Saturday, November 24, 2012

New wars possible, new borders too - Kurds, Iraq and Turkey - Hurriyet Daily.

MURAT YETKİN - New wars possible, new borders too

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan warned about a sectarian and ethnic-based civil war in Iraq on Nov. 22 and pointed to energy wars as the main motivation behind it. The next day, Iraq’s Shiite-origin Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, sent a strong “Not if you trigger it” reply to Erdoğan, only to be snubbed as “delusional” by the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Almost simultaneously, al-Maliki released a photo showing the deployment of Iraqi troops to Tuzhurmatu in order to face Kurds piling up along the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) borders, despite still being part of Iraq on paper.

It is surely about energy resources. There are still untapped oil and natural gas beds in the KRG territory, for which the energy giants of the world - from Exxon and Chevron of the United States to Total of France and Gazprom of Russia (Turkish companies too) - have sealed deals with the KRG President Massoud Barzani in Arbil. Despite the strong protests of al-Maliki in Baghdad and disapproving lip service from Washington, D.C., they are not taking any steps back. Al-Maliki knows that if Kurds manage to sell their oil and gas via NATO member Turkey without interference from Arabs, Russians and Iranians, that would mean a de-facto change in Iraqi borders and sovereignty, if not de jure....
-bth: If Turkey became involved, would Turkey support the Iraqi Kurds in an independence bid against Maliki or would Turkey attempt to annex the region themselves?

Iran buys Turkish gold with money from gas exports, deputy PM says

ECONOMICS - Iran buys Turkish gold with money from gas exports, deputy PM says

The most important reason behind the significant increase in Turkey’s golden bullion export is Iran, said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan in a parliamentary session late Nov. 23.

Iranians are buying Turkish gold with the Turkish Lira, which is deposited into their bank accounts in exchange for Turkey’s natural gas purchases from the Islamic republic, the deputy prime minister said. U.S. dollars are unable to be transferred into the country due to international restrictions and U.S. sanctions.

“As Iran could not transfer the payment to [its own banks] in foreign exchange, the country buys gold with Turkish lira, and then takes the gold to its country. I do not know how Iran transports the gold, but this is the root of the matter.  The gold export to Iran in reality becomes payment for the natural gas we buy from Iran,” Reuters quoted Babacan as having said.
-bth: I think steel and iron ore is also used as a currency offset to natural gas imports from Iran by Turkey.

SOCOM recalls thousands of SPEAR ballistic armor plates - Military Times by Rob Curtis

SOCOM recalls thousands of SPEAR ballistic armor plates | Military Times GearScout

More than half of the tens of thousands of body armor plates worn by U.S. Special Operations Command troops are being recalled for replacement, Military Times has learned. The recall raises questions about the quality and safety of ballistic protection used by not only the military’s most elite troops, but also conventional forces.

The defective equipment is manufactured by Ceradyne Defense, a company that has supplied the U.S. military for decades and shares similar technology with other armor plates in the Defense Department’s inventory. This technology failure has been the focus of a months long analysis overseen by SOCOM, according to documents reviewed by Military Times. The Army’s Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert plate shares similar components and construction methods.

A SOCOM spokesman acknowledged the problem in an email, saying a manufacturing defect was found “in a small percentage [of] ballistic armor plates issued to Special Operations Forces.” “SOCOM implemented measures to test and if needed withdraw [a]ffected plates from operational inventories,” wrote spokesman Kenneth McGraw. “As a precautionary measure, SOCOM is currently in the process of replacing identified ballistic plates. To date, there has not [been] an impact on Special Operations missions or [any] injuries as a result of defective plates.”

McGraw added that although a significant number of plates are being recalled, “that does not necessarily mean that many plates are defective.” He said the defect has been found in less than 5 percent of the plates tested. He credited Ceradyne with identifying the root cause of the defect and taking action “that should correct” the problem.

 


Dave Reed, president of North American Operations for Ceradyne, would not comment on the recall and referred questions to SOCOM.

Representatives for 3M, which offered to buy Ceradyne, could not be reached at 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minn.

In October, SOCOM issued guidance to all corners of the special operations community explaining the recall and outlining procedures for a test that must be performed each time the gear is worn, a move officials hope will ensure the gear that special operators wear in combat still stops the bullets it is designed to defeat.

Officials who oversee acquisition and upkeep of SOCOM’s personal protective equipment determined the SPEAR Generation III armor plates, as they’re known, “display a latent delamination defect,” according to an unclassified message sent in March to all members of SOCOM. The message was updated in October and obtained by Military Times.

When delamination occurs, the plates’ internal components separate, creating a void that compromises the ability to stop direct hits.

The document notes that specific production lots — Nos. 1 through 24 — have a “higher probability” of being defective, and all are being recalled and taken out of service.
“Lots 25 through 39 are not being replaced and will remain in the field,” the document states.

For plates from those lots, troops must perform a “tap test” before taking armor on any mission, according to the document distributed by SOCOM’s operations directorate. To perform the test, troops tap the back of the plates with a metallic cylinder and listen for a “ting” or a “thud.” A ting means the plate is intact. A thud means it’s compromised.

Any plates in lots 25 through 39 that fail the tap test must be removed from service.

Even as Ceradyne and SOCOM officials are working to identify and replace defective plates, an $860 million acquisition offer by 3M is pending a Nov. 27 vote by Ceradyne investors.

Ceradyne Inc. describes itself as a developer and manufacturer of ceramic components and systems for a wide range of uses. Defense products account for about 40 percent of its business.

According to documents posted on ­Ceradyne’s website and since removed, the defect seen in SPEAR Gen III plates is similar to problems previously identified in other plates built by Ceradyne for use by SOCOM. Ceradyne identified delamination between the boron carbide ceramic and stainless steel metal on the company’s swimmer’s plate as the cause of the lot test failure.

The defect was uncovered during a government quality assurance lot test of swimmer’s plates. Officially called Tactical Stand Alone Gen III armor plates, they were part of the same $406 million contract SOCOM issued to Ceradyne Defense in January 2008.

The swimmer’s plates were recalled in 2011 after limited fielding. Testing showed internal components of the plates failed, rendering them ineffective. These results alerted government officials to a possible problem with the SPEAR Gen III plates, as they incorporate the same technology and are manufactured by the same company.
Documents filed in late September with the Securities and Exchange Commission outline the trouble between Ceradyne Defense and SOCOM. Among other things, they detail several stop-work notices and point to a mixed reaction to Ceradyne’s plan to fix defective plates and the manufacturing process. SOCOM refused to buy any more swimmer’s plates, Ceradyne reported, but it allowed for future purchases of SPEAR Gen III plates.

In January, after the SPEAR Gen III plates were widely fielded, tap testing revealed plates that previously passed quality assurance tests during the manufacturing process were later failing without explanation. This time-dependent tap test failure prompted SOCOM’s recall.

Since the recall, SOCOM has agreed to allow Ceradyne Defense to resume production of the SPEAR Gen III plates remaining on its contract — about $17 million worth of equipment, according to a SOCOM source — using a revised manufacturing method the company says may reduce failure rate. These plates will be marked “Gen IIIA” and could be used to replace recalled plates from earlier lots.

But that may be a stopgap measure. In September, SOCOM awarded a contract for replacement plates using an “unusual and compelling urgency” contracting vehicle reserved for circumstances in which the government has few alternatives for force protection products. The contract was awarded to Leading Technology Composites, not Ceradyne Defense.

 

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bth:

I thought I would call your attention to this article.

Of particular note the defects go back to 2008 and were detected over a year ago.

The recall occurred this October after a merger was announced with 3M that will occur next Tuesday. So some thousands of people went yet again into combat with defective body armor.

So why the public announcement now and recall last month when soldiers had been known by the company and the military leadership to walk around with defective armor all this time?

Well its about financial fraud and the SEC involvement.  If the disclosure had not happened, then 3M would claim they were defrauded.  One will likely note that the financials will soon be revised at Ceradyne to show an adjustment to inventory and to warranty charges and expenses.  Also likely the deal will  be stalled or revamped.

A very similar situation played itself out in 2004-6 when DHB made a quarter of a million defective body armor plates, it was caught by the marines (army covered it up) and later recalled in full at the expense of some billions.  Unfortunately the defects were in the field for several years before being corrected and the financial adjustments and public disclosure and recall only occurred when the financial lawyers started getting involved.  I think the story was leaked by the Military Times from a marine colonel.

So my point is that these defects were allowed to continue to be in the field.  The recall was triggered by financial disclosure under SEC scrutiny and not the safety of the equipment wearers.

Let’s see what happens on Tuesday the 27th.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Weapons of Victory: Mosin 3-line rifle! Episode 3. (English subtitles)

Pakistani Taliban threaten to avenge Kasab’s execution

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Pakistani Taliban threaten to avenge Kasab’s execution

* Spokesman says they will capture Indians, strike targets ‘anywhere’ if body not returned to Pakistan

NEW DELHI: The Pakistani Taliban vowed on Thursday to avenge the execution of Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Kasab was hanged in western India on Wednesday after being convicted of “waging war on India” for his role in the three-day assault on India’s commercial capital in which 166 people were killed.

The Pakistani Taliban said they wanted Kasab’s body returned to Pakistan otherwise they would unleash reprisals, spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location. “We will take revenge of Kasab’s martyrdom,” Ehsan said. “We strongly demand that his body be returned to Pakistan. If the body is not handed over (to the family) our reaction will be more severe.” “If they don’t return his body to us or his family we will capture Indians and will not return their bodies,” he said, adding the Taliban will try to strike Indian targets “anywhere”....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Taliban in Pakistan

TrackingPoint Demonstration

Iraqi-Kurd tensions soar after firefight -WaPo

Iraqi-Kurd tensions soar after firefight - The Washington Post

TUZ KHURMATU, Iraq — A shootout over an unpaid gasoline bill in this small but hotly contested town has sent tensions soaring between the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the northern region of Kurdistan, threatening to ignite the Arab-Kurdish conflict that many have long feared.

On Tuesday, the Iraqi army rushed thousands of troops and reinforcements to the area after the Kurdish regional government placed its pesh merga forces on high alert along the arc of disputed territory that spans the borders of the semiautonomous Kurdish enclave.

Col. Dhia al-Wakil, a spokesman for the Iraqi army, said the additional troops were dispatched “only as a precautionary measure, to face any possible attack from the pesh merga.”

But Kurds said they suspect that the reinforcements, which include tanks and heavy artillery, signal an intent to attack their forces. “If the central government keeps sending these extra troops, we fear there may be clashes,” said Jabar Yawar, the pesh merga’s secretary general. “If one bullet is fired, the whole of the disputed areas will erupt in flames."...

 

-bth: people really need to be paying attention to this situation.  The prospect of a civil war in Iraq remains.

 

 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fighting the Afghan Taliban in their birthplace

ETOP - Electric Tethered Observation Platform

Opium cultivation rises in Afghanistan, prices remain high - Khaama.com

Opium cultivation rises in Afghanistan, prices remain high - Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan Online Newspaper

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan covered 154,000 hectares (ha) in 2012, 18 per cent higher than the 131,000 recorded the previous year, according to the 2012 Afghanistan Opium Survey released today by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). However, since plant diseases and bad weather had damaged crops, potential opium production fell 36 per cent over the same period from 5,800 to 3,700 tons.

Cultivation increased despite a significant 154 per cent increase in Government eradication efforts (over 9,600 ha eradicated in 2012 compared with just over 3,800 in 2011). The number of poppy‐free provinces remains unchanged at 17 but Ghor province in the west lost that status in 2012 while Faryab province in the north regained it.

“High opium prices were a main factor that led to the increase in opium cultivation”, said the Executive Director of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, calling for “a sustained effort by the Afghan government and international stakeholders to address illicit cultivation with a balanced approach of development and law enforcement measures”.

This year saw 95 per cent of cultivation concentrated in the southern and western provinces where insecurity and organized crime are present: 72 per cent in Hilmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Day Kundi and Zabul provinces in the south, and 23 per cent in Farah, Hirat, and Nimroz provinces to the west. This confirms the link between insecurity and opium cultivation observed since 2007, says the Survey.

Cultivation rose 19 per cent in Hilmand, which, with over 75,100 hectares, accounted for around half the cultivation taking place in Afghanistan. However, within the Hilmand Food Zone where 42,000 farmers had received agricultural assistance during the poppy planting season, relatively less poppy crop was grown. “Improved living conditions, including greater security and rule of law, should be encouraged in Hilmand and nationwide if we are to help poor farming communities to support themselves”, said Mr. Fedotov.

Looking at the eastern region, cultivation rose significantly in Kunar (121 per cent), Kapisa (60 per cent) and Laghman (41 per cent). However, the eastern provinces contributed only 4 per cent to the national total of opium production in 2012. In the north, opium cultivation increased by 10 per cent in Baghlan despite the eradication of 252 hectares in 2012. Badakhshan was the only north‐eastern province to see cultivation rise (13 per cent) in spite of a sizeable 1,700 ha eradicated. In Kabul, the central region’s only poppy‐growing province, cultivation decreased by 45 per cent.

In 2012, farm‐gate prices for opium remained at a relatively high level at $196 per kg, which continues to provide a strong incentive for farmers to start or resume poppy cultivation in the coming season. As a consequence of low opium yields, the average gross income for opium per hectare was slashed by 57 per cent to $ 4,600 in 2012 from $10,700 the year before. The total farm‐gate value of opium was accordingly halved to $0.7 billion and the share of the farm‐gate value fell from 7 per cent of GDP in 2011 to 4 per cent in 2012.

Use of dogs in detecting mines in Afghanistan

Mine detecting dogs to take on Afghanistan's enemy | NDTV.com

..."Using dogs in Afghanistan, which is one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world, is a very efficient way to detect mines," MDC's training manager Abdul Jabar Baser told AFP.

"Dogs can find mines faster than humans. Dogs can also find explosives around 13 centimetres (five inches) deep in soil. They can find plastic land mines that cannot be discovered by metal detectors."

The centre has around 200 dogs, some of them operational, some under training. Breeding also takes place at the centre....

... According to a recent UN report, in the first six months of 2012, 1,145 Afghan civilians were killed and around 2,000 were wounded, mostly by roadside bombs.

Women and children accounted for about 30 percent of this year's casualties.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) says around 1,800 IED attacks were executed between July and September alone.

"The mines and IEDs still hit between 20 and 30 people daily in different parts of the country," MDC's operations manager Shah Wali Ayubi said....