Tuesday, December 22, 2009

DTN News: Colombia Rejects Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Charge Over Spy Drones

DTN News: Colombia Rejects Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Charge Over Spy Drones *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) BOGOTA, Colombia- December 22, 2009: Colombia on Monday dismissed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's charges that drones flying from Colombia are spying on him, with a senior official saying Venezuelan troops instead may have seen "Father Christmas' sleigh."Venezuela's security forces look for smugglers near the Tachira river that connects Venezuela with Colombia, in San Antonio, Venezuela. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday urged his military leaders to prepare 'for war' and to ready citizens to 'defend the homeland' as tensions mount over fractious ties with neighboring Colombia. The comments come at a tense time for the region as Colombia signs a controversial military agreement with the United States to let US forces use seven military bases in Colombia for anti-drug operations. Chavez has repeatedly voiced deep fears of US encroachment in the region. Chavez, a staunch critic of the United States, said on Sunday the United States was spying on his government with unmanned drones that fly from Colombia as well as the islands off Venezuelan's Caribbean coast. The Venezuelan president called the incursions by the unmanned planes "acts of war" and ordered his air force to shoot them down if they are seen again. "Colombia does not have those capabilities he describes," Defense Minister Gabriel Silva told reporters on Monday. "Perhaps the Venezuelan troops confused Father Christmas' sleigh with a spy plane." Colombia, a close U.S. ally, and OPEC-member Venezuela are locked in a dispute that is hurting bilateral trade ties and raising concerns about possible violence between the Andean neighbors.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez drives Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her Defense Minister Nilda Garre in a military vehicle, as they visit a shipyard, in Buenos Aires, December 9, 2009. The dispute intensified over a Colombian agreement to allow U.S. troops more access to its military bases to bolster cooperation against drug traffickers and guerrillas fighting Latin America's longest-running insurgency. Chavez says the base plan is a step toward U.S. aggression against his oil-producing country. The leftist leader has told troops to prepare for possible war and restricted Colombian imports to protest the accord. Tensions further escalated over the weekend when Silva said Colombia is preparing to defend against a possible foreign military attack and Chavez warned Colombia that his country was ready to defend itself against any aggression. The two countries often have sparred when Colombia's long civil conflict spilled across their 1,375-mile (2,200-km) frontier, but the current crisis seems to have heightened risks over a possible flare-up in border violence.

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY December 22, 2009 ~ Suicide Bomber Targets Peshawar Press Club

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY December 22, 2009 ~ Suicide Bomber Targets Peshawar Press Club *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) PESHAWAR, Pakistan - December 22, 2009: A suicide bomber on Tuesday attacked a Pakistan journalists' club, killing three people in the first assault on media offices.Pakistani volunteers remove a dead body after a suicide attack in the compound of Peshawar Press Club in Peshawar, Pakistan on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009. A suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside the press club in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing two people in the latest of a slew of attacks to strike the city of Peshawar since the military launched a major offensive near the Afghan border. Strapped with explosives, the man walked up to the gate of the press club in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where he blew himself up as police stopped him from entering the building, officials said. 'I was coming out of the canteen when I suddenly heard a huge blast. Smoke engulfed the building immediately and when I reached the spot, I saw human organs littered on the ground,' said television journalist Nisar Mohammad Khan. The force of the explosion blew out the windows at the press club, damaged the guard hut and ripped through nearby vehicles, said witnesses. 'He was stopped by police deployed outside. When the police official started searching him, the attacker blew himself up,' Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali told reporters at the scene. Taliban militants, who are powerful in northwest Pakistan, threatened media in Peshawar, said the president of the press club, Shamim Shahid. 'We beefed up security after the threats and people coming to the club were properly checked,' he said. Doctors at Peshawar's main Lady Reading Hospital said three people were killed - a policeman, a press club employee and a woman. Doctor Zafar Iqbal said 17 people were wounded and later clarified that an original death toll of four included the bomber. Police said four journalists were among the wounded. Bomb disposal squad chief Tanveer Ahmed said most of the casualties were caused by steel pellets and nails stuffed in the suicide bomber's explosives vest. North West Frontier Province information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who visited the wreckage, acknowledged that extra security measures in place for the holy Muslim month of Muharram could not totally eliminate attacks. 'We have already taken special measures in view of Muharram but suicide attacks cannot be totally eliminated such incidents cannot be ruled out in future. But we will continue our struggle against terrorists,' he said.

DTN News: Is Russia's S-400 Triumf Air Defense Missile Systems Dependable, Reliable & Affordable

DTN News: Is Russia's S-400 Triumf Air Defense Missile Systems Dependable, Reliable & Affordable *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - December 22, 2009: The S-400, also known by its NATO designation, SA-20 Triumf, is an advanced Russian surface-to-air missile system. Once operational, it will be able to destroy aircraft, cruise missiles, and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 kilometers. The Russians eventually plan to phase out their existing S-200 (NATO: SA-5 Gammon) and S-300P (NATO: SA-10 Grumble) systems and replace them with S-400 complexes.The S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) is designed to intercept and effectively engage airborne targets, including stealth aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, at ranges of up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and speeds of up to 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) per second. (Image: RIA Novosti) By the late 1990s, it was widely acknowledged that Russia had fallen behind the U.S. in missile defense. Not wanting to let its technology and expertise go to waste, Moscow decided to build a new air-defense missile system, one that would surpass even the U.S. Patriot. According to Vladimir Simonov, General Director of the Russian Agency for Control Systems, the main focus was on getting Russia’s lagging programs “back on their feet.” From the beginning, the project was shrouded in secrecy: neither its purpose, nor its parameters, nor even its name were disclosed to the public, although speculation was rampant. In January 1999, the Russian Air Force formally announced that it had developed a new air defense system known as the S-400. Designed by the Russian Almaz Central Design Bureau, the S-400 was a thoroughly modernized version of the older S-300P system, versions of which dated back to the late 1960s. The S-400 was reportedly capable of destroying a wide range of targets, including tactical and strategic aircraft, radar observation and targeting planes, cruise missiles, and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. According to Aleksandr Lemanskiy, Director-General of Almaz, the new system had “no parallels.” Most of the excitement surrounding the S-400 announcement centered on its new long-range missile, which the Fakel Machine Building Design Bureau was still in the final stages of developing. According to the Russians, the new missile featured an advanced seeker head capable of tracking targets well beyond the horizon line. It had a range of up to 400 kilometers, giving it approximately 2.5 times the range of the S-300P and twice the range of the U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system, thus making it the superior missile. Once operational, the Russians claimed, the new S-400 missile would be able to home in on short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, as well as reconnaissance aircraft, stealth bombers, and other high-flying, fast-moving targets. In addition to the new long-range missile, the Russians revealed that the S-400 would be armed with lightweight 9M96 missiles to counter low-flying targets. Each 9M96 interceptor would have a range of approximately 120 kilometers and feature a gas-dynamic control system that would allow it to perform intricate low-altitude maneuvers. The Russians claimed that, in order to hasten the S-400’s deployment, the 9M96 interceptors would be made compatible with the existing S-300P launchers. Thus, a standard S-300P launcher originally designed to carry four 5V55 or 48N6 missiles would now be used to transport up to 16 9M96 missiles. In addition, the S-400 would use the S-300P control complex and multifunctional radar, thus allowing for a smooth, cost-efficient transition between the two systems. In February 1999, initial tests of the S-400 began at the Kapustin Yar site in Astrakhan. Reports indicate that these tests were largely successful. In early 2001, Moscow announced that the S-400 would be deployed that year by the Russian military, and would also be made available for export on the world arms market. Shortly thereafter, however, the S-400 program began to encounter a series of financial difficulties and technical problems that caused it to fall behind schedule, a trend that continued over the next two years. In mid-2003, after numerous delays and considerable bureaucratic infighting, it began to look as if the S-400 was nearing completion. That August, however, two high-ranking Russian military officials, Colonel General Alexei Moskovsky, Chief of the Armament Department of the Armed Forces, and General Anatoly Kvashnin, Chief of the General Staff, expressed their concerns that the S-400 was being tested using “obsolete” interceptors from the S-300P (such as the 48N6 missile). They concluded that the system was still not yet ready for production. Moscow once again decided to delay the S-400’s scheduled deployment, this time until 2005 or 2006. In February 2004, the Russian Air Force announced that state tests of the S-400 had been completed and that the system was finally ready for production. Two months later, Interfax-Military News Agency reported that an upgraded 48N6DM long-range interceptor had successfully destroyed a test ballistic missile. An Almaz-Antey official stated that “the system launched the upgraded 48N6DM long-range missile. The missile was guided to the target with precision, while the tasks set have been fulfilled.” Despite these recent successes, it remains unclear when the S-400 will begin mass production. Nevertheless, Moscow has been aggressively marketing the S-400 throughout Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Many believe that China will be Russia’s main customer. Between 2003 and 2004, China spent approximately $500 million on future S-400 systems, which accounts for the 7 percent increase in China’s foreign weapons acquisitions during that period. In addition to China, Russia has offered the S-400 to the United Arab Emirates, once in 2002 and again in 2004. There is also speculation that Iran, a potential nuclear power, is currently seeking to acquire its own batch of S-400 missiles. It is evident that, once the S-400 completes its final tests and enters production, it will quickly become one of the most sought after missile defense systems in the world.

DTN News: The Iranian Incursion In Context

DTN News: The Iranian Incursion In Context *Source: By George Friedman STRATFOR (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - December 22, 2009: A small number of Iranian troops entered Iraq, where they took control of an oil well and raised the Iranian flag Dec. 18. The Iranian-Iraqi border in this region is poorly defined and is contested, with the Iranians claiming this well is in Iranian territory not returned after the Iran-Iraq War. Such incidents have occurred in the past. Given that there were no casualties this time, it therefore would be easy to dismiss this incident, even though at about the same time an Iranian official claimed that Iraq owes Iran about $1 trillion in reparations for starting the Iran-Iraq War. But what would be fairly trivial at another time and place is not trivial now. Sending a Message With an Incursion Multiple sources have reported that Tehran ordered the incident. The Iranian government is aware that Washington has said the end of 2009 was to be the deadline for taking action against Iran over its nuclear program — and that according to a White House source, the United States could extend that deadline to Jan. 15, 2010. That postponement makes an important point. The United States has treated the Iran crisis as something that will be handled on an American timeline. The way that the Obama administration handled the Afghanistan strategy review suggests it assumes that Washington controls the tempo of events sufficiently that it can make decisions carefully, deliberately and with due reflection. If true, that would mean that adversaries like Iran are purely on the defensive, and either have no counter to American moves or cannot counter the United States until after Washington makes its next move. For Iran, just to accept that premise puts it at an obvious disadvantage. First, Tehran would have to demonstrate that the tempo of events is not simply in American or Israeli hands. Second, Tehran would have to remind the United States and Israel that Iran has options that it might use regardless of whether the United States chooses sanctions or war. Most important, Iran must show that whatever these options are, they can occur before the United States acts — that Iran has axes of its own, and may not wait for the U.S. axe to fall. The incursion was shaped to make this point without forcing the United States into precipitous action. The location was politically ambiguous. The force was small. Casualties were avoided. At the same time, it was an action that snapped a lot of people to attention. Oil prices climbed. Baghdad and Washington scrambled to try to figure what was going on, and for a while Washington was clearly at a loss, driving home the fact that the United States doesn’t always respond quickly and efficiently to surprises initiated by the other side. The event eventually died down, and the Iranians went out of their way to minimize its importance. But two points nevertheless were made. The first was that Iran might not wait for Washington to consider all possible scenarios. The second was that the Iranians know how to raise oil prices. And with that lesson, they reminded the Americans that the Iranians have a degree of control over the economic recovery in the United States. There has never been any doubt that Iran has options in the event that the United States chooses to strike. Significantly, the Iranians now have driven home that they might initiate a conflict if they assume conflict is inevitable. U.S. and Iranian Options Iran’s problem becomes clear when we consider Tehran’s options. These options fall into three groups: 1) Interdicting the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf through the use of mines and anti-ship missiles. This would result in a dramatic increase in world oil prices on the Iranian attempt alone and could keep them high if Tehran’s efforts succeeded. The impact on the global economy would be substantial. 2) Causing massive destabilization in Iraq. The Iranians retain allies and agents in Iraq, which has been experiencing increased violence and destabilization over the past months. As the violence increases and the Americans leave, a close relationship with Iran might be increasingly attractive to Iraqi troops. Given the deployment of American troops, direct attacks in Iraq by Iranian forces are not out of the question. Even if ultimately repulsed, such Iranian incursions could further destabilize Iraq. This would force the Obama administration to reconsider the U.S. withdrawal timetable, potentially affecting Afghanistan. 3) Use Hezbollah to initiate a conflict with Israel, and as a global tool for terrorist attacks on American and allied targets. Hezbollah is far more sophisticated and effective than al Qaeda was at its height, and would be a formidable threat should Iran choose — and Hezbollah agree — to play this role. When we look at the three Iranian options, it is clear that the United States would not be able to confine any action against Iran to airstrikes. The United States is extremely good at air campaigns, while it is weak at counterinsurgency. It has massive resources in the region to throw into an air campaign and it can bring more in using carrier strike groups. But even before hitting Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Americans would have to consider the potential Iranian responses. Washington would have to take three steps. First, Iranian anti-ship missiles and surface vessels — and these vessels could be very small but still able to carry out mine warfare — on the Iranian littoral would have to be destroyed. Second, large formations of Iranian troops along the Iraqi border would have to be attacked, and Iranian assets in Iraq at the very least disrupted. Finally, covert actions against Hezbollah assets — particularly assets outside Lebanon — would have to be neutralized to the extent possible. This would require massive, coordinated attacks, primarily using airpower and covert forces in a very tight sequence prior to any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Without this, Iran would be in a position to launch the attacks outlined above in response to strikes on its nuclear facilities. Given the nature of the Iranian responses, particularly the mining of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, the operations could be carried out quickly and with potentially devastating results to the global economy. From the Iranian standpoint, Tehran faces a “use-it-or-lose-it” scenario. It cannot wait until the United States initiates hostilities. The worst-case scenario for Iran is waiting for Washington to initiate the conflict. At the same time, the very complexity of an Iranian attack makes the United States want to think long and hard before attacking Iran. The opportunities for failure are substantial, no matter how well the attack is planned. And the United States can’t allow Israel to start a conflict with Iran alone because Israel lacks the resources to deal with a subsequent Iranian naval interdiction and disruptions in Iraq. It follows that the United States is interested in a nonmilitary solution to the problem. The ideal solution would be sanctions on gasoline. The United States wants to take as much time as needed to get China and Russia committed to such sanctions. Iranian Pre-emption The Iranians signaled last week that they might not choose to be passive if effective sanctions were put in place. Sanctions on gasoline would in fact cripple Iran, so like Japan prior to Pearl Harbor, the option of capitulating to sanctions might be viewed as more risky than a pre-emptive strike. And if sanctions didn’t work, the Iranians would have to assume a military attack is coming next. Since the Iranians wouldn’t know when it would happen, and their retaliatory options might disappear in the first phase of the military operation, they would need to act before such an attack. The problem is that the Iranians won’t know precisely when that attack will take place. The United States and Israel have long discussed a redline in Iranian nuclear development, which if approached would force an attack on Iran to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Logically, Iran would seem to have a redline as well, equally poorly designed. At the point when it becomes clear that sanctions are threatening regime survival or that military action is inevitable, Iran must act first, using its military assets before it loses them. Iran cannot live with either effective sanctions or the type of campaign that the United States would have to launch to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. The United States can’t live with the consequences of Iranian counteractions to an attack. Even if sanctions were possible, they would leave Iran with the option to do precisely those things Washington cannot tolerate. Therefore, whether the diplomatic or military route is followed, each side has two options. First, the Americans can accept Iran as a nuclear power, or Iran can accept that it must give up its nuclear ambitions. Second, assuming that neither side accepts the first option, each side must take military action before the other side does. The Americans must neutralize counters before the Iranians deploy them. The Iranians must deploy their counters before they are destroyed. The United States and Iran are both playing for time. Neither side wants to change its position on the nuclear question, although each hopes the other will give in. Moreover, neither side is really confident in its military options. The Americans are not certain that they can both destroy the nuclear facilities and Iranian counters — and if the counters are effective, their consequences could be devastating. The Iranians are not certain that their counters will work effectively, and once failure is established, the Iranians will be wide open for devastating attack. Each side assumes the other understands the risks and will accept the other’s terms for a settlement. And so each waits, hoping the other side will back down. The events of the past week were designed to show the Americans that Iran is not prepared to back down. More important, they were designed to show that the Iranians also have a redline, that it is as fuzzy as the American redline and that the Americans should be very careful in how far they press, as they might suddenly wake up one morning with their hands full. The Iranian move is deliberately designed to rattle U.S. President Barack Obama. He has shown a decision-making style that assumes that he is not under time pressure to make decisions. It is not clear to anyone what his decision-making style in a crisis will look like. Though not a prime consideration from the Iranian point of view, putting Obama in a position where he is psychologically unprepared for decisions in the timeframe they need to be made in is certainly an added benefit. Iran, of course, doesn’t know how effectively he might respond, but his approach to Afghanistan gives them another incentive to act sooner than later. There are some parallels here to the nuclear warfare theory, in which each side faces mutual assured destruction. The problem here is that each side does not face destruction, but pain. And here, pre-emptive strikes are not guaranteed to produce anything. It is the vast unknowns that make this affair so dangerous, and at any moment, one side or the other might decide they can wait no longer.
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DTN News: US Wasted Billions On Iraq ~ Reports

DTN News: US Wasted Billions On Iraq ~ Reports *Source: Press TV (NSI News Source Info) - December 22, 2009: A Pentagon study has warned the Obama administration over spending on the Afghan war by revealing that the US Army wasted billions of dollars on the Iraq war. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks to soldiers at F.O.B. Warrior in Kirkuk December 11, 2009. Gates said on Friday that Arab and Kurdish leaders in Iraq were moving toward settling their differences and he urged them to form an inclusive government quickly after a March vote.
The US administration spent billions of dollars by employing a large number of private sectors in Iraq, the report released by German website Welt Online said. More than 60 percent of Americans working for US Defense Department in Afghanistan are from private sectors, according to the report.
Last week, the Congressional Research Service reported that the surge of 30,000 US troops into Afghanistan could vastly expand the presence of personnel from the US private sector. The report noted that it expects an additional 26,000 to 56,000 contractors to be sent to Afghanistan.
That would bring the number of contractors in the country to anywhere from 130,000 to 160,000. There are currently 104,000 Defense Department contractors working in Afghanistan under Pentagon supervision, the study said.
The Pentagon report also indicated that the number of American private sectors employees in Afghanistan increased 40 percent from June to September 2009. The figure is expected to rise after President Barack Obama announced his plan to send more troops to the war-torn country. The proportion of employees by armed services that are in fact mercenary companies like Blackwater have risen within the past few months from an estimated 5,000 to more than 10,000 workers.
Meanwhile, the report said that the war in Afghanistan had cost $ 230 billion thus far, adding that the administration has requested another $ 70 billion for 2010, bringing the total cost of the Afghanistan war to $ 300 billion. The US Defense Department needs 3.6 billion dollars monthly for staying in Afghanistan, the Pentagon report concluded.
Disclaimer statement Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied herein, DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated, opinions expressed herein are those of the author of the page and do not necessarily represent the corporate views of DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News.

DTN News: Israel Gives Response To Hamas Prisoner Swap Offer

DTN News: Israel Gives Response To Hamas Prisoner Swap Offer *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) JERUSALEM, Israel - December 22, 2009: Israel has relayed its response to a proposed prisoner swap with Hamas militants, including a list of Palestinian prisoners it wants deported if the deal to trade hundreds of them for a single captive Israeli soldier goes through, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.Cardboard cut-outs of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit during a protest outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, calling for Shalit's release on December 21, 2009. Netanyahu held marathon talks with cabinet ministers on Monday on a prisoner swap with Gaza's Hamas rulers as the parents of the captive soldier held a vigil outside his office. A whirlwind of activity at the highest levels of the Israeli government in recent days had suggested a deal to swap 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails for 23-year-old Sgt. Gilad Schalit, held by the militants for 3 1/2 years, could be close. Israeli officials wrapped up marathon top-level debates on the Hamas offer early Tuesday without announcing a decision. But the fact that no more meetings were scheduled indicated that an answer might have been agreed on.Noam Shalit, father of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit during a protest outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, calling for Shalit's release December 21, 2009. Netanyahu held marathon talks with cabinet ministers on Monday on a prisoner swap with Gaza's Hamas rulers as the parents of the captive soldier held a vigil outside his office. Israel Radio did not give further details on Israel's response. An Israeli government official would not confirm the radio report but he said the question of whether certain prisoners would return to the West Bank or be deported was "clearly" an issue in the discussions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the details of the talks. Hamas had no comment, and it wasn't clear whether it had yet received Israel's answer from a German official mediating the negotiations. A Palestinian close to the negotiations had said the German mediator carrying Hamas' proposal had given Israel until Wednesday to take respond. The Palestinian, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the talks, said there would be no further negotiations. Prisoner swaps are controversial in Israel because of their potential to encourage militants to take more hostages. But the drawn-out plight of Schalit and his family has touched many hearts in Israel, where military service is compulsory and families expect the army to do all it can to protect their children. Bringing Schalit home could boost Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu domestically, given the Israeli public's deep concern for the young soldier's fate. But it could also hurt the prime minister's standing among Israelis who feel releasing prisoners convicted of violence would only invite more bloodshed. Israel has balked at meeting the Hamas demand to release Palestinians convicted of particularly shocking violence, such as the bombing of a Passover celebration that killed 30 people in 2002. It also wants some prisoners deported to Gaza or overseas, rather than to their West Bank homes, on the assumption they would be less able to harm Israel from the isolated coastal strip along the Mediterranean. Since Gaza's bloody takeover by militants in 2007, Palestinian territories have been split between the West Bank, controlled by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, and the Gaza Strip, run by militant Hamas.