Target Centermass


Runners for Kofi Annan’s job

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:33 pm

I’ll admit that I cannot wait for the end of Kofi Annan’s posting at Turtle Bay, but there is no guarantee that his successor will be any better. Indeed, given the United Nation’s long-running record of corruption, inaction punctuated by meaningless action, and willingness to be highjacked by the whims of despotic regimes, I find actually little hope for improvement. Still, there is that little hope, so here’s a look at the current leading contenders for Kofi’s replacement.

Kofi Annan is in the middle of his last UN General Assembly session as Secretary General. He must stand down by the end of the year, and the race to succeed him is gathering pace.

Six people are in the running, but it is possible that Mr Annan’s successor will not be among them. There is still time for others to throw their hats into the ring.

Traditionally, the UN Security Council recommends a candidate and the 192-member General Assembly approves the choice.

The piece goes on to give a little background on each of the following:

  • Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Afghanistan
  • Ban Ki-moon, South Korea
  • Prince Zeid Al-Hussein, Jordan
  • Surakiart Sathirathai, Thailand
  • Shashi Tharoor, India
  • President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Latvia


Links o’ the Day

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:14 pm

Link dumps — the I’m-watching-football-tonight way of blogging.

Dean Esmay: Helping Us Through A Crisis
Help this fine member of my blogroll out if you can.

Iraq takes control of armed forces

British and United States troops yesterday handed over control of Iraq’s armed forces to its own government – a move described by US officials as a crucial step, but which still leaves most of the country’s security under direct coalition control.


The US-led multinational forces in Iraq, commanded by General George Casey, have been giving orders to the new Iraqi armed forces via a joint chain of command. But now the chain of command flows directly from the Iraqi prime minister in his role as commander-in-chief.

The Iraqi army is made up of ten divisions, now numbering about 130,000 troops, and the Iraqis are expected to take over more divisions from the coalition in the coming months, although there is no exact timetable.

Maj-Gen William Caldwell, a US military spokesman, has indicated that the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, will make the final decision on how quickly his military assumes control over new divisions.

“They can move as rapidly … as they want. I know, conceptually, they’ve talked about perhaps two divisions a month,” he said.

Mr Maliki described the move as a great step forward. “The Iraqi army now, by the courage of its people and its sons in the Iraqi army, rebuilds itself again,” he said.

In a word, significant.

U.S. Air Force officer goes missing in Kyrgyz capital

A U.S. Air Force officer stationed at the air base near Bishkek disappeared while shopping in the Kyrgyz capital, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Maj. Jill Metzger, of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, was separated from a group of servicemen while visiting a department store on Tuesday afternoon and has not been seen since, officials at the Manas air base said in a statement.

It said a group of 22 U.S. military investigators and logistics officers were searching for Metzger together with the U.S. Embassy and Kyrgyz security and law enforcement services.

Op-For‘s John has more on the story, including an interesting cultural aspect of the country that could play an ominous, though I feel highly unlikely, role.

Iraq Hawks: Getting “Outside the Narrative”

Now that we’ve established the worldview and analytical tendencies of the “dead-end Iraq War supporter,” also known as “me,” an honest reassessment of the war requires stepping outside of comfortable narratives while avoiding seductive replacements. Without diminishing the value of the struts that support my established point of view – distrust of the media, patience, a belief in the subtlety of deep trends that come to dominate large historical changes, etc – the challenge is to establish an emotionless, rational framework for analysis; a framework that goes deeper than both the BIG philosophy and the splintered, conflicting snippets of war’s progress.

Give it a read to see where he’s coming from and exactly where he hopes to reach. INDC Bill has just set himself to large task, and the road could be interesting to follow.

Three Indicted for Sending U.S. Secrets, Equipment to Yemen

Three naturalized U.S. citizens were indicted by a federal grand jury in California for allegedly acquiring secret U.S. defense information and stolen military equipment and conspiring to send them to Yemen.

The four-count indictment for conspiracy to possess and transmit defense information, attempted unlawful export of defense articles and related charges was handed up Aug. 31 and unsealed today, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said.

The men face five to 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000 to $1 million on each count.

“We will use all appropriate legal means at our disposal to detect, disrupt, and hold accountable those who seek to do us harm, whether they act within or outside our borders,” Scott said in a statement.

Ahmen Ahmed Ali, 56, of Bakersfield, California, allegedly received secret defense documents from a government undercover agent and transmitted them to Yemen by fax or courier between June 2005 and August 2006, according to the indictment.

He allegedly conspired with Mohamed Al-Rahimi, 62, of Bakersfield, to receive stolen government property, and with Ibrahim A. Omer, of Fort Worth, Texas, to ship military items such as body armor and chemical protective suits to Yemen.

Though the names might hint at something, as would the ties to Yemen, don’t think for a second that any particular religion will be mentioned in the story.

After 5 Years, OBL Releases New Video with 9-11 Killers

Maybe This Will Stop the 9-11 Conspiracy Theorists!…
How many time does OBL have to take credit for these murderous attacks on innocent Americans before people get it?

Gateway Pundit, though a fine blogger, obviously doesn’t understand conspiracy theorists. They only need a target; the route to that destination can be ever changing. Now it can be claimed that Osama was but a pawn. He was made better, stronger, faster by that evil and far-reaching New World Order comprised of Bush (either, any if one includes Jeb), Cheney, Halliburton, the famed military-industrial complex (the violent video game and car magnet industries included), and Pizza Hut. Hey, scoff if you will at that last one, but I’ll wager a lot of pizzas were ordered as America was generally glued to its TV sets in the days following 9/11. I don’t know, maybe it was Domino’s. Pizza Hut sucks too much to attain the level of evil required.

Chafee Delays Vote on Bolton Nomination

Sen. Lincoln Chafee has pulled the plug on a push by his fellow Republicans to confirm John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, saying he had more questions that needed to be answered.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was expected to vote along party lines during a committee meeting Thursday to approve Bolton. But the panel postponed the vote after Chafee, R-R.I., expressed doubt.

“Sen. Chafee said he still had questions that were not answered,” said the senator’s spokesman, Stephen Hourahan.

Boo! Hiss! C’mon, confirm the man already. Despite earlier concerns, Bolton has represented U.S. interests well so far at the worthlessness that is the United Nations and has not yet, as previously feared, threatened other diplomats for their lunch money or gone on a well-deserved wedgie-spree. The man’s restraint has been remarkable.

‘Goat-free roads made me speed’

A Swiss man caught speeding on a Canadian highway has blamed his actions on the absence of goats on the roads.

The man was caught driving at 161 km/h (100mph) in a 100 km/h (60mph) zone.

A traffic officer’s notes said the Swiss driver had said he was taking advantage “of the ability to go faster without risking hitting a goat”.

Canadian police spokesman Joel Doiron said he had never found a goat on the highways of eastern Ontario in his 20 years of service.

“Nobody’s ever used the lack of goats here as an excuse for speeding,” Mr Doiron told the AFP news agency.

“I’ve never been to Switzerland, but I guess there must be a lot of goats there,” he said.

Headline of the freakin’ day. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.


Italy Steps in with Lebanon Troop Offer

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:46 pm

Bravo for the Italians and their willingness to show leadership after France unsurprisingly faltered.

Italy has said it would be willing to lead a force to police the ceasefire in southern Lebanon.

But Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema warned his country could only fulfil its offer if Israel respected the truce, now in its ninth day.

Israel says it shot three suspected Hezbollah fighters in south Lebanon late on Monday, although this was denied by the militant group.

The incident shows just how fragile the ceasefire is, correspondents say.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said his country was willing to lead the planned international force – a task that was initially expected to go to France.


Mr D’Alema said Italy could offer up to 3,000 troops – the most substantial offer so far.


Italy’s “positive role” has been welcomed by the Lebanese cabinet, Information Minister Gazi Afridi said.

Israel has also said it would be happy if Italy led the force.

UN Resolution 1701 calls for 15,000 troops to be deployed to uphold the ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon.

But some countries have been reluctant to commit troops because they fear their soldiers might get drawn into conflict if they are required to disarm Hezbollah directly.

France had been expected to lead the peacekeeping force, but offered only 200 troops after expressing concern about the lack of a clear mandate.

Deputy UN Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown said he was still hopeful that European countries, including France, would commit more forces.

Hezbollah was unfazed during the most recent UN deployment, sometimes setting up shop immediately adjacent to UN sites. Still, with a large chunk of Italians now planned to be in the mix, one must wonder if this will still be the case. Even the Hezbo terrorists have to have a limit on how much World Cup 2006 bragging can be endured.


U.S. Demands Action, Global Yawn Expected

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:45 pm

My, but we Americans are a demanding and, at times, pathetically optimistic bunch.

On Iran:
U.S. demands swift action for Iran’s nuclear noncompliance

As the deadline set by the UN approaches, the US is pushing for swift sanctions against Iran for its lack of compliance with the international committee’s demand to stop its nuclear enrichment program, American officials said Monday.

Iran is expected to provide its response to the European incentive package on Tuesday, but the US is looking ahead to the UN deadline set August 31. Sources in Washington speculated that the Iranian response to the incentive package would not be conclusive, yet would include no sign of willingness to stop the uranium enrichment process.

US President George W. Bush said Monday he hoped the international community moved quickly to impose sanctions against Iran in case it decides to go ahead with its nuclear project.

On Lebanon:
UN force must be deployed immediately, says Bush

George Bush called yesterday for the urgent deployment of a UN force in southern Lebanon, while offering American help with logistics, communications and intelligence. He also urged France to contribute more troops.

Mr Bush was speaking as the week-old ceasefire was in danger of unravelling, following an Israeli raid into Lebanon and an increasing reluctance among European countries to contribute soldiers to an expanded UN force.

Under the terms of a UN resolution passed this month, the force was to number 15,000 and be joined by a similar contingent of Lebanese government troops at the southern border, providing a buffer between Hizbullah and Israel.

But France, which was supposed to lead the expanded UN force, has offered only 200 troops, while Israel has blocked the participation of countries with which it has no diplomatic relations, ruling out Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

Romano Prodi, Italy’s prime minister, said yesterday he was willing to accept Israel’s request for it to command the peacekeeping force, but said that the UN secretary general would have the final say in who should lead the peacekeepers.

On Sudan:
U.S. Urges UN Force in Darfur ‘Without Delay’

The United States Monday called on the government of Sudan to allow deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur “without delay.” The current African Union observer mission in the region is ill-equipped and under-funded, and lost two members killed in an ambush Saturday.

Officials here are pointing to Saturday’s ambush as further evidence of a deteriorating security situation in Darfur that they say requires the early deployment of a full-scale U.N. peace force.

The United States and Britain last week introduced a resolution in the Security Council that would re-make the current African Union mission in Darfur into a United Nations peacekeeping force.

But the Sudanese government continues to oppose the idea, with President Omar al-Bashir threatening to forcibly resist its introduction.

Of these three stories, I expect the U.N. and the global community to respond quickly with grumblings, stutterings and grandiose pronouncements of nothingness, respectively. If not respectively, then in any order the reader elects to apply the three courses of inaction to the three stories.


Israel-Hezbollah-Syria Link Dump

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:56 pm

To quote Tanner Boyle: Crud!

Nothing really tonight from me. Oh, there was going to be something about the cease-fire in southern Lebanon that I was working on while bouncing back and forth between this and my real job, and I was well on may way to stringing together several different items when my Firefox browser bit the dust. Now I’m just going to see if I can gather up all or some of the pieces I was trying to intricately weave together into a coherent read and, instead, salvage a bit of a link dump.

Krauthammer: A Moment to Be Seized in Lebanon

The charm of any U.N. Security Council resolution lies in the preamble, which invariably begins by “recalling” all previous resolutions on the same subject that have been entirely ignored, therefore necessitating the current resolution. Hence newly minted Resolution 1701: Before mandating the return of south Lebanon to Lebanese government control, it lists the seven Security Council resolutions going back 28 years that have demanded the same thing.

We are to believe, however, that this time the United Nations means it. Yet, the fact that responsibility for implementation is given to Kofi Annan’s office — not known for integrity, competence or neutrality — betrays a certain unseriousness about the enterprise from the very beginning.

Now, it is true that had Israel succeeded militarily in its strategic objectives, there would have been no need for any resolution. Israel would have unilaterally cleaned out south Lebanon and would be dictating terms.

But that did not happen. The first Israel-Hezbollah war ended in a tie, and in this kind of warfare, tie goes to the terrorist.

Read it all.

Under-equipped, under pressure: the Lebanese Army rolls in after an absence of four decades

Nawal hurled a fistful of grains into the air showering a Lebanese Army Jeep with rice, startling the young officer trying to navigate his armoured column through the narrow streets of this southern town.

“We have waited a long, long time for this,” said Nawal, who lined up on her balcony with three generations of her family to wave at the young soldiers below. “Finally we feel we are part of Lebanon once again.”

The scene was repeated in towns and villages across the south of the country yesterday, when some 2,500 Lebanese soldiers returned to a region from which the Army has been virtually absent for nearly 40 years. In the 1970s the area was largely under the control of Palestinian guerrillas, in the 1980s Israel occupied much of the region and in the 1990s and until yesterday it was governed by Hezbollah, the militant Shia Muslim militia.

Under orders to secure the Lebanese-Israeli border and disarm anyone with an unauthorised weapon, Brigadier General Charles Sheikhani said that his troops were up to the job. The initial force will be strengthened over the coming weeks until 15,000 soldiers are deployed alongside UN peacekeepers.

I’m currently doubtful about this story for three reasons: I don’t think the Lebanese will go to any great length to disarm Hezbollah, I will possibly believe that the Lebanese army and the U.N. peacekeepers have the slightest chance of being even somewhat effective only when I see the actual boots on the ground in the numbers called for, and I’m still bitter that this is the story that killed my browser and my earlier work.

So, the region stands now at a cease-fire and yet another worthless U.N. resolution. Who won? I doubt anybody did … yet. Israel could have, but played their cards too tightly for fear of excessive collateral damage in light of a world that has been historically way too eager to condemn its efforts. Did Hezbollah and its accompanying parental units of Syria and Iran win just by avoiding obliteration? Possibly but, as I said, the big “yet” looms near. Still, that doesn’t mean that Syria will not hesitate to take the wrong lessons from the fight.

Syria warns Israel over Golan

Syria has warned Israel that the occupation of the Golan Heights “cannot last forever” and said Syrians will emulate Hizbollah to recover their land.

“We say to the forces occupying our land that our people warn you that they will not allow our land to be occupied forever,” the government’s daily Ath-Thawra said.

“You must understand that our people will fight the way the Lebanese resistance (Hizbollah) fought you,” it added.

“Our people will fight you … on every inch of the Golan,” it said.

However, the newspaper urged decision-makers in Israel “to open up to new perspectives”, noting that some in the Jewish state were in favour of making peace with Syria.

“The leaders of this expansionist entity have a choice: either they heed the voice of reason that prohibits them from violating other people’s rights or they will face action similar to that carried out by the Lebanese resistance.”

Syria has repeatedly demanded the return of the Golan Heights which Israel conquered in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed in 1981.

Why stop at just the Golan?

Assad: Future generations will find a way to defeat IDF

Syrian President Bashar Assad congratulated Hezbollah yesterday for what he described as their success in “defeating Israel.” Assad said that the members of the resistance used their “will, determination and faith” to counter Israeli arms, enabling them to defeat Israel.

“The resistance is necessary as much as it is natural and legitimate,” he said. Assad said this war revealed the limitations of Israel’s military power.


Assad said that the United States’ plan for a “new Middle East” has collapsed after what he described as Hezbollah’s success in fighting against Israel, and warned Israel to seek peace or risk defeat in the future.

“They should know that they are before a historic crossroads. Either they move toward peace and the return of [Arab] rights, or they move in the direction of continued instability until one generation decides the matter,” he said.

Ah, there we have it, threats on the Golan aren’t enough. Now we already have essentially the old threat of Israel’s destruction, of pushing the Jews into the sea. Surely Syria must recognize the difference between engaging a hesitant IDF, assaulting Hezbollah in southern Lebanon but playing on the stage of global public relations, and an IDF that would face Syria on the Golan Heights and certainly on any incursion into Israel.

Yes, this is mere bluster on the part of the Syrians. Still, it is bluster that has shown they have no interest in a lasting peace that includes Israel, and it is bluster that has triggered a somewhat surprising diplomatic rebuke.

Opinion: A Time to Say “No”

Because of the Syrian president’s belligerent rhetoric, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had no choice but to cancel his visit to Syria, says DW’s Peter Philipp.

At some point, one should be able to say “no.” This happens all too rarely in international diplomacy, because it is simply characteristic of diplomats to stay non-committal even when they disagree and continue as if nothing had happened. That’s a false understanding of international communication, because diplomacy increasingly appears as a business without backbone or conscience.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s decision to cancel his visit to the Syrian capital Damascus on short notice is a positive deviation from the above scenario. In his speech before Steinmeier’s arrival, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made it clear that there was no longer a reason for this visit.

Not because he described Israel as the “enemy.” Israel is that, as long as the two states are officially at war with each other. But Assad went further than that: He rejected the peace efforts in the Middle East. Although the Syrian president spoke about his country’s readiness for peace, he added that this would not apply to Israel. Who does Assad want to make peace with, if not with the enemy of today? One could almost conclude that he doesn’t want peace at all. And that that is why he is disqualifying himself as a constructive partner in the permanent Middle East settlement.

Not that any of those supposed revelations haven’t been obvious for more than half a century, mind you, but at least Germany showed a moment of enlightenment.


Security Council Delays Iran Meeting

Filed under: — Gunner @ 9:48 pm

The U.N. Security Council once again stands forth as a shining example of impotence.

The U.N. Security Council postponed a meeting Tuesday on Iran’s suspect nuclear program as the West searched for new ways to break a deadlock with Russia and China over the best way to pressure Tehran, diplomats said.

The decision came after senior diplomats from the five veto-wielding members of the council and Germany made little headway on bridging their differences during a 4 1/2-hour meeting Monday evening. Diplomats said Russia was the main holdout, with China following behind.

That deadlock has forced Britain, France and Germany — the European troika leading negotiations on Iran — to reopen the text of a statement that would be the first Security Council response. Diplomats will focus on bilateral talks to try to find an agreement, they said Tuesday.

“We’ll just keep working on it,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said.

The United States and its European allies want a statement reiterating demands by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, the process that can be used to generate nuclear power or make nuclear weapons.

Get that? The council cannot even make progress towards a statement. Is there any realistic hope for some action that could be considered resolute or decisive from this bunch on the Iranian nuclear hunt? I’m thinking not.


At the Movies with the United Nations

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:19 pm

The good:

Govts should pay for cartoon protest: UN

Iran, Syria and other governments that failed to protect foreign embassies from mobs protesting over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed should pay for the damage, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

The cartoons’ publication in a Danish newspaper have triggered widespread protests across the Muslim world including violent attacks on Western diplomatic offices in a number of countries.

“The government has a responsibility to prevent these things from happening. They should have stopped it, not just in Syria or Iran but all around,” Annan said.

“Not having stopped it, I hope they will pick up the bill for the destruction that has been caused to all the foreign countries,” he told CNN.

“They should be prepared to pay for the damage done to Danish, Norwegian and the other embassies concerned.”

The bad:

UN report calls for closure of Guantánamo

A UN inquiry into conditions at Guantánamo Bay has called on Washington to shut down the prison, and says treatment of detainees in some cases amounts to torture, UN officials said yesterday.

The report also disputes the Bush administration’s legal arguments for the prison, which was sited at the navy base in Cuba with the purpose of remaining outside the purview of the US courts, and says there has been insufficient legal process to decide whether detainees continued to pose a threat to the US.

The report, prepared by five envoys from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and due for release tomorrow, is bound to deepen international criticism of the detention centre. Drafts of the report were leaked to the Los Angeles Times and the Telegraph newspapers, but UN envoys refused to comment yesterday.

During an 18-month investigation, the envoys interviewed freed prisoners, lawyers and doctors to collect information on the detainees, who have been held for the last four years without access to US judicial oversight. The envoys did not have access to the 500 prisoners who are still being held at the detention centre.

“We very, very carefully considered all of the arguments posed by the US government,” Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture and one of the envoys, told the LA Times. “There are no conclusions that are easily drawn. But we concluded that the situation in several areas violates international law and conventions on human rights and torture.”

The report lists techniques in use at Guantánamo that are banned under the UN’s convention against torture, including prolonged periods of isolation, exposure to extremes of heat and cold, and humiliation, including forced shaving. [Note: humilition equals torture. Go figure.]

The UN report also focuses on a relatively new area of concern in Guantánamo – the resort to violent force-feeding to end a hunger strike by inmates. [Note: certainly a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Imagine the outcry had they been allowed to starve. I say fine — let ’em starve.]

And the ugly:

Bush agrees to work with U.N. on international force for Darfur

In a move that ultimately could lead to the deployment of U.S. troops to Africa, President Bush on Monday agreed to work with the United Nations on the creation of a new international force to stop ethnic killings in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Although Bush made no commitments on a possible role for U.S. troops, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he favors American participation in the peacekeeping mission. Bush and Annan sidestepped that issue during a White House meeting that focused on the mechanics of creating a peacekeeping force.

“When the planning is done and we come up with detailed requirements, then each government will have to indicate what they will offer and what they will do,” Annan told CNN after the meeting. “I hope that the U.S. and other governments with capacity will pull together and work with us in putting the forces on the ground.”

Annan said that international troops offer the best hope for ending the violence that’s claimed as many as 200,000 lives and left nearly 2 million people homeless. Peacekeeping troops from neighboring African countries have been unable to stop marauding militias that operate with support from the Sudanese government.

The campaign of terror and ethnic cleansing, orchestrated by Sudanese Arabs, targets Darfur’s African population. Humanitarian groups say the violence rivals the slaughter in Rwanda in the 1990s.

Bush and other administration officials have shown little enthusiasm for putting U.S. troops in the middle of the ethnic strife, but they haven’t ruled it out. Bush, who has called the killings in Darfur genocide, didn’t even mention plans for an international force in brief remarks to reporters after his meeting with Annan.

He said only that they had “a good discussion” about the problem.

A State Department spokesman said that any discussion of sending U.S. troops to Africa is premature until the United Nations comes up with a more complete plan for an international force. The Pentagon is ready to send experts to U.N. headquarters in New York to help plan the peacekeeping mission and ensure that it has a large African component.

“It’s really premature to speculate about what the needs would be in terms of logistics, in terms of airlift, in terms of actual troops. And it’s certainly in that regard premature to speculate on what the U.S. contribution might be,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

One note about the ugly factor here: it is certainly an understatement to say the Sudanese situation is already quite ugly. Any U.S. military involvement only increases the potential for “Americanizing” the bloody mess.


Iran Threatens to Lock out UN

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:58 pm

Long-delayed move.

Immediate Iraninan counter.

Iran yesterday threatened to halt snap UN inspections of its nuclear sites and resume uranium enrichment if it is reported to the Security Council as agreed by the council’s five permanent members.

In an angry response to the move by Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States in the early hours of yesterday, Iran also warned it would hit back in the region if put under severe international pressure.


The agreement by the five permanent members of the Security Council to call for the IAEA to refer Iran to the full council, where it could face sanctions, was hailed by Tony Blair.

“I hope it’s sending a message that the international community is united,” the Prime Minister said.

But Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, responded angrily, amid signs that Russia and China are stalling over the issue.

He said: “We consider any referral or report of Iran to the Security Council as the end of diplomacy. If these countries use all their means … to put pressure on Iran, Iran will use its capacity in the region.”

It was not clear what regional capacities he meant. Analysts and diplomats say Iran, with its links to Islamist parties and militants, has the means to create trouble for the West in Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere.

You know, this is a rather tiring dance.

Tucked into the story is this little tidbit.

It also emerged yesterday that Iran has given the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a sensitive document that appears linked to nuclear warhead designs in a show of apparent openness designed to stave off being reported to the Security Council.

Diplomats said the one and a half page document, which described how to cast fissile uranium into the hemispherical shape of warheads, was given to IAEA inspectors last week.

This is good news, assuming that Iran’s thirst for thermonuclear warfare technology took precedent over their acquiring the copying machine.


Dutch Debate Sending Troops to Afghanistan

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:53 pm

The Dutch parliament is set to vote on a commitment of troops to the more volatile southern provinces of Afghanistan and, surprisingly, Kofi Annan is campaigning in favor of the deployment.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is urging the Dutch parliament not to leave Canadian and British soldiers in the lurch in southern Afghanistan. Annan warns international efforts in Afghanistan may fail if the Dutch balk at the deployment of over 1,000 troops.

“No one can afford to see a destabilized Afghanistan in the region,” said Annan, speaking in The Hague. “We saw what it meant when Afghanistan was destabilized in the hands of the Taliban and terrorists. Do we want to go back to that?”

Yes, it isn’t very often that I find myself in complete concurrence with dear ol’ Kofi. Let’s cherish this moment.

Okay, that’s enough cherishing.

The Dutch government supports the move, but public opposition is growing over the increasing risks to troops in Afghanistan.

Dutch parliamentarians will vote on the issue on Thursday.

The Dutch forces would be part of a NATO-led mission. The Afghanistan operation is reviving bitter memories of other peacekeeping missions and stirring fresh debate among the people of the Netherlands.

It was just over 10 years ago that Dutch peacekeepers faced frustration and horror as they tried to operate in Srebrenica under a restrictive UN mandate. They ended up looking on as Serbs killed thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

This time, the public and politicians are asking a lot of questions.

I’ve said before that such questions and concerns are understandable in light of earlier Dutch involvement in a NATO misadventure.

Afghanistan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah even flew to The Hague to plead his nation’s case for Dutch help. Later, upon his arrival in London for an international conference on the future of his country, Abdullah hinted at his frustration.

“It’s good that these debates are underway,” he said, “but signs of hesitation will not help anybody.”

I don’t want too hang too much on the Dutch, who most assuredly have their own domest radical Islamist issues, but a vote against military involvement would only serve to strengthen my concerns about the future value of prolonging NATO’s existence.

Security Council to Review Iran Nuke Case

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:14 pm

Well, it’s about time the UNSC agreed to take a closer look at the Iranian quest for nukes. Actually, it’s well past time and, even now, too meekly begun.

The United States and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council agreed Tuesday that Iran should be hauled before that powerful body over its disputed nuclear program.

China and Russia, longtime allies and trading partners of Iran, signed on to a statement that calls on the U.N. nuclear watchdog to transfer the Iran dossier to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions or take other harsh action.

Foreign ministers from those nations, plus the United States, Britain and France, also said the Security Council should wait until March to take up the Iran case, after a formal report on Tehran’s activities from the watchdog agency.

Any of the five permanent members of the Security Council, all nuclear powers themselves, can veto an action voted by the full council membership.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other foreign ministers discussed Iran at a private dinner at the home of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. After the four-hour meeting, which spilled over into the early hours Tuesday, a joint statement called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to report the Iran case when it meets in Vienna on Thursday.

Foreign ministers from Germany and the European Union also attended the dinner and agreed to what amounted to a compromise – take the case to the Security Council but allow a short breather before the council undertakes what could be a divisive debate.

A short breather? I’m sure the Iranian nuclear program will use the interim just for catching its collective breath, hoping cooler heads prevail. That, or perhaps March will give the Iranians all the time they need to become a nuclear menace.

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