No October surprises, please

Chet Nagle Former CIA Agent
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The Obama administration is accused of failing to protect the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and of failing to rescue American diplomats being murdered by Islamist terrorists. Guilty on both counts only weeks before the election, the White House is now planning an “October surprise” to make the president look tough. Maybe two surprises.

The buzz in the U.S. diplomatic community for weeks has been the Obama administration’s plans for a deal with Iran, and secret high-level meetings. The deal would have Iran announce a halt to uranium enrichment before the elections on November 6. In exchange, the White House would ease sanctions on Iran’s central bank and national oil company. On October 20, geopolitician and former National Security Council member Michael Ledeen let the air out of that balloon in a straightforward analysis that quoted the CIA’s former Iranian spy, Reza Kahlili.

Kahlili wrote that Valerie Jarrett, the president’s closest confidant, met in Doha, Qatar, on October 1 with Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to Kahlili, Jarrett reminded the Iranian that President Obama has prevented Israel from attacking Iran and that if Mitt Romney became president he would toughen America’s attitude. Velayati’s response is unknown, but two days ago Helene Cooper and Mark Lander of The New York Times confirmed the meeting (denied by the White House and Iran), breathlessly adding it was “setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.”

Ledeen calmly dismissed the idea the Obama White House would ever order a strike on Iran. He also reflected that far from being innovative and daring, the meeting in Doha was just another in a long string of unproductive secret meetings with Iran ordered by every president since Jimmy Carter. Ledeen himself was part of such talks during the Reagan administration. Though the mainstream media would dutifully herald a White House deal with Iran as ground-breaking, it would really be nothing more than an Iranian ploy to buy time to build nuclear weapons.

But the White House is planning another kind of October surprise: an air attack on Libyan targets.

The U.S. military and intelligence community, upset about being blamed for the debacle in Benghazi, has leaked new White House plans for an airstrike on Libya before the election. The Associated Press reports that three current administration officials provided details of a plan in which bombs and rockets would show critics of President Obama’s hapless foreign policy that the president is not the weak, waffling, and distracted statesman who said the murders in Benghazi were “not optimal.” Instead of leading from behind, the president would be seen sending vengeance to terrorists who killed his ambassador and three other American diplomats.

A Department of Defense official confirmed to Breitbart News on October 3 that planning is complete for a “substantial air package” that would include not only drones, but manned fighters and bombers. The New York Times then reported that JSOC (the Joint Special Operations Command) is putting together “target packages.” But there remained a major problem with all those plans: No one could identify the killers. So, on October 17, The New York Times moved the ball for the White House again and identified Ahmed Abu Khattala, commander of a militant militia, as leading the assault in Benghazi. The stage is now set for airstrikes to save the president from defeat at the polls.

The background for the wag-the-dog attack is conveniently chaotic. Libya has a weak government, no defenses, and armed militias roam the cities and countryside. Because of a sad lack of American intelligence on the ground, there is no way to positively differentiate armed groups led by al Qaida from those led by disgruntled tribal chieftains. As a result, airstrikes by drones or even by manned aircraft will kill innocent civilians and probably topple the Libyan government, such as it is. A former CIA official told Breitbart News that an airstrike under such circumstances “would be criminal.” One must hope the subject arises in today’s foreign affairs debate between President Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney.

Whatever else may happen, Benghazi-gate will remain a dark chapter in President Obama’s legacy.

Chet Nagle is a graduate of the Naval Academy, a former CIA agent and Defense Department official, and the author of “Iran Covenant.”