Foreign policy expert Arnaud de Borchgrave tells Newsmax that U.S. intelligence agencies exhibited serious flaws in being “totally blind” to the death of North Korea leader Kim Jong Il.
Despite the massive resources of the United States’ 16 intelligence services, with100,000 employees and an annual combined budget of about $80 billion a year, they didn’t know about Kim’s death on Saturday until North Korea finally announced it on Sunday, the award-winning journalist noted during an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.
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Kim died of a heart attack while traveling through his country on a train, according to the state-controlled media in North Korea. The U.S. State Department finally acknowledged the press reports many hours after the official North Korean announcement.
North Korea should be high on U.S. intelligence radar, especially with its nuclear capability and open enmity toward U.S. ally South Korea.
Nonetheless, the U.S. intelligence agencies missed “something as easy to spot as a train . . . the only train moving around North Korea, with the boss on board, and somebody stops and there’s a flurry of activity . . . You’d think somebody would have spotted something,” said de Borchgrave, director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
His comments echoed other criticism in the media since the death of the North Korean dictator, who ruled over what has been dubbed “the hermit kingdom” because of its extreme isolation from the rest of the world.
North Korea is not expected to be a greater threat to the United States under the appointed successor, Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong Un, said de Borchgrave, a 30-year veteran of Newsweek magazine who now is editor at large for United Press International and The Washington Times, as well as being a Newsmax contributor.
“There were three brothers to pick from to succeed the late dictator,” he said. “And the eldest one couldn’t be selected because he was arrested in Japan once upon a time trying to get into Disney World with a false passport.”
Regarding the Middle East peril, de Borchgrave said, “I think we should be very concerned about Egypt. Nobody quite knows who’s in charge in Egypt today. The army is trying to remain in charge, given the fact that they control roughly one third of the economy with state-owned companies. The tourist industry is in a tailspin. It doesn’t look good, and how it’s all going to come out in the wash nobody can really tell.”
The revolts that began this year are cause for concern, he said.
“Tunisia — the Islamists now have a prime minister there. So score one for the Islamists . . . Move over to Libya . . . you now have the top military commander in Tripoli who is a former al-Qaida terrorist, who was at one point head of al-Qaida for Libya, was arrested by the U.S., was transferred to Thailand for one of what they call rendition, torture sessions — he was tortured by the Thais on behalf of the United States — he’s now back in Libya as top man in Tripoli, military top man. So how does that look for the future? Not very reassuring.”
De Borchgrave lamented the aftermath of the U.S. pullout from Iraq, saying that the split between Shiites and Sunni Muslims already is happening. “It’s not very reassuring, because we spent a trillion dollars there,” he said. “We lost 4,500 killed and about 30,000 wounded.” Now, he said, conditions indicate Iran has more influence in Iraq than the United States.
Regarding Iran, de Borchgrave said U.S. military commanders — including Gen. Anthony Zinni, Gen. John Abizaid, and Adm. William Fallon, all three former commanders of U.S. Central Command — think it would be “madness” to drop a single bomb on Iran. “Look at Iran in the context of the global map. They have five of the world’s eight nuclear powers around them,” he says. “So to think that we can deprive them of the nuclear weapon by just going to war against Iran, I think, would be a big mistake.”
Rather, he suggested, Western powers should impose a naval blockade against Iran. “That would start making a lot of sense and hurt them badly,” he said.
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