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Altman: U.S., Israel keep eyes on new Iranian leader

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Published:   |   Updated: August 26, 2013 at 09:15 AM

Last week when I sat down with Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III, the head of U.S. Central Command, I asked him whether Centcom was seeing any difference in the level of cooperation from Iran since Hasan Rouhani, widely considered a moderate, was seated as president earlier this month.

Austin said it was too early to tell.

“If you look at many of the things troubling throughout the region,” said Austin, “you find Iran involved in a lot of it.”

The next day, Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, a retired Israeli major general who headed that nation’s military intelligence from 2001 to 2006, was hopeful that at least one Iranian-involved pressure point would remain calm. For a little while, anyway.

An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities “is not imminent in my point of view,” Farkash told me.

It would be “at least one year, at least now that Rouhani is there,” said Farkash, who has intimate knowledge of Rouhani and Iranian internal politics from his days running the equivalent of Israeli J2.

Rouhani, he said, was an Iranian negotiator when Iran voluntarily delayed its nuclear weapons ambitions for a short period in the early part of the last decade.

Rouhani, said Farkash, is reacting in part to “pressure coming from the population because of the sanctions” imposed against Iran.

“It is very important to build a coalition and legitimacy needed to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. If that finally does not lead Iran into such a decision, I hope President Obama as promised, will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear military bomb. I am not sure he will.

I asked Farkash if the Israelis do decide to attack Iran, whether they would notify the U.S. first.

“I have to tell you I do not want to react to this question,” said Farkash. “Everything will be done that is needed to be done. Today is not my responsibility to say and react.”

His responsibility, in fact, was quite different on Tuesday.

Farkash is now the CEO of a security firm called FST21, which has developed a keyless building-entry security system called SAFERISE fusing biometric parameters including facial, voice and motion recognition, to identify registered people. Farkash said FST21 has plans in the works to set up the technology in buildings in South Florida, among other places.

Farkash told me the In Motion Identification technology was developed for residential and commercial buildings because, with the population density of cities increasing rapidly, finding non-intrusive ways to protect people is important.

“I observed during my job as director of military intelligence two main factors,” said Farkash. “One is that the populations of cities will increase. The second one, is a need to prevent terror, and the target for terror are cities.”

The SAFERISE system, he said, doesn’t require fingerprints or iris scans, but a camera observes a person’s height, walking gait and other measurements which are analyzed for individualized entry.

Meanwhile, Farkash says the Israelis are warily watching the horrors taking place to the south and north, in Egypt and Syria.

We spoke after the bloodshed on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere, but before the most recent allegations that the Assad regime gassed hundreds of men, women and children.

Though the conflict in both countries threatens to spill over the borders, in Israel as well as Jordan and Lebanon and Turkey, Farkash said that it is in the best interests of both the Egyptian military and Assad to avoid war with Israel.

At least for now.

Given how much what happens with Israel effects the Centcom region, maybe that’s one less thing for Gen. Austin to worry about.

*****

The world works in ways I do not always understand, a concept that was reinforced for me last week.

At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, I sent a message to Kristin Beck, the transgendered retired Navy SEAL, for her opinion about Chelsea Manning, the Army private convicted of espionage and other charges. blaming gender issues, in part, for leaking nearly a million classified documents.

Not 15 minutes later, I received an email from Kristin Beck.

Only it was a different Kristin Beck.

This one is a 29-year-old Realtor from St. Petersburg who wanted to know how to get in touch with retired Navy SEAL:

“I was hoping that you could possibly pass my email to Kristin Beck, the Navy seal. I have the same name as Navy Seal Kristin Beck and have been receiving mail and packages meant for her. I would love to be able to get the mail over to her somehow.”

Intrigued, I reached out to Realtor Kristin Beck.

She told me that she recently received a package in the mail.

“I was all excited,” she said. “My birthday is coming up.”

Realtor Beck opened the package, but quickly realized that it was for the Navy SEAL Beck.

“It was some books and a letter,” said Realtor Beck. “I opened it up because I thought it was for my birthday.”

Realtor Beck said she has gotten other letters in the past for Navy SEAL Beck.

“Everything I have received for her has been positive,” said Realtor Beck.

Realtor Beck said she became aware of Navy SEAL Beck shortly after Navy SEAL Beck published her life story a few months back.

“About the time the story broke, I actually got a Facebook email from The Associated Press, but I glossed over it,” said Realtor Beck. And then, someone from Bay News 9 happened to swing by my house, and left their card. Then I started putting two and two together when someone in the office saw a Yahoo article and said, ‘Hey, your name is out there. Read the article.’ ”

Realtor Beck said she thinks Navy SEAL Beck “is very courageous” for sharing her life story.

After sharing Realtor Beck’s email with Navy SEAL Beck, it looks like the two may meet and exchange the snail mail. Stay tuned.

****

This weekend, the Hillsborough County Veterans Memorial and Museum will be home to an event honoring Florida’s Gold Star families.

The sixth annual Run for the Fallen will kick off Saturday with runner packet pickup, followed by a barbecue at 5:30 p.m., a motorcycle procession, and a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m., according to Cyd Deathe, who is helping organize the event.

The Run for the Fallen opening ceremony is 9 a.m. Sunday at the park, with a one-mile walk inside the park, and a 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer race along U.S. 301, according to Deathe.

The race is free, but there will be T-shirt sales and participants and guests are encouraged to donate. The money will go toward the Florida Fallen Memorial, dedicated to those who died in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the Iraq War Memorial being built at the park,

Last year, the event attracted more than 3,000. This year, Deathe, one of the original founders of the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association, said she hopes for at least 2,000 participants, with the goal of raising at least $5,000.

For more information or to register, go to active.com and look for Run for the Fallen Tampa Bay. Or call the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association at (813) 965-2682.

*****

The Pentagon announced the deaths of two soldiers last week in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

• Master Sgt. George A. Bannar Jr., 37, of Orange, Va., died Aug. 20, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C.

• 1st Lt. Timothy G. Santos Jr., 29, of Helena, Ala., died Aug. 18, in Fort Bliss, Texas, from a noncombat related illness diagnosed on March 24, in Kuwait City, Kuwait. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

There have now been 2,250 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation’s longest war.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

@haltman

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