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July 12, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Iran revolution?
Israeli intelligence has informed the Bush administration that conditions are ripe inside Iran for a pro-democracy revolution against the hard-line Islamic regime in Tehran, we are told.

A senior Israeli official visited Washington recently to lay out what Israel knows about the forces for reform inside Iran and their growing strength. And the news is good.

With a small-scale covert action program to support reformists, the Israeli assessment is that hard-line clerics who currently run the country and sponsor the international terrorists who have attacked the United States and Israel could be ousted.

The problem, according to senior U.S. officials, is the CIA, which is said to be ill-equipped to conduct the kind of covert political operations that it once carried out very well. "The CIA is just too risk-averse," one official said.

The Bush administration announced this week it is shifting tactics on Iran policy. Instead of trying to split reformist leaders such as Iranian President Mohammed Khatami away from Islamic hard-liners, the new approach is to appeal more directly to Iran's people.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a recent interview with The Washington Times that Iran is the lone "axis of evil" nation with conditions favorable for shedding its repressive dictatorship.

Young people, women and educated people are pressing the "very small clique at the top trying to run the place," Mr. Rumsfeld said of the nation President Bush has identified alongside Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil."

Mr. Rumsfeld said Mr. Khatami is being used by the Islamic hard-liners in Tehran, who are backed by the power of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, to placate reformers. The hard-liners "jerk his leash or chain every time he gets too far," he said.

"That's the kind of a country that could turn, because of a popular movement, away from the extreme positions and the notably unhelpful role in the world that Iran is playing," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

See no evil?
Senior Pentagon officials have refused to discuss publicly the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on China, released at 5 p.m. on a Friday two weeks ago in an apparent effort to lessen news coverage of its findings.

Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of defense, in particular, has turned down numerous interview requests to discuss the report. He also has refused to meet with reporters for a briefing on the report highlighting China's alarming military buildup.

Peter Brookes, who recently resigned as the deputy assistant secretary for East Asia, also has refused to talk to the press.

Mr. Rodman has become an invisible man within the Pentagon. He has declined to talk to reporters about his recent visit to Beijing, where he discussed resuming high-level military-to-military exchanges with the Chinese.

The reluctance of Mr. Rodman and other senior officials, including Michael Pillsbury, who is a special assistant on China for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, to speak publicly on China has upset some Republicans on Capitol Hill. They want the Pentagon to stop downplaying its conclusions about China's emerging military power.

To remedy the Pentagon's refusal to talk about China's military buildup, the House Armed Services Committee plans hearings and could summon Mr. Rodman and his deputies to Capitol Hill. Hearings are expected in September or October, a spokesman said. The Senate Armed Services Committee has no plans for hearings.

Navy strikes
The Navy is circulating a new document outlining its plans for a 21st-century transformation.

One idea is to create Expeditionary Strike Groups. These will expand the Navy's ability to strike land targets from carrier groups. The new sea-strike capability will be given to Marine amphibious groups and submarines.

The proposal is contained in a document titled "Naval Transformation: Roadmap, Power and Access from the Sea. Sea Strike. Sea Shield. Sea Basing."

"Concepts under development such as the Expeditionary Strike Force facilitate the broad application of Sea Strike capabilities by reallocating a portion of the rapidly growing Navy strike capability to complement and support the strike capability of Marines embarked on amphibious ships," says the paper. It was signed by Navy Secretary Gordon England; Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations; and Gen. James Jones, Marine Corps commandant.

"These new packages of surface combatants, submarines and Marine forces, called Expeditionary Strike Groups, will complement Carrier Strike Groups and double the number of places where naval forces can deliver and sustain effective striking power," the three men say.

The Navy wants to be able to strike targets as soon as they are identified.

"One approach being pursued focuses on improving battle space awareness and reducing the time needed to carry out strikes against mobile targets by speeding the flow of information from intelligence and surveillance sensors to tactical controllers," the Navy paper states. "These surveillance sensors include current theater standoff platforms, such as the EP-3, U-2, Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) and Global Hawk UAV, attack submarines on clandestine operations, or SEAL and reconnaissance teams inserted behind enemy lines.

"Future sensors will include systems such as the Space Based Radar, Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and penetrating 'sensors,' such as the Ground Weapons Locating Radars, Predator and Dragon Eye UAVs; and Navy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV-N), all interoperable with the Naval Fires Network (NFN) and joint fires network."

Operation Petticoat
Vice Adm. Timothy LaFleur, commander of the Navy's surface force in the Pacific, told reporters recently that one way the Navy is cutting back on the number of sailors based on ships is through a process called "optimal manning."

The ship-wide laundry service was one of the first things to go, forcing sailors to wash their own clothes. Self-service laundry ships are being outfitted with small, stacked washers and dryers.

The process was welcomed by female sailors who were not happy having men wash their underwear.

"I was really worried about this one," Adm. LaFleur said. "I thought that the crew would perceive this as diminution of their quality of service. It turns out they love it. Especially the women on board our ships really prefer to do their own laundry [rather] than having the guys doing their laundry for them."

Sea guards
Vice Adm. Timothy LaFleur said he is encouraged with the Navy's progress in building sea-based missile defenses. He outlined several scenarios for how the missile shields can be deployed:

"You could have a Group of Eight [economic summit] meeting in Qatar and you send a missile-defense ship off because you don't want some rogue country to fire a missile in there, so you move a missile-defense ship off a particular city to protect it," he said.

"You may have the president meeting with a group of world leaders at the U.N., so you move a ship off of New York to protect it. You may have a strike group going in to do a NEO noncombatant evacuation [operation] so you want to protect that force, so you move a missile-defense shield off of where they are because technology is moving in the black market, as well as the open market, and so you could get a cruise missile, short range, that needs to be defended against in all kinds of different scenarios."

I think it is not just the intercontinental [missiles], but it is the shorter-range and the midrange ones that you have to be concerned about as well," said Adm. LaFleur, commander in the Navy. In the next four or five years, the Navy may deploy a missile-defense squadron with a ship deployed in a location away from U.S. shores, he said.

To increase the efficiency, the missile-defense ship will use a new concept called "sea swap," the three-star admiral said.

"Then we can keep a missile-defense ship forward and swap out the crews on it," he said.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at bgertz@washingtontimes.com. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.


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