By Gary Thomas
WASHINGTON (RPRN) 03/27/09-The top U.S. intelligence officer says Mexico remains stable, despite the recent surge in violence spawned by the illegal drug trade. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Dennis Blair, also dismisses North Korea’s claim that its upcoming space launch is for peaceful purposes.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Dennis Blair downplayed the notion that drug violence has brought Mexico to the brink of collapse. Rather, Blair says the escalating violence is a testament to the Mexican government’s efforts to pressure the illegal drug cartels.
“Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. [Let me] repeat that. Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. The violence we see now is the result of Mexico taking action against the drug cartels. So it is in fact the result of positive moves, which the Mexican government has taken to break the baneful influence that many of these cartels have had on many aspects of Mexican government and Mexican life,” Blair said.
The Obama administration has dispatched some 500 additional federal agents to the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the violence from spilling over into the United States.
Blair, a retired U.S. Navy admiral who has been in his job about two months, covered a wide range of topics during a lengthy session with reporters at DNI headquarters just outside Washington.
Blair said North Korea is using its upcoming space launch as a cover for its intercontinental ballistic missile program.
“I think that North Korea is attempting to demonstrate an ICBM [i.e., intercontinental ballistic missile] capability through a space launch. And that’s what they’re up to – trying to use the rationale of a legitimate space launch for a missile, which is in its foundation a military missile,” he said.
Blair said that there are still massive food shortages in North Korea and that the government hoards much of it for the ruling elite. But, he added, do not look for the government there to collapse anytime soon.
“I don’t think that the lack of food is a threat to that regime. The authoritarian techniques of the Kim [Jong Il] dynasty are pretty effective in using both rewards and fear to maintain personal control,” Blair said.
The Obama administration is engaged in a review of Afghan and Pakistan strategy. The director of national intelligence, who is a key participant in the review, would not comment directly on a new strategy for the region. But, when asked about the prospect of negotiating with the Taliban, Blair indicated that some local Taliban elements might be approachable.
“There are Taliban and there are Taliban. I think that some of them have fairly local issues, which have to be handled locally. Some of them have pretty aggressive hardcore ideas, which are unlikely to ever be compatible with American interests. I think what the intelligence side of this is to understand with a degree of granularity [i.e., detail] the motivations and factions within that broad group that goes under ‘Taliban’ and deal with them in a way that advances our interests,” Blair said
The Obama administration is expected to unveil its strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday.