“The Defense Department’s second-in-command told the Senate on Tuesday the agreement came as a surprise to military intelligence, and Pentagon teams are scrambling to make sure classified intelligence from the U.S. does not make its way into the hands of Russian, Syrian, or Iranian authorities,” says a report at Defense One.
The Obama administration’s state of complete surprise over Russia’s moves in the Middle East extends to Iraq, as well. The Iraqi announcement of an intelligence-sharing agreement with Russia caught Obama’s team flatfooted and leaves them scrambling to figure out how much intel Iraq will be sharing with Russia, Iran, and that noted beneficiary of Russian and Iranian military assistance, Bashar Assad of Syria.
The report goes on to describe a state of “confusion” at Tuesday’s meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work conceded that the administration was “surprised” when Iraq announced its intelligence-sharing arrangement with Russia, Iran, and Syria over the weekend.
“Obviously, we are not going to share intelligence with either Syria, or Russia, or Iran,” said Work. “So we are in the process of working to try and find out exactly what Iraq has said. Certainly we are not going to provide any classified information that would help those actors on the battlefield.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper indulged in a bit of wishful thinking that Iraq, Russia, Iran, and Syria retain enough mutual paranoia to limit the damage to American interests: “Each of the parties entering into this are a little bit suspicious of just what is entailed here. We will have to see how robust a capability that actually provides.”
U.S. intelligence is still rocked on its heels from the OPM hack and other cyber-war actions, some of which were perpetrated by Russia. Defense One mentions that Iraq’s $1.6 billion worth of American training and equipment gives them plenty of useful information about U.S. explosive detection, communication, and special-operations capability to share with Russia and Iran, either deliberately or inadvertently.
Work made extensive use of the “deconfliction strategy” talking point that everyone in the Obama administration was echoing last week, right up until Russia suddenly began an armed conflict with the Syrian opposition Wednesday morning, with only an hour’s warning. One of the troubling aspects of Iraq’s agreement with Russia is that Russia can give them a firm vision of their place in the post-Obama Middle East, dominated by the Russo-Iranian axis, instead of seminar pamphlets about “deconfliction.” If all Russia asks in return is some American intelligence, it might be hard for the Iraqis to say no.