Archive for the ‘nuclear’ Category

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.

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

Nuclear or Biological Attack in U.S. Called ‘Likely’

December 2, 2008

The odds that terrorists will soon strike a major city with weapons of mass destruction are now better than even, a bipartisan congressionally mandated task force concludes in a draft study that warns of growing threats from rogue states, nuclear smuggling networks and the spread of atomic know-how in the developing world.

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer

The sobering assessment of such threats, due for release as early as today, singled out Pakistan as a grave concern because of its terrorist networks, history of instability and arsenal of several dozen nuclear warheads. The report urged the incoming Obama administration to take “decisive action” to reduce the likelihood of a devastating attack.

“No mission could be timelier,” says the draft report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, which spent six months preparing an assessment for Congress and the new president-elect. It adds: “In our judgment, America’s margin of safety is shrinking, not growing.”

The report, ordered by Congress last year, concludes that terrorists are more likely to obtain materials for a biological attack than to buy or steal nuclear weapons. But it says the nuclear threat is growing rapidly, in part because of the increasing global supply of nuclear material and technology.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/
01/AR2008120102710.html?hpid=topnews

India and Pakistan: Two Very Dangerous Neighbors

December 1, 2008

The tensions between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai terrorism should serve as a reminder that India and Pakistan are two of the more dangerous neighbors on earth.

Both nuclear-armed, India and Pakistan have fought several wars since Britain left South Asia and the nations were “partitioned” in 1947.

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Wikipedia says, “resulted in the creation of the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there have been three major wars, one minor war and numerous armed skirmishes between the two countries. In each case, except the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, where the dispute concerned East Pakistan, the casus belli was the disputed Kashmir region.”

India sees itself as a rival to another “emerging superpower”: China.  The two have tense relationships.

China has built the largest seaport in the world in Pakistan and provides Pakistan with military hardware, technology and assistance.  But when Pakistan recently needed cash, Hu Jintao’s China turned them away and sent them to the IMF.

The U.S. tries to have friendly and helpful relations with both India and Pakistan.  The U.S. just completed a nuclear technology assistance deal with India and Pakistan’s air force has U.S.-made F-16 aircraft.

China, the U.S., Pakistan and India all want a Navy strong enough to assure security in the Indian Ocean and surrounding sea lanes.  Persian Gulf oil headed to Japan, the U.S., and China all passes through these waters.

File photo of the Indian naval warship INS Tabar. A maritime ... 
The Indian naval warship INS Tabar has been involved in recent anti-piracy missions near Somalia.
AFP/Indian Navy/Ho/File

India has a variety of missiles including the short-range Prithvi ballistic missile, the medium-range Akash, and the supersonic Brahmos. The Agni missiles are the most powerful.

India last year successfully test-fired the Agni-III, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads across much of Asia and the Middle East.

New Delhi says it developed its missile program as a deterrent against neighbors China and Pakistan.

The Agni-II missile being displayed on a mobile launcher during the 2004 Republic Day parade.

The Agni-II missile being displayed on a mobile launcher during the 2004 Republic Day parade.

Pakistan has its own ballistic missiles plus assistance from China on many weapons and projects.

JF-17 testing.jpg

Related:

China and Pakistan’s Strategic Importance: Background

JF-17 “Thunder” Aircraft Join Pakistani Air Force

GhauriMissile.jpg
Pakistan’s Ghauri missile can strike into India and other neighboring nations….

Four months after the U.S. ordered its troops into Afghanistan to remove the Taliban regime, China and Pakistan joined hands to break ground in building a Deep Sea Port on the Arabian Sea. The project was sited in an obscure fishing village of Gwadar in Pakistan’s western province of Baluchistan, bordering Afghanistan to the northwest and Iran to the southwest. Gwadar is nautically bounded by the Persian Gulf in the west and the Gulf of Oman in the southwest.

Related:
Attacks push India and Pakistan into deep water: analysts

Attacks push India and Pakistan into deep water: analysts

November 30, 2008

Outrage in India over the Mumbai attacks risks sparking a dangerous escalation in tensions with Pakistan, analysts say, even as Islamabad cautions against any knee-jerk reaction.

Having accused “elements in Pakistan” of involvement in the ruthless attacks that left 195 dead in India’s financial capital, the government here is now under extreme public pressure to exact some form of visible retribution.

The two nuclear-armed South Asian rivals are past masters of the art of military and diplomatic brinkmanship, but the stakes are heightened by looming general elections in India in which national security will be a key issue.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed that the perpetrators and organisers of the Mumbai assault would be made to pay “a heavy price.”

By Elizabeth Roche, AFP

Smoke billows from the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai on November ... 
Smoke billows from the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai on November 29, 2008. Outrage in India over the Mumbai attacks risks sparking a dangerous escalation in tensions with Pakistan, analysts say, even as Islamabad cautions against any knee-jerk reaction.(AFP/Pedro Ugarte)

On Saturday, Singh called a meeting of India’s army, navy and air force chiefs.

But while India would like to lean heavily on Islamabad to ensure it delivers on repeated promises to prevent Pakistani territory being used for anti-India activities, analysts say the government’s options are limited.

Former national security advisor Brajesh Mishra said New Delhi would be constrained by a lack of proof that Islamabad had any direct role in the attacks.

“There is little to suggest that the gunmen were sponsored by the Pakistani government,” Mishra said.

The scale and style of the assaults — involving multiple targets and hostage-taking — bore “the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda attacks in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mishra said.

“These are new elements that differentiate the Mumbai attacks from the parliament attack.”

In 2001, gunmen from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group attacked the Indian parliament, resulting in the complete rupture of diplomatic ties and pushing the rivals to the brink of war.

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal all but ruled out the possibility of India resorting to any cross-border military response.

“The Indian leadership would have to weigh very carefully the consequences of using the military option in the wider context of peace and stability in the region,” Sibal said.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari appealed for calm on Saturday and argued that any increase in Indo-Pakistan tensions would be a victory for the extremists.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081
130/wl_sthasia_afp/india
attackspakistandiplomacy_081130060432

SKorea receives first Patriot missiles

November 28, 2008

The South Korean air force said Friday it had taken delivery of a first shipment of US-made Patriot missiles, designed to protect against any attack by North Korea.

They were bought second-hand from Germany and will replace the current ageing Nike air defence missiles, the air force said in a statement.

A Patriot missile launcher in Seoul. The South Korean air force ... 
A Patriot missile launcher in Seoul. The South Korean air force said Friday it had taken delivery of a first shipment of US-made Patriot missiles, designed to protect against any attack by North Korea(AFP/File/Jung Yeon-Je)

The first shipment arrived in the country in August but has been undergoing a series of performance tests before Seoul officially took delivery.

The air force plans to spend a total of 1.05 trillion won (710 million dollars) to deploy two battalions of Patriot missiles within two years.

The air force did not say how many Patriots it had taken delivery of. South Korea previously announced plans to buy a total of 48 second-hand PAC-2 Patriots.

The announcement came amid worsening ties between the two Koreas. In protest at what it calls Seoul’s confrontational policy, North Korea has announced strict curbs on cross-border movements from December 1.

The US and its allies regard the North’s missile development as a major threat to regional security, on top of its nuclear ambitions.

–AFP

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081128/wl_asia_afp/skorean
koreausmissiles_081128080159

The Testing of Obama Rolls On

November 20, 2008

The ink had barely dried on the final vote count when the testing of President-elect Barack Obama began.

One of the first was by Vladimir Putin’s puppet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declaring that if the United States continued with its plan to deploy 10 ABM interceptor missiles into Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, then Russia would move short range missiles into Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic, targeting Europe. Russia’s excuse for this threat is that they were forced into it because the U.S. defensive system could be converted to an offensive system, targeting Russia. This is a contrived argument and Mr. Putin knows it is groundless.

By James Lyons
The Washington Times

What’s more disturbing is that Mr. Putin’s European proxies like the former German defense minister, Peter Struck, currently the parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, called Mr. Medvedev’s threat understandable and blamed President Bush for provoking Russia. This is incredible since he knows Russia was invited to participate in this very limited defensive shield whose fundamental purpose is to destroy any ballistic missile fired at Europe or the United States from a “rogue state” such as Iran.

During Mr. Medvedev’s recent visit to Washington, he appeared to soften his opening salvo by saying he hoped a compromise on the planned defensive shield deployment could be worked out with the new administration. He suggested a potential global system of protection against rogue states or perhaps use of existing systems to defeat such an attack. Existing systems clearly will be inadequate for this task. Mr. Medvedev concluded his comments by saying Russia will not make the first move.

With NATO’s weak response to Russia’s blatant invasion of Georgia, plus Russia’s increasing control of energy resources provided Europe, Mr. Putin sees the defensive shield issue as another opportunity to embarrass and further weaken U.S. influence while furthering his own agenda. If Mr. Putin can cause President-elect Obama to eventually back down on the deployment of the defensive shield, then Mr. Putin’s influence in dealing with the Eastern European border states, as well as the rest of Europe, will be significantly strengthened. Mr. Putin and his KGB cronies can be expected to further expand their control over the energy systems fueling Europe, as well as promoting the gas cartel.

Just last week, we saw the European Union reverse its position on withdrawing from negotiating with Russia on a “strategic Partnership” – the negotiations now will proceed even though Russia has not lived up to its obligations in the EU-brokered agreement with Georgia. Led by France and Germany, the EU has essentially caved and will resume business as usual. After all, since they have mortgaged their energy requirements, they cannot afford to have Mr. Putin turn off the energy valves as he did to the Ukraine in the winter of 2006.

I believe Mr. Obama will come under intense pressure from our European “partners” to cancel the deployment of defensive missiles to Poland. With no change in Iran’s drive to achieve a nuclear weapon capability, we would be sending all the wrong signals by canceling the deployment.

Related:
 Russia’s Putin and the Great Deception

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov
/20/testing-has-begun/

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