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April 6, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq backlash
Military officials in Baghdad say Iraqi insurgents have had limited success in stepped up attacks since the U.S.-led efforts to stabilize the Iraqi capital.

"The last week or so has seen significant activity in Iraq, possibly the start of the backlash we have been expecting, as extremists react to the surge," one military officer said.

Recent attacks in Fallujah, Khalis and Tal Afar, were outside the surge area of Baghdad and surrounding areas and "don't directly affect the Baghdad security operation," said the official, who provided a situation report on the condition of anonymity.

However, the bombing of a Baghdad market March 29 was likely a terrorist reaction to "improvements in Baghdad," the official said.

"The insurgents may be switching to easier operating areas outside the capital, and trying to discredit the feeling of security brought about by the surge," the official said.

Is Baghdad safer?

"In general, yes. Four days ago I walked unarmed with a small group on Haifa Street, in broad daylight, talking to local people going about their business," the official said.

By contrast, two months ago fighter jets were strafing targets, and major gunbattles were fought in the same location.

Where two months ago about 15 corpses would turn up on the streets of a U.S.-Iraqi controlled neighborhood almost daily, now groups of 20 children regularly play soccer. Bodies are still seen on the streets but in far fewer numbers.

"By getting in at the grass roots and competing for influence, securing the population, we threatened the extremists' ability to dominate and intimidate the people," the official said. "So they struck back initially in Tal Afar and Fallujah, later in Baghdad and Khalis."

The attack in Fallujah was an utter failure, with two suicide car bombs stopped and detonated killing only the terrorists.

"Overall, it has been a tough 72 hours," the official said. "We expected a backlash, and this may be the start of it. The pattern is one of extremists targeting ordinary people, trying to provoke sectarian violence, and intimidate them to regain influence. They succeeded initially in Tal Afar. But the government's rapid action kept casualties much lower than in similar incidents last year. Fallujah showed how extremists will prey on their own people without compunction, but also showed their loss of skill and increasing marginalization."

Pace in China
The U.S. Pacific Command has produced a special summary on the recent visit to China of Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The executive summary states that the key goal during the four-day visit was "playing down the China threat by saying that neither Beijing nor Washington has the intent to go to war with one another."

Ignoring the China threat was part of Gen. Pace's effort "to push forward the expanding Sino-U.S. cooperative relationship," the report said.

Asked about a potential conflict with Taiwan, according to the report, "Gen. Pace said he did not believe China's armed forces were a threat and played down the prospects for hostilities in the Taiwan Strait."

Pentagon sources said the "China-is-no-threat" posture of Gen. Pace is part of a deception strategy designed to reduce Chinese military paranoia toward the United States.

Gen. Pace also tried again unsuccessfully to set up hot line for U.S. military communication with Beijing's military. The report failed to mention that China has rejected the U.S. hot-line proposal for several years by continuing to "study" the idea.

The report was produced by Pacific Command's open-source intelligence unit called Virtual Information Center in Hawaii and it carried the caveat that its views are those of "various authors" and not necessarily those of Pacific Command or the Pentagon.

The report said the chairman felt he was given more access than any previous U.S. military visitor. Really? Its examples were Gen. Pace's access to a Chinese Su-27 fighter cockpit (done before), a T-99 tank and a general's office with "war maps."

China continued to refuse to discuss its defense budget, its anti-satellite weapons or allow Gen. Pace to visit the huge underground command bunker called the Western Hills.

Cuban intelligence
Cuba's intelligence service is stepping up activities in the United States because of the impending demise of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, according to intelligence officials.

The Cuban activities are aimed at finding out what the United States plans to do against Cuba in the aftermath of Mr. Castro's death, such as backing regime opponents in a putsch.

Cuban intelligence collection is being stepped up against key U.S. targets, including the White House National Security Council, the State Department and the U.S. intelligence community with the goal of finding out U.S. policies and plans toward Cuba.

Cuban intelligence is "very good at this business" of spying, Joel F. Brenner, the national counterintelligence executive, told a breakfast meeting last week. Mr. Brenner said that the Cuban spy case of Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Montes "compromised our entire program against Cuba, electronic as well as human."

Scott Carmichael, a Defense Intelligence Agency counterintelligence official and author of a new book on Montes called "True Believer," said recently that Cuba's intelligence service currently has penetrated the U.S. government to a similar extent as the former East German Stasi planted agents inside the West German government.

Useful idiot
Lenin called them "useful idiots," the supporters of communism who spared no apology for the barbaric Soviet regime. Such is the example of Charles "Chas" Freeman Jr., a former Defense Department official and retired Foreign Service officer, who recently offered up an amazing encomium to communist China that had many conservatives reaching for a vomit bag.

The laudatory remarks came in a speech inaugurating the China Studies Center at the federally funded Center for Naval Analyses in Washington.

In a remarkable defense of Beijing, Mr. Freeman found about every way possible to support China's policies and positions, ranging from human rights violations to its aggressive military buildup. He even attacked Pope Benedict XVI for opposing the state-run Catholic Church in China and criticized American Protestants for being offended that the majority of Chinese are agnostics.

He said the Chinese "have bad memories of gunboats escorting foreign missionaries up their great rivers and of tens of millions of deaths from rebellions instigated by cult religions like the Taiping version of Christianity."

But he made no mention of the estimated 60 million who died under the current communist regime in power since 1949.

As for Tibet, Mr. Freeman said some Americans support the exiled Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama, who is seeking basic religious freedom for his country and people. Mr. Freeman said the idea of China's giving up Tibet would be like Britain discarding Wales.

He then took a shot at conservatives opposed to China's state-sanctioned forced abortion policies. "China's family planning practices are anathema to the abortion-obsessed religious right in our country but Chinese consider that if we had their ratio of arable land to population, as many as three billion people would live in the United States and Americans might well see population control as a public policy imperative too."

To Mr. Freeman, China was even the inspiration for the Founding Fathers of the United States. "As they designed our system of government, the brilliant political engineers who were our founding fathers drew on Leibniz' and Voltaire's musings on the secrets of the good society China exemplified to its Jesuit admirers," he said.

  • Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at

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