Irony Of Ironies: US Trying To Send Iranian Uranium To Russia

Iran denies ‘tentative uranium agreement’ with US

Published time: January 03, 2015 04:32
Edited time: January 03, 2015 12:02
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Washington and Tehran came a step closer to agreeing on shipping part of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile to Russia, AP reported on Friday, citing diplomatic sources. However, Iran denied that any such agreement took place.

According to two diplomatic sources who spoke to the Associated Press, the December round of nuclear talks produced a “catalogue of areas of potential accord”, while outlining differing approaches to remaining stick points.

One of the breakthroughs, sources say, comes as Iran allegedly “tentatively agreed” to transport a large portion of its uranium stockpile to Russia for conversion into reactor fuel.

However, Iran’s Foreign Ministry has denied reports that it has agreed with the US on the list of nuclear materials to be delivered to Russia. On Friday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said “no agreement on any nuclear topic” had taken place.

Such news is spread out of political motives and its goal is to tarnish the climate of the talks and make it more complicated to reach a settlement,” Afkham said, reported the state’s IRNA news agency,

The P5+1 group, namely United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany, is scheduled to meet the Iranian delegation in Geneva on January 15.

Diplomats say that during the next round, the sides will focus on the amount of uranium that is to remain in Iran.

An issues that still requires a compromise is the size of Iran’s future enrichment output, as Tehran is ready honor its commitment to reduce it by 20 percent, according to the diplomats, while the US demands it cut by 50 percent. Iran’s Fordo underground enrichment site and Arak nuclear reactor will also be discussed.

The talks, which have so far lasted for more than a year, focus on Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity and capabilities and the sanctions imposed on Tehran. Iran insists that it needs enrichment capabilities to develop reactor fuel, and for other peaceful purposes. But the West believes it has been using its civilian atomic energy program as a cover for developing a nuclear weapons program.

The P5+1 talks will carry on till the end of June as parties failed to reach a deal by the deadline of November 24. The delegations hope to reach a rough agreement by March. But expert opinion is divided whether or not an agreement might be reached before June’s deadline.

“There are pressures on Iran because of oil prices,” investigative journalist Dave Lindorff told RT, as Iran is “feeling the heat” from the drop in crude price. “The Obama administration is also feeling pressure of getting some results from all this negotiating.”

Meanwhile a researcher on US-Iran relations, Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, told RT that unless Washington pledges to reverse their sanctions – a comprehensive agreement will most likely not be reached. The talks with Tehran will only get “more complicated,” as Republican leadership, she says, tends to side with Israel and will be reluctant to drop any sanctions in a Republican dominated Senate.

“Mr. Obama does not have the power to lift the sanctions, and Iran will not forgo any of its rights without lifting the sanctions,” Sepahpour-Ulrich says. “It is very unlikely that they would reach a comprehensive deal.”

“Iran has made many compromises,” she reminded. “But three days ago even more sanction were enforced… So we see a lot of contradiction coming out of the United States. I think the sticking point in all this is going to be sanctions, is going to be Congress, is going to be Israel’s steps.”

Even Obama Foresees The Third Nuclear Horn of Pakistan (Daniel 8:8)

What if Pakistan hands a nuclear bomb to Mullah Omar or Haqqani?

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What happens if one day some cranky army general of Pakistan fails to give in to the temptation of knocking more than a few heads and decide to hand over one or more of the bombs to a Mullah Omar or a Haqqani, asks veteran diplomat Rajiv Dogra in his new book: “Where Borders Bleed: An Insider’s Account of Indo-Pakistan Relations.

Here are some excerpts from the book published by Rupa and priced Rs.360.

“Actor George Clooney recalls in an interview in the December 2012 issue of Esquire magazine: I talked with the President (Obama) at one of those fundraisers some months back, and I asked him, ‘What keeps you up at night?’

And he said, ‘Everything. Everything that gets to my desk is a critical mass. If it gets to my desk, then no one else could have handled it.’

So I said, ‘So what’s the one that keeps you up at night?’

He goes, ‘There are quite a few.’

So I go, ‘What’s the one? Period.’

And he says, ‘Pakistan.’

Do Indian leaders lose any sleep because of Pakistan? There is nothing in the public domain to suggest that they do. However, one thing is certain, and it is this that Indian leaders lose no opportunity in convincing the world at large that they have no ill-will towards Pakistan, and that a prosperous and stable Pakistan is in India’s interest. They also go on to say that they would do all they can to help promote stability in Pakistan.

How exactly will they help, and what form India’s help would assume, is never clarified. Nor is the fact taken into consideration that help by India would be seen as the kiss of death for anyone in Pakistan who receives or agrees to receive such assistance, be it a political party or an individual.
On the other hand, if the desire is to shore up Pakistan economically by cash transfers, it will be well worth recalling the US experience. Its billions have disappeared without trace, and without any stabilizing effect, in a bottomless pit called Pakistan.

Therefore critics of a realistic persuasion have often asked, ‘Is Pakistan an Indian responsibility? Or is it a dangerous distraction?’

Political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama wrote in his book State Building, ‘Weak and failing states have become the single most important problem for international order.’ Fukuyama may or may not have had Pakistan in view as the perfect model for his conclusion, but the vast body of international writing on Pakistan has consistently maintained that Pakistan is weak as a society and failing as a state.

There is no indication so far that Pakistan would, at any identifiable future date, be able to put in place a system that delivers efficiently and reasonably transparently. Nor is there any sign that the massive effort required to industrialize the country is about to begin in the immediate future. Without the necessary wherewithal of job creation, the large numbers of unemployed youth will take the only option available to them. And that is the path of terror. There is no antidote that India can provide to prevent that from happening.

In fact India’s equanimity in the face of a very grim situation surprises observers.

The US worries endlessly about a nuclear bomb that Iran is nowhere close to possessing. It fought two wars with Iraq on the suspicion that there were weapons of mass destruction in its basement. The US’ treatment of Libya bordered on impetuous brutality despite the fact that it had already forced Muammar Gaddafi to dismantle the nuclear process that was still in a nascent stage. And the US keeps worrying about the trigger-happy Pakistani generals and their arsenal of hundred-plus nuclear bombs. But the US sits thousands of kilometres away, well out of the reach of Pakistan’s nuclear delivery systems.

So, is Obama right to have sleepless nights over Pakistan? Given all the information at his disposal, he may have many reasons to be worried. A principal one could be the unpredictability of the Pakistani generals. No one is denying the fact that they are solid, professional army men. But if they can commit atrocities of the type they did in (what is now) Bangladesh, and continue to do in Baluchistan, and if they gloat over 9/11 and 26/11, who and what can stop an angry general from ordering a nuclear strike?

The record shows that they are prone to using violent means. Look, for instance, at the number of wars they have dragged Pakistan into. If you count the two Afghan wars and the continuing terror enterprise, then Pakistan has fought a major war in every decade of its existence; sometimes even two wars simultaneously.

Or look at the number of coups it has had over the years. No other major country is held to ransom as whimsically as Pakistan is by its volatile generals.

Therefore, if they are happy providers for the likes of Mullah Omar, and long-time protectors of terror icons like Osama bin Laden, what is the guarantee that one day some angry general may not give in to the temptation of knocking more than a few heads and decide to hand over one or more of the bombs to a Mullah Omar or a Haqqani?

(Rajiv Dogra has served as India’s consul general in Karachi and as ambassador to Romania and Italy. He can be contacted at ambraja@gmail.com)

Iran, Iraq, And The Shia Horn (Daniel 8:3)

Iran will do what it takes to fight ISIS

Iranian regime has several concerns

Author: By By Mohamad Bazzi
Published On: Jan 03 2015 11:53:23 AM CST   Updated On: Jan 03 2015 12:21:40 PM CST
Al Hayat Media/CNN
(CNN) – If there is one regional player that gained the most from America’s gamble in Iraq, it is Iran. With its invasion in 2003, the United States ousted Tehran’s sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein, from power. Then Washington helped install a Shiite government for the first time in Iraq’s modern history. As U.S. troops became mired in fighting an insurgency and containing a civil war, Iran extended its influence over all of Iraq’s major Shiite factions.

Today, the Iranian regime is moving to exert influence beyond its Iraqi proxies, and is comfortable taking overt military action. There is no one to restrain Tehran, and the rise of ISIS, which views Shiites as apostates, threatens the interests of all Iraqi Shiite factions and of the Iranian regime.

In late November, Iranian warplanes launched several airstrikes against targets in eastern Iraq, pushing back ISIS militants who had neared a self-declared “buffer zone” that Iran established along the border.

It was the latest example of how Iran is expanding its military and political influence in Iraq, a country wracked by a complex civil war that leaves it open to outside manipulation.

Iraq is at the center of several regional proxy battles: Iran is heavily involved in shaping Iraqi policy, while ISIS represents spillover from the Syrian civil war next door. The militant group is also a byproduct of the Gulf Arab states that support Sunni jihadists in both Syria and Iraq. And the United States is bombing ISIS and other jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria.

The Iranian regime has several concerns: Iraq provides strategic depth and a buffer against Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states that are competing with Iran for dominance over the Persian Gulf. More broadly, Tehran wants to ensure that Iraq never again poses an existential threat to Iranian interests, as Saddam did when he invaded Iran in 1980, instigating the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that devastated both countries.

Saddam was supported by the Sunni Arab states and most Western powers. (The Shiites are the majority in Iraq, but since its independence in 1932, the country had been ruled by the Sunni minority until the U.S. invasion in 2003.) Iran will do whatever is necessary to keep a friendly, Shiite-led government in power in Baghdad.

The long game

Iran has excelled at playing the long game, especially in Iraq.

Iran’s willingness to spread money around to various proxies and factions gave it great agility in maneuvering through Iraqi politics. Soon after the U.S. invasion, Tehran reached out to the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — who was an early critic of Iranian meddling in Iraq — and financed his growing militia and social service networks.

One diplomatic cable sent by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill to officials at the State Department in November 2009 estimated that Tehran’s financial assistance to its Iraqi surrogates ranged from $100 million to $200 million a year.

Iran also was willing to invest across sectarian lines: “The IRIG (Islamic Republic of Iran Government) recognizes that influence in Iraq requires operational (and at times ideological) flexibility,” Ambassador Hill pointed out in his cable. “As a result, it is not uncommon for the IRIG to finance and support competing Shia, Kurdish, and to some extent, Sunni entities, with the aim of developing the Iraqi body politic’s dependency on Tehran’s largesse.”

Like Iraq’s other neighbors, Iran helped fuel and prolong the Iraqi insurgency and civil war. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps financed, armed and trained numerous Shiite militias that targeted U.S. troops and Iraq’s Sunni community. The Iranians provided rockets, explosives, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other small arms. They also brought Iraqi militiamen to Iran to be trained in the use of explosives and as snipers.

The United States helped Iraq’s Shiite factions compromise on Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006. As he struggled to remain in power, he became more dependent on Iran. He grew more repressive and authoritarian, using the Iraqi security forces to intimidate political rivals and exclude Sunnis from power.

For Iran, Maliki was a reliable ally, who allowed Iranian flights over Iraqi territory to transport weapons and manpower to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria after a popular uprising in 2011. Maliki also allowed thousands of Iraqi Shiites to cross the border and fight alongside the Syrian regime.

Since ISIS swept through northern Iraq in June, Tehran has mobilized to protect the Shiite-led government from the Sunni militant threat. General Qassim Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, traveled to Baghdad at the start of the crisis to coordinate the defense of the capital with Iraqi politicians and military officials.

He also directed Iranian-trained Shiite militias—including the Badr Brigade and the League of the Righteous, two notorious militias responsible for widespread atrocities against Sunnis—in the fight against ISIS. With a weakened and corrupt Iraqi military, the militias have proven crucial in stopping ISIS’ advance.

When Iraq’s political elite finally agreed in August to replace the divisive and sectarian Maliki as Prime Minister, the Iranian leadership—along with the United States and most Western powers—threw their weight behind his successor, Haider al-Abadi. Like Maliki, he is a leader of the Dawa Party, a Shiite Islamist group supported by Iran.

In recent months, U.S. officials say, Tehran has provided tons of military equipment to the Iraqi security forces and has been secretly directing surveillance drones from an air base in Baghdad. Iran has also sent hundreds of its Quds Force fighters to train Iraqi forces and coordinate their actions.

But last month was the first time that Iran used its fighter jets to directly bomb ISIS targets inside Iraq, striking in eastern Diyala province where the fighting neared the Iranian border.

Iranian officials have slowly acknowledged their covert operations inside Iraq. “Iran has helped Iraq in an advisory role and has quickly organized Iraqi militias,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Forces, told the Fars News Agency in September. “Were it not for Iran, the Islamic State would have taken over Iraqi Kurdistan.”

In late December, a Revolutionary Guards commander, Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi, was killed by a sniper in the Iraqi city of Samarra while he was training Iraqi troops and Shiite militia fighters. Taqavi was the highest-ranking Iranian official to be killed in Iraq since the Iran-Iraq war. Thousands of Revolutionary Guards gathered for his funeral in Tehran on Dec. 28, where Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told mourners: If “people like Taqavi do not shed their blood in Samarra, then we would shed our blood” within Iran.

Iraqi leaders warned that as long as the United States did not provide military assistance, they had no choice but to ask Iran for more help. “When Baghdad was threatened, the Iranians did not hesitate to help us,” Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, said in a recent television interview in Baghdad. He noted that unlike Iran, the United States “hesitated to help us when Baghdad was in danger, and hesitated to help our security forces. And the reason Iran did not hesitate to help us was because they consider ISIS as a threat to them, not only to us.”

The proxy wars

Today’s Middle East was shaped by several proxy wars that unfolded over the past decade. In Iraq, neighboring Sunni regimes backed Sunni militants, while Iran supported Maliki’s Shiite-led government and Shiite militias. In Lebanon, an alliance between Washington and authoritarian Sunni Arab regimes—Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries—backed a Sunni-led government against Hezbollah, a Shiite militia funded by Iran.

And in the Palestinian territories, Iran supported the militant Hamas, while the United States and its Arab allies backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement.

When various Middle Eastern regimes realized that America would lose its war in Iraq, they began maneuvering to protect their interests and to gain something out of the American defeat.

Saudi Arabia, which viewed Iraq as a bulwark against Iranian influence, tried to undermine the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. The ruling Al-Saud dynasty views itself as the rightful leader of the Muslim world, but Iran has challenged that leadership for several decades.

Although Saudi Arabia has a Sunni majority, its rulers fear Iran’s potential influence over a sizable and sometimes-restive Shiite population concentrated in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province. In Bahrain (another American ally in the Gulf), the Shiite majority is chafing under Sunni rulers who also fear Iran’s reach.

Through a combination of funding, training for militias and political support, Iran will continue to extend its influence over the major Shiite groups in Iraq. Maliki did not start out as beholden to Iran, but as he struggled to remain in power, he became more dependent on Tehran.

Even if Abadi, the new Prime Minister, has shown signs that he wants to be closer to the West, he needs Iranian support to keep his government in power.

More broadly, the United States and Iran now share common interests in defeating ISIS and maintaining a stable regime in Baghdad that can transcend sectarian conflicts. The Obama administration and Tehran insist that they are not coordinating directly in Iraq, but they essentially have an undeclared alliance.

Washington has been looking the other way as Iran increased its military involvement over the past six months. Without committing far more U.S. troops and resources, there is little that the Obama administration can do to contain Iranian power in Iraq.

Iran has many levers to maintain its influence over Iraq. It will not hesitate to use them, even if that means taking on a deeper military role in a civil war that has no end in sight.

Did The US Assassinate Al-Qaeda’s Mastermind?

Alleged al-Qaida member seized in Libya to face charges in 1998 bombings of US embassies dies
Abu Anas al-Libi
Libyan charged in 1998 US embassy bombings dies
By MAGGIE MICHAEL | ASSOCIATED PRESS | 6 hours, 59 minutes ago

CAIRO (AP) — Fifteen years after allegedly helping al-Qaida plot the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Abu Anas al-Libi parked his car on a quiet street in Libya’s capital.

Within moments, soldiers from the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force forced him at gunpoint into a van and sped away. They’d fly him to a naval ship in the Mediterranean Sea before finally bringing him to New York to stand trial on charges of helping kill 224 people, including a dozen Americans, and wound more than 4,500.

But al-Libi, who pleaded innocent to the charges against him, wouldn’t live to see his trial start Jan. 12. He died Friday night at a New York hospital of complications stemming from a recent liver surgery, his wife and authorities said Saturday. He was 50.

Al-Libi, once wanted by the FBI with a $5 million bounty on his head, was chronically ill with hepatitis C when the soldiers seized him. His wife, who asked to be identified as Um Abdullah, told The Associated Press that his experience only worsened his ailments.
“I accuse the American government of kidnapping, mistreating, and killing an innocent man. He did nothing,” Um Abdullah said.

In a federal court filing Saturday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said al-Libi died after being taken from New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center to a local hospital.

“Despite the care provided at the hospital, his condition deteriorated rapidly and (he) passed away,” Bharara wrote.

Al-Libi, which means “of Libya” in Arabic, was his nom de guerre. Also known as Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, U.S. prosecutors in 2000 described al-Libi as sitting on a council that approved terrorist operations for al-Qaida, which would become infamous worldwide a year later after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Before that, al-Qaida’s Aug. 7, 1998, truck bombings at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were its deadliest assault. The bombs tore through the embassies and nearby buildings, killing 213 people and wounding some 4,500 in Kenya alone. The Tanzania attack, conducted minutes later, killed 11 people and wounded 85.

Al-Libi, believed to be a computer specialist for al-Qaida, conducted visual and photographic surveillance of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in late 1993, the federal court indictment against him and others alleges. In 1994, he and other al-Qaida members researched alternate potential sites in Nairobi including the local office of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as “British, French and Israeli targets,” according to the indictment.

His path to Kenya and al-Qaida remains unclear. Al-Libi is believed to have spent time in Sudan, where Osama bin Laden was based in the early 1990s. After bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan, al-Libi turned up in Britain in 1995 where he was granted political asylum under unclear circumstances and lived in Manchester. He was arrested by Scotland Yard in 1999, but released because of lack of evidence and later fled Britain. After his indictment in December 2000 over the embassy bombings, U.S. officials said they believed he was hiding in Afghanistan.

Al-Libi later said in court filings that he returned to Libya as dissent against dictator Moammar Gadhafi grew into an open revolt that led to the leader’s downfall and killing in 2011. He said he “joined with forces of NATO and the United States” to replace Gadhafi, hoping to establish a “stable Islamic secular state.”

In October 2013, the U.S. Army’s Delta Force swooped into Tripoli and seized al-Libi after dawn prayers, his brother Nabih al-Ruqai said. Al-Libi said the soldiers took him to the USS San Antonio, where CIA agents interrogating him warned the questioning would be the “easiest step” of three.
“I took this to mean that the physical and psychological torture would only increase if I failed to cooperate with my questioners,” he said in a court affidavit. “These threats continued the entire time I was on board the ship.”

Al-Libi’s lawyer, Bernard Kleinman, argued his client didn’t plan the bombing.

“This case involves issues much more tinged with emotion and trauma than other cases,” Kleinman said in 2013. “The fact that Mr. al-Libi will be tried in New York, barely a half mile from the World Trade Center site, and that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida will be referenced numerous times in connection with his co-defendants cannot be ignored.”

Al-Libi isn’t the only terror suspect to be snatched by U.S. special forces in Libya. American troops last year grabbed Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspect in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The ability for U.S. troops to move freely in Libya reflects the chaos gripping the country beset by rival militias and political factions in the years since Gadhafi’s downfall. Battles openly rage in its east and west as Islamic militant groups have turned coastline cities and border areas into safe havens.

 Libya’s rival governments had no immediate reaction to al-Libi’s death.

Al-Libi’s wife said Saturday her husband underwent liver surgery three weeks ago, went into a brief coma and was moved prematurely back to prison. She said the last time she spoke to al-Libi, “his voice was weak and he was in a bad condition.”

On Friday, she said a lawyer told her that al-Libi had been taken to a hospital and put on a ventilator.
She added: “He was dying then.”
___
Associated Press writers Larry Neumeister in New York and Jon Gambrell contributed to this report.