Dries Belet https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/6765/all cached version 07/07/2018 18:38:22 en Outrage in Kandahar after deadly NATO attack on Afghan bus https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/130410 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> NATO killings of Afghan civilians spark street protests in Kandahar. Obama presses Hu to collaborate on Iran sanctions. Kyrgyzstan’s defiant president ordered to yield. Israeli forces kill Palestinian militant near Gaza border. All this and more in today's security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>NATO&rsquo;s plans for winning over the population in southern Afghanistan suffered a major setback yesterday when US soldiers opened fire on a bus full of civilians. The <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/rioters-vent-fury-at-us-after-nato-troops-kill-afghan-civilians-on-bus-1943016.html">killing</a> of four passengers, including a woman and a child, and the wounding of more than a dozen others ignited anti-American demonstrations on the streets of Kandahar. Furious Afghan men assembled on a highway to protest, burning tyres and chanting &ldquo;Death to America&rdquo; and &ldquo;Death to Karzai, death to this government&rdquo;.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" align="left" /></a>The bus had come up at high speed behind a slow-moving convoy that was on a bomb-clearing patrol outside of Kandahar, NATO said in a <a href="http://www.isaf.nato.int/en/article/isaf-releases/joint-team-assessing-civilian-casualty-incident-in-zhari.html">statement</a>. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stated its troops used a flashlight, three flares, and hand signals in an attempt to &ldquo;warn off&rdquo; the driver of the vehicle, which he ignored. They then opened fire on the bus, perceiving it as a threat due to the velocity of its approach. The incident occurred before dawn, making it difficult for the soldiers to identify the vehicle as a passenger bus. &ldquo;Once engaged, the vehicle then stopped&rdquo;, NATO added. The coalition has said it &ldquo;deeply regrets the tragic loss of life&rdquo;.</p> <p>Contrary to what NATO says, <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iO3mAel2Ro1twkNo2eQ1EGZ9gO9Q">some</a> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/12/AR2010041200761_2.html">witnesses</a> claim the firing erupted without any warning or signals, when the bus was still 80 to 100 metres behind the convoy in the Zhari district. The governor of Kandahar province, Tooryalai Wesa, excoriated American forces and <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2010/04/13/deadly_us_attack_on_afghan_bus_sparks_outrage/">demanded</a> that the troops&rsquo; commander be prosecuted under military law. President Karzai called the shooting &ldquo;unjustifiable&rdquo;, and said that &ldquo;firing on a passenger bus is against the NATO commitment to save civilian lives.&rdquo; Since last summer, over 30 innocent civilians have been killed and more than 80 wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings by ISAF forces.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em> </strong>The deadly incident could hardly have come at a worse time for the NATO mission, which is preparing a grand offensive to secure Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban. Operation &lsquo;Omid&rsquo; (&lsquo;hope&rsquo;) is widely considered a key test of Obama&rsquo;s troop surge; however, NATO&rsquo;s strategy to root out the Taliban by winning over the local population has now been dealt a grave blow. <em><a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7095153.ece">The Times</a></em> reported that elders in Kandahar believe people have lost all confidence in the foreign troops. &ldquo;The operation hasn&rsquo;t even started yet, but every day they kill civilians&rdquo;, Haji Wali Jan said. &ldquo;If they are afraid of a bus, how can they continue with an operation in Kandahar?&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="http://www.newsweek.com/id/216237">General Stanley McChrystal</a>, who assumed the ISAF command in June 2009, has already overhauled NATO&rsquo;s strategy in order to focus more on protecting the population and winning their &lsquo;hearts and minds&rsquo;. To limit so called "collateral damage", the killing of civilians during operations against the Taliban, he limited recall to air strikes and home raids. However, risks remain and high-profile incidents have continued to attract negative attention to NATO forces. On 22 February, an airstrike in Uruzgan killed over twenty people mistaken for insurgents; ten days earlier, a night raid by US special forces near Gardez, in the southeast, killed five people including two pregnant women. After the fatal airstrike some ISAF soldiers in Kandahar <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/12/AR2010041200761.html">reported</a> that local residents became markedly more antagonistic towards them, throwing rocks and spitting at the troops.</p> <p>The incident is another weight on scales set against a NATO victory in Kandahar and the rest of southern Afghanistan. National polls over the last year have indicated that support for NATO has been decreasing and now hangs in the balance, with the Kandahar population outwardly supportive of the Taliban estimated at <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5iYjZZav4XXCcV7YdoG6quKWnB4tw" target="_blank">a quarter or more</a>. Recent civilian casualties are likely to gain the insurgency critical local backing and freedom of movement throughout a city that is only nominally under government control. Only hours after yesterday&rsquo;s incident, Taliban suicide bombers stormed the Afghan intelligence agency&rsquo;s office in Kandahar..</p> <p>Looking at the accidental killings of civilians also sheds some light on President Karzai&rsquo;s recent <a href="../../../../../../../../opensecurity/security_briefings/020410">scathing attacks</a> on western ISAF forces, their governments, and the UN. It is conceivable that Hamid Karzai is truly enraged and distressed by the civilian killings, as <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/12/AR2010041200761.html">evidenced</a> by his reaction to an Afghan boy who lost his legs in the airstrike in February. Still, emotional outbursts by Karzai notwithstanding, there are likely additional motivations behind his scolding of the western governments.</p><p>By distancing himself from the US and NATO, Karzai gains vital support from domestic groups in Afghanistan, enabling him to strengthen his central government. While NATO should be glad at any shift away in power from the insurgents to the government in Kabul, Karzai&rsquo;s scolding of the ISAF forces is not free from risk: it could further magnify Afghan resentment against foreign troops.</p> <p>Moreover, US analysts <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/world/asia/05karzai.html">worry</a> about Karzai moving closer to powers like Iran and China, and the expansion of geopolitical rivalry over influence in Afghanistan, where Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia, China, the EU and the US have all made significant investments. Such a development could see the intensification of a multiparty conflict in Afghanistan, such as occured in the prelude to the Taliban's assent to power, and the spread of the conflict beyond the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The deteriorating relations between Karzai and his increasingly reluctant international backers will prove crucial, and mass civilian casualties will be centre-stage in this ongoing row.</p> <p><strong>Obama presses Hu to collaborate on Iran sanctions</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday China edged slightly closer to endorsing sanctions on Iran, pledging to work with the US on a UN resolution, after talks between President Obama and Chinese president Hu Jintao. In a ninety-minute meeting yesterday, before the opening of a nuclear summit in Washington, Obama brought up both the topic of Iran and concerns about China&rsquo;s undervalued currency.</p> <p>American officials <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/world/14summit.html">said</a> the Chinese president basically agreed to assist in crafting a new UN Security Council resolution on Iran&rsquo;s nuclear programme. Today the Chinese foreign ministry nuanced these remarks, saying it wanted any Security Council action to work towards a diplomatic way out of the dilemma. A spokesperson <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/13/AR2010041300893.html">mentioned</a> the need &ldquo;to promote a fitting solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations,&rdquo; and added that &ldquo;sanctions and pressure cannot fundamentally resolve the issues.&rdquo; It is quite likely that Chinese negotiators will seek to water down any UN resolutions proposed by America or Europe, as they have done with the three previous resolutions on Iran, negotiated under president George W. Bush.</p> <p>Hu Jintao&rsquo;s attendence at the nuclear summit is in itself viewed as a <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/01/us-china-extend-thaw-relations">positive sign for US-China relations</a>, which were frayed after disputes over US arms sales to Taiwan, a visit to Washington by the Dalai Lama, trade imbalances, and suspected Chinese cyber-attacks on US firms including Google. At the nuclear summit Obama is expected to try and isolate Iran on its nuclear programme, which experts fear is designed to produce nuclear weapons.</p> <p><strong>Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s defiant president ordered to yield&nbsp; </strong></p> <p>Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s interim leaders <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE63C0U020100413?type=marketsNews">gave</a> the deposed president,&nbsp;Kurmanbek Bakiyev, an ultimatum on Tuesday: return to the capital of Bishkek, or face arrest. The provisional government stripped the president of his immunity and <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0676e16a-46e7-11df-bb5a-00144feab49a.html">threatened</a> he would be detained by special forces if he failed to surrender before the end of the day.</p> <p>The ousted president has continued to <a href="../../../../../../../../opensecurity/security_briefings/120410">resist</a>, leading a <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gftEZqRpYfKNQ8rN2RxoHy3X6zUg">rally</a> of several thousand people in Jalalabad today, after having fled from the capital for his power base in the south of the country. &ldquo;Let them try to come and take me,&rdquo; Bakiyev challenged Kyrgyzstan&rsquo;s new rulers on Monday after another rally. &ldquo;Let them try to destroy me. There will be blood,&rdquo; he warned.</p> <p>Bakiyev claims the decisions made by the interim government are &ldquo;not legitimate&rdquo;. Bloody riots in Bishkek led to him losing control over the government and the capital last week.</p> <p><strong>Israeli forces kill Palestinian militant near Gaza border</strong></p> <p>Israeli troops killed one Palestinian gunman and wounded three others during a clash in the Gaza strip, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2010/04/13/world/international-uk-palestinians-israel-violence.html">according</a> to the Israeli military and Palestinian medics. The Israelis opened fire as militants of the group Islamic Jihad tried to plant explosives near the Israel-Gaza boundary, an Israeli army spokesman and Palestinians <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/world/middleeast/14gaza.html">said</a>. The Islamic Jihad group, a radical rival of the ruling Hamas party, <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ioi_0jtO9RjMwPNRoXNCndRPRq3gD9F1VRRG0">confirmed</a> it had <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/04/201041354732107366.html">sent</a> the attackers to strike at Israeli forces along Gaza&rsquo;s eastern border, and that the militants came under fire from Israeli tanks and a helicopter.</p> <p>The Isreali army <a href="http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=173007">reported</a> that its troops advanced 200 metres into Palestinian territory near the Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza strip. It said that the attempted terrorist attack was foiled, but that troops were still investigating the area for more bombs that could possibly have been planted.</p> <p>Hamas has generally tried to stick to the cease-fire it reached with Israel after the three-week Gaza war in January 2009. However, smaller militant groups continue to carry out attacks. On Sunday, Hamas briefly detained several Jihadists for attempting to launch rockets into Israel.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> China </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Kyrgyzstan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kandahar </div> <div class="field-item even"> Jalalabad </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Bishkek </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Bishkek Jalalabad Kandahar Israel Kyrgyzstan China Iran United States Afghanistan Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Taliban insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan Palestinian Israeli conflict Security Briefings Tue, 13 Apr 2010 13:46:55 +0000 Dries Belet 53673 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Leaked video shows US gunships killing Iraqi civilians https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/060410 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> WikiLeaks website posts video showing US helicopter attack on journalists and civilians. Obama to announce overhaul of US nuclear strategy. Maoist rebels kill over 70 police in India. Deadly series of bomb attacks rock Baghdad. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>A classified US military video, showing an Apache helicopter strafing Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, was leaked yesterday. In the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0">footage</a>, which was <a href="http://www.collateralmurder.com/">posted</a> on <a href="http://www.wikileaks.org/">WikiLeaks.org</a>, a US air crew can be seen firing upon a dozen or so Iraqis, including journalists and children, after mistaking the civilians&rsquo; cameras for weapons. The graphic video from July 2007, accompanied by the military&rsquo;s audio transmissions, shocks due to the pilots&rsquo; trigger-happy attitude. &ldquo;All right, haha, I hit &lsquo;em&rdquo;, one crewman shouts, followed a little later by another&rsquo;s response, &ldquo;Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards&rdquo;.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" align="left" /></a></p><p>WikiLeaks, a whistleblowers&rsquo; website that posts leaked documents online, says the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is9sxRfU-ik">video</a> is authentic, decrpyted footage from the camera of the helicopter involved the incident. WikiLeaks has not revealed its source, but Reuters and the Associated Press <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8603938.stm">obtained</a> confirmations from anonymous US military officials that the recording is genuine.</p> <p>Two of the victims, Saeed Cmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen, <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/04/05/iraq.photographers.killed/">were</a> Iraqi journalists employed by Reuters. After the initital air attack, the video shows a van drawing up next to a wounded man crawling on the sidewalk, who seems to be Cmagh. Next, unarmed Iraqis climb out and pick up the man in an apparent attempt to get him to safety, however the Apache resumes fire on the group of people and on the van. &ldquo;Oh yea, look at that,&rdquo; a crewmember says, &ldquo;Right through the windshield. Haha.&rdquo; When US ground troops arrive, they discover two wounded children in the minivan. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle&rdquo;, a voice adds.</p> <p>Reuters news editor-in-chief David Schlesinger has <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/05/AR2010040503898_2.html">stated</a> the video is &ldquo;graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result&rdquo;. Reuters has demanded that the US military conduct a full investigation into the incident. Previously, the Pentagon had blocked an attempt by Reuters to get hold of the video via a freedom of information request. In total, a sum of 139 journalists, nearly 120 of them Iraqis, have been killed in the war from 2003 to 2009, according to the <a href="http://cpj.org/reports/2008/07/journalists-killed-in-iraq.php">Committee To Protect Journalists</a>.</p> <p>After the attack, the US military <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8603938.stm">said</a> its helicopters had been engaged in combat operations against a hostile force. Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks, said he does not agree with the US military&rsquo;s assessment that the attack was justified. Assange accused the pilots involved of acting &ldquo;like in a videogame, with a desire to get high scores by killing people&rdquo;. WikiLeaks stated it has other videos in its possession, indetailing similar incidents in Afghanistan, which it plans to publish in the future.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em></strong><strong> </strong>The incident raises serious questions about the US military&rsquo;s rules of engagement. A key question is whether the video represents an isolated event that was tragic but very exceptional, or whether the actions and attitudes of the pilots are more commonplace. During the strafing run in the video, US rules of engagement were clearly inadequate, leading to the death of a dozen unarmed civilians due to US troops mistaking camera equipment for AK-47&rsquo;s and RPG&rsquo;s. In this instance, the military&rsquo;s rules for opening fire clearly did not restrain the wild use of airpower.</p> <p>The attack took place in 2007, after the start of the US troop surge. At the time, the situation in Iraq was critical for the American military, with daily casualty rates for troops and civilians well above their present levels. The Apache helicopter was patrolling the streets of the New Baghdad neighbourhood, were the fighting was worst and several helicopters had been shot down before.</p> <p>However, this argument does not account for the pilots&rsquo; mindset, which is shown to be very disturbing. The cheerful and light-hearted way in which the US crewmen talk about killing a group of Iraqis indicates, as Julian Assange has called it, a sort of corruption of the soldiers by war itself. &ldquo;All you gotta do is pick up a weapon,&rdquo; they can be heard exhorting a wounded man lying on the ground with no weapon in sight, their desire clearly being to finish him off. Should it emerge that the pilots had been taking amphetamines prior to the operation, as <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/heard01232003.html" target="_blank">most USAF pilots do</a>, the US military will have to again defend its stance on the proscription of these controversial stimulants. These kind of savage attitudes and aggressive gaming of the rules of engagement open an unsettling window on the soldiers&rsquo; minds.</p> <p>A thorough official investigation into the accident is called for. Accusations have come from several quarters about a cover-up of the attack by the Pentagon, and if US leaders do not want to suffer an international public image fall-out, they would do well to support an objective investigation. The footage could stimulate an intensive debate about the military&rsquo;s rules of engagement, and their impact on the US&rsquo;s reputation around the world, in particular in the middle-east and the Islamic world.</p> <p>Finally, the US authorities that have put WikiLeaks under &ldquo;aggressive and intensive&rdquo; <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2010/0403/1224267602790.html">surveillance</a> should respect the first amendment of their own constitution. Even though authorities might be seriously inconvenienced by the publication of this kind of sensitive material, they need to recognize the freedom of the press; attempts at further suppression are unlikely to go unnoticed and will only tarnish the reputation of the US military and government further.</p><p><strong>Obama to announce overhaul of US nuclear strategy</strong></p> <p>US President Barack Obama is set to <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/06/obama-us-nuclear-weapons-strategy">announce</a> a new US nuclear strategy today. He is expected to significantly curtail the circumstances underwhich the US would use nuclear weapons and renounce the development of new nuclear armaments.</p> <p>In an <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/world/06arms.html?ref=global-home">interview</a> with <em>The New York Times, </em>Obama said the new strategy would rule out nuclear retaliation against attacks involving conventional, biological, and chemical weapons. In addition, the US would commit to never use nukes against non-nuclear countries that adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, the president added that he would make an exception for &ldquo;outliers like Iran and North Korea&rdquo; that have violated or rejected the Treaty.</p> <p>The Obama administration&rsquo;s Nuclear Posture Review is <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/04/06/obama.nuclear.weapons/?hpt=T1">scheduled</a> to be announced two days before the president goes to Prague to sign a new arms reduction treaty with Russia. The new American policy has connected the reduction of its nuclear stockpile with its longstanding desire to halt nuclear proliferation and prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons. The focus will be on &ldquo;isolating countries that are flouting their obligations under the pact&rdquo; (the Non-Proliferation Treaty), a senior White House official <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/04/06/obama.nuclear.weapons/?hpt=T1">told</a> CNN.</p> <p>Obama is walking a <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/06/obama-us-nuclear-weapons-strategy">tightrope</a> between different factions in American politics. Conservatives accuse Obama of undermining national security, alleging that the limited circumstances for the use of nuclear weapons would weaken nuclear deterrence capabilities. Some liberals, on the other hand, think the president is not going far enough, and would like to see the nuclear first-strike option completely renounced.</p> <p><strong>Maoist rebels kill over 70 police in India</strong></p> <p>At least 73 Indian paramilitary officers were <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6350TV20100406">killed</a> today in an ambush by Maoist rebels. The police force was attacked by guerrilla fighters setting off explosives and firing from a series of hilltops around a dense forest in central India, <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/special-news-report/rssfeed/Maoists-attack-again-kill-73-CRPF-men-in-Dantewada/Article1-527667.aspx">officials</a> <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8604256.stm">say</a>.</p> <p>The ambush on the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force in the Dantewade district is the deadliest attack in years. &ldquo;Something has gone very wrong&rdquo;, India&rsquo;s home minister said, stating it seemed the CRPF forces had &ldquo;walked&rdquo; straight into an ambush.</p> <p>The Maoists have <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bae85986-415a-11df-adec-00144feabdc0.html">gained</a> traction across remote areas of India&rsquo;s neglected tribal belt. The local population in the Chhattisgarh region is impoverished and disgruntled about its social marginalisation. Rebel forces commit regular attacks on economic targets such as railways and factories located in the remote mining areas of India. Recently, the Indian security forces have launched a renewed, 50,000-troop strong offensive in several states against the rebels.</p> <p><strong>Deadly series of bomb attacks rock Baghdad</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday seven separate explosions <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hwK_CSpBxsNuVUEaDuOwmSSCiqGwD9ETGP1O1">struck</a> the centre of Baghdad, killing at least 39 people and wounding over 130 others. The bomb blasts, which follow several other violent attacks in the last few days, raise fears of Iraq descending again into sectarian violence. Militant attacks have spiked in the power vacuum that resulted after last month&rsquo;s election failed to deliver a clear winner.</p> <p>Seven separate explosions <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/04/06/iraq.explosions/">occurred</a> in mainly Shiite parts of Baghdad&rsquo;s residential neighbourhoods, demolishing entire apartment blocks. On Sunday, suicide car bombs killed at least 40 people near three embassies, Iraqi officials <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ac66e73c-4160-11df-adec-00144feabdc0.html">say</a>, while last Friday 24 people were shot as attackers in military uniforms assaulted a village south of the capital.</p> <p>The post-election political manoeuvring to get together a governing coalition is expected to take weeks or months. Meanwhile, extremist groups take advantage of the chaotic situation to undermine the Iraqi state and create instability. Iraqis fear a return to violence on the levels of 2005-2006, when political deadlock and sectarian violence led the country to the brink of an all-out civil war.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Baghdad </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Baghdad India Russia United States Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Iraq war and aftermath Security Briefings Tue, 06 Apr 2010 12:50:11 +0000 Dries Belet 53582 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Uganda rebels deny northeast Congo massacre https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/300310 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> LRA rebel group denies any involvement in mass killings in Congo. Burmese opposition decides to boycott election. North Korea feared responsible for sunk South Korean ship. Afghan offensive in Kandahar to be launched in June. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>The Lord&rsquo;s Resistance Army, an infamous Ugandan rebel group, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8592431.stm">said</a> on Monday that it did not play a part in a brutal massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the weekend, the international NGO Human Rights Watch published a <a href="http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/03/29/trail-death-0">report</a> on the carnage, accusing the LRA of hacking and beating to death at least 321 Congolese civilians last December.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" align="left" /></a>LRA spokesman Justine Labeja, who is based in Nairobi, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2010/03/100329_lra_nh_sl.shtml">spoke</a> of &ldquo;baseless accusations&rdquo; and <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62S2PA20100329">called</a> the report &ldquo;yet another fabrication by NGOs, which are advocating war&rdquo;. David Matsanga, another LRA official, said there were no LRA soldiers in Congo and blamed the massacre on Ugandan troops. An Ugandan army spokesperson immediately denied this allegation.</p> <p>Near the end of last year, the rebel group is reported to have crossed the Uele river and gone on a rampage throughout northeast Congo. During the course of several days, a contingent of rebels committed a string of atrocities in at least ten remote villages, butchering the local population and hauling off children to be used as slaves or soldiers. The mass killings left a trail of death across an area stretching over 45km.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict: </em></strong>The Lord&rsquo;s Resistance Army is considered an extremely brutal group, having committed some of the worst crimes in central Africa. Emerging towards the end of the 1980s, the rebel army fought a two-decade insurgency in northern Uganda. During that time, it earned a horrendous reputation for its attacks on civilians, which resulted in the displacing of 1.6 million people and the abduction of an estimated 30,000 children. Joseph Nony, the LRA&rsquo;s leader, claims he wants to install a theocracy in Uganda based on the Bible&rsquo;s Ten Commandments. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for several of the rebel leaders.</p> <p>After the start of the rebellion, LRA fighters dispersed through neighbouring countries like Sudan, Congo, and the Central African Republic. In 2005 the rebel army crossed into northeast Congo, establishing jungle bases from which it continued its terror tactics. A US-backed Ugandan mission to destroy these bases was carried out in 2008, but a remaining LRA group &ndash; which the Ugandan military estimates to number a few hundred rebels &ndash; still roams freely in the area.</p> <p>Given the LRA&rsquo;s gruesome track record, its efforts to deny responsibility for the massacre can hardly be called credible. Moreover, UN human rights officials, who have reached the inaccessible area of the killings and started an investigation, have <a href="http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/MUMA-8423ND?OpenDocument">confirmed</a> the findings of Human Rights Watch in their preliminary report. It is also questionable that LRA spokesmen based in Kenya would have trustworthy information about events in northeast Congo, since there is <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8592431.stm">no evidence</a> of direct communication with rebel commanders in that isolated region.</p> <p>As the head of MONUC (the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo) has said, an updated strategy is needed to prevent new massacres. Alan Doss stressed the LRA operates in several small but very deadly units over an area the size of Spain, making the UN&rsquo;s job a Herculean task. Because of the vast territory that needs to be protected, the UN needs better air mobility and more intelligence-gathering assets for early warning, for example through increased cooperation with the local people. Further, since UN forces are occupied with many other rebels groups in the east of Congo, a bigger contribution by UN member states is urgently needed, to allow MONUC to intensify its efforts against the LRA.</p> <p>Finally, governments in the region should step up to their responsibilities. Ignoring the horrendous facts and hard evidence, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda have continued to play down the LRA presence. Only by recognizing the absolute seriousness of the situation, by committing a sufficient number of competent security forces, and by cooperating effectively, can the Congolese and Ugandan governments bring the rebels to justice and restore a sense of security to the traumatized region.</p> <p><strong>Burmese opposition decides to boycott election</strong></p> <p>Burma&rsquo;s largest opposition party, the National League For Democracy (NLD), <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/world/asia/30myanmar.html">announced</a> on Monday that it will not stand in this year&rsquo;s election. The move was not entirely unexpected, since the country&rsquo;s ruling junta recently <a href="../../../../../../../../opensecurity/security_briefings/090310">published</a> a series of restrictive election laws, barring opposition leader <a href="http://dassk.org/">Aung San Suu Kyi</a> and a host of political prisoners from participating.</p> <p>After a meeting of NLD leaders, the party <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/7535643/Burma-looks-bleak-as-the-National-League-for-Democracy-decides-not-to-stand.html">declared</a> its unanimous <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/29/AR2010032901893.html">decision</a> not to register because of &ldquo;unfair and unjust&rdquo; election laws. The boycott raises further questions about the legitimacy of the upcoming elections, which are widely viewed as a blatant attempt by the junta to consolidate its stranglehold on power and gain greater international recognition. It also endangers the future of the NLD: according to new election laws, any party refusing to sign up to the government&rsquo;s regulations within 60 days will be rendered illegal and dissolved automatically.</p> <p>The decision split the opposition party, divided by the prospect of either renouncing its principles by participating in a phony election, or upholding its dignity but facing dissolution by law. But after Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the past two decades, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62S1JM20100329">said</a> she &ldquo;would not dream&rdquo; of entering the election if the decision was hers, the balance tilted decisively in favour of a boycott.</p> <p>The NLD won a landslide victory during the last democratic polls in 1990. In response, the military government simply annulled the election and ignored the results. The United Nations and <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g0jNP8b9rSGY2aU-kdvII7QBlzAA">the United States</a> have said the new election will not be credible if political prisoners are not allowed to participate.</p> <p><strong>North Korea feared responsible for sunk South Korean ship</strong></p> <p>South Korea&rsquo;s Cheonan ship may have been sunk by a North Korean mine, the South Korean defence minister <a href="http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/03/30/2010033000867.html">said</a> on Monday. Kim Tae-young explained that the mine could either have been an underwater device floated recently by North Korea "to inflict damage&rdquo;, or that it could have been left over from the Korean War. Seoul has been <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/30/south-korea-ship-north-mine">careful</a> in resisting assigning blame for the accident, and has not ruled out an internal malfunction as the cause for the fatal explosion. Kim also played down speculations of a torpedo attack, citing evidence from the ship&rsquo;s rescued radar operators.</p> <p>Only 58 sailors were saved in the initial hours after the explosion, and no other crewmembers have been found since. Salvage efforts continued on Monday in an attempt to find 46 sailors believed trapped in a rear segment of the ship, but the divers were hindered by rough weather. South Korea&rsquo;s President Lee Myung-Bak <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/world/asia/31korea.html">visited</a> the waters on Tuesday, urging rescuers to keep on searching for survivors.&nbsp; However, defence officials <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jQydsIWmNQZpwRriADac51u5rx8gD9EOMD6O1">feared</a> that the chances of survival for any crewmen still alive are decreasing rapidly.</p> <p><strong>Afghan offensive in Kandahar to be launched in June</strong></p> <p>A new US-led offensive in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar is scheduled for June, senior NATO and US military officials said on Monday. Following on the earlier offensive in Marjah, <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gEP-gE6HFXlcSnVxlfBXB2gjkPBQ">several</a> <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iqyaFh_efr-brDq0rMLF1hkop0tgD9EOQ5480">sources</a> <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/03/29/kandahar-offensive-begin-june-senior-officials-say/">confirmed</a> that major operations have been planned against the Taliban in their heartland of Kandahar.</p> <p>This new campaign will be a crucial test for President Obama&rsquo;s surge of 30,000 extra US soldiers in Afghanistan. The US and its NATO allies hope that boosting the total troop count to 150,000 will provide the necessary push to oust the Taliban from their regional stronghold. The operation&rsquo;s success will be critically determined by the ability of coalition forces and of the Afghan government to win the &lsquo;hearts and minds&rsquo; of the population. Currently, many Afghans from in and around Kandahar support the Taliban and view the central government as corrupt and incapable of providing security.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Uganda </div> <div class="field-item even"> Sudan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> South Korea </div> <div class="field-item even"> North Korea </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Myanmar </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democratic Republic of the Congo </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Central African Republic </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kandahar </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Kandahar Central African Republic Democratic Republic of the Congo Myanmar Afghanistan United States North Korea South Korea Sudan Uganda Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Taliban insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan Korean war Internal conflict in Burma DRC civil war Security in Sub-Saharan Africa Security Briefings Tue, 30 Mar 2010 13:45:09 +0000 Dries Belet 53224 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Major Taliban allies in peace talks with Karzai https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/230310 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghan president holds talks with leading militant group. Sudan threatens to throw out international election observers. Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan to come under renewed investigation. North Korea to try American man for illegal entry. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>In an unprecedented step towards peace, Afghanistan&rsquo;s president Hamid Karzai met with envoys from the country&rsquo;s second largest militant group on Monday. Representatives from Hezb-e-Islami, an insurgent faction that is loosely allied with the Taliban, presented a list of conditions as the basis for a peace settlement to Karzai, as <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62L0PT20100322">confirmed</a> by the president's spokesman.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" height="100" align="left" /></a>The meeting is the first time Karzai has talked directly to one of the three main groups battling the central government and NATO troops. Hezb-e Islami, meaning <em>Islamic Party, </em>is led by the notorious Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Mujaheddin commander. The militant group is responsible for a large number of attacks on coalition forces in north and east Afghanistan, whereas the Taliban are based principally in the south of the country. A third group of insurgents operates in the south-east of the country under the direction of commander Jalaluddin Haqqani.</p> <p>Hezb-e-Islami spokesman Haroun Zarghoun confirmed that it was the first time the group has sent representatives to Kabul for talks. Their delegation presented a fifteen-point plan with demands for peace, including the withdrawal of all foreign soldiers in six months and a call for the Karzai government to stand down in anticipation of new elections within the year. Karzai has not yet responded to the proposed outline for a peace settlement, his spokesperson <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8579380.stm">said</a>. However, the <em>New York Times</em> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/world/asia/23afghan.html">reported</a> that some senior figures in the Karzai government, such as Vice-President Fahim, have serious reservations about negotiations with their former enemies.</p> <p>The US state department <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/23/2853287.htm?section=justin">welcomed</a> the news, although it emphasized that any militant groups involved in talks must give up violence, support the Afghan constitution, and sever any links to extremist groups like al-Qaeda.</p> <p>The announcement comes days after former United Nations official Kai Eide revealed that he had secret talks with the Taliban leadership. However, those talks were abruptly broken off after Pakistan initiated a crackdown on senior Afghan Taliban figures hiding in Pakistan, including the arrest of Taliban second-in-command Mullah Baradar. The capture of Baradar, who is known as a moderate, shifted power to Taliban hardliners refusing all talks.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em> </strong>Hezb-e-Islami&rsquo;s infamous leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is widely considered one of the most brutal warlords in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar, an ethnic Pashtun and anti-Soviet guerrilla commander in the 1980s, is said to have targetted other Muhjaheddin more than the Soviets. He played a major role in the Afghan civil war during the 1990s, in which more than 25,000 civilians were killed. Hektamayar, who also briefly held the position of Afghan prime minister in 1996, is known for being an opportunist, having switched his allegiance several times before. In 2003, the United States branded him a terrorist due to his support for al-Qaeda.</p> <p>However, his laden history and villainous reputation should be weighed against the prospects of a peace settlement. Bringing the insurgents back into the fold and getting them to lay down their arms is essential for the future of Afghanistan. President Karzai is planning a peace <em>jirga</em>, an assembly of various groups of Afghan society to talk about ending the fighting. The participation of one of the country&rsquo;s key militant groups in this assembly would boost its chances of success, opening up the possibility of a meaningful political deal between the government and the insurgents. Mohammed Qasim, a politics professor at Kabul university, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62L0PT20100322">called</a> Hezb-e-Islami a &ldquo;powerful and influential opposition group&rdquo;, and said that its readiness for peace talks &ldquo;will certainly have an impact&rdquo;.</p> <p>Hezb-e-Islami has been aligned with the Taliban against the foreign troops since the US-led invasion in 2001, but the two insurgent groups have an adversarial relationship. Hekmatyar battled the Taliban in the civil war, and he was forced to flee Kabul when the Taliban took control of the capital in 1996. Just last month Hezb-e-Islami fighters <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7071773.ece">clashed</a> with the Taliban in the province of Baghlan, leaving fifty people dead in the disputed territory.</p> <p>Monday&rsquo;s meeting seems to indicate a deepening rift between both organizations. The best strategy for the Karzai government and foreign diplomats is to exploit this feud, and attempt to drive a wedge between the various insurgents. The militant opposition to Kabul have been simplistically portrayed as one homogenous group, but are in reality divided in accordance with the country's long tradition of ethnic, tribal, and political strife. A &lsquo;divide-and-rule&rsquo; strategy, aimed at playing off the insurgents against each other, offers the best chances of forging a resilient political establishment, incorporating some insurgent groups. If Hezb-e-Islami could be coopted into supporting the Karzai government along the lines of Baghdad's Awakening groups, violence in the north-east of Afghanistan would likely fall. Securing the area would allow more force to be re-directed against Taliban bulwarks in the south, in turn increasing pressure on the Taliban to start peace negotiations.</p> <p><strong>Sudan threatens to throw out international election observers</strong></p> <p>Sudan&rsquo;s president threatened on Monday to expel international election monitors after they called for a delay in the country&rsquo;s first multi-party poll in 24 years. Last week, the Atlanta-based Carter Center <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/03/20103237950965487.html">recommended</a> a &ldquo;minor&rdquo; postponement of the elections over concerns whether Sudan&rsquo;s election commission can ensure a successful vote on time.</p> <p>President Omar al-Bashir rejected the calls for a delay on state television, and angrily warned international observers that anyone demanding a postponement will be expelled from the country. &ldquo;We wanted them to see the free and fair elections,&rdquo; he <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/world/africa/23briefs-Sudanbf.html">said</a>, &ldquo;but if they interfere in our affairs, we will cut their fingers off, put them under our shoes and throw them out&rdquo;.</p> <p>Opposition groups and international NGOs claim Sudan&rsquo;s election commission favours al-Bashir&rsquo;s ruling party. Many have asked for the elections to be postponed, in an attempt to win time for more democratic reforms. The election commission, however, has maintained that the vote will go ahead as scheduled.</p> <p>Last year, al-Bashir <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gHmShkRA51sEpsS8nvt-5VBQAzygD9EK2F680">kicked out</a> thirteen large foreign aid groups, following an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur.</p> <p><strong>Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan to face renewed investigation</strong></p> <p>Pakistan&rsquo;s government has <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/22/AR2010032202487.html">asked</a> for court permission to reopen a formal inquiry into the activities of Abdul Qadeer Khan. Khan, a nuclear scientist instrumental in Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons who went on to covertly offer Pakistani technology for sale, would be questioned about his role in international proliferation and transactions with Iran and Iraq.</p> <p>The authorities <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8580932.stm">filed</a> their petition to investigate the matter after the publication of <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/09/AR2010030903775.html">two</a> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2010/03/14/GR2010031400292.html">articles</a> about Khan in <em>The Washington Post</em> on 10 and 14 March. The articles alleged that Khan, a former senior figure in Pakistan&rsquo;s nuclear programme, had helped Iran and Iraq to develop nuclear weapons without the knowledge of the Pakistani government. Both Khan and the government have denied the reports. The government had already placed restrictions on Khan&rsquo;s movement, barring him from speaking to the media and surrounding him with guards &ldquo;for this own security&rdquo;.</p> <p>Senior diplomats have <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503543_162-20000863-503543.html">suggested</a> that the move towards re-investigating Khan is a ploy to placate the United States, ahead of this week&rsquo;s strategic dialogue between Washington and Islamabad. Among other things, Pakistan hopes to acquire US support for its civilian nuclear programme. Khan maintains that the accusations of proliferation against him are &ldquo;baseless&rdquo;, and that they are meant &ldquo;to appease the outside world&rdquo;.</p> <p><strong>North Korea to try American man for illegal entry</strong></p> <p>A man from Boston is being detained in North Korea and will be <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/03/23/american_detained_in_north_korea_is_30_year_old_boston_man/">tried</a> for entering the country illegally, North Korean officials said yesterday. Aijalon Gomes, aged 30, was arrested two months ago. He will be <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/world/asia/24korea.html">put on trial</a> after the North Korean authorities &ldquo;confirmed criminal evidence&rdquo;.</p> <p>Only limited information is available about Gomes, who had been teaching English in South Korea. It is <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2010-03-22-north-korea-american-trial_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip">unclear</a> why he crossed the border with North Korea. A spokesman for his family said that his family was &ldquo;praying for his speedy return home&rdquo;. The US state department expressed concern for the man&rsquo;s &ldquo;health and welfare&rdquo;, for the &ldquo;legal processes he might face&rdquo;, and for North Korea&rsquo;s &ldquo;lack of transparency&rdquo;.</p> <p>Gomes is the last in a series of four Americans detained on charges of entering North Korea illegally. Last summer, two American journalists were imprisoned but were eventually freed in a deal that was brokered by former US president Bill Clinton.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Sudan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> North Korea </div> <div class="field-item even"> South Korea </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> undefined </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity undefined South Korea North Korea Iraq Iran Sudan Pakistan United States Afghanistan Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Taliban insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan Sudan civil war Security Briefings Tue, 23 Mar 2010 14:09:19 +0000 Dries Belet 50880 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Venezuela obtains Chinese warplanes for ‘anti-drugs fight’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/security_briefings/160310 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Chinese J-8 attack jets delivered in Venezuela. Sri Lankan general goes on military trial while supporters protest. Nigerian militants attack city with car bombs. South African youth leader found guilty of hate speech. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>On Saturday, Venezuela received and tested its first shipment of six Chinese <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-8_Karakorum">K-8</a> <a href="http://www.sinodefence.com/airforce/trainer/jl8.asp">light attack</a> jets. President Hugo Chavez announced the purchase last year, and has said that his government plans to purchase up to forty of the K-8s. Government officials <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62C1IY20100313">say</a> the jets will be used for training missions and to target drug traffickers.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" height="100" align="left" /></a>Chavez turned to China after a <a href="http://www.hondurasweekly.com/international/2419-china-delivers-k8-attack-jets-to-venezuela">deal</a> to buy similar military <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embraer_EMB_314_Super_Tucano">planes</a> from Brazil&rsquo;s aerospace company Embraer was aborted due to the purchase being blocked by the US government. During a ceremony which included flyovers from the new planes at an air base in the city of Barquisimeto, Chavez emphasized that he was forced to turn to China because of the US export controls. "Thank you, China. The empire wanted to leave us unarmed. Socialist China, revolutionary China appeared and here are our K-8 planes," he said on a television broadcast.</p> <p>Washington has accused Caracas of starting an arms race in Latin America. Several states in the region have built up their military capabilities in recent years. The risk of conflict is perhaps greatest between Venezuela and its neighbour Colombia. Tensions have risen over American use of military bases in Colombia and alleged Venezuelan support for the FARC guerrillas in Colombia. In a $234 million deal during the past few years, Bogota bought twenty-five of the Brazilian AT-29B Super Tucano jets that Chavez failed to acquire.</p> <p>Chavez has maintained that he is simply modernizing Venezuela&rsquo;s military. He mentioned the need &ldquo;to be well equipped and trained ... to protect our skies, our soil, our territory, which has one of the world's biggest riches of water, oil, energy and gas." Venezuela has already purchased a Chinese radar network, and has also recently done a $4 billion deal with Russia for weapons systems including tanks and fighter jets.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em> </strong>The increasingly close ties between the Chinese and Venezuelan governments make policymakers in Washington uncomfortable. Beijing&rsquo;s affiliation with Chavez&rsquo;s vehement anti-American regime could be considered a threat for the US, which regards Latin America as its geopolitical &lsquo;backyard&rsquo;. Washington may be being punished for the lack of attention it has accorded Latin America after 9/11, since which the focus has been the middle east.</p> <p>In 2006, Peter Hakim, president of &nbsp;Inter-American Dialogue, raised concerns about the US&rsquo;s relations with Latin America. In a <em>Foreign Affairs</em> <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/61372/peter-hakim/is-washington-losing-latin-america">article</a>, he warned that the US and Latin American countries were increasingly estranged. He emphasized American disinterest in the western hemisphere throughout the last decade, and noted that support for the US had declined in several of the Latin American countries.</p> <p>Consequently, rising powers such as China have had the diplomatic breathing space to gain more <a href="http://www.usembassy.it/pdf/other/RS22119.pdf">influence in the region</a>. Beijing has developed close links with not only Venezuela, but also with other key states, like Brazil. The underlying Chinese rationale is its massive reliance on energy imports, in particular foreign oil. The quest for energy supply security has led the Chinese around the globe, including towards Latin America. China has entered into <a href="http://www.santiagotimes.cl/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=18371:china-eyes-venezuelan-and-brazilian-oil&amp;catid=32:features&amp;Itemid=144">large oil deals</a> with Venezuela and Brazil, in addition to other oil-related partnerships with Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.</p> <p>In 2009, two deals were signed between Venezuela&rsquo;s Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and Chinese state-owned oil firms CNPC and CNOOC. Venezuela already supplies China with 400,000 barrels of oil per day, but it plans to increase the volume to one million by 2013. Venezuala will form a pillar of China&rsquo;s oil consumption, which by recent measures stands at around <a href="https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2174rank.html">8 million </a>barrels a day. Echoing its investment strategy in Africa, the Chinese government has established a $4 billion development fund in Venezuela to pay for infrastructure and social projects like transport networks, housing, and schools. This much-needed cash injection will enable Chavez to implement socialist programmes and hand out financial rewards to his political supporters, making the deal a win-win for both Beijing and Caracas.</p> <p>The scheduled boom in oil deliveries for China raises the question of whether Chavez plans to diversify its US-destined exports, which currently constitute <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/12089/#p7">sixty percent</a> of Venezuela&rsquo;s total oil exports. A decreasing reliance on the US market could create further anxiety in Washington and worsen US-Venezuela relations. American policy makers regard China&rsquo;s oil diplomacy towards several &lsquo;rogue regimes&rsquo; with a wary eye, especially in Latin America. Although Obama <a href="http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090511/grandin" target="_blank">rescinded</a> the US imperialist legacy in the region, the US is unlikely to abandon an exclusive &lsquo;sphere of influence&rsquo; in the region lightly. If Sino-American relations were to become increasingly adversarial, the US will do its utmost to prevent Chinese bridgeheads reaching its backdoor.</p> <p><strong>Sri Lankan general goes on military trial while supporters protest</strong></p> <p>Sri Lanka&rsquo;s former army chief, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/16/general-sarath-fonseka-profile">general Sarath Fonseka</a>, appeared before a <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/03/16/sri.lanka.trial/">military court</a> on Tuesday, as hundreds of his supporters assembled in protest near the capital. Fonseka faced charges of mixing politics with his military career, but the court martial <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/srilanka/7455866/Sri-Lanka-former-army-chief-Sarath-Fonseka-on-trial.html">was</a> <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/">adjourned</a> until next month after the general&rsquo;s lawyers challenged the legitimacy of the court. Fonseka and his supporters <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8562508.stm">say</a> the trial is politically motivated, and that the government is trying to get rid of a prominent opposition figure ahead of April&rsquo;s parliamentary elections.</p> <p>The Sri Lankan ex-chief justice <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jrAjyKS70ozKkVqUIsWtasN46ZEA">criticized</a> the military trial yesterday, saying the court martial was unconstitutional. The retired judge, Sarath Silva, who is known to be a supporter of Fonseka, stressed that the general should not be subject to military law. He also added that the way in which Fonseka was <a href="../../../../../../../../opensecurity/security_briefings/090210">detained</a> was a breach of UN rights conventions, and castigated the government for a lack of democracy in an atmosphere where &ldquo;there is no room for dissent.&rdquo;</p> <p>General Fonseka, who became popular for his role in Sri Lanka's victory against the separatist Tamil Tigers, ran in the January presidential elections against Mahinda Rajapaksa but lost. Fonseka accused the Rajapaska government of election fraud. Last month he was arrested by the government on accusations of planning a military coup.</p> <p><strong>Nigerian militants attack city with car bombs</strong></p> <p>Two car bombs were <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/militants-threaten-oil-industry-after-double-car-bombing-1921834.html">detonated</a> outside government buildings in Warri, a principal city in Nigeria&rsquo;s oil region, after a warning from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). No casualties have been <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/66fcd574-302d-11df-8734-00144feabdc0.html">reported</a> so far. The explosion was likely intended as a symbolic act as talks between the Nigerian government and the militants proceeded in Warri.</p> <p>MEND said they committed the bombings to &ldquo;announce our continued presence&rdquo;, after the governor for the delta region described MEND as a &ldquo;media creation&rdquo;. According to MEND, the people of the delta will no longer sit back and watch its wealth being monopolised by the northern elite.</p> <p>MEND and other regional militants oppose the central government&rsquo;s exploitation of the oil wealth of their region. The delta's inhabitants, who want to localize control of its natural resources, claim they receive an insufficient part of the oil revenues, and have protested against foreign multinationals for devastating the environment.</p> <p>Since President Goodluck Jonathan took over as leader of the government, he has attempted to restore peace to the region through an amnesty programme for the rebel groups. However, the fragile peace talks could now derail should MEND carry out further threatened attacks. The militants accuse the government of <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e96d6a7c-fafa-11de-94d8-00144feab49a.html">reneging</a> on promises of financial resources and training.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>South African youth leader found guilty of hate speech</strong></p> <p>On Monday, a South African court <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gb86Y_EI0ms1x8KByCZ9EQ66JDRwD9EF5B980">convicted</a> a prominent figure of the ruling African National Congress of using &ldquo;hate speech&rdquo;. Julius Malema, the ANC&rsquo;s controversial youth leader, was convicted for saying that a woman who had accused President Jacob Zuma of rape had had a &ldquo;nice time&rdquo;.</p> <p>The Johannesburg Equality Court <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/anc-youth-leader-guilty-of-hate-speech-after-rape-jibe-1921836.html">ordered</a> Malema to make an unconditional public apology and pay 50,000 rand ($6,700) to a centre for abused women. Malema is a divisive figure in South Africa, who is notorious for issuing polemics and insults against diverse opponents of the ANC and President Zuma. The ANC Youth League said it would appeal against the verdict.</p> <p>Malema admitted to saying that the woman who had accused President Zuma of rape must have enjoyed it, since &ldquo;those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money." Magistrate Colleen Collins said Malema&rsquo;s statement was &ldquo;irresponsible&rdquo;, &ldquo;superfluous&rdquo;, and &ldquo;demeaning to women&rdquo;. President Zuma, who was elected last year, was acquitted of the rape accusation in 2006, maintaining that the sex was consensual.</p><p>South Africa has one of the highest rates of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8107039.stm" target="_blank">rape per capita</a> in the world.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Venezuela </div> <div class="field-item even"> China </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Brazil </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Colombia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Sri Lanka </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Nigeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> South Africa </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Barquisimeto </div> <div class="field-item even"> Warri </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Johannesburg </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Johannesburg Warri Barquisimeto South Africa Nigeria Sri Lanka Colombia Brazil United States China Venezuela Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Sri Lankan civil war Delta conflict in Nigeria Security Briefings Tue, 16 Mar 2010 13:29:20 +0000 Dries Belet 50772 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Burma publishes first of five new election laws https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/090310 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Burmese military junta unveil laws for elections later this year. French navy captures 35 Somali pirate suspects. Bali bombing mastermind thought dead after shoot-out with Indonesian police. Iran calls for China to withstand sanctions pressure. All this and much more, in today's security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>On Monday, Burma&rsquo;s military government <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7054903.ece">approved</a> legislation regulating future elections. State-controlled media <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8557042.stm">announced</a> details for the election commission law, the first in a series of five new laws. A date has yet to be set for the long-awaited polls, which are widely suspected of being a ploy by the ruling generals to consolidate their stranglehold on power.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng_large" alt="" height="100 width=" align="LEFT" /></a>Under the terms of the new law, the junta will handpick the five-person commission that will have the final say over the country&rsquo;s first elections in twenty years. Each of the commission&rsquo;s members must be at least 50 years old, cannot hold membership of a political party, and must be deemed by the military to have &ldquo;integrity and experience&rdquo;, and to &ldquo;be loyal to the state and its citizens&rdquo;. The commission will have exceptional powers, such as the ability to postpone voting in individual constituencies in cases of &ldquo;natural disaster or due to the local security situation&rdquo;. Details of the other four laws will be made public over the next few days, which relate to the organization of the two houses of parliament, and the polls for state and regional elections.</p> <p>Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, yesterday <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62751S20100308">said</a> that he wrote a request for credible elections to Burma&rsquo;s top general. Ban stated that in his letter he &ldquo;expressed concern about this lack of progress&rdquo; on democratic reforms. He also told reporters that all political prisoners, like opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, should be released as soon as possible so that they can participate in the elections.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict: </em></strong>Critics around the world fear the new elections are an attempt by the generals to throw up a facade of democratic government to insulate the country from international criticism. The military government is unlikely to give up any real power willingly, and might be aiming to install a civilian puppet-government behind which it can continue to pull the strings. The published law seems to confirm this view, since under its provisions the new election commission can easily be filled with junta loyalists. Burma Campaign UK, an NGO pushing for human rights and democracy, has already <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7054903.ece">stated</a> that &ldquo;this demonstrates the generals will dominate the entire process&rdquo;.</p> <p>Burma, officially called the Union of Myanmar, has been ruled by the military since 1962. The last democratic elections took place in 1990, when the party of pro-democracy politician and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi gained a landslide victory. However, the military government refused to hand over power and promptly annulled the elections, keeping Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of the time since.</p> <p>States such as the US, the EU, Japan, Australia, and Canada have imposed <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8195956.stm">sanctions</a> against Burma with a view to pressuring the government into moderating its stance. So far, the ruling generals have remained relatively impervious to outside demands for change. However, the proposed polls might be an attempt to recover some international standing in the hope of sanctions being lifted. As long as no substantial progress is made on pro-democratic reforms (a sine qua non condition being the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her participation in the elections), all sanctions should be maintained. Lifting them would send the wrong signal to the military government, and other instruments like foreign aid programmes are available to reward smaller steps in the right direction.</p> <p>While the US and EU have long been trying to exert influence through sanctions, the key player to hold sway over Burma&rsquo;s elite is China. China is Burma&rsquo;s biggest neighbour, and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council has helped the military government to limit its diplomatic isolation. The Chinese leadership has cultivated strong ties with the ruling generals because of its strategic interests in the region. Burma occupies a key geopolitical spot, lying at the crossroads between China, India, south-east Asia, and the Indian Ocean. In addition, Burma&rsquo;s abundant energy resources (oil and off-shore gas) render it very attractive for the voracious Chinese economy. For the same reason, India and Russia have also tried to curry favour with the Burmese government, but China remains its principal partner.</p> <p>Accordingly, true change in the junta&rsquo;s behaviour will likely require Beijing to take a tougher line with its unsavoury friends in Yangon. Even if only in private, a few words from Chinese diplomats might go a long way towards pushing the military government into a more moderate position on democracy and human rights. And if, as they say, the Chinese leaders are seriously concerned with long-term regional peace and stability in south-east Asia, they would do well to remind the generals that their intransigence is sustaining prolonged civil conflict in the country, with a high cost to the region.</p> <p><strong>French navy captures 35 suspected pirates<br /></strong></p> <p>The French frigate <em>Nivose</em>, operating off the coast of Somalia, has <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8555664.stm">captured</a> 35 suspected pirates in three days. In a statement on Sunday, the French defence ministry claimed &ldquo;the biggest seizure&rdquo; so far since EU ships began patrolling the Gulf of Aden in 2008.</p> <p>French officials claimed that four pirate &lsquo;mother ships&rsquo; and six skiffs were <a href="http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE62701W20100308">seized</a> in various sweeps over the weekend, with Spanish aerial support identifying and tracking down the pirates. In the most successful episode of the EU&rsquo;s &lsquo;operation Atlanta&rsquo; yet, EU forces used helicopters and fired warning shorts to capture the pirates. &ldquo;The pirates are learning that we are not a soft touch&rdquo;, a spokesperson in Paris said.</p> <p>The prisoners will likely be <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article7054575.ece">flown</a> to the neighbouring country of Kenya, which is prosecuting around a hundred previously captured pirates. However, very few have yet been convicted and most are wasting away in prison due to Kenya&rsquo;s overburdened legal system. A handful of pirates have been sent off for trial in European countries and in the US, but jurisdiction over suspects captured on the high seas remains unclear.</p> <p>The naval operations have not prevented new assaults by the pirates, who conttinue to launch attacks hundreds of miles to the south of the Gulf of Aden, striking as far as the Seychelles and Madagascar. On Friday, pirates got hold of the <em>UBT Ocean</em>, a Norwegian oil tanker, off the coast of Madagascar. The risk of being caught does not stop the pirates, who can get enormously rich through the ransoms of just a few successful attacks.</p> <p><strong>Bali bombing mastermind &lsquo;killed in shoot-out with Indonesian police&rsquo;</strong></p> <p>Indonesian police sources claim that Dulmatin, an explosives expert, was <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/03/09/indonesia.terror.raids/">shot dead</a> along with two other militants of the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah today. The shoot-out <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7054952.ece">occurred</a> in a morning raid near the capital of Jakarta, and was said to be linked to police actions against militants after last month&rsquo;s discovery of an Islamic terrorist training camp in Aceh.</p> <p>Dulmatin is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/world/asia/10indo.html">wanted</a> in relation to the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, which killed 202 people. He is alleged to have set off one of the Bali bombs with a mobile phone, and to have helped make a massive car bomb used in the attacks. While there has been no confirmation of the shot man&rsquo;s identity yet, the police are due to hold a press conference later today. The counter-terrorism operations come just two weeks before US President Barack Obama is due to visit the country, where he spent his childhood.</p> <p><strong>Iran calls for China to withstand sanctions pressure</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, Iran urged China not to give in to pressure from the United States and its allies for new sanctions against Tehran. The US, Germany, France, Britain, Israel, and other "bullying powers" have been pushing for a new package of UN sanctions in response to Iran&rsquo;s nuclear development. &ldquo;We are hopeful that China will not be affected by other&rsquo;s demands and will have its own foreign policy&rdquo;, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.</p> <p>China, which is one of the five veto-wielding powers in the UN Security Council, has traditionally supported Iran and maintains close economic ties with the country. The US and, latterly, Europe have been trying to convince China and Russia of the need for a fourth sanctions package because of Iran&rsquo;s refusal to halt uranium enrichment. While Russia now seems willing to go along with the US and the Europeans to a certain extent, China has downplayed the likelihood of new sanctions, emphasizing the importance of continued diplomacy instead. Chinese firms have large investments in Iran&rsquo;s energy and commercial sectors.</p> <p>On Monday, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom intensified pressure on Iran, <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gsPyC0y_9ITtC7MEGvPHN8HMURAA">calling</a> for &ldquo;crippling&rdquo; sanctions during a visit to the United Nations. Shalom met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and told reporters he had asked Ban to &ldquo;use his moral voice to ask the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran&rdquo;.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Myanmar </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> Somalia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> Indonesia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yangon </div> <div class="field-item even"> Jakarta </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Jakarta Yangon Iran Indonesia France Somalia China United States Myanmar Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Internal conflict in Burma Indian Ocean piracy Security Briefings Tue, 09 Mar 2010 15:00:17 +0000 Dries Belet 50670 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Washington split by revised US nuclear strategy https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/020310 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> White House reconsiders nuclear weapons policy. Pakistani Taliban chief killed by US airstrike. Dubai moves to tighten Israeli entry ban. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>A key review of US nuclear strategy has been delayed again, as US President Barack Obama decides on a broad new policy for nuclear weapons. Obama is planning &ldquo;dramatic reductions&rdquo; in the nuclear arsenal, a senior White House official <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8543897.stm">told the BBC</a>, as the president met with Defence Secretary Robert Gates. The new strategy would go further than previous reviews in &ldquo;embracing the aims of non-proliferation&rdquo;, and puts great emphasis on the use of conventional weapons for deterrence. Other senior aides said that Obama plans to reduce the American arsenal by thousands of weapons, <em>The New York Times</em> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/us/politics/01nuke.html?pagewanted=1&amp;hp">reported</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng_large" alt="" height="100 width=" align="LEFT" /></a>The much-delayed Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was scheduled for release on Monday, after previous deadlines of 1 December, and then 1 February were missed. Now, publication is not expected until late March or early April. The review has been delayed over key issues such as the kind of weapons the US will retain, and in what circumstances it would resort to using them. The Obama administration already decided to scrap new nuclear weapons programmes from the Bush-era, such as the so-called 'bunker buster' penetrative nuclear warheads.<span>&nbsp; </span>Officials say the strategy document will be a significant step towards Obama&rsquo;s declared goal of preventing nuclear proliferation and working towards a world without nuclear weapons.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict</em></strong>: With this latest postponement, <span>&nbsp;</span>April 5 looks like the most likely date for the announcement of the NPR, exactly one year after Obama&rsquo;s radical <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered/">Prague speech</a>. There, he put forward a vision of a world without <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/sep/06/nuclear-weapons-world-us-north-korea-russia-iran">nuclear weapons</a>, speaking of putting an end to Cold War thinking. Obama stressed that the US, as the only power ever to have used a nuclear weapon in war, has the &ldquo;moral responsibility to act&rdquo;, and he called for new partnerships to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. A principal reason for reworking the existing draft for the NPR is that it fell well short of the expectations raised in Prague.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The clause containing the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/julian-borger-global-security-blog/2010/mar/01/obama-nuclear-weapons-policy">circumstances</a> under which the US would use nuclear weapons has been a key sticking point. Leading members of Obama&rsquo;s own Democratic Party have <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/us/politics/01nuke.html?pagewanted=1&amp;hp">pushed</a> for a declaration that the &ldquo;sole purpose&rdquo; of the country&rsquo;s nuclear arsenal is to deter nuclear attack. However, hawks inside the administration and the defence establishment want a more ambiguous wording, with a clause that deterring nuclear attacks is only the &ldquo;primary purpose&rdquo; of the US arsenal, holding on to previous assertions that nuclear weapons could be used in the case of a conventional weapons attack on the US or one of its allies. This would leave scope for using nukes against enemies with biological or chemical weapons, or against states perceived to be arming proxy groups with nuclear weapons. Sceptics in bodies such as the National Security Council claim that Obama&rsquo;s push for an abolition of nuclear weapons is not realistic, and think it is very risky at a time of nuclear threats from &lsquo;rogue states&rsquo;.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Opposing the self-proclaimed realists, advocates of disarmament argue against the ambiguity of such a clause, saying it would undermine US credibility, because the US has insisted that states such as North Korea and Iran have no strategic reason to pursue a nuclear capability. They point out that any such ambiguity would be inconsistent with Obama&rsquo;s aspirations, made clear at Prague. Without a clear American lead (in tandem with Russia), it is very doubtful that other states will feel any moral obligation to disarm.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Starting on 3 May, the Eight Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) promises to be a crucial crossroads. After the previous conference in 2005 ended in deadlock, the treaty may start to unravel if the 189 member states of the NPT cannot reach an agreement for a final text this time round. The international security situation will certainly not be improved if the talks fail to address US-Iran antagonism and Israel&rsquo;s threat to bomb Iranian nuclear sites, as well as its own undisclosed nuclear arsenal. Iran's nuclear programme risks a cascade of nuclear proliferation across the once nuclear free middle east. If Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapon, other major states in the region, such as Saudi-Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt, might initiate nuclear weapons programmes of their own. In addition, North Korea&rsquo;s ambiguous position within the NPT (it has declared its unilateral withdrawal from the treaty, but has not followed the proper procedures to withdraw) forms another problem, as does Israel, India and Pakistan&rsquo;s non-commitment to the NPT.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Article VI of the NPT commits the nuclear powers to continue negotiations in good faith for further measures to halt the nuclear arms race with the ultimate aim of nuclear disarmament. Since the entry into force of the treaty in 1970, non-nuclear countries have continually reproached the nuclear states for holding on to their arsenals in light of their commitment. It is clear that the intransigence of the nuclear states cannot continue for the indefinite future without undermining the entire NPT. President Obama should take the initiative for a shift in the US nuclear posture, and in that way set a bold example on the fortieth anniversary of the treaty in 2010.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Pakistan Taliban chief killed by US airstrike</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">A senior commander of a Pakistani militant group was <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8544744.stm">killed</a> by a US drone attack in northwestern Pakistan. The Pakistan Taliban <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hkiMxbHNH0BqgpWA2ZG6VD6wVTmAD9E6DO9G1">confirmed</a> the death of Mohammed Qari Zafar, who was wanted by the US for the 2006 bombing of the US consulate in Karachi. Zafar is believed to have led Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group with close links to Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. According to the BBC, Zafar has been replaced by Mufti Abuzar Khanjari.<span>&nbsp; </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">In their statement, the Taliban said Zafar was a martyr and claimed they would take &ldquo;revenge against the Pakistani government for his killing anywhere in the country&rdquo;. The statement was quite uncommon, since the Taliban rarely confirm deaths by missile strikes. The US had offered 5 million dollars for information on his whereabouts. Zafar&rsquo;s death will be portrayed as another success for Washington&rsquo;s covert CIA drone sorties in Pakistan, where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have killed several senior militant leaders. The UAV programme is highly controversial, with Pakistan routinely protesting against the violation of its sovereignty without effect.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Dubai moves to tighten Israeli entry ban</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Dubai will <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8544788.stm">implement</a> stricter screening measures for persons entering the country, enforcing a ban on Israeli dual nationals, its police chief said. Israel citizens are not allowed to enter the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai. However, in the past, Israeli dual citizenship holders could use their other passport to get into the country. Dubai will now block those dual nationals, identifying them by &ldquo;physical features and the way they speak&rdquo;, Lt. Gen. Dahi Kahlfan Tamim <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703429304575095124162751164.html?mod=rss_Today%27s_Most_Popular">said</a>. He added that Israel &ldquo;must not carry out its assassinations in our land&rdquo;, and called the fact that the killers abused passports and murdered people on UAE soil &ldquo;disgraceful&rdquo;.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Israeli officials have either denied or withheld all comment on allegations that the Mossad secret service was behind the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhoub in his hotel room in Dubai. General Tamim claimed that there is a &ldquo;99 percent&rdquo; chance that Israel was behind the assassination.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> North Korea </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United Arab Emirates </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Prague </div> <div class="field-item even"> Washington </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Karachi </div> <div class="field-item even"> Dubai </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Dubai Karachi Washington Prague United Arab Emirates Israel Pakistan North Korea Iran Russia United States Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Security Briefings Tue, 02 Mar 2010 14:15:34 +0000 Dries Belet 50536 at https://www.opendemocracy.net McChrystal apologises for Afghan civilian casualties https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/230210 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> General McChrystal offers public apology for Afghans killed by NATO airstrike. Turkish top military officials arrested over alleged coup plot. US army has contingency plans for delaying Iraq withdrawal. Afghan immigrant admits plans to bomb New York subway. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8044899.stm">General Stanley McChrystal</a>, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, has recorded an official <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ikMRZpq08X4WKl-CYe4l4fnVmqLA">apology</a> for the Afghan people, NATO officials said on Tuesday. Two days ago, at least 27 civilians &ndash; including four women and a child &ndash; were killed when three vehicles were bombed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng_large" alt="" height="100 width=" align="LEFT" /></a>McChrystal had already apologized personally to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, but has now recorded a video that will be broadcast to the Afghan people, with an apology dubbed in the local languages Dari and Pashto. McChrystal expresses &ldquo;extreme sadness&rdquo; for the &ldquo;tragic loss of innocent lives&rdquo;, and emphasizes that foreign troops are in Afghnistan &ldquo;to protect the Afghan people&rdquo;.</p> <p>The Afghan central government <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/22/AR2010022200842.html">condemned</a> the attack on Monday, calling it &ldquo;unacceptable&rdquo; and demanding that NATO troops &ldquo;coordinate with the Afghan security forces&rdquo; before operations. The airstrike came hours after Karzai had urged NATO to do more to protect Afghan civilians</p> <p>An Afghan police official <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/22/nato-airstrike-deaths">said</a> the bombed vehicles were completely wrecked, and that many of the bodies were so disfigured it was hard to identify them. All of the victims were Hazaras, an ethnic group from central Afghanistan traditionally unsympathetic to the Taliban.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict: </em></strong>Yesterday NATO confirmed it had ordered an immediate <a href="http://www.isaf.nato.int/en/article/isaf-releases/strike-under-investigation-in-uruzgan.html">investigation</a> partnered with the Afghan government to look into the incident. A key question is whether the forces that called in the airstrike followed the correct rules of engagement. Since general McChrystal took over as ranking commander of the coalition forces in Afghanistan, he has introduced more stringent rules of engagement, which aim to limit civilian casualties through reduced use of artillery attacks and airstrikes. McChrystal recognised that large losses of innocent Afghan lives make it very difficult to win the local population&rsquo;s support against the Taliban. McChrystal already issued an apology for a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/14/AR2010021400593.html">similar incident</a> about a week ago, when a NATO rocket strike killed twelve Afghan civilians.</p> <p>The calamitous airstrike raises questions about the increased use of Special Operations Forces (SOF) against the Afghan insurgents. The SOF primarily function as a spearhead in hunting down the Taliban, and by their very nature they tend to avail themselves of violent force to fulfil their objectives. Commentators have <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704057604575080640203691352.html?mod=WSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews#articleTabs%3Darticle">suggested</a> that conventional forces might be better suited in the fight to protect ordinary people and win &lsquo;hearts and minds&rsquo;.</p> <p>Incidents like this one are a catastrophe for NATO&rsquo;s public image in Afghanistan, and have significant political consequences. Large losses of civilian life hand the Taliban a free public-relations victory and hinder McChrystal&rsquo;s counter-insurgency strategy. Military officials have said that the airstrike was not part of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8500903.stm">operation Moshtarak</a>, the coalition offensive against the Taliban stronghold of Marjah. However, the civilian casualties threatened to overshadow NATO&rsquo;s attempt to showcase its gains in Marjah, with a first visit to the town by the newly appointed civilian chief of a novel civilian government for the area.</p> <p>Afghans will recall the plethora of civilian killings by foreign soldiers: an airstrike on fuel tankers in September killed up to 142 people, a 2000-pound bomb from a B-1 strategic bomber left dozens dead in May, and in November 2008 the bombing of a wedding in Kandahar cost the lives of 37 people. While McChrystal&rsquo;s rules of engagement are stricter than those before, incidents and innocent victims are inevitable as long as the war in Afghanistan continues. NATO forces are bound to make deadly mistakes sometimes, especially since they still are under tremendous pressure to fight a minimal casualty war, with this year&rsquo;s January and February <a href="http://icasualties.org/OEF/index.aspx">troop fatalities</a> double those of last year and total US deaths having reached the <a href="http://icasualties.org/">mark of 1,000</a>.</p> <p><strong>Turkish top military officials arrested over alleged coup plot</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, Turkish prosecutors interrogated some fifty military commanders, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/22/turkey-military-officers-arrested">including</a> a former air force chief and navy chief, and an ex-deputy chief of army, in connection with a suspected plot to overthrow the government. The officers are <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/turkey/7293872/Retired-military-chiefs-held-over-Turkish-coup-plot.html">suspected</a> of plans to blow up mosques and provoke the Greek air force into shooting down a fighter jet, in an attempt to provide a pretext for a military coup.</p> <p>The sweep to detain important military figures throughout eight Turkish cities is the biggest challenge ever to the formerly supreme authority of the military. The army, which sees itself as the guardian of the secular Kemalist state, has ousted four governments since 1960 &ndash; the last in 1997. The arrests appear to be <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/22/turkey-military-officers-arrested">connected</a> to allegations of a coup plot published by the Turkish newspaper <a href="http://www.taraf.com.tr/">Taraf</a> last month. According to the supposed secret army documents published, a plot called &lsquo;Sledgehammer&rsquo; planned to provoke unrest and undermine the government, after which the military hoped to step in and restore order. The army and secular nationalist establishment view the governing AK party with suspicion, since it is rooted in political Islam and is accused by some of aiming to turn the country in an Islamist state.</p> <p>The army has denied all allegations, and said that the plans in question were only part of a planning exercise at a military seminar, and not a coup plot. On hearing of the arrests, the current army chief postponed his travel plans to Egypt.</p> <p><strong>US army has contingency plans for delaying Iraq withdrawal</strong></p> <p>American combat forces could <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704454304575081642107227292.html?mod=WSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews">remain</a> in Iraq after this summer&rsquo;s scheduled pullout, the top US commander in Baghdad has said. Army general Ray Odierno <a href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2011157728_iraqdelay23.html">stated</a> that the withdrawal could be slowed if political instability and violence increase after Iraqi national elections on 7 March.</p> <p>President Obama has set a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/22/AR2010022202933.html">deadline</a> for the withdrawal of all combat forces by the end of August, in accordance with a security pact between Washington and Baghdad. In any case, US supporting troops will remain to take care of training Iraqi forces until the end of 2011, when all foreign soldiers are supposed to leave.</p> <p>Speaking at the Pentagon, general Odierno said that the withdrawal was on schedule and that he was optimistic it would not be delayed, but that Iraq&rsquo;s uncertain political future meant that contingency plans had to be prepared. On Monday, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/world/middleeast/23iraq.html">at least 23</a> were killed in an upsurge of sectarian violence, raising fears ahead of the upcoming elections.</p> <p><strong>Afghan immigrant admits plan to bomb New York subway&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>On Monday, an Afghan man <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/nyregion/23terror.html">pleaded guilty</a> to plotting a bomb attack on the New York subway in protest against American involvement in Afghanistan. Najibullah Zazi, a 25 year-old Afghan immigrant to the US, said he received weapons and bomb-making training from Al-Qaeda in Pakistan, and called the plot a &ldquo;martyrdom operation&rdquo;. Zazi <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/23/new-york-underground-bomb-attack">told</a> the court that he planned to sacrifice himself &ldquo;to bring attention to what the US military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan&rdquo;.</p> <p>Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, said the planned attack was one of the most serious security threats to the US since 9/11, and could have been &ldquo;devastating&rdquo;. Zazi, who pleaded guilty to conspiracies to use WMD, to commit murder in a foreign country, and to provide material support to a terrorist organization, faces a possible life sentence. Four co-conspirators have also been charged in the plot.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Washington </div> <div class="field-item even"> Baghdad </div> <div class="field-item odd"> New York </div> <div class="field-item even"> Marjah </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Marjah New York Baghdad Washington Iraq Egypt Greece Turkey United States Afghanistan Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Taliban insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan Security Briefings Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:27:45 +0000 Dries Belet 50427 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Top Taliban commander captured in Pakistan https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/160210 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Taliban chief Mullah Baradar seized by US and Pakistani security services. Saudis doubtful about effectiveness of sanctions on Iran. Tensions in Kenyan government lead prime minister to seek international help. Libya orders complete visa ban for Europeans. All this and much more, in today’s security update. </div> </div> </div> <p>Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the operational commander of the Afghan Taliban, has been captured by American and Pakistani forces in a secret joint operation. US and Pakistani officials have confirmed he is being held and interrogated in Pakistan after his arrest in Karachi last week.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" height="100" align="left" /></a>News of the capture was made public by <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/world/asia/16intel.html?hp=&amp;pagewanted=all"><em>The New York Times</em></a>, which got details from unnamed US government officials about the raid last Thursday, but was asked by the White House to delay publication for security reasons.</p> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8517693.stm">Mullah Baradar</a> was the Taliban&rsquo;s second-in-command, leading their military and financial day-to-day operations as lieutenant to overall leader Mullah Omar. Experts describe him as a highly skilled military leader, responsible for devising Taliban guerrilla tactics such as the heavy use of roadside bombs.</p> <p>Although the arrest was confirmed by <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hNCslTykwUJZ65MMVVsmL4ZtQCCgD9DT4AQG0">several</a> <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8517375.stm">sources</a>, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61F0FE20100216">told Reuters</a> Baradar was still free, claiming the news was &ldquo;a rumour spread by foreigners to divert attention from the Marja offensive&rdquo;. The arrest coincides with the start of operation Moshtarak, a large-scale offensive NATO offensive against the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Afghanistan&rsquo;s Helmand province.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em> </strong>Several of the Afghan Taliban's leaders are commonly assumed to reside in Pakistan, directing the insurgency from across the border with Afghanistan. Pakistani and US intelligence services believe that Karachi, a metropolis of 14 million people in the south of Pakistan, has become a haven for the Afghan Taliban leadership, especially since the US intensified drone strikes on the Taliban&rsquo;s former hiding places along the Afghan-Pakistani frontier. Among those believed to be hiding in Karachi are most of the members of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban&rsquo;s leadership council. Formerly chaired by Mullah Baradar, the council consists of over a dozen of the Taliban&rsquo;s best-known leaders, decides on grand strategy for the insurgency, and names Taliban military commanders and &lsquo;shadow governors&rsquo; for Afghan provinces.</p> <p>In the past, the US has been greatly annoyed by Pakistan&rsquo;s reluctance to pursue and apprehend Taliban leaders. Islamabad has had close ties to the Afghan Taliban, and still views the Taliban as prospective partners should NATO forces leave Afghanistan in the near future. The capture is an indication that the senior Pakistani leaders, such as the army chief General <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/ashfaq_parvez_kayani/index.html?inline=nyt-per">Ashfaq Parvez Kayani</a>, have adjusted their position and are now less concerned about antagonising the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban are increasingly viewed as a serious threat, with links emerging between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban groups who have launched numerous attacks on the Pakistani government, security forces, and civilians. American officials, who <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/world/asia/16intel.html?hp=&amp;pagewanted=all">speculate</a> that Pakistan could have arrested Baradar long ago, hope the Pakistani military and intelligence services may finally have begun to distance themselves from the Taliban.</p><p>Baradar is now thought to be in interrogation, but it is unclear whether he is talking. Intelligence services hope he can lead them to Mullah Omar and to other senior Taliban officials. The Pakistani services are known for their brutal interrogation methods, and while American intelligence officials were ordered to cease using harsh interrogation measures which in many cases amounted to torture, it is unknown whether they will influence the Pakistanis to exercise restraint.</p> <p>The effect of Baradar&rsquo;s capture on the overall direction of the Taliban is hard to predict. The Taliban are believed to be a hierarchical organization to some extent, with field commanders in Afghanistan taking orders from higher-up leaders across the border in Pakistan. Mullah Baradar was a key leader in various Taliban operations, and in the short term the loss of his direction might disrupt the insurgency and reduce its effectiveness. &ldquo;I would call it significant&rdquo;, an anonymous US official told Reuters - but he also pointed out that the Taliban have shown &ldquo;an amazing resilience to bounce back&rdquo;, because it is &ldquo;an adaptive organization&rdquo;.</p> <p>Mullah Baradar is thought to be one of the more moderate Taliban leaders, willing to consider negotiations with the Afghan government. Some commentators have even <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8517375.stm">speculated</a> that his detention could be intended to talk to him in a bid to open channels of communication with the Taliban. Conversely, his removal from the Taliban leadership might allow more extremist commanders to step into his place, strengthening the militant stance of the insurgents.</p><p>Although a still more extreme Taliban might make negotiations aimed at reconcilliation more difficult, in the long run it might actually boost the chances of success for NATO&rsquo;s new counter-insurgency strategy. After all, if the Taliban focus on introducing a new brand of harsh Islamic justice and Al-Qaeda style ideology rather than bringing security to civilians, they will further alienate the Afghan population, and their support in key areas such as Helmand and Kandahar will be undermined.</p> <p><strong>Saudis doubtful about effectiveness of sanctions on Iran</strong></p> <p>Saudi Arabia has warned against the slow effect of potential sanctions on Iran, saying these could not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. After a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8517308.stm">meeting</a> with Hillary Clinton, the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/02/201021641617847397.html">said</a> the Iranian threat demanded a &ldquo;more immediate solution&rdquo;.</p> <p>The prince also played down the idea that Saudi Arabia could nudge China towards endorsing sanctions against Iran, by offering Beijing the guarantee of Saudi oil in case Iranian supplies are disrupted. He <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/7248785/Saudi-warning-that-sanctions-against-Iran-may-not-work.html">commented</a> that China &ldquo;needs no suggestion from Saudi Arabia to do what they ought to do,&rdquo; adding that China would <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8517308.stm">go along</a> with the international community anyway since it &ldquo;carries its responsibilities&rdquo; in the UN security council &ldquo;very seriously&rdquo;.</p> <p>Clinton, who earlier had <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/15/clinton-iran-dictatorship-revolutionary-guard">said</a> that Iran is moving towards a &ldquo;military dictatorship&rdquo;, repeated that the US does not plan to use military action to foil Iran&rsquo;s nuclear objectives. She emphasized the US will focus its efforts on a UN sanctions package, aimed in particular at interests controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.</p> <p><strong>Tensions in Kenyan government lead prime minister to seek international help</strong></p> <p>The Kenyan prime minister has <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iHGTbI59hL1EZbGu3gbZ6uwCZnvwD9DSLJ500">requested</a> that Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary-general, return to the country to help heal the country's <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gj9K9-jskkOo2uWncG_xCs8BT5CQ">deepening</a> political crisis. PM Raila Odinga hopes Annan will help <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8515941.stm">solve</a> a dispute with the president that is threatening a two-year old power-sharing agreement in which Annan was a key mediator.</p> <p>The public conflict between the two leaders escalated when President Mwai Kibaki reinstated two ministers who had been suspended by Odinga pending a corruption investigation into the disappearance of millions of dollars in foreign aid. Odinga claims that Kibaki&rsquo;s overruling him was against the law, because the prime minister has exclusive authority over the appointment of cabinet members. Kibaki has countered that Odinga failed to consult him over the suspensions, which he says is required by the power-sharing agreement.</p> <p>Transparency International has <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8517338.stm">warned</a> that the rift in the fragile government could lead to political &ldquo;meltdown&rdquo;. It criticized the leaders for risking turning Kenya into a failed state. The current power-sharing government was created in 2008 to end the bloodshed that claimed more than 1,000 lives after the last election in December 2007.</p> <p><strong>Libya orders complete visa ban for Europeans</strong></p> <p>On Monday, Libya said it had <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/7244896/Libya-imposes-visa-ban-on-Europeans.html">stopped issuing visas</a> to citizens of most European countries. Officials at the country&rsquo;s main international airport turned away all Europeans, except for British nationals (Britain does not belong to Europe&rsquo;s Schengen passport zone, which includes Switzerland). The move took place in apparent retaliation for Switzerland&rsquo;s recent decision to publish a blacklist of 180 Libyans banned form entering the country, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family.</p> <p>An Italian foreign ministry spokesman <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61E2SW20100215">said</a> that &ldquo;contacts are under way between the countries of the zone to coordinate over this measure&rdquo;. The long-running diplomatic conflict between Switzerland and Libya was started by a short arrest of Gaddafi&rsquo;s son in Switzerland, which was followed by the prosecution of two Swiss businessmen in Libya.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> China </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Kenya </div> <div class="field-item even"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Switzerland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Islamabad </div> <div class="field-item even"> Kirachi </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Kirachi Islamabad Switzerland Libya Kenya China Iran Saudi Arabia United States Afghanistan Pakistan Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Taliban insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan Tue, 16 Feb 2010 14:45:09 +0000 Dries Belet 50341 at https://www.opendemocracy.net France approves sale of high-tech warship to Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/090210 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International concern about sale of French amphibious warship to Russia. US aims for new sanctions on Iran “within weeks”. 197 people indicted for murder over Philippine massacre. Sir Lankan opposition leader treated “like an animal”. All this and much more in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <P>France became the first NATO member in history to sell offensive arms to Russia yesterday, <A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8504045.stm">agreeing</a> on the sale of a Mistral class amphibious assault ship worth around 500 million euros. In addition, and despite concerns expressed by its American and eastern European allies, France is considering selling three more ships to Russia, as <A href="http://en.rian.ru/world/20100208/157813123.html">stated</a> by Jacques de Lajugie, head of international sales at the French defence ministry.</p> <P>The 23,000 tonne Mistral class ship will significantly boost the strength of Russia’s ageing fleet. The amphibious assault ship, which can be used as a command vessel, can carry sixteen attack helicopters, 70 vehicles including thirteen battle tanks, and up to 900 troops for thousands of miles.<EM></em></p> <P>US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who was visiting Paris yesterday, <A href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/world/europe/09gates.html">said</a> he was “deeply concerned”. Six American senators, including John McCain, had already <A href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/02/AR2010020203508.html">sent</a> a letter to the French ambassador in Washington asking him to stop the sale. Other NATO members are also uneasy about the deal, concerned by the prospect of increasing Russia’s force projection capabilities in the aftermath of its crushing victory over the Georgian military in 2008.</p> <P><STRONG><EM>The openSecurity verdict:</em> </strong>From a geopolitical perspective, the eastern European states’ concerns are well-founded. With the procurement of a Mistral vessel, and with several more in the pipeline, Moscow greatly increases its strategic range. Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy, the Russian navy's commander-in-chief, has <A href="http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35787&amp;tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=407&amp;no_cache=1">said</a> that such a ship would have allowed Russia to land all the troops it deployed during the Russia-Georgia conflict in 40 minutes, rather than the 26 hours it took in 2008.</p><P>Russian officials responded to international anxiety by hastening to suggest more peaceful uses for the Mistral ship, such as humanitarian relief and anti-piracy operations, but it is its undeniable offensive capacity that will dominate debate. Countries on the Black Sea and Caspian are likely to pursue counter-moves, with Romania's recent <A href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/romania/7158685/Romania-approves-US-missile-defence-shield.html">accepted</a> of an American missile defence shield a case in point.</p> <P>The Baltic states are no less concerned. A Mistral-class vessel could just as well be deployed in the Baltic Sea, evidenced by the port-call of the French mistral at St Petersburg last November. Wedged between Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, and having gained independence from the Soviet bloc less than 20 years ago, the Baltic states feel chronically insecure. Added to which are the problems posed by Russian minorities in the Baltic states, who have too often been pawns in the struggle between a Russia reluctant to relinquish control and the new states' assertion of nationalist independence. Putin’s did little to allay fears, responding that if purchased, he "will use it wherever deemed necessary.” <A href="http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20091122/156935885.html">Estonia</a>, <A href="http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=4395024">Latvia</a>, and Lithunia have said they feel alarmed by the consequences of the deal for their national security, and have asked France to reconsider.</p> <P>The French president Nicolas Sarkozy has <A href="http://en.rian.ru/world/20100209/157819962.html">defended</a> the sale in the framework of an emerging ‘Franco-Russian strategic partnership’. Sarkozy said that the sale did not pose a problem, since Russia should be treated as a real partner. Hervé Morin, France’s defence minister, <A href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/world/europe/09gates.html">claimed</a> suggested critics still talking in anachronistic cold war terms. However, while the French publicly <A href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/world/europe/09gates.html">dismiss</a> the spheres-of-influence thinking inherited from the cold war, and claim that their dealings with Russia should not be seen as a geopolitical threat to any country, the Mistral visiting St. Petersburg in November 2009 curiously <A href="http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&amp;tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35790&amp;tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=7&amp;cHash=75b9885abf">resembles</a> a Franco-Russian naval event in St. Petersburg in 1891. This moment of great power summitry marked the start of the official Franco-Russian alliance and was a high point of ‘balance-of-power’ politics, contributing to the series alliances frequently blamed for the outbreak of the first world war.</p> <P>The dubious strategic rationale for the deal led the French foreign ministry to oppose it, <A href="http://www.lemonde.fr/cgi-bin/ACHATS/acheter.cgi?offre=ARCHIVES&amp;type_item=ART_ARCH_30J&amp;objet_id=1112810">Le Monde</a> reported. The paper suggested François Fillon, France’s prime minister, pushed the deal mainly because of its economic benefits. The order would give a huge boost to the Saint-Nazaire naval shipyards and for the French domestic defence industry, providing critical funds and job creation opportunities. Fillon has <A href="http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&amp;tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35790&amp;tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=7&amp;cHash=75b9885abf">emerged</a> as a key supporter in France of the rapprochement with Russia, both for its purported strategic benefits and for its lucrative business opportunities. In a 2008 NATO summit, for example, he publicly opposed Georgian and Ukrainian membership plans.</p> <P>The French move also testify to the difficulty Europe has in its foreign policy approach to Russia. Moscow delights in playing off different EU member states against each other, and European countries find it difficult to present a united front, for example in external policies such as energy supply security. The Lisbon Treaty was intended to improve the <A href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/">cohesiveness</a> of Europe’s external policies but little has been achieved in this regard while France appears to be circumventing EU coordination and consultation procedures in the Mistral sale.</p> <P>Even in Russia itself, the deal has been subject to criticism. The declining Russian defence industry has argued strongly against arms imports, and has asked why Russia should finance jobs for French workers. Accounting for such pressures, Russia first intended to buy one Mistral along with a license to build the next ships in Russian shipyards. However, yesterday’s announcement that all ships will be constructed in France seems to indicate that at present, the Russian defence industry is incapable of providing the necessary capability to construct an advanced vessel such as the Mistral, even with the help of French technology transfers. More contested international arms deals should be expected.</p> <P><STRONG>US aims for new sanctions on Iran “within weeks”.</strong></p> <P>US Defence Secretary Robert Gates wants a new UN resolution for sanctions on Iran “in a matter of weeks”, a Pentagon spokesperson <A href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jsMmwJVeh6kpxX6drMOMDl4ydhyw">said</a> on Tuesday. Press secretary Geoff Morell told reporters that Gates had talked to leaders in Turkey, Italy, and France about the "urgent need” to proceed with sanctions as soon as possible. In a meeting on Monday, France’s president Sarkozy <A href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN092228220100209">agreed</a> to support a quick move towards new sanctions. France holds the current presidency on the UN security council, rendering its help important in the push for a new resolution.</p> <P>Tensions between Iran and America and its European allies have been on the rise, with President Ahmadinejad recently <A href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/7193998/Endgame-for-Mahmoud-Ahmadinejad-in-Iran.html">threatening</a> a “telling blow” against world leaders coupled with decision to <A href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/09/iran-enrichment-higher-grade-uranium">begin</a> <A href="http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2010/02/09/world/international-uk-iran-nuclear.html">enriching</a> uranium to 20%, a big step up towards the production of the 90% required for weapons-grade material.</p> <P>Among the five veto-wielding powers in the UN Security Council, only China is still unwilling to approve further sanctions. Russia, on the other hand, has been <A href="http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-46025420100209">moving</a> towards supporting UN sanctions. Gates did not give any details about how the US will deal with China's reluctance to take action against Iran, a country in which it has large commercial and energy interests.</p> <P><STRONG>197 people indicted for murder over Philippine massacre</strong></p> <P>Nearly 200 people have been <A href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE61820920100209">charged</a> with murder following a politically motivated massacre in the Philippines <A href="../../../../../../../../security_briefings/011209">last December</a>. Among those accused for the <A href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/09/AR2010020900545.html">murder</a> of 57 people is Andal Ampatuan Sr., the head of a powerful clan with connections to President Gloria Aroyo.</p> <P>The accusations speak of a conspiracy to ambush and kill members of a rival clan and their political supporters near a highway in Maguindanao province. Besides Ampatuan Sr., who was the governor of the province, the people charged include 25 other members of his family, 65 soldiers and police officers, and 106 members of a civilian military force.</p> <P>Prosecutors alleged that the massacre took place for political reasons. Among the victims was a rival candidate for the upcoming governorship elections in May, Esmael Mangudadatu, as well as at least 30 journalists accompanying him.</p> <P><STRONG>Sir Lankan opposition leader treated “like an animal”</strong></p> <P>In a dramatic turn after Sri Lankan presidential elections last month, the defeated candidate, General Sarath Fonseka, was <A href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/srilanka/7189888/Sri-Lankas-defeated-presidential-candidate-arrested.html">arrested</a> yesterday on charges of planning a military coup and various “military offences”. Today, his wife <A href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7020261.ece">accused</a> the government of abducting rather than arresting her husband, and of treating him “like an animal”.</p> <P>General Fonseka was apparently taken by military police from his office in Colombo last night, and is now facing trial in a military court. His wife accuses President Rajapaksa, who won the elections, of settling a personal vendetta against the popular general, who is viewed as a national hero after winning the war against the rebel Tamil tigers. Fonseka has blamed the government for rigging the election, and vowed to challenge the results in the Supreme Court. Opposition politicians joined in by <A href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hMGNQJskLV5dhJWJVrrJsf82H9Jg">saying</a> that the arrest was “undignified”, and that the way in which Fonseka was “dragged away” was a “disgrace to the security forces”.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Georgia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Estonia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Latvia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Lithuania </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> Philippines </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Sri Lanka </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paris </div> <div class="field-item even"> St Petersburg </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Colombo </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Colombo St Petersburg Paris Sri Lanka Philippines China Iran Lithuania Latvia Estonia Georgia United States France Russia Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Tue, 09 Feb 2010 15:03:51 +0000 Dries Belet 50230 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran takes critical stance on US missile defences https://www.opendemocracy.net/security_briefings/020210 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iranian officials attempt to discredit US missile defence deployments. China warns Obama over meeting with Dalai Lama. Somali Al Shabab unite with Al Qaeda’s jihad. Female suicide bomber kills 54 Iraqi pilgrims. All this and much more in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>Iran dismissed the operational effectiveness of US plans to bolster missile defence systems in Arab gulf states, claiming the move will only undermine stability in the region. Last weekend, news <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/world/middleeast/31missile.html">broke out</a> that the US is accelerating the deployment of interceptor systems in at least four countries on the Persian Gulf.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" height="100" align="left" /></a>It took until Tuesday for foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparas to respond to US plans, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/02/AR2010020200274.html">saying</a> that Iran considers the deployments &ldquo;inefficient&rdquo;. He <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSDAH22885720100202?type=marketsNews">added</a> that Iran sees &ldquo;these kinds of moves by overseas countries in the region as unworkable&rdquo;, and predicted that they will end in &ldquo;failure&rdquo;.</p> <p>Ali Larijani, the Iranian parliamentary speaker blamed the Americans for not noticing &ldquo;that the problem in the region is your (US) presence and the more you deploy artillery, the more host countries will be concerned&rdquo;, the state broadcaster IRIB reported.</p> <p>The US is to sell eight Patriot ground-to-air missile batteries, designed to knock-out short- and medium-ranged missiles, to Arab countries in the region. According to US military officials, two batteries each will go to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait. In addition, the US is deploying two Aegis cruisers, which can also provide a missile defence capacity, in the Persian Gulf.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em> </strong>The US shield is designed to reassure its allies in the region, particularly the Arab Gulf states who resent Iran&rsquo;s aggressive international posture. Strengthened missile defences may help to constrain a regional arms race, as the Iranian nuclear programme may prompt other powers who have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, principally Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to respond in kind. The missile defence announcements are part of a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/30/AR2010013001477.html">bigger effort</a>: Saudi Arabia and the UAE have bought more than $25 billion in American arms these past two years, including missile defence systems. The US plans also aim to calm the Israelis, fearful of the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran, a country whose president has proclaimed that Israel &ldquo;should be wiped off the map&rdquo;. Assurances of missile defence could provide US policymakers more time to pursue diplomacy and sanctions on Iran.</p> <p>A year after having promised engagement with Iran, Obama is increasingly vulnerable to claims that his dovish approach has brought few benefits. Iran has refused a deal to ship part of its enriched uranium out of the country, and has continued to develop its nuclear sector. Obama may hope the US deployments demonstrate that he is not afraid to take tough measures, particularly if they stem pressures from Iran's regional rivals for further action. The threat of military engagement was reiterated throughout January; the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7010364.ece">said</a> &ldquo;the Pentagon must have military options ready to counter Iran, should Obama call for them&rdquo;. Another US military official <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/world/middleeast/31missile.html">remarked</a> that the announcement of the US plans by General Petraeus were &ldquo;a pointed reminder to Iranians of American resolve&rdquo;.</p> <p>Iran's response to the US's increasingly confrontational policies is difficult to gauge. At first, no important figures in the Iranian security establishment appeared willing to react, probably due to the sensitive nature of this security issue. Behind closed doors however, an anonymous Iranian analyst <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/31/iran-hardliners-us-missile-move">told</a> the Guardian that&nbsp;&ldquo;the Iranian reaction will be serious&rdquo;.</p> <p>Iran's public response has been to dismiss the operational ineffectiveness of missile defence systems and play down their strategic influence. Missile defence systems are deeply flawed and the patriot system is no silver bullet against any kind of missile attack. It was only able to intercept 40% of the scud missiles Saddam Hussein launched against Israel in 1991, and although the US has significantly improved the system since, a recent US test to simulate intercepting an &lsquo;Iranian or North Korean&rsquo; missile resulted in <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8492677.stm">failure</a>.</p> <p>Secondly, Iran seeks to portray the US as a warmonger, claiming that the new missile defence deployments will foster instability in Persian Gulf region. This is in line with Iran&rsquo;s standard practice of accusing the US (the &ldquo;Great Satan&rdquo;) of imperialist ambitions in the Muslim world, while Iran presents itself as the leader of Islamic resistance. In this way it seeks to undermine the authority of other powers in the region that collaborate more closely with the US, such as Saudi Arabia.</p><p>Regardless of such rhetoric, it is important to remember that missile defence systems need not be used solely for defensive purposes. If they can effectively guarantee a state and its allies from retaliation, they may encourage a preemptive strike from a position of invulnerability. The instability this brings was reason for their regulation during the Cold War period under the now lapsed ABM treaty.</p> <p>All this has consequences for Iran&rsquo;s domestic politics; increased US pressure runs the risk of hardening internal repression by the theocratic regime. It provides hardliners in the government with an external threat, giving them an excuse to clamp down even more brutally on the domestic opposition, like the green movement of Hossein Mousavi, a reformist candidate during last summer&rsquo;s presidential elections. Hence, if the US wants to pursue a successful foreign policy in the region, its policymakers should be wary about the effect its policies have on the popular sentiment in Iran. The US needs to monitor these developments closely, in order to walk a fine line between supporting the Iranian opposition and not letting American support discredit the revolutionary movements in Iran.</p> <p><strong>China warns Obama over meeting with Dalai Lama </strong></p> <p>China has threatened US President Obama not to meet the Dalai Lama, saying any meeting could further deteriorate already-strained relations between the two countries. The warning came in the midst of a dispute over US arms <a href="../../../../../../../../opensecurity/security_briefings/290110">sales</a> to Taiwan.</p> <p>Zhu Weiqun, executive vice minister of the Communist Party, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8492608.stm">said</a> a meeting &ldquo;will certainly threaten trust and co-operation between China and the United States&rdquo;. He warned that the American refusal to recognize that Tibet is a part of China would &ldquo;seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-US relations."</p> <p>The Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit the US later this month but no meeting with Obama has yet been announced. China <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7011834.ece">views</a> the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist, who is bent on making trouble and inciting world hatred of China. Chinese leaders claim that Tibet has been part of its territory for several centuries; Tibetans counter that their region has been functionally independent for much of its history. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet after a failed uprising against China in 1959.</p> <p><strong>Somali Al Shabab unite with Al Qaeda&rsquo;s jihad.</strong></p> <p>Al Shabab, an Islamist rebel group in Somalia, has made an official declaration that it is joining the &ldquo;international jihad of Al Qaeda&rdquo;. In a statement on Monday, the militant group <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107204575038674123215854.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsTop">said</a> its leaders had agreed &ldquo;to connect the horn of Africa jihad to the one led by Al Qaeda and its leader Sheikh Osama Bin Laden."</p> <p>The Al Shabab rebels represent the most potent militant force challenging Somali&rsquo;s weak transitional government. The rebels control large swathes of the south and centre of the country, where they are attempting to establish an Islamic state under the Sharia law. The group has been <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g3acSOlSzeTMVs1gOXlgaibXe_EQ">divided</a> between hardliners seeking to emulate Al Qaeda's transnational aims and others focusing on achieving political power in Somalia. Yesterday&rsquo;s decision appears to indicate that the extremist elements have won out in the struggle for the leadership of Al Shabab.</p> <p><strong>Female suicide bomber kills 54 Iraqi pilgrims</strong></p> <p>A woman <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/woman-bomber-kills-54-shia-pilgrims-1886358.html">detonated</a> an explosives belt among a group of Shia Muslims yesterday in Baghdad. At least 54 people were <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-iraq-bombing2-2010feb02,0,1884564.story">killed</a> and 109 wounded, sowing carnage among pilgrims who were making the journey to the city of Karbala in honour of a Shia holy day.</p> <p>The suicide bomber&rsquo;s explosives were hidden under her abaya &ndash; a long, black cloak covering a woman from top to toe. Witnesses described seeing a massive fireball at a hospitality tent in the neighbourhood of Bal al-Shams, in the northeast of the capital. The attack raises fears of escalating sectarian violence in Iraq in the run-up to national elections in March.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Qatar </div> <div class="field-item even"> United Arab Emirates </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Bahrain </div> <div class="field-item even"> Kuwait </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> China </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Somalia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Washington </div> <div class="field-item even"> Baghdad </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Baghdad Washington Iraq Somalia China Turkey Egypt Saudi Arabia Kuwait Bahrain United Arab Emirates Qatar United States Iran Conflict International politics Dries Belet Somali civil war Iraq war and aftermath Tue, 02 Feb 2010 13:40:09 +0000 Dries Belet 50133 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yemen rebels offer truce to Saudi Arabia https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/260110 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Houti Shi’ite rebels in Yemen want ceasefire with Saudi Arabia. Student killed in riots over Venezuelan media. ‘Chemical Ali’ hanged in Iraq. Hundreds arrested after violence in Nigeria. All this and much more, in today’s briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>On Monday, the leader of Yemen&rsquo;s Shi&rsquo;ite rebels, Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi,&nbsp;<a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/01/201012517527990120.html">proposed</a> a truce with Saudi Arabia in an audio tape. He <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/25/AR2010012501137.html">said</a> his fighters would withdraw from Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s territory near the border with Yemen to avoid further civilian casualties, after three months of skirmishes and Saudi air strikes.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" height="100" align="left" /></a>Al-Houthi stated that &ldquo;to avoid more bloodshed and to stop aggression on civilians ... we offer this initiative&rdquo;, before warning that if Saudi Arabia did not agree to an end of the hostilities, the rebels would wage an &ldquo;open war&rdquo; on the world&rsquo;s top oil exporter.</p> <p>Yemen&rsquo;s government has been in conflict with the rebels since 2004, but fighting escalated last August when government forces launched &lsquo;operation scorched earth&rsquo; against the Houthis. &nbsp;In November, the rebels seized Saudi territory bordering Yemen, prompting a strong Saudi military response.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em>&nbsp; </strong>In addition to the Houthi uprising in the north of the country, Yemen also faces separatist pressures in its southern regions. Such unrest has increasingly alarmed both the United States and Saudi Arabia, who fear that Yemen will become the next &lsquo;failed state&rsquo;, allowing al-Qaeda to exploit the chaos and step up its presence in the country. An expanding foothold in Yemen could threaten the Gulf of Aden, already plagued by piracy, and potentially reinforce armed Islamists in Somalia.</p> <p>The fact that the Houthis are offering a ceasefire indicates the extent of pressure from Saudi forces. According to analysts in Yemen, the rebels could not continue an open war against the Saudis, having suffered major air and artillery strikes. However, the proposed truce could equally be a means of concentrating their efforsts on the Yemeni side of the border, and there is no guarantee that the rebels will not return to Saudi territory later.</p> <p>Hence Riyadh faces a dilemma in deciding whether to end the hostilities. A ceasefire would be a welcome respite for the Saudi army, which has already lost 113 soldiers in the fighting, according to General Ali Zaid al-Khawaji, the Saudi commander in the region. It would also help to improve humanitarian conditions in northern Yemen, where the Red Cross <a href="http://www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=OTY0NDg3MDc0">says</a> that the fate of civilians has &ldquo;drastically worsened&rdquo; since fighting expanded. According to the United Nations, the conflict has displaced about 200,000 people.</p> <p>Conversely, Riyadh may not want to leave the rebels to regroup and build their positions in the north of Yemen. The Sunni governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia suspect the Shi&rsquo;ite rebels are supported by co-religionists in Iran, Riyadh's long running rival. Iran has <a href="http://www.jafariyanews.com/2k9_news/oct/30iran_role_yemen.htm" target="_blank">denied</a> encouraging the rebels, but it is clear that the two will not be divorced in Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s strategic calculations.</p> <p>Still, should Saudi Arabia <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65730/joost-r-hiltermann/disorder-on-the-border">stop their attacks for now</a>, and accept the truce, they could no doubt benefit. They could shift their focus to indirectly supporting the government in Sana&rsquo;a, providing more financial resources and training for its security forces, while closely monitoring the insurgents. Riyadh should also attempt to prod the Yemeni government towards negotiation with the rebels, since the enduring conflict, stemming as it does from the marginalisation of a legitimate minority, will not be solved by brute force. A better strategy would be to talk to the rebels and address their grievances, such as their accusations of social, economic, and religious exclusion by the government.</p> <p><strong>Student killed in riots over Venezuelan media</strong></p> <p>On Monday, one youth <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2520473020100126?type=marketsNews">was killed</a> and sixteen people injured when student protesters clashed with supporters of president Chavez and the police. Students across the country came out in <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5jagVj-hw1DOPhy-h1iF3Lyl5rApg">protest</a> after the government suspended a popular television channel generally critical of Chavez and the Venezuelan government. The student was killed in a demonstration in the western city of Merida, while the biggest protests took place in the capital of Caracas.</p> <p>Radio Caracas Television (<a href="http://www.rctv.net/">RCTV</a>) was <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/01/26/2801091.htm?section=justin">taken off the air</a> after it refused to broadcast a speech by Chavez. The Venezuelan state-run telecommunications agency <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/01/23/world/AP-LT-Venezuela-Media.html?_r=1">cited</a> breached regulations for shutting down RCTV along with five other networks. Journalists and media freedom groups were <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/25/world/americas/25venez.html">outraged</a> by the events, accusing Chavez of silencing political opposition ahead of elections in September.</p> <p><strong>&lsquo;Chemical Ali&rsquo; hanged in Iraq</strong></p> <p>Ali Hassan al-Majid, who became known as &lsquo;Chemical Ali&rsquo; for his role in gassing thousands of Kurds, was <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/7072687/Chemical-Ali-executed-in-Iraq.html">executed</a> on Monday in Baghdad. Last week, a special tribunal in Baghdad gave him his fourth death sentence for his most notorious crime: a poisoned gas attack on Kurdish civilians in the town of Halabja. The attack, which was carried out by Iraqi aircraft in March 1988, killed an estimated 5,000 Kurds.</p> <p>Al-Majid received his first death sentence in 2007, but due to legal procedures his execution had to wait until now. Fouad Masoum, a leading Kurdish politician, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/25/AR2010012503631.html">proclaimed</a> that &ldquo;justice had been done&rdquo;, saying Majid got what he deserved for the atrocities and adding that he hoped &ldquo;he will be a lesson for others&rdquo;<strong>. <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Hundreds arrested after violence in Nigeria</strong></p> <p>More than 300 people have been <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8479964.stm">held</a> on accusations of involvement in last week&rsquo;s <a href="../../../../../../../../opensecurity/security_briefings/190110">deadly religious clashes</a> in the Nigerian city of Jos. According to the police, at least 326 people were killed during fighting between Christian and Muslim gangs. Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to Jos, and a curfew has been imposed to restore order.</p> <p>Police sources <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/01/201012519643161428.html">say</a> that some of the suspects have been moved to the capital of Abuja for questioning. Certain government officials suspect that many of those arrested were also responsible for similar religious attacks in 2008 but had escaped trial at the time. Criminals in Nigeria often escaped justice in the past due to&nbsp;the country&rsquo;s <a href="http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE60O0FE20100125">weak</a> legal system, overburdened judiciary, and overflowing prisons.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Venezuela </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Nigeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jos </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Jos Nigeria Iraq Venezuela Iran United States Saudi Arabia Yemen Conflict International politics Dries Belet Nigerian sectarian conflict Iraq war and aftermath Houthi insurgency in Yemen and Saudi Arabia Security Briefings Tue, 26 Jan 2010 13:56:49 +0000 Dries Belet 49975 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Taliban terrorize Kabul in series of attacks https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/190110 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghan forces battle Taliban militants in streets of Kabul. China stonewalls possible sanctions against Iran. Deadly violence erupts in Nigerian sectarian clashes. UN seeks additional troops for Haiti. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <P>Yesterday, the Afghan capital of Kabul was struck by a coordinated Taliban assault, constituting one of their most ambitious attacks so far. A group of militants staged several suicide bombings and targeted key government buildings near the presidential palace, <A href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bc6d63f8-03f9-11df-a824-00144feabdc0.html">killing</a> at least seventeen people.</p> <P>The audacious attacks took place as president Karzai was swearing in a new cabinet in his heavily fortified palace, while outside Afghan security forces fought off the Taliban militants. Other groups of attackers barricaded themselves in a shopping centre and a cinema, before the police stormed the buildings and took them out. The government <A href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/taliban-storm-kabul-with-wave-of-suicide-bombings-1871989.html">claims</a> to have killed seven Taliban fighters. The Taliban <A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8464763.stm">stated</a> on their website that twenty of its combatants had taken part in the attack.</p> <P><STRONG><EM>The openSecurity verdict:</em></strong><STRONG> </strong>President Karzai had recently outlined a programme of reconciliation with the Taliban, in an attempt to get them to the negotiation table and decrease the violence in the country. The US and its allies now view reconciliation as a vital step for the stabilization of Afghanistan. However, yesterday’s violent assaults represented a clear ‘no’ as the Taliban’s response, and aimed to discredit Karzai’s central government by instilling fear in Kabul’s population. Whether some more moderate elements in the Taliban might be open to future negotiations with the central government is impossible to say, but so long as the insurgents achieve media coverage with bold attacks, the militant hardliners will see their relative positions strengthened.</p> <P>The security of Kabul is left to Afghanistan’s own police and security forces, in contrast to the rest of the country, where NATO troops are deployed. The capital is an attractive target, both because successful attacks there represent a significant loss of face for the government, and because it is very hard to defend effectively. Afghan forces have numerous checkpoints across Kabul, but security experts have long <A href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/60dc71c6-0469-11df-8603-00144feabdc0.html">posed questions</a> about how effective and rigorous these checks really are, and yesterday’s attackers were able to penetrate deep into the city centre with relative ease. The heavy volume of traffic in Kabul also means it is very difficult to provide water-tight security without shutting down the entire economy of the capital.</p> <P>Afghan government and NATO officials sought to emphasize the positive aspects of the security forces’ quick and effective reaction to the attacks. Indeed, when compared with, for example, the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the botched reaction of Indian security authorities, the outcome of yesterday’s assault could have been much worse. ISAF Brigadier General Eric Tremblay <A href="http://www.euronews.net/2010/01/19/afghan-forces-take-on-the-taliban-in-kabul/">said</a>, “I think that strategically we were expecting some kind of sensational attack. But in the end, it demonstrates, in the way the Afghan national security forces are dealing with the operation, their skills and the level of experience they have now to be able to deal with the event.” Amarullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, <A href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/18/taliban-kabul-attacks-analysis">claimed</a> that “sixty percent of the attackers were killed before they could blow themselves up”, stressing that the security forces “saved tens of Afghan civilians by sacrificing their lives”.</p> <P>The attacks took place ten days before an international summit in London where international strategy towards Afghanistan will be discussed. Whether the assault will have an effect on deliberations at the conference remains to be seen, but the Taliban definitely view it as a cost-effective public-relations victory. For them, the costs of such an attack are relatively low, only requiring a small group of some 20 well-armed militants. In return, they benefit from extensive national and international news coverage, and continue to sap confidence in the central government. That is why, until a future reconciliation agreement with the Taliban is reached, they will keep on mounting attacks on the capital.</p> <P><STRONG>China stonewalls possible sanctions against Iran</strong></p> <P>On Tuesday, China moved to block future sanctions on Iran, after a meeting between the powers of the ‘P5+1’ - China, the US, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany. The Chinese delegate at those talks reinforced Beijing’s <A href="../../../../../../../../security_briefings/011209">previous position</a> that it does not support sanctions on Iran at present. The United States and European countries have threatened Iran with sanctions if it continues to refuse a deal on its nuclear programme offered last year.</p> <P>A Chinese foreign ministry official <A href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60I1AS20100119">said</a>, “our consistent proposal has been to resolve the Iran nuclear issue appropriately through dialogue and consultation”, in addition to stressing the need for “a more flexible and pragmatic approach”. China’s reluctance means that a United Nations-approved sanctions package is out of the question, because China holds veto power the in the UN Security Council.</p> <P>Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, issued a renewed warning of sanctions against Iran. She <A href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60H4PG20100118">explained</a> that "of course we would prefer it if these (sanctions) could be agreed within the framework of the United Nations Security Council", but continued by saying that if UN assent could not be achieved, Germany will participate in unilateral sanctions “with other countries that are pursuing the same goal”. Should China and Russia, major trading partners with Iran, not participate however, such steps may have little influence.</p> <P><STRONG>Deadly violence erupts in Nigerian sectarian clashes</strong></p> <P>During the weekend, heavy fighting <A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8465108.stm">occurred</a> between Muslim and Christian groups in the Nigerian city of Jos, with dozens of killings so far. On Tuesday violent clashes broke out again, as the police attempted to restore order and impose a curfew in the city.</p> <P>Casualty numbers so far remain unclear, but the Red Cross <A href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ilvsalY6RnXtL86dibO9_KflgplQ">stated</a> that over 100 people were seriously injured in the fighting and 3,000 had been displaced. The riots commenced when Christian youths protested against the construction of a mosque in a largely Christian-populated area of the city.</p> <P>Nigeria’s population consists of roughly equal numbers of Muslims, who live mainly in the north of the country, and Christians, in the south. The city of Jos lies in the centre of Nigeria, on the fault line between the two religious communities, and is a frequent flashpoint for sectarian tensions.</p> <P><STRONG>UN seeks additional troops for Haiti</strong></p> <P>Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, called for 3,500 more peacekeepers to supplement the 9,000-strong United Nations force in Haiti. Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti on Sunday, <A href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/18/haiti.un.chief.amanpour/">asking</a> the Haitians to be patient, “because the whole world is standing behind them”. However, due to chronic <A href="../../../../../../../../opensecurity/security_briefings/150110">delays</a>, aid workers are still struggling to deliver desperately needed food and emergency supplies to the victims in time.</p> <P>Ban said the extra 3,500 troops were necessary “to take charge of all this security, to help humanitarian assistance be delivered in a safe way”. On Tuesday, the UN is to hold an urgent <A href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/world/americas/19nations.html">vote</a> on sending the additional troops. Safety is becoming more and more of a concern in the broken state of Haiti, as acts of violence and looting are emerging becoming more frequent in the capital of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere.</p> <P><STRONG>Kenyan police crack down on Somalis after riots</strong></p> <P>Kenyan security forces raided a Somali suburb of the capital Nairobi on Sunday night, <A href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jw-ZwO04ivviWHFv9uw38UVvf8VA">taking away</a> 300 Somali immigrants and an important Muslim activist. The raid followed violent Muslim protests in the heart of Nairobi on Friday, during which at least one person was killed.</p> <P>The street battles broke out due to the abortive attempt to deport Abdullah al-Faisal, a fundamentalist Muslim cleric from Jamaica. Some protesters were reported to <A href="http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE60I06D20100119">carry</a> the black flags from Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab, which has been linked to al-Qaeda.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Nigeria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Haiti </div> <div class="field-item even"> Kenya </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Somalia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kabul </div> <div class="field-item even"> London </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Jos </div> <div class="field-item even"> Port-au-Prince </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Nairobi </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Nairobi Port-au-Prince Jos London Kabul Somalia Kenya Haiti Nigeria Iran Germany China United States Afghanistan Conflict International politics Dries Belet Tue, 19 Jan 2010 14:36:52 +0000 Dries Belet 49882 at https://www.opendemocracy.net China successfully tests missile interceptor https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/120110 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China conducts missile system test following US-Taiwan arms sales. Optimistic poll raises hopes for Afghanistan. Israel plans new fence along Egyptian border. Iranian scientist killed in bomb attack. All this and more in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>On Monday, China declared it had successfully tested new military technology capable of intercepting missiles mid-flight. China&rsquo;s state news agency Xinhua <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2010-01/11/content_12792329.htm"><span>reported</span></a> that the test occurred within China&rsquo;s territory and that the interceptors are purely defensive, and are not being targeted at any country.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity-projects/security-briefings"><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/scrnshots.com/screenshots/238468/security_briefingspng" alt="" width="100" height="100" align="left" /></a>The United States confirmed detection of a collision between two missiles, indicating the test achieved its objective. A Pentagon spokesperson <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6984549.ece"><span>stated</span></a> that the US has asked China for more information concerning &ldquo;the purpose for conducting this interception as well as China&rsquo;s intentions and plans to pursue future types of intercepts&rdquo;.</p> <p>The missile interceptor test comes in the wake of recently approved US-Taiwan arms sales, including Patriot &lsquo;PAC-3&rsquo; missile defence systems. During the <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2010-01/07/content_12771805.htm"><span>past</span></a> <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2010-01/09/content_12779436.htm"><span>week</span></a>, Beijing has strongly and repeatedly protested against this arms deal, saying it infringed Chinese security interests and infernal affairs, because the issue of Taiwan is &lsquo;related to China&rsquo;s sovereignty and territorial integrity'. China urged Washington to reconsider the deal, and warned of &lsquo;severe consequences&rsquo; for US-China relations if the US chose otherwise. The US defence department <a title="denied" href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/12/china-tests-missile-interceptor"><span>denied</span></a> any connection between the Chinese test and arms sales to Taiwan.</p> <p><strong><em>The </em></strong><strong><em>openSecurity</em></strong><strong><em> verdict:</em></strong> Despite the American denial of a link between the arms sales and the missile test and China&rsquo;s assurances of its defencive nature, last week&rsquo;s vehement Chinese objections against the arms deal suggest a direct connection exists. Policymakers in Beijing are extremely sensitive about US actions with regard to Taiwan, and the missile test represented a straightforward instrument to signal displeasure to the Obama administration, constituting an attempt to <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1aa7721c-ff52-11de-8f53-00144feabdc0.html"><span>influence</span></a> its Taiwan policy. Whether missile defence systems are of a defensive or offensive capacity seems a moot point, since such systems would be equally useful to guard against retaliation in the case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.</p> <p>Ever since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, China has continued to view the autonomous Republic of China (ROK) on the island of Taiwan as part of its territory, while Taiwan has claimed to be the legitimate government of the entire Chinese mainland. Although Taiwan now possesses de facto independence from the mainland China, and its ambitions to regain control of China have waned, Beijing has never recognized this fact, and insists it is an integral part of China.</p> <p>To deter Taipei from declaring full independence, China has built up a wide variety of military capabilities, including, importantly, a considerable amount of ballistic missiles trained on the Taiwanese island. However, China reasons that US missile defences, like the Patriot system in this arms deal, diminish the leverage its military forces give it over to Taiwan, thereby destabilizing the regional balance. Because of this, Beijing is often seen reproaching the US for meddling in the issue of Taiwan, which China considers as a domestic matter.</p> <p>As a counter to the American support to Taiwan and other states in the region, China has been developing new weapon systems at great speed. According to the Chinese defence budget, which is widely estimated to be lower than China&rsquo;s real military expenditures, spending <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hjNuxwIviKjU9j5ExnNhlcXvcR_A"><span>rose</span></a> by 15.3 percent in 2009 to 69 billion dollars.</p> <p>Yesterday&rsquo;s test is a prime example of China&rsquo;s new technological prowess, since building a missile interceptor which works effectively is not an easy feat. The People&rsquo;s Liberation Army (PLA) is playing a catch-up game, since despite having the largest armed forces in the world, it is generally considered to be ten to twenty years behind the US military on the technological front. Both the US and the European Union have arms embargoes in place against China (although the EU has been discussing lifting the embargo), which forces China to rely on developing its domestic military-industrial complex, and also on technologies and arms it can procure from Russia.</p> <p>Some of the PLA&rsquo;s other research programmes <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6984549.ece"><span>include</span></a> anti-aircraft systems aimed at hitting stealth aircraft and disabling cruise missiles and precision-guided weapons. However, because military developments in China are obscured by secrecy, public uncertainly about Beijing&rsquo;s capabilities is significant. This secrecy makes it hard for the US and its Asian allies &ndash; like Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan &ndash; to assess China&rsquo;s true intentions. Hence, although all China and the United States have a joint interest in friendly relations and economic engagement, in all likelihood military competition and arms races will remain a point of friction for the foreseeable future.</p> <p><strong>Optimistic poll raises hopes for Afghanistan</strong></p> <p>Afghans&rsquo; hopes for the future of their country have increased significantly and they support the presence of NATO troops, according to a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/11_01_10_afghanpoll.pdf"><span>poll</span></a> carried out by the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8448930.stm"><span>B</span><span>B</span><span>C</span></a>, ABC news and Germany&rsquo;s ARD.</p> <p>The survey of 1,500 Afghans in December 2009, saw 70 percent of respondents stating that their country is moving in the right direction, up from 40 percent last year. Support for NATO forces increased to 62 percent, with almost the same number of Afghans supporting the recent &lsquo;surge&rsquo; of extra troops. General Stanley McChrystal, the alliance&rsquo;s supreme commander in Afghanistan, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Afghanistan/afghanistan-general-stanley-mcchrystal-tells-diane-sawyer-surge/story?id=9525700"><span>told ABC</span></a> he believed the troop increase was working, and is turning the tide against the Taliban.</p> <p>The Afghan people&rsquo;s views about president Hamid Karzai also became more favourable, with 72 percent rating him as &lsquo;excellent&rsquo; or &lsquo;good&rsquo;, despite last year&rsquo;s disputed presidential election and allegations of corruption. Only 6 percent responded that they would prefer a Taliban-run government. The rise in optimism is at least partly due to better living conditions, with Afghans citing better job prospects and economic opportunities.</p> <p>Violence continues nonetheless, and five NATO soldiers were killed on Monday. According to a statement by NATO&rsquo;s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), three US servicemen died battling insurgents in southern Afghanistan, while a British soldier was killed by a blast in Helmand province. In addition, a French soldier died in a clash in the east of the country, while another was badly wounded and remains in critical condition. Since the beginning of the new year, the death toll for foreign soldiers in Afghanistan already totals <a href="http://www.icasualties.org/"><span>fourteen casualties</span></a>.</p> <p><strong>Israel plans new fence along Egyptian border</strong></p> <p>Israeli officials yesterday provided details about the surveillance fence that will be constructed along the border with Egypt, claiming that the barrier&rsquo;s main objective is to keep out African migrants and illegal workers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/01/11/israel.egypt.border/"><span>called</span></a> the plan &ldquo;a strategic decision to ensure the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel.&rdquo; In addition to keeping out illegal migrants, he said the fence would also contribute to security by blocking &ldquo;infiltrators and terrorists&rdquo; from entering the country. Netanyahu <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-orders-new-fence-to-keep-out-african-migrants-1864827.html"><span>insisted</span></a> the plan will not keep out war refugees, and would &ldquo;remain open&rdquo; to those with a genuine claim.</p> <p>The barrier is projected to cost about 250 million dollars, and will close a part of Israel&rsquo;s southern border with Egypt&rsquo;s Sinai desert. According to Israeli police, between 100 and 200 African migrants cross the Sinai and arrive in Israel each week. The fence will contain radar equipment to detect infiltrators, and will be composed of two sections, one running down from Gaza for about fifty kilometres, and another going north from Eliat, at the Red Sea, for about the same distance.</p> <p>Israel has already constructed a contentious barrier around the Palestinian territories on the West Bank which it claims has led to a massive drop in infiltration and attacks staged in Israeli controlled territory. It is also in the process of building an <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/10/egypt-underground-wall-gaza"><span>underground steel wall</span></a> along the Gaza strip border, to curb smuggling into Gaza.</p> <p><strong>Iranian scientist killed in bomb attack</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, Iranian nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Mohammadi was assassinated by a bomb blast, when explosives rigged to a motorbike outside his home were triggered by remote control. State media quickly <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fgw-iran-bomb-scientist12-2009jan12,0,6934201.story"><span>blamed</span></a> the attack on US and Israeli agents, talking of a &ldquo;a terrorist operation by counterrevolutionary agents affiliated with the global arrogance&rdquo;, accusing foreign nations of stirring up unrest. The media <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/world/middleeast/13iran.html"><span>called</span></a> Mohammadi a staunch supporter of the Islamic Revolution and the Iranian regime.</p> <p>It was unclear whether Mohammadi, who was a professor at Tehran state university, was connected to Iran&rsquo;s hugely controversial nuclear programme, which is strongly opposed by the United States, European countries, and Israel. Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran's chief prosecutor, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/6972265/Iranian-nuclear-scientist-killed-by-bomb.html"><span>stated</span></a> that &ldquo;so far there have no arrests of those behind the incident&rdquo;.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> China </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Taiwan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Afghanistan Egypt Taiwan China United States Iran Israel Conflict International politics Science Dries Belet Taliban insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan PRC-ROC conflict Tue, 12 Jan 2010 15:07:35 +0000 Dries Belet 49781 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Leaked intelligence says Iran developing nuclear weapon https://www.opendemocracy.net/security_briefings/151209 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Secret document shows Iran working on key nuclear bomb component. Car bomb kills eight near Kabul hotel. Japan postpones decision on US Okinawa base. Sri Lanka general denies surrendered Tamil rebels shot. All this and much more in today’s security update. </div> </div> </div> <p>A <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6955706.ece">confidential Iranian memo</a>, which was <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6955351.ece">acquired</a> by <em>The Times,</em> suggests that Iranian scientists were working on nuclear bomb components in 2007. <em>The Times</em> says the obtained notes were written by the head of Iran’s covert nuclear programme. They give a detailed description of a four-year plan to test a ‘neutron initiator’, the part of a nuclear weapon that triggers the chain reaction leading to the actual explosion of a bomb. The report mentions the use of uranium deuteride (‘UD3’), which experts say has no other use than in nuclear weapons. <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6955238.ece">UD3</a> is the substance that is used in Pakistan’s nuclear weapon, whence Iran got the blueprints for its own programme.</p> <p>Governments or intelligence services have not yet confirmed the report, but the UN’s nuclear agency has <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BD3JU20091214">judged</a> it “consistent and compelling”. Diplomats have already commented that the document is another piece of evidence pointing towards Iran’s intentions. Tehran responded by claiming the report was fabricated and dismissed it as the work of foreign intelligence services “seeking to destabilize the Islamic republic”.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em></strong><em> </em>Until now, Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. Iran, which is the world’s fourth biggest <a href="https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html">producer</a> of oil and the fifth of natural gas, claims it wants civilian nuclear power in order to export more of its energy resources.</p> <p>In 2007, the US National Intelligence Estimate concluded that it was “reasonably sure” Iran had suspended its weapons programme in 2003 and had not yet resumed it by mid-2007. However, other countries such as Britain, France, Germany, and Israel did not believe that Iran had ceased to design of nuclear weapons. The report leaked yesterday seems to contradict Tehran’s strenuous denials of working on a nuclear weapon.</p> <p>The revelations come as the US and European governments mount pressure on Russia and China to support tougher UN sanctions on the Iranian regime and revolutionary guard. If it is genuine, the Iranian document could help with these efforts, because Moscow and Beijing will feel less inclined to continue dragging their feet over multilateral sanctions if clear evidence about a nuclear weapons programme exists.</p> <p>However, since the report seems to affirm the Iranian leadership’s determination to develop a nuclear bomb, questions can be raised as to whether any kind of economic sanctions will really be effective in reversing Tehran’s plans. The effect of sanctions on Iran's internal political situation must also be duly considered. With Iran's nuclear programme already marketed in strongly nationalist terms, sanctions could reduce domestic pressure on the regime and be used to justify coercive measures to enforce solidarity.</p> <p><strong>Car bomb kills eight near Kabul hotel</strong></p> <p>At least eight people were killed by a suicide attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday. The vehicle driver detonated his bomb about thirty metres from a hotel filled with foreigners, in the city's diplomatic neighbourhood. Forty more people were wounded, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/15/afghan-capital-suicide-bomb">according</a> to an official from the ministry of the interior.</p> <p>The explosion took place close to the home of former vice-president Ahmed Zia Massoud, who is thought to have been the target. Massoud’s brother, the Tajik guerrilla hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, was killed by Al Qaeda in 2001. Speaking at an anti-corruption conference, president Hamid Karzai confirmed that two of Massoud’s bodyguards were killed in the explosion. Karzai <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i9kpZVv_Zz_tKKEtOtLIeW1td7cA">condemned</a> the attack as “brutal, inhuman, and un-Islamic”, and ordered an investigation to track down those responsible.</p> <p><strong>Japan postpones decision on US Okinawa base</strong></p> <p>Yukio Hatoyama, Japan’s prime minister, has delayed until next year a controversial decision to relocate a US military base. The retardation does not bode well for the new Hatoyama administration’s relations with the US. The move of the base to a new location on the island of Okinawa is a source of US-Japan diplomatic tensions, and officials in Washington have stated <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9ab7e70c-e945-11de-be51-00144feab49a.html">concerns</a> about the Japan’s shifting security strategy.</p> <p>The Japanese government decided to set up a consultative body, composed of representatives from the three government parties, to look into the matter. <em>Asahi Shimbun</em> newspaper <a href="http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200912150331.html">reported</a> that a decision has been deferred until May next year. However, <a href="http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20091215p2a00m0na020000c.html">according</a> to the <em>Mainichi Daily News, </em>this deadline encountered stiff resistance from coalition partner the Social Democratic Party (SPD). With the cabinet openly split over the issue, varying options remain open for the future of the base. The scheduled relocation was part of a wider agreement between the previous governments in the US and Japan to review the presence of 47,000 American troops.</p> <p><strong>Sri Lanka general denies surrendered Tamil rebels shot</strong></p> <p>General Sarath Fonseka denied that he said government soldiers shot Tiger rebels who had surrendered, <a href="http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE5BD1I720091214">stating</a> that no such incidents took place and that his earlier remarks were taken out of context. The Sri Lankan government had previously <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&amp;sid=aPYj5vReB0BE">denounced</a> the reported comments of the general, saying “he betrayed the nation” with his allegations. The government has accused Fonseka, who is the opposition candidate for the January presidential elections, of manoeuvring for political advantage.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Sri Lanka was also the subject of criticism in a <a href="http://www.tisrilanka.org/?p=2838">report</a> by Transparency International, a global watchdog. It reprimanded the government for a lack of democracy, accountability and transparency, citing problems of corruption and violence. The report warned of a difficult recovery from the long civil war, saying, "the latter half of 2009 marks a period of hope and potential for Sri Lanka. Yet, winning the war seems to have been easier than winning the peace”.</p> <p><strong>Baghdad security breached by bombs again</strong></p> <p>Car bombs on three different sites in Baghdad killed four people and wounded fourteen on Tuesday morning. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/world/middleeast/16iraq.html">According</a> to the Iraqi <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/12/200912733859374922.html">police</a>, the vehicles exploded within minutes of each other, and were stationed close to official buildings in the centre of the capital, such as the foreign and immigration ministries. The attacks, which occurred near the heavily fortified ‘green zone’, represent the fourth wave of coordinated city centre bombings in four months, raising questions about the adequacy of Iraq’s security forces. Last week, a series of coordinated attacks killed 112 people in Baghdad.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> China </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Japan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Sri Lanka </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tehran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Moscow </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Beijing </div> <div class="field-item even"> Kabul </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Baghdad </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Baghdad Kabul Beijing Moscow Tehran Iraq Sri Lanka Japan Afghanistan China Russia United States Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics Dries Belet Tue, 15 Dec 2009 14:46:28 +0000 Dries Belet 49482 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Coordinated bombings ravage heart of Baghdad https://www.opendemocracy.net/security_briefings/081209 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Multiple explosions kill over 100 people in Baghdad. Gates to put pressure on Karzai in Kabul. US envoy commences talks with North Korea. Deadly attacks strike Pakistani cities. All this and more in today’s update. </div> </div> </div> <p>A series of bombs exploded on Tuesday morning in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, killing at least 127 people and wounding hundreds more. The five attacks, which <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/08/car-bombs-baghdad-explosions">took place</a> within minutes of each other, appeared to be coordinated.&nbsp;The main targets were the Iraqi authorities, with bombs directed at the labour ministry building, a court complex, a university, and the finance ministry, which had just moved into a new site after its old building was destroyed by bombings in August.</p> <p>Iraqi national security advisor Mowaffaq al-Rubaie <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8400865.stm">told the BBC</a> that he blames Al-Qaeda for the attacks. He claims the terrorist group aims to destabilize the country ahead of general elections in February or March, saying they seek to “show the government is unable to protect civilian and its own people and also to deter people from going to ballot boxes." Other officials stated they also suspect loyalists of the banned Baath party to have been involved.</p> <p>The violent bombings mark the deadliest day in Iraq since 25 October, when two suicide truck bombs destroyed three ministries and killed at least 155 people. In August, suicide bombers hit the foreign and finance ministries, also killing more than 100 people.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em></strong> The carnage in the core of Baghdad raises questions about the ability of Iraqi army and police forces to handle the security of the capital, with terrorists hitting high-profile government targets. According to an <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/12/200912881156299629.html">Al Jazeera</a> source, officials believe the security forces might have been infiltrated in advance of the attack, compromising chances of detecting and preventing the bombing. US soldiers have left the front-line defence of urban centres to Iraqi forces, and have shifted their focus to training and supporting the Iraqis, in anticipation of a full withdrawal by American forces.</p> <p>The explosions follow the approval of a crucial election law by the Iraqi parliament on Sunday, allowing for the second legislative elections to be held since the fall of the Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Iraqi officials have <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/world/middleeast/09iraq.html?_r=1&amp;ref=middleeast">warned</a> of escalating violence in the months leading up to the election, with insurgents aiming to discredit the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Since 2007, violence in Iraq has diminished significantly, but extremists have recently stepped up attacks on government targets. The devastating attacks have the potential to undermine government authority, with the potential to discredit results in the upcoming elections.</p> <p>Assaults like today’s also prevent Iraq’s economy from getting back on track. An important oilfield auction is planned on Friday and Saturday, and although the Oil Ministry has <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKGEE5B70IF20091208">stated</a> it will not delay the auction because of the bombings, international oil companies might decide the risks of sending over personnel and investing in Iraq are too great due to the continuing violence. Despite the fact that Iraq possesses huge untapped oil reserves, chronic sabotage stifles the development of the country’s crucial energy industry. Recent estimates measure the cost for explosives to attack and destroy a pipeline segment to be about $2500, while the expenses to repair it can total as much as $500 million; one among many factors clearly stacking the odds against the Iraqi government and its reconstruction efforts.</p> <p><strong>Gates to put pressure on Karzai in Kabul</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates arrived for an unannounced visit to Kabul in order to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/world/asia/08gates.html">discuss</a> with Afghan President Hamid Karzai how the US surge of 30,000 extra soldiers will be implemented. On the political front, Gates will insist on Karzai taking a tougher line on corruption and including only “honest” ministers in the new Afghan government.</p> <p>Gates also plans to meet with American troops, and convey the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/08/robert-gates-afghanistan-us">message</a> that the US “is in this thing to win”. He will stress that, despite President Obama’s announcement to begin a gradual withdrawal in eighteen months, the US will not abandon Afghanistan to its fate, emphasising that the country will have to work on training of its own forces, so that they can take over the burden that is now on American soldiers.</p> <p><strong>US envoy commences talks with North Korea</strong></p> <p>US special representative Stephen Bosworth will <a href="http://www.abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=9276693">visit</a> North Korea’s capital Pyongyang for three days of talks starting on Tuesday, in order to persuade the country to return to nuclear negotiations.</p> <p>Bosworth is the <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-12/06/content_12601168.htm">first senior American official</a> to have a meeting with North Korean government, since the Obama administration took office last January. The US says it has not offered any new incentives to Pyongyang, but still hopes to restart the stalled six-party talks, which served as a negotiation forum for the disarmament of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has been manoeuvring for direct bilateral talks with the US, however senior US officials have stated that Bosworth’s visit only serves as a step towards resuming the multilateral six-party talks, which, besides the US and North Korea, include China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea.</p> <p><strong>Deadly attacks strike Pakistani cities</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, in the eastern city of Multan, a building housing Pakistan’s intelligence service was <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/12/08/pakistan.explosions/">blasted</a> by rockets and a suicide car bomb, taking the lives of at least twelve people. The attack followed heavy explosions in Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta the day before, when bombings in crowded public places killed at least 65 people in total. On 4 December, a mosque near an army headquarters in Rawalpindi was attacked, leading to the death of at least 36 people attending prayer services.</p> <p>Over the past few weeks, a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8400869.stm">series</a> of wide-ranging terrorist acts by Islamist militants have killed over 400 people in Pakistan. The extremists have stepped up their attacks after the Pakistani army started a large-scale offensive against the Taliban in the region of South Waziristan.</p> <p><strong>Iran says nuclear deal possible if West establishes trust</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, the Iranian foreign ministry <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-12/08/content_12612360.htm">said</a> the government was ready to embark on a nuclear fuel export deal, but only if the West can “win back its trust”.</p> <p>Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters at a press conference, “Because of the attitude of some Western countries, we have lost trust in them. They have never kept their promises.” He added that further sanctions against Iran would yield no results, saying that “sanctions are nothing new for Iran” and claiming they would merely strengthen Tehran’s resolve.</p> <p>International negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme broke down last month, after Tehran demanded additional modifications on a preliminary agreement. The draft proposal envisaged exporting a large part of Iran’s uranium to France and Russia for reprocessing, which could then be returned to Iran for use without the possibility of siphoning off fuel for development as weapons-grade material.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> North Korea </div> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Japan </div> <div class="field-item even"> South Korea </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Baghdad </div> <div class="field-item even"> Kabul </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Pyonyang </div> <div class="field-item even"> Lahore </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Peshawar </div> <div class="field-item even"> Rawalpindi </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Tehran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Multan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Quetta </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Quetta Multan Tehran Rawalpindi Peshawar Lahore Pyonyang Kabul Baghdad France Iran Pakistan South Korea Japan Russia China North Korea Afghanistan United States Iraq Dries Belet Tue, 08 Dec 2009 15:11:14 +0000 Dries Belet 49380 at https://www.opendemocracy.net China casts doubt on escalation of sanctions against Iran https://www.opendemocracy.net/security_briefings/011209 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China calls for talks with Iran rather than sanctions. Obama to announce 34,000 troop increase. Israel lashes out at EU over Jerusalem. Philippine mayor charged over political massacre. Iran seizes five British sailors. All this and much more, in today’s briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>On Tuesday, China <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hDb6QE6dUOmI-OQUvxlCSPb5O8NQD9CADDBG6">stressed</a> the need for more diplomacy rather than sanctions to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme. Two days before, Iran had <a href="../../../../../../../../security_briefings/301109">announced</a> its intention to start on the construction of ten new enrichment facilities. Many foreign diplomats were <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8386261.stm">outraged</a> about this provocative statement, which placed Iran relations with the US and Europe under increasing strain.</p> <p>A Chinese foreign ministry official said at a press conference that sanctions against Iran “are not the goal” of the UN. The UN’s nuclear agency passed a resolution on Friday demanding that Iran put an immediate stop to all enrichment activities. However, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang emphasized the need for more diplomacy rather than sanctions, stating, "we should properly resolve this issue through dialogue. All parties should step up diplomatic efforts.”</p> <p>Iran <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8385797.stm">claims</a> the threatening UN resolution forced its decision to begin construction of the ten new enrichment sites. The head of Iran’s nuclear programme, Ali Akbar Salehi, claimed the West persistently misunderstood Iran’s peaceful intentions. In addition, some Iranian politicians added to tensions by calling for a withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict: </em></strong>During the past year, Western countries have been intensively attempting to find a diplomatic breakthrough on Iran’s nuclear programme. US President Barack Obama embarked on a strategy of engagement, talking with Tehran directly in a bid to improve relations and find a solution to the nuclear crisis. Last month it seemed as if a negotiated agreement, to export Iran’s enriched uranium to France and Russia, was likely. Such a deal would have delayed the possibility of converting nuclear fuel into a weapon significantly. However, Iran has since reverted to its original hard-line position, upholding its supposed right to develop nuclear energy capacity independently.</p> <p>As a result, escalating tensions have increasingly led Western governments to <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/6692926/West-prepares-to-draw-up-sanctions-against-Iran.html">consider</a> sanctions against Iran. Countries such as France, Germany and Russia all issued warnings and expressed dissatisfaction with Iran’s current stance. For the moment, a UN embargo on Iran exists with regard to nuclear technology transfers. Analysts now speculate about new economic sanctions, possibly against Iran’s oil and gas industries, which are the principal source of government revenues. However, if a possible decision on sanctions in the UN Security Council is to be reached, China has to be persuaded not to use its veto.</p> <p>Relations between Beijing and Tehran are important for both. Because of the booming Chinese economy and its voracious energy consumption, China is eager for the friendship of states that can supply it with the necessary natural resources. Iran possesses some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, and is selling a large amount of these resources to China. Chinese energy companies are also making significant investments in the Iranian energy sector. On the other hand, China is <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55414-2004Nov16.html">exporting</a> a whole array of manufactured consumption goods to Iran, such as computers, household appliances, and cars.</p> <p>Although most analysts agree that a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands is not something China would like to see, it remains very reluctant of approving sanctions due to its key economic interests in Iran. In addition, Beijing’s continuing support for the principles of state sovereignty and non-interference, which are cornerstones of its foreign policy, provides it with another rationale for refusing sanctions. Future Chinese moves will be of vital importance but are hard to predict. Recently, the US has spurred China to take up more international responsibility, but China’s Communist Party prefers to focus on its strategy of domestic economic development and to lay low in international disputes likely to negatively impact upon its export economy like Iran’s nuclear programme.</p> <p><strong>Obama to announce 34,000 troop increase </strong></p> <p>Today, President Obama will inform the American public of his long-awaited plan for Afghanistan. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/30/AR2009113002012.html?hpid=topnews">According</a> to US officials and diplomatic sources, an additional 34,000 soldiers will be deployed, bringing the total US contingent to over 100,000.</p> <p>President Obama has also asked his European allies for more support. The other NATO member states are expected to provide an extra 5,000 reinforcements, meaning that the Afghan ‘surge’ will consist of about 40,000 troops total.</p> <p>After taking three months to reach a definitive decision on Afghanistan, Obama will set out his strategy in a televised <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/30/obama-troops-afghanistan">speech</a> at the US military academy at West Point, New York. Although the troop increase represents a significant escalation of the war, White House officials <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-obama-afghan1-2009dec01,0,2169680.story">stress</a> that the commitment is not open-ended. Obama is expected to emphasize the limits of US military involvement, and focus on the stabilization of the country and on building Afghan civilian and military capabilities.</p> <p><strong>Israel lashes out at EU over Jerusalem</strong></p> <p>The Israeli foreign ministry said the European Union’s intention to support a division of Jerusalem would harm a future renewal of Middle-East peace talks.</p> <p><a href="http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1131926.html">Haaretz</a> newspaper obtained a draft document authored by Sweden, the country currently holding the EU presidency, pushing for an official call for Jerusalem to be divided, in order to serve as the capital of both Israel and the future Palestinian state.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Israel snapped at the Swedish proposal. “The move being led by Stockholm damages the European Union's ability to take part and be a significant element in the mediation efforts between Israel and the Palestinians," foreign ministry spokesman Yossi Levy claimed. He continued, claiming that "the European Union must now exert pressure on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Steps like those being led by Sweden only contribute to the opposite effect.”</p> <p>The Swedish Embassy in Tel Aviv <a href="http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3813288,00.html">stated</a> it would not comment on any internal EU information or drafts. The embassy said that if a EU resolution is made, it will undoubtedly reflect the position of all 27 member states.</p> <p><strong>Philippine mayor charged for political massacre</strong></p> <p>Prosecutors in the Philippines have <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8387688.stm">charged</a> the heir of a powerful clan with murder, a week after the massacre of 57 people. More than half of the victims were journalists and their staff, who were accompanying a candidate for the upcoming elections. At least ten <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125964001883770767.html">witnesses</a> will testify they saw Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Data Unsay, leading a group of gunmen and police officers, who blocked his political rival’s convoy in the moments leading up to the massacre.</p> <p>Last week, Ampatuan turned himself in, but denied any involvement in the mass killings. Ampatuan is the scion of a clan that has ruled the province of Maguindanao in the southern Philippines for years. His father and other family members are also suspected to be involved, but have not been charged.</p> <p><strong>Iran seizes five British sailors</strong></p> <p>The Iranian Revolutionary Guard confirmed the capture of the five British civilians in the Persian Gulf. The five were sailing a racing yacht from Bahrain to Dubai, and are thought to have strayed about 500 yards into Iranian waters, where they were detained last Wednesday.</p> <p>Today, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, a close aid of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/01/iran-yachtsmen-detention">threatened</a> that measures against the British sailors will be “hard and serious”, should Iran conclude they had “evil intentions."</p> <p>British diplomats sought to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/world/middleeast/01sailors.html?ref=middleeast">play down</a> the incident, in the hope of allaying intensifying international tensions with Iran. Possibly for this reason, the foreign and commonwealth office attempted to suppress the issue last week. Britain’s foreign minister, David Miliband, said he hoped for a quick resolution of the issue, and vowed to remain “in close touch” with the Iranian authorities, as well as the families of the sailors.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.feedblitz.com/f/?Sub=244504"><strong><em>Keep up to date with the latest news from a world beset by conflict.</em></strong></a><br /><a href="http://www.feedblitz.com/f/?Sub=244504"><strong><em>Get openDemocracy's daily security briefings sent straight to your inbox by clicking here.</em></strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Philippines </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tehran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Beijing </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Jerusalem </div> <div class="field-item even"> Tel Aviv </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Bahrain </div> <div class="field-item even"> Dubai </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Data Unsay </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Dubai Bahrain Tel Aviv Jerusalem Beijing Tehran Data Unsay Philippines Israel Germany Russia France United States Iran China Dries Belet Tue, 01 Dec 2009 14:42:50 +0000 Dries Belet 49285 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Obama to announce Afghan troop increase within days https://www.opendemocracy.net/security_briefings/241109 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> President Obama to make crucial decision on Afghan war soon. Israel, Hamas close to prisoner exchange deal. Philippines declare state of emergency after political massacre. Second blast at Russian arms depot kills eight. All this and much more, in today’s security update. </div> </div> </div> <p>On Monday night, Barack Obama <span><a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-afghan-troops24-2009nov24,0,7678221.story">held</a></span> his ninth and possibly last “war council”, discussing strategy changes in the Afghan war and a US troop increase with his top advisors. Obama is coming close to a decision on a “surge” of up to 40,000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan, in a bid to stabilize the country and regain initiative from the Taliban.</p> <p>White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the two-hour meeting, with officials such as Vice-President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, was aimed at discussing “some of the questions that the president had, some additional answers to what he'd asked for".</p> <p>"After completing a rigorous final meeting, President Obama has the information he wants and needs to make his decision and he will announce that decision within days," Gibbs stated.</p> <p>At the previous strategy meeting on 11 November, Obama was dissatisfied with the options presented, and pushed for revisions and clarifications in proposed troop increase plans. According to <span><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/6640563/Barack-Obama-to-announce-30000-Afghan-troop-increase-next-week.html">sources</a></span> at the White House, Obama will make a live broadcast announcement about his decision next Monday, before senior administration figures such as Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates testify in congress. The same sources stated that the troop increase will likely lay in a range of between 30,000 and 35,000 soldiers.</p> <p><em><strong>The openSecurity verdict: </strong></em>General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of American and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, has requested 40,000 additional troops to fight the Taliban. After the 2001 invasion, the number of NATO soldiers in Afghanistan gradually increased to the current level of 110,000, 70,000 of whom are Americans. However, an even bigger presence is needed to implement McChrystal’s development-orientated strategy of protecting civilians and buying time to build the Afghan state and expand the national army.</p> <p>Critics of President Obama have reproached him for hesitating too long before making a decision. In a radio interview, former Vice-President Dick Cheney <span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2009/11/24/us/politics/politics-us-afghanistan-usa.html">said</a></span> that “the delay is not cost-free. Every day that goes by raises doubts in the minds of our friends in the region about what you're going to do, raises doubts in the minds of the troops." Supporters of the president counter that the White House is taking the time to reach an optimal, well-informed decision.</p> <p>Western strategists are divided about the right course of action. Some stress the ‘domino-theory’, reasoning that a retreat from Afghanistan, and the implied defeat of America by the Taliban, would lead to a wave of Islamic fundamentalism in the surrounding region. Others have expressed concerns that the huge American presence in Afghanistan leads to resentment against the West and helps unite rival militant groups against a common ‘foreign invader’. Last week, a <span><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081903066.html">poll</a></span> by <em>The Washington Post</em> and ABC News concluded that 46 percent of Americans were in favour of a large troop surge, while 45 percent were more inclined towards a smaller increase of forces, with more of a focus on training the Afghan army.</p> <p>Building the Afghan national security forces will be a key component in stabilizing the country, and allowing foreign troops to withdraw in the long term. On 21 November, an integrated NATO unit <span><a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSSP319679">took command</a></span> of the training of the Afghan army and police. However, multiple difficulties exist, including tribal and religious rivalries that often eclipse Afghan national unity, widespread corruption, and a perception among common Afghans that joining the Taliban offers better rewards.</p> <p>For the United States, the upcoming increase in troop numbers will also mean a heavy financial burden. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag <span><a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601070&amp;sid=aF7IMpDAfFVA">estimates</a></span> the cost to be around $1 million for each additional soldier, with a total of between $30-40 billion for the projected troop increase. Although Congress is likely to approve an Afghan ‘surge’, due to Democrat loyalty to the president and Republican support for the war effort, concern for the sky-rocketing government budget deficit is growing. Two Democrat Congress members have <span><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/6640563/Barack-Obama-to-announce-30000-Afghan-troop-increase-next-week.html">floated</a></span> a “war tax” proposal to pay for the additional costs, calling for higher-income Americans to be taxed more heavily, to pay for sending the additional troops. However, the idea got a cold reception at the White House, rendering the success of a war tax improbable.</p> <p><strong>Israel, Hamas close to prisoner exchange deal</strong></p> <p>Expectations have been <span><a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE5AN18O20091124">raised</a></span> that Israel is close to a negotiated deal to free the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a swap for Palestinian prisoners. The arrival of Hamas leaders in Cairo on Monday was taken as a sign that a conclusion of the Egypt- and German-mediated talks is near. Both sides <span><a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125898330685360469.html">cautioned</a></span> that the deal was not yet done, however conditions for a successful agreement seemed favourable.</p> <p>Shalit was captured three years ago on the edge of the Gaza strip, during a Palestinian incursion via underground tunnels. Israelis have long clamoured for his release, but the release of hundreds of Palestinian militants remains a contested point. Exactly which persons will be released stays unclear, as both parties to the negotiations have not mentioned names in public. On Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said, "there is no doubt that real progress has been made on the issue of Gilad Shalit", AFP reported.</p> <p>The exchange would represent a major political success for Hamas, strengthening its position vis-à-vis the moderate, Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas.</p> <p><strong>Philippines declares state of emergency after political massacre</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, the government of the Philippines <span><a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6929267.ece">called</a></span> a state of emergency, sending extra security forces to the southern province where at least 46 people where <span><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8375588.stm">killed</a></span> in election-related murders the day before.</p> <p>The victims, a group of politicians and journalists, were abducted and killed while travelling to file nomination papers for elections next year. The authorities announced the discovery of 21 corpses on Monday, but the next day the death toll rose to 46 after more fresh graves were discovered.</p> <p>President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called the state of emergency in the province of Maguindanao, aiming to prevent the escalation of the conflict between rival political clans. It will also give police and military officials additional powers to investigate the murders. The gruesome killings have put President Arroyo in an uncomfortable position, as one of her supporters, a local politician, has been implicated in the atrocities.</p> <p><strong>Second blast at Russian arms depot kills eight</strong></p> <p>At least eight soldiers were <span><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8374654.stm">killed</a></span> and two injured in an explosion at a navy weapons depot in central Russia, the Russian defence ministry confirmed. The soldiers were bomb experts, cleaning up after a huge series of blasts ten days ago at the same site.</p> <p>The explosion occurred at Arsenal Number 31 in the city of Ulyanovsk, a medium-size city southeast of Moscow. The defence ministry <span><a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/11/23/russia.explosion/">stated</a></span> that a shell “self-detonated” as ammunition was being loaded onto a truck.</p> <p>Western military analysts often <span><a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSGEE5AM1RS">criticize</a></span> the Russian military for its low safety standards, which, combined with ageing equipment and poor training, have lead to numerous accidents in recent years.</p> <p><strong>Four US soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan</strong></p> <p>On Monday, four American troops died fighting in Afghanistan, <span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/world/asia/24afghan.html">according</a></span> to NATO. Three of the soldiers died in southern Afghanistan, two of them killed by a roadside bomb, the third in a firefight with insurgents and the fourth killed in a separate road side bomb in the east of the country. No further <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8373857.stm">details</a> were provided.</p> <p>In a separate incident on Sunday, a roadside bomb killed three Afghan soldiers in Helmand province. It was not clear whether there was a connection between the American deaths and the Afghan casualties.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="odtab-content"><p><a href="http://www.feedblitz.com/f/?Sub=244504"><strong><em>Keep up to date with the latest news from a world beset by conflict.</em></strong></a><br /><a href="http://www.feedblitz.com/f/?Sub=244504"><strong><em> Get openDemocracy's daily security briefings sent straight to your inbox by clicking here.</em></strong></a></p></div> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Philippines </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ulyanovsk </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Ulyanovsk Russia Egypt Palestine Israel Philippines United States Afghanistan Dries Belet Tue, 24 Nov 2009 16:31:38 +0000 Dries Belet 49195 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Karzai launches Afghan anti-corruption force https://www.opendemocracy.net/security_briefings/171109 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghan government reveals new unit to tackle corruption. UN inspectors warn of more hidden nuclear sites in Iran. Thirteen Iraqi villagers killed by gunmen. China and US remain divided on Iran. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing. </div> </div> </div> <p>After sustained pressure from the United States and Europe to do more about corruption in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has unveiled plans to set up a new taskforce. The unit will cooperate with the FBI and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8363148.stm">according</a> to the government.</p> <p>Details of the plan came out after the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, had urged the Afghan government to create an “anti-corruption commission”. She also called on Karzai for a “major crimes tribunal”.</p> <p>Afghanistan’s minister of the interior, Hanif Atmar, said the creation of the new force was “for the sake of the Afghan people”, and did not result from external pressure. He went on to explain the purpose of the anti-corruption unit, stating that “the idea of the unit is that all top-level employees in Afghanistan involved in corruption should be held responsible, both civilian and military, and if proved guilty they should be fired and prosecuted in accordance with the law.”</p> <p>US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who has counselled president Obama not to send additional troops to Afghanistan because of the government’s endemic corruption, expressed his continued scepticism about the initiative, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSSP113289">saying</a>, “words are cheap. Deeds are required.”</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity verdict:</em></strong></p><p>Rampant corruption in Karzai’s administration has been one of the primary causes for support for the Taliban insurgents. Common people in the dirt-poor country of Afghanistan feel out of touch with the government, because Karzai’s cronies have used their offices to enrich themselves. All the while the Taliban continue to campaign on an anti corruption platform, much as they did during the 1990s Afghan civil war. So far, the president has been unwilling to deal with these issues. Because the Afghan government has already <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j3NKwgeWXezjBH1L27Z8LVp46oIQD9C0RL5G1">promised</a> to take on corruption multiple times, Western observers and the Afghan population will retain doubts until actual progress is made.</p> <p>Only a corruption-free government will be able to warm the Afghan people to democracy. Moreover, government integrity is absolutely necessary to fight the massive drug-trade (as opposed to grabbing a share from it), wrest legitimacy away from the powerful warlords and Islamic extremists, and allow Western countries to commit more military assistance and civilian aid.</p> <p>The United States has been holding back its decision about deploying additional troops in Afghanistan, hoping to use this as leverage on Karzai, in order to extract more concessions from him. On Sunday, Clinton <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/6582302/Afghanistan-Hamid-Karzai-unveils-new-anti-corruption-unit.html">warned</a> that the US could very well leave Karzai to his fate, claiming that America has no strategic interest in a long-term occupation of the country.</p> <p>However, the problem with this tactic is that president Obama cannot keep postponing his decision forever. There has been a lot of muttering in Washington about his alleged indecisiveness, and the sliding military situation in Afghanistan&nbsp; – with the Taliban gaining ground fast – necessitates either a quick deployment of more troops or a substantial moderation of Western objectives.</p> <p><strong>Inspectors warn of more hidden nuclear sites in Iran.</strong></p><p>After their visit to the Qom facility, inspectors from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said they fear Iran might have other secret nuclear plants. On Monday, the IAEA <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iRqjZV1Meppj40hTs8IBOv4DdsQwD9C0RAQG0">said</a> that the site in a mountain near the holy city of Qom, which was previously kept secret, was already quite advanced and would have been capable of nuclear fuel production by 2011. Iran tried to keep construction of the plant hidden from the UN agency, but it was discovered by Western intelligence services who informed the IAEA of its existence in September.</p> <p>In a sceptical report, the inspectors <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/6583456/UN-Iran-may-have-more-secret-nuclear-sites.html">stated</a> that "Iran's declaration of the new facility reduces the level of confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction and gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities not declared to the agency.” Inspectors reasoned that Iran would not have built the facility, if it did not have supporting sites elsewhere to provide <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/17/world/middleeast/17nuke.html?_r=1&amp;ref=global-home">alternatives</a> in case the main centres were to be bombed.</p> <p><strong>Thirteen Iraqi villagers killed by Gunmen</strong></p> <p>Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms abducted and shot dead at least thirteen people in a village to the South-West of Baghdad. The bodies were found on Monday, and include a senior figure from the Iraqi Islamic party, the country’s biggest Sunni group.</p> <p>Officials and locals <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8362278.stm">said</a> that, the night before, the attackers raided the home of Ouda al-Shuker, a leader of the Sunni Awakening movement that has supported the US against al-Qaeda. The gunmen forced him and, among others, three of his sons and four of his cousins, to go outside, where they were shot in the head.</p> <p>The motive for the killings remains unclear. A local villager <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/6582519/Gunmen-in-Iraqi-army-uniforms-kill-13-anti-al-Qaeda-Sunnis.html">claims</a> the attackers in all likelihood were from al-Qaeda, and aimed to create unrest in the region. However, an army official told reporters the shooting was related to a tribal dispute.</p> <p><strong>China and US remain divided on Iran</strong></p> <p>In a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/16/AR2009111603705.html">meeting</a> focused on climate change and the global economy, President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, took time to discuss security issues with regard to Iran and North Korea.</p> <p>The US and China still differ significantly on Iran’s nuclear programme. While President Obama warned that “Iran has an opportunity to present and demonstrate its peaceful intentions, but if it fails to take this opportunity, there will be consequences”, Hu’s only statement on the issue was that there should be a negotiated solution. China has strategic investments in Iran’s energy sector and is traditionally reluctant to consider tough measures against it, such as UN sanctions.</p> <p>President Obama <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/17/china-barack-obama">thanked</a> the Chinese government for its continued support with respect to non-proliferation and North Korea’s nuclear programme. China and America plan to restart six-party talks with North Korea soon.</p> <p>The US president was also mildly critical about human rights issues, and mentioned the importance of open Internet use and his opposition to censorship.</p> <p><strong>Explosion hits police station in Peshawar</strong></p> <p>A suicide car bomb <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/11/15/world/AP-AS-Pakistan.html?ref=world">killed</a> at least four people on Monday, badly damaging the targeted police building and a nearby mosque. The city of Peshawar, in the north-west of Pakistan, has been under siege, with the recent bombing being the fifth attack in just over a week, since the army commenced a large-scale offensive against Islamist militants. A local police official <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/11/2009111632553711727.html">said</a> that officers opened fire as the vehicle approached, but that the driver was still able to set off the explosives.</p> <p>In a separate incident, a tribal elder was <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8361721.stm">killed</a> in his home in the Bajaur region, an area to the north of Peshawar. <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gxD2BFNi_e014b9MmdlaWgWSSgDw">According</a> to a local official, the attackers were suspected to be Taliban militants, slaying Malik Sher Zaman because he decided to support the government instead of the Taliban.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> North Korea </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Baghdad </div> <div class="field-item even"> Peshawar </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Washington </div> <div class="field-item even"> Qom </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Qom Washington Peshawar Baghdad Pakistan North Korea China Iraq Iran United States Afghanistan Dries Belet Tue, 17 Nov 2009 15:07:55 +0000 Dries Belet 49092 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Korean navies exchange fire in border incident https://www.opendemocracy.net/security_briefings/101109 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> South and North Korean ships clash off west coast. Iran charges US hikers with espionage. Japan promises $5 bn aid package for Afghanistan. Somali pirates expand operations. Fort Hood gunman linked to Al Qaeda. All this and much more, in today’s security update... </div> </div> </div> <p>Along a disputed sea border off the west coast of the Korean peninsula, South and North Korean warships have fired at each other, leaving a North Korean vessel heavily damaged. Each side blamed the other for causing the skirmish.</p> <p>The two countries reported different facts. South Korean military staff <a href="http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/11/11/200911110035.asp"></a><a href="http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/11/11/200911110035.asp">claimed</a> the North Korean boat crossed the border known as the 'Northern limit line', whereupon a South Korean high-speed gunboat sent signals to pull back, and issued warning shots. Subsequently, 'the North's side opened fire, directly aiming at our ship', South Korean officials <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/world/asia/11korea.html?_r=1&amp;ref=global-home">reported</a>, after which &nbsp;'our ship responded by firing back, forcing the North Korean boat to return to the North' and leaving the North Korean ship engulfed in flames<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/world/asia/11korea.html?_r=1&amp;ref=global-home"></a>. Seoul’s military also mentioned there were no casualties on their side, and demanded an apology for the incident.</p> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8351738.stm">According</a> to North Korea, its patrol boat was on a mission to confirm “an unidentified object” on its own side of the maritime border, whereupon a South Korean ship started pursuing it and opened fire in a “grave armed provocation”. North Korea has also requested apologies from Seoul, the North’s KCNA news agency reported.</p> <p>After a ministerial emergency meeting, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak <a href="http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/11/205_55243.html">called</a> for the military to remain calm and for the incident not to escalate. Along the strongly fortified land border between the two countries, everything remained quiet.</p> <p><strong><em>The openSecurity</em></strong> <strong><em>verdict:</em></strong> Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, North and South Korea have only signed a truce and still no real peace treaty – they are technically still at war. Moreover, the 'Northern limit line' that was drawn up unilaterally by the UN in 1953 has never been recognized by North Korea. The 'Northern limit line'” demarcates the countries’ respective borders in the Yellow Sea, but North Korea wants to redraw the disputed line further to the south.</p> <p>The two Koreas frequently accuse each other of violating the borderline. This year, the South’s navy had already repulsed <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125782605421040551.html">22 intrusions</a> by North Korean ships without firing any shots, until today. Several fatal skirmishes took place in the last decade, including the sinking of two North Korean warships in 1999 with untold casualties, and the loss of a South Korean patrol boat and six sailors’ lives in 2002.</p> <p>Assuming the clash was not accidental, an explanation for North Korean aggression can be found in the skirmish's implications for the upcoming international negotiations on its nuclear program. North Korea is due to reengage with sixparty talks and this Tuesday President Barack Obama &nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/09/AR2009110902989.html">consented</a> to send Stephen Bosworth as his envoy to begin bilateral negotiations, after months of 'intensive' discussions with US allies over how to negotiate with North Korea.</p> <p>Consequently, security analysts in South Korea <a href="http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/11/205_55243.html">think</a> that the incident 'was likely a deliberate attempt by the North to create leverage in negotiations in the six-party disarmament talks on the communist regime's nuclear program'. Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the university of North Korean studies in Seoul, <a href="http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE5A90WZ20091110">told Reuters</a> that 'North Korea is taking this aggressive stance to show they're not backing down on their security'.</p> <p>This line of reasoning sounds plausible, given Pyongyang’s history of a combination of missile tests and military incidents to improve its strategic position in negotiations. For instance, this year the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il tried to test the resolve of the new Obama administration with rocket test launches and the detonation of a nuclear device in May. The naval incident in question comes only days ahead of President Obama’s visit to Asia, including South Korea.</p> <p>On the other hand, the clash also has the potential to backfire for North Korea, possibly strengthening the US and its Asian allies' common purpose, particularly with respect to economic sanctions on North Korea. Whether it is an accident or not, the incident is sure to negatively affect neighbouring countries’ perception of Pyongyang.</p> <p><strong>Iran charges US hikers with espionage</strong></p> <p>Three young Americans were <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/09/americans-detained-iran-charged-espionage">arrested</a> in Iran this summer, after crossing the border with Iraq. They have now been <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/6532286/Iran-charges-three-Americans-with-espionage.html">accused</a> of spying, according to the Iranian state news agency Irna.</p> <p>The families of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal say the trio must have strayed across Iraq’s northern border, into Iran, by accident. US authorities have repeatedly demanded their release, and the espionage accusations prompted secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reply there was 'no evidence to support any charge whatsoever'.</p> <p>The situation occurs at a time of increasing strains on relations between Iran and the US. Western countries fear that Iran might want to use the prisoners’ trial as leverage in the ongoing negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program. People convicted of espionage can receive the death penalty under Iranian law.</p> <p><strong>Japan promises $5bn</strong> <strong>aid package</strong> <strong>for Afghanistan</strong></p> <p>The Japanese government <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125782298139240469.html">pledged</a> 5 billion dollars support for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, to be spread over five years. The funds will target civilian projects and training for the Afghan army. The <a href="http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/terrorism/strategy0911.pdf">announcement</a> comes days before President Obama’s planned visit to Tokyo on Friday.</p> <p>Japan was under increasing US pressure to contribute in a new way to the NATO forces occupying Afghanistan after the recently elected Hatoyama administration said it will stop refuelling an allied naval operation in the Indian ocean which is supporting troops in Afghanistan. Many Japanese regard this operation as a violation to their pacifist constitution.</p> <p>Since its historic electoral victory in September, Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan has also stated it wants a more equal relationship with the United States, asking for negotiations to reorganize American forces deployed in Okinawa. Officials from both sides say the upcoming Obama meeting with will be mainly for the sake of dialogue, and that a resolution of big issues, like a reduction of the American troop presence on Japanese soil, is not to be expected.</p> <p><strong>Somali pirates expand</strong> <strong>operations</strong></p> <p>In a bold series of moves on Monday, Somali pirates showed their increasing reach with an attack on an oil tanker in the Indian Ocean, while they also seized a vessel carrying weapons.</p> <p>Representing the longest-range piracy attempt to date, they <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8350850.stm">assaulted</a> a tanker some 1,850 kilometres off the coast of Somalia, to the northeast of the Seychelles islands. Gunmen mounted on two fast skiffs, firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/piracy/6532593/Somali-pirates-hit-oil-tanker-in-mid-ocean-attack.html">tried to seize</a> the ship, the European Union’s naval mission reported. However, the tanker increased speed and took evasive measures, managing to escape.</p> <p>At the same time, maritime officials report that pirates have captured a cargo ship laden with arms. Apparently the ship was sailing under a UAE flag, trying to circumvent the UN arms embargo. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/africaCrisis/idUSL9062439">According</a> to Andrew Mwangura of the East African Sailors’ Assistance programme, the ship’s name, ‘Al Mizan’, was probably fake. He also said the weapons ship has been diverted to northern Somalia, near a place called Garacad. The captured weapons pose the risk that they might end up in the hands of rival parties in warn-torn Somalia, permitting an escalation in violence.</p> <p><strong>Fort Hood gunman</strong> <strong>linked to al Qaeda</strong></p> <p>In a bloodbath at Fort Hood military base, thirteen soldiers were killed by Major Nidal Malik Hasan last Thursday. On Monday, Hasan awoke from the coma he was in after being shot, while evidence emerged he had contact with Al Qaeda.</p> <p><a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-fort-hood-obama10-2009nov10,0,4438097.story">Apparently</a>, US intelligence officials had knowledge of this for months, but did not act against Hasan, because they <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6532904/Fort-Hood-massacre-Gunman-linked-to-al-Qaeda-as-he-awakes-from-coma.html">hoped</a> his communications would lead them to a 'big fish' in the al Qaeda network. <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ihGepAkECGoDagETVBMpPb3w7Y3gD9BSHUH80">According</a> to officials, major Hasan exchanged emails with an imam connected to the 9/11 attackers, but there is no evidence he had any outside help in the Fort Hood shootings.</p> <p>Doctors yesterday reported Hasan had regained consciousness and is talking. An interrogation by the FBI and the military will now have to shed light on the case. Hasan will be tried in a military court and not in a civilian one, which indicates that the shootings are not regarded as an act of terrorism.</p> <p><strong>Ahmadinejad</strong> <strong>fulminates against the West</strong></p> <p>During a <a href="http://www.shiatv.net/view_video.php?viewkey=4f24b070c4f89937667c">press conference</a> in Istanbul, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alleged that President Obama had not brought the promised change to the Middle East, and demanded that he choose between friendly relations with either Israel or Iran. This claim will render improved US-Iranian relations very difficult, representing another blow to President Obama’s engagement strategy.</p> <p>Speaking at a summit of Islamic countries, &nbsp;Ahmadinejad cited Guantánamo Bay, continued US support for Isreal, and unchanging US policies in Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of American intransigence.</p> <p>Ahmadinejad’s remarks were part of a radical <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8350262.stm">message</a> hailing a revolution in world politcs. He declared that a 'new era is starting' after the 'definite defeat' of capitalist excesses, calling for a new world order. Commentators <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1110/p06s04-wome.html">say</a> Iran is trying to bolster its diplomatic position among Islamic states, following its loss of legitimacy after Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election and the subsequent brutal repression of riots and protests in Iranian cities.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Keep up to date with the latest news from a world beset by conflict. Get openDemocracy's daily security briefings sent straight to your inbox.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> South Korea </div> <div class="field-item even"> North Korea </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Japan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Somalia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Seoul </div> <div class="field-item even"> Pyonyang </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Garacad </div> <div class="field-item even"> Istanbul </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Istanbul Garacad Pyonyang Seoul Israel Somalia Afghanistan Japan United States Iraq Iran North Korea South Korea Dries Belet Tue, 10 Nov 2009 17:13:53 +0000 Dries Belet 48982 at https://www.opendemocracy.net