December 9, 2007

Defense Security Contends Iran Still a Threat

The New York Times reports that Defense Security Robert M. Gates believes that Iran is still threat even without nuclear weapons.

Days ago the United States intelligence report showed that Iran had frozen its nuclear weapons program. However Gates said that they could restart the program at anytime.

He also said that while nuclear weapons may not be present other risks are still likely.

“I assume that it will also embrace as valid American intelligence assessments of its funding and training of militia groups in Iraq, its deployment of lethal weapons and technology to both Iraq and Afghanistan, its ongoing support of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas that have murdered thousands of innocent civilians and its continued research and development of medium-range ballistic missiles that are not particularly cost-effective unless equipped with warheads carrying weapons of mass destruction,? Gates said. (New York Times)

Opposition to the U.S. Middle East policy have criticized the U.S. for allowing Israel to maintain a nuclear arsenal while condemning other countries efforts.

The Washington Post reports Gates taking a strong stance against Iran.

"Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents," Gates said in a speech to defense leaders from 23 countries attending the Manama Dialogue, a security conference organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. (Washington Post)

He also stated that all Arab nations should help and aid the Iraq government for if Iraq fails as a state the Middle East will be in trouble.

November 27, 2007

Potential Peace?

The New York Times reports that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have decided to work towards peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas joined President Bush in Annapolis, Md., where he said a “road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," was established.

The agreement between Israel and Palestine simply sets up negotiations that should occur in the coming weeks. Key issues that must be discussed include Israeli's in the West Bank, Palestinian state borders, final status of Jerusalem, and whether Palestinian refugees can return to their homes in Israel.

Delegations from 49 countries and international organizations were present at the event held at the United States Naval Academy. Among them were China, Brazil, Poland and South Africa.

As a sign of how difficult the talks will be, violence broke out during demonstrations in the West Bank even as the leaders spoke, killing at least one, when security forces loyal to Mr. Abbas clashed with Islamists who brand him a traitor for taking part in the Annapolis talks. (New York Times )

Many believe that no matter the outcomes of negotiations, that to even have the two sides talking and working towards a solution is a victory.

Mr. Bush acknowledged that a difficult road lied ahead. “Achieving this goal will not be easy,? he said in the excerpts of his prepared remarks. “If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago.? (New York Times )

November 16, 2007

Iran Denied From Purchasing Nuclear Materials 75 Times

The New York Times reports that an international monitoring group claims that Iran has been blocked from buying nuclear-related materials at least 75 times over the past nine years.

The purchases were blocked because they involved materials that could be used for building bombs. The purchases were stopped by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which consists of members from 45 nations. Their goal is to make sure that nuclear technology is used for peaceful purposes only.

The list of denials was provided by a diplomat that demanded that he and his country remain anonymous, as the group meets in secret and keeps its data private.

The information provided details that companies from Australia, Finland, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and Iran itself that were prevented from carrying out deals because the items being sold were suspected of being militarily useful. (New York Times)

The source also indicated that the 75 denials were only actions from 7 of the 45 member states. Meaning that the actual number of denials is probably much higher.

Among the listed items being offered for sale in the blocked deals were nickel powder, petrochemical plant components, compressors, furnaces, steel flanges and fittings, electron microscopes, radiometric ore-sorting machines, valves and tubing, lasers, a rotary drilling rig, a mass spectrometer and a nitrogen production plant. (New York Times)

November 9, 2007

Israel Seeks Help From Egypt

The New York Times reports that Israel has urged Egypt to help stop the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas from smuggling weapons, militants and cash across the Egypt border and into the Gaza Strip.

At the same time Yuval Steinitz, an Israeli legislator has asked the United States to freeze military aid to Egypt until they take action against Hamas.

A House bill has been constructed which would freeze $200 million in military aid to Egypt until the U.S. can be assured that significant measures have been taken to detect and end the smuggling practice into the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip.

Steinitz has accused Egypt of allowing Hamas to obtain 20,000 rifles, 6,000 anti-tank missiles, 100 tons of explosives and several dozen Katyusha rockets and shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles, according to the New York Times.

Representative Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat from New York, told the newspaper Haaretz that Egypt had been allowing $12 million to $20 million a month in cash to flow to Hamas, and said smuggling had worsened. “Egypt is not helping as much as it can,? he said. (New York Times )

However, Egypt claims they are doing all that they can but claim to be hindered by restrictions in the Camp David Accords which state they can only get so close to the Gaza Strip. This Wednesday they said that they had discovered smuggling tunnels and destroyed them.

Egypt's role in the whole matter is tricky as supporting Hamas would not be a smart political move, but they can't be seen as siding with Israel over Palestine either.

November 4, 2007

London Mega-Mosque Meets Resistence

The New York Times reports that an effort to build Europe's largest mosque in London is meeting some opposition.

The proposed building would be located in London's East End, near the financial district and at the gateway of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The mosque would be sponsored by Tablighi Jamaat, a worldwide evangelical Islamic group based in Pakistan with millions of followers that professes to encourage Muslims to be more loyal to their faith, according to the New York Times.

"American and European law enforcement officials say Tablighi Jamaat’s simple message masks a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists. Two of the suicide bombers who attacked the London transit system in July 2005 had attended Tablighi Jamaat gatherings, British security officials said." New York Times

The plan originally called for a mosque that would be able to hold 70,000, but it has been scaled down to hold only about 12,000.

October 28, 2007

Israel Limits Aid to Gaza

According to the New York Times Israeli officials have stated that fuel supplies have been reduced to Gaza and one of two crossings used for supplies has been shit down.

The actions result from Israeli government decisions to use sanctions as a method to deal with continuous rocket fire from the Hamas-run territory.

The industrial fuel that is used in the Gaza power plant would not decreased, Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories, the Israeli agency that oversees supplies to Gaza, said. However he said that fuel for personal use and transportation would be affected.

Israel, like the United States and the European Union, considers Hamas a terrorist organization and refuses to deal with it. Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, and its charter seeks Israel’s destruction.

With only one crossing open, the amount of trucks carrying in supplies will be cut in half. “We will allow in the minimum amount of food and medicines necessary to avoid a humanitarian crisis,? Mr. Dror said. (New York Times)

Hamas has stated that they were not firing rockets into Israel but it was the act of smaller militant groups. They said that they have only launched mortar shells at Israeli military bases in retaliation to Israeli attacks. However, since Hamas is the controlling authority in Gaza, Israel holds them responsible.

October 21, 2007

Raid Kills 49 Militants in Baghdad

According to the New York Times the U.S. military stated that their forces killed 49 militants today during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City enclave.

The raid which had one of the highest death tolls for a single operation since President Bush declared that active combat was over in 2003, was aimed at capturing an Iranian- linked militia chief. It is unknown if the unnamed man was caught.

According to Iraqi police and hospital officials, only 15 deaths occurred including three children. Ali al-Dabbagh, an
Iraqi government spokesman said all the dead were civilians. However, the U.S. military said they were not aware of civilian casualties. No U.S. soldiers were harmed.

A local resident who goes by the name Abu Fatmah said his neighbor's 14-year-old son, Saif Alwan, was killed while sleeping on the roof.''Saif was killed by an airstrike and what is his guilt? Is he from the Mahdi Army? He is a poor student,'' Abu Fatmah said. (New York Times)

Since the arrival of 30,000 additional soldiers on June 15th, attacks and raids by the U.S. military have increased as they continue to fight Sunni insurgents, al-Qaida militants and Shiite militiamen.

October 10, 2007

Noble Prize Winners Meet to Save The World

According to the New York Times 15 Noble Prize laureates met in Potsdam, Germany to discuss how to save the world from global warming.

While none claimed to have a solution that would end the threat of climate change, all expressed that people should be concerned. “The scientific findings are clear: climate is changing, and it is a response to human activities,? said Mario J. Molina, a Mexican-American chemist who won the Nobel Prize in 1995 for being the first to posit that chlorofluorocarbons and similar chemicals could poke a hole in the ozone layer. (New York Times)

The climate focussed meeting of past winners is occurring during a week in which new Noble Prize announcements are being made. By the end of the week they hope that a "green" Peace Prize will be awarded. Rumored candidates include former Vice President Al Gore; Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Canadian Inuit who has warned about the threat to Arctic wildlife; and Rajendra K. Pachauri, an Indian scientist who is chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the risks of greenhouse gases for the United Nations.

At the meeting the United States, including President Bush, recieved praise for new efforts to diminish human effects on the environment. Mr. Bush said the United States would “seriously consider? a European plan proposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to halve greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2050.

October 6, 2007

North Koreans Agree to Shutdown Nuclear Facilities

According to the New York Times North Korea has agreed to disable all of its nuclear facilities by the end of the year.

The agreement announced on Wednesday in Beijing, states that North Korea will disclose all its nuclear programs and disable all facilities in return for 950,000 metric tons of fuel oil or its equivalent in economic aid. However, the agreement does not state that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons.

The agreement on Wednesday is part of a larger pact between North Korea, China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and the United States who have all been pushing to denuclearize North Korea.

A considerable amount of criticism is coming from conservatives who claim that the U.S. is rewarding North Korea for a successful nuclear test last October. The agreement also calls for the U.S. to take take North Korea off of their terrorism list which conservatives believe shouldn't happen until it gives up all of it's nuclear weapons.

The Washington Post reports that Pyongyang wants to be free of financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. Trading With the Enemy Act, a 1917 law that allows for a near-total economic boycott of countries at war with the United States. However, this may not happen immediately due to on-going concerns about nuclear materials that may of been shipped to Syria and also the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.

September 29, 2007

Taiwan Plans for Missiles

According to the New York Times Taiwan is planning for the development of missiles that could reach China.

Earlier this year Taiwan tested a cruise missile that could carry a 900-pound warhead more than 600 miles, military analysts said. With that range the city of Shanghai, the financial capital of China, could be hit. Senior military officials and lawmakers from Taiwan have confirmed that cruise missiles are in development.

Taiwanese military specialists have argued for the development of offensive weapons for decades. China has threatened to attack if Taiwan seeks formal independence. The weapons therefore serve as a deterrent to the mainland.

“They want to make mainland China hesitate before launching any attack,? said Andrei Chang, a Hong Kong-based expert on the Chinese and Taiwanese militaries and editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review magazine. “These missiles could not only destroy military targets, but financial and economic targets as well." (New York Times)

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. could pull the plug on the missile program by withholding sophisticated satellite guidance technology from the Taiwanese military said Wang Kao-cheng, a defense analyst.

“We sternly warn the Taiwan authorities not to play with fire,? Li Weiyi, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told a regular news briefing on Wednesday, according to a report carried by the official Xinhua news agency. “Whoever plays with fire will get burned.? (New York Times)

However, many believe that Taiwan will continue to develop missiles as China continually adds about 100 missiles each year to its arsenal that faces Taiwan.

September 23, 2007

Iran Grants American Family's Request

According to the New York Times, the Iranian government said that family members of a missing former F.B.I. agent will be allowed to comesearch for him in Iran.

Robert Levinson has been believed to be missing since March 8 when he flew from Dubai to Kish, a free-trade-zone island off the coast of Iran, which doesn't require foreigners to posses a visa. Levinson worked for more than 20 years as an F.B.I. agent and has been working as a private investigator since.

Mrs. Levinson talked to her husband before he flew out of Dubai. She became worried when he didn't arrive in London on March 10 and she couldn't reach him on his cell phone or through email.

The Iranian government has said that they have been investigating but have not found any evidence of Levinson's presence in Iran. But according to the Washington Post, "His wife, Christina, believes he is in Iran because his name has not shown up on any flight manifests of planes leaving the country, and his passport has not been used anywhere."

September 15, 2007

Former Chechen Official Held for the Death of a Journalist

According to the New York Times
, Russian investigators arrested Shamil D. Burayev, a former Chechen official on Thursday, who is accused of organizing the contract killing of an independent journalist.

Burayev was once the leader of Achkhoi-Martan, one of the administrative districts in Chechnya, but was dismissed from the post several years ago. In 2003 he also ran unsuccessfully for the Chechnya presidency. His arrest occurred due to suspicion that he was sent the journalist's address by a F.S.B. officer, Col. Pavel A. Ryaguzov.

Anna Politkovskaya, was fatally shot last October as she was walking into her apartment building. She was internationally known for being very critical of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and The Washington Post, claims Politkovskaya's persistent reporting of atrocities against civilians in the war-scarred Chechnya region had angered the Kremlin and the Kremlin-backed Chechen leadership. Those who are close to her have no doubt that she was killed in retaliation of past articles.