India nuclear test ‘did not work’

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

In a file photo from 1974, a crater is shown in the Thar desert area southwest of New Delhi where India conducted an underground nuclear test. India successfully tested three devices in the same area on Monday May 11,1998. (AP Photo/HO)

India’s nuclear tests shocked the world

A retired atomic scientist who was closely associated with India’s 1998 nuclear tests has said they were not as successful as was claimed.

K Santhanam said one of the tests – on a hydrogen bomb – had not worked, and that India would have to carry out more tests for a credible nuclear deterrent.

His statement has been dismissed by the government and his former colleagues.

The Indian tests led to similar tests by Pakistan, raising fears of a nuclear conflict between the two countries.

Cover-up?

K Santhanam is a respected Indian atomic scientist who was project director of the 1998 nuclear tests.

He now says that one of the five tests that were carried out, in which a thermonuclear device or hydrogen bomb was detonated, did not perform as well as expected.

He also said that everyone associated with the tests immediately recognised that something had gone wrong.

If his statement is accurate it points to a massive cover-up by India and also confirms what many in the West suspected at the time – that the nuclear devices India tested were not as powerful as had been thought.

India’s government has dismissed Mr Santhanam’s claim, which has also been disputed by senior officials of the BJP-led government which carried out the tests.

The scientist says that India is coming under pressure to sign up to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a move he says would be disastrous since he contends that the country does not yet have a credible nuclear deterrent.

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/india/nuke/

FireShot Pro capture #094 - 'Nuclear Weapons - India Nuclear Forces' - www_fas_org_nuke_guide_india_nuke

Tensions with BSF increase in Sevastopol

Tensions with BSF increase in Sevastopol

Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Aug. 26 – Russia’s Black Sea Fleet forces on Wednesday detained Ukrainian court officers in Sevastopol after the officers tried to enforce a court ruling that had ordered return of some navigation equipment to Ukraine.

The officers were later released to police in Sevastopol, but the incident could have “tragic consequences” for the people involved, the BSF press service said, according to Interfax-Ukraine.

The development dangerously escalates tensions between Ukraine and Russia whose relations are already at the lowest point since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991.

“The court officers intentionally broke international agreements by penetrating illegally to the facility that is under security protection, putting not only themselves, but also witnesses, in danger,” the BSF said in a statement. “The responsibility for the possible tragic consequences of such incidents fully lies with organizers of such provocations.”

This is the first time that Ukrainian citizens have been detained by the armed foreign forces on the territory of Ukraine, which sets a dangerous precedent that may have serious consequences.

A legislation recently suggested by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would allow Russian troops based in other countries to open fire for self-protection.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, which appears to be seriously concerned with the legislation, has been seeking to get more details over how the legislation would affect Ukraine, home to Russia’s naval Black Sea Fleet.

The escalation comes after Ukraine on Tuesday vigorously denied Russia’s allegations that Ukrainian troops had been helping Georgia to fight off Russian army during their five-day war a year ago.

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the head of the SBU security service, said the allegations represent “a lying statement,” while Kostiantyn Hryshchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Russia, said the allegations point to either “unprofessional” investigation or an outright “order” to discredit Ukraine.

Vladimir Markin, Russia’s special representative of the chief investigation committee under the Prosecutor General Office, said Monday the committee had uncovered “evidence” of Ukrainian troop involvement in the Russia-Georgia war. He said undisclosed number of the Ukrainian troops and about 200 volunteers have been helping Georgia to fight off Russia during the war in August 2008.

No evidence, however, has been presented to the Ukrainian ambassador at a high-level meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Hryshchenko said.

The escalation comes a week after Medvedev has accused his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko of “anti-Russian” policy.

This underscores Moscow’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and fuels fears in Ukraine that Russia may be preparing for some sort of a clash with Ukraine, perhaps in Crimea, an autonomous region that is populated mostly by ethnic Russians.

In August 2008, Russia sent tens of thousands of troops and tanks into Georgia, a small pro-Western ally of Ukraine.

The five-day incursion ended with a de-facto annexation of Georgia’s two breakaway territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a move that had been condemned by most countries in the world. (tl/ez)

The rest of the story is available to subscribers only.

Black Sea lighthouse stirs Russia-Ukraine tension

Black Sea lighthouse stirs Russia-Ukraine tension

By Dmitry Solovyov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia accused Kiev of attempting to seize property belonging to its Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine on Thursday, in a sign of escalating tension between the two ex-Soviet neighbors.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet said it had barred Ukrainian court bailiffs as they tried to seize navigation equipment at a lighthouse in Khersones, on the outskirts of the Ukrainian Crimean port city of Sevastopol — home to the Russian fleet for more than two centuries.

Russian television showed fleet servicemen in full combat gear with submachine guns at the ready forming a chain to guard the territory of the lighthouse. Bailiffs were shown being handed over to Ukraine’s police by the Russians.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s Black Sea fleet found itself based on territory belonging to independent Ukraine. Kiev has told Moscow it must abandon the base at Sevastopol when a 20-year lease expires in 2017, but Russia wants to extend the arrangement.

Thursday’s incident highlighted the emotional nature of the Sevastopol dispute, part of broader tensions between the two countries that have led to interruption of gas supplies to Europe and harsh exchanges between their leaders.

“The command of the Black Sea Fleet warns that the responsibility for possible tragic consequences of such incidents will rest entirely with those organizing such provocations,” the fleet said in a statement posted on the Russian Defense Ministry’s Web site http://www.mil.ru.

It said only Russian laws were valid on the territory of Russian Black Sea Fleet facilities, despite it being in Ukraine.

Ukraine accused its neighbor of “twisting the facts,” Interfax news agency reported, citing a source in Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry.

BROTHERLY LOVE

“The incident…(reflects a wish) to blame the Ukrainian side for the escalation of conflict,” the agency quoted him as saying. It gave no details of Ukraine’s version of events.

Ukrainian officials could not be immediately reached for comment. Officials in Kiev had said earlier that despite the fact some facilities like lighthouses are under Russia’s jurisdiction, Ukraine may claim its rights to them because they are deployed on lands that do not belong to Russia’s military.

The issue of Sevastopol and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet deployed there is a painful irritant in the icy relations between former imperial master Moscow and Kiev which has been seeking closer ties with the West and NATO membership.

In 1954 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave Russia’s Crimean peninsula to Ukraine in a gesture of “brotherly love.” The act had little beyond symbolic importance at the time as Russia and Ukraine formed part of the Soviet Union under Kremlin control.

Ukrainian refusal to accept any extension has angered Moscow and pro-Russian locals who see Sevastopol as the natural home of the Russian fleet.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Bill would give president emergency control of Internet

Bill would give president emergency control of Internet

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

“I think the redraft, while improved, remains troubling due to its vagueness,” said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which counts representatives of Verizon, Verisign, Nortel, and Carnegie Mellon University on its board. “It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill.”

Representatives of other large Internet and telecommunications companies expressed concerns about the bill in a teleconference with Rockefeller’s aides this week, but were not immediately available for interviews on Thursday.

A spokesman for Rockefeller also declined to comment on the record Thursday, saying that many people were unavailable because of the summer recess. A Senate source familiar with the bill compared the president’s power to take control of portions of the Internet to what President Bush did when grounding all aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001. The source said that one primary concern was the electrical grid, and what would happen if it were attacked from a broadband connection.

When Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. “We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs–from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records,” Rockefeller said.

The Rockefeller proposal plays out against a broader concern in Washington, D.C., about the government’s role in cybersecurity. In May, President Obama acknowledged that the government is “not as prepared” as it should be to respond to disruptions and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff. Three months later, that post remains empty, one top cybersecurity aide has quit, and some wags have begun to wonder why a government that receives failing marks on cybersecurity should be trusted to instruct the private sector what to do.

Rockefeller’s revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a “cybersecurity workforce plan” from every federal agency, a “dashboard” pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a “comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy” in six months–even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.

The privacy implications of sweeping changes implemented before the legal review is finished worry Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “As soon as you’re saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it’s going to be a really big issue,” he says.

Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to “direct the national response to the cyber threat” if necessary for “the national defense and security.” The White House is supposed to engage in “periodic mapping” of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies “shall share” requested information with the federal government. (“Cyber” is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)

“The language has changed but it doesn’t contain any real additional limits,” EFF’s Tien says. “It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version)…The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There’s no provision for any administrative process or review. That’s where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it.”

Translation: If your company is deemed “critical,” a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network.

The Internet Security Alliance’s Clinton adds that his group is “supportive of increased federal involvement to enhance cyber security, but we believe that the wrong approach, as embodied in this bill as introduced, will be counterproductive both from an national economic and national secuity perspective.”

Declan McCullagh is a contributor to CNET News and a correspondent for CBSNews.com who has covered the intersection of politics and technology for over a decade. Declan writes a regular feature called Taking Liberties, focused on individual and economic rights; you can bookmark his CBS News Taking Liberties site, or subscribe to the RSS feed. You can e-mail Declan at declan@cbsnews.com.

Ex-CIA official John Helgerson says agents lost control after torture go-ahead

Ex-CIA official John Helgerson says agents lost control after torture go-ahead

Tim Reid in Washington

The author of a scathing report on CIA interrogations during the Bush era has claimed that certain operatives lost control once they had been authorised to use “enhanced” interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

John Helgerson, the former inspector-general of the CIA, also told The Times that the Obama Administration had cut key passages of his report out of the released version, a decision he found “puzzling”.

Mr Helgerson told The Times that the CIA had given assurances to the Justice Department that although the techniques would be used more than once, repetition would “not be substantial”.

In fact, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 — the month he was captured — while Abu Zubaydah, another top al-Qaeda official, was waterboarded 83 times.

“The very large number of applications to which some detainees were subjected [to the waterboard] led to the inescapable conclusion that the agency was abusing this technique,” Mr Helgerson said.

In the report, which was suppressed for five years until it was released under a judge’s order on Monday, Mr Helgerson says that in 2002 the Justice Department authorised a dozen harsh interrogation techniques for terror suspects and advised the CIA that they did not constitute torture.

Yet, he said, the Justice Department did not consider in 2002 whether such methods —

now banned — were in contravention of Article 16 of the UN Torture Convention, which prohibits cruel or degrading treatment and to which the US is a signatory.

“In fact,” Mr Helgerson said, “it appeared that certain of the techniques were designed solely because they were degrading.”

His report detailed a litany of excesses in secret CIA “black site” prisons between 2002 and 2004, described as “unauthorised, improvised, inhumane and undocumented”. Interrogators staged mock executions, repeatedly choked a detainee, lifted another off the floor by his arms while they were bound behind his back with a belt, threatened sexually to assault a prisoner’s mother and kill another’s children, scrubbed one inmate with a stiff brush until his legs were raw and beat one man with a heavy torch.

The revelations in the report convinced Mr Obama’s Attorney-General, Eric Holder, to announce on Monday a criminal investigation of detainee abuse by the CIA.

Mr Helgerson was particularly critical of the Justice Department for poor oversight. He said that even the CIA operatives who exceeded its guidelines were acting in good faith, because they believed that they would gain valuable intelligence.

To Mr Helgerson’s dismay, his final recommendations — which centred on the training and oversight of CIA interrogators, and the legal boundaries in which they should operate — were blacked out by the Obama Administration when it released his report on Monday.

His report has only fuelled the emotive debate over whether torture works. Mr Helgerson concedes that the interrogation sessions elicited an enormous amount of valuable intelligence — an observation pounced upon by Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President. Yet Mr Helgerson cannot say if it was the harshness of the tactics that produced the information or other factors.

“It was not self-evident that the information that was most useful followed a session where somebody was waterboarded. Perhaps it was only because he had been in detention for a long time or had been questioned by someone using traditional techniques,” Mr Helgerson said.

Truth Jihad Radio Discusses Psychiatric Abuse–Saturday,5-7 pm Central

Truth Jihad Radio Discusses Psychiatric Abuse–Saturday

Dr. Kevin Barrett of Truth Jihad focuses on medical professionals’ collaboration with CIA mind-control manipulators in torture/interrogation tactics used at Guantanamo,  Abu Gharib and elsewhere.  “Weaponizing Psychology” to be included.
This Saturday on Truth Jihad Radio, Dr. William Woodward, professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire, will deliver his professional opinion concerning the respective sanity of Clare Swinney and the psychiatrists who institutionalized her for believing that 9/11 was an inside job. Then Clare Swinney herself will join us to tell her amazing, outrageous story. For details, see:

Clare is a journalist from New Zealand who began reporting on the holes in the official story of 9/11 and was subsequently threatened and finally incarcerated in the summer of 2006. During that same summer, Sean Hannity was calling me “a nut” and Bill O’Reilly was suggesting I should be killed in a mafia hit because I thought 9/11 was an inside job…while William Woodward, another 9/11-truth-seeking college teacher, was also being targeted by the forces of treason.

Psychology professor William Woodward tells me he will be consulting with a clinical psychologist in studying the horrendous ordeal of Clare Swinney and delivering his professional opinion. 

We will also be discussing the larger subject of psychiatric abuse (see Weaponizing Psychology).


Somebody’s crazy here…but who? Find out this Saturday, August 27th, on Truth Jihad Radio, 5-7 pm Central, http://www.americanfreedomradio.com (to be archived at http://www.americanfreedomradio.com/Barrett_09.html).

Kevin Barrett
Author, Questioning the War on Terror: A Primer for Obama Voters: http://www.questioningthewaronterror.com

Weaponizing Psychology

Treating People Like Dogs

CIA Releases Its Instructions For Breaking a Detainee’s Will

CIA Releases Its Instructions For Breaking a Detainee’s Will

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

As the session begins, the detainee stands naked, except for a hood covering his head. Guards shackle his arms and legs, then slip a small collar around his neck. The collar will be used later; according to CIA guidelines for interrogations, it will serve as a handle for slamming the detainee’s head against a wall.

After removing the hood, the interrogator opens with a slap across the face — to get the detainee’s attention — followed by other slaps, the guidelines state. Next comes the head-slamming, or “walling,” which can be tried once “to make a point,” or repeated again and again.

“Twenty or thirty times consecutively” is permissible, the guidelines say, “if the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question.” And if that fails, there are far harsher techniques to be tried.

Five years after the CIA’s secret detention program came to light, much is known about the spy agency’s decision to use harsh techniques, including waterboarding, to pry information from alleged al-Qaeda leaders. Now, with the release late Monday of guidelines for interrogating high-value detainees, the agency has provided — in its own words — the first detailed description of the step-by-step procedures used to systematically crush a detainee’s will to resist by eliciting stress, exhaustion and fear.

The guidelines, along with thousands of pages from other newly released documents, also show how the CIA gradually imposed limits on the program and eliminated some of the most controversial practices after the agency’s medical advisers protested.

Still, by Dec. 30, 2004, the date of the CIA memo that outlines the guidelines to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, agency interrogators had grown adept at using sleep deprivation, stress positions and sometimes multiple methods to create a “state of learned helplessness and dependence.”

“Certain interrogation techniques place the detainee in more physical and psychological stress and, therefore, are considered more effective tools,” according to the memo, released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Amnesty International USA and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The CIA on Tuesday declined to comment on the memo, which was written by an agency lawyer whose name was redacted from the document. But agency spokesman George Little noted that the interrogation program operated under guidelines approved by top legal officials of the Bush administration’s Justice Department.

“This program, which always constituted a fraction of the CIA’s counterterrorism efforts, is over,” Little said. “The agency is, as always, focused on protecting the nation today and into the future.”

CIA officials also have noted that harsh techniques were reserved for a small group of top-level terrorism suspects believed to be knowledgeable about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Agency officials believe the methods prevented future attacks.

Medical Concerns

As outlined in the memo, the agency’s psychological assault on a detainee would begin immediately after his arrest. With blindfolds and earmuffs, he would be “deprived of sight and sound” during the flight to the CIA’s secret prison. He would have no human interaction, except during a medical checkup.

In the initial days of detention, an assessment interview would determine whether the captive would cooperate willingly by providing “information on actionable threats.” If no such leads were volunteered, a coercive phase would begin.

CONTINUED 1 2 3

dependence.””Certain interrogation techniques place the detainee in more physical and psychological stress and, therefore, are considered more effective tools,” according to the memo, released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Amnesty International USA and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The CIA on Tuesday declined to comment on the memo, which was written by an agency lawyer whose name was redacted from the document. But agency spokesman George Little noted that the interrogation program operated under guidelines approved by top legal officials of the Bush administration’s Justice Department.

“This program, which always constituted a fraction of the CIA’s counterterrorism efforts, is over,” Little said. “The agency is, as always, focused on protecting the nation today and into the future.”

CIA officials also have noted that harsh techniques were reserved for a small group of top-level terrorism suspects believed to be knowledgeable about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Agency officials believe the methods prevented future attacks.

Medical Concerns

As outlined in the memo, the agency’s psychological assault on a detainee would begin immediately after his arrest. With blindfolds and earmuffs, he would be “deprived of sight and sound” during the flight to the CIA’s secret prison. He would have no human interaction, except during a medical checkup.

In the initial days of detention, an assessment interview would determine whether the captive would cooperate willingly by providing “information on actionable threats.” If no such leads were volunteered, a coercive phase would begin.


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Doomsday — pros and cons

Doomsday — pros and cons

America may be forced to retrench — militarily and fiscally

By Arnaud de Borchgrave

Originally published 04:45 a.m., August 10, 2009, updated 10:24 a.m., August 10, 2009

Two major entrepreneurial tycoons, in the multibillion-dollar league, with worldwide interests, speaking not for attribution, agree that the worst is yet to come. America has to reinvent itself for the 21st century, but this won’t happen before another big credit-rattling shock. Millions of jobs are not coming back, they said.

They were speaking about the current global financial and economic crisis. Another humongous credit crunch is on the way, they believe, and the current optimism is simply a pause before another major downward slide. Unemployment, they forecast, will climb from the low to the high teens. A pledge to limit tax increases to those making more than $250,000 a year is a pipe dream. Someone has to pay the health piper. Major social dislocations are on their horizon for 2010.

One of the interlocutors has shunned all manner of stocks in favor of discounted corporate bonds that yield 7 1/2 percent, and gold. The other has already moved all his financial holdings into a cocktail of Asian currencies based at a new entity he created in Singapore.

“We are roughly where Britain was in 1968,” said one. That year Prime Minister Harold Wilson decided to abandon all of Great Britain’s obligations east of Suez. That included the entire Persian Gulf, from Oman to Kuwait, the Strait of Hormuz, British special agents in all the emirates and sheikhdoms, local constabularies with British officers, the fabled Trucial Oman Scouts (TOS) — all for the bargain basement cost of $40 million a year.

As the British and other colonial empires faded into history, America’s global empire grew topsy-turvy and since the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989, its power grew unchallenged. The two tycoons, who did not wish to be quoted, agreed with a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population that says America can no longer afford the astronomic costs of empire.

With more than 2.5 million U.S. military personnel serving across the planet and 737 military bases spread across each continent, and 3,800 installations in the United States, a reassessment of roles and missions is long overdue. The estimated $1 trillion in overdue infrastructure repairs and modernization strikes many as an overdue priority.

The 2010 defense budget is a shade shy of $700 billion, more than two-thirds of a trillion dollars, which now tops the rest of the world — including major players Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, China, India — put together. Add all the defense expenditures neatly tucked into the budgets for Energy, State, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, and 16 intelligence agencies, and the numbers top $1 trillion.

With only 5 percent of the world’s population, it is still remarkable that the United States can maintain global military superiority on less than 5 percent of gross domestic product. But from the world’s biggest creditor, the United States has become the world’s largest debtor, coupled with a rapid decline of a manufacturing sector once hailed as the arsenal of democracy and an annual per capita trade deficit of $2,000 per citizen.

U.S. share of global output continues to decline from year to year. Like General Motors Corp. and Ford, the United States has yielded share of the global market from one-third at the turn of the new century to one-quarter today. Was the rise of the rest the decline of the West?

Have U.S. commitments and responsibilities outstripped resources? The two anonymous billionaire voices were among the many now saying so in public opinion polls. They feel a paradigm shift is inevitable. We are yet to wean ourselves from the old paradigm: the $3 billion we borrow each and every day — principally from China — to maintain the world’s highest standard of living, based on conspicuous consumption, at a time of growing world shortages. And when we are finally weaned, it will become glaringly obvious that we were living way beyond our means and that major belt-tightening is long overdue.

In his projections through 2025, Thomas Fingar, the former chief analyst for the 100,000-strong U.S. intelligence network, which includes 16 agencies with a budget of $50 billion, predicted the international system would be transformed over the next 15 years as dramatically as it was after World War II. As China rises to global prominence, the United States would be declining. “In terms of size, speed and directional flow,” wrote Mr. Fingar, “the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way — from West to East — is without precedent in modern history.”

Following Mr. Fingar’s analysis, former deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Altman wrote in Foreign Affairs, the official organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, that the current financial crisis is “a major geopolitical setback for the U.S. and Europe” that could only accelerate trends that are moving the global center of gravity to China. And this is something that a staggering $1 trillion for defense (in a budget with a projected $2 trillion federal deficit) would be powerless to reverse.

The pessimistic outlook should, of course, be tempered by the fact that IBM spins off more technology patents in a typical year than all of China. Three-quarters of the world’s top universities are in America. So any loss of influence is at this stage attributable to reckless profligacy at every level of American society, beginning with the federal government and the mind-numbing bonuses that Wall Street’s “Masters of the Universe,” as Tom Wolfe called them in his 1987 best-seller “Bonfire of the Vanities,” have lavished on themselves Roman Empire-style.

Both global entrepreneurs mentioned at the beginning of this column believe Israel will resolve its existential crisis by bombing Iran’s key nuclear facilities later this year. One thought Gulf Arabs would be secretly delighted and that Iran’s much vaunted asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities would fizzle as the theocracy imploded. The other could see mayhem up and down the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz closed, and oil at $300 per barrel.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

CIA sets up another drone base in Afghanistan

CIA sets up another drone base in Afghanistan

Published by: Noor Khan

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Aug 21 (PTI) Apparently buoyed by the success of its armed Unmanned Aeriel Vehicles in targeting elusive Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists in Pakistan, CIA has set-up another drone base in Jalalabad in Eastern Afghanistan to step up the hunt for likes of Osama Bin Laden.

“Officials said the CIA now conducted most of its Predator missile and bomb strikes on targets in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region from the Jalalabad base, with drones landing or taking off almost hourly,” The New York Times reported.

“The base in Pakistan is still in use. But officials said that the United States decided to open the Afghanistan operation in part because of the possibility that the Pakistani government, facing growing anti-American sentiment at home, might force the CIA to close the one in Pakistan,” it said.

So far, CIA has been using the Shamsi base in Baluchistan for tracking and hunting down high-value targets amongst Al-Qaeda and Taliban hiding in lawless Waziristan province in Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan.

Siting the new-drone base in Jalalabad will give US forces leverage to hit Afghan-Taliban bases, specially the hideouts of militant leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and his sons in their strongholds of Khost, Pakhtia and Paktita, which lie east of the Jalalabad town. .

Iraq violence threatens oil deals

BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 (UPI) — Recent events in Iraq have cast a pall over the government’s plans to have a November auction for potentially lucrative oil contracts that are vital for the country’s reconstruction.

The surge in violence of the last few weeks, political uncertainty caused by this week’s breakup of the ruling Shiite coalition and Iraqis’ refusal to give Big Oil the terms it wants are likely to drive off the international companies that see the country’s untapped reserves as the big prize.

Iraq’s oil reserves total an estimated 115 billion barrels, ranked third after Saudi Arabia and Iran. But it is believed that there may be as much again in untapped reserves, which would give Iraq the largest reserves in the world.

With the rest of the Middle East closed to foreign ownership and the world’s energy reserves shrinking, no other new fields of any significance are likely to emerge. So Iraq could be the last frontier.

Iraq had its first oil field contract auction in June in Baghdad. It was a flop for all concerned. The oil companies that participated wanted more for every barrel they produced than Iraq was prepared to offer.

Result: The oil majors snubbed all but one of the eight contracts on the table, and Iraq did not secure the deals it needed to acquire billions of dollars in investment to upgrade its long-neglected oil industry.

BP and the China National Petroleum Corp. won the contract for the Rumailah field in southern Iraq, but only by agreeing to cut their fees after development costs to $2 a barrel instead of the $3.99 they demanded.

All the other majors — Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Corp. among them — refused to lower their demands. The government too refused to budge.

The June auction involved only established fields, where the Iraqis want to crank up production as soon as possible. The upcoming round will be radically different.

It will focus primarily on six partly developed fields and four undeveloped “green field” zones. These reportedly include Majnoon, Iraq’s largest undeveloped field.

Iraqi officials unveiled the next round for some 45 prequalified companies in Istanbul Tuesday. The Iraqis say they have lowered their fees and that contracts can be signed before the country has parliamentary elections scheduled for January.

“We expect a better match between our expectations and what the companies will bid in the second round,” Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said in Istanbul.

The companies allowed to bid include BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ENI SpA of Italy, Gazprom of Russia, Total SA of France and Turkey’s state energy company Turkiye Petrolleri AO.

But recent developments in Iraq have produced a situation that is more fraught with danger and uncertainty than existed in June, and analysts say this could have an impact on the bidding.

U.S. forces have withdrawn from Baghdad and other urban areas, leaving Iraq’s nascent post-Saddam Hussein armed forces responsible for security.

The results have been calamitous. Hundreds of people have been slaughtered in a wave of suicide bombings with which the Iraqi forces have been unable to cope. A new scourge of sectarian bloodletting is threatened.

The oil and gas industry, Iraq’s economic mainstay, is a clear target: Destroying pipelines and other facilities, particularly if in foreign hands, would shut down much of the economy.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is increasingly beleaguered as the U.S. withdrawal proceeds. Shiite political factions that were key members of his coalition have abandoned him and formed a new alliance to run against him in the January elections.

The most notable are the Iranian-backed Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the bloc headed by firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr.

This has raised the prospect of a sharp increase in Iranian influence in Baghdad just as U.S. forces are withdrawing and could possibly point to a new oil policy.

An Iranian hand on Iraq’s oil wealth would give Tehran control of a fearsome amount of the world’s oil supply, surpassing even Saudi Arabia’s reserves.

That could scare off potential Western investors already chastened by U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic and heighten tension with Washington.

The defections leave Maliki, who rose to power in 2006, increasingly isolated and undermine his efforts to portray himself as the nation’s security bulwark at a time when it is clear his forces aren’t yet capable to protecting the country.

If the new alliance wins in January, it would be the most pro-Iranian government that has emerged since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003 and seriously reduce U.S. influence.

None of this is likely to convince Big Oil that it has a future in the new Iraq.

Holbrooke Has a “Hissy Fit” Over Afghan Elections

By Ian Pannell
BBC News, Kabul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Mr Karzai was elected president of Afghanistan in 2004

The US special envoy to Afghanistan has held an “explosive” meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the country’s election, the BBC has learnt.

Richard Holbrooke raised concerns about ballot-stuffing and fraud, by a number of candidates’ teams, sources say.

The US envoy also said a second-round run-off could make the election process more credible, the sources said.

Concerns have already been raised about Afghanistan’s election, although final results are not due until September.

A number of senior sources have confirmed the details of a meeting between Mr Holbrooke and Mr Karzai held on 21 August, one day after the election.

The meeting was described as “explosive” and “a dramatic bust-up”.

Mr Holbrooke is said to have twice raised the idea of holding a second round run-off because of concerns about the voting process.

Graph showing election results
Other leading candidates:
Ramazan Bashardost
108,000 (10.8%)
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai
28,000 (2.8%)
Winning candidate needs more than 50% of votes to avoid a run-off

He is believed to have complained about the use of fraud and ballot stuffing by some members of the president’s campaign team, as well as other candidates.

Mr Karzai reacted very angrily and the meeting ended shortly afterwards, the sources said.

However, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Kabul denied there had been any shouting or that Mr Holbrooke had stormed out.

She refused to discuss the details of the meeting.

A spokesman for the presidential palace denied the account of the conversation.

There have been many doubts raised about the Afghan presidential election, about the turnout and irregularities.

But this is the first time that a leading Western official has apparently expressed it quite so openly.

It will raise more questions about the credibility of the whole process and could well make the plan to establish a meaningful government in a stable country all the harder to achieve.

ISI says it distributed millions among Pak politicians

ISI says it distributed millions among Pak politicians

PTI

In a startling disclosure, Pakistan’s ISI has admitted in court that it had distributed huge amount of money to political parties and leaders including former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Zafarullah Jamali and Mohammad Khan Junejo.

The distribution of money was not confined to former prime ministers, but transcended political affiliations to include the likes of Pir Pagaro, Abida Hussain, Lt Gen Rafaqat and tribal leaders Humayun Marri, Nadir Mengal and Hasil Bizenjo.

The revelation was made by Pakistan’s former chief justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui, who said this case was still pending with the country’s Supreme Court since 1999.Nawaz Sharif, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Zafarullah Jamali and Mohammad Khan Junejo.

The distribution of money was not confined to former prime ministers, but transcended political affiliations to include the likes of Pir Pagaro, Abida Hussain, Lt Gen Rafaqat and tribal leaders Humayun Marri, Nadir Mengal and Hasil Bizenjo.

The revelation was made by Pakistan’s former chief justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui, who said this case was still pending with the country’s Supreme Court since 1999.

He said the sensational disclosures were made in an affidavit filed in the court by former ISI chief Lt Gen (retd.) Asad Durrani.

The Daily Times quoted Siddiqui telling a private TV channel that millions of rupees were distributed during former President Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s regime and ostensibly to convince political leaders to join the then Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI).

The IJI, headed by Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, was formed in September 1988 to oppose the Pakistan People’s Party in elections. The alliance comprised nine parties, of which the major components were the Pakistan Muslim League, National Peoples Party, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.