Saturday, August 25, 2012

CONTRIBUTOR - The end of Pax Adana

CONTRIBUTOR - The end of Pax Adana

...  With the advent of the Arab Spring, this era met its sudden demise: Syria’s consequent implosion has placed Iran and Turkey in an unquestionably adversarial position as Turkey leads the anti-al-Assad camp while Iran is committed to supporting the essential regional asset it sees in the al-Assad regime.

Accordingly, Tehran has an incentive to bring the PKK card back into play in order to make Turkey take its concerns seriously. Last year, Iran’s semi-official news agency, Press TV, reported that Iran had captured the PKK’s second-in-command, Murat Karayılan. The air of mystery Iran cultivated around the alleged capture gave the clear impression that Iran was brandishing its PKK clout against Turkey. Recently, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç charged that the PKK had relocated some of its bases from Iraq to the Turkish-Iranian border. The U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, echoed these charges when he claimed that Damascus was providing Iranian arms to the PKK.

For the PKK, the demise of the Pax Adana is a new opportunity. With newfound traction in Syria and Iran, the PKK has recently launched a renewed campaign of violence against Turkey.

Revolutions can usher in changes in unexpected ways. One of the unintended consequences of the Arab Spring has been the demolition of the Pax Adana and the reemergence of the PKK as a player in regional politics between Iran, Syria and Turkey, once again.

Hezbollah conducting large maneuvers?

US Deploys Aircraft to Gulf Amid Syria, Iran, 24 August 2012 Friday 10:18

....  Meanwhile, Lebanese Hezbollah claimed to have conducted a massive military exercise in southern Lebanon this week, deploying 10,000 gunmen over three days in a war-game scenario. According to Egyptian daily al-Gomhuria, the drill was personally supervised by Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah.

The daily said the majority of the exercise took place at the Beqaa Valley and simulated actual fighting and defending of strategic villages. The report also said that Hezbollah operatives have been instructed to prepare the residents of southern Lebanon for the possibility of war.

US Navy Sending Carrier Back to Persian Gulf, 24 August 2012 Friday 7:52

US Navy Sending Carrier Back to Persian Gulf, 24 August 2012 Friday 7:52

 The US Navy has cut short home leave for crew of aircraft carrier USS Stennis by four months to send the warship back to the Middle East and Persian Gulf next week, Press TV reported.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta notified the USS Stennis crew in Seattle on Wednesday that they are needed in the Middle East region, following the requests forwarded by the US Central Command.

The Stennis had departed from the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain in January and was due to be redeployed next to the Pacific towards the end of 2012, Reuters reported.

In early July, the US navy added another warship to its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, in an attempt to bolster America's military presence in the Persian Gulf.

Earlier in June, other four mine countermeasures (MCM) ships arrived at the Fifth Fleet to be deployed for a seven-month period in an area of operations, including the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean....


-bth; curious

Iran’s Ban on Higher Education of Women, 24 August 2012 Friday 17:3

Iran’s Ban on Higher Education of Women, 24 August 2012 Friday 17:3

 Thirty-six universities across Iran had announced that from now on, women will not be allowed to register 77 fields of study including engineering, chemistry, accounting, education, English literature and many others. This decision will be implemented in the coming year.

This decision of universities is shocking for female students who constitute 52% of undergraduate and 68% of graduate students in Iran, according to a report of UNESCO, dated 2009.

Abolfazl Hasani, a senior educational officer, tried to justify this ban by stating that these fields are not suitable for women nature and Gholamrez Rashed, head of the University of Petroleum Technology, declared that they don’t need any female contribution anymore. Another officer Mohammad Hossein Ramesht claimed that high unemployment rates among women in science called for this ban. It is also known that some clergy members were worried about women participation to high education would lower the rate of marriage and birth. As Radio Zamaneh claimed, the decision is also about Ayatollah Khamenei’s call for great focus on universities which he blamed for breeding disruptive actions....

Exclusive: Iran looks to Armenia to skirt bank sanctions | Reuters

Exclusive: Iran looks to Armenia to skirt bank sanctions | Reuters

 ....
(Reuters) - With international sanctions squeezing Iran, the Islamic Republic is seeking to expand its banking foothold in the Caucasus nation of Armenia to make up for difficulties in countries it used to rely on to do business, according to diplomats and documents.
Iran's growing interest in its neighbor Armenia, a mountainous, landlocked country of about 3.3 million people, comes at a time of rising international isolation for Tehran and increasing scrutiny by Western governments and intelligence agencies of Iranian banking ties worldwide as they attempt to stifle the country's nuclear program....

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gruesome killings mark escalation of violence in Syrian capital - The Washington Post

Gruesome killings mark escalation of violence in Syrian capital - The Washington Post

...  “The regime is punishing the social support network of the Free Syrian Army, and the punishment is applied equally to those who are active in the revolution and also those who are just living there,” he said. “The point is to punish people in the hot spots and also to give a lesson to people in other areas.

Although the government has controlled the heart of Damascus since the uprising began, the city’s suburbs quickly embraced the protest movement and later the armed rebellion, leaving the seat of Assad’s power encircled by restive, angry communities that appeared earlier in the summer to be threatening his hold on power.

A surge of fighting last month saw the thinly spread and heavily outgunned rebels briefly assert their presence in several city neighborhoods, including Midan, which hugs the ancient walls of the Old City, and upmarket Mezzeh, home to embassies and government offices. Days later, a bombing in the center of Damascus that killed four senior military officials prompted optimism within the opposition that the Assad regime was crumbling, as well as a wave of attacks by rebel fighters to expand their control into new areas around the city.

But the government has since systematically moved to reassert its authority, with its forces pushing beyond the city limits even to neighborhoods that the rebels had controlled for months. Free Syrian Army fighters have been forced to withdraw from some of their staunchest strongholds, such as Douma and Darayya, and have fled from areas newly conquered after the offensive last month, such as al-Tal to the north and Jdeidat Artouz to the southwest, according to rebel commanders.

And as they withdraw, the killings occur. In the small community of Jdeidat Artouz, 83 bodies have been found strewn around town since government forces retook the area this month, according to Abu Aasi, an activist there with the Local Coordination Committees.

In the nearby suburb of Qatana, about 60 bodies were found last week at a garbage dump, the victims’ hands bound behind their backs, their contorted death throes captured on another graphic video but still not fully explained.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Robert Fisk: 'Rebel army? They're a gang of foreigners' - Robert Fisk - Commentators - The Independent

Robert Fisk: 'Rebel army? They're a gang of foreigners' - Robert Fisk - Commentators - The Independent

 ...Many of the soldiers, who were encouraged to speak to me even as they knelt at the ends of narrow streets with bullets spattering off the walls, spoke of their amazement that so many "foreign fighters" should have been in Aleppo. "Aleppo has five million people," one said to me. "If the enemy are so sure that they are going to win the battle, then surely there's no need to bring these foreigners to participate; they will lose."...

-bth: worth reading in full. It doesn't look like rebel forces have sufficient popular support or weapons to win.

CIA spies 'smuggle 14 Stinger missiles into Syria so rebels can take out regime warplanes' - Mirror Online

CIA spies 'smuggle 14 Stinger missiles into Syria so rebels can take out regime warplanes' - Mirror Online


CIA spies have smuggled up to 14 Stinger missiles into Syria so rebels can defend themselves from air strikes.
The ground-to-air weapons have been delivered across the Turkish border to the Free Syrian Army and were partly paid for by Saudi Arabia, a security source claimed.
President Bashar al-Assad’s MIG-23 warplanes and helicopter gunships have killed more than 1,000 people.
The source said: “The West and the rest of the Middle East is not going to be able to secure a no-fly zone above Syria any time soon so the only way to stop the carnage is to take on Assad’s air force from the ground....

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RYNO Motors Full Story - YouTube

RYNO Motors Full Story - YouTube

Is the Taliban wearing out its welcome in Afghanistan? - CSMonitor.com

Is the Taliban wearing out its welcome in Afghanistan? - CSMonitor.com

... 
Speaking about recent security improvements in Kandahar, he adds, “It seems that people are happy with the situation and they don’t want it to go back how it was before, yet at the same time that doesn’t mean they think the government is the greatest thing ever.”

Possible trend?

Amid this climate, many Afghan observers say that its unlikely widespread frustration will translate into a nationwide uprising, or even sweep through the rest of Ghazni Province.
Few Afghans possess the means to revolt. It is among the 10 poorest countries in the world and has a per capita GDP of $528. Facing this level of destitution, for Afghans living hand-to-mouth, abandoning their fields or jobs to fend off the Taliban is simply not an option.
“Our people are very poor. They are always worried about covering their daily expenses and surviving. As long as they are uncertain about whether their children can survive, how can they be ready for an uprising? Economically, if they are supported and they are more secure financially then I think in that case they will start to rise up against the Taliban,” says Mohammad Isa Khan, a former attorney general and independent analyst in Kandahar.

-bth: worth reading in full

Iran moves to legalize marriage for girls under 10 years old

Iran moves to legalize marriage for girls under 10 years old


When Saudi Arabia announced three months ago that girls as young as 10-years old would now be allowed to marry, Iran decided to drop the age limit even further.
Iranian Christian news service Mohabat News reports a member of the Iranian Parliament (Majiles) Mohammad Ali Isfenani, "we must regard 9 as being the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married. To do otherwise would be to contradict and challenge Islamic Sharia law." He argues,"Before the revolution girls under 16 were not allowed to marry. Parents determined to get around the law would often tamper with their daughter's birth certificate. Under the previous constitution, people were legally regarded as adults when they were 18. After the revolution the age at which children were regarded as going through puberty was lowered to 9 for girls and 15 for boys....

Syrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite local wariness | World news | guardian.co.uk

Syrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite local wariness | World news | guardian.co.uk


...  "Yes it's true," said Sheikh Tawfik Abu Sleiman, a rebel commander sitting on the ground floor of his fourth new headquarters – the other three were bombed. "Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them. We are saying that we will only be here as long as it takes to get the job done, to get rid of the Assads. After that, we will leave and they can build the city that they want."...


Syrian rebels are not alone in using these routes to the frontline. In recent days another group of fighters has arrived, jihadists from other parts of the Islamic world. The Guardian saw four such fighters – a Saudi, a Pakistani, an Algerian and a Senegalese man – waiting at a staging point not far from Saif al-Dowli on Monday. Others, perhaps as many as 30, have entered Salahedin. "Are you a Muslim?" the Senegalese fighter asked in response to a greeting.

"They're not planning on coming out," said Moustafa Kamal, a volunteer from al-Bab. Asked about the presence of foreign fighters, a long-predicted and often feared dynamic in Syria's civil war, Kamal said: "I welcome them. They are very brave and they are very good fighters. They are not scared of anyone."

Other rebels were more circumspect. "They're a very big problem," said Sheikh Abu Marwan Osman, in al-Bab. "They don't understand Islam and they will make things more difficult for all of us."

"We have enough challenges already," said a rebel commander in the north of the city. "These people will give us all a headache. We need to prove to the people that this revolution will work."

-bth: I don't see how the Syrian rebels can win an urban battle if 70% of the population is against them.

Feds Drop $100 Million to Spot Flying, Homebrew Cocaine Mules | Danger Room | Wired.com

Feds Drop $100 Million to Spot Flying,

 
Homebrew Cocaine Mules | Danger Room | Wired.com



... Like the Arizona plan, the ultralight sensors are supposed to be easily transportable. According to the solicitation, the sensors should be able to operate under battery power for up to four days at a time when not plugged into the U.S. electrical grid. Also, the agency wants the sensors to send data remotely to the CBP’s Air and Marine Operations Center in Riverside, California.

One reason the cartels use ultralight planes is because they’re really cheap. Prices can range from as low as $3,000 for an ultralight, and the planes can be manufactured at home. For a bigger ultralight, it can set you back $30,000. Drug prices are hard to estimate, but using figures from the U.S. Department of Health, a 250-pound load of marijuana could be worth more than $400,000. A similar weight in cocaine, could be worth more than $16 million wholesale.

That means absent cocaine, the cartels could make more money on marijuana flights in one year — just using ultralight aircraft — than the government will spend on its efforts to stop them. And the cartels can always buy more planes.

Americans tune out Afghan war as fighting rages on - Yahoo! News

Americans tune out Afghan war as fighting rages on - Yahoo! News

... 
Public opinion remains largely negative toward the war, with 66 percent opposed to it and just 27 percent in favor in a May AP-GfK poll. More recently, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 60 percent of registered voters felt the U.S. should no longer be involved in Afghanistan. Just 31 percent said the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting there now.

Not since the Korean War of the early 1950s — a much shorter but more intense fight — has an armed conflict involving America's sons and daughters captured so little public attention.

"We're bored with it," said Matthew Farwell, who served in the U.S. Army for five years including 16 months in eastern Afghanistan, where he sometimes received letters from grade school students addressed to the brave Marines in Iraq — the wrong war.

"We all laugh about how no one really cares," he said. "All the 'support the troops' stuff is bumper sticker deep."

Farwell, 29, who is now studying at the University of Virginia, said the war is rarely a topic of conversation on campus — and he isn't surprised that it's not discussed much on the campaign trail.

"No one understands how to extricate ourselves from the mess we have made there," he said. "So from a purely political point of view, I wouldn't be talking about it if I were Barack Obama or Mitt Romney either."
Ignoring the Afghan war, though, doesn't make it go away...

Monday, August 20, 2012

War with Iran could cost Israeli economy $42 billion | The Times of Israel

War with Iran could cost Israeli economy $42 billion | The Times of Israel

A war between Israel and Iran could cost the Israeli economy 167 billion shekels, or nearly $42 billion, Channel 10 reported on Sunday citing estimates by Business Data Israel, Ltd., a business information group.
According to the projections, lost work would cost the state NIS 39 billion or nearly $10 billion. The report did not clarify whether this took into account reserve soldiers who are called to duty and must leave their jobs, people not working due to continuous missile assault on Israeli population centers, or both.
Rearmament and reequipping the military and reconstructing buildings would cost the state an additional estimated NIS 8 billion, or $2 billion. The report did not mention what the possible cost of replacing military hardware, including aircraft, tanks, and helicopters, or how much the cost of intercepting incoming missiles could be.
ten percent drop in commerce over five years is predicted to result from a war with Iran, for a projected loss of NIS 120 billion, or about $30 billion. The report mentioned that the financial figures did not take into account the far-reaching impact of an oil price crisis, an international recession or budget cuts to fund the war...

Dennis Ross: Egypt’s new leaders must accept reality - The Washington Post

Dennis Ross: Egypt’s new leaders must accept reality - The Washington Post

...What conclusions should be drawn about an organization that cannot admit the truth? That insists on living in its own reality? If nothing else, it’s clear that the group the Brotherhood is wedded to its ideology and cannot admit anything that might call its basic philosophy into question. But the United States and others should not accommodate the Brotherhood’s alternative reality. This is not to say that we have to agree on everything. Policy differences are understandable — but it is not acceptable to deny reality and foster a narrative and policies based on untruths and fictions.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood should know this. Egypt’s president and people should also know that we are prepared to mobilize the international community, and global financial institutions, to help Egypt — but that we will only do so if Egypt’s government is prepared to play by a set of rules grounded in reality and key principles. They must respect the rights of minorities and women; they must accept political pluralism and the space for open political competition; and they must respect their international obligations, including the terms of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
 
The record to date is not good: News reports suggest that more than 100,000 Coptic Christians have left Egypt ; there have been new efforts to intimidate the media, and Morsi has moved armored forces into the Sinai without first notifying the Israelis — a requirement of the peace treaty. The administration’s position needs to be clear: If this behavior continues, U.S. support, which will be essential for gaining international economic aid and fostering investment, will not be forthcoming. Softening or fuzzing our response at this point might be good for the Muslim Brotherhood, but it won’t be good for Egypt. 

-bth: worth reading in full 

Shelley, Stanford's Robotic Car, Hits the Track - YouTube

Shelley, Stanford's Robotic Car, Hits the Track - YouTube



Civilian helicopter EMS practice has lower mortality rate than military evac

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 Aug;73(2 Suppl 1):S32-7.
Impact of critical care-trained flight paramedics on casualty survival during helicopter evacuation in the current war in Afghanistan.
Mabry RL
Apodaca APenrod JOrman JAGerhardt RTDorlac WC.
Source
From the US Army Institute of Surgical Research (R.L.M., A.A., J.P., J.A.O., R.T.G., W.C.D.), Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas.
Abstract
BACKGROUND:
The US Army pioneered medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) by helicopter, yet its system remains essentially unchanged since the Vietnam era. Care is provided by a single combat medic credentialed at the Emergency Medical Technician - Basic level. Treatment protocols, documentation, medical direction, and quality improvement processes are not standardized and vary significantly across US Army helicopter evacuation units. This is in contrast to helicopter emergency medical services that operate within the United States. Current civilian helicopter evacuation platforms are routinely staffed by critical care-trained flight paramedics (CCFP) or comparably trained flight nurses who operate under trained EMS physician medical direction using formalized protocols, standardized patient care documentation, and rigorous quality improvement processes. This study compares mortality of patients with injury from trauma between the US Army's standard helicopter evacuation system staffed with medics at the Emergency Medical Technician - Basic level (standard MEDEVAC) and one staffed with experienced CCFP using adopted civilian helicopter emergency medical services practices.
METHODS:
This is a retrospective study of a natural experiment. Using data from the Joint Theater Trauma Registry, 48-hour mortality for severely injured patients (injury severity score ≥ 16) was compared between patients transported by standard MEDEVAC units and CCFP air ambulance units.
RESULTS:
The 48-hour mortality for the CCFP-treated patients was 8% compared to 15% for the standard MEDEVAC patients. After adjustment for covariates, the CCFP system was associated with a 66% lower estimated risk of 48-hour mortality compared to the standard MEDEVAC system.
CONCLUSIONS:
These findings demonstrate that using an air ambulance system based on modern civilian helicopter EMS practice was associated with a lower estimated risk of 48-hour mortality among severely injured patients in a combat setting.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:
Therapeutic study, level II.

Army morale declines, survey shows --The Boston Globe

- - The Boston Globe


WASHINGTON ­— Only a quarter of the Army’s officers and enlisted soldiers believe the nation’s largest military branch is headed in the right direction — a survey response that is the lowest on record and reflects what some in the service call a crisis in confidence.
The detailed annual survey by a team of independent researchers found that the most common reasons cited for the bleak outlook were “ineffective leaders at senior levels,” a fear of losing the best and the brightest after a decade of war, and the perception, especially among senior enlisted soldiers, that “the Army is too soft” and lacks sufficient discipline.
The study, ordered by the Center for Army Leadership at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, also found that one in four troops serving in Afghanistan rated morale either “low” or “very low,” part of a steady downward trend over the last five years.
But the most striking finding is widespread disagreement with the statement that “the Army is headed in the right direction to prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years.”
“In 2011, [active duty] agreement to this statement hit an all-time low,” according to the survey results, a copy of which were provided to The Boston Globe. “Belief that the Army is headed in the right direction is positively related to morale.”
In 2010, about 33 percent of those surveyed didn’t agree with the statement; the number was 38 percent in 2006.
The apparent lack of confidence poses a new set of challenges to the Army as it undergoes budget cuts and shrinks its ranks. The Army’s top officer, General Raymond T. Odierno, says he is taking the findings to heart.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fred Gordon - Bedford Veterans Agent as Passed

Fred Gordon - Bedford, MA Veterans Agent, 
Good friend, veteran advocate and public servant

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is being smuggled into Afghanistan for IEDs - The Washington Post

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is being smuggled into Afghanistan for IEDs - The Washington Post

Seizures in Afghanistan of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the main explosive used in Taliban bombs, more than doubled in the first seven months of 2012 compared with the same period last year, U.S. officials said.
Despite that increase, senior U.S. officials said, the number of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, manufactured with the chemical compound is on pace to surpass the record levels of 2011.

“We are sweeping ammonium nitrate fertilizer off the battlefield at historic rates,” said a senior U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. “But the IEDs are going up at historic rates, too, and it is directly related. It is a supply issue.”

The homemade bombs, which are most often planted along roads and footpaths, are a leading killer of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The ammonium nitrate used as the explosive component is manufactured at two plants across the border in Pakistan, and officials said the manufacturer has resisted efforts to control the flow into Afghanistan.

Figures provided to The Washington Post show that U.S. and Afghan troops have seized about 480 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer this year, enough explosive material to manufacture 30,000 to 50,000 IEDs.

During the same period, U.S. and Afghan troops have either triggered or discovered 16,600 of the bombs, a slight increase over 2011. In June, U.S. and Afghan forces encountered 1,900 IEDs, a record number in a single month for the 11-year war.

Unless we do something about the ammonium nitrate from Pakistan, we are going to continue to face these numbers and threats,” the senior U.S. official said.

Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has conducted several hearings and investigations into the smuggling of ammonium nitrate from Pakistan into Afghanistan. He has pushed for a tougher stance against Pakistan for failing to curtail the trade and is troubled by the lack of progress.

“One year ago this month, I met in Islamabad with senior officials who committed to comprehensively regulate the component materials of IEDs, including calcium ammonium nitrate,” Casey said in an interview. “Since then, there has been minimal progress. The administration will soon need to certify that Pakistan is addressing the IED threat in order to release millions in security assistance and, as of now, I cannot see how Pakistan will reach this threshold.”...

Observations on Iranian Economic Sanctions, Turkey & Iraq

Just a few observations on Iranian sanctions:
  • The US is turning a blind eye to Iraqi government sanctioned oil smuggling and money laundering for Iran. As Iranian oil exports decrease, Iraqi's are surging and perhaps much of that oil is being smuggled over the border from Iran with a hefty commission for Iraqi politicians and financial intermediaries. Also four banks in Iraq controlled by Iran have been identified by the US but Iraq turns a blind eye.
  • Turkey is using a state owned bank to issue letters of credit to Iran
  • Turkey is using the embargo to funnel steel and cement to Iran while shipments of steel from Ukraine and Russia to Iran have plummeted and now seem to go through Turkish intermediaries.
  • European and US banks are being punished for breaking Iranian sanctions.

U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran Skirt Sanctions - NYTimes.com

U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran Skirt Sanctions - NYTimes.com


WASHINGTON — When President Obama announced last month that he was barring a Baghdad bank from any dealings with the American banking system, it was a rare acknowledgment of a delicate problem facing the administration in a country that American troops just left: for months, Iraq has been helping Iran skirt economic sanctions imposed on Tehran because of its nuclear program.

The little-known bank singled out by the United States, the Elaf Islamic Bank, is only part of a network of financial institutions and oil-smuggling operations that, according to current and former American and Iraqi government officials and experts on the Iraqi banking sector, has provided Iran with a crucial flow of dollars at a time when sanctions are squeezing its economy.

The Obama administration is not eager for a public showdown with the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki over Iran just eight months after the last American troops withdrew from Baghdad.
Still, the administration has held private talks with Iraqi officials to complain about specific instances of financial and logistical ties between the countries, officials say, although they do not regard all trade between them as illegal or, as in the case of smuggling, as something completely new. In one recent instance, when American officials learned that the Iraqi government was aiding the Iranians by allowing them to use Iraqi airspace to ferry supplies to Syria, Mr. Obama called Mr. Maliki to complain. The Iranian planes flew another route.

In response to questions from The New York Times, David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, provided a written statement saying that Iran “may seek to escape the force of our financial sanctions through Iraqi financial institutions.” But he added that “we will pursue, and are actively pursuing, efforts to prevent Iran from evading U.S. or international financial sanctions, in Iraq or anywhere else.”

Some current and former American and Iraqi officials, along with banking and oil experts, say that Iraqi government officials are turning a blind eye to the large financial flows, smuggling and other trade with Iran. In some cases, they say, government officials, including some close to Mr. Maliki, are directly profiting from the activities....


He said the large-scale money laundering was probably being helped by “some corruption that requires the government to investigate,” but he defended the actions of the central bank, saying that it does “not have the capability to watch everything.”

Several American and Iraqi banking and government officials also say that Iranian organizations have gained effective control over at least four Iraqi commercial banks through Iraqi intermediaries. That gives Iran direct access to the international financial system, supposedly denied to Tehran by the economic sanctions. Even as the United States has moved to tighten the vise against Iran this summer, the Maliki government has openly sought to enhance its already deep economic and political ties with Iran. Trade between Iraq and Iran, which fought a costly war from 1980 to 1988, has been growing rapidly ever since the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and it is now estimated to be as high as $11 billion a year. Among other openly acknowledged forms of trade, Iraq has contracts to buy large amounts of electrical power from Iran.

Just last week, an Iraqi delegation that includes the deputy prime minister and top officials from the ministries of finance and trade and the central bank met in Tehran with their Iranian counterparts for talks about further increasing economic ties.

An Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said in a telephone interview that Iraq “is not intending to break any rules,” but added that “we also have good relations with Iran that we do not want to break.”
This year, Iraqi officials publicly expressed concerns that their large volume of trade with Iran might place them in violation of the sanctions on Iran, and they said they would seek a sanctions waiver. After those public statements, American officials privately told the Maliki government that Iraq would not be found to be in violation of the new Iran sanctions because of its publicly acknowledged cross-border trade, according to a former senior United States official.

Whatever help Iraq has given Iran, the sanctions have put considerable pressure on Tehran. Iran’s oil exports have dropped by about 40 percent because of the latest round of sanctions, while Iraq’s own oil production has been surging. American officials say that if aiding Iran was a priority of the Iraqi government, Baghdad would not be so eagerly ramping up oil production to fill the void left by Iran.

Still, clandestine trade, including large-scale smuggling of oil and oil products, has been increasing, and the Iraqi government has done little to stop a highly organized effort that frequently provides financial benefits to Iraqi political parties and powerful political leaders, according to American and Iraqi oil traders and experts.
Iraqi fuel oil, acquired by smuggling operations with close connections to political leaders at extremely low prices with the help of government subsidies, is being smuggled from Iraq through Kurdistan and into Iran

From Iran it is smuggled once again, with some going to Afghanistan, where the cheap fuel is resold at a large profit. American and Iraqi oil experts say they believe that at least some Iranian oil is finding its way to Iraqi ports for export

James Risen reported from Washington, and Duraid Adnan from Baghdad.

Deutsche Bank Among Four Said to Be in U.S. Iran Probe - Bloomberg

Deutsche Bank Among Four Said to Be in U.S. Iran Probe - Bloomberg


Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) is among four European banks being investigated by U.S. authorities for alleged violations involving oil trading and Iran, according to an attorney with knowledge of the matter.
Regulators including the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Federal Reserve, the Justice Department and the Manhattan district attorney’s office are all involved in the probe of Deutsche Bank and three other European banks, said the attorney, who asked not to be identified because the investigations are confidential....

Poland Plans to Phase Out its Su-22M in Favor of Armed UAVs | Defense Update

Poland Plans to Phase Out its Su-22M in Favor of Armed UAVs | Defense Update


Poland is looking to replace its aging strike force, currently flying Russian built Sukhoi Su-22M with armed unmanned aerial vehicles. According to Waldemar Skrzypczak Poland’s Deputy Minister of Defense for military procurement, a future procurement of some 30 armed drone equipping three squadrons is being considered.
The arguments raised in favor for such decision are that the unmanned drones would be more affordable, particularly considering the logistical burden of maintaining the aging Russian fighters and lack of spares for such platforms. Drones could also operate on longer missions and the training of operators and support personnel will be cheaper, the Polish MOD argues.

Moreover, the deployment of unmanned aircraft, in support of NATO operations overseas or in support of other peacekeeping operations, would become more affordable and require smaller footprint and logistics, compared to similar missions performed by manned aircraft. However, the unmanned platform would require fielding large numbers of advanced, precision guided munitions which will also require adequate field support, technical training for the maintainers and operators....