Monday, June 18, 2012

US warns Iran dissidents they must close Iraq camp

(Reuters) - The United States warned an Iranian dissident group on Monday to follow through on plans to close a base in Iraq founded under Saddam Hussein, saying it was "gravely mistaken" to believe there was any other option.

The State Department urged the group, the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK), to resume transferring its members from the Camp Ashraf base to a converted U.S. military facility under an Iraqi government plan to eventually expel them from the country.

"The peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf is achievable," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement "Constructive offers must be met with a constructive spirit, and not with refusals or preconditions to engage in dialogue."

The group, which calls for the overthrow of Iran's clerical leaders, is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shi'ite-led government that came to power after Saddam's downfall in 2003. Read More

Luka Magnotta Returns to Canada on a Canadian military plane to a waiting van in Mirabel, Quebec

A Canadian porn actor suspected in the dismemberment of a Chinese student has arrived in Canada via military transport from Germany, where he was arrested this month.

Luka Magnotta did not fight his extradition.

He is suspected of killing Jun Lin and sending body parts to Canadian political parties and schools. The head is still missing. Police said they will ask Magnotta where it is.

Investigators say Magnotta posted a video online showing him having sex with the dismembered corpse.

Montreal police Cmdr Ian Lafreniere said Magnotta's plane landed at Mirabel airport just outside Montreal.

A convoy of police vehicles with flashing lights rolled out to meet the suspect. Half a dozen men escorted him down the stairs of the plane and into a minivan. Armed guards stood by. Read More

Russian 'arms' shipment for Syria thwarted by the UK Government

A Russian ship believed to be carrying helicopters and missiles for Syria was effectively stopped in its tracks off the coast of Scotland last night after its insurance was cancelled at the behest of the British Government.

The British marine insurer Standard Club said it had withdrawn cover from all the ships owned by Femco, a Russian cargo line, including the MV Alaed.

"We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria," the company said in a statement. Source

Asian stocks fall as euro zone fears focus on Spain

(Reuters) - Asian shares edged down on Tuesday as rising Spanish bond yields stoked fears its tottering banking system is dragging Madrid deeper into crisis, snuffing out a relief rally that followed a win for mainstream parties in Greece's weekend election.

The euro halted its decline around $1.26, but remained a good distance off the high of $1.2748 scaled in early Asian trading on Monday, when markets were cheering a narrow victory for supporters of Greece's international bailout deal.

"We have dealt with one potential problem and as soon as we have, we move onto the next problem and that is the market dynamic at the moment," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

Tokyo's Nikkei share average .N225 lost 0.3 percent, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS eased 0.1 percent. Both indexes had climbed more than 1.5 percent on Monday. .T Read More

G20: Pressure On Europe To Ease Eurozone Danger



Pressure is growing on eurozone countries at the G20 summit in Mexico to find a resolution to what the head of one international organisation described as "the single biggest risk for the world economy".

Despite the victory of a pro-euro party in Greece's elections at the weekend, there was no announcement of the formation of a government in Athens, amid growing signs of impatience among other G20 nations.

World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said: "We are waiting for Europe to tell us what it's going to do."

But European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso defended the eurozone, insisting "the challenges are not only European, they are global". Read More

4.7 Magnitude Earthquake CRETE, GREECE - 19th June 2012

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake has struck CRETE, GREECE at a depth of 40 km (24.9 miles), the quake hit at 01:48:00 UTC Tuesday 19th June 2012
The epicenter was 85 km (52 miles) South of Pirgos, Greece
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN TURKEY - 19th June 2012

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck WESTERN TURKEY at a depth of 19.8 km (12.3 miles), the quake hit at 01:46:15 UTC Tuesday 19th June 2012
The epicenter was 10 km (6.2 miles) Northwest of of Saphane, Turkey
No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE - 19th June 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck the SOUTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE at a depth of 13.4 km (8.3 miles), the quake hit at 00:47:24 UTC Tuesday 19th June 2012
The epicenter was 1137 km (706 miles) South of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Saint Helena
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake TONGA - 19th June 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck TONGA at a depth of 30.7 km (19.1 miles), the quake hit at 00:36:21 UTC Tuesday 19th June 2012
The epicenter was 98 km (60 miles) WSW of Hihifo, Tonga
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake VANUATU - 19th June 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck VANUATU at a depth of 262.6 km (163.2 miles), the quake hit at 00:29:16 UTC Tuesday 19th June 2012
The epicenter was 80 km (49 miles) East of Port-Olry, Vanuatu
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN SEA - 19th June 2012

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck the WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN SEA at a depth of 30 km (18.6 miles), the quake hit at 00:24:46 UTC Tuesday 19th June 2012
The epicenter was 110 km (68.2 miles) Northwest of Algiers, Algeria
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake REVILLA GIGEDO ISLANDS REGION - 18th June 2012

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck the REVILLA GIGEDO ISLANDS REGION at a depth of 10.1 km (6.3 miles), the quake hit at 22:18:54 UTC Monday 18th June 2012
The epicenter was 269 km (167 miles) ENE of Socorro Island, Mexico
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

4.5 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN SEA - 18th June 2012

A magnitude 4.5 earthquake has struck WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN SEA at a depth of 11 km (6.8 miles), the quake hit at 22:09:50 UTC Monday 18th June 2012
The epicenter was 202 km (125 miles) ESE from Mahon, Balearic Islands, Spain
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

"Mushroom cloud" over Beijing sparks panic, curiosity

"The Euro is working remarkably well"....Well that is debatlable

British government tracking Internet users

Al Jazeera Frames - Tax Dollars at War

'G20 mad hatters tea party, won't end Greek tragedy'

Final words before war? Israel threatens Iran if nuke talks fail

Shades of Blood: One-sided Syria war media biggest barrier to peace

Facebook to buy facial-recognition startup: sources

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc is paying $55 million to $60 million to buy Face.com, according to people familiar with the matter, acquiring the company that provides the facial-recognition technology used by the world's largest social network to help users identify and tag photos.

The deal bolsters one of Facebook's most popular features -- the sharing and handling of photos -- but the use of the startup's technology has spurred concerns about user privacy.

The No. 1 social network will pay cash and stock for Face.com, potentially paying as much as $60 million, two sources with knowledge of the deal said. Media reports in past weeks have pegged the transaction at $80 million to $100 million.

Neither Facebook nor Face.com disclosed terms of the deal, which is expected to close in coming weeks. Read More

Greece still headed for slide after key elections

June 18 - Greece is still going to default on its debt despite a pro-bailout party victory in weekend elections, according to Sean Egan, President of ratings agency firm Egan-Jones.

Merkel: Greece must stick to commitments.

June 18 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel says a new Greek government has to meet commitments made to international lenders

Russia readies marines for Syria; cities pounded

A Russian naval source said Moscow was preparing to send marines to Syria in the event it needed to protect personnel and remove equipment from its naval facility in Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartous, according to the Interfax news agency.

RUSSIAN BACKING

Russia is one of the Syrian government's staunchest backers and supports Assad's argument that foreign-backed terrorists are behind the unrest. Moscow has repeatedly urged Western and Arab countries, who mostly back the rebels, to rein in their support in order to stem the violence.

International outrage over Syria has grown in recent weeks after two reported massacres in which almost 200 civilians were killed, most of them from the Sunni Muslim majority that has led the revolt. Assad comes from Syria's Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has mostly backed the president.

Heavier fighting and apparent sectarian killings have led many, including the head of U.N. peacekeeping forces, to brand the violence a civil war. Read More

4.6 Magnitude Earthquake NORTH OF FRANZ JOSEF LAND - 18th June 2012

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck NORTH OF FRANZ JOSEF LAND at a depth of 2 km (1.2 miles), the quake hit at 20:14:54 UTC Monday 18th June 2012
The epicenter was 1851 km (1147.6 miles) North of Alta, Norway
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake MINAHASA, SULAWESI, INDONESIA - 18th June 2012

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck MINAHASA, SULAWESI, INDONESIA at a depth of 161 km (99.8 miles), the quake hit at 18:13:52 UTC Monday 18th June 2012
The epicenter was 64 km (39.6 miles) Southeast from Gorontalo, Sulawesi, Indonesia
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Duckinghell that's alot of Ducks - Farmer stops traffic taking his 5,000 ducks for a walk to the local pond

A Chinese farmer caused chaos on the roads when he ducked out to feed his flock of 5,000.

Hong brought streets in the eastern city of Taizhou to a standstill when, accompanied by a colleague, he took his animals to a pond.

Armed with nothing but a cane, he guided his feathered friends three quarters of a mile as part of an annual tradition in Zhejiang province.

And he claims that not one of the ducks was lost in transition during the tricky duck migration manoeuvre. Read More

4.1 Magnitude Earthquake TAIWAN - 18th June 2012

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake has struck TAIWAN at a depth of 3 km (1.8 miles), the quake hit at 18:03:51 UTC Monday 18th June 2012
The epicenter was 11 km (6.8 miles) Southeast from Fenglin, Taiwan
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Adidas 'promoting slavery' by creating a new pair of trainers which have bright orange 'shackles'

Adidas has sparked outrage and been accused of 'promoting slavery' by creating a new pair of trainers which have bright orange 'shackles' that fit around the wearer's ankles.

The clothing giant is under fire for its August scheduled release of the JS Roundhouse Mids, which many have compared to the devices worn by black slaves in 19th Century America.

The seemingly innocent promotional material, uploaded to Facebook earlier this month, asks: 'Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?'

But the shoes have sparked angry debate online, with many saying there is a more cynical tone to the advertisement.

More than 2,000 people have labelled the design 'offensive' and 'ignorant' and say the firm has 'sunk to new lows' in its 'slavewear' product.

Dr Boyce Watkins, writing for Your Black World, said: 'Shackles. The stuff that our ancestors wore for 400 years while experiencing the most horrific atrocities imaginable. Read More

NASA says asteroid won't hit us in 2040....Well that's a relief!, Just the EU to Worry about then

A mammoth asteroid that had been feared to be on a collision course with Earth will not slam into the planet but fly safely past, Nasa have announced.

Astronomers had been worried that 460ft-wide asteroid 2011 AG5 was on course to ram into the Earth in 2040, with fears that such a huge rock could devastate an area 100 miles wide.

However, the latest observations of the asteroid and projections of its trajectory are now agreed to show that it has a greater than 99 per cent chance of missing the planet.

The space rock was discovered in January last year by the Nasa-supported Catalina Sky Survey, operated by the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Several observatories monitored 2011 AG5 for nine months before it moved too far away and grew too faint to see. Read More

Millions will see pensions slashed by up to 20% as new EU rules are set to send annuities plummeting...You Couldn't make it up if you Tried

Millions of people could see the value of their pensions slashed by up to 20 per cent because of new EU rules.

Those with a £100,000 pension fund could be more than £1,100 per year worse off in retirement because of the reforms, research has shown.

The Solvency II rules, which are due to come into effect in January 2014, will force pension funds to hold a higher proportion of 'safe' Government bonds.

As the bonds - called gilts - have such low rates of return it will drive down the returns on retirement fund annuities, which are used to pension income. Read More

Iran offers to halt uranium enrichment programme as world powers begin talks over 'military intervention'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to indicate that Iran would be prepared to stop high-grade uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad said he would meet the demand of the United States and its allies if world powers agreed to meet its needs for the fuel.

On his presidential website he said: 'From the beginning the Islamic Republic has stated that if European countries provided 20 percent enriched fuel for Iran, it would not enrich to this level.'

His comments coincide with the start today of world power talks over the Iranian nuclear programme.

The two day conference will discuss ending a decade-long stand-off over Tehran's nuclear programme which has become a serious source of potential military conflict in the Middle East.

World powers are pushing for the suspension of Iran's high-grade uranium enrichment activities over fears the country is trying to develop nuclear weapons, although Tehran denies the accusation. Read More

Duchess of Argyll's lost £100,000 jewellery SOLD By Airport for fraction of its value (without even telling the police)

The Duchess of Argyll has voiced her 'disbelief' after learning that £100,000 of jewellery she lost at Glasgow Airport six years ago had been sold on by bosses there for a fraction of its value.

The 68-year-old misplaced four items, including a Victorian diamond tiara, in a bag when she returned from London to Inveraray Castle.

But when they were found by the British Airports Authority (BAA), they did not inform the police and simply sold them to a diamond merchant for just £5,000.

The proceeds were given to charity as was standard procedure for property unclaimed within three months.

In the meantime, the Duchess had reported the incident to the police and the Art Loss Register (ALR), which listed it on its database of stolen antiques, but it didn't unearth any leads. Read More

Rostam Ahmadi who Killed Umesh Chaudhari just a few yards from the victim’s home in Croydon, south London is jailed indefinitely

An illegal immigrant who battered a father-of-two to death with a brick after being released on bail for robbery was locked up indefinitely today.

Rostam Ahmadi, 23, launched the savage random attack on 41-year-old Umesh Chaudhari just a few yards from the victim’s home in Croydon, south London.

Mr Chaudhari’s horrified wife and children rushed out of their house to find Ahmadi repeatedly slamming a brick down on to his head.

It took the combined strength of two neighbours to wrestle the attacker away from the victim and pin him down on the floor until the police arrived.

But Mr Chaudhari had suffered multiple skull fractures and died in hospital of brain damage the following day. Read More

Jade Stringer, 14, found hanged in her bedroom was 'being bullied '

A 14-year-old girl was driven to suicide after falling victim to bullies, her friends claimed today.

Jade Stringer, from Bury, Greater Manchester, died on Saturday six days after being discovered unconscious in her bedroom by her father, David.

Despite his attempts to resuscitate her, she never regained consciousness.

She was rushed to Fairfield General Hospital on June 10 where she died after almost a week on life support.

Friends of the teenager, who attended Haslingden High School, in nearby Rossendale, Lancs, claimed she’d been bullied.

Tributes to Jade left on Twitter and Facebook said she had been a victim of bullying.

One pupil wrote: 'She was being bullied by numerous people.'

Chelsea Lazaruik added: 'R.I.P jade stringer you didn’t deserve to die the way you did bullying is horrible your was gorgeous in everyway.. Sleep tight xxx.' Read More

Tony McCluskie will stand trial for the murder of His Sister Gemma McCluskie,

The brother of a former EastEnders actress whose 'headless and limbless' body was found in a canal will stand trial later this year, accused of her murder.

Tony McCluskie, 35, appeared at the Old Bailey today charged with causing the death of actress Gemma McCluskie, 29.

He was remanded in custody to face over the death trial on November 12. A further hearing will take place in October.

Miss McCluskie’s headless and limbless body was discovered floating in the Regent’s Canal in Hackney, east London, in March.

She had been missing for a week after attending the £650million opening of the new Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London

Miss McCluskie was last seen returning to her home that she shared with her brother.

Appearing in custody, McMcluskie spoke only to confirm his identity during a brief hearing at the Old Bailey today. Read More

Lianne Smith arrives at court in handcuffs as prosecutor reveals how she 'smothered two children with a plastic bag

A British mother killed her two young children just days after her fugitive paedophile lover was captured by police, a Spanish court heard on the first day of her murder trial today.

Lianne Smith, 45, allegedly suffocated her daughter Rebecca, five, and 11-month old son Daniel using a plastic bag at a hotel in the country two years ago.

She feared they would be seized by social services and taken into care after her partner, Martin Smith, was finally tracked down and arrested in Barcelona.

In his opening statement today, prosecutor Victor Pillado Quintas said: 'At around 9pm on May 17, 2010, the defendant was in room 101 [at the Miramar Hotel] with her two children.

'Knowing full well that their young age and the surprising nature of her behaviour would not allow them to react, more so since they were asleep, and taking advantage of the trust the children would have had in their mother, she took her son in her arms and put a bag over his head, closing it around his neck.

'She did not stop tightening the bag until she had killed him. 'Immediately she did the same to the five-year-old, closing the same bag around her neck and tightening it until she killed her daughter.

'After ending the lives of her children she spent the night with their lifeless bodies.' Read More

PASOK LEADER EVANGELOS VENIZELOS SAYS "STATEMENTS BY SYRIZA ARE PROVOCATIVE, WE NEED A MESSAGE OF NATIONAL UNITY FOR THE GREEK PEOPLE"

France: Two Female Police Officers Shot Dead

French police have arrested a man who is believed to have shot dead two female paramilitary gendarmes with a gun belonging to one of them.

The officers, who were aged 29 and 35, were killed in the village of Collobrieres, in the Maures mountains near the southeastern town of Toulon.

It is believed to be the first time two female gendarmes have been killed in the same incident in France.

The pair had reportedly intervened in an argument involving an alleged burglar. Read More

Analysis: No Sense Of Victory In Greece



Just after dawn, they started removing large metal plates from the windows surrounding the National Bank of Greece on Syntagma Square.

Their concern was that the election could presage another bout of violence around the parliament building, which has become a lightning rod for discontent.

But the voters voted, the politicians made their speeches and the sky didn't fall.

A closer inspection of the figures, however, suggests the mood now is more one of resignation than jubilation following New Democracy's narrow victory.

Nicholas Marikakis, who works in media sales at a local TV network, told me that no one in his apartment block voted. Read More

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF KERMADEC ISLANDS - 18th June 2012

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake has struck SOUTH OF KERMADEC ISLANDS at a depth of 232 km (143.8 miles), the quake hit at 14:04:39 UTC Monday 18th June 2012
The epicenter was 586 km (363.3 miles) Northeast of Whakatane, New Zealand
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Israel's Peres: Time running out for Iran



Time is running out for a diplomatic solution to Western concerns about Iran's nuclear program, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Monday in an interview with CNN.


He said Iran continues to flout the United Nations and world leaders by pushing forward with work on its nuclear program - including, he said, work on a nuclear weapon. But he said Iranian leaders would be making a costly mistake in believing the threat of military action is an empty one.

"You cannot provoke the world, assuming the world is made of fools only," Peres said.

His comments come at the start of talks in Moscow between Iran and the group of nations that have taken the lead on the issue: the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany. Peres is not attending the meetings. Read More

Spain's borrowing costs surge

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- As the political crisis in Greece slowly moves toward a resolution, Spain continues to lose credibility in the bond market.

In a sign of continued jitters over the euro debt crisis, the yield on Spanish 10-year bonds jumped to 7.1%, up from about 6.9% late last week.

The yield, which rises when prices fall, first rose above 7% last week, marking the highest level since the euro was launched in 1999.

Spain cannot afford to borrow at 7% for long and analysts say the nation is effectively shut out of the market at these levels. In addition, the 7% level is psychologically important because investors see it as a potential trigger for a government bailout.

The rise in Spanish bond yields comes as investors digest news out of Greece. Read More

Has Greek result averted euro crisis?...........No

Athens (CNN) -- Greece has been at the heart of the European debt crisis -- and its weekend election was a critical test of the 17-country eurozone's ability to retain its common currency.

The pro-bailout New Democracy party narrowly won most votes and claimed "a victory for all Europe," while the anti-austerity left-wing party Syriza a close second; the socialist Pasok party, which held power until late last year, came third.
The results could yet change the course of the continent-wide bloc, as Quest and Defterios explain.

Richard Quest: This result gives New Democracy two options: They can rule as a minority government with agreement from Pasok and Syriza not to bring them down; or they can form a coalition with Pasok.

But Pasok has said it will not join a government without Syriza, which puts a wrinkle in that plan.

Samaras hails 'victory for all Europe'

One way or another, there will be no third election. There is no will in the country or in the parties for a third election. But the markets will discount this result quite quickly, whichever way it goes, because of the fragility of the situation. Read More

Wall Street slips on euro zone contagion fears....Seems not everyone is fooled by the latest Charade

(Reuters) - Stocks were lower on Monday as rising Spanish and Italian bond yields indicated increasing fear of euro zone debt crisis contagion despite a victory for pro-bailout parties in the Greek election.

Markets were initially optimistic on news Greece's center-right New Democracy party will try to form a coalition with other parties and Germany indicated it may be willing to grant the fiscally troubled nation more time to meet fiscal targets needed to avoid a euro exit.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said Greece will meet its financial commitments but indicated some adjustments to the bailout agreement need to be made.

But the election results offered little reprieve from contagion concerns as yields on both Italian and Spanish bonds rose, with Spain's 10-year bond yield climbing above the 7 percent level viewed as unsustainable by many analysts. Read More

Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead Charged with the Murder of 6 of their Children will Stand Trial Next Year

The parents of six children killed in a house fire will go on trial for their murder next year.

At a preliminary hearing at Nottingham Crown Court, Mick Philpott, 55, and his wife Mairead, 31, who was caressing a crucifix on a long chain worn around her neck, were told they will go on trial next January.

The couple are charged with murder following a blaze at their home on Victory Road in Allenton, Derby, on May 11. Jade Philpott, 10, and brothers John, nine, Jack, eight, Jessie, six and Jayden, five, all died in the fire. Duwayne, 13, died in Birmingham Children's Hospital two days later.

There was a packed public gallery for the short hearing but no outbursts like at the couple's two previous court appearances.

Mrs Philpott, who wore a beige knitted jumper, could be seen to kiss a crucifix she was wearing around her neck while Mr Philpott, who wore a purple jumper, black tracksuit bottoms and a St Christopher, stared straight ahead in the dock.

The judge, the Honourable Mr Justice Colman Treacy, told them they would go on trial for murder on January 14 next year.

No applications for bail were made. The couple were remanded into custody to next appear for a plea and case management hearing at Nottingham Crown Court on November 5. Read More

Atmosphere at Moscow nuclear talks 'not positive': Iran

MOSCOW — Iran and world powers on Monday locked horns in hours of tense talks in Moscow seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Tehran's nuclear programme with no breakthrough in sight.

At talks billed as a last chance to find hope of a negotiated solution to the decade-long standoff, the West was looking for signs that Iran could show willingness to scale down the intensity of its uranium enrichment activities.

But a member of the Iranian delegation gave a downbeat assessment well into the second session in the afternoon. "So far the atmosphere is not positive," he said, adding: "Setting up the framework (for negotiation) is the main problem."

Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was meeting with envoys from six world powers including Tehran's arch-foe the United States as well as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for two days of talks.

But the Iranian diplomat said that based on the morning's talks "it is possible" that the second day would not even be required, without elaborating. Read More

Terrorism won't keep Israel from building border fence....Are they Not Rebels?

Barrier between Israel, Egypt is of supreme national interest, says Netanyahu, adds security forces must act against attackers; IDF tanks that moved near southern border returned to regular positions hours after incident.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday morning’s attack on the border with Egypt would not deter Israel from building the security barrier.

“This barrier is meant both to prevent terrorism and also to prevent the entrance of infiltrators. Its construction is of supreme national interest,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister ordered security forces to act with determination and resolve against "whoever attacks us from within Egypt." Read More

Iran, Israel, Gandalf and the bomb

Sometimes fantasy makes more sense than fiction. When looking at the latest developments in the diplomatic standoff between Iran and several Western nations, the words of Gandalf in that epic Lord of The Rings trailer spring to mind. “The table is set”, murmured the White Wizard. “The pieces are moving”.

Every now and then an article emerges which feels more like a movie teaser, introducing a larger drama that is in already in motion. The piece which has most recently given me this sensation is one by Jason Burke, in the Guardian, titled “Iran was behind bomb plot against Israeli diplomats, investigators find”. The piece soberly discusses the multinational investigation into the bomb plots against Israeli diplomats, including the clearest indications yet that Iran was behind them. The piece also looks ahead to the Moscow talks over Iran’s nuclear programme, scheduled for 18 and 19 June and notes that expectations for these talks are low. It also notes that the cost of the failure of these talks will be high.

How high? Like Gandalf in the Mines of Moria, I hear “drums, drums in the deep”: the drums of war. This is a familiar script. After all, it’s only a few years since the West went to war with a Middle Eastern regime feared for its similarly bellicose intent. If there is going to be consideration of war with Iran, just like there was one with Iraq, it would be ideal if we went about things differently this time.

The last time that there was a war like this, people were very, very angry, not least because they knew that very many people would die, most of them in horrifying fashion, and they didn’t feel that the case had been sufficiently made. So this time it would be great if all the cards were on the table. Here, therefore, follows possibly the most naïve paragraph in the history of foreign relations. Read More

India: the US doormat into Asia?

A mid-level officer of the Indian Foreign Ministry told me that he was startled by the language used by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during his visit to India on June 6. India, Panetta said, is the "lynchpin" in US plans to "rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region". The officer said that at one point Panetta had said India is the US "doorway into Asia". At least two of the Indian officials in the room later joked that he should have said that India is the US's doormat into Asia.

Panetta had come to Delhi with a brief that was uncomplicated but not conducive to peace. Panetta's objectives, and that of the third India-US Strategic Dialogue (which began on June 13), seem obliged to isolate three major actors in Asia: China, Iran and Pakistan. The "rebalancing" is not intended to bring these crucial countries to the table to discuss areas of common interest, such as the imbroglio in Afghanistan, the question of energy security and the unsettled border and security disputes between these countries.

The US has sought an alliance with India for the past decade with the aim of putting pressure on China, of balancing out its reliance upon Pakistan's geographic location, and of isolating Iran in the forums of the non-aligned world (as well as enhancing access for US firms into the Indian market). These are not pathways to peace. They are precisely the opposite.

Afghanistan

Panetta's short-term objective in Delhi was to bring India more firmly into its Afghan operations. He came to India seeking Indian monetary and military assistance for the Afghan mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Read More