Monday, November 30, 2009

DTN News: U.S., Israel Closing Gaps On Iran And Peacemaking

DTN News: U.S., Israel Closing Gaps On Iran And Peacemaking *Source: DTN News / JTA (NEWS ANALYSIS) By Leslie Susser (NSI News Source Info) JERUSALEM, Israel - December 1, 2009: Israel and the United States seem closer than they have been for months on two key issues: peacemaking with the Palestinians and Iranian nuclear ambitions. EILAT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 29: In this handout image supplied by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Press Convention on November 29, 2009 in Eilat, Israel. Netanyahu said that Israel was committed to renewing the Middle East peace process, but he questioned whether the Palestinians were ready to enter into political talks. Signs show that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking Nov. 29, 2009 during a news conference in his Jerusalem office, and President Obama are very much on the same page concerning Iran sanctions. The point was hammered home with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement of a 10-month freeze on building in West Bank settlements and strong White House censure of Iran's plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants. But important differences of nuance remain on both fronts. Israel would like to see more robust action on Iran without delay, and the United States wants Israel to make further substantial peace overtures to the Palestinians. The latest escalation in tension between Iran and the international community came after the International Atomic Energy Agency demanded that the Islamic Republic immediately halt enrichment at a previously secret site near the holy city of Qom, and outgoing IAEA director Mohammed ElBaradei declared that he could not confirm that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program. The strongly worded IAEA motion of censure was endorsed by Russia and China, two powers that in the past have tended to steer clear of tough measures against Iran. Iran responded with contempt. Rather than close down the facility at Qom, it would start building five new ones over the next few months, and accelerate plans for another five in their wake. The Iranian parliament urged reduced cooperation with IAEA inspectors, and there was even talk of Iran withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- moves that would give it a free hand to pursue a nuclear weapons program without international scrutiny. Israeli pundits say the Iranian threats are intended to test international resolve in the hope of getting an improved offer from the United States and other major powers: permission to enrich uranium to industrial grade on Iranian soil rather than in France and Russia. But this time, the pundits say, the Iranians may have miscalculated, and the clear White House warning that "time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns about its nuclear program" could presage the end of President Obama's attempt to engage Iran and the beginning of the harsh sanctions regime Netanyahu has long advocated -- with Russia and China aboard. Indeed, when he first met Obama in 2007, before either man was in high office, Netanyahu pressed the case for strong economic sanctions against Iran. Obama, then a junior senator, picked up on this and soon afterward sponsored the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act. During their latest meeting in Washington just over three weeks ago, Iran again was high on the agenda. Netanyahu told journalists that time would show the meeting to have been very significant -- he strongly emphasized the word very -- language some pundits took to imply that major understandings on the Iranian nuclear issue had been reached. For now, the signs are that Obama and Netanyahu are very much on the same sanctions page, with slightly different views on the timing. The big question is what happens if sanctions fail. Israeli pundits argue that Obama, embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan, will not want to open a third front against Iran, whereas Netanyahu is not ready to take any option, including the military one, off the table. What is clear to both leaders is that if either decides to attack Iran, Israel will become a target for Iranian retaliation. Hence the huge joint military exercise in the Negev in late October, testing Israeli and American anti-missile defense systems. On the Palestinian front, the Americans welcomed Netanyahu's building freeze as going beyond anything previous Israeli governments had done. But at the same time the Americans made it clear that they would have liked to have seen more -- for example, a freeze that did not exclude East Jerusalem, public buildings and housing units already started -- because the object of the exercise was to get the Palestinians on board for peace talks, and only a full freeze might have achieved that aim. The Americans also are pressing Netanyahu to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners outside the framework of the impending deal for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal held by Hamas for more than three years, because of the bitter rivalry between the secular Fatah organization and the more militant Hamas. The thinking is that the standing of the U.S.-backed Fatah leader, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, could be weakened by the planned release of about 1,000 prisoners to Hamas in return for Shalit. Releasing large numbers of Fatah prisoners to Abbas would help prevent him from losing face. The main U.S. goal, though, is to revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and here they believe Netanyahu could have done more -- for example, by agreeing to resume talks where his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, left off, or giving the Palestinians a clearer idea of the contours of a final peace deal. The way forward now could be new U.S. bridging proposals which do exactly that. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Netanyahu's settlement freeze has made this possible, and the United States will soon present the parties with something along these lines. The Americans, however, are well aware that with Hamas in control of Gaza, and with conflicting Israeli and Palestinian bottom lines on all the core issues, the chances of success are not high. On the other hand, the prize to be won is huge. Success would mean a pacified Middle East with enhanced American influence and prestige. The question is, will Obama be prepared to take the risk of likely failure, with the attendant consequences for his and America's international standing?

DTN News: Financial News TODAY December 1, 2009 ~ Dubai Crisis Is The Arab Economy's Opportunity

DTN News: Financial News TODAY December 1, 2009 ~ Dubai Crisis Is The Arab Economy's Opportunity *Source: DTN News / MarketWatch By Amotz Asa-El (NSI News Source Info) JERUSALEM, Israel - December 1, 2009: What began as a pharaonic construction site is suddenly sinking in economic quicksand, its future as an archeological attraction possibly more promising than its pretensions as a global financial center. Dubai, which until last week loomed tall - literally - as an enterprising, cosmopolitan, glitzy and happy antithesis to the Middle East's economic stagnation, has now emerged as a sad monument to all that is ill about the pan-Arab economy, which includes more than a quarter-billion people but is smaller than Spain's. Once the dust settles over Dubai World's debt-default announcement last week, its many Western victims would do well to probe not only the way the emirate's authorities treated their money but also the relationship between the entire petrodollar elite and the pan-Arab economy. The Dubai crisis originated in a brave dream: that the Gulf's oil riches would buy rather than produce a great financial center. Had this transpired, it would have defied historical precedent, whereby the great modern financial centers -- from London, Frankfurt and New York to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore -- both followed and fed monumental industrial revolutions. Those financial centers rose after millions had moved from the countryside to factories, where the process of their economic empowerment began, eventually giving rise to the broad, educated, affluent and socially mobile middle classes that are the backbone of healthy economies. Metropolis in the Dunes In the Gulf, despite the complete absence of middle classes and an industrial base, a financial metropolis was emerging from the Arabian dunes. Dominated by Burj Dubai, the $1 billion turret that at 2,500 feet is the world's tallest structure and by its trademark palm-shaped system of artificial islands, Dubai invested $200 billion in tourism infrastructure. On top of that, it put $20 billion into a property venture that included 30,000 houses, luxurious hotels and an artificial lake, and an additional $4 billion for 300 artificial islands. Dubai's emir, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Makhtoum, openly spoke of the need to prepare for the morning after oil, which some suspect will arrive within several generations, whether because the resource will be exhausted or alternative energies will take precedence. But the construction frenzy transcended Dubai. To the north, the Bahrain Financial Port was planned to employ 8,000 bankers and insurance agents, while at the other end of the Arabian Peninsula the Saudis laid the cornerstone for the $27 billion King Abdullah Economic City. And real estate was but the most visible aspect of a spendthrift Zeitgeist that swept the entire Gulf area during this decade's seven fat years of record oil prices. It was the time when Emirates Airlines bought a $37 billion fleet including 45 state-of-the-art double-decker Airbus A380s; when Abu-Dhabi-based Mubadala Development bought a stake in Ferrari, and Dubai International shopped for U.S. seaports while other Gulf sheikhs bought skyscrapers in Manhattan and a chunk of London's Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. No one abroad, let alone locally, seemed to ask who makes all those decisions and how, why and at what social cost, just as western governments never questioned their steady supply of Saudi Arabia's estimated $20 billion annual military spending -- about the size of Russia's defense budget -- and its social costs. Westerners preferred to look at the happy side of all this financial momentum, which besides welcoming rich foreigners included a genuinely progressive quest, like Qatar allowing U.S. universities to open local campuses for Arab students, a large number of them women, and like Saudi Arabia earlier this decade launching a $50 billion plan to build new roads, hospitals and schools. Economic alchemy Alas, it was all part of one big exercise in economic alchemy.
Financially, the Dubai crisis is rooted in the region's disbelief in transparency. Until this moment the extent of Dubai's debt and resources remains unclear. And the suddenness of its default announcement was in keeping with the local idea of corporate governance, which recently saw the emir of Dubai sack the Ivy-League-educated chairmen of Dubai World, Dubai Holding, and Dubai International Financial Center, and replace them with his relatives and cronies. With more transparency, the markets might have made the usage of the region's minerals a bit more prudent and balanced. Yet that drawback is dwarfed by the Gulf vision's social aspect. Bluntly put, the great development along the Arabian coastline was part of an effort to freeze the Middle East's deformed social structure, whereby hundreds of millions of impoverished and uneducated Arabs live almost immediately under a well-born moneyed elite, with hardly any middle class between them. That is why the Gulf's Arab oil producers did not use their wealth to build -- in their own lands, let alone elsewhere in the Arab world -- the kind of assembly lines that revolutionized the economies of China, India and Brazil. That is why Dubai and its neighbors import millions of Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis as their unskilled workforce, even though nearby Egypt and Syria have chronic labor surpluses. That is why a place like Dubai at any given time has more foreign residents than locals; and that is why the burgeoning financial center's profits (while they were still being made) went abroad rather than where they were needed most: in the slums of Cairo, Casablanca, Damascus, Khartoum and Sana'a, where hope is as close to the destitute masses as the Burj Dubai's 160th floor is to the ground. Like Pharaoh's Egypt, the Gulf economy rested on abundant resources, cheap labor, and a disregard for social solidarity. Economically or morally, this was no way to build a modern financial center. The fact that Western institutional investors happily flocked to the Gulf should surprise no one, although one wonders just what all the bankers who are now fuming at Dubai's leader were thinking when they signed deals with him. Did they think that the laws of economic gravity would not apply where islands were being imposed on the sea and castles were being planted in the sand? The bankers' short-sighted attitude in this theater is but an extension of their failings during the era of greed that preceded the meltdown in Wall Street. Chances that they will now fix what they helped ruin are therefore low. The ones in a position to make the repairs are Europe and America -- if not because they care for social justice then because they care for the poverty that feeds Europe with a Middle Eastern immigration it does not want and Islamist terror with the fresh recruits it very much wants. Europe and America can therefore use this moment of perplexity to help restore confidence in the vision of a financial center in the Gulf, but the proper way: with more transparency, social concern and regional investments, with less extravagance and with a real economy attached to it.
Amotz Asa-El is a former executive editor of the Jerusalem Post.

DTN News: Barack Obama Issues New Afghanistan Military Orders

DTN News: Barack Obama Issues New Afghanistan Military Orders *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON, USA - December 1, 2009: US President Barack Obama has issued new orders for the US military in Afghanistan after deciding how many more troops to send, officials say. There are 68,000 US soldiers based in Afghanistan. US Army soldiers belonging to the 1st Platoon, Able Troop 3-71 Cavalry Squadron and members of the South Carolina National Guard, patrol in the village of Kashmiri Bala, Baraki Barak district, Logar province, Afghanistan Tuesday Nov. 24, 2009. Mr Obama told senior military leaders about his long-awaited decision on troop numbers on Sunday night, a White House spokesman said. The president is now briefing the UK, French and Russian leaders on the plan. The moves come as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would send 500 more soldiers to the country. According to US media reports, Mr Obama is set to formally announce that a further 30,000 troops are to be sent to Afghanistan in a televised address on Tuesday. He has been considering a request from the US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, for 40,000 soldiers. Mr Obama met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday evening. He also spoke to senior staff including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Security Adviser James Jones before holding a videophone conference with Gen McChrystal and Karl Eikenberry, ambassador to Afghanistan. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is currently visiting Washington DC, was told of the plans in person. 'Political surge' The US currently has about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, where foreign forces currently total more than 100,000. We should be failing in our duty if we didn't work with our allies to deal with the problem where it starts In his address, the president is also expected to tell the American public again why the US involvement in Afghanistan is necessary and how long the commitment is expected to last. Last week, Mr Obama said he intended to "finish the job" in Afghanistan. The White House said Mr Obama was in the process of speaking to all the key US allies in the Afghan conflict, including Italy, France, Britain and Russia. The leaders were informed of the new strategy but were not told exactly how many extra troops the US intends to despatch, the Associated Press reported. On Monday, Mr Brown said he was sending a further 500 soldiers to Afghanistan, taking the country's total deployment in the country to 10,000. He said all conditions had been met to send the extra personnel and that eight other countries had also offered additional troops. Mr Brown told parliament "the safety of people on the streets of Britain" depended on the UK taking action to address the militant threat from al-Qaeda at its source - along the Afghan/Pakistan border areas. "We should be failing in our duty if we didn't work with our allies to deal with the problem where it starts," Mr Brown told parliament. Mr Brown said the military surge would be followed by a political surge, with an enlarged and reformed Afghan police force and more effective and accountable local administration. Italian Foreign Minster Franco Frattini said on Monday that Rome was also prepared to increase its presence in Afghanistan from the current 3,200. Italy's Ansa news agency quoted Mr Frattini as saying the conflict was a test of Nato's "credibility" and that it was "clear that Italy must finish the job started with NATO and make a greater contribution if it is needed".

DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY December 1, 2009 ~ 6 Afghan National Police Killed By Fellow Officer

DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY December 1, 2009 ~ 6 Afghan National Police Killed By Fellow Officer
*Source: DTN News / By RAHIM FAIEZ (AP)
(NSI News Source Info) KABUL, Afghanistan - December 1, 2009: A rogue Afghan police officer opened fire at a checkpoint in southwest Afghanistan, killing six police officers and injuring two before being killed, an official said Monday. Afghan National Police officers, seen training with mock guns during a session with ISAF soldiers from the German Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) at the German army camp in Fayzabad, northern Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) The incident — the second time in two months that a police officer has turned on colleagues — is a reminder of the steep challenge NATO troops face as they work to build a national police force that will be able to provide security and allow international forces to eventually leave. The shooting in southern Nimroz province occurred Sunday morning in Khash Rod district, said provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Jabar Pardeli. "One of our policemen opened fire on his colleagues at the checkpoint," Pardeli said, adding that an investigation was under way to find what prompted the shooting. He said the suspect escaped to Dil Aram — another district in the province — where he was identified by a patrol of Afghan police and army soldiers. The patrol tried to stop him, but he started shooting again and was killed in a gun battle. President Barack Obama is expected to announce a new Afghan strategy this week that includes tens of thousands more U.S. troops. The leading Senate Democrat on military matters said Sunday that any plan to significantly expand U.S. troop levels must show how those reinforcements will help increase the number of Afghan security forces. Greater numbers of Afghan army and police are central to succeeding in the 8-year-old war, according to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and more U.S. trainers and an infusion of battlefield gear will help meet that goal. But it's unclear, Levin said, what role additional U.S. combat troops will play in that buildup, and Obama has to make a compelling case during a national address he's scheduled to give Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. NATO's goal is to grow the largely uneducated police force into a professional force of about 134,000 officers by October 2010 from 94,000 today. But finding skilled recruits is difficult, and some of those joining the police now were recently on the side of the militants. The push has been marked by violence. In October, a police officer opened fire on the British troops training him, killing five. Last year, police officers turned against American soldiers in two separate incidents, killing and wounding several. In the same area as the latest shooting, a Turkish engineer for a private construction company has been missing since Sunday, when he drove out toward Dil Aram, Gov. Ghulam Dastagir Azad said. In the north, meanwhile, two gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed the head of logistics for the provincial intelligence service late Sunday, said Jowzjan provincial police chief Khalilullah Aminzada. And in southern Helmand province, Afghan and international forces killed two militants responsible for planting roadside bombs, the Defense Ministry said.

DTN News: Pakistan Must Step Up Action Against al Qaeda Says British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

DTN News: Pakistan Must Step Up Action Against al Qaeda Says British Prime Minister Gordon Brown * UK seeks more Pakistan action against al Qaeda
* UK wants more done to target al Qaeda leadership
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) LONDON, UK - November 30, 2009: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called on Pakistan to take tougher action against al Qaeda and step up its efforts to track down the group's leader Osama bin Laden.
PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO - NOVEMBER 28: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown chats with Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during the third retreat session on the second day of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at the Hyatt Hotel on November 28, 2009 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad And Tobago. CHOGM is held every 2 years, bringing together world leaders to discuss key issues of a global and Commonwealth nature, and key policies and initiatives.
Brown said the efforts of British and coalition forces in Afghanistan to tackle the Taliban insurgency needed to be matched by more effective action by the Pakistan government and forces on their side of the border.
"Brown called President (Asif Ali) Zardari yesterday, he expressed support for what Pakistani forces are doing against the Pakistani Taliban but said he wanted to see tougher action against the leadership of al Qaeda," a British official said.
The official said Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani would be coming to London on Thursday to meet with Brown.In television interviews on Sunday, Brown said that while progress had been made by Pakistani forces in South Waziristan, a bastion of the Pakistani Taliban, there were still big issues to deal with in the country.
"People are going to ask why, eight years after 2001, Osama bin Laden has never been near to being caught ... and what can the Pakistan authorities do that is far more effective," he told Sky news.
"Al Qaeda has a base in Pakistan, that base is still there, they are able to recruit from abroad," he said. "The Pakistan authorities must convince us that they are taking all the action that is necessary to deal with that threat."
He also questioned why there had been no evidence to lead to the capture of bin Laden and his second in command Ayman al-Zawahri, despite people in Pakistan knowing where they are.His comments came as a U.S. report criticised military leaders under former President George W. Bush for missing an opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden in 2001.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Sunday that at this week's Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago both he and Brown had spoken to the Pakistani delegation about the efforts of Pakistan's forces against the Taleban.
"As we enter the week when President Obama will be outlining a major rise in not just the military, but also the civilian and political efforts in Afghanistan, it is right we recognise that stability in Afghanistan requires stability in Pakistan too, and that requires a combined effort," he told BBC news.
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce on Tuesday a 30,000 increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan to boost coalition efforts to defeat the obstinate Taliban insurgency.
Brown, facing dwindling public backing at home for keeping British troops in Afghanistan, said the campaign to free British streets from terrorism must start from Pakistan where, he said, three-quarters of plots against British people were masterminded.
Speaking a day after offering to host a conference early next year to set out a timetable for transferring security responsibilities to Afghan forces from 2010, Brown reiterated comments that Britain wants to have trained 5,000 extra Afghan forces in Helmand province by the end of next year.

DTN News: Russia's Shipyard Launches Indian Stealth Frigates 'Teg'

DTN News: Russia's Shipyard Launches Indian Stealth Frigates 'Teg' *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - November 30, 2009: Russia's defence shipyard "Yantar" has launched first of the three Indian stealth frigates - INS Teg (Sabre) at a colourful ceremony in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.(F44 INS Tabar) Nov 10/09: RIA Novosti reports that the Yantar shipyard in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad is planning to float out the first of the 3 Talwar class frigates being built for the Indian Navy at the end of November. Spokesman Sergei Mikhailov adds that “Floating out does not mean that the sea trials will start right away. We still have to carry out post-construction work. The trials will start in 2010.” The shipyard still intends to deliver all 3 vessels to India in 2011-2012. March 6/09: India’s Business Times reports that an overzealous US State Department bureaucrat appears to have created a serious delay in the related Project 17 program, after ordering GE to stop work on the program. Unlike the Krivak III Class, Shivalik Class ships use 2 American LM2500 turbines in place of Russian designs. If India is lucky, the delay will be only 2 months. If the State Department’s actions cause India to miss sea trials due to the monsoon season, the delay could be many months longer. In the end, all the State Department may succeed in doing is jeopardizing the chances of other American companies under consideration for Indian defense buys. “US State Dept. Throws A Wrench Into Exports, Allied Shipbuilding” for more. Oct 16/08: RIA Novosti quotes the Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad to say that the 2nd Project 11356 frigate for India under the 2006 deal is more than 50% complete, and would be finished by March 2009. The final vessel in that deal is due to be delivered to India by 2011-12.* Under $1.6 billion contract signed in July 2006, INS Teg begins the second series of three Project 11356 Talwar Class (Krivak-III) stealth guided missile frigates to be followed by INS Tarkash (Quiver) and INS Trikand (Bow). INS Teg was launched with the recitation Vedic hymns by Indian Naval attache in Moscow Commodore S K Grewal and breaking of coconut by the Indian Consul General in St Petersburg Radhika Lal Lokesh. Russia has previously built three Talwar class frigates for India --- INS Talwar (from the Hindi language meaning Sword), INS Trishul (Trident), and INS Tabar (Axe). In accordance with the Russian tradition, a bottle of champagne was broken at its hull by its 'god mother' Raisa Romashko, who is an eminent shipbuilder of Russia. "The trials of INS Teg will start in 2010," "Yantar" shipyard Director General Igor Orlov was quoted as saying by Military TV Channel "Zvezda".