Saturday, October 06, 2012

Ankara Worried Over Iraq’s Future - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Ankara Worried Over Iraq’s Future - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East


... Maliki, who took power with the State of Law coalition, has surrounded the houses of opposition figures and leading actors in the Iraqiya coalition. The residences of Vice President Tariq Hashimi, Minister of Finance Rafi İsavi, and  Vice Prime Minister Salih Mutlak are all encircled by tanks under the command of Maliki’s son, Ahmad. By taking refuge in Turkey, Hashimi is possibly saving his life.
“What is happening in Iraq is a new dictatorship,” said Allawi, the leader of the Iraqiya bloc. He warned that Iraq is headed toward one-man rule, However, these warnings did not stop Maliki.
He made only arbitrary changes to his cabinet, appointing his relatives to the security and defense ministries. Maliki now wields power over the Ministry of the Interior and the intelligence and security agencies, and the command of the army was granted to his son...
It seems that his days are numbered, but we have no clue as to what will happen after his downfall.
Iraq is headed toward a new era, and arms will be fired. We all know this will end up with the disintegration of Iraq into three parts: a Kurdish state in the north, a Shia state in the south and a Sunni state in the middle.

Lebanon news - NOW Lebanon -Iran currency plunge bites into border trade with Turkey

Lebanon news - NOW Lebanon -Iran currency plunge bites into border trade with Turkey

... In normal times, there would be a long line of trucks waiting to cross the border into Iran. Turkey exports iron to Iran for use in the country's construction industry (a solid material vital for construction in a nation prone to earthquakes).
But, on this visit, the car park is semi-forlorn.
Trucks 'stopped coming'
The currency collapse in Iran means that Iranian business can't afford to place their normal orders from Turkey. One Turkish customs official says that Turkish trucks stopped coming to the border several days ago....

Iran boosts gas exports to Turkey - Tehran Times

Iran boosts gas exports to Turkey - Tehran Times


Iran has increased the volume of gas exports to Turkey to 30 million cubic meters (mcm) per day as a blast halted gas exports from Azerbaijan to Turkey, the Mehr News Agency quoted Majid Boujarzadeh, the National Iranian Gas Company's spokesman as saying on Saturday.
 
"The explosion on the Turkish section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) pipeline transporting Azerbaijani gas to Turkey resulted from a terror act," the Turkish energy ministry told Trend news agency on Thursday.
 
BP Azerbaijan, operator of the Azerbaijani offshore Shah Deniz field, which produces gas transported via the BTE pipeline, told Trend news agency that at the request of the Turkish pipeline company Botas, gas supply to the company's system was suspended.
 
"Whenever the flow of gas exports into Turkey faces a problem, Iran will be ready to make for the reduced imports," Boujarzadeh said....
 
-bth: curious timing that the Azerbaijani link to the pipeline is destroyed by terrorists and the Iranians happen to be able to export gas for hard currency to Turkey right now when Iran has a massive hard currency crunch.

Exclusive: EU poised to agree ban on Iranian gas imports | Reuters

Exclusive: EU poised to agree ban on Iranian gas imports | Reuters


(Reuters) - The European Union is poised to ban imports of Iranian gas as part of a set of new measures to ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme, diplomats said on Thursday.
Diplomats from EU member states have started preparing a package of sanctions against Iran with a goal of formally adopting them at a meeting of foreign ministers on October 15 in Luxembourg....

Analysts and industry sources said it would be virtually impossible to identify the quantities involved.
"You might have a situation in which physically, an Iranian gas molecule gets to Europe," one industry source said on condition of anonymity.
"But this is like inhaling an air molecule from the last gasp of (Roman Emperor) Julius Caesar, which due to the laws of volume, we all do from time to time."
The EU diplomats said there was a risk the bloc's plans to tighten sanctions could alienate Turkey, which has a pivotal role in the European Commission's aspirations to diversify gas supplies away from dominant supplier Russia, but it was a risk worth taking.
In any case, one of the sources said Turkey was likely to ignore the ban.
"There are two possibilities. Either Turkey goes with it or Turkey maintains imports silently," the source said.
Turkey controls a huge part of a planned new export route for shipping Azeri gas, which would link up with one of two pipelines short-listed to complete the journey into the EU....

-bth: so Turkey might disguise Iranian gas as Azi gas as it goes into EU where its converted into hard currency.  Note an article this week about Iran opting to increase trade with Turkey at a significant level.  Iran needs hard currency and Turkey is how they get it through oil, gas into Turkey and steel exports to Iran financing with Turkish government affiliated banks that extend letters of credit to Iran probably at usurious rates.


Iran, Turkey bilateral trade to hit $30b - Tehran Times

Iran, Turkey bilateral trade to hit $30b - Tehran Times

... 
After the private meeting, a joint-committee of both countries’ high-ranking officials headed by Rahimi and Erdogan started.
 
 “Economic and trade ties between Iran and Turkey are in line with common interests of the two countries,” Rahimi said in a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Thursday. 
 
He said the volume of trade exchanges in the first six month of the current Iranian year, which started on March 20, has exceeded 16 billion dollars which is expected to reach 25 billion dollars by the end of the year.
 
He added that the growing trade relations between Tehran and Ankara indicate the two countries’ willingness to strengthen mutual ties. 
 
He expressed hope the value of trade exchanges between the two neighbors would reach 30 billion dollars in the near future. 
 
Erdogan, for his part, pointed to increasing ties between the two countries in trade and economic sectors and said both sides are making efforts to bring the value of exchanges to 30 billion dollars soon.
 
He added that Tehran and Ankara have also held positive talks on bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, expressing hope that they would continue such negotiations. 
Iran and Turkey have sharply increased the level of their trade ties over the past years. In 2000, the level of bilateral trade stood at only around USD one billion, but in 2010, it exceeded USD 10 billion. The figure hit USD 15 billion last year. 
 
The two sides seek to raise the value of their bilateral trade to USD 30 billion by 2015.
 
-bth; interesting that both Turkey and Iran are using trade to mutual benefit - Iran needs hard currency and to restrain Turkey and Turkey needs Iran to provide oil and gas and to restrain PKK.  So how does Syria fit into this?

Syria's Kurds flock to Iraq to prepare for Assad's onslaught - Middle East - World - The Independent

Syria's Kurds flock to Iraq to prepare for Assad's onslaught - Middle East - World - The Independent

 
In secret training camps in the mountains and plains of northern Iraq, Kurdish Syrian army defectors are being drilled to protect the oil-rich areas in the north-east of their home country, which have so far managed to avoid being dragged into the civil war. Hundreds of Syrian Kurds are training with Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Peshmerga forces, and there are plans to send the men back to protect the Kurdish regions of Syria should clashes break out in those areas with the government or the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).

"It's defence training in order for these people to defend their own communities … not for offensive purposes to go and attack," Falah Mustafa Bakir, the KRG's minister for foreign relations, told The Independent.
Syria's 1.7 million Kurds have largely taken a back seat in the 18-month struggle to oust President Bashar al-Assad, despite being one of the traditional bastions of opposition to his rule. After clashes in July, Syrian army forces pulled back from many of the region's towns and cities, leaving the Kurds free to begin building their own institutions such as police forces and local councils.
Mr Bakir said the Syrian Kurds should learn from the experience of the Iraqis, who gained de facto autonomy in 1991 after a no-fly zone was established in the north of the country and Saddam Hussein's forces pulled out of the area.
"There is a lot they can use for homework before the collapse of the regime," he said.
However, there are fears that it is only a matter of time before the chaos that has enveloped much of the country reaches Syria's Kurdish areas, particularly given that the Al-Hassaka province in which they are concentrated produces most of the country's oil.
The inevitable spillover has already begun. Oil pipelines have been attacked and last Sunday a bomb in a cement truck detonated outside a government building in Al-Hassaka's regional capital of Qamishli, killing four people....

-bth: so Syrian Kurds have control of Syria's few oil fields.  Interesting.  So where does the Syrian government get its oil and its cash? Iran?  Iran is now in a serious cash squeeze as its currency collapses. Protestors in the bazaar in Tehran are shouting slogans about not sending hard currency dollars to Syria.. Is Iran on the horns of a dilemma? 

Syria agrees to buffer zone along Turkish border, say reports | World news | The Guardian

Syria agrees to buffer zone along Turkish border, say reports | World news | The Guardian

 yria has agreed to keep its forces six miles (10km) from the Turkish border in the wake of this week's deadly shelling incident, Turkish media have reported.
Such a move would amount to a buffer zone, fulfilling a longstanding request by Syrian opposition groups that would allow rebels to operate freely and civilians to seek refuge.
Syria has not confirmed the claim and Ankara has made no official announcement. However, several Turkish media outlets, citing well-placed sources, claimed that a deal had been struck.
Opposition groups have implored Turkey and the international community to establish an area in which they can move without fear of jets and helicopters, claiming it would be a significant step in their 19-month battle to oust the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
However, the demands have been rejected by Ankara, as well as the US and Nato, who have all repeatedly balked at suggestions that they intervene directly in the conflict. A buffer zone would not be effective unless it was enforced militarily, something that Turkey has so far been unwilling to do. However, the Syrian shelling of the Turkish border town of Akcacle has spurred Ankara to recalibrate its military options to deal with the growing crisis across the southern border....

bth: amazing what a stray mortar round into Turkey can do for rebel forces.

Iran regime fears widespread chaos over rial collapse - The National

Iran regime fears widespread chaos over rial collapse - The National

... 
The Iranian authorities fear the economic crisis could rapidly turn more political and internecine warfare within the regime has exacerbated tensions.
Influential hardline opponents of Iran's beleaguered president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, maintain his incompetent and populist "Robin Hood" policies account for 80 per cent of the economy's woes.
They say draconian international sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear programme account for just 20 per cent of Iran's economic misery.
Mr Ahmadinejad accepts no responsibility for the debacle. The currency crisis, he insists, is only "temporary". He blames international sanctions against Iran's vital oil and banking sectors, along with ruthless currency speculators. He accuses his enemies at home of joining in a "psychological war" against Iran.
Particularly alarming for the Iranian authorities was the eruption of popular fury at the grand bazaar in central Tehran where many traders closed their shops on Wednesday and joined in calls for the government to stem the economic meltdown.
The labyrinthine bazaar - the capital's commercial nerve centre - helped fund the 1979 Islamic revolution and is a critical pillar of support for the regime.
Guilds in the bazaar, however, made clear their gripe was with Mr Ahmadinejad's government and not the nezam (Iran's Islamic system), which they vowed to defend with "our lives". Most shops in the bazaar reopened yesterday and no unrest was reported. To stabilise the rial, it was assumed the government would pump dollars into the market - if it has them....


Others simply fear chaos. "Looking at the violence in Syria, we do not want that they have there," one Iranian told the Tehran Bureau website.
The slogans bellowed on Tuesday were mainly economic in nature, with many calling for Mr Ahmadinejad to step down as they blamed his mismanagement for the rial's collapse. Yet while there were no calls for more democracy, some of the chants touched on highly sensitive political issues that must have hit a raw nerve in Iran's power centres.
"Leave out Syria. Think about us," some marchers chanted, referring to reports that the Iran is providing billion dollar subsidies to prop up the regime of Bashar Al Assad, Tehran's key ally. Other protesters were reported to have chanted: "We don't want nuclear energy" - a sign that some blame the parlous state of the economy on the regime's uncompromising nuclear policies, which have brought choking international sanctions.
The Iranian regime for now is delighted that Mr Ahmadinejad, who has to stand down next summer, is serving as a convenient scapegoat for the economic crisis. But his powerful opponents know that any financial instability is bad news for the regime as a whole.,,,

bth: it will be interesting to see if Iran has billion of dollars to prop up its own economy as well as support Syria.

Russia to sign $5-billion defense contract with Iraq - English pravda.ru

Russia to sign $5-billion defense contract with Iraq - English pravda.ru


Russia may join the ranks of major importers of weapons to Iraq. During the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki's, a contract for $5 billion may be signed for the sale of MiG fighter jets, products of Russian Helicopters, anti-aircraft missile systems, armored vehicles and other weapons to the Middle Eastern country.

In Soviet times, Baghdad was one of the main buyers of the products of MIC USSR. After the war in the early 1990s, military and technical cooperation between Russia and Iraq was at a very low level. After the second US-Iraq war, Russia began supplying weapons to Iraq in larger volumes. Between 2008 and 2011 the new government in Baghdad purchased Russian weapons worth $246 million dollars. The bulk of the purchase was helicopters. In this same period, the actual deliveries of weapons and military equipment of U.S. production totaled $6.56 billion dollars, according to the director of the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade (TSAMTO) Igor Korotchenko.
According to the Iraqi News Agency Shafaq, during the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Moscow scheduled for October 10, new contracts for the supply of arms and military equipment may be signed....

bth; It will be interesting to see if this happens or not.

INTERNATIONAL - Alleged killers of US envoy apprehended in Istanbul: Claim

INTERNATIONAL - Alleged killers of US envoy apprehended in Istanbul: Claim

 Two Tunisian citizens accused of being behind the recent murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in Benghazi were apprehended last night by police at Istanbul Atatürk Airport while trying to enter Turkey with fake passports, according to private channel Kanal D.

The suspects, who were not identified, were detained by members of Turkey’s anti-terrorism squad and subsequently taken to the Istanbul Police Department in the city’s Fatih district for questioning, hurriyet.com.tr reported....

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Why our Generals Were More Successful in World War II - YouTube

Why our Generals Were More Successful in World War II - YouTube

Assad ordered killing of Muslim cleric to instigate civil war in Lebanon: leaked files

Assad ordered killing of Muslim cleric to instigate civil war in Lebanon: leaked files

 In recent months, Northern Lebanon has been the scene of deadly clashes. The violence in Lebanon left dozens killed and left a shadow of insecurity hanging over the habitants of the northern coastal city of Tripoli and its surroundings.

But what may have first appeared to be impulsive sectarian hostilities between inhabitants of the same region, now seems more likely to have been a premeditated strategy by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to instigate a conflict in Lebanon.

Revelations based on newly-leaked and highly-classified Syrian security documents, obtained by Al Arabiya, unveil the Syrian regime’s plan to destabilize Lebanon’s security through “eliminating” relevant figures.

The confidential files were acquired by Al Arabiya with the assistance of members of the Syrian opposition who refused to elaborate on how they got hold of the documents.

Al Arabiya says that it has verified and authenticated hundreds of these documents and that it is has decided to disclose the ones with substantial news value and political relevance....

Wary of Israel, Iran Is Said to Blunder in Strikes - NYTimes.com

Wary of Israel, Iran Is Said to Blunder in Strikes - NYTimes.com

 The Iranian military was so apprehensive about the threat of an Israeli airstrike on its nuclear installations in 2007 and 2008 that it mistakenly fired on civilian airliners and, in one instance, on one of its own military aircraft, according to classified American intelligence reports.

 The civilian planes were fired on by surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft batteries and intercepted by Iranian fighter jets....

Hundreds of thousands of war vets still waiting for health benefits - CNN.com

Hundreds of thousands of war vets still waiting for health benefits - CNN.com

... 
The Department of Veterans Affairs said it is on track to process 1 million disability claims this year.
With the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, the VA is sorting through a backlog of more than 860,000 disability claims from American veterans. More than a quarter of those vets -- 228,000 -- have been waiting for a year or more....

GOP: US Consulate received repeated threats, had requested more security - The Hill's Global Affairs

GOP: US Consulate received repeated threats, had requested more security - The Hill's Global Affairs


Two House Republicans say they have been informed by whistleblowers that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked and threatened 13 times before the incident last month that killed four Americans.
Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter on Tuesday that detailed the whistleblowers’ allegations.

“Based on information provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012,” Issa and Chaffetz wrote. “It was clearly never, as Administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest."The congressmen said the consulate asked for more security to deal with the growing threat but was turned down by the administration.
“In addition, multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the Committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi. The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington.”...

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

BBC News - Iran's rial hits an all-time-low against the US dollar

BBC News - Iran's rial hits an all-time-low against the US dollar


Iran's currency, the rial, fell as much as 18% on Monday to a record low against the US dollar, according to media reports.
It dropped to as much as 35,000 to the dollar, according to agencies citing currency exchange sites in the country.
The currency has reportedly lost 80% of its value since the end of 2011.
The fall suggests economic sanctions imposed over its disputed nuclear programme are hitting economic activity ever harder.
The US state department called them the "most punishing sanctions" ever amassed against Iran.
"From our perspective this speaks to the unrelenting and increasingly successful international pressure that we are all bringing to bear on the Iranian economy," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
"It's under incredible strain."...

-bth: this is probably hurting the local Iranians.  The religious leaders stuffed their Swiss bank accounts a long time ago and they have their overseas bug out funds.

Tehran split over billions spent to support Assad’s regime: report

Tehran split over billions spent to support Assad’s regime: report

 Tehran spends billions of dollars in the form of military and financial support to Damascus, causing a rift in the Iranian regime, a report published by The Times on Monday said, as fighting resumed across the war-torn country, leaving more deaths.

Citing Western intelligence reports, The Times said that the support provided by Tehran to the Syrian regime of President Bashat al-Assad has caused a split between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the country’s spymaster Qassem Suleimani, due to the failure of the latter to end the Syrian conflict in favor of Assad.

Iran has paid the salaries of the Syrian regime troops for months, in addition to providing Assad with weapons and logistic support, The Times reported citing members of the Syrian opposition....

bth: time for Iran to pay the bill for awhile

Classified German Report: Reality Contradicts Afghan Withdrawal Plans - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Classified German Report: Reality Contradicts Afghan Withdrawal Plans - SPIEGEL ONLINE

...  Afghan President Karzai looks particularly bad in the BND analysis. "Susceptibility to corruption, influence peddling by individuals and nepotism will continue," it says. Likewise, it claims that all of Karzai's activities have been focused on "holding on to power" and "maintaining the status quo," rather than toward reforms and the promised battle against rampant corruption. Karzai would prefer to make concessions to insurgents, it concludes, than to push ahead with reforms.

Karzai's assurances to the West "remain declarations of intent," the document says. It also claims that Karzai wants to establish his older brother Adbul Qayum as a candidate for the presidential election scheduled for 2014, adding that he probably has the best chances of securing the decisive Pashtun vote in the country's south. With this move, the BND figures, Karzai wants to safeguard "the protection of family interests and retain power."

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is aware of all of this. Development Minister Dirk Niebel was forced to postpone a conference planned for mid-September on raw materials at the last minute. The meeting was meant to discuss a long-promised law on protecting foreign investors that had yet to be passed, but now it will have to wait even longer.

Nevertheless, the government is tenaciously clinging to the fiction that things could still improve with Karzai. If the Western allies were to abandon the man they have relied on there for years, it would be the final admission that they had failed in Afghanistan.

Chancellor Merkel and her ministers will have been even less pleased about what they read in the chapter about the security situation in Afghanistan. The most recent Defense Ministry report on this subject was submitted last week to the Defense Committee of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament. Although it says that the massive efforts of the United States have contributed to "breaking the momentum of the Taliban," the truth isn't quite so pretty. The BND report predicts that the number of attacks that members of the Afghan security forces carry out against Western soldiers will continue to increase. It also predicts that the program for reintegrating former Taliban fighters who have renounced violence will have "no effects" on the peace process.

The BND also believes the Afghan government's efforts to hold talks with insurgents have no chance at success. It says that the latter only want to negotiate with the US and not with Kabul, and that "no greater progress" is to be expected by 2014, the year of planned withdrawal, from the confidential discussions in Qatar between the United States and the Taliban. In the BND's view, the Americans' hands are tied by the presidential election, and the Taliban is merely marking time before the targeted withdrawal date of foreign soldiers.
 
Unrealistic Expectations

The report's predictions for how things will be after 2014 are also politically problematic for the German government. Foreign Minister Westerwelle, in particular, has been adamant in his public statements about saying that no more foreign combat troops will be stationed in Afghanistan after 2014.

But the Foreign Ministry's expectations are unrealistic. Up to 35,000 foreign soldiers -- mostly trainers for the Afghan army, combat troops required to protect the trainers and as many elite soldiers as possible to hunt down terrorists -- will be needed to stabilize the country, according to the BND analysis. It also says that when the current mission of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ends, even though the United States will provide the majority of the fresh troops, the other NATO member states will still be expected to contribute roughly 10,000....

bth: a more realistic scenario for Afghanistan over the next few years.

Iranian air defense units equipped with new generation of radar systems - Tehran Times

Iranian air defense units equipped with new generation of radar systems - Tehran Times

...He also said that Samen, Shahab, and Matla-ol-fajr radar systems are “completely indigenous” systems which are able to quickly identify and track small flying targets. 
 
He added that the country’s air defense units are now able to track aircraft using various radar systems which can operate at various frequency ranges.
 
“If we had not acquired this expertise, we would have been doomed to defeat at the time of electronic warfare and would have not been able to identify many enemy aircraft,” he said.   
 
He went on to say that air defense units create layers of defense to protect the country’s sensitive facilities using radar systems and missile systems. 
 
Elsewhere in his remarks, Esmaeili said that the projects to design and manufacture various medium-range and long-range air defense systems are well underway.
 
He also said that shoulder-fired missiles and low-altitude artillery systems, which can be used by air defense units, are being mass-produced in the country.

Investors Shying Away From Afghan Mines

Investors Shying Away From Afghan Mines


Afghan Mines and Industries Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said Sunday that corruption, insecurity and the lack of qualified personnel was affecting the country's mining industry as investors avoided the sector.
Speaking before the Senate, Shahrani added that he believed foreign spy agencies were an extra hurdle because they were keen on fomenting insecurity in resource-rich areas, such as Hajigak iron ore mine, as well as helping smugglers.
He said Pakistan was making huge amounts of money from valuable stones mined in Afghanistan which were then smuggled out of the country.
"Pakistan benefits $3.5 billion from smuggling Afghanistan's high price stones. Only $10 million of the return on the mines goes to the budget of the Afghan government," Shahrani said.
Despite the corruption claims, Shahrani said he could guarantee the transparency of the Amu Darya Oil project saying that none of the government officials or their relatives have influenced the contract.
The oil in Afghanistan's Amu River zone – on the border dividing Afghanistan from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – is expected to produce more than 12 million barrels of oil by its fifth year of operation, the Afghan Ministry of Mines has said.

Shahrani's comments follow a Reuters report last week claiming that work at Afghanistan's flagship mine Aynak copper mine was suspended after many Chinese workers were sent home indefinitely or left because of instability.

The $3 billion project has stalled with only skeleton staff from the Chinese consortium backing the project present at the site to keep an eye on equipment, Reuters said.

A spokesman for the consortium China Metallurgical Group (MCC) and Jiangxi Copper told Reuters that unspecified "conditions" promised by the Afghan government in their contract had not been met

-bth: this article would confirm reports that Pakistan wants political instability in Afghanistan so that it can secure the smuggling pipeline for precious minerals - funds from which might otherwise be going to locals.  Also that the Chinese copper concession, purchased with lucrative bribes, has gone nowhere.

U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Bombed Twice in Run-Up to 9/11 Anniversary - The Daily Beast

U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Bombed Twice in Run-Up to 9/11 Anniversary - The Daily Beast
In the five months leading up to this year’s 9/11 anniversary, there were two bombings on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and increasing threats to and attacks on the Libyan nationals hired to provide security at the U.S. missions in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Details on these alleged incidents stem in part from the testimony of a handful of whistleblowers who approached the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the days and weeks following the attack on the Benghazi consulate. The incidents are disclosed in a letter to be sent Tuesday to Hillary Clinton from Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the oversight committee’s subcommittee that deals with national security.
The State Department did not offer comment on the record last night. 

The new information disclosed in the letter obtained by The Daily Beast strongly suggests the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the late Ambassador Chris Stevens were known by U.S. security personnel to be targets for terrorists. Indeed, the terrorists made their threats openly on Facebook....

-bth: so prior attacks and warnings were ignored.

Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan could be speeded up, says Rasmussen | World news | The Guardian

Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan could be speeded up, says Rasmussen | World news | The Guardian


...The retreat of western forces from Afghanistan could come sooner than expected, the head of Nato has said as he conceded that the recent Taliban strategy of "green on blue" killings had been successful in sapping morale.

In an interview with the Guardian Nato's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, responded to pressure for a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan by stating that the options were being studied and should be clear within three months.

"From now until the end of 2014 you may see adaptation of our presence. Our troops can redeploy, take on other tasks, or even withdraw, or we can reduce the number of foreign troops," he said. "From now until the end of 2014 we will see announcements of redeployments, withdrawals or drawdown … If the security situation allows, I would not exclude the possibility that in certain areas you could accelerate the process."

Rasmussen admitted that the killings of almost 50 allied troops this year in "green on blue" attacks – Afghan security forces turning on their trainers and mentors – had damaged the relationship between the international forces and the Afghan police and military.

"There's no doubt insider attacks have undermined trust and confidence, absolutely," he said....

-bth: heading for the exists

Monday, October 01, 2012

Officials say MRAPs saved troops, advanced fight against insurgency

Officials say MRAPs saved troops, advanced fight against insurgency


11:45PM EST September 30. 2012 - WASHINGTON --
Data collected from roadside explosions in Afghanistan and Iraq show troops in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks are as much 14 times more likely to survive the blast than those riding in Humvees, the Pentagon's No. 2 official told USA TODAY.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the newspaper that the $47 billion spent on the armored trucks has saved lives, allowed troops to gain the upper hand in fighting insurgents, and will counter the threat from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Asia where they are being shifted.

Carter is scheduled to preside at a ceremony Monday at the Pentagon to honor those responsible for building and fielding the trucks. Vice President Biden, an early supporter of the truck when he was in the Senate, is also expected to attend.

The Pentagon has offered varying statements over the years about the protection offered by the truck, whose trademark V-shaped hull helps deflect the force of roadside bombs away from the troops inside. Former Defense secretary Robert Gates, the MRAP's chief patron who credits learning about their safety from reading about them in USA TODAY, has said they were 10 times as safe as a Humvee in a blast and have saved thousands of lives. Another Pentagon estimate went further, putting the number of lives saved at 40,000. Since then, the military has ratcheted back, adopting Gates' estimate....

Sunday, September 30, 2012

VA: Military absentee ballots going AWOL in 2012 « MVP Project

VA: Military absentee ballots going AWOL in 2012 « MVP Project


FREDERICKSBURG — A 92 percent drop in absentee-ballot requests by military personnel in Virginia is raising concerns that the Pentagon is failing to carry out a federal voting law.

With only 1,746 military voters in Virginia requesting absentee ballots so far this year — out of 126,251 service members in the state —the Military Voter Protection Project says the system has broken down.

And it’s not just in the Old Dominion. MVPP Executive Director Eric Eversole reports significant declines in absentee-ballot requests by service members across the nation.

Compiling data from Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Alaska, Colorado and Nevada, Eversole’s organization found that military families have requested 55,510 absentee ballots so far this year. That’s a sharp decline from the 166,252 sought in those states in 2008....

DARPA's Cheetah Bolts Past the Competition - YouTube

DARPA's Cheetah Bolts Past the Competition - YouTube

Attrition: Blood Simple

Attrition: Blood Simple

...  Over the last nine years the U.S. military has received several generations of clotting bandages (to stop heavy bleeding) and granular substances that have the same effect. This was a major medical advance to come out of the war effort. But, competition being what it is, there have been several clotting products, each operating a little differently.

 
Over 95 percent of the time these clotting devices stop bleeding, especially in areas where a tourniquet could not be applied. While medics, and troops, prefer the bandage type device there are situations where the fine granular substance is a better solution (especially in the hands of a medic).
 
In the first two years of use over 250,000 of these bandages were obtained for military needs. This was to make sure everyone in a combat zone had one at all times. While there are not a lot of casualties in base areas, the occasional rocket or mortar shell is likely to cause the kinds of wounds where these bandages can be a lifesaver. So it was a morale boost if everyone could carry one around (a small first aid kit is a standard part of combat equipment).
 
Following the introduction of the clotting devices, there were more cases of wounded troops getting to a hospital alive but in need of massive transfusions to replace lost blood. This led to the development of new, and much improved, techniques for getting a lot of blood into a patient who needed that done and done as quickly as possible without inducing shock or death from blood loss. The new procedures involved some use of the new clotting agents but were mainly about adjusting the amount of saline solution used along with the blood and tweaking the overall procedure. This was possible because there were so many of these cases encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan to try new techniques on. These were often situations where you had no choice but to try something new. The new techniques have reduced bleeding fatalities by over 75 percent and are one of the reasons why combat deaths are less than a third of what they were in Vietnam and previous wars....