Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Russia’s Medvedev says he’s Upbeat About America With President Obama

December 4, 2008

President Dmitry Medvedev said he hopes Russia’s relations with the United States improve after President-elect Barack Obama takes office, according to an interview released Thursday.

Moscow’s relations with Washington have been strained by disputes over U.S. missile defense plans and Russia’s war with Georgia in August.

But Medvedev dismissed suggestions that the chill could lead to a new Cold War, and said he expects the new U.S. administration “to take constructive, reasonable stance, to show willingness to compromise on the most difficult issues.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,left, and Prime Minister Vladimir ...
When journalists see photographs like this from Russia they often ask, “Who is the school master?”  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,left, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seen at their meeting in the Gorki residence outside Moscow, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008.(AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service)

“What we have recently heard from Washington makes me feel moderately optimistic,” he said, without elaborating, in an interview with Indian Broadcasting Corporation Doordarshan that was posted on the Kremlin Web site Thursday.

Medvedev and Obama spoke by telephone last month, but the details of the conversation were not released.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_re_eu/eu_
russia_us;_ylt=Ag2VravpuxE68McMAS2GMOms0NUE

Obama’s Many “Number One” Priorities

December 3, 2008

Remember this simple catchphrase for priorities: “It’s the economy, stupid”?

Many think that should be the watchword for the new President Barack Obama.  But a confusing and dangerous miasma of foreign policy challenges lurks and lurches ahead. Without carefully applied wisdom, the United States could make matters worse on a wide range of international fronts and issues…

President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane with ... 
President-elect Obama with his two Blackberris and some light reading.
(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Yesterday, two think tanks said the U.S. should move away from Iraq and work like the devil on the nuclear covetous Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran.

The Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations said it is time to make peace in the Middle east as a “top priority.”  For the past six years under President George W. Bush, U.S. foreign policy in the region has been dominated by Iraq, said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center at Brookings, and Richard Haass, president of the Council.

Now the two agree the real problem is Iran.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the U.N. ... 
Nuclear aspirant: Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran

One difficulty with this line of thinking is that, depending on the day, the think tank report one considers, and the newspaper headline, America faces stadium full of “top priorities.”

In Russia, Medvedev and Putin believe they should be tops on the Obama agenda.  Mr. Medvedev even threatened to deploy nuclear armed missiles in Eastern Europe unles and until the U.S. backed off of its missile defense ambitions with Poland and the Czech Republic.

And the Medvedev/Putin thrust cannot be overlooked: the two had no qualms about invading Georgia to get the attention of the U.S. and NATO: and it worked.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits a ballistic missile ...
Russia’s Medvedev, in front of a startegic Russian missile, said his missile advances will overwhelm U.S. defensive measures in the next few years.
AFP/Pool/File/Dmitry Astakhov

Terrorism could be the number one priority.  Just yesterday the U.S. Director of National Security said in essence that the Pakistani Islamist radical militant group  Lashkar-e-Taiba  blew up Mubai, India, last week, killing nearly 200.

On the same day, yesterday, a group of wise men said the U.S. can expect to face a biological or chemical attack.

Is another 9-11 in America’s future?  And are we ready to defend or respond?

Pakistan itself might lay claim to Mr. Obama’s top priority.  Bankrupt, last weekend rioters ripped through the nations largest city, the Pakistani Army was pinned down by terrorists in the tribal areas, and the nuclear-armed government was under fire from all domestic and international sides over Mumbai.

A Pakistani newspaper wondered yesterday if the Army was about to break with the elected government of mr. Zardari and his Minister Mr. Gilani.

Then there are a few small matters with China, North Korea and you name it.

Oh and there are just a few domestic realities and campaign promises that need our next president’s attention: OPEC and oil, drill or not to drill, schools and education, tax relief, jobs and unemployment,health care, AIDS and the list goes on.

You won’t convince me for a second that the modern miracle of multi-tasking and several Blackberries will resolve this poisonous soup.

America needs to take a deep breath and close its eyes: too much Obama-mania could cause one not to think.

Mr. Obama, the United States, all Americans and all Western allies are in for some very hard work, sacrifices of an unknown nature, and difficult decisions.

Here’s a simple truth: The age of simplicity is over.

*****

From Wikipedia:

It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase in American politics widely used during Bill Clinton‘s successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. For a time, Bush was considered unbeatable because of foreign policy developments such as the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf war. The phrase, coined by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, refers to the notion that Clinton was a better choice because Bush had not adequately addressed the economy, which had recently undergone a recession.

Experts Warn Barack Obama of ‘Hornet’s Nest’ in Middle East, Including Nuclear Iran

December 2, 2008

Iran poses the greatest foreign policy challenge to the new president with Tehran on course to produce a nuclear bomb in the first year of an Obama administration, an unprecedented coalition of top think tanks warned yesterday.

Barack Obama must follow through on his promises of direct talks with Tehran and engage the Middle East region as a whole if he is to halt a looming crisis that could be revisited on the United States, the experts warned.

President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane with ... 
President-elect Obama with his two BlackBerries….
.(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

“Diplomacy is not guaranteed to work: it is not,” Richard Hass, one of the authors said. “But the other options – military action or living with an Iranian weapon are sufficiently unattractive for it to warrant serious commitment.”

The warnings came in a report called “Restoring the Balance,” a Middle East strategy for the incoming president drafted by the Council for Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. Gary Samore, one of the authors, said the level of alarm over the “hornet’s nest” facing the new president in the Middle East, and the need for the swift adoption of previously untested approach, had inspired the unprecedented decision to write policy for him. “New administrations can choose new policies but they can’t choose next contexts,” Mr. Samore said. “This is what they inherit.”

By

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world
/us_and_americas/us_elections/article5275647.ece

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the U.N. ... 
Ahmadinejad

Related:
 Obama’s Many “Number One” Priorities

Iran Holds Military Games Near Hormuz Strait

December 2, 2008

Iran started military exercises in the Gulf of Oman adjacent to the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting said on its Web Site, citing Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari.

The exercises, covering 50,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) and involving 60 destroyers, submarines, helicopters and aircraft, are to promote preparedness against possible threats and “preemptive power,” Sayyari told IRIB.

Iran has threatened to close the strait, a chokepoint at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which about 20 percent of the world’s oil is shipped, should the U.S. or Israel attack the country over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment as part of its nuclear program.

By Thomas Penny

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) —

Related:
US maintaining naval-air-marine might in Arabian Sea opposite India, Pakistan, Iran

US maintaining naval-air-marine might in Arabian Sea opposite India, Pakistan, Iran

December 1, 2008

Three US aircraft carriers with strike groups, task forces and nuclear submarines have piled up in the waters of the Arabian Sea opposite the shores of India, Pakistan and Iran, and in the Persian Gulf.

DEBKAfile‘s military sources report that the US began massing this formidable array of floating firepower at the outset of the Islamist terrorist attack on the Indian city of Mumbai last Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Tehran responded typically with a threat of retaliation should the Americans decide to use the Mumbai terrorist attack to hit Iran.

It is more likely, according to our military sources, that the Americans are on the ready in case the rising tensions between India and Pakistan over the New Delhi’s charge of Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai atrocity explodes into an armed clash on their border.

This is indicated by the units now deployed:

1. the USS John C. Stennis, which carries 80 fighter-bombers and 3,200 sailors and airmen and leads a strike group..

This carrier joins two already there, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which patrols the northern Arabian Sea, part of whose strike group cruises opposite Iran’s southern coast; and the USS Iwo Jima, which carries a large marine contingent on board.

2. New to these waters, according to DEBKAfile‘s military sources, is the Destroyer Squadron 50/CTF 55, which has two task forces: Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) for strikes against warships and the rapid deployment of marines to flashpoint arenas; and Mine Countermeasures Division 31, which stands ready to prevent New Delhi or Islamabad from mining the Arabian Sea routes connecting their ports. Those routes are vital waterways for US marine traffic supporting the war in Afghanistan.

3. To manage this armada, the command and control vessel, USS Mount Whitney, has been brought over from the Mediterranean.

4. Four nuclear submarines.

The arrival of the southwest Asian marine patrol carrier Stennis and the Mount Whitney to the Arabian Sea opposite Iran’s shores set alarm bells ringing in Tehran. Our Iranian sources note that the Islamic republic’s rulers remember that after al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, the Americans did not only invade Afghanistan, but also Iraq and they fear a similar sideswipe.

The Iranian chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Ataoallah Salehi sounded a warning when he stated Sunday, Nov. 30: The “heavy weight” of enemy warships provides the Iranian side with an ideal opportunity for launching successful counter-attacks.

Related:
Iran Holds Military Games Near Hormuz Strait


Above: U.S. Navy operates at sea with allies…

U.S. Navy cruisers carry long range cruise missiles.  Seen here: USS Gettysburg

See the DEPKA file:
http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=5747

Obama’s strong-willed national security team

November 30, 2008
With Clinton as secretary of State, retired Marine Gen. James Jones Jr. as national security advisor and Gates remaining in Defense, Obama will have a choice among often starkly differing views.
By Paul Richter
The Los Angeles Times
November 30, 2008
Reporting from Washington — President-elect Barack Obama says he wants to lead an administration where strong-willed senior officials are ready to argue forcefully for differing points of view.

It appears that in two months, he’ll get his wish, and then some.

Obama’s new national security team is led by three veteran officials who have differed with each other — and with the president-elect — on the full menu of security issues, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, nuclear weapons and Arab-Israel conflict.

The president-elect is expected on Monday to begin introducing a team that includes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), whom he has chosen as secretary of State; retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr., tapped to be the new national security advisor; and Robert M. Gates, who has agreed to stay on as Defense secretary.

Clinton, Gates, Jones

Carolyn Kaster / AP; Roslan Rahman / AFP/Getty Images; Dennis Cook / AP
THE TEAM: No longer a rival, Clinton and Obama hold similar positions on many issues. Gates, center, is admired by the Obama team despite significant differences over nuclear weapons policy. Jones has separated himself from the Obama playbook on a few issues, including troop withdrawal.

Their collaboration isn’t likely to be as contentious as the first-term Bush administration battles between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney. Clinton, Gates and Jones have worked smoothly, with the only visible clashes coming between Clinton and Gates’ deputies over Iraq.

But Obama will have some clear choices among their views, which differ in nuance in some cases and more starkly in others. Obama appears to be determined to keep them in line; advisors say he believes the Pentagon has become too strong in the Bush years, and he wants to reassert White House control.

Some American supporters of Israel have already been buzzing over the potential for conflict between Clinton and Jones on Arab-Israeli issues.

Jones, an admired former Marine commandant and supreme allied commander of NATO, was appointed last November as a Bush administration envoy charged with trying to improve the often dysfunctional Palestinian security forces. As part of that assignment, he drafted a report that caused a stir in Israel by criticizing the Israeli Defense Forces’ activities in the Palestinian territories.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-security30-2008nov30,0,7160819.story

Poland Won’t Lobby Obama on Missile Defense

November 20, 2008

Poland’s foreign minister said yesterday that his country will wait for the Obama administration to make up its mind on basing missile defense interceptors in his country and will not lobby to have the project proceed.

Saying that the Warsaw government had agreed “out of friendship” to the Bush administration proposal to establish a U.S. base for 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski added: “We will tread carefully and wait until the new administration makes its decision.”

By Walter Pincus
The Washington Post
.
The controversial European basing plan, which also involves placing a U.S. radar unit in the Czech Republic, is to be part of a broader missile defense system that the Bush administration has said is designed to intercept Iranian missiles aimed either at U.S. or European targets. Russia has voiced strong objections to the plan.

Sikorski’s remarks, made during an appearance at the Atlantic Council of the United States, a bipartisan foreign policy organization, reflect the modification of a statement posted Nov. 8 on the Web site of Polish President Lech Kaczynski. The statement said that during Kaczynski’s conversation congratulating Barack Obama, the president-elect said that “the missile defense project would continue.”
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Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/11/1
9/AR2008111903737.html

Iran Now Said to Have Enough Nuclear Material For Bomb

November 20, 2008

Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.

The figures detailing Iran’s progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country’s main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.

“They clearly have enough material for a bomb,” said Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades. “They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that’s another matter.”

Iranian Shahab-2 (L) and Shahab-3 missiles stand on display ... 
Iranian Shahab-2 (L) and Shahab-3 missiles stand on display in front of a large portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a square in south Tehran in September 2008. Many experts believe Iran now has enough nuclear material for at least one bomb and has delivery options with missiles.(AFP/File/Atta Kenare)

Related:
Israel Scared, Wants U.S. More Engagement on Iran
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Iran increases stockpile of uranium

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/
world/middleeast/20nuke.html?_r=1&hp

Israel Scared, Wants U.S. More Engagement on Iran

November 20, 2008

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the U.S. and Europe should put aside differences with China and Russia over human rights and missile-defense issues to focus on working together to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends the opening of ... 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran November 19, 2008.REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN)

“The triad of nuclear proliferation, radical Muslim terror, and rogue states, epitomized in the Iran case, can be defeated only through a paradigm shift in international relationships,” Barak said in an interview at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv late yesterday. 

By Gwen Ackerman and Calev Ben-David, Bloomberg

Barak said criticism of Russia’s actions in Chechnya and China’s human rights record are hurting efforts to put up a united front against Iran. He also said that U.S. plans to deploy missiles in Eastern Europe — which the Americans say are aimed at countering Iran and which Moscow perceives as a threat — also aren’t helpful.

“The other issues are not as urgent,” he said.

The U.S. and its European Union allies, who accuse Iran of using its nuclear energy program as a cover for developing a weapon, are pressing for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions. Iran has rejected UN demands to halt its work on enriching uranium, which can be used to fuel a power station or form the core of a bomb.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, Israeli Prime Minister ...
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, center, attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008.(AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool)

“The time for sanctions is still there, but it is short,” said Barak, 66, who heads Israel’s Labor Party and is the country’s former prime minister. “The way I see to make it effective is to cut through the psychological obstacles about cooperating with Russia and China and open a new discourse.”

Read the rest:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=
20601085&sid=amPtKPQhJ82w

Iran increases stockpile of uranium

November 19, 2008

Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear programme, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reported on Wednesday, deepening the dilemma facing US president-elect Barack Obama over his campaign promise to engage with Tehran.

The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency reveals that Iran is rapidly increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium, which could be rendered into weapons-grade material should Tehran decide to develop a nuclear device.

By Daniel Dombey in Washington and James Blitz in London
FT, London

The agency says that, as of this month, Tehran had amassed 630kg of low enriched uranium hexafluoride, up from 480kg in late August. Analysts say Iran is enriching uranium at such a pace that, by early next year, it could reach break-out capacity – one step away from producing enough fissile material for a crude nuclear bomb.

An Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facilities ...
An Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facilities in Isfahan. The International Atomic Energy Agency, despite six years of intensive investigation, is no closer to determining whether Iran’s disputed nuclear drive is entirely peaceful as Tehran claims, the watchdog said in a new report Wednesday.(AFP/File/Behrouz Mehri)

“They are moving forward, they are not making diplomatic overtures, they are accumulating low enriched uranium,” said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy in Washington. “These guys are committed to their nuclear programme: if we didn’t know that, they just told us again.”

The IAEA report also says there has been a breakdown of communication between the agency and Iran over alleged research on an atomic weapon. “The Iranians are making good progress on enrichment but there is absolute stone-walling on past military activities,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s very disappointing.”

The progress chalked up by Iran increases the difficulties for Mr Obama, who campaigned on promises of talking to America’s enemies, although during the election he scaled down his initial vow to meet Iran’s leaders to a more general commitment to consider doing so if it advanced US interests.

“Obama faces a real dilemma,” said the Eurasia Group’s Mr Kupchan. “He must decide whether to pursue diplomacy quickly in light of rapid Iranian progress or whether to wait in the hope of a more moderate Iranian leadership after Iran’s June presidential election.”

Read the rest:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4eeacd78-b663-1
1dd-89dd-0000779fd18c.html

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AFP

The White House accused Iran Wednesday of an “unfortunate and disappointing” failure to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog agency and effectively rejecting a US offer for high-level talks.

“The Iranian government’s failure to comply with the IAEA and UN is unfortunate and disappointing,” spokesman Gordon Johndroe said after the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Tehran.

The agency cited scant progress in its investigation of Tehran’s suspect nuclear program and said the Islamic republic was defying UN demands to freeze uranium enrichment, which can be a key step to building atomic weapons.

Johndroe noted that Iranian compliance could unlock a package of economic and diplomatic incentives — including an offer for talks between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterpart.

“The door is open if Iran will suspend its enrichment activity, but they don’t seem to want to walk through it,” he said in a brief statement.

An Israeli F-16I fighter plane takes off from Ramon Air Base ... 
An Israeli F-16I fighter plane takes off from Ramon Air Base in southern Israel November 19, 2008.REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen