Iran-US getting all ‘chatty’.

It’s difficult not to be fascinated by these developments. Over the past several years, there have been two distinct camps.

First there are the “We must talk to our enemies” people. Then there are the “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” people.

Certainly, there are a few who have held the middle ground. But it’s a precious few.

I’d be interested to hear from representatives of the two camps, now that the actions that have been so hotly contested are coming to pass.

BAGHDAD: Iran, Iraq and the United States have agreed to set up a security subcommittee to carry forward their talks on restoring stability in Iraq, the American ambassador said Tuesday at the end of a second round of groundbreaking talks in the Iraqi capital with his Iranian counterpart.

“We discussed ways forward and one of the issues we discussed was the formation of a security subcommittee that would address at a expert or technical level some issues relating to security, be that support for violent militias, Al Qaeda or border security,” the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, said after the meeting. The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said officials would meet as early as Wednesday to work out how the panel will operate.

“We hope that the next round of talks will be on a higher level if progress is made,” Zebari said.

But underscoring the tensions between the two foes, Crocker reiterated Washington’s accusations that Iran is fueling violence in Iraq by arming and training Shiite militias. He warned that no progress could be made until Tehran changed its ways.

“The fact is, as we made very clear in today’s talks, that over the roughly two months since our last meeting we’ve actually seen militia-related activity that could be attributed to Iranian support go up and not down,” Crocker said, citing testimony from prisoners and weapons and ammunition confiscated in Iraq as evidence.

The Iranian ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, countered that Tehran was helping Iraq deal with the security situation but that Iraqis were “victimized by terror and the presence of foreign forces” on their territory.

He said his delegation also demanded the release of five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States has said the five were linked to the Quds Force, an elite arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. It has accused the force of arming and training Iraqi militants. Iran says the five are diplomats who were legally in Iraq.

The meeting was opened by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who appealed for help to stabilize Iraq and warned that militants from Al Qaeda and other terror groups were now fleeing and finding refuge elsewhere.

An Iraqi official who was present at the meeting said Crocker and Qomi engaged in a heated exchange early in the talks. It began when Crocker confronted the Iranian with charges that Tehran was supporting Shiite militiamen who were killing U.S. troops, providing them with weapons and training. Qomi dismissed the allegations, saying the Americans had no proof, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Israel: Shimon Peres back in power.

Keep an eye on this story.  It will have implications moving forward.  It will be interesting to see how world dealings with Iran move forward. 

JERUSALEM (June 13) – Elder statesman Shimon Peres has been elected Israel’s next president, winning the support of 86 of parliament’s 120 members in a second and final round of balloting, Channel TV reported Wednesday. Peres, of the ruling Kadima Party, all but clinched the race after his two rivals withdrew after the first round of voting earlier in the day. Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has held all of Israel’s top civilian posts, later advanced to a yes-or-no vote in parliament. The ordinarily quiet contest has been closely watched because of Peres’ campaign to cap his six-decade political career with a term in the president’s mansion, and rape allegations against the sitting president, Moshe Katsav. Peres, of the ruling Kadima Party, received an unexpectedly high 58 votes in parliament’s secret balloting in round one. Reuven Rivlin, a lawmaker and former parliament speaker from the hawkish Likud, took 37, and legislator Colette Avital of the Labor Party, 21. Shortly after the votes were tallied, Avital announced she would not advance to a second round, and Labor said it would throw its support to Peres, who spent most of his political career in that party. Shortly afterward, a weeping Rivlin said he, too, would pull out of the contest, and asked the legislature to unanimously back Peres. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the dovish Peres, said his party, too, would vote for him. The new president takes office July 15, for a seven-year term. Political science professor Gideon Doron of Tel Aviv University said the results were not surprising. Rivlin comes from a party with only 12 seats, and the lawmakers’ desire to restore the presidency’s prestige prevailed over political differences, he said.

A case for attacking Iran

Here is a nice piece from the Christian Science Monitor regarding Iran.  It has some great links to further information for those of you who like to keep abreast of these developments.
By Jesse Nunes | csmonitor.com

Statements by US and Israeli officials in recent days on the possibility of attacking Iran have been met with increased posturing on both sides, warnings of retaliation from Tehran, and worries by the head of the international nuclear watchdog of a “brewing confrontation.”

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut suggested that the US should consider attacking Iran to keep them from training and supplying insurgents and foreign fighters in Iraq, as well as to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

“I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq…. And to me, that would include a strike into… over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.”

Senator Lieberman, a former Democrat who lost his party’s support before regaining his seat in Congress as an Independent, also said that if the US fails to take action against Iran, “they’ll take that as a sign of weakness on our part and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home.”

“We can tell them we want them to stop that, but if there’s any hope of the Iranians living according to the international rule of law and stopping, for instance, their nuclear weapons development, we can’t just talk to them…. If they don’t play by the rules, we’ve got to use our force, and to me that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they’re doing.”

The Financial Times notes that Lieberman appears to be the first high-ranking US politician to openly suggest attacking Iran. A White House statement addressing Lieberman’s remarks said that the US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker gave Iran a “strong message” to play a constructive role in the region during meetings last month on Iraq, and that President Bush “has made it clear we want to do everything to protect our troops,” according to the Financial Times.

In an interview with the Center For American Progress, a progressive think tank, Senator Harry Reid (D) of Nevada said of Lieberman’s comments, “I know Joe means well, but I don’t agree with him.” Reid suggested the US should listen to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and pursue diplomacy with Iraq, adding that “the invasion of [Iran] is only going to destabilize that part of the world more.”

Reuters writes that Lieberman’s comments are seen by analysts as an “escalation of official US rhetoric.”

“This takes it across the border,” said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“But it would not be a surgical limited strike. It could potentially escalate into a much more serious confrontation between the two countries, and if that’s the direction Lieberman wants to go, he has to be very honest about the potential pitfalls.”

Over the weekend, Israel officials indicated that a strike against Iran was an option being considered if diplomacy fails. The Associated Press reports that Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said the US and Israel would review the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran at the end of the year, and that the two allies share a strategy on dealing with Tehran.

“The strategy shared by the U.S. and Israel has three elements,” Mofaz told Israel Radio. “One is a united international front against the Iranian nuclear program. Secondly, at this time, sanctions are the best way to act against the aspirations of Iran.”

He said the third element is “a very, very clear signal and a clear statement that all options are on the table.” Mofaz added: “I never said there is no military option, and the military option is included in all the options that are on the table, but at this time it’s right to use the path of sanctions, and to intensify them.”

Ynetnews reports that Iran filed a complaint to the UN Security Council of Mofaz’s remarks, as well as similar remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in which he said “it would take 10 days and 1,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles” to critically damage Iran’s nuclear program.

According to the Jerusalem Post, unnamed “senior American military officers” told the paper that they support military action against Iran to prevent the country from becoming a nuclear power, and that the US Navy and Air Force “would play the primary roles in any military action.”

A high-ranking American military officer told the Post that senior officers in the US armed forces had thrown their support behind Bush and believed that additional steps needed to be taken to stop Iran.

Predictions within the US military are that Bush will do what is needed to stop Teheran before he leaves office in 2009, including possibly launching a military strike against its nuclear facilities.

Meanwhile, Iran has not let the increasingly hostile posturing by Israel and the US go unnoticed. Agence France-Presse reports that Gholam Ali Hadad Adel, a member of Iran’s parliament, told reporters during a visit to Kuwait on Sunday that Iran would attack US military bases in the Gulf if they were used to stage an attack on the country. Mr. Haddad Adel added that Iran’s neighbors in the Gulf had “learned many lessons from the US invasion of Iraq,” and that “officials in the region are not likely to link their fate with US mistakes” by allowing them to stage attacks in their countries. In a report on Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency, Haddad Adel, after returning to Iran, added that “it is unlikely that US will try its chance in the region for the third time after its defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

AFP also reports that Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah, the interior and defense minister of Kuwait, a US ally, said his country would not allow the US to launch an attack on Iran from Kuwaiti territory..

The US journal Defense News reported that former Iranian defense minister Adm. Ali Shamkhani indicated that Iran would target any Gulf states that help US in such a way.

“Allegations by some Arab gulf states that the Iranian nuclear program poses an environmental threat to the area and that it would spark a nuclear arms race are aimed at helping the U.S. establish legitimacy for its anticipated aggression against Iran,” Shamkhani said.

U.S. military action threatens Iran’s existence, he said, “but most of those who speak about the war option are well aware that Iran has the capability to face this choice.”

However, in a report by the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), Mr. Shamkhani said that he never gave an interview with Defense News, and that “the news is fake and unreal .”

Finally, Bloomberg reports that IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday that he is “increasingly disturbed by the current stalemate and the brewing confrontation” between Iran and the West over its nuclear program, adding the situation “urgently needs to be broken” and “must be diffused.”

Much needed assistance to arrive in Darfur

Sudan has agreed to allow more troops into the Darfur region. Hopefully, a larger force can help to some peace. 

The plan will more than double to between 17,000 and 19,000 the number of AU troops struggling to protect civilians from the pro-government Janjaweed militia.

A joint statement by the AU, UN and Sudanese regime, released in Addis Ababa last night, said Khartoum had “accepted the joint proposals of the hybrid operation” after obtaining explanations and clarifications from the two bodies.

The two-day talks in the Ethiopian capital had reached an impasse because of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s insistence that he wanted all the peacekeepers to come from Africa.

The UN and the AU had pledged to seek African troops first, but say they will use non-African troops if necessary.

The UN and AU recently asked Sudan to approve troops from two African countries and two non-African countries to strengthen the beleaguered 7000-strong AU force already in Darfur. This deployment is part of a heavy support package that will pave the way for the much larger UN-AU hybrid force.

Scope of JFK plot broadens to included overseas players.

It will be interesting to see who turns up in this investigation.  Hopefully, the case will shed more ligh on the dangers of our current border policy.

NEW YORK (June 9)- The investigation into the thwarted plot to bomb
Kennedy International Airport is widening beyond the four men in
custody, with more suspects sought outside the U.S. for their
suspected roles, a law enforcement official said Friday.

The defendants identified last weekend were “just a piece of
it,” the official told The Associated Press on the condition of
anonymity because of not being authorized to speak publicly. “We
are definitely seeking more players. We are targeting others
overseas.”

The official declined to provide details about the possible
suspects, or in what countries they are being sought.

Law enforcement officials, through the use of an informant, were
able to undermine the airport plot in its early stages.

The four suspects made trips to the airport, took video and
photographs, drew diagrams and collected information. They then
hoped to shop their information to individuals with the capacity to
pull off their stated plan of causing “greater destruction than
the Sept. 11 attacks,” the official said.

According to court documents, the men sought the help of Jamaat
al Muslimeen, or JAM, a group based in Trinidad that is known to be
violent and involved in killings, kidnappings and weapons
trafficking over the past two decades. The group staged a coup
attempt in 1990, storming the Trinidad Parliament building and
taking the prime minister hostage.

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Putin tries to make nicey-nice.

As much as I’d like Bush to tell ole Vlad to shove it where the sun don’t shine. Keeping Russia talking for now is the smart move. Well played, George. Your winner are few and far between lately, but I’ll give you this one.

ROSTOCK, Germany –

Vladimir Putin, bitterly opposed to a U.S. missile shield in Europe, presented

President Bush with a surprise counterproposal Thursday built around a Soviet-era radar system in Azerbaijan rather than new defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. Bush said it was an interesting suggestion and promised to consider it.

Putin’s formula would force a major rethinking of U.S. plans for defending Europe against attack from hostile regimes such as Bottom Iran or North Korea. While outright acceptance of Putin’s idea appeared doubtful, the White House seemed eager to avoid further inflaming tensions by giving it short shrift.

The Russian president said he would abandon his threat to retarget missiles on Europe — if Bush accepted the Kremlin’s missile-defense proposal.

“This is a serious issue and we want to make sure that we all understand each other’s positions very clearly,” Bush said after an hour-long meeting with Putin. Speaking through a translator, Putin said he was “satisfied with the spirit of openness” from Bush.

Store clerk key to Ft. Dix plot.

FORT DIX, N.J. – One drove a cab, three were roofers. Another worked at a 7-Eleven and a sixth at a supermarket. Their alleged plot to attack Fort Dix was foiled by another blue-collar worker: a video store clerk.

Six foreign-born Muslims were accused Tuesday of planning to assault the Army base and slaughter scores of U.S. soldiers with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

The unidentified clerk is being credited with tipping off authorities in January 2006 after one of the suspects asked him to transfer a video to DVD that showed 10 men shooting weapons at a firing range and calling for jihad, prosecutors said.

“If we didn’t get that tip,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, “I couldn’t be sure what would happen.” FBI agent J.P. Weis called the clerk the “unsung hero” of the case.Authorities said there was no direct evidence connecting the men to any international terror organizations such as al-Qaida. But several of them said they were ready to kill and die “in the name of Allah,” prosecutors said in court papers.

Weis said the U.S. is seeing a “brand-new form of terrorism,” involving smaller, more loosely defined groups that may not be connected to al-Qaida but are inspired by its ideology.

“These homegrown terrorists can prove to be as dangerous as any known group, if not more so. They operate under the radar,” Weis said.

Four of the arrested men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one was born in Jordan and one came from Turkey, authorities said. Three were in the United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to stay in this country permanently; and the sixth is a U.S. citizen.

The six — Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22; Dritan “Anthony” or “Tony” Duka, 28; Shain Duka, 26; Eljvir “Elvis” Duka, 23; Serdar Tatar, 23; and Agron Abdullahu, 24 — were ordered held without bail for a hearing Friday.

Five were charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. military personnel; the sixth, Abdullahu, was charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigrants in obtaining weapons.

One of the suspects, Tatar, worked at his father’s pizzeria — Super Mario’s Restaurant — in Cookstown and made deliveries to the base, using the opportunity to scout out Fort Dix for an attack, authorities said.

“Clearly, one of the guys had an intimate knowledge of the base from having been there delivering pizzas,” Christie said.

Tatar’s father, Muslim Tatar, 54, said the accusations against his son were hard to accept.

“He is not a terrorist. I am not a terrorist,” he told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

The elder Tatar told ABCNews he had gotten no indication his son harbored a deep hatred of the United States.

“I came here from Turkey in 1992, and this is my country. I love this country,” Muslim Tatar told ABC.

The group often watched terror training videos, clips featuring

Osama bin Laden, a tape containing the last will and testament of some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, and tapes of armed attacks on U.S. military personnel, authorities said.The men trained by playing paintball in the woods in New Jersey and taking target practice at a firing range in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, where they had rented a house, authorities said.

“We believe they are their own cell,” said Christie. “They are inspired by international terror organizations. I believe they saw themselves as part of that.”

Fort Dix last was in the international spotlight in 1999, when it sheltered more than 4,000 ethnic Albanian refugees during the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.In addition to plotting the attack on Fort Dix, the defendants spoke of assaulting a Navy installation in Philadelphia during the annual Army-Navy football game and conducted surveillance at other military installations in the region, prosecutors said.

After the video clerk’s tip, investigators said they infiltrated the group with two informants and bided their time while they secretly recorded the defendants.

The six were arrested Monday night trying to buy AK-47 assault weapons, M-16s and other weapons from an FBI informant, authorities said. It was not clear when the alleged attack was to take place.

“We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army. They identified their target, they did their reconnaissance. They had maps. And they were in the process of buying weapons. Luckily, we were able to stop that,” said Weis.

The arrests renewed worries among New Jersey’s Muslim community. Hundreds of Muslim men from New Jersey were rounded up and detained in the months after the 2001 terror attacks, but none were connected to that plot.

“If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented scores of detainees after the Sept. 11 attacks. “But when the government says `Islamic militants,’ it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous.”

“Don’t equate actions with religion,” he said.

Mario Tummillo lives near Tatar’s father in Cookstown and said he worked with Tatar at the pizza parlor. Tummillo, 20, described Tatar as a religious man who “wasn’t violent at all.”

The restaurant’s chef, Joseph Hofflinger, 35, quit after learning the owner was the father of one of the suspects.

“My son is in the 82nd Airborne,” Hofflinger told ABC. “I won’t work for a place that supports terrorism so I’m out.”

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