Archive for September 2009
Straight from the Debka File: “The Pentagon has brought forward to December 2009 the target-date for producing the first 15-ton super bunker-buster bomb (GBU-57A/B) Massive Ordinance Penetrator, which can reach a depth of 60.09 meters underground before exploding. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that top defense agencies and air force units were also working against the clock to adapt the bay of a B2a Stealth bomber for carrying and delivering the bomb.
The Pentagon has ordered the number of bombs rolling off the production line increased from four to ten – a rush job triggered in May by the discovery that Iran was hiding a second uranium enrichment plant under a mountain near Qom – a discovery which prompted this week’s international outcry.
Congress has since quietly inserted the necessary funding in the 2009 budget.
All this urgency indicates that the Obama administration has been preparing military muscle to back up the international condemnation of Iran’s concealed nuclear bomb program, its sanctions threat and his willingness to join the negotiations with Iran opening on Oct. 1 in Geneva. Tehran may have to take into account a possible one-time surgical strike against its underground enrichment facility as a warning shot should its defiance continue. In particular, the world powers this week demanded that Iran open up all its nuclear facilities and programs to full and immediate international inspection. Failure to do so could bring forth further US military action.
According to our military sources, the earliest date for the accelerated Pentagon program to produce a super bunker buster bomb mounted on a stealth bomber is December 2009 or January 2010. This too is three years ahead of its original schedule.
Pressed into service are two US Air Force research centers for work on adapting the radar-evading stealth bomber to the giant bomb: the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the Munitions Directorate and Air Armament Center, both headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
Last month, DEBKAfile quoted Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford as disclosing that the Pentagon had decided to accelerate the production of 10-12 giant bunker buster bombs in response to intelligence received of Iranian and North Korean underground nuclear plants.”
Straight from Yahoo News: “Iran tested its most advanced missiles Monday to cap two days of war games, raising more international concern and stronger pressure to quickly come clean on the newly revealed nuclear site Tehran was secretly constructing.
State television said the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls Iran’s missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of the medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles. Both can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers), putting Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe within striking distance.
The missile tests were meant to flex Iran’s military might and show readiness for any military threat.
“Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran,” said Abdollah Araqi, a top Revolutionary Guard commander, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Iran conducted three rounds of missile tests in drills that began Sunday, two days after the U.S. and its allies disclosed the country had been secretly developing an underground uranium enrichment facility. The Western powers warned Iran it must open the site to international inspection or face harsher international sanctions.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said the missile tests had nothing to do with the tension over the site, saying it was part of routine, long-planned military exercises.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was concerned about the missile tests. He said Iran must immediately resolve issues surrounding its second nuclear enrichment facility with the U.N.’s nuclear agency.
The newly revealed nuclear site has given greater urgency to a key meeting on Thursday in Geneva between Iran and six major powers trying to stop its suspected nuclear weapons program. Solana said those talks are now taking place “in a new context.”
Britain said Monday’s test further illustrates why Europe and the U.S. have serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions.
“This sends the wrong signal to the international community at a time when Iran is due to meet” the six world powers, Britain’s Foreign Office said. The six nations are the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she doesn’t believe Iran can convince the U.S. and other world powers at the upcoming meeting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, as Tehran has long claimed. That puts Tehran on a course for tougher economic penalties beyond the current “leaky sanctions,” she said.
The nuclear site is located in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom and is believed to be inside a heavily guarded, underground facility belonging to the Revolutionary Guard, according to a document sent by President Barack Obama’s administration to lawmakers.
Qashqavi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, identified the site as Fordo, a village located 110 miles (180 kilometers) south of the capital, Tehran. The site is 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Natanz, Iran’s known industrial-scale uranium enrichment plant.
After strong condemnations from the U.S. and its allies, Iran said Saturday it will allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to examine the site.
Israel has trumpeted the latest discoveries as proof of its long-held assertion that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
By U.S. estimates, Iran is one to five years away from having nuclear weapons capability, although U.S. intelligence also believes that Iranian leaders have not yet made the decision to build a weapon.
Iran also is developing ballistic missiles that could carry a nuclear warhead, but the administration said last week that it believes that effort has been slowed. That assessment paved the way for Obama’s decision to shelve the Bush administration’s plan for a missile shield in Europe, which was aimed at defending against Iranian ballistic missiles.
The Sajjil-2 missile is Iran’s most advanced two-stage surface-to-surface missile and is powered entirely by solid-fuel while the older Shahab-3 uses a combination of solid and liquid fuel in its most advanced form, which is also known as the Qadr-F1.
Solid fuel is seen as a technological breakthrough for any missile program as solid fuel increases the accuracy of missiles in reaching targets.
Experts say Sajjil-2 is more accurate than Shahab missiles and its navigation system is more advanced.
State media reported tests overnight of the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles, with ranges of 185 miles (300 kilometers) and 435 miles (700 kilometers) respectively.
That followed tests early Sunday of the short range Fateh, Tondar and Zelzal missiles, which have a range of 120 miles (193 kilometers), 93 miles (150 kilometers) and 130 miles (200 kilometers) respectively.
Iran’s last known missile tests were in May when it fired its longest-range solid-fuel missile, Sajjil-2. Tehran said the two-stage surface-to-surface missile has a range of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) — capable of striking Israel, U.S. Mideast bases and southeastern Europe.”
Straight from the Washington Post: “President Obama’s charge that Iran is constructing a secret nuclear fuel facility brought years of confrontation over the country’s alleged nuclear weapons program to a new crisis point Friday, as he joined with the leaders of Britain and France to warn that international patience is waning fast.
“Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow,” Obama said, condemning what he described as a “covert uranium enrichment facility” that Western intelligence discovered years ago and has since been covertly monitoring. He called for Iran to allow international inspectors to “immediately investigate” the facility, located beneath the mountains near the city of Qom.
In a hastily arranged appearance outside the Group of 20 conference in Pittsburgh, Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy outlined intelligence that Brown said would “shock and anger the whole international community, and it will harden our resolve” to force Iran to change its path.
Iran’s stubborn and charismatic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, offered no contrition, asserting that the facility is a legal and proper attempt to provide nuclear energy for his people. “We have no fears,” he said at a New York news conference in which he welcomed inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In response to Obama’s description of the facility as designed to produce weapons-grade uranium, Ahmadinejad said, “I don’t think Mr. Obama is a nuclear expert.”
Friday’s announcement capped a week of behind-the-scenes action in which Iran and the United States each maneuvered to reveal the information on its own terms. U.S. intelligence officials briefing reporters in Washington declined to be precise, but they said they had learned about the facility by early 2007. They said it is not yet operational but may be capable in 2010 of producing enough material for at least one bomb per year.
The CIA, along with its British and French counterparts, spent the summer compiling a dossier of information that administration officials said they had not yet decided how and when to reveal. Their hand was forced, they said, by a letter the Iranian government sent to the IAEA in Vienna on Monday.
U.S. officials said they thought the letter came after the Iranians learned of the Western intelligence and decided to preempt disclosures about the site. The letter vaguely described construction of a “pilot” plant to enrich uranium up to 5 percent, enough for power production but far less than the 90 percent required for weapons material. “Further complementary information will be provided in an appropriate and due time,” the letter said.
The revelations came in the run-up to the first international talks about Iran’s nuclear program in more than a year. On Thursday, a senior Iranian diplomat is scheduled to meet in Geneva with counterparts from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, a group known as the P5-plus-one. U.S. officials described the upcoming meeting as a key moment in the long nuclear standoff, saying the Qom facility will be at the top of the agenda.
The U.S., British and French leaders apparently hope that new evidence of Iran’s deception will diminish reservations among the two other Security Council members — Russia and China — about tightening economic sanctions. Administration officials pointed with satisfaction at a sharply worded Russian statement Friday that Iran “must cooperate with this investigation.”
Obama’s words Friday were less dramatic than Brown’s or Sarkozy’s. “We have offered Iran a clear path toward greater international integration if it lives up to its obligations, and that offer stands,” the U.S. president said, “but the Iranian government must now demonstrate through deeds its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law.”
But Obama was stern-faced and grim, and the rapidly escalating confrontation provided him with a fresh opportunity to project toughness and success on the world stage.
Obama’s detractors have long called him naive for his willingness to engage diplomatically the nation’s adversaries, including Iran. Republicans say his decision to change the deployment of a missile shield for Eastern Europe demonstrates weakness, and critics have chastised him for taking time to weigh a decision on sending additional troops to Afghanistan.
The announcement also provided a boost for the CIA at a time when the agency is facing harsh attacks — and possible prosecution — for detainee interrogations. In a statement on the Iranian revelations, CIA Director Leon Panetta said, “We gave our government the information and insights it needed. . . . Most intelligence successes never become public.” He added: “This one has.”
As Obama and Ahmadinejad continued to trade challenges and barbs in public appearances, senior administration and intelligence officials, authorized to speak only on the condition of anonymity, told a tale that mixed elements of high-stakes diplomacy and a spy novel.
It began in 2002 with revelations that Iran was building an underground enrichment facility in Natanz. The United States said the site was designed to provide fuel for nuclear weapons, which Iran denied. Years of sparring over IAEA inspections of the facility and Iran’s insistence that its output would be used only for nuclear power led finally to the establishment of international safeguards over the plant. The world’s established nuclear powers, with varying degrees of commitment, continued to push Iran to provide more access and information.
The United States, even as it acknowledged in a December 2007 intelligence estimate that Iran had stopped a separate program to build a nuclear device, insisted that Tehran was continuing efforts to produce highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium. According to intelligence officials who briefed reporters Friday, they finally found signs of additional enrichment efforts on a base belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guard Corp outside Qom, a city in north-central Iran and a center of Shiite Muslim scholarship and education.
As construction in deep tunnels continued, U.S. intelligence agencies began to exchange information with their French and British counterparts, and “we all became increasingly confident that the purpose of the facility was uranium enrichment,” one official said. The officials provided few details about how they gathered information, saying only that “we have excellent access and multiple, independent sources of information that allow us to corroborate.”
Their determination of its purpose was largely inductive, officials explained, based on what one called a “detailed understanding of the design of the facility,” and because its 3,000 centrifuges were too few to supply “regular fuel reloads” for a nuclear power plant. Iranian officials have pointed to the Natanz facility’s size — it is designed to accommodate 54,000 centrifuges — as evidence that the facility is intended to produce fuel for power generation.
Most significant, U.S. officials said, were Iranian efforts to conceal the site near Qom. “During the course of this year, the confidence of our team and the intelligence services increased with respect to the precise purposes of this site,” a senior administration official said.
By summer, they concluded that the facility would become operational in 2010. An offer by the P5-plus-one negotiators to discuss nuclear and other issues with Iran remained on the table, along with a threat to impose more severe economic sanctions. In July, Obama and other leaders agreed to “take stock” of the situation by the end of September. The United States, Britain and France did not share their information on the enrichment facility with Russia and China.
Against this backdrop, Obama directed intelligence officials to compile what they knew about the facility into a detailed briefing. “He had in mind the possibility that we would be talking to the Iranians,” a senior official said, “and it was important that the talks be real. In the context of negotiations, we would present it to them directly. If there were no negotiations . . . it would have further cemented” an international consensus to take stronger action against Iran.
Officials said they also thought that years of harsh rhetoric and charges against Iran by the Bush administration had lacked specificity and engendered doubts, particularly among allies in Europe. “We wanted to be in a position where we got it right,” an official said.
In early September, Iran suddenly announced its acceptance of the offer to negotiate, and the Oct. 1 meeting was set. Around the same time, U.S. officials learned that Iran was aware that its security had been breached. That knowledge, U.S. officials said, led directly to Iran’s Monday letter to the IAEA, accompanied by an Iranian assertion that it was complying with IAEA rules requiring notification six months before the plant becomes operational.
The administration received word of the letter on Tuesday in New York, along with the IAEA’s assurance that Iran’s notification had been due years earlier, before construction started.
In quick succession, senior intelligence officials were dispatched to Vienna to “fill in the blanks” for the IAEA between Iran’s missive and the evidence they had compiled, an official said. On Wednesday, Obama briefed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Detailed intelligence reports were delivered to the Russian and Chinese governments on Thursday, as administration officials in Washington briefed House and Senate leaders.”
Official Citation: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Staff Sergeant Jared C. Monti distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a team leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3d Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, on June 21, 2006.
While Staff Sergeant Monti was leading a mission aimed at gathering intelligence and directing fire against the enemy, his 16-man patrol was attacked by as many as 50 enemy fighters. On the verge of being overrun, Staff Sergeant Monti quickly directed his men to set up a defensive position behind a rock formation. He then called for indirect fire support, accurately targeting the rounds upon the enemy who had closed to within 50 meters of his position. While still directing fire, Staff Sergeant Monti personally engaged the enemy with his rifle and a grenade, successfully disrupting an attempt to flank his patrol. Staff Sergeant Monti then realized that one of his Soldiers was lying wounded in the open ground between the advancing enemy and the patrol’s position.
With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Monti twice attempted to move from behind the cover of the rocks into the face of relentless enemy fire to rescue his fallen comrade. Determined not to leave his Soldier, Staff Sergeant Monti made a third attempt to cross open terrain through intense enemy fire. On this final attempt, he was mortally wounded, sacrificing his own life in an effort to save his fellow Soldier.
Staff Sergeant Monti’s selfless acts of heroism inspired his patrol to fight off the larger enemy force. Staff Sergeant Monti’s immeasurable courage and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and the United States Army.”
Straight from Fox News: “President Obama awarded the military’s highest honor to a soldier who died trying to save his wounded comrade in Afghanistan — saying Sgt. First Class Jared C. Monti personified the values of honor and heroism.
Obama presented the prestigious Medal of Honor award to Monti’s parents during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
Monti of Raynham, Mass., died in Afghanistan on June 21, 2006, while trying to save a young private who was wounded. Obama said the fallen soldier “did something no amount of training can instill.”
In an interview with FOXNews.com Thursday, Monti’s mother, Janet, said the award is a “tremendous honor,” but she called the ceremony “bittersweet.”
“We’re very proud of him, but we’re also very sad,” she said.
Monti’s platoon — part of the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment — was on an intelligence-gathering patrol when it was ambushed by more than 60 insurgents in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. After calling in artillery support and directing his men’s return fire, Monti braved withering enemy fire to try to pull the comrade to safety from an exposed position. Monti, who was 31, was mortally wounded on the third attempt.
Janet Monti described her son’s innate selflessness and desire to help others, saying he “would always stick up for the underdog.” She recounted a story in which her son rescued a group of children who were being taunted by Albanian youths while he was stationed in Kosovo.
“He picked the children up in his Humvee and drove them to school,” she said. “He had so much compassion.”
Embattled U.S. troops in northeastern Afghanistan also paid homage to Monti Thursday by officially rededicating their isolated outpost in the Hindu Kush Mountains in his name.
Thursday’s ceremony in Afghanistan, at Combat Operations Post Monti in Kunar province, was attended by about 50 soldiers not on duty. It was preceded by artillery fire on nearby mountain ridges to ward off Taliban gunmen who mortar and rocket the post.
“Most of us didn’t know him personally and most of us will know him only by his citation,” Maj. Pete Granger, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, said before a large plaque was unveiled in Monti’s honor.
“We honor his memory by continuing to fight for the same things he believed in: his soldiers, his family, his friends and his country.”
Nuristan Province, like Kunar province, earned a reputation as the “cradle of Jihad” in the 1980s’ mujahideen war against Soviet occupation forces. And the reputation sticks. Taliban insurgents use the rugged regions close to the Pakistani border as transit areas to and from central Afghanistan.
“He was a real hard-nosed NCO (non-commissioned officer),” Staff Sgt. Matthew Wolfanger, who was a member of Monti’s unit, told FOXNews.com. “He really demanded a lot out of his guys … but in the end we loved him for it because he took us from soldiers who were kinda just going through the motions doing our jobs to guys who were passionate about what we were doing.
“He brought the best out of us. We wanted to be the best because of him. He absolutely loved what he did, and he loved us, his soldiers.”
Wolfanger, 25, the keynote speaker at Thursday’s Afghanistan ceremony, said he wasn’t tasked to go on Monti’s fatal mission, but he and others listened in on the radio traffic.
“I knew it was bad from what they were saying, but it didn’t really go through my mind that my friends were out there and could actually be hurt. But at the end of it, when they said they had wounded and a KIA (killed in action) … you know … and they gave the roster numbers (of casualties) ….”
Wolfanger never finished the sentence.
The Medal of Honor, he said in prepared remarks, is “final confirmation of something that he had been to his soldiers all along, a hero.””
Straight from The Hill: “The president said he is “happy to look at” bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.
“I haven’t seen detailed proposals yet, but I’ll be happy to look at them,” Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called “Newspaper Revitalization Act,” that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations. That bill has so far attracted one cosponsor, Cardin’s Maryland colleague Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had played down the possibility of government assistance for news organizations, which have been hit by an economic downturn and dwindling ad revenue.
In early May, Gibbs said that while he hadn’t asked the president specifically about bailout options for newspapers, “I don’t know what, in all honesty, government can do about it.”
Obama said that good journalism is “critical to the health of our democracy,” but expressed concern toward growing tends in reporting — especially on political blogs, from which a groundswell of support for his campaign emerged during the presidential election.
“I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding,” he said.”
Straight from Fox News: “The White House on Monday tried to calm the controversy over a new report from the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan warning that the United States risks failure in the long-running war without more troops.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that while President Obama has read Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s assessment, he does not expect a formal request for more troops for a “little bit.” And he said the president is not yet focused on resource decisions.
“We’re going to conduct that strategic assessment and do that in a way that lays out the best path forward before we make resource decisions, rather than having this go the other way around where one makes resources decisions and then finds a strategy. That’s not what we’re doing,” Gibbs said.
While Republicans are pressing for more troops, the prospect of a greater U.S. presence in Afghanistan makes Democrats uneasy.
But McChrystal warned about the risk of ignoring the need for more troops in a five-page Commander’s Summary.
“Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it,” he wrote. His 66-page report, sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Aug. 30, is now under review by Obama.
“Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall effort is deteriorating,” McChrystal said of the war’s progress.
Geoff Morrell, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for communications issues, said in a statement the assessment “is a classified, pre-decisional document, intended to provide Obama and his national security team with the basis for a very important discussion about where we are now in Afghanistan and how best to get to where we want to be.”
While asserting that more troops are needed, McChrystal also pointed out an “urgent need” to significantly revise strategy. The U.S. needs to interact better with the Afghan people, McChrystal said, and better organize its efforts with NATO allies.
“We run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage. The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves,” he wrote.
In his blunt assessment of the tenacious Taliban insurgency, McChrystal warned that unless the U.S. and its allies gain the initiative and reverse the momentum of the militants within the next year the U.S. “risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement that he agrees with the call to revise strategy.
“General McChrystal is attempting to shift our focus toward adopting a revised strategy that will increase the prospects for success of our efforts in Afghanistan. Focusing on the resource question before we accomplish the strategic shift is a mistake General McChrystal is wisely avoiding,” he said. Levin seemed to ignore certain portions of the report that deal with the danger in “under-resourcing” — but he said that challenge should be addressed by expanding the size of the Afghan army and police.
The content of the report was first reported by The Washington Post, which said it withheld publication of portions of the document at the government’s request.
Morrell confirmed the report, but said the Pentagon would not release McChrystal’s assessment.
“While we would have much preferred none of this be made public at this time we appreciate the paper’s willingness to edit out those passages which would likely have endangered personnel and operations in Afghanistan,” Morrell said in an e-mail statement.
The Pentagon and the White House are awaiting a separate, more detailed request for additional troops and resources. Media reports Friday and Saturday said McChrystal has finished it but was told to pocket it, partly because of the charged politics surrounding the decision.
McChrystal’s senior spokesman, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, told The Associated Press on Sunday the report is not complete.
Obama is re-evaluating whether the renewed focus on hunting Al Qaeda that he announced just months ago has become blurred and whether more forces will do any good.
“Are we doing the right thing?” he asked during one of a series of interviews broadcast Sunday. “Are we pursuing the right strategy?”
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said Sunday the Afghan government would not second-guess international military commanders on the need for more troops, but said that the greatest need is actually on the other side of the Afghan-Pakistan border.
“The focus should be on those points and areas where the insurgency is infiltrating Afghanistan,” he said, referring to the Pakistan border region where Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters hide and plan attacks.
In Congress, the war has taken on a highly partisan edge. Senate Republicans are demanding more forces to turn around a war that soon will enter its ninth year, while members of Obama’s own Democratic Party are trying to put on the brakes. Obama said in the Sunday interviews that he will not allow politics to govern his decision.
Nor has the president asked his top commander in Afghanistan to sit on a request for U.S. reinforcements in a backsliding war.
“No, no, no, no,” Obama responded when asked whether he or aides had directed McChrystal to temporarily withhold a request for additional U.S. forces and other resources.
But he gave no deadline for making a decision about whether to send more Americans into harm’s way.
“The only thing I’ve said to my folks is, ‘A, I want an unvarnished assessment, but, B, I don’t want to put the resource question before the strategy question,”‘ Obama said. “Because there is a natural inclination to say, ‘If I get more, then I can do more.”‘
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last week he expected McChrystal’s request for additional forces and other resources “in the very near future.”
The White House has remained vague about how long it would take to receive the report and act on it.
Obama spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”"
Straight from the Debka File: “The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinjad’s excessive oratory, matched by the shuffle of Western delegations led by the US leaving the UN General Assembly chamber, have been a typical feature of every new UN General Assembly session in the last three years. This time, the Iranian president preceded his speech with press interviews in which he tried to sound more reasonable while refusing to answer questions on his denial of the Holocaust and Iran’s nuclear program.
But then, on the podium Wednesday, Sept. 23, he declared: “American power has reached the end of the road and is paralyzed. It is no longer possible to inject thousands of billions of dollars of unreal wealth into the world economy simply by printing worthless paper,” Ahmadinejad said, hinting at the ways in which the Obama administration is trying to solve the global economic crisis.
He went to say: “The engine of unbridled capitalism, with its unfair system of thought, has reached the end of the road and is unable to move,” he said, adding:
“The time has come for an end to those who define democracy and freedom and set standards while they themselves are the first who violate its fundamental principles. They can no longer be the judge and executioner.”
In a typical anti-Semitic diatribe, Ahmadinejad said: “Although they are a miniscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.”
Appropriating President Barack Obama’s campaign slogan, “Yes, we can”, Ahmadinejad attempted to differentiate between US policy and President Obama’s approach, when he said: “Most people, including the people of the United States, are waiting for real and profound changes.”
The Iranian president accused the US and Israel of killing thousands of innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Referring to Israel directly, he said: “How can the crimes of the occupiers against defenseless women and children and destruction of their homes, farms, hospitals and schools be supported unconditionally by certain governments and at the same time the oppressed men and women be subjected to the heaviest economic blockade, which denies their basic needs: food, water and medicine, and leads to genocide?”
Shortly before Ahmadinejad’s speech US President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met on the sidelines of the UN session. Medvedev then repeated the new Russian position, which states that in principle “Russia’s position is clear: Sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some cases sanctions are inevitable.”
President Obama said that Iran been “violating too many of its international commitments.” He committed himself to negotiating with Iran on the issue, but said serious sanctions were a possibility if Iran failed to respond seriously.”
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the session later Thursday in a speech expected to focus on Iran.”
Straight from Fox News: “ACORN, in response to an undercover expose of potential wrongdoing by some employees, pledged Wednesday to follow through on plans to conduct a thorough internal review of its practices — on the same day that the organization filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers whose hidden-camera sting brought the community organization to its knees.
The lawsuit, filed in a Baltimore court, stems from an undercover video showing ACORN employees Shera Williams and Tonja Thompson providing advice to two filmmakers posing as a pimp and prostitute on how to skirt tax laws.
The filmmakers, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, are named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with Breitbart.com, a Web site managed by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, which posted the videos. Breitbart released five similar videos that O’Keefe and Giles recorded in ACORN offices in Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; San Bernadino, Calif., and San Diego, as well as the Baltimore office.
The videos prompted the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to launch a criminal investigation, the U.S. Census Bureau to several ties with ACORN and ACORN to fire four of the employees shown in the videos. And on Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service announced it also was severing ties with the organization.
The IRS said it would no longer include ACORN in its volunteer tax assistance program. The program offered free tax advice to about 3 million low- and moderate-income tax filers this spring. ACORN provided help on about 25,000 returns, the IRS said.
Darrell Issa, R-Calif., issued a statement following the announcement, saying “ACORN’s failure to institute firewalls between its charitable and political activities have raised significant questions surrounding its management of federal dollars. Cutting ties is the first step, but cannot be the last one.”
“Self-investigation is not a sufficient substitute for action by the Congress, which is why I have written to the Chairman of the Oversight and Judiciary Committees to request that they convene immediate hearings into ACORN’s activities.”
But ACORN says no tax returns were actually prepared at the Baltimore office, and that the audio portion of the video recorded there was obtained illegally, since Maryland requires two-party consent for sound recordings. The multimillion-dollar lawsuit cites “extreme emotional distress” on behalf of two workers who were fired after the video was posted online.
The videos were “clear violations of Maryland law that were intended to inflict maximum damage to the reputation of ACORN, the nation’s largest grassroots organizer of low-income and minority Americans,” said ACORN attorney Arthur Schwartz. “Unfortunately they succeeded.”
At the same time, ACORN is moving forward with its pledge to review its operations. The Boston attorney hired by ACORN to conduct an independent probe of the group vowed a “no holds barred” investigation on Wednesday.
“My name is on the line and so is the name of my firm, so we will call this as we see them,” Scott Harshbarger told reporters on a conference call.
Harshbarger, the former attorney general of Massachusetts now serving as senior counsel at Proskauer Rose LLP, was hired Tuesday to lead an “independent and comprehensive” internal investigation into ACORN’s activities — a decision that was met with skepticism from some members of Congress, including one lawmaker who has repeatedly called for hearings into the use of taxpayer funds.
Harshbarger said the probe had not yet begun as of Wednesday and said there was no “specific timetable” for its completion.
ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis, who joined Harshbarger on the conference call, said the organization was “very, very serious” about the review and vowed to “set things straight” following the release of five hidden-camera videos.
“We were just as shocked and horrified as the American public was,” Lewis told reporters of the conduct seen on the videotapes. “I will not tolerate such behavior. It is incumbent upon me and my board to set things straight.”
Lewis said ACORN officials are cooperating with law enforcement agencies, adding that no subpoenas had been received by the organization as of Wednesday.
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and House Oversight and Issa called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether ACORN misused federal funds.
In a letter sent to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro on Wednesday, Smith and Issa expressed concern that millions of taxpayer dollars may have been used to support criminal efforts by the organization.
“Congress cannot ignore allegations that federal funds are being used by an organization involved in criminal conduct,” the letter read. “American taxpayers are rightly outraged and Congress has a responsibility to act. We need a full investigation into ACORN’s use of federal funds and we need the Democratic-led Congress to put a bill on the President’s desk to ensure that no future funds are received by ACORN.”
The letter continued, “ACORN has a long history of ignoring federal laws. No organization with that kind of a record should benefit from American taxpayer dollars.”
ACORN said on Sept. 16 it would stop any “new intakes” — essentially closing its doors to new clients — until it completed an internal investigation prompted by the release of five hidden-camera videos that depicted workers advising a fake pimp and prostitute to lie to get loans for a brothel.
The scandal drew criticism from the Obama administration last week as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called the conduct depicted on the four videos “completely unacceptable.”
“The administration takes the accountability very seriously,” Gibbs told reporters.
In addition to a Justice Department watchdog’s probe into whether ACORN has applied for or received DOJ grant money, ACORN announced on Monday that it has suspended all 2009 tax preparation services.”
Straight from Fox News: “Republicans succeeded in drawing overwhelming support from Democrats Thursday to eliminate federal funding to a now-scandalized ACORN, the community organizing group that has come under heavy fire in the wake of damaging undercover videos that purport to show counselors giving advice on tax fraud to a “pimp” and “prostitute.”
The House voted 345-75 to strike ACORN funding from a student aid bill with two voting present.
Later, the Senate voted 85-11 to eliminate ACORN funding from an Interior Department spending bill.
In the House, the Defund ACORN Act prohibits any “federal contract grant, cooperative agreement or any other form of agreement (including a memorandum of understanding” from being awarded to or entered into with the group. It also prohibits federal funds “in any other form” from being provided.
In the Senate, the Protect Taxpayers from ACORN Act blocks the group from receiving taxpayer dollars.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, suggested the House vote is essentially symbolic because the student aid bill did not actually provide any funding to ACORN.
However, the language refers to all federal contracts so it applies to any federal money.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who introduced the “motion to recommit” attached to the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, said the decision followed a similar Senate vote on Monday and the Census Bureau’s decision last week to cut ties to the group.
“The battle, however, to deny ACORN federal funding is not over until the president signs the bill into law. ACORN gave significant support to Democrats and Americans must remain vigilant to avoid backtracking or efforts to water down prohibitions denying Federal funds to this corrupt organization,” said
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., applauded the vote.
“ACORN has violated serious federal laws, and today, the House voted to ensure that taxpayer dollars would no longer be used to fund this corrupt organization,” he said in a written statement. “All federal ties should be severed with ACORN, and the FBI should investigate its activity.
“This united Republican effort to defund ACORN is a victory for the rule of law and taxpayers across the country.”
But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. called the ACORN measure, which he voted against “flatly unconstitutional” and said it “threatens any organization disliked by Congress.”
“Congress must not be in the business of punishing individual organizations or people without trial, and that’s what this Amendment does,” he said in a written statement. “Whatever one may think of the organization, the Constitution’s clear ban on Bills of Attainder is there for the protection of all of our liberties.”
Democrats offered overwhelming support to the ACORN measure because they didn’t want to derail the student aid bill, senior House sources told FOX News. And the measure still has to be approved by the Senate — a process that will be complicated by the differences in its bill that blocked federal funds to ACORN.
Miller said he allowed the ACORN measure to hit the floor despite its irrelevance to the student aid bill because he was “comfortable with giving members a vote on that issue and advance the legislation.”
He also said that whether or not ACORN would be defunded was “somewhat above my paygrade.”
Whether symbolic or not, the vote gives Republicans more momentum as they continue to keep the pressure on ACORN, which is on its heels. It also gave Republicans a move to force Democrats, who control the House, to vote on an issue that may leave some of them vulnerable in next year’s mid-term elections.
Republicans now have the firepower to run ads highlighting this vote, saying: “This lawmaker voted against defunding ACORN.” The 75 lawmakers who voted “no” and two who voted “present” were all Democrats.
But at least one Democrat who did vote to strip funding, Rep. Zack Space of Ohio, said he was “outraged” by a series of videos taken by two undercover filmmakers dressed up as a pimp and a prostitute in order to get advice at local ACORN establishments on how to set up a brothel in a way that allowed them to pay taxes and get federal grants for housing.
“I am outraged at the actions of ACORN’s employees and believe they should be penalized to the full extent of the law,” said Space. “Our government must be vigilant in ensuring that organizations that are found to act fraudulently do not receive taxpayer dollars.”"
Straight from Fox News: “Police say a worker with the activist group ACORN who was caught on video giving advice about human smuggling to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute had reported the incident to authorities.
National City police said Monday that Juan Carlos Vera contacted his cousin, a police detective, to get advice on what to with information on possible human smuggling.
Vera was secretly filmed on Aug. 18 as part of a young couple’s high-profile expose.
Police say he contacted law enforcement two days later. The detective consulted another police official who served on a federal human smuggling task force, who said he needed more details.
The ACORN employee responded several days later and explained that the information he received was not true and he had been duped.
Vera was fired on Thursday.
Meanwhile, an internal watchdog at the Justice Department said Monday he was reviewing the agency’s involvement with ACORN.
Conservatives have called for a criminal investigation of the group.
Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, that his office would examine whether ACORN sought or received any Justice Department grant money, or conducted any reviews of ACORN’s use of such money.
More than a dozen state and local authorities are also scrutinizing ACORN, including Maryland’s attorney general.”
Straight from Fox News: “Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., launched a bipartisan effort Wednesday to require all legislation be made available on the Internet at least 72 hours before a vote on the House floor.
The measure would amend the Rules of the House of Representatives to mandate that all legislation and conference reports be posted in full and online in a format searchable by text, three days before a vote.
Exceptions would be made for classified material, which would continue to be handled under existing laws and rules. The resolution also would require a two-thirds majority vote to waive the 72-hour requirement for a national emergency.
On Wednesday, Walden filed a discharge petition, which requires 218 signatures to bring the legislation up for a vote on the House floor. The bill currently has 98 co-sponsors, including Democrats and Republicans.
Walden and Baird agree this is not about partisan politics. The goal is transparency.
“People always want to know, ‘Have you read these bills?’” Walden said. “Members of Congress, the public and the press all deserve the time to read these bills before we have to vote on them on the House floor. … It doesn’t guarantee good government, but it helps.”
According to Baird, this resolution is about common sense, fair play, and responsible government.
“Most members will benefit from this dramatic improvement,” Baird said.
Walden guaranteed House Republican leadership will support the resolution.
“The American people are angry that Speaker Pelosi didn’t allow the public and their elected representatives to read the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ bill or the national energy tax before they were rammed through the House. They have every right to be angry,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a written statement. (The stimulus bill passed by Congress totaled $787 billion.) “Congress can, and must, do better.”
The legislation was initially introduced by Baird in June. He has introduced it in each of the last three Congresses. Walden has also been a co-sponsor in the past.
Congressmen John Culberson (R-TX) and Walt Minnick (D-ID) are also helping lead the effort.
Culberson sees this as a step towards “real-time democracy.” He also plans to use online technology to solicit contributions from his contituents on the health care bill.
“The Internet is the greatest truth detector ever invented,” Culberson said. “Where you have transparency, you have trust.”"
Straight from the Debka File: “Up above a big military parade in Tehran on Tuesday, Sept. 22, as Iranian president declared Iran’s armed forces would “chop off the hands” of any power daring to attack his country, two air force jets collided in mid-air. One was Iran’s only airborne warning and control system (AWACS) for coordinating long-distance aerial operations, DEBKAfile’s military and Iranian sources disclose.
The proud military parade, which included a march-past, a line of Shehab-3 missiles and an air force fly-past, was planned to give Ahmadinejad a dazzling send-off for New York and add steel to his UN Assembly speech Wednesday.
Dubbed “Simorgh” (a flying creature of Iranian fable which performs wonders in mid-flight), the AWACS’ appearance, escorted by fighter jets, was to have been the climax for the Iranian Air force’s fly-past over the parade. Instead, it collided with one of escorting planes, a US-made F-5E, and both crashed to the ground in flames. All seven crewmen were killed.
Eye witnesses reported that the flaming planes landed on the mausoleum burial site of the Islamic revolution’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini, a national shrine. According to Western observers, no distress signals came from either cockpit indicating that the collision and explosions were sudden and fast.
DEBKAfile’s military sources say the disaster was a serious blow to the Iranian Air Force not long after its first and only AWACS went into service in April 2008. It was a renovated version of the Russian Ilyushin 76, part of Saddam Hussein’s air force before it was transferred to Iran in 1991 during the first Gulf War.
Tehran hired Russian technicians to carry out renovations and install up-to-date radar. At the launching ceremony of the upgraded AWACS, Air Force commander Brig. Gen. Ahmad Miqani boasted its new radar systems were made in Iran and able to spot any airplane or missile at a distance of 1,000 kilometers from Iran’s borders.
The loss of this airborne control system has left Iran’s air force and air and missile defenses without “electronic eyes” for surveillance of the skies around its borders.”
Straight from Fox News: “NASA’s first version of the rocket slated to replace the space shuttle and send astronauts back to the moon will make its debut test launch Oct. 27, four days early, the space agency announced Tuesday.
The rocket, a demonstration booster called Ares I-X, was previously scheduled to blast off Oct. 31, but engineers preparing the booster were able to complete work in time for the earlier liftoff, NASA officials said. Launch is set for 8:00 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) on Tuesday, Oct. 27 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“They are doing a launch countdown simulation today,” NASA spokesperson Amber Philman told SPACE.com from the spaceport. “That’s ongoing as we speak.”
Philman said the current launch target must still be finalized by mission managers during a series of review meetings in coming weeks. Engineers padded their work schedule by two full weeks to handle any unexpected glitches while priming Ares I-X for an Oct. 31 flight, but ultimately did not need some of that buffer, which allowed the earlier date, she added.
NASA’s new rocket
The Ares I rocket is a two-stage booster designed to launch the Orion spacecraft, which NASA plans to replace its three aging space shuttles once they retire in the next year or two. It stands about 327 feet (100 meters) tall – 14 stories higher than launch-ready shuttles – when fully assembled.
NASA has said that the rocket and its Orion vehicles will not be ready to ferry astronauts to orbit until at least 2015, but a White House-appointed committee that evaluated the agency’s exploration plans this summer has said that date could likely slip to 2017.
The committee has submitted a set of five options to overhaul NASA’s spaceflight plan for President Barack Obama’s review. Some of them do not include the Ares I rocket. NASA’s vision of returning astronauts to the moon by 2020 is critically underfunded and would require at least $3 billion a year in extra funding just to meet the lunar goal by the mid-2020s, the committee has said.
Earlier this year, NASA had hoped to launch the Ares I-X flight in July or August, but had to push the test back several times. Not so for the Oct. 27 target, Philman said.
“Everything is looking good with the hardware,” Philman said. “They’ve done the power up of the vehicle and that test went well.”
The Ares I’s first stage is a giant solid rocket similar to the four-segment boosters used to launch NASA space shuttles, but with an extra fifth segment for more power. The second stage is a liquid-fueled engine that would push Orion capsules to orbit.
NASA conducted the first successful test firing of the Ares I rocket’s first stage on Sept. 10.
For the Ares I-X test flight, NASA has built a four-segment first stage capped with a dummy fifth segment, as well as a dummy second stage. The launch is designed to demonstrate the rocket’s launch concept, ground processing and stage separation.
The test flight is expected to reach an altitude of about 25 miles (40 km) in about two minutes, with 700 onboard sensors recording its performance. After the first stage separates, the dummy upper stage and Orion simulator will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA plans to roll the Ares I-X rocket out to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 19. The pad has been refitted to host the Ares I-X rocket with the finishing touches to be completed by next week.
“They should be ready at the pad by the end of the month,” Philman said”
Straight from Fox News: “In declaring that it is time for Middle East peace “without preconditions,” President Obama used his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday to fire a warning at Israel that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”
Obama’s stark declaration, which drew applause, was coupled with a call for Palestinians to end their “incitement of Israel.”
But it was the use of the U.N. forum to carry the settlement message to Israel that drew the most enthusiastic response on the floor — and incredulous reaction outside its walls.
Obama just put Israel “on the chopping block,” said former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton.
Obama said he met Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was not in attendance at the speech, and agreed that the two have made some progress in both strengthening security and facilitating freedom of movement, which have allowed the economy in the West Bank to grow.
But more progress is needed, he said.
“We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” he said.
Obama said four issues separate the two sides: security, borders, refugees and Jerusalem, but the goal is clear: a secure, Jewish state for Israel and “a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.”
He also said a new order is needed in dealing with the dispute.
“The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians. And nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks over a constructive willingness to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and its right to exist in peace and security,” he said.
In his first speech to the world body, Obama applied his campaign slogan to the international community and challenged the global community to step up and fix the world’s problems both at home and abroad.
He said it is no longer plausible to be bad actors and then blame the United States.
“The people of the world want change,” he said, noting that “just as no nation should be forced to accept the tyranny of another nation, no individual should be forced to accept the tyranny of their own government.”
The world’s problems are not “solely America’s endeavor,” Obama said, noting the threats from poverty, global warming, disease pandemics and overpopulation.
“Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone,” Obama said.
Obama said he’s led by example by prohibiting torture of detainees and ordering the closure of the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He added that he is committed to removing all U.S. troops from Iraq by 2011 and is working to reach the goal of “a world without nuclear weapons.”
He said the G-20 industrialized nations have spent $2 trillion to keep the world from the brink of an economic collapse, and the U.S. has demonstrated its commitment to the world body by paying its bills and joining the Human Rights Council.
“Nothing is easier than blaming others for our troubles and absolving ourselves of responsibility for our choices and our actions. Anyone can do that. Responsibility and leadership in the 21st century demands more. In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold,” he said.
Speaking to the 59th opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, Obama laid out four pillars for the world community — peace in the Mideast and elsewhere, a reduction in nuclear weapons, preservation of the environment and global economic opportunity.
Obama said he wants a post-atomic age, and he will hold countries accountable for threatening the rest of the globe with nuclear weapons as the United States tries to reduce its arsenal.
Saying the United States will work with Russia to reduce its strategic warheads through an update of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, Obama pledged to move to ratify the Test Ban Treaty, work with others so that “nuclear testing is permanently prohibited,” begin negotiations in January on a treaty to end fissile material production and host a summit in April that reaffirms each nation’s responsibility to secure nuclear material on its territory.
Obama said he was not going to single out any nation, but in the next sentence he called out North Korea and Iran as threats to world cooperation.
“Those nations that refuse to live up to their obligations must face consequences. This is not about singling out individual nations — it is about standing up for the rights of all nations that do live up to their responsibilities,” he said, adding “the governments of North Korea and Iran threaten to take us down this dangerous slope.”
“I am committed to diplomacy that opens a path to greater prosperity and a more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations. … But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards … then they must be held accountable.”
As Obama spoke, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, who followed Obama in delivering a speech from the dais, scribbled notes as he listened to the U.S. president through a translation ear piece. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also sat in the chamber, his hands cusped together in his lap. He did not take notes. Neither applauded during the speech, though Qaddafi clapped when the president ended his remarks. Ahmadinejad did not.
In his 38-minute speech, Obama pressed the world to cooperate on carbon emissions reduction, saying the “wealthy nations that did so much to damage the environment in the 20th century must accept our obligation to lead” but “the fast-growing carbon emitters who can do more to reduce their air pollution without inhibiting growth.”
Obama also pledged continued aid through the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and polio, and by contributions of H1N1 vaccines to the World Health Organization.
He also talked about greater integration of economies through global trade and the Millennium Development Goals.
“Now is the time for all of us to do our part. Growth will not be sustained or shared unless all nations embrace their responsibility. Wealthy nations must open their markets to more goods and extend a hand to those with less, while reforming international institutions to give more nations a greater voice. Developing nations must root out the corruption that is an obstacle to progress … That’s why we will support honest police and independent judges; civil society and a vibrant private sector,” he said.”
Straight from Fox News: “Iranian officials are repeating past claims that the Islamic nation’s nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, as details surfaced Thursday of a secret United Nations assessment suggesting Iran was capable of making a nuclear bomb and was developing a missile system that could carry one.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Washington Post on Wednesday in a interview published Thursday that Iran is sincere in wanting to negotiate with the West. He added that Western countries should “read between the lines” about its intentions.
It wasn’t clear from the report what Western countries could hope to find “between the lines,” but Soltanieh called discussions with those countries a “real, new window of opportunity.”
But NBC News reports that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview that his country would not rule out weapons as it pursues peaceful uses of nuclear technology.
“We have always believed in talking, in negotiating — that is our logic. Nothing has changed,” Ahmadinejad told NBC through an interpreter. But “if you are talking about the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes, this will never be closed down here in Iran.”
The confidential U.N. watchdog report painted a more alarming picture.
Iran experts at International Atomic Energy Agency believe Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and worked on developing a missile system that can carry an atomic warhead, according to a confidential report seen by The Associated Press.
The document drafted by senior officials at the U.N. watchdog is the clearest indication yet that those officials share Washington’s views on Iran’s weapon-making capabilities and missile technology — even if they have not made those views public.
The document, titled “Possible Military Dimension of Iran’s Nuclear Program,” appeared to be the so-called IAEA “secret annex” on Iran’s alleged nuclear arms program that the U.S., France, Israel and other IAEA members say is being withheld by agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei — claims the nuclear watchdog denies.
It is a record of IAEA findings since the agency began probing Iran’s nuclear program in 2007 and has been continuously updated.
The information in the document that is either new, more detailed or represents a more forthright conclusion than found in published IAEA reports includes:
— The IAEA’s assessment that Iran worked on developing a chamber inside a ballistic missile capable of housing a warhead payload “that is quite likely to be nuclear.”
— That Iran engaged in “probable testing” of explosives commonly used to detonate a nuclear warhead — a method known as a “full-scale hemispherical explosively driven shock system.”
— An assessment that Iran worked on developing a system “for initiating a hemispherical high explosive charge” of the kind used to help spark a nuclear blast.
In another key finding, an excerpt notes: “The agency … assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device (an atomic bomb) based on HEU (highly enriched uranium) as the fission fuel.”
ElBaradei said in 2007 there was no “concrete evidence” that Iran was engaged in atomic weapons work — a source of friction with the United States, which has sought a hard-line stance on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Responding to the AP report, the agency did not deny the existence of a confidential record of its knowledge and assessment of Iran’s alleged attempts to make nuclear weapons. But an agency statement said the IAEA “has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran.”
It cited ElBaradei as telling the agency’s 35-nation governing board last week that “continuing allegations that the IAEA was withholding information on Iran are politically motivated and totally baseless.”
“Information from a variety of sources … is critically assessed by a team of experts working collectively in accordance with the agency’s practices,” it said.
“The IAEA reiterates that all relevant information and assessments that have gone through the above process have already been provided to the IAEA Board of Governors in reports of the director general.”
The document traces Iran’s nuclear arms ambitions as far back as 1984, when current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was president and Iran was at war with Iraq.
The Obama administration said Thursday it was scrapping a Bush-era plan for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the decision came after U.S. intelligence concluded that Iran’s short- and medium-range missiles were developing more rapidly than previously projected and now pose a greater near-term threat than the intercontinental ballistic missiles addressed by the plan under former President George W. Bush.
Iran is under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze enrichment, the key to making both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade uranium. It is blocking IAEA attempts to probe allegations based on U.S., Israeli and other intelligence that it worked on a nuclear weapons program.
Iran recently agreed to meet Oct. 1 with the U.S. and five other world powers seeking curbs on its atomic activities for the first time in more than a year. But Tehran says it is not prepared to discuss its nuclear activities.”
Straight from Fox News: “Republicans are rejecting comparisons made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who came near to tears Thursday when she compared anti-government rhetoric over President Obama’s health care proposals to the debate over gay rights in 1970s San Francisco.
“I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw this myself in the late ’70s in San Francisco,” Pelosi told reporters, her voice catching in her throat at her weekly press briefing.
Without making an eponymous comparison, Pelosi was referring to the 1978 murders of Mayor George Moscone and city Supervisor Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist immortalized in a recent movie starring Sean Penn. Former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White was convicted in the case. He committed suicide in 1985.
At the time, gay rights activists and others said the assassinations were the result of the loud and sometimes violent debate over gay rights. Pelosi was chairwoman of the Democratic Party for northern California and friendly with Milk and Moscone.
Pelosi said Thursday that while she values free speech, a careful line must be tread between the First Amendment Right and regard for public safety.
“Our country is great because people can say what they think and they believe,” she added. “But I also think that they have to take responsibility for any incitement that they may cause.”
Pelosi’s response came to a question about whether she is concerned that the political debate and anti-government rhetoric could mimic the era of 1993-1994, when then-President Bill Clinton offered a health care option and as the reporter noted, “Around that time, we also saw acts of domestic violence, domestic terrorism.”
“I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made,” Pelosi said. Some of the people hearing the message “are not as balanced as the person making the statement might assume.”
Pelosi did not offer examples of rhetoric today that could lead to violence but the House rebuked South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson for shouting “You lie!” at Obama last week. The August congressional recess was also dominated by town hall meetings in which voters vigorously stated their opposition to the president’s proposals for health care reforms.
The town hall meetings were followed with a rally in Washington, D.C., last weekend that brought tens of thousands of protesters.
House Minority Leader John Boehner said Thursday little if any of the rhetoric feeding the health care debate has contained an undercurrent of violence.
“Listen, I was at a tea party in Westchester, Ohio on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend with 18,000 people. I saw no signs or any indication of any kind of violence,” he said.
“Americans are saying ‘stop.’ They’re scared to death that the country that they grew up in is not going to be the country that their kids and grandkids get to grow up in,” Boehner added. “And so as a result, you’re seeing average Americans who’ve never been involved in the political process taking a more active role in our society and in this debate. And so, you know, I believe it ought to be civilized, but — but Americans are speaking up and they ought to speak up.”
Boehner also chided President Carter, who this week became the highest -profile politician to say the opposition is built on racism because Obama is black.
“I reject this resoundingly,” Boehner said. “The outrage that we see in America has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with the policies that (Obama) is promoting.”"
Straight from Yahoo News: “Poles and Czechs voiced deep concern Friday at President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap a Bush-era missile defense shield planned for their countries.
“Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back,” the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Obama’s new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous “gray zone” between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere.
Recent events in the region have rattled nerves throughout central and eastern Europe, a region controlled by Moscow during the Cold War, including the war last summer between Russia and Georgia and ongoing efforts by Russia to regain influence in Ukraine. A Russian cutoff of gas to Ukraine last winter left many Europeans without heat.
The Bush administration’s plan would have been “a major step in preventing various disturbing trends in our region of the world,” Kaczynski said in a guest editorial in the daily Fakt and also carried on his presidential Web site.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he still sees a chance for Poles and Czechs to participate in the redesigned missile defense system. But that did not appear to calm nerves in Warsaw or Prague.
Kaczynski expressed hopes that the U.S. will now offer Poland other forms of “strategic partnership.”
In Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said he made two concrete proposal to U.S. officials on Thursday in hopes of keeping the U.S.-Czech alliance strong: for the U.S. to establish a branch of West Point for NATO members in Central Europe and to “send a Czech scientist on the U.S. space shuttle to the international space station.”
An editorial in Hospodarske Novine, a respected pro-business Czech newspaper, said: “an ally we rely on has betrayed us, and exchanged us for its own, better relations with Russia, of which we are rightly afraid.”
The move has raised fears in the two nations they are being marginalized by Washington even as a resurgent Russia leaves them longing for added American protection.
The Bush administration always said that the planned system — with a radar near Prague and interceptors in northern Poland — was meant as defense against Iran. But Poles and Czechs saw it as protection against Russia, and Moscow too considered a military installation in its backyard to be a threat.
“No Radar. Russia won,” the largest Czech daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes, declared in a front-page headline.
Obama said the old plan was scrapped in part because the U.S. has concluded that Iran is less focused on developing the kind of long-range missiles for which the system was originally developed, making the building of an expensive new shield unnecessary.
The replacement system is to link smaller radar systems with a network of sensors and missiles that could be deployed at sea or on land. Some of the weaponry and sensors are ready now, and the rest would be developed over the next 10 years.
The Pentagon contemplates a system of perhaps 40 missiles by 2015, at two or three sites across Europe.”
Straight from the Debka File: “Deputy US army chief, Gen. James Cartwright and defense secretary Robert Gates amplified President Barack Obama’s statement on the US missile shield in East Europe in Washington Thursday, Sept. 17, by announcing that a new and better anti-missile missile system would be deployed in Israel and the Caucasus.
DEBKAfile discloses exclusively that the site would be a Russian military base in Azerbaijan. Referring to the Israeli component, he said: “It is already working perfectly.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose he was referring to the advanced American FBX-T radar system deployed last year in Israel’s Negev base at Nevatim, which is capable of tracking a missile launched from the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and beyond. The system, product of Raytheon, is mobile and capable of detecting incoming bodies the size of a baseball from a distance of 4,700 km, determining its speed and angle of flight and transmitting the data to an interceptor at any point on earth.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Thursday:
The Obama administration’s decision to shelve the plan to install US missile interceptors and radar systems in Poland and the Czech Republic was released Thursday, Sept. 17. The shield was promoted by the Bush administration in the face of strong Russian opposition for the purpose of shielding Europe from long-range Iranian ballistic missile attack.
DEBKAfile reports that Barack Obama’s decision prompted Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s surprise comment Monday, Sept. 14, that his government no longer rules out further sanctions against Iran – although the Kremlin has always denied its cooperation with the US on the Iranian nuclear issue was contingent on the removal of the US missile shield plan.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly in its coming issue (out Friday) will reveal how the shared US-Russian wish to avert an Israeli military strike against Iran produced Obama’s decision to ditch the missile shield in East Europe.
Our Washington sources report that the decision follows a 60-day assessment of the issue announced by Obama.
On Aug. 29, DEBKAfile reported exclusively from East European sources that Washington was considering the transfer of its missile plan from Poland and the Czech Republic possibly to Israel and Turkey. Click HERE
This decision is an important foreign policy step for Obama; it is a prize for Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, who fought the US shield plan on Russia’s doorstep tooth and nail, and a major strategic reversal for Iran. Moscow’s cooperation removes a key obstacle on the road to harsh sanctions against Iran. Acting in concert with Moscow, Washington can dispense with Beijing’s endorsement.
Nonetheless, DEBKAfile’s Moscow sources stress, it is not entirely clear how far the Kremlin is willing to go in partnering the US drive against Iran. Russian leaders will take good care not to appear to the Muslim and Arab world as Iran’s enemy or a trading and diplomatic partner who reneges on its commitments.
Our Washington sources note the Obama administration cleverly presented its surrender to Moscow as an upgrade and reorganization of US missile defenses into a more advanced, faster, and deadlier system.
Gates said Iran’s short and medium range program is not advancing as US intelligence originally estimated, and therefore the US can base its operations for now on mobile defense systems, mainly at sea, and on intercept missiles to be stationed closer to where the source of the threats. “Anyone who says we are abandoning our plans for missile defense in Europe does not understand how we operate,”said the defense secretary.
Gen. Cartwright presented the time schedule for the new system as not before 2015, meaning in six years.”