‘Israeli Army Eyes Attack on Iran within Hours of Green Light’

‘Israeli Army Eyes Attack on Iran within Hours of Green Light’

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18/04/2009 The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government, the London Times reported Saturday.

Among the steps taken to ready Israeli occupation forces for what would be a risky raid, requiring pinpoint aerial strikes, are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.

Two nationwide civil defense drills, scheduled to be held in the next few weeks, are said to help prepare the public for the retaliation that Israel could face. “Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours. They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words,” the report quoted a senior defense establishment official as saying.

Officials believe that Israel could be required to hit more than a dozen targets, including moving convoys. The sites include Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges produce enriched uranium; Esfahan, where 250 tons of gas is stored in tunnels; and Arak, where a heavy water reactor produces plutonium.

The distance from Israel to at least one of the sites is more than 870 miles, a distance that the Israeli force practiced covering in a training exercise last year that involved F15 and F16 jets, helicopters and refueling tankers.

‘ATTACK UNLIKELY WITHOUT US SUPPORT’
The possible Israeli strike on Iran has drawn comparisons to its attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad in 1981. The strike eradicated the facility in under 100 seconds, with no Israeli losses.

“We would not make the threat (against Iran) without the force to back it. There has been a recent move, a number of on-the-ground preparations, that indicate Israel’s willingness to act,” said another official from Israel’s intelligence community.

He added that it was unlikely that Israel would carry out the attack without receiving at least tacit approval from the United States, which has so far advocated a more reconciliatory tone in dealing with Iran under its new administration.

An Israeli attack on Iran would entail flying over Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, where US forces have a strong presence.

Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies, said it was unlikely that the US would approve an attack: “The American defense establishment is unsure that the operation will be successful. And the results of the operation would only delay Iran’s program by two to four years,” he said.

A visit by US President Barack Obama to the Zionist entity in June is expected to coincide with the national elections in Iran – timing that would allow the US Administration to re-evaluate diplomatic resolutions with Iran before hearing the Israeli position.

“Many of the leaks or statements made by Israeli leaders and military commanders are meant for deterrence. The message is that if (the international community) is unable to solve the problem they need to take into account that we will solve it our way,” he added.

Israel will conduct an exercise with US forces to test the ability of Arrow, its US-funded missile defense system. The exercise would test whether the system could intercept missiles launched at Israel.

“Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate the threat of a nuclear Iran. According to Israeli Intelligence they will have the bomb within two years … Once they have a bomb it will be too late, and Israel will have no choice to strike – with or without America,” an official from the Israeli Defense Ministry said.

Suicide Blast in Hangu, Pakistan 20 Killed

Suicide Blast in Hangu, Pakistan 20 Killed

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HANGU: Eighteen policemen among 20 people have been killed in a deadly suicide attack at a security check-post here.

Eyewitnesses that a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden

pickup into a police check-post at Doaba area of Hangu when a convoy of security forces was passing by.

At least 20 people, including 18 policemen, were killed in the incident while ten others were injured who were rushed to the local hospital.

SHO of local police station was also among deceased, police officials told the newsmen.

The explosion was as powerful as it severely damaged nearby shops. Heavy contingent of the law enforcement agencies have been arrived at the scene and the area has been cordoned off.

Navies to guard undersea cable from Somali pirates

Navies to guard undersea cable from Somali pirates

NAIROBI, April 16 (Reuters) – Foreign navies have agreed to protect a vessel installing an undersea high-speed Internet cable from pirates off the coast of Somalia, a Kenyan minister said on Thursday.

Sea gangs from lawless Somalia have been increasingly striking the Indian Ocean shipping lanes and strategic Gulf of Aden, capturing dozens of vessels and hundreds of hostages in attacks that have driven up insurance rates.

Patrols by Western navies have done little to deter the attacks.

Kenyan Information and Communications Minister Samuel Poghisio said the 5,000 km (3,107 miles) fibre optic cable was on course for completion in June.

Last month, a government official said the route for the East African Marine Cable (TEAMS) had been shifted an extra 200 km from the coastline for fear of pirates.

“These are concerns we have but they are being addressed. We know it will be secure and will land in Mombasa on time,” Poghisio said in a statement on Thursday.

“The process (of laying the cable) has begun and will probably take two months. It is likely that by the middle of June the ship should be anchoring in Mombasa, or rather delivering the cable to Mombasa,” he added.

The $130 million cable will link Kenya’s coastal town of Mombasa with Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

Kenya has been putting down a terrestrial cable connecting different parts of the country to prepare for the arrival of the marine cable, which could be east Africa’s first speedy but cheap telecoms link with the rest of the world.

Another undersea project known as SEACOM is also expected to be operational in the second half of 2009 and two others are due to land in 2010 — the Eastern African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and the France Telecom/Orange Sat3-wasc-Safe cable.

East Africa has relied on expensive satellite connections for telephones and Internet. Telecoms operators and outsourcing firms are eagerly awaiting the cable’s arrival, which is expected to slash costs and speed up connectivity. (Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Jack Kimball)

Pentagon jams Web, Radio links of Taliban in Pak and Afghanistan

Pentagon jams Web, Radio links of Taliban in Pak and Afghanistan

Submitted 5 hrs 17 mins ago

The Obama administration is starting a broad effort in Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent Taliban from using radio stations and Web sites to intimidate civilians and plan attacks, according to senior U.S. officials. As part of the classified effort, American military and intelligence personnel are working to jam the unlicensed radio stations in Pakistan’s lawless regions on the Afghanistan border that Taliban fighters use to broadcast threats and decrees. U.S. personnel are also trying to block the Pakistani chat rooms and Web sites that are part of the country’s burgeoning extremist underground. The Web sites frequently contain videos of attacks and inflammatory religious material that attempts to justify acts of violence. The push takes the administration deeper into “psychological operations,” which attempt to influence how people see the U.S., its allies and its enemies. Officials involved with the new program argue that psychological operations are a necessary part of reversing the deterioration of stability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sleepwalking to disaster

Sleepwalking to disaster

By Irfan Husain

Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. - APP/File photo

However, we must also accept the fact that we are where we are because the army refused to fight the Taliban in Swat. The government had few options due to this lack of military resolve. – APP/File photo

WHEN faced with a frightening civil war and reeling from repeated blows from a ruthless and determined foe, how does our government react? It puts the country’s clocks forward by an hour. I suppose this is one of the few things it can do to show it exists at all.

The rest of us can be excused for doubting the presence of an administration, given the slide and drift we have been seeing over the last year. As the Taliban have made rapid inroads, and now strut about with greater impunity — to say nothing of immunity — than ever before, it has been painful to watch how ineffective the PPP-led coalition has been.

When her widower, Asif Zardari, signed that infamous instrument of surrender known as the Nizam-i-Adl, Benazir Bhutto must have turned in her grave. Whatever else she might have been accused of in her lifetime, even her worst enemies concede she was a courageous fighter. And although the original demand for Sharialaw in Malakand surfaced during her tenure in 1994, I doubt very much that she would have surrendered the state’s writ as easily as this government has done.

Another major politician who would have thoroughly disapproved of the turn of events in Swat and elsewhere is Khan Abdul Wali Khan. The late father of ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, a member of the ruling coalition, was an avowed secularist. His National Awami Party was committed to Bacha Khan’s democratic ideals and struggled to keep religion separate from politics. The sight of his son cravenly handing over Swat (with the NWFP to follow) to the Taliban would have broken the tough old Pashtun leader’s heart.

To their credit, a handful of politicians did not roll over as the Nizam-i-Adl was propelled smoothly through the National Assembly. My old friend Ayaz Amir made sure this law did not pass without some serious doubts being expressed. And the MQM lived up to its secular credentials, although I would have been happier if they had resisted rather than boycotted the proceedings. By contrast, the PPP succumbed and feebly maintained the party line of surrender.

But the deed is done, and we are left to face the consequences of the government’s gutless display. However, we must also accept the fact that we are where we are because the army refused to fight the Taliban in Swat. It can be argued that due to this lack of military resolve, the provincial and federal governments had few options. But surely, given political will, the administration had enough resources at its disposal to confront around 5,000 militants.

This resounding defeat is the cumulative result of years of pandering to extremists. Partly, this happened because the army thought it expedient to use them to further its agenda in Afghanistan and Kashmir. But mainly, it is due to the massive confusion about the true nature of the threat. After my column (‘The high cost of defeat’) appeared in this space last week, I must have received at least a score of emails accusing me of, among other things, not wanting a dialogue with the Taliban. Several readers asked why I did not wish to treat the militants as errant brothers, and reason with them.

I wrote back saying that if any brother of mine went around blowing people up, and chopping off the heads of innocent people, I would want him locked up and tried for murder. No society anywhere advocates negotiations with known killers, whatever their stated motives.

This exchange goes to the heart of the muddled thinking that has thus far characterised our response to the Taliban threat. TV channels are full of so-called religious scholars and conservative pundits who have tried to justify the deal, assuring us that it would bring peace to Swat. While the gullible might buy this line, I paid more attention to a recent statement by Muslim Khan, the Swat Taliban spokesman. He is quoted as saying that “Muslims should take up arms instead of laying them down”. Thus, he has already broken a key provision of the deal that called for the militants to disarm.

Asif Zardari has declared that the deal brings Islamic justice, and not the Sharia, to Swat. Tell that to the women who can no longer leave their homes without their husband’s permission and to the thousands of young girls deprived of an education. And just to remind the government who’s in charge, Maulana Sufi Mohammed has declared that under the deal, those militants who terrorised Swat during their year-long campaign, cannot be tried for the murders and other atrocities they committed. So much for swift justice.

Over the last year, as the Taliban have edged closer to seizing control of the state, the country’s rulers have been indulging in irrelevant power plays. First it was about the reinstatement of the chief justice; then it was the Punjab government being sacked; and now the government and the opposition are squabbling over the implementation of the Charter of Democracy. Meanwhile, Gen Kayani is travelling the globe instead of seeing to the country’s defence.

And as the economy falters and stalls, the rest of the world is being asked to rescue us yet again. We are telling the Americans that we will not accept any strings to their assistance, while the Friends of Pakistan are being told that the country will collapse without a bailout. In some ways, we are holding a begging bowl in one hand, and a raised middle finger in the other. If we had a third hand, it would be holding a gun to our head. In fact, this is now our preferred negotiation mode.

It would help a lot if the government had a coherent plan to combat the militant menace. In fact, Pakistanis as well as the international community would welcome some sign that somebody in the government is doing some serious thinking. So far, we have been fed with clichés and idiotic waffle. Perhaps this absence of any sensible policy is even scarier than the continuing inaction. It seems the government is sleepwalking its way to disaster, with our leaders more interested in scoring political points than doing their duty, and fighting the Taliban threat.

We have been told that somehow, the government will separate the ‘moderate’ Taliban from the really bad guys and talk to the former, while using force against the latter. I wonder if the abandoned and terrorised people of Swat can tell the difference.

irfan.husain@gmail.com