Obama Admin Approved Arms For Libyan Rebels Ended Up Going to Militants

Evidence has surfaced that weapons approved by the Obama administration, for rebels in Libya, ended up in the hands of Islamic militants. C.I.A. officers in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments and within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, there were reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups. Weapons were also shipped from the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar, a tiny nation whose natural gas reserves have made it enormously wealthy, for years has tried to expand its influence in the Arab world. Since 2011, with dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa coming under siege, Qatar has given arms and money to various opposition and militant groups, chiefly Sunni Islamists, in hopes of cementing alliances with the new governments.

“To do this right, you have to have on-the-ground intelligence and you have to have experience,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser. “If you rely on a country that doesn’t have those things, you are really flying blind. When you have an intermediary, you are going to lose control.”

Mahmoud Jibril, then the prime minister of the Libyan transitional government, expressed frustration to administration officials that the United States was allowing Qatar to arm extremist groups opposed to the new leadership, according to several anonymous American officials. The administration has never determined where all of the weapons went inside Libya, officials said.

Some of the machine guns, automatic rifles, and ammunition are believed to have gone to militants with ties to Al Qaeda in Mali while several American and foreign officials and arms traders say some of the weapons have ended up in Syria.

The United Arab Emirates first asked the Obama administration for permission to ship American built weapons, supplied to the UAE, during the early months of the Libyan uprising. The administration instead urged the emirates to ship weapons to Libya that could not be traced to the United States.

“The U.A.E. was asking for clearance to send U.S. weapons,” said one former official. “We told them it’s O.K. to ship other weapons.”

“Nobody knew exactly who they were,” said one former defense official. The Qataris are “supposedly good allies, but the Islamists they support are not in our interest.”

No evidence has yet surfaced that any weapons went to Ansar al-Shariah, an extremist group blamed for the Benghazi attack.

 

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Under Obama Only 13% of Drone Strikes Killed Leaders of Taliban or Al Qaeda

Obama administration officials often speak about how drone strikes target suspected terrorists plotting against the U.S., but according to the New York Times the U.S. has shifted away from that. Instead, it now often targets enemies of allied governments in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan. From the Times:

[F]or at least two years in Pakistan, partly because of the C.I.A.’s success in decimating Al Qaeda’s top ranks, most strikes have been directed at militants whose main battle is with the Pakistani authorities or who fight with the Taliban against American troops in Afghanistan.

In Yemen, some strikes apparently launched by the United States killed militants who were preparing to attack Yemeni military forces. Some of those killed were wearing suicide vests, according to Yemeni news reports.

Justin Elliott of propublica.org conducted an interview with  Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations on the issue of the ever expanding U.S. drone war:

 

You were quoted over the weekend arguing that the U.S., with the campaign of drone strikes, is acting as the “counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” How did you come to this conclusion?

Under the Obama administration, officials have argued that the drone strikes are only hitting operational Al Qaeda leaders or people who posed significant and imminent threats to the U.S. homeland. If you actually look at the vast majority of people who have been targeted by the United States, that’s not who they are.

There are a couple pieces of data showing this. Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation has done estimates on who among those killed could be considered “militant leaders” — either of the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, or Al Qaeda. Under the Bush administration, about 30 percent of those killed could be considered militant leaders. Under Obama, that figure is only 13 percent.

Most of the people who are killed don’t have as their objective to strike the U.S. homeland. Most of the people who are killed by drones want to impose some degree of sharia law where they live, they want to fight a defensive jihad against security service and the central government, or they want to unseat what they perceive as an apostate regime that rules their country.

Why does this distinction matter so much?

This is a huge outstanding dilemma. Is the primary purpose of the drone attacks counter-terrorism, or is it counter-insurgency? If it’s counter-insurgency, that is a very different mission, and you have to rethink the justifications and rethink what the ultimate goal is of using lethal force.

There was a February article in the New York Times reporting that the goal of U.S. policy in Yemen was to kill about two dozen Al Qaeda leaders. There’s been about 50 drone strikes in Yemen since that article. Meanwhile, according to U.S. government statements, the size of AQAP has grown from “several hundred” to “a few thousand members.” So the question is, who is actually being targeted, and how does this further U.S. counterterrorism objectives?

Read more here.

U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice Owns Stake in Companies That Have Done Business with Iran

New questions are being raised over the possible nomination of Ambassador Rice to secretary of state due to the stakes her and her husband own in companies that have recently done business with Iran. In 2010, the U.N. Security Council approved sanctions on Iran, developed by Rice, which were described by diplomats as one of the toughest sanctions efforts in the the history of the organization.

The companies in question are global conglomerates and some have stopped doing business with Iran in order to comply with international sanctions. One of the biggest of Rice’s holdings, between $50,000 and $100,000,according to a disclosure statement for 2011, is Royal Dutch Shell. The international oil giant stopped buying crude oil from Iran early this year. Rice and her husband also own between $15,000 and $50,000 of stock in ENI, an Italian international oil company. ENI says that it no longer does business with Iran, but it has been granted a waiver from sanctions to allow it to collect oil as payment for about $1 billion Iran owes the company from earlier business deals. The company had been purchasing crude oil and developing natural gas fields.

“With respect to Iran, Ambassador Rice worked to impose the toughest U.N. sanctions regime ever on Iran for its continued failure to live up to its obligations,” said Rice’s spokeswoman, Erin Pelton. “Iran is more isolated than it has ever been and facing the toughest economic pressure ever mustered.”

Rice is one of the richest members of the Obama Cabinet. She and her husband, Ian Cameron, were worth between $23.5 million and $43.5 million in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Her late father was a World Bank director and governor of the Federal Reserve.