Drone Dilemma: Iran has the real thing. Now what?
High level defense sources confirm that the drone the Iranians have displayed on TV is, in fact, an intact RQ-170 Sentinel. The capture—however it was done—is a severe blow to America’s super-secret surveillance program, leaving advanced, highly sensitive technology in the hands of an arch-enemy.
The sources also confirm that the beige-colored drone is a CIA adaptation of the craft. It is programmed to automatically return to its base of operation should it lose communication with its control central. No one is sure why it apparently “landed itself” safely in Iran, over which it was probably conducting surveillance. The Iranians claim they penetrated the drone’s internal communications and brought it down. This is highly doubtful, even should the Iranians have had Chinese or Russian “assistance”, which is also unlikely.
Why the Sentinel did not have a self-destruct mechanism is not known. It may have and the drone simply “thought” it was returning to its base of operations. Whatever the cause, the Iranians have a golden opportunity to sell the drone intact or in pieces to certain adversaries. U.S. officials are concerned that others may be able to reverse engineer the chemical composition of the drone’s radar-deflecting paint or the craft’s sophisticated optics technology that enables operators to make positive identifications of terror suspects from tens of thousands of feet high. The sensors would be very important for countries like China to exploit.
In Russia, voters, despite a fraudulent election, hand Putin a major defeat
Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” party suffered a major setback at the polls, potentially losing its parliamentary majority just months before Putin seeks to return to the Presidency. The results will likely force the Party to form a coalition with opposition parties. United Russia garnered at best 47% of the vote, compared to its 64% in the previous election four years ago, and it probably would have gotten much less if the authorities hadn’t resorted to ballot stuffing and illegal voting.
The election has emboldened the opposition, which has staged huge rallies and parades in Moscow, this time with the grudging permission of the authorities. Putin himself has been booed when he has made public appearances, something that he claims—as only a former KGB officer could suggest—was the result of American “meddling” in Russia (specifically Secretary of State Clinton).
Before anyone starts rejoicing, keep in mind that the major beneficiaries of United Russia’s fall have been the Communist Party and the strongly nationalist Liberal Democratic Party led by the erratic Vladimir Zhirinovsky. So far those reaping the fruits of Putin and Medvedev’s downturn have not been the forces advocating for greater democracy and liberalization, although corruption and nepotism have been a focus. So far this is not a “Russian Spring”, perhaps more a “Russian revanchism” (return to the days of a “strong leader”?), but hold on—this shift is far from over.
Europe avoids a collapse—for now—but the debt crisis is far from solved
The 27-nation European Union summit ended with a band-aid being placed on the continent’s economic crisis, enough to get by for now but far less than what is necessary to seriously address Europe’s burgeoning debt crisis. While some breathed a sigh of relief that a global economic meltdown was averted, in fact the EU tried—and failed—to come up with a grand plan to fix the underlying fundamental challenge. At best they kicked the can down the road for a few months. That’s all.
The only “concrete” result of the Summit was a pledge—nothing more—to work toward a new treaty binding them together in an effort to save the Euro. Leaders have tried, and repeatedly have failed, to come up with a solution to the debt crisis, especially among the southern “PIGS”—Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy. The pact that emanated from this meeting is very complicated, may require national referendums to pass, must be accomplished in a matter of months when it has taken years in the past to achieve even modest changes, and must overcome powerful employee unions’ opposition to any austerity measures.
The big winner, if there was one, from the meeting was Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the session signaled the growing clout of Germany. At the same time it marked a further distancing of the United Kingdom from the Continent and the increasing isolation of Britain from Europe—much of that due to PM David Cameron’s refusal to join in the commitment to a new treaty. Cameron himself sought a face-saving compromise, one that would allow him to satisfy the intense anti-Europe sensitivities of his Conservative Party. Cameron had incurred the wrath of his own party back home by suggesting the UK should be helpful in assisting its neighbors save the Euro. Ironically, Cameron is very much in synch with Germany and France as a leading advocate of austerity that Merkel and Sarkozy are pushing.
Both Merkel and Sarkozy said they had no interest in trying to placate Cameron and the UK. As a result, Britain is even further isolated in Europe.
The net result of the Summit is that the crisis has once again been delayed, Germany—and to a lesser extent France—has solidified its leadership and dominant position in European economic issues, Britain is even more isolated, and the countries on the southern rim must take domestically impossible austerity measures to reduce spending and rein in government employee compensation. Hmm—sound familiar?
JCS Chairman Dempsey reiterates that the most critical security issue is the Economy
Former Chairman of the JCS Admiral Mike Mullen raised some eyebrows when he stated explicitly that the biggest threat facing the U.S. was the national debt. This week the current Chairman, Army General Marty Dempsey, extended that worry further by saying that today “We are extraordinarily concerned about the health and viability of the euro….because of the potential for civil unrest and the breakup of the European Union”. Wow—very unusual for a CJCS, to say the least.
The comments illustrate two points. First, one would expect the country’s top military man to comment on global terrorism threats, the military challenges in the Mideast, or what rogue nations like North Korea or Iran do. Here the Chairman is again saying that the economy, and particularly the debt crisis, are at the top of the list of challenges we face. Second, his focus illustrates that the European economic crisis is also an unexpected concern and focus of our military commanders—the health of the economies of our key allies.
The national budget has also fixated the top military and civilian leadership at the Pentagon. Not surprisingly, since the failure of the so-called “Super Committee” means that the stipulations proscribed in the Budget Control Act passed by Congress now come into play. This “sequestration” means that government spending will be automatically cut by $1.2 trillion in 2013, with the axe falling primarily on the Defense Department. In addition to the $350 billion of cuts already agreed on, DOD could lose up to another trillion dollars—nearly a fifth of the total—from its projected spending plans through 2023. If that happens, according to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, America would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the fewest ships since 1915, and the smallest air force in its history.
Well, it’s doubtful that sequestration will actually happen, but given the paralysis that now encompasses the nation’s capital, who knows?
NRC Chairman Jaczko is causing the nation serious damage, his colleagues charge. So why has he not been removed?
Even though NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko has been the subject of an extremely scathing report by the Inspector General of his own agency, and even though all four of his fellow commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say that they have “grave concerns” that he is causing “serious damage” to the Commission and has created a horrible work environment marked by “bullying” and a total “lack of understanding”, he has not been removed.
How could this be? This is the Chairman who overrode a Technical Panel review that concluded that closing the Yucca nuclear waste repository was illegal. But he brushed aside that conclusion and ordered the Repository to be shuttered anyway. Congressman Darrell Issa says that the letter of complaint from Jaczko’s fellow commissioners shows a serious breach of trust. Commissioners and staff have complained about the Chairman’s “brusque” style, that the Commission’s staff operates in an atmosphere of intimidation, and that his behavior is “absolutely unacceptable”.
So why has he not been replaced? President Obama has the authority and has been urged to do so by Congressional representatives? How is that such incompetence, corrosive behavior, widely condemned unilateral decisions, and having created a “chilled work environment”, could permit him to stay on, you might ask. How could it be that a Chairman of a key agency who has been lambasted by his own Inspector General could stay on?
Oh, silly us. We forget that Jaczko formerly worked for SEN Harry Reid, the Majority Leader and key ally for the President’s legislative agenda, whose opposition to the Yucca repository is well known. It appears that Reid will not permit his one time lackey, or staffer, to be replaced. In fact, just today, SEN Reid labeled the charges against Jaczko as nothing but “a politically-motivated witch hunt.” Did he forget that two of the four Commissioners are Democrats appointed by President Obama?
It also appears that Nevada’s senior leadership, including SEN Dean Heller, GOV Brian Sandoval, and former SEN Dick Bryan, who heads up the state Committee on Nuclear Projects, are content to not raise any concerns and leave this corrosive individual in charge of the very important NRC, despite his demonstrated incompetence and lack of trust and support. And that’s a shame, isn’t it?
*Dr. Cobb was a professor at West Point and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army in the years just prior to the Reagan Administration. He consulted with the National Security Council during the latter half of the Carter administration and the early Reagan administration on international energy issues. At the start of the Reagan administration, Dr. Cobb was on an exchange in the Soviet Union. After the change in National Security Advisor to William Clark and Deputy Robert “Bud” McFarlane, Cobb was asked to submit strategy papers regarding the long-range strategic position of the United States vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. As a result of these papers he was asked to join the NSC staff as a member of the European and Soviet Affairs Directorate to work on European issues and Canada, and to provide some input on long-range strategic Soviet policy. He took Dennis Blair’s slot within this directorate. Cobb worked very closely with Peter Sommer and they divided responsibility for 34 countries among themselves. Cobb was responsible for France, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Austria, the Vatican, etc. As part of his Soviet responsibilities, Cobb attended the Geneva and the Reykjavik summits. In 1988, Cobb took Robert Dean’s place as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the International Programs and Technology Affairs Directorate, with responsibility for science & technology agreements, export policy, United Nations issues, and the environment. He became President and CEO of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS) in 1991, then left to become President/CEO of the Yosemite National Institutes (1995-2002). He returned to his home town of Reno, NV, where he heads up the Northern Nevada Network as well as the National Security Forum. Dr. Cobb received a Ph.D. from Georgetown University, an M.A. from Indiana University, and a B.A. from the University of Nevada. He is married to Suellen Small of Reno, NV. They have three children.
Image courtesy of NASA.