“The Saudis’ Dangerous Game of Truth or Dare,” Jack Devine, The Hill, October 2018

The Trump administration should insist on the truth in the Khashoggi murder, argues TAG President Jack Devine in an opinion piece published in The Hill on October 24, 2018. According to Jack, “The current flap with Saudi Arabia is one of the most complicated diplomatic crises in many years. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi within the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has hit a nerve in the international zeitgeist that neither Riyadh nor Washington can afford to ignore.” Commenting on the US-Saudi relationship, Jack writes, “No matter how one slices it, the way forward starts with the truth.”

The Saudis’ Dangerous Game of Truth or Dare

“Saudis Will Need To Find Someone To Take A Fall,” Jack Devine on Bloomberg Radio, October 2018

Jack Devine, former chief of CIA’s worldwide operations, and founding partner and President of The Arkin Group, discusses the escalating crisis in Saudi Arabia.

Saudis Will Need To Find Someone To Take A Fall

“‘A fighting war with the main enemy’: How the CIA helped land a mortal blow to the Soviets in Afghanistan 32 years ago,” Business Insider, October 2018

CIA veteran and TAG President Jack Devine is quoted in Christopher Woody’s article published in Business Insider on the CIA’s successful effort to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Jack said, “The Stinger changed the course of the war.” Within two years of that first successful Stinger strike, Russian forces began to pull out of Afghanistan, completing their withdrawal in February 1989, almost 10 years after invading.

‘A fighting war with the main enemy’: How the CIA helped land a mortal blow to the Soviets in Afghanistan 32 years ago

“US-Mexico trade deal marks beginning of new friendship,” Amanda Mattingly, CNN Opinion, August 2018

In an opinion piece for CNN, TAG Senior Director Amanda Mattingly comments on the preliminary trade deal reached between the United States and Mexico as an important step in the trilateral NAFTA negotiations. According to Amanda, “That the American and Mexican negotiators could agree to progress past the sticking point involving the automobile industry and rules of origin is a sign of not only the potential for negotiating ‘NAFTA 2.0′ but also for a more productive US-Mexico relationship.”

US-Mexico trade deal marks beginning of new friendship

“Sex and schmoozing are common Russian spy tactics. Publicity makes Maria Butina different,” USA Today, August 2018

CIA veteran and TAG President Jack Devine was quoted in Sean Rossman’s article on Russian spy Maria Butina published in the USA Today in August. Rossman writes, “Part of what differentiates Butina, Devine said, is how she blended covert political action, like cozying up to the NRA, and espionage, or gathering intelligence to send to Russia.” For Jack, the Butina case – and the Russian election meddling – is evidence the Russians have grown bolder in their spy efforts.

Sex and schmoozing are common Russian spy tactics. Publicity makes Maria Butina different

Jack Devine’s Summer 2018 Intelligence Report

TAG President Jack Devine’s Summer 2018 Intelligence Report includes his current assessment on the U.S. mid-term elections, North Korea, Iran, Mexico & NAFTA negotiations, and Europe.

Mid-term Elections
While President Trump continues to confound critics and allies alike with his seemingly spontaneous policy comments and initiatives, the trajectory of his Administration is becoming clearer and more deeply rooted at home and abroad.

On the home front over the next few months, the overwhelming amount of political and media attention will be devoted to the very important mid-term elections which will impact greatly on what the Trump Administration will be able to accomplish in the years ahead. Virtually all political behavior should be viewed through the optic of the mid-term. While history, this week’s mid-term primary turnout, polling data, and pundits would suggest that the Democrats will make gains in November, it is still too early to forecast whether the Democrats’ current political activism will be enough to give them control of the Senate and/or the House. The short-term impact of the Trump tax cut, the general health of the economy as well as potential progress on the North Korea problem, may mitigate Republican losses. However, there is no reason to expect a more collegial and productive environment on the Hill whatever the outcome.

North Korea
North Korea’s apparent interest in engaging in a dialogue with the Administration may bring at least a temporary freeze to its nuclear program. It is increasingly clear that Kim Jong-un is feeling serious economic pressures at home and has staked his domestic reputation on improvements that can only come from sanctions relief. This development has provided the first glimmer of hope that a deal may be possible. While Kim Jong-un may make concessions on the nuclear program, it is hard to imagine under what circumstances he would be willing to “denuclearize” his entire program as Trump insists. There is a long shot possibility that he might agree to park his nukes in China or Pakistan, something he might be able to sell at home and to the Chinese leadership. But, don’t bet on it.

With the appointments of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NSC Director John Bolton, both hardliners on North Korea, Kim should anticipate rigorous negotiations. This time around it will be very difficult for Kim to construct a formula for protracted negotiations. Trump’s recent willingness to walk away from the table will make this maneuver unproductive. From the outset there will be real concessions on the table from both sides, and it will be quickly apparent whether a breakthrough can be accomplished or whether a collapse is in the making. Success will require masterful brinksmanship on both sides.

Iran Nuclear Deal
After Trump’s withdrawal, the Iranian nuclear deal is on life support. What’s more, the European’s ability to keep the deal alive without major friction with the U.S. is remote at best. It is hard to write a credible scenario where this turns out well for the U.S. Even if somehow the Europeans magically hold it together, re-imposed sanctions by the U.S. will only hurt Iran around the edges. Moreover, we will be the odd man out with Russia and China gaining influence in Iran and the Europeans benefiting economically from our absence. Perhaps most damaging of all is that our action has put a deep strain on the Western alliance which both Russia and China are moving aggressively to exploit. This will have far-reaching deleterious implications for our national security interests.

Additionally, if the Europeans can’t hold the deal together without us or develop sanctions workarounds for Iran, all of which appears unlikely, then the economic benefits will cease to accrue to Iran, and we should anticipate Iran will become even more aggressive internationally and press ahead with developing a nuclear weapons program. Despite the hopes of the Trump Administration, the Israelis and Saudis, new sanctions on Iran will not be nearly enough to promote a regime change any time soon. Historically, Washington policymakers and the Intelligence Community have overestimated support for change in Iran and the willingness for dissidents to put their lives on the line to bring about that change. In this context, it is hard to fathom exactly how the U.S prevents or contains the Iranians without military force, something that would be extremely hard to sell to the American people in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mexico & NAFTA Negotiations
Andrés Manuel López Obrador appears poised to be elected the next president of Mexico this July 1. A win for AMLO (as he is popularly called) would likely spook financial markets in the short term, resulting in a period of capital flight from Mexico, a cooling of foreign investment, and a slump in economic growth in Mexico, which has been averaging approximately 2.4% a year. If elected, we can expect AMLO to take a more interventionist role in the economy, which could mean the return of state-owned entities, government subsidies, and a roll back of market-friendly reforms, namely in the energy sector.

At the same time, AMLO has been a fierce critic of President Trump, and we can expect the US-Mexican relationship to get even worse. His leftist, Latin American brand of populism will no doubt clash with Trump’s, making issues related to immigration, border security, and trade all the more difficult.

Regarding NAFTA, Mexico has much more to lose than the United States or Canada if negotiations fail; after all, 80 percent of its exports go to the United States. But if AMLO is elected to stand up to Trump, he could be the one to pull out of a deal deemed locally as unfair to Mexico. With other free trade agreements in Latin America, Asia, and Europe, he could shift trade elsewhere. At this point, this is the less likely outcome, but still a possibility. With luck, the current negotiators will make progress on key sticking points, including rules of origin in the auto industry and the five-year sunset clause, and announce a preliminary deal before Mexico’s election.

Europe
National/populist parties continue to make gains across Europe, including most recently in Hungary, Slovenia and Italy, while French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel struggle to hold the EU together. Nowhere does the struggle between progressive democracy and reactionary populism seem more acute than in Italy, a key state in centrist Europe. If there is a silver lining in the victory of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right, anti-immigrant, League, it is that for the moment they appear to have pulled back from demands to abandon the Euro. Nevertheless, the political novice, Prime Minister Conte, reiterated the coalition’s hard line on immigration as well as a rejection of economic austerity and a call to lift EU sanctions on Russia. In Hungary, returning pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long protested Russian sanctions, yet thus far has toed the line in voting to uphold EU sanctions. Austria’s far-right Vice Chancellor also called for an end to Russia sanctions ahead of Putin’s recent state visit. However, Chancellor Kurz demurred, saying that progress on eastern Ukraine was needed first.

Meanwhile, Macron and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were among the attendees at Putin’s annual St. Petersburg economic forum which had been sparsely attended by Western leaders since Crimea. Make no mistake, Putin is gaining friends in Western Europe. As a result of the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, along with the withdrawal from the Iran deal, the TPP, and the Paris Climate Accord, the Western alliance is strained to an unprecedented degree.

If you or your firm would like an individualized consultation or information, please contact Jack Devine at The Arkin Group.

Summer 2018 Intelligence Report

“Iran Is The Thing That Keeps Me Up At Night,” Jack Devine on Bloomberg Radio, July 2018

TAG President Jack Devine gave his assessment of Iran, Russia, and Trump’s relationship with the intelligence community in an interview with Bloomberg Radio. Jack argued that President Trump came out of the Helsinki summit weakened and needing to push back on Russia’s Vladimir Putin to regain strength.

Iran Is The Thing That Keeps Me Up At Night

“Episode 360: Jack Devine Reacts to President Trump Meeting Kim Jong-un in Singapore,” Jack Devine on SOFREP Radio, June 2018.

Jack Devine spoke with SOFREP Radio in June about President Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Jack underscored the importance of the meeting and that it will be a process with North Korea, commenting on the differences of this meeting from past U.S. efforts to reach a deal toward denuclearization.

Episode 360: Jack Devine Reacts to President Trump Meeting Kim Jong-un in Singapore

“Gina Haspel Says CIA Won’t Restart Its Torture Program. Congress Should Believe – and Confirm – Her,” Jack Devine, NBC News Opinion, May 2018.

TAG President and 30+ year veteran of the CIA, Jack Devine, believes Gina Haspel is “the most qualified professional in the intelligence business” to lead the CIA. In a recent article in NBC News Opinion, Jack also considered the historic nature of Haspel’s appointment. “While women have held high-risk senior positions across a wide swath of the agency for years, a woman has never led it. Change is long overdue.”

Gina Haspel says CIA won’t restart its torture program. Congress should believe – and confirm – her

“U.S.-Mexican Relations Could Get Worse,” Amanda Mattingly, Truman National Security Project, April 2018

In a recent article published by the Truman Project, TAG Senior Director Amanda Mattingly warns that U.S.-Mexican relations could get worse if Andrés Manuel López Obrador is elected the next president of Mexico in July. According to Mattingly, “López Obrador’s election would have serious implications for the economic growth trajectory for Mexico and, in turn, the bilateral relationship with the United States.”

U.S.-Mexican Relations Could Get Worse