Archive for the ‘nuclear weapons’ Category

Pakistan: Near Economic Collapse and Besieged By Terrorists Now Must Deal With U.S., India

December 1, 2008

Indian accusations of a Pakistani hand in last week’s Mumbai massacre couldn’t have come at a worse time for the government in Islamabad: As a Taliban insurgency continues to simmer in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, clashes on Sunday between rival political groups in the southern metropolis of Karachi killed 13 people and wounded 70.

The country is on the verge of economic collapse, its desperate pleas for financial assistance from China and Saudi Arabia last month having been rebuffed, forcing Pakistan to accept loans from the International Monetary Fund – but those loans come with stern conditions limiting government spending, the implementation of which will risk inflaming further unrest. A suspected U.S. predator drone attack in the tribal areas on Saturday – one of dozens in recent months – has further alienated a population already suspicious of U.S. interference. Hardly surprising, then, that Pakistani leaders have reacted with alarm to politicians and the media in India pointing a finger at Pakistan-based terror groups over the Mumbai attack. Some foreign investigators have made similar claims, although not in any official capacity.

Most Pakistanis reacted with horror to news of the Mumbai killing spree starting Wednesday, having lived through equally devastating attacks on their own soil. But that initial sympathy quickly gave way to hostility as the focus of blame landed on Pakistan – a knee-jerk first reaction, rather than one based on any solid evidence. “It is a tragic incident, and we also felt bad about it as Pakistan is going through the same problem,” says Abdur Rashid, a 67-year-old retired government servant in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad. “But it was really unfortunate to see that even before the operation [to clear out the attackers] was finished, the Indian government stated that Pakistan is involved. It sounds that the entire incident was concocted to punish Pakistan.” See images of Mumbai after the siege….

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Missile Defense: Russia and U.S. in “Intense Negotiations”

March 17, 2008
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

MOSCOW – Russia‘s president-elect on Monday predicted intense negotiations on U.S. missile defense plans, saying Moscow still has some questions and differences with the Bush administration.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks to reporters aboard ... 
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks to reporters aboard his plane enroute to Moscow Sunday, March 16, 2008. Gates and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet their Russian counterparts March 17 and 18 to discuss missile defense, non-proliferation and counterterrorism.(AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, POOL)

“At the same time, we are determined to go ahead,” said Dmitry Medvedev, setting a positive tone ahead of talks set for Tuesday. “We need to provide for continuity in the Russian-U.S. relationship. We have all the requisite tools to do this.”

Medvedev’s comments came as he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in an ornate room in the Kremlin.

Rice agreed with Medvedev, saying the U.S. and Russia have “a firm foundation for cooperation” on missile defense, which the United States sees as a way to defend against missile from nations such as Iran and North Korea.

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Pakistan nuclear weapons vulnerable: US

February 6, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Political turmoil in Pakistan has not seriously threatened the military’s control of its nuclear weapons “but vulnerabilities exist,” US intelligence said in a report.

“We judge the ongoing political uncertainty in Pakistan has not seriously threatened the military’s control of the nuclear arsenal, but vulnerabilities exist,” the US intelligence community said in its annual threat assessment.

Noting that the Pakistani army was responsible for the country’s nuclear programs, the report said, “we judge that the army’s management of nuclear policy issues — to include physical security — has not been degraded by Pakistan’s political crisis.”

Israel won’t accept nuke weapons in Iran

January 14, 2008
By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a powerful parliamentary panel on Monday that Israel rejects “no options” to block Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, a meeting participant said.

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Bush orders cuts in nuclear stockpile

December 19, 2007

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – President Bush has approved “a significant reduction” in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, cutting it to less than one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War, the White House said Tuesday.

At the same time, the Energy Department announced plans to consolidate the nuclear weapons complex that maintains warheads and dismantle those no longer needed, saying the current facilities need to be made more efficient and more easily secured and that the larger complex is no longer needed.

“We are reducing our nuclear weapons stockpile to the lowest level consistent with America’s national security and….

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U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms

November 17, 2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million so far on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.

Pervez Musharraf
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Pervez Musharraf

But with the future of that country’s leadership in doubt, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Pakistan’s reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effectiveness of the continuing security effort.

The aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training center in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year.

Pakistan’s One-Man Calamity

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Haraz N. Ghanbari/Associated Press

Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that he was confident about Pakistani security.

Disarm North Korea? No Chance!

November 5, 2007

If you’re trying to measure any positive achievements that may have been accomplished in the Six Party talks seeking to disarm North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, it’s helpful to remember Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip.

Each year, as football season began, Peanuts fans saw Lucy hold a football upright for would-be place-kicker Charlie Brown to run up and kick.  But — no matter how many elaborate promises to the contrary — every time Charlie ran up to the ball, Lucy pulled it away at the last minute.  Poor Charlie was left flailing in the air and flat on his back.  Each year it was the same, with Lucy promising this time it would be different and Charlie believing her despite Lucy’s long record of broken promises.  It became clear to most readers that Lucy simply could not be trusted to perform as promised and Charlie would never learn from his experiences. He was simply doomed to repeatedly suffer the same consequences.  

A similar historical theme has prevailed in US/North Korea relations and, most recently, the Six Party talks.  For just as the North Koreans have done so many times before in making international agreements to curtail aggressive behavior, like Lucy, they always  “pull the ball away,” failing to abide by their promises.  

The Six Party talks began in 2003 as a result of North Korea’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  To date, six rounds of talks have taken place, with the first four bearing no fruit.  Only the third phase of the fifth round of these talks, held in February 2007, yielded hope North Korea might shed its historic role of playing “Lucy” to America’s “Charlie Brown.”  Pyongyang agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel assistance and normalized relations with the US.  While specific terms were incorporated into the agreement including a deadline for compliance, so too were some very objective requirements.  An example of the former was North Korea’s commitment to disclose all its nuclear activities and disable its facilities; an example of the latter was its commitment — along with the other participants — to implement positive steps to increase mutual trust.  

The first deadline provided for in the agreement was never met as Pyongyang imposed new stumbling blocks.  And, in September, evidence came to light that Pyongyang had undertaken an initiative in direct contravention of its obligation to enhance mutual trust.

On September 6th, Israeli aircraft attacked a target under construction in Syria.  Surprisingly, both Israel and Syria remain tight-lipped about the incident.  Some details have emerged.  Unsure of the purpose of the construction activity, Israeli commandos went into Syria to find out.  They gathered soil samples near the site which were found to be radioactive; boxes and equipment bore Korean markings.  It was clear Pyongyang had once again deceived the US by having agreed to disarm its nuclear capability, only to covertly relocate it to Syria.
Interestingly, while Pyongyang sought to deceive the US, the US acted to enhance “mutual trust” with Pyongyang.  When a North Korean merchant ship came under attack by pirates off the Somali coast on October 30, a US warship in the vicinity came to her aid.  Two pirates were killed in the ensuing engagement, after which the US ship then rendered medical assistance to injured Korean crew members.  The North Korean ship was then allowed to go on her way.

The US and South Korea have taken positive steps towards North Korea to follow up on peaceful initiatives and demonstrate good will.  Pyongyang has yet to reciprocate, repeatedly following up such positive steps with negative ones of its own.  Even the simplest of commitments — Kim Jong Il’s promise to hold a second summit in Seoul after South Korean President D. J. Kim’s historic meeting with him in Pyongyang in 2000 — went unfulfilled.  The only way a second summit eventually was held was when D. J. Kim’s successor, once again, traveled to Pyongyang.  (Kim Jong Il apparently believes the mountain must come to Mohammad as Mohammad doesn’t go to the mountain.)

Readers of Peanuts, over time, came to realize Lucy was incapable of doing what she promised and Charlie Brown was, for some reason, incapable of understanding this.  Many observers of US/North Korean relations have come to realize, over time, Pyongyang is incapable of meeting commitments and the US, for some reason, is incapable of understanding this, constantly subjecting itself to ridicule.  It is time for the US and other Six Party talk participants to recognize there is no hope for North Korea taking positive steps to disarm absent regime change.  Unless this happens, the only change in Pyongyang’s conduct we can expect is the nature of its deceit. 
James Zumwalt is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who served in Vietnam and the Gulf War.  He has been to North Korea 10 times.

Iran to fire ‘11,000 rockets in minute’ if attacked

October 21, 2007

(AFP)  Iran warned on Saturday it would fire off 11,000 rockets at enemy bases within the space of a minute if the United States launched military action against the Islamic republic.

“In the first minute of an invasion by the enemy, 11,000 rockets and cannons would be fired at enemy bases,” said a brigadier general in the elite Revolutionary Guards, Mahmoud Chaharbaghi.

“This volume and speed of firing would continue,” added Chaharbaghi, who is commander of artillery and missiles of the Guards’ ground forces, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

The United States has never ruled out attacking Iran to end its defiance over the controversial Iranian nuclear programme, which the US alleges is aimed at making nuclear weapons but Iran insists is entirely peaceful.

Iran has for its part vowed never to initiate an attack but has also warned of a crushing response to any act of aggression against its soil.

“If a war breaks out in the future, it will not last long because we will rub their noses in the dirt,” said Chaharbaghi.

“Now the enemy should ask themselves how many of their people they are ready to have sacrificed for their stupidity in attacking Iran,” he said.

Iranian officials have repeatedly warned the military would target the bases of US forces operating in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan in the event of any attack and already has these sites under close surveillance.

Chaharbaghi said that the Guards would soon receive “rockets with a range of 250 kilometres (155 miles)” whereas the current range of its rockets is 150 kilometres (91 miles).

“We have identified our targets and with a close surveillance of targets, we can respond to the enemy’s stupidity immediately,” Chaharbaghi added.

He said that the Guards’ weapons were spread out throughout the country and so would not be affected by any isolated US strikes against military facilities.

The Guards are Iran’s elite ideological army and responsible for its most significant weapons such as the longer range Shahab-3 missile which has Israel and US bases in the Middle East within its range.

Fearing Chaos, U.S. Officials Review Stance on Pakistan

October 20, 2007

Publication date: October 21, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 — The scenes of carnage in Pakistan this week conjured what one senior administration official on Friday called “the nightmare scenario” for President Bush’s last 15 months in office: Political meltdown in the one country where Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and nuclear weapons are all in play.

White House officials insisted in interviews that they had confidence that their longtime ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, would maintain enough control to keep the country stable as he edged toward a power-sharing agreement with his main rival, Benazir Bhutto.

But other current and former officials cautioned that the administration had invested so much in General Musharraf’s success that its leverage was now limited. Similarly, they and Pakistan experts said that a series of policy miscalculations had left the administration with few good options.

Pervez Musharraf
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Pervez Musharraf

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N. Korea marks nuclear test anniversary

October 9, 2007

By JAE-SOON CHANG, Associated Press Writer

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea marked the first anniversary of its nuclear test on Tuesday, with leader Kim Jong Il getting praise for pulling off a “truly great miracle” that sent the reclusive communist country “soaring as a powerful and great” nation.

The Oct. 9, 2006, test marked a peak in international concern over the country’s nuclear status and prompted the U.S. to soften its policy toward North Korea, paving the way for steps toward a goal of dismantling the Asian country’s program.

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