Sec. Gates Issues World’s Greatest Threat to Everyone’s Security

[The United States remains the enemy of the world, the absolute worst sponsor of state terrorism.]

Iran nukes worst threat to security: Robert Gates

CHICAGO: Iran’s nuclear ambitions are the greatest current threat to global security, according to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “Iran is the one that concerns me the most because there don’t seem to be good options (or a scenario) where one can have any optimism that good options will be found,” Gates told the Economic Club of Chicago. The threat rests not only in Iran’s apparent determination to seek a nuclear weapon, but in the “inability of the international community to affect their determination to do that,” Gates said. “All of the outcomes are negative,” he said. “If they achieve one, the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is very, very real. “If something is done to prevent them from getting one, the consequences of that are completely unpredictable and frankly, very bad.” Gates says he has struggled to convince other nations, particularly Russia, that the Iranian situation does not simply threaten the United States. “Iran’s going to have the capability to deliver nuclear weapons to the people in their region a lot sooner than they’re going to have the capability to deliver them to us,” he added.

CHICAGO: Iran’s nuclear ambitions are the greatest current threat to global security, according to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “Iran is the one that concerns me the most because there don’t seem to be good options (or a scenario) where one can have any optimism that good options will be found,” Gates told the Economic Club of Chicago. The threat rests not only in Iran’s apparent determination to seek a nuclear weapon, but in the “inability of the international community to affect their determination to do that,” Gates said. “All of the outcomes are negative,” he said. “If they achieve one, the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is very, very real. “If something is done to prevent them from getting one, the consequences of that are completely unpredictable and frankly, very bad.” Gates says he has struggled to convince other nations, particularly Russia, that the Iranian situation does not simply threaten the United States. “Iran’s going to have the capability to deliver nuclear weapons to the people in their region a lot sooner than they’re going to have the capability to deliver them to us,” he added.

CIA Still Suspect from Last Indonesian Blast

Cleric blames CIA for Bali bombing

There is speculation the government is preparing to execute the three bombers by firing squad next week.

There is speculation the government is preparing to execute the three bombers by firing squad next week. (Reuters: File photo)

An Indonesian Islamic cleric linked to the three extremists awaiting execution for the Bali bombings said the 2002 attack which killed more than 200 people, including 88 Australians, was the work of the CIA.

Abu Bakar Bashir says the US intelligence agency had fired a nuclear missile at the Bali tourist strip from a ship off the coast.

“It has been mentioned as being a micro-nuclear bomb, not a regular bomb… The bomb was made by the CIA, it could be no one else,” he said in his house at the Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school on Indonesia’s Java island.

He said the attack was a conspiracy between “America, Australia and the Jews” and the three convicted bombers – Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Ghufron – had been framed.

“The bomb Amrozi set off, the first one, at most it shattered glass and didn’t wound people, or at most wounded them a little,” he said.

Amrozi had been “used by the CIA in coordination with America, Australia and the Jews. The police and the prosecutors aren’t brave enough to prove it.”

The coordinated October 12, 2002 bomb attacks ripped through packed nightspots on the holiday island’s main tourist strip and killed 202 people, mostly foreign visitors including 88 Australians.

Radical Islamist preacher Bashir, aged around 70, served almost 26 months for conspiracy over the attacks before being cleared and released in 2006.

He had been accused of providing spiritual leadership to the Jemaah Islamiah regional terror group, a claim he denies.

His comments come amid speculation the government is preparing to execute the three bombers by firing squad next week, in line with their 2003 convictions.

The executions have been put off by a series of failed appeals and most recently by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, raising questions about the government’s willingness to kill the men ahead of elections in April.

More than 90 per cent of Indonesia’s 234 million people are Muslims, but most follow a more moderate version of Islam.

Dismissing Indonesia’s Islamic groups as “Jewish organisations,” he said he would split from the Indonesian Council of Mujahedin which he had led and form a new group to push for pure Islamic law.

He said he would launch the new group, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (“partisans of the oneness of God”), on October 25.

- AFP

Barack Obama, Anti-Messiah, or Messiah?

Barack Obama’s world

Written by Godfrey Hodgson
obamaThe United States president’s global ambitions match the expectations placed on him. But the resources to fulfil either are lacking, says Godfrey Hodgson, in the second part of a six-month assessment.

Barack Obama’s arrival on the world stage has been more than the entry of a young, popular president who offers a new and more generous spirit in America foreign policy. Almost everywhere he has gone – from Berlin to Cairo, from London to Accra – he has been treated almost as a young god, sent to redeem a wicked and a suffering world.

Indeed, not since Woodrow Wilson arrived in Europe in December 1918 to preside over the Paris peace conference and make the world safe for democracy has any man carried the burden of so many hopes (see David A Andelman, “Versailles, 1919-2009: a new world order’s legacy“, 29 June 2009).It is an uncomfortable parallel. Wilson’s dream faded. The peace conference was an orgy of just that pursuit of narrow national interest Wilson had condemned, and he himself played the game in a manner hardly more elevated than did Lloyd George or Georges Clemenceau. His health collapsed. Henry Cabot Lodge destroyed his League of Nations. John Maynard Keynes left him caricatured for all time as a pious fraud, bamboozled by the wickedness of the old world.

Barack Obama shares with Wilson a missionary side. He also upholds the exceptionalist vision of America’s destiny. In his way he does want to bring sweetness and light to a darkling world where the inheritances of 1918-19 still cast shadows (see Patrice de Beer, “Versailles to al-Qaida: tunnels of history“, 9 November 2007). But he is no pushover. His intellectual training was at the Harvard law school, and his political education was in the Daleys’ Chicago. So the problem that will test him is not that he is too good for a fallen world, but that America’s resources – military, financial and political – may not be adequate for the almost unlimited role that is expected of him.

How much of this does Obama understand? It is striking in this respect that – for all his patience, his ability to listen, and his consensual style – his ambitions appear to match the expectations of him. His goal in effect seems to be no less than to remake the political world.

The sea of troubles

The sheer number and scale of the tasks he has set himself are unprecedented. He wants to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, tame North Korea, bring Afghanistan and Pakistan into the Pax Americana, “reset” the relationship with a truculent Russia, maintain good relations with a rising China, drastically reduce nuclear weapons, rebuild connections with (while demanding more of) western Europe, calm the troubled spirits of Latin America, revivify Africa’s economic energies for an age beyond dependency – oh, and achieve substantial progress on climate change.

To these epic ends he bids his messengers ride forth in all directions to bring the good tidings of a new, friendly yet resolute America: George Mitchell in the middle east, Dennis Ross in Iran, Richard Holbrooke in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he has spent a good part of these six months carrying the message in person, to almost universal acclaim (perhaps Moscow alone excepted). But already things have gone wrong.

Dennis Ross has been taken off the Iran beat, admittedly not to be demoted but to be a close adviser in the White House. It is unfortunate that Ross has just co-authored a book wholly uncritical of Israel; worse that Binyamin Netanyahu has openly defied Obama’s call for an end to Israeli settlements in the West Bank (see Akiva Eldar, “Binyamin Netanyahu’s mirage“, 15 June 2009); worse still that Iran’s holocaust-denying president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad sabotaged the emollient message of the Cairo speech with a crudely manipulated election and brutal suppression of domestic opposition (see Asef Bayat, “Iran: a green wave for life and liberty“, 7 July 2009).

Perhaps the Israeli and Iranian leaders will have difficulty maintaining their respective intransigent stances. Even if they do the hurdles they have set will remain high. It is hard to see that serious progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians is conceivable in Obama’s first term (see Gideon Levy, “Barack Obama: Israel’s true friend“, 25 May 2009); and the result of Iran’s fixed election may sink American (and European) efforts to stave off a crisis if and when Iran acquires its first nuclear weapon. It is already plain that – in this region alone – high ideals and a new face will not in themselves be enough to level the ramparts of bitterness.

In the new province of “AfPak“, Richard Holbrooke will find it even tougher than he did in the former Yugoslavia. The United States has persuaded the Nato countries (and especially Britain) to join a campaign to expunge the Taliban from Afghanistan, with the collateral aims of bringing democracy to Afghanistan and protecting the homelands’ streets from suicide-bombing. Holbrooke’s boss in the White House has reinforced the American military commitment in Afghanistan, sustained the US’s air campaigns (including “drone” strikes), and called for renewed efforts from Pakistan to defeat the Taliban in the Swat valley and adjacent areas.

It is not at all clear how this strategy can work. The Taliban, after all, was created by the United States and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to give the Soviet Union “its Vietnam”. Afghanistan is a fragmented country of many ethnic groups and languages that has never been a modern state, let alone a democratic one. Much of its economy is in ruins, and many of its farmers’ livelihoods are heavily dependent on the opium poppy. The project of military victory and of democracy-building look doomed (see Paul Rogers, “Afghanistan’s lost decade“, 16 July 2009).

Pakistan, beset by near permanent security and political crises, has many of the symptoms of a classic “failed state” (see Pervez Hoodbhoy, “Pakistan: the road from hell“, 9 June 2009). It is hard to see that the US’s security-centred strategy of bounteous military aid to an army with questionable loyalties can possibly be the foundation of the kind of progress in the region that Obama seeks.

The world’s views

Barack Obama’s problems are compounded by the way that many of America’s overseas partners to a great extent share the view of their country as (in Madeleine Albright’s phrase) “the indispensable nation” – though with very proprietorial ideas of what they want from it.

Europeans expect America to protect them, but are reluctant to contribute to their own defence. India and Pakistan look to America as the powerful ally that will enable each to prevail over its regional rival. Israel and Egypt look to America for diplomatic support and financial aid. India and China hope that America will help them to avoid the full cost of containing climate change.

China is a particularly thorny problem for President Obama. There are powerful and impatient voices in Washington that find only annoyance in the kind of multilateral relationships symbolised by the G8, G20, the European Union and the United Nations; their dream is of a shaping “G2″ partnership with China.

This pseudo-realism is a fantasy. For China is not, as Americans understand the words, either a capitalist or a democratic state. It is a troubled communist autocracy, whose grave domestic problems the rioting in Urumqi has revealed (see Kerry Brown, “Xinjiang: China’s security high-alert“, 15 July 2009). China may have accumulated a formidable quantity of dollar securities. But it is also hugely dependent on exports to the United States and indeed to Europe. The bilateral relationship between Washington and Beijing may be vital, but it is no substitute for proper global governance.

The canvas of hope

The twisted perception of a quick fix to prolong the United States’s global hegemony via a bonding with China is but one indication that Barack Obama also has to worry about the balance of power at home (see “Barack Obama: a six-month assessment“, 10 July 2009).

The president’s freedom of action in the middle east, for example, is far less than most foreigners assume. It is hard to see how progress can be made without some degree of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas: yet any hint of negotiating with Hamas would bring strong resistance from the American Israel Political Action Committee (Aipac) – with which Obama incurred some debts during his campaign. The chorus of opposition would be joined by Fox News and the Republicans, and by many Democrats in Congress.

In addition, Obama will have to negotiate his foreign policy through a Congress which will also be preoccupied with his domestic agenda. A cautious politician by nature, he will not want to risk his healthcare reforms or his climate-change policy for the benefit of promoting African agriculture or state-building in Afghanistan.

Obama is still the beneficiary of a vast fund of goodwill. But his political resources are circumscribed. The financial crisis has not yet had any marked effect on the US government’s willingness to spend on its foreign policy. But the cost of the Iraq war, and the George W Bush administration’s insistence on funding it “off budget”, do mean that Obama must think (as his recent predecessors did not) of the cost of his policies.

In politico-military terms, he is even more constrained. There are troops to be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan. But Iraq stretched the American military considerably: troops and their officers experienced there longer and more taxing tours of duty than in the past. For the first time, serious people in Washington are coming to realise that the United States cannot indefinitely enjoy the luxury of not having to choose between alternative weapons-systems and alternative policies.

The Iraq war has shown that the United States can bring “shock and awe” to any country if it pleases. But the financial crash of 2008-09 and the economic recession that has followed have made clear what was already becoming apparent throughout the Bush years: that Washington no longer has the military power, the cash, or the political skill to understand – let alone to solve – every problem in the world (see Paul Rogers, “Iraq, AfPak, beyond: the global cost of war“, 18 June 2009).

It is hardly excessive to say that much of the world yearns for Barack Obama to adjudicate its quarrels, heal its feuds, and bring peace. When measured against both this canvas of hope and what he seeks to achieve, Obama’s resources are far smaller than they seem. He will have to prioritise. Much will depend on what his real priorities turn out to be. The second half of his first year in office will be a time of revelation.

Godfrey Hodgson was director of the Reuters’ Foundation Programme at Oxford University, and before that the Observer’s correspondent in the United States and foreign editor of the Independent

Godfrey Hodgson’s most recent book is The Myth of American Exceptionalism (Yale University Press, 2009)

This article is published by Godfrey Hodgson, and openDemocracy.net under a Creative Commons licence.

Zardari Hopes UN’s Benazir Probe Unearths Conspiracy to “Balkanize” Pakistan

Pak asked UN to probe Bhutto’s murder to stay clear of accusations: Zardari

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has said that his government had requested for an independent UN probe into late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination because it didn’t want to face any accusation of bias in the future.

“We approached the UN because firstly we wanted transparent and above board investigations so that there were no accusations of bias. We also wanted to unearth a conspiracy to balkanise Pakistan and let the world know how a democratic leader heroically laid down her life to foil the designs against the country and thereby to honour her internationally,” The News quoted Zardari, as saying.

On Thursday, a three-member UN Inquiry Commission arrived in Islamabad and met Zardari to begin a sixth-month investigation on Bhutto’s killing.

The UN probe team included Chilean Ambassador to UN Heraldo Munoz, former attorney general of Indonesia Marzuki Darusman, and a veteran of the Irish National Police Peter Fitzgerald.

Apart from Zardari, the UN delegation also met Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakhtawar heroically laid down her life to foil the designs against the country and thereby to honour her internationally,” The News quoted Zardari, as saying.

On Thursday, a three-member UN Inquiry Commission arrived in Islamabad and met Zardari to begin a sixth-month investigation on Bhutto’s killing.

The UN probe team included Chilean Ambassador to UN Heraldo Munoz, former attorney general of Indonesia Marzuki Darusman, and a veteran of the Irish National Police Peter Fitzgerald.

Apart from Zardari, the UN delegation also met Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Assefa Bhutto Zardari.

Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar quoted him, as saying that the conspirators had planned to postpone elections indefinitely and to provoke the PPP workers to take to the streets on that fateful day to hasten the process of balkanisation.

“The president said the PPP took the conscious decision by seeking revenge in a different way as the party’s new Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari declared, ‘Democracy is the best revenge’,” Babar said.

Babar added that the UN probe will be restricted to fact-finding in nature, to determine the facts and circumstances of the assassination and that it would not carry out a criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik handed over the report prepared by Scotland Yard, FIA and its sister intelligence agencies to the UN commission. (ANI)

Bombs Rip Through Indonesia Hotels, Killing Nine

PhotoPhoto

Bombs rip through Indonesia hotels, killing nine

By Telly Nathalia and Olivia Rondonuwu

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Bomb blasts ripped through luxury hotels in the heart of Indonesia’s capital on Friday, killing nine people and wounding dozens in attacks the president said badly hurt confidence in the country.

The bombs targeted the JW Marriott hotel, scene of a car bomb attack in 2003, and the Ritz-Carlton, both popular with visiting international businessmen and thought to boast some of the tightest security in Jakarta.

A car bomb killed two people along a toll road in the north of the capital, police said, and an unexploded homemade device was also later found on the 18th floor of the Marriott.

A visibly upset President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, re-elected this month on the back of improved security and a healthier economy, told a news conference that the bombings were the act of a terrorist group bent on damaging the country.

“I am sure most of us are deeply concerned, feel very sorry, and are crying silently, like the way I am feeling,” he said, adding the perpetrators were “laughing and cheering with anger and hatred.”

“They do not have a sense of humanity and do not care about the destruction of our country because of this terror act will have a wide impact on our economy, our business climate, our tourism, our image in the world and many others.”

FINANCIAL MARKETS FALL

Indonesian financial markets fell after the blasts, with the rupiah down 0.7 percent at 10,200 per dollar, prompting state banks to sell dollars to support the currency, traders said. Indonesian stocks were down 2 percent.

The apparently coordinated bombings are the first in several years and follow a period in which the government had made progress in tackling security threats from militant Islamic groups, bringing a sense of political stability to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Suspicion was likely to fall on the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, blamed for the previous Marriott attack as well as bombings on the island of Bali in 2002 that killed 202 people.

The group, which wants to create an Islamic state across parts of Southeast Asia, was blamed for a string of attacks until 2005, but many militants have since been arrested.

“The attack is particularly severe for investor confidence because … it has affected the hotels that are seen to be among the most secure in Jakarta and also either killed or wounded numerous prominent expatriate business people,” said Kevin O’Rourke, a political risk analyst in Jakarta.

Tim Mackay, president director of cement maker PT Holcim Indonesia, was among those killed, the company said.

According to police, the casualties included citizens of Indonesia, the United States, Australia, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, Britain, Canada, Norway, Japan and India.

The Manchester United soccer team said it had canceled the Jakarta leg of an Asian tour. A Ritz-Carlton employee said the team had been due to stay at the hotel ahead of a game in Indonesia early next week.

BLOOD ON THE STREET

Witnesses said the bombings at the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton were minutes apart and it appeared both had occurred inside the hotel restaurants during breakfast.

At the Ritz-Carlton, torn curtains flapped around broken windows and glass lay around the hotel. There was blood on the street across from the Marriott. The hotels are near each other in a business area home to many offices, embassies and bars.

“It was very loud, it was like thunder, it was rather continuous, and then followed by the second explosion,” said Vidi Tanza, who works near the hotel, describing the blasts.

Parliamentary elections in April and the presidential poll this month had passed peacefully, underscoring the progress made by the world’s most populous Muslim nation since the chaos and violence that surrounded the downfall of ex-autocrat Suharto in the late 1990s.

“I would say it damages foreign investor confidence since the attacks appear aimed at Westerners, but does not shatter it, so long as there is no further violence for some time,” said Sean Callow, currency strategist at Westpac Bank in Sydney. An Australian security report on Thursday said Jemaah Islamiah could be poised to strike again.

Leadership tensions in the group and recent prison releases of its members raised the possibility that splinter groups might now seek to re-energize the movement through violent attacks, said the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The report said Jemaah Islamiah was now a splintered group which may not be capable of replicating mass casualty attacks, but warned there was evidence that members released from prison “are gravitating toward hardline groups who continue to advocate al Qaeda-style attacks against Western targets.”

Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based expert on Islamic militants at the International Crisis Group, said Jemaah Islamiah as an organization did not appear to be responsible.

“It’s more likely to be a splinter group than JI itself, which doesn’t mean you couldn’t have JI members but it’s very unlikely to be JI as an organization behind this attack,” said Jones.

(Additional reporting by Michael Perry in Sydney, Harry Suhartono in Singapore; Writing by David Fox and Sara Webb; Editing by Nick Macfie)

(Consider the Source) Israeli Press Floats Rumor Ships Carry Nukes

INS Haniteilat

Israeli Warships Sail Through Suez Canal

by Hana Levi Julian

(IsraelNN.com) Two Israeli warships reportedly passed through the Suez Canal Tuesday in what is seen as an unusual show of cooperation between Egypt and the Jewish State, according to Arab news media.

The report has not been officially confirmed by the IDF.  However, in what appeared to be confirmation by Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Ghet told journalists that the crossings were legitimate in accordance with an agreement between the countries.

The Hanit and the Eilat, both Sa’ar-5 class Navy torpedo boats, traveled from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, allegedly to beef up Israel’s military presence there.

The Eilat is the second ship of that name; the first was a destroyer sunk by Egypt shortly after the 1967 Six Day War. Forty-seven Israeli sailors died in the attack.

The Hanit had already made the trip through theSuez, according to the AFP news agency, which reported the vessel had crossed through the Canal in each direction in June.

Several weeks ago, an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine also traveled through the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and back, escorted by Egyptian navy vessels.  It was the first such drill for the German-made secret vessel, defense sources confirmed to the Reuters news agency, despite a later denial by an Egyptian security officer who said the voyage had never taken place. IDF Army Radio quoted the officer as saying, “Egypt does not allow Israeli warships to enter our territory.”

Usually Israeli ships and submarines travel around the Horn of Africa in order to reach the Red Sea, where an Iranian ship loaded with weapons was sunk a few months ago.  More than 100 arms smugglers on board the vessel, which was headed for Gaza, were killed in the attack reportedly carried out by Israel.

The recent voyage of the Dolphin was intended by both Israel and Egypt as a message to Iran, which has continued it nuclear development activities in the face of a ban by the United Nations Security Council.

Intelligence reports indicate that Iran is intent upon building a nuclear weapon, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has in the past year repeatedly threatened to attack the State of Israel. Any nuclear attack on the Jewish State would affect neighboring nations as well.

Until now, Israeli naval vessels have previously avoided the Suez Canal, and some media pundits have speculated that military intelligence has tried to avoid Egyptian detection of alleged nuclear warheads aboard the ships.