In matters intrinsic to American national security, a web of intricacies binds the US Presidency to US Central Intelligence. The symbiosis that this two-way interface engenders, seeks to convey a crucial message to Washington’s power vectors. The process ensures that all mature calculations that emanate out of the vast reserves of actionable intelligence within the confines of the US ‘security analysis and operational biosphere’ help in fine-tuning security-response options as well and diplomatic moves and countermoves to further US interests.
The adjuncts in impact arena often lie in pre-identified zones of focus based on strategic US priorities. These are duly endorsed by the White House on the basis of recommendations of the State Department, CIA and the Department of Defence. The process also involves evaluation of information concerning US allies in Europe and the Islamic world, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Advisories from Israel and powerful Jewish lobbies inside the US are also taken into reckoning while finalising options for action.
This ensures that in matters integral to national security, Washington can speed up critical decision-making in civil or military arenas. The system is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to undertake logistic or operational assignments in dealing with both peace and war options.
The Washington process is based on the premise that actionable response to intelligence inputs should be left to knowledge-empowered professional entities, acting on behalf of the US President. Recent events have, however, amply proved that even the professionally driven US system has its own set of vulnerabilities.
This have been brought to light by the revelations of Edward Snowden about highly sensitive NSA blueprints, classified decryption programmes and carefully scripted US-British intelligence collaboration.
Snowden’s latest expose shows that NSA had covertly tapped communications of innumerable government leaders, including US allies such as Germany and France and countries like India with whom it claims to have developed a strategic partnership.
This has resulted in development scars of a type that was rarely witnessed in Germany and the US since the end of Second World War and would have been beyond imagination after the unification of Germany and the end of Cold War. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to unequivocally convey to President Barack Obama that such interventions in German privacy space were “unacceptable”. She had to make it clear that “friendship and partnership between the US and European member states, including Germany, is not a one-way street and there are good reasons that US also needs friends in the world”.
Germany is now toughening its demands that the US respect all domestic and international laws—code words for ceasing the surveillance on German soil amid rising anger at the US. Veteran observers of relations between the two nations suspect that over time the anger will abate, as it has in past spy scandals. But that may not prove to be as easy as the officials hope. If reports are to be believed, the tentative American efforts to pacify an indignant Germany have made scant or marginal impact. Richard N Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who worked on European security issues for Presidents George Bush and George W Bush, noted recently “the broad drifting away” between Europe and the US. The cooling of relations between the US and European Union is bound to queer the pitch for smooth security cooperation in future.
The timing is unfortunate for Washington in that a new set of differences have surfaced between Washington and Riyadh. These are linked to perceptions that President Obama has tactically diluted his once-vigorous campaign to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.
US negotiations in Geneva with Iran have confounded the confusion over America’s willingness to give priority to the interests of its trusted allies. These talks may have failed to produce an interim deal over the weekend, but Israel and Gulf countries are still alarmed about the potential for a nuclear deal with Tehran, finding themselves in the unusual position of being partners in angst. They feel that US is ignoring its allies to rush a deal and ease sanctions on Iran at the Geneva nuclear talks.
The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has warned repeatedly that the US should not take the overtures of the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at face value. Its deepest fear has been that Iran will somehow sucker the world powers into relaxing the crippling regime of sanctions in return for concessions which merely slow down but do not stop the development of its nuclear capabilities.
Political analysts say President Obama can’t bypass these fresh sets of complex challenges. Alongside the growing civil discord and political uncertainty in Egypt, there are manifestations of anger in Pakistan over continuing drone strikes. The cumulative effect of these developments is threatening longstanding US strategic alliances in the Islamic world.
This leaves the US with few options. It must entrust its National Security Agency with a new agenda of action that does not imperil sovereignty and security of its allies in future.