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March 8, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Russia helps Iran
U.S. intelligence agencies recently gathered military intelligence indicating Russia's defense industry is helping Iran build an advanced electronic warfare system design to thwart U.S. sensors.

The Russian arms-exporting company Rosoboronexort is negotiating with Iran's Defense Industries Organization for the sale of a special system known as Akup, said officials familiar with the classified report.

"The system is designed specifically to defeat U.S. AWACS" Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, an intelligence official told us.

Iran is one of the three terrorist-supporting states identified by President Bush as part of an "axis of evil." Iraq and North Korea are the others.

Iran's acquisition of the Akup system would greatly boost its air-defense capabilities, specifically against U.S. air power and long-range missiles. Tehran military officials have said the country is working on building a nationwide, integrated air-defense network. The Russian electronic warfare system would be a key element in any such defense network.

The Russian warfare system includes jamming devices that can knock out sensors on controller aircraft in an area up to 62 square miles.

Pacific commander
Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo and Marine Gen. Carlton Fulford Jr. appear to be the leading candidates to become the next Commander in chief of Pacific Command (Cincpac), which overseas U.S. forces in Asia and is playing a prominent role in the war on terrorism.

A career submariner, Adm. Fargo is currently commander of the Navy's Pacific Fleet. Both Cincpac and the fleet have headquarters in Honolulu.

To the general public, Adm. Fargo is perhaps best known as the commander who oversaw the Navy's investigation into the collision between the submarine USS Greeneville and a Japanese fishing trawler last year. The admiral decided not to order a court-martial of sub commander Scott Waddle, but did force the officer's retirement.

Gen. Fulford is deputy commander in chief of U.S. European Command, which operates key Air Force and Army units that would likely go to the Persian Gulf if the United States goes to war against Iraq. He is a Naval Academy graduate and a Vietnam combat veteran.

The current Cincpac head, Adm. Dennis Blair, is retiring this spring after a three-year tour. He told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week he plans to move to the Tidewater area. He quipped that he was going from being Republican Sen. John W. Warner's employee to his boss a Virginia voter.

Insiders say the Navy top brass is not happy with the prospect of losing Cincpac, a traditional Navy post. The old Atlantic Command, now called Joint Forces Command, had been held by a string of Navy admirals. It is now run by an Army general.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has presented a new plan to the White House for how the Pentagon's regional Cincs, or commanders in chief, are organized. He has at least three Cinc posts to fill: the Pacific; an opening at U.S. Southern Command and a new Northern Command, which will focus on homeland security.

Last month's American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Excellence Conference attracted top Pentagon and congressional officials. But when banquet time came, the Boeing Co., which was in charge of invitations, excluded from the list virtually all members' personal congressional staff.

Staff participants were limited to defense committee staffers. Even aides who were invited by various defense companies were told to stay away, and invitations were not transferable, according to an internal memo.

Iraqi war games
The Army's V Corps in Germany will begin its yearly war-fighting exercise later this month. By coincidence, the scenario chosen for the largely computer war game is: the Persian Gulf.

President Bush has labeled Iraq as part of a three-nation "axis of evil." Administration officials have agreed internally to ousting Saddam Hussein from power. Only the method and timing remain undecided. Mr. Bush wants the job done in his first term. Sources tell us that the winter of 2003 is a likely timeline. It would give the administration time to put weapons inspectors into Iraq, as forces are built up in the Gulf. Once Saddam, as expected, sabotages the inspectors, the war will be started.

V Corps would play a major role in any war. Its 1st Infantry and 1st Armored divisions are contingency forces for the Gulf region. About 9,000 Army troops will participate in the exercise, called Urgent Victory 02.

In the war game, V Corps will face a "world-class opposition force" with a war plan developed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and brought to a large training area in Grafenwoehr, in southeast Germany.

"We react and respond," said Lt. Col. Joe Richard, a V Corps spokesman. "We have our own operations plan." He said the Army drew up the scenario long before the war on terrorism began last fall.

CIA blocks case
CIA Director George J. Tenet has intervened in a federal defamation case filed by former Energy Department intelligence chief Notra Trulock against convicted Los Alamos nuclear weapons designer Wen Ho Lee.

Mr. Trulock is suing Lee, who was the chief suspect in the Chinese nuclear espionage case two years ago, for stating in public that Lee was targeted for investigation because he is an Asian American.

A Justice Department report on the case by prosecutor Randy Bellows has already determined that Lee was not targeted for investigation because of his race.

Lee was never tried for espionage. He pleaded guilty to illegally downloading classified nuclear secrets onto computer tapes, which were never recovered.

The CIA chief wrote in a classified letter to U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton that documents sought by Lee for his defense would harm national security if made public in court. Rather than declassify or make some material available, Mr. Tenet said, the material must remain classified. This is in keeping with the Bush administration's concern with secrecy.

As a result of the letter, Judge Hilton dismissed the case. Mr. Trulock has appealed the ruling.

"This is a real outrage," said Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, the public interest law firm that represents Mr. Trulock. "Who's side is the government on?" Mr. Fitton said the government blocked the lawsuit because a trial would embarrass the CIA and FBI, which mishandled the nuclear spying case.

Through espinonage, China obtained nuclear weapons secrets on the W-88 warhead, the most advanced warhead in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The W-88 espionage case remains unsolved.

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

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