Monday, March 16, 2009

Colombia Wants To Join Embraer KC-390 Program / Colombia Wants Partnership With Brazil And Participation In Embraer Airlifter

Colombia Wants To Join Embraer KC-390 Program / Colombia Wants Partnership With Brazil And Participation In Embraer Airlifter (NSI News Source Info) BRASILIA - March 16, 2009: The minister of defense of Colombia, Juan Manoel Saints, was hosted here on Wednesday March 11 by the Minister of Defense, Nelson Jobim, and revealed his interest in a strategic partnership between the two countries. Embraer C-390 is a medium-sized twin-engined jet-powered military transport aircraft proposed by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. It will be the heaviest aircraft that the company has made so far, and will be able to transport up to 19 tons of cargo, including wheeled armored vehicles. Size-wise it is an aircraft between the twin-turboprop C-27J Spartan, with an 11.5 ton payload and the C-130J Hercules with a 21.7 ton payload. The aircraft will incorporate many of the technological solutions from the Embraer E-Jets series. The aircraft will have a rear ramp for loading and unloading a wide range of cargo. The unit price is estimated to be around $50 million US, while the competition sells similar models for up to $120 million. The vice president of Embraer, Luís Carlos Aguilar, said that according to their estimates, some 695 military transport aircraft in the world will need to be replaced during the next decade, and that there is potential market for this kind of plane. Potential power plant options have been studied in the 17,000–22,000lb-thrust (75.6–98kN) range, including engines such as Pratt & Whitney's PW6000 and Rolls-Royce's BR715. The Brazilian postal service, the Correios, has demonstrated interest in buying at least 5 and eventually 20 to 25 of the aircraft, in lieu of using commercial freight service for mail transport. In May, 2008, the Brazilian Congress released 800 million Reais (US$ 470 million) to be invested in the project and development of the aircraft. The media also claimed that this aircraft is not only going to be used by the Brazilian Air Force, but also for Brazilian Army and Brazilian Navy, but still not confirmed for government agencies. Early March of 2008: Brazilian Government is going to invest about R$60 mn(or US$30 mn) to inicial development of the aircraft. At the same time, the Brazilian Air Force is finalizing the purchase contract that problably will buy 22 to 30 aircrafts for the inicial lot. Embraer is talking with the possible partners.
Colombia wants to strengthen cooperation for monitoring its common border. It also wants to establish partnerships with Brazil in defense research and technology, and also wants to participate in the program to develop the Embraer KC-390 military transport aircraft.
“Brazil is our strategic partner and we want to establish closer links and cooperation,” Saints said.
Saints and his delegation, comprising the commanders of the three Colombian armed forces, heard Jobim present Brazil’s new National Defense Strategy, launched in December 2008. The minister-head of the Secretariat of Strategical Subjects, Mangabeira Unger, complemented the communication. The National Strategy of Defense, according to Jobim, has as objective to reorganize the Armed Forces, to strengthen the national defense industrial base, and to improve military service.
“These three objectives are interlinked. It is not possible to think of the Armed Forces that are not tied to development, or of development that is not linked to the Armed Forces”, said Jobim. Nelson Jobim also said that the visit by his Colombian counterpart will provide advances in some areas of bilateral cooperation…..such as improving control of the airspace between the two countries, along a 50-kilometer band on both the sides of the border.
Juan Manoel Saints said that all the countries in the region must find alliances in strategic areas as, for example, in the military industry and for professional qualification. He cited the cases of the Super Tucano aircraft bought by Colombia from the Brazilian company Embraer, saying “we are very happy with Brazilian aircraft.”
The Colombian minister did not exclude the possibility of establishing, within the framework of these bilateral relations, a strategic alliance of the two countries’ defense industries.
In this perspective, Juan Manoel Saints said, one idea is to see how Colombia can participate in the production of the Embraer transport aircraft that Brazil intends to develop. “Anything that we can do in this respect with Brazil will be very positive, as the airplanes that we have bought from Brazil are very good,” he said.
Juan Manoel Saints said that, for Colombia, the relation with Brazil is of strategic convenience over the long term. “Therefore, everything that we can do to develop and reinforce this relationship is a very important decision,” he added.
According to Saints, bilateral cooperation could also include control of airspace, joint satellite programs, and border monitoring.

Navantia Launches Second OPV for Venezuela / Navantia Launches Second Patrol Boat For Venezuela

Navantia Launches Second OPV for Venezuela / Navantia Launches Second Patrol Boat For Venezuela
(NSI News Source Info) March 16, 2009: On 11st. March, Navantia launched, at the San Fernando-Puerto Real shipyard, the second of four offshore patrol boats (OPV’s) that are being built for the Venezuelan Navy. The vessel was named “Yaviré” and was christened by Dña. Marieta Chapín de Yibirín. Attending the ceremony were, among others, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Spain, Alfredo Toro, the Vice-chairman of SEPI, Federico Montero, the Chairman of Navantia, Juan Pedro Gómez-Jaén and the San Fernando-Puerto Real shipyard's General Manager, Fernando Miguélez. The patrol boat launched today has a length overall of 79.90 metres and the capacity to displace 1,500 tonnes and reach a maximum speed of 22 knots.
Venezuelan Navy, Coast guard ships -Four (4) spanish made OPV class BVL (on order) delivered in 2009~2010. CG-21 Guaicamacuto, under construction, CG-22 Yavire, under construction, CG-23 Naiguata, under construction and CG-24 Tamanaco, under construction. These ships will be able to carry out a wide variety of missions such as coastal surveillance and protection, protection of maritime traffic, health assistance to other ships, external firefighting, the fight and control of marine pollution, transport of personnel and provisions, search and rescue operations, rapid intervention, frogmen support, surface defence and passive electronic warfare. In addition to the CPV’s, Venezuela also ordered four ocean-going Exclusive Economic Zone Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV’s) with a length overall of 96.6 metres, displacement of 2,300 tonnes and a speed of 24 knots, which are being built in Puerto Real. The contract for these 8 patrol boats, whose construction will mean 5 million work hours (1,456,900 for Navantia and 3,580,700 for auxiliary industry), was signed on 28 November 2005. Their deliveries are scheduled to take place between October 2009 and July 2011.

Somalia's Islamist Insurgent Adopting Sharia Law For Country / Somalia One Step Nearer To Sharia Law

Somalia's Islamist Insurgent Adopting Sharia Law For Country / Somalia One Step Nearer To Sharia Law
(NSI News Source Info) March 16, 2009: The fighting in Somalia is coming down to a battle between traditional Islamic practices (the mystical Sufi form) and the more radical Wahhabi version, imported from Saudi Arabia and concentrated in the al Shabaab group. Wahhabi Moslems consider Sufi to be a heresy (Wahhabi tends to consider any form of Islam other than theirs to be heresy). Al Qaeda is heavily influenced by Wahhabism.
The name of Somalia's Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab - it means "The Lads" - may conjure images of a lovable band of rogues. But the radical militia is a fiercely secretive and ruthless organisation with alleged links to al-Qaeda. The leaders of the group - which has taken over swathes of central and southern Somalia - are unknown to their subordinates.
The traditionalists were behind the formation of the Islamic Courts, and currently control the Transitional National Government (TNG). It's not unusual for religious leaders to play a prominent role in Somali politics. It's happened before when secular leaders were not up to the task. New ideas and practices imported from across the Gulf of Aden in Arabia is also a common part of Somali culture.
In fact, many aspects of Somalia culture were imported from Arabia. So Wahhabism is just another cultural artifact that came over, and landed with uncertain results. Along with Wahhabism came al Qaeda, violent intolerance, suicide bombers and the generally self-destructive tactics that have led to al Qaeda failing everywhere it tried to take up residence. Kenya now has arrangements with the European Union, as well as the United States, to try and, if convicted, incarcerate Somali pirates captured by the international anti-piracy patrol. Since World War II, international law has eliminated most of the traditional practices for dealing with pirates, largely on the premise that traditional piracy was gone forever. This proved to be incorrect. The showdown between the moderate Moslems, as represented by the Islamic Courts (who currently control the government, such as it is), and the Islamic radicals (al Shabaab) is basically about traditional Somali practices (the Islamic Courts) and the new ideas (al Qaeda and the effort to conquer the world for Islam).
However, al Shabaab does represent one practice found often in Somali history; being a bully. Somalis are big on intimidation and getting their way. That's the main reason why Somalia has had no government for the last 18 years. The Islamic Courts, now in control of the government, are imposing Sharia (Islamic) law throughout the country (or wherever they control the population).
Al Shabaab also is imposing Sharia, but favors a much stricter form, which is less popular. But al Shabaab is also more ruthless, having been accused of murdering four more moderate clerics recently. Off the north coast, the pirate attacks continue, but are much less successful because of all the foreign warships. The U.S. has also brought in a large (40,000 ton) amphibious ship, carrying helicopters, landing craft and a thousand marines. March 15, 2009: Al Shabaab and Islamic Courts gunmen fought for control of the town of Wabho, north of Mogadishu. Eleven people died, most of them Al Shabaab, and the radicals retreated. But al Shabaab are bringing in reinforcements, for another try. The new government is massing gunmen in Mogadishu, in an attempt to restore order to the city. The Somali economy has survived without a government since 1991, but has not thrived. A third of the population survives on foreign aid, mainly free food. But this is imperiled by the chronic crime. More and more of the food aid is being stolen. The only businesses that can survive are those that obtain the protection of a warlord.
Many merchants and professionals are not able to work with this (often because warlords don't want to deal with a bunch of businesses, and eliminate competition by not protecting a large number of suppliers of goods and professional services. That means most of the lawyers and technical specialists have fled the country. Even many medical personnel have gone, frightened by the violence and lawlessness. Thus the Somali economy has become very basic, but evolved so that it can thrive in a violent and unpredictable environment. March 12, 2009: Al Shabaab gunmen in Mogadishu again attacked Burundi peacekeepers. One al Shabaab man was killed. March 8, 2009: Al Shabaab has warned Kenya to not interfere with its gunmen operating along the border. This is a seemingly bold, but typically Somali, attitude towards Kenyans. In this case, Kenya has a lot of powerful allies, like the United States, and is not that intimidated. But the Somalis militants are violent and unpredictable, so the Kenyans are braced for anything. For the last two years, Kenya has officially closed the border, but Somalis continue to use it (for fleeing as refugees, or smuggling both ways). March 6, 2009: For the eighth time in the last six months, Somali pirates attempted to seize a ship off the Kenyan coast, in this case 480 kilometers east of Mombassa. One of those attacks succeeded, and a Saudi tanker was seized. Since then, crews of large ships headed to and from the southern tip of Africa, are on high alert as the pass Kenya and Somalia. March 5, 2009: An Egyptian ship, held two months by pirates in Puntland, was released after the payment of a million dollar ransom. The pirates still hold ten ships, while random negotiations continue.

Pakistan To Reinstate Top Judge, Defusing Crisis / Pakistan Reinstates Judge, Averts Clash / Pakistan Reinstates Sacked Judge

Pakistan To Reinstate Top Judge, Defusing Crisis / Pakistan Reinstates Judge, Averts Clash / Pakistan Reinstates Sacked Judge
(NSI News Source Info) March 16, 2009: Pakistan's government has said a sacked Supreme Court chief justice will be reinstated, prompting the opposition to call off a major rally in the capital. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said Iftikhar Chaudhry would resume his old post later in March. Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif had joined campaigning lawyers in demanding the judge's reinstatement. Announcing that the march on Islamabad had been called off, Mr Sharif urged supporters to celebrate "with dignity". Mr Gilani said Mr Chaudhry would resume his post following the resignation of the current Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar on 21 March. "I announce the restoration of all deposed judges including Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry," PM Yousaf Raza Gilani said. The US envoy to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, hailed the decision. He was quoted by the New York Times as saying the US applauded "the statesmanlike act by President [Asif Ali] Zardari" and hoped it would "defuse a dangerous confrontation". The unrest has alarmed the West, which wants Pakistan to focus on the battle against the Taleban on the Afghan border. Jubilation Mr Chaudhry and 60 other judges were dismissed by former President Pervez Musharraf in 2007. Most have since been reinstated but Mr Chaudhry and a handful have not been allowed to return to their old posts. One reason for the failure to reinstate him is thought to be the fact that he challenged an amnesty given by Gen Musharraf that enabled Mr Zardari to return to Pakistan, on the grounds that Gen Musharraf's own rule could be illegal. Overturning the amnesty could leave Mr Zardari, the widower of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, exposed to corruption charges. Mr Gilani's announcement, broadcast on television, triggered scenes of jubilation from Mr Chaudhry's supporters outside his home in Islamabad and among supporters of Mr Sharif. We have said that we will restore the judges and the independent judiciary and by the grace of Allah we have achieved it Nawaz Sharif Mr Gilani also said opposition activists and leaders detained over the last week of mounting disturbances would be freed and a ban on demonstrations in the capital and several provinces lifted. The announcement is a victory for the lawyers after their campaign of street protests, says the BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad. "This is a victory for the people of this country," said Baz Mohammad Kakar, a leader of the lawyers' movement. "Chaudhry is the first chief justice in the history of Pakistan who has proved himself to be a judge for the people, as a chief justice for the people." Our correspondent says the development is also a victory for Mr Sharif, a long-time opponent of President Zardari who had backed the lawyers' calls to reinstate Mr Chaudhry. After the prime minister's announcement he called off the march on Islamabad, saying: "Let us celebrate this with dignity." Speaking from Gujranwala, about 80km (50 miles) north-west of Lahore, he told supporters: "We have said that we will restore the judges and the independent judiciary and by the grace of Allah we have achieved it." Mr Sharif is now expected to meet Mr Gilani later on Monday. It marks a complete turnaround from the situation on Sunday, when Mr Sharif left Lahore with a convoy of supporters, defying an apparent effort to put him under house arrest. Riot police had surrounded his Lahore home but after supporters clashed with them Mr Sharif moved past unchecked and left the city. Several days of rallies around Pakistan were to culminate in a "long march" on Islamabad and a sit-in to press the demand for the reinstatement of the judges. The government's announcement marks the end for the time being of the power struggle between Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari, says our Islamabad correspondent. There are indications that other issues that inflamed tensions between the two will be resolved: a Supreme Court decision last month that banned Mr Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from elected office, and President Zardari's decision to put their stronghold in Punjab province under direct rule from Islamabad.

Guinea Narcostate Revealed In TV Confessions

Guinea Narcostate Revealed In TV Confessions
(NSI News Source Info) CONAKRY, Guinea - March 16, 2009: When the planes arrived loaded with cocaine, it was Guinea's presidential guard that secured the cargo. Drug deals were conducted inside the first lady's private residence and in the president's VIP salon at the international airport. To avoid detection, cocaine was sent to Europe in the country's diplomatic pouch. Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who led the military coup, smokes a cigarette at his headquaters in Conakry, Guinea Conacky, Monday, March 9, 2008. When the planes loaded with cocaine arrived, Guinea's presidential guard secured the cargo. Drug deals were conducted inside the first lady's private residence, and the drugs were carried to Europe in the country's diplomatic pouch. In their bid to reach Europe, Latin American drug traffickers have found the broken nations along Africa's West coast, easily corrupting their ruling elite. As the people of Guinea sit transfixed before their TV sets, top government officials one after another are confessing to their role in a lucrative international cocaine trade. Organized by a military junta that seized power three months ago, the confessions offer unprecedented insight into an exploding drug trade in West Africa, one that connects coca leaves grown in South American fields to cocaine in European discos. The confessions paint a picture of an illicit trade conducted with total impunity, with the help of officials, members of the president's family and security forces. They also show the large role Guinea and other West African countries are playing as drug hubs, and how vulnerable they are to the corrupting influence of drug dollars. A recent United Nations report found that at least 46 tons of cocaine have been seized en route to Europe via West Africa since 2005, bringing profits that sometimes exceed the entire defense budgets of countries it passes through. Before that time, less than a ton a year was seized from the entire continent. "The vast majority of cocaine that is destined for Europe is now going through West Africa," said Michael Braun, who was the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's operations chief when he retired in October.

Obama Administration Must Learn Lessons Of Manas

Obama Administration Must Learn Lessons Of Manas
(NSI News Source Info) March 16, 2009: Once Kyrgyzstan succumbed to Russian pressure and unceremoniously evicted the United States from its base at Manas, media attention turned to the question of alternatives. A careful discussion of possible alternatives to Manas requires that a distinction be made between routes for non-military logistics, and facilities from which military missions can and do take place. When these two issues are separated, it becomes clear that alternative solutions for the shipment of non-lethal item bound for Afghanistan have been found. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan are all cooperating with the United States in the opening of a new supply network. The fact that Russia is also participating in this northern supply network suggests that Moscow wanted to make a geopolitical point with the Manas eviction.
The Kremlin wanted to ensure that Manas never developed into a permanent US hub in Central Asia, while at the same time showing the leaders of Central Asian states who’s still the region’s dominant player. Whether or not this message has been properly received remains unclear. But outside observes of the US campaign and the Central Asian scene need to properly understand Moscow’s motives in this episode. There has been a lot of media speculation about possible alternative sites for a US military base in Central Asia. This author has heard of four such examples to date. One view being bandied about suggests that the Manas case is not closed, and that the United States could retain its military presence in Kyrgyzstan -- if Washington were to enter into a grand bargain with Moscow.
Under such a scenario, US leaders would make concessions, such as abandoning its anti-missile defense plans for Central Europe, or NATO enlargement for Ukraine and Georgia, in return for Moscow’s consent to the continuing presence of US forces at Manas. This is highly unlikely as no US administration, Democratic or Republican, would surrender its options to Moscow in such a fashion. To do so would be to explicitly acknowledge Moscow’s hegemony over the CIS. Thus, talk about a possible bargain on Manas is probably nothing more than disinformation, or a Kremlin attempt at keeping pressure on the Obama administration. A second view, reported in the Turkish press, is that the United States may use bases in Turkey to substitute for Manas, particularly at Trabzon. Apart from the unlikelihood of the US seeing this option as appealing, it seems highly improbable that the Turkish government would assent to such a base, given the current state of Turkish-US relations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Turkey was widely hailed as a turning point, in which bilateral ties turned away from the mutual tension that characterized much of the Bush administration years. But there’s still ways to go before relations are restored to pre-Iraq War II levels. Public hostility in Turkey toward the United States remains strong. A third alternative that is floating around is a potential US base in Tajikistan. This too seems to be beyond plausible. Despite Dushanbe’s unhappiness with Russia on several fronts, the Tajik government is economically on its knees.
Even though Moscow has reneged on many of its earlier promises of assistance to Dushanbe, the Tajik government simply can’t afford to alienate the Kremlin. It’s worth keeping in mind that not only Russia, but also China, Iran and possibly some neighboring Central Asian states would put the squeeze on Dushanbe, if it seemed that Tajik President Imomali Rahmon was seriously considering making a base available to the Americans. This leaves the fourth possibility, Uzbekistan. The country’s president, Islam Karimov, has long been a master at bouncing back and forth between the West and Moscow to gain security benefits from each side. Thus, he has been able to keep a base open at Termez for use by Germany and NATO personnel, while still being considered a strategic ally of Moscow’s. US personnel are allowed to use the Termez base only under strict conditions where they function exclusively as part of a NATO operation.
Reportedly, US soldiers can fly via Termez, but only on German aircraft. Therefore, it is unlikely that Termez can become a substitute for Manas. While Karimov clearly intends to keep his Western and American options open to the greatest possible degree, it is also clear that with regard to military bases, those options are inherently limited. Thus, it would seem at present that there is no viable alternative to Manas for the United States in Central Asia. As a result, refueling operations will likely have to shift to bases in the Gulf region. This will add costs to the war effort and mean additional wear-and-tear on air crews. But these added burdens are clearly not enough to drive the US out of the theater. As long as non-military cargoes can traverse Central Asian states and Russia too, it appears that the logistical chain through Central Asia is sustainable. Even so, it is necessary for the Obama administration to learn from this episode. Washington cannot accept a situation where Russia can bully, bribe and coerce the nations of Central Asia into going along with the Kremlin’s nefarious intentions. It must be a hallmark of US policy to enhance the freedom of local governments, providing them with the ability to make their own unfettered decisions on security matters.
To enable this, Washington must be prepared to invest heavily in Central Asian states. While at present there are no military alternatives to Manas in the region, an intelligent and far-sighted regional US policy must come to understand that if Central Asia is to be secure, it must be able to stand on its own two feet and not rely on Moscow’s crutches. Editor's Note: Stephen Blank is a professor at the US Army War College. The views expressed this article do not in any way represent the views of the US Army, Defense Department or the US Government.

Terrorist Arsenal Of 50,000 Rockets Aimed At Israel

Terrorist Arsenal Of 50,000 Rockets Aimed At Israel
(NSI News Source Info) March 16, 2009: Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists have amassed an arsenal of 50,000 rockets aimed at Israel, United Press International (UPI) has reported. Israel still has no defense against the threat, and the government’s highly touted Iron Dome short-range missile defense system is far from being in operation and may not even be practical. “Even if Iron Dome works perfectly, it is never going to have the firepower in interceptors to credibly intercept most, let alone all,” of the rockets, according to the UPI report. Hizbullah has amassed far more rockets than it possessed before the Second Lebanon War in 2006, despite Israel’s agreeing to a ceasefire on the condition that United Nations Interim Forces (UNIFIL) would prevent arms smuggling into Lebanon. In the south, Hamas continues to smuggle weapons into Gaza despite a similar ceasefire ageement, supposedly conditioned on a cessation of arms smuggling, that the Olmert administration announced when concluding Operation Cast Lead in mid-January. Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised two years ago that the Iron Dome short-range missile defense system, along with other systems, would protect Israel from 90 percent of missile attacks, although mortar shells would continue to explode in Israel without interception. Barak announced in October 2007 that the Iron Dome was near completion and would be in place by 2010. He also has stated that its deployment is a precondition for handing over part of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. Last year, officials admitted that the Iron Dome system would not be effective against Kassam rockets fired from less than two miles, meaning that it had no solution for tens of thousands of residents in the Gaza Belt communities, including Sderot. State Comptroller and Ombudsman Micha Lindenstrauss’s recent report of his investigation of the timetable of the Iron Dome system “documented endless delays, indecision, go-it-alone chaotic planning and sheer bureaucratic incompetence,” in the words of UPI reporter Martin Sieff.

Beijing Sends Patrol Ship To South China Sea

Beijing Sends Patrol Ship To South China Sea
(NSI News Source Info) March 16, 2009: China has dispatched its most modern patrol ship to the South China Sea, state press said Sunday, after an incident with a US naval vessel and a fresh claim by the Philippines to the disputed territory.
USNS Impeccable is seen underway on Monday, March 9, 2009. The ship is one of five ocean surveillance ships that are part of the 25 ships in the Military Sealift Command Special Mission Ships Program.
The Beijing News said the vessel would conduct patrols of what it called China’s exclusive maritime zone in the disputed waters surrounding the Paracel and Spratly Islands. It said the converted naval rescue ship would aid Chinese fishing boats and transport vessels. The Philippines passed a law last week which lays claim to disputed islands in the Spratlys chain that are also claimed by China. Beijing has called the law “illegal and invalid.”
Tensions in the area rose further when the United States sent destroyers to international waters off southern China to protect a naval surveillance patrol that was involved in a stand off with Chinese vessels.
(Map shows Hainan Island, China, near where a U.S. Navy mapping ship was harassed by Chinese vessels) China says the US patrol vessels were within its 200-kilometre (125-mile) economic exclusive zone, but the United States has insisted they were in international waters. The Spratly and Paracel island chains have been flashpoints for years. The Spratlys are claimed in full or part by China and Vietnam as well as the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and the Paracels are claimed by China, which now occupies them, as well as by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Taiwan Renews Push For F-16 Fighter Jets / Current Taiwan Fighter Force Inadequate To Potential Threat From China: TECRO

Taiwan Renews Push For F-16 Fighter Jets / Current Taiwan Fighter Force Inadequate To Potential Threat From China: TECRO
(NSI News Source Info) March 16, 2009: Taiwan has renewed a drive to buy advanced U.S.-built F-16 fighter aircraft, confronting President Barack Obama with a delicate decision. Detailing its arms shopping list for the first time since Obama took office, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) said Taiwan's current fighter force was inadequate to a potential threat from China. The largest part of Taiwan's air force, F-5 fighters, have been in service for more than 34 years, said TECRO's spokesman.
Taiwanese air force F-16 fighter jets fly in formation as they drop anti-missile deterrents during the second day of the annual Hankuang military exercises, Wednesday, May 16, 2007, off of Ilan, central eastern coast of Taiwan. Wednesday's exercises are to prepare Taiwan's military for a possible sea invasion from rival China during wartime. "The planes now are obsolete and spare parts are difficult to obtain," said spokesman, Vance Chang, in an email response to questions about Taiwan's arms requests. China has built increasingly advanced fighters, the statement said, "therefore our air superiority capability is at a serious disadvantage." "Taiwan's determination to defend itself is indisputable," it added. Taiwan has been trying for 12 years to buy F-16 C/D models built by Lockheed Martin Corp of Bethesda, Maryland. The U.S. government is required by a 1979 law to provide Taiwan sufficient arms to defend itself. Successive U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have managed the weapons flow to minimize fallout with China. In its final years, former President George W. Bush's administration would not even accept a formal request for the advanced F-16s, said the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, which represents about 100 companies, including Lockheed Martin. The United States "has an obligation to assist Taiwan to maintain a credible defense of its air space, which includes modern fighters," said council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers. Taiwan wants 66 F-16 C/Ds valued at up to US$4.9 billion to bolster 150 F-16A/B models it bought in 1992. The State Department had no immediate comment on the statement from TECRO. In October, the Bush administration notified Congress of possible arms sales to Taiwan of up to US$6.4 billion, including Patriot "Advanced Capability" antimissile batteries, Apache attack helicopters and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. "We were eager to achieve a golden mean - a robust package of arms sales that met Taiwan's immediate defense needs but was not perceived in Beijing as undermining the progress in cross-strait relations," said Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asian affairs on Bush's White House National Security Council. "I believe we achieved that goal," he added in an email response to Reuters. TECRO made clear Ma's administration was still seeking UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters built by United Technologies Corp's Sikorsky unit and design work on modern diesel-electric submarines. These two items were cleared for release to Taiwan by Bush as part of a landmark arms offer in April 2001, but left out of the October notification to Congress. The deals were held up for years, largely by partisan hurdles to funding in Taiwan. Wilder said the Bush administration had told Taiwan that it was not denying it any of the weapons approved in 2001, but would leave the decision to Obama.

US Looking To Retool Pakistan Relationship

US Looking To Retool Pakistan Relationship
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - March 16, 2009: Former president George W. Bush recast the US relationship with India, forging closer ties. Could President Barack Obama do the same for US policy towards its nuclear-armed rival Pakistan? Upon taking office January 20, Obama ordered a sweeping review of the US strategy for fighting the war in Afghanistan, and US military and diplomatic officials say the road to victory there runs through neighbor Pakistan. Obama is set to unveil his new approach before a major international summit on Afghanistan on March 31 in The Hague -- but already the US Congress is looking to shape US military and development aid to steady Pakistan's democracy and bolster its fight against extremists. Obama is set to unveil his new approach before a major international summit on Afghanistan on March 31 in The Hague -- but already the US Congress is looking to shape US military and development aid to steady Pakistan's democracy and bolster its fight against extremists. Lawmakers are trying to learn from past efforts and convince Pakistan's people that Washington has a heartfelt stake in their political and economic fortunes, and is not merely looking out for US interests, experts say. The result is an approach likely to vastly expand US economic aid, while tying military help to pledges from the country's armed forces to do more against extremists as well as promises to stay out of the country's political and judicial life, lawmakers and aides say. ‘This represents the new way the relationship will function,’ Shuja Nawaz, who leads the Atlantic Center think tank's South Asia Center, told AFP by telephone on Friday. A centerpiece of the new approach is likely to be legislation that would triple non-military US assistance to Pakistan to 7.5 billion dollars over the next five years, congressional and administration aides say. To qualify for US military aid, Pakistan would have to show it is doing enough to prevent Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters from using its territory as a base and that Pakistan's military is not ‘materially interfering’ in the country's domestic political or judicial processes. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic chairman, John Kerry, and the panel's top Republican, Senator Richard Lugar, could introduce the measure as early as next week. ‘The big chance is that this is a long-term commitment. Pakistanis have often worried that the United States is here with them only for the short term,’ said Nawaz, who has discussed the legislation with Kerry. With the Kerry-Lugar plan, ‘there is a consistency and a confidence that the aid will continue no matter which government is in power locally,’ the analyst said. This would build on another Obama-backed approach: legislation that aims to use trade-spurred job growth as an antidote to the poverty that fuels extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The bill would give goods from certain restive parts of those countries duty-free access to the US market in a bid to promote legitimate economic activity where poverty fuels terrorist recruitment and the illegal drug trade. The key for Washington is that, taken together, ‘US economic aid packages are not solely designed for the tribal areas. The key is for the United States to be seen as helping the people of Pakistan as a whole,’ said Nawaz. ‘The previous, kind of, fixation on only sending aid packages dealing with the FATA (tribal areas) was really giving the wrong message to Pakistan, that the US was only doing it to protect its own interests,’ he said. Other changes need to occur, such as boosting counter-insurgency training for Pakistan police and perhaps ‘redirecting US military assistance towards that goal,’ said Nawaz. ‘The army can clear areas, the police are better suited to hold,’ he said, a reference to counterinsurgency theory that calls for clearing areas of fighters, holding those areas with the help of the population, and building institutions to prevent the insurgents' return.

Syria-Iran: A Critical Alliance / The Syria-Iran Axis bolsters Bashar al-Assad

Syria-Iran: A Critical Alliance / The Syria-Iran Axis bolsters Bashar al-Assad
by Yoram Ettinger
(NSI News Source Info) March 16, 2009: Irrespective of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel's existence, the ties with Iran constitute for the ruthless Assad The root cause of the Syria-USSR axis was Syrian regional concerns.regime an indispensable financial, diplomatic and military means of survival.
The Syria-Iran axis bolsters Bashar al-Assad's policies on the most critical fronts: domestic, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Russia and the USA. Assad's fundamental interests conflict with fundamental US values and interests. Syria's hostility toward the US dates back to the Cold War, when it sided with the USSR. The Syria-USSR axis originated in 1955, when the Golan Heights were occupied by Syria and when the US refrained from supplying Israel with advanced military systems.
The root cause of the Syria-USSR axis was Syrian regional concerns: Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. The decline of Moscow has raised the profile of Iran as Syria's key strategic ally. Syria and Iran consider each other an extension of their strategic depth in face of mutual historical rivals and threats: Iraq, Turkey and the US.
The US threat is military and political - introducing democracy, which is a lethal threat to the rogue regimes in Damascus and Teheran. Hence, for instance, the Iran-Syria involvement in anti-US Iraqi and Afghani terrorism, aimed at uprooting US military presence from Iraq, Afghanistan and from the Gulf. Damascus fears a stable pro-US Iraq and prefers a chaotic one. Syria and Iran coordinate efforts (probably with Russia) to leverage the expected US evacuation of Iraq, in order to realize Iranian domination of the Gulf and its natural resources, and to advance Syrian inter-Arab aspirations.
Syrian involvement in anti-US terrorism and narco-terrorism precedes its role in the murder of 300 US Marines during the 1983 bombing of US embassy and Marines HQ in Beirut. Iran and North Korea have assisted Syrian nuclear, biological and chemical military efforts. Iran has funded Syria's military procurement from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, China and North Korea, and has supplied Damascus with Iranian missiles, tanks, armored personnel carriers and sophisticated intelligence and surveillance systems.
Iran and North Korea have collaborated in the development of ballistic capabilities; they established, in Syria, plants which manufacture medium-range missiles and missile launchers. They have sent thousands of military and technological advisors to enhance Syrian military performance. Iran has supported - directly and via Hizbullah - the Syrian foothold in Lebanon, which is considered a prime Syrian national security goal. Independent of the Golan Heights, the Assad regime considers the axis with Iran a long-term, strategic interest and not a tenuous, tactical marriage of convenience. For Assad to pry away from Iran, in return for the Golan An Israeli giveaway of the Golan Heights would undermine other US interests in the Middle East.
Heights and US engagement, would require him to de-Assadize himself. The Syrian leopard cannot change its spots; it does, however, change its tactics. An Israeli giveaway of the Golan Heights would undermine other US interests in the Middle East.
It would enable Syria to redeploy a few armored mechanized divisions from the Golan front to the Jordanian frontier, in an attempt to destabilize and topple the Hashemite regime in Jordan, which Damascus considers a Syrian province. Such a development could have ripple effects into Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
A Golan giveaway would also enable Assad to redeploy a few divisions to the Turkish frontier, agitating anti-Turkish Kurdish terrorism, in his attempt to reclaim Hatay, which used to be Syrian territory, and which constitutes a platform for US surveillance and intelligence installations. A Golan withdrawal by Israel would dramatically enhance the strategic maneuverability of pro-Iran, pro-Russia, pro-China and pro-North Korea Syria - which hosts a multitude of international terrorist organizations, which practices hate-education and which has systematically violated agreements concluded with Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.