Daily Archives: November 2, 2011

UK military steps up plans for Iran attack amid fresh nuclear fears

UK military steps up plans for Iran attack amid fresh nuclear fears | World news | The Guardian

Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran’s nuclear enrichment programme, the Guardian has learned. The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government. In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign. They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East. The Guardian has spoken to a number of Whitehall and defence officials over recent weeks who said Iran was once again becoming the focus of diplomatic concern after the revolution in Libya. They made clear that Barack Obama, has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s presidential election. But they warned the calculations could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking. Hawks in the US are likely to seize on next week’s report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is expected to provide fresh evidence of a possible nuclear weapons programme in Iran. The Guardian has been told that the IAEA’s bulletin could be “a game changer” which will provide unprecedented details of the research and experiments being undertaken by the regime. One senior Whitehall official said Iran had proved “surprisingly resilient” in the face of sanctions, and sophisticated attempts by the west to cripple its nuclear enrichment programme had been less successful than first thought. He said Iran appeared to be “newly aggressive, and we are not quite sure why”, citing three recent assassination plots on foreign soil that the intelligence agencies say were coordinated by elements in Tehran. In addition to that, officials now believe Iran has restored all the capability it lost in a sophisticated cyber-attack last year.The Stuxnet computer worm, thought to have been engineered by the Americans and Israelis, sabotaged many of the centrifuges the Iranians were using to enrich uranium. Up to half of Iran’s centrifuges were disabled by Stuxnet or were thought too unreliable to work, but diplomats believe this capability has now been recovered, and the IAEA believes it may even be increasing. Ministers have also been told that the Iranians have been moving some more efficient centrifuges into the heavily-fortified military base dug beneath a mountain near the city of Qom. The concern is that the centrifuges, which can be used to enrich uranium for use in weapons, are now so well protected within the site that missile strikes may not be able to reach them. The senior Whitehall source said the Iranians appeared to be shielding “material and capability” inside the base. Another Whitehall official, with knowledge of Britain’s military planning, said that within the next 12 months Iran may have hidden all the material it needs to continue a covert weapons programme inside fortified bunkers. He said this had necessitated the UK’s planning being taken to a new level. “Beyond [12 months], we couldn’t be sure our missiles could reach them,” the source said. “So the window is closing, and the UK needs to do some sensible forward planning. The US could do this on their own but they won’t. “So we need to anticipate being asked to contribute. We had thought this would wait until after the US election next year, but now we are not so sure. “President Obama has a big decision to make in the coming months because he won’t want to do anything just before an election.” Another source added there was “no acceleration towards military action by the US, but that could change”. Next spring could be a key decision-making period, the source said. The MoD has a specific team considering the military options against Iran. The Guardian has been told that planners expect any campaign to be predominantly waged from the air, with some naval involvement, using missiles such as the Tomahawks, which have a range of 800 miles (1,287 km). There are no plans for a ground invasion, but “a small number of special forces” may be needed on the ground, too. The RAF could also provide air-to-air refuelling and some surveillance capability, should they be required. British officials say any assistance would be cosmetic: the US could act on its own but would prefer not to. An MoD spokesman said: “The British government believes that a dual track strategy of pressure and engagement is the best approach to address the threat from Iran’s nuclear programme and avoid regional conflict. We want a negotiated solution – but all options should be kept on the table.” The MoD says there are no hard and fast blueprints for conflict but insiders concede that preparations there and at the Foreign Office have been under way for some time. One official said: “I think that it is fair to say that the MoD is constantly making plans for all manner of international situations. Some areas are of more concern than others. “It is not beyond the realms of possibility that people at the MoD are thinking about what we might do should something happen on Iran. It is quite likely that there will be people in the building who have thought about what we would do if commanders came to us and asked us if we could support the US. The context for that is straightforward contingency planning.” Washington has been warned by Israel against leaving any military action until it is too late. Western intelligence agencies say Israel will demand that the US act if it believes its own military cannot launch successful attacks to stall Iran’s nuclear programme. A source said the “Israelis want to believe that they can take this stuff out”, and will continue to agitate for military action if Iran continues to play hide and seek. It is estimated that Iran, which has consistently said it is interested only in developing a civilian nuclear energy programme, already has enough enriched uranium for between two and four nuclear weapons. Experts believe it could be another two years before Tehran has a ballistic missile delivery system. British officials admit to being perplexed by what they regard as Iran’s new aggressiveness, saying that they have been shown convincing evidence that Iran was behind the murder of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi in May, as well as the audacious plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, which was uncovered last month. “There is a clear dotted line from Tehran to the plot in Washington,” said one. Earlier this year, the IAEA reported that it had evidence Tehran had conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that could only be used for setting off a nuclear device. It also said it was “increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organisations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” Last year, the UN security council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran to try to deter Tehran from pursuing any nuclear ambitions. At the weekend, the New York Times reported that the US was looking to build up its military presence in the region, with one eye on Iran. According to the paper, the US is considering sending more naval warships to the area, and is seeking to expand military ties with the six countries in the Gulf Co-operation Council: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

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Greek referendum shakes up G20 agenda

Greek referendum shakes up G20 agenda — RT

In Cannes Greek PM George Papandreou has been summoned by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the global summit for emergency talks over the proposed bailout referendum in Greece. The eurozone’s two most powerful politicians, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, are expected to warn Papandreou to keep to the bailout plan squeezed through in late October. The referendum in Greece over the €130-billion bailout program to relieve country’s finances, sparked concern across the eurozone that banks will not restructure the Greek debt until the vote results emerge. This has sent the eurozone into weeks of financial uncertainty with markets deflating. Sarkozy and Merkel are expected to insist on an earlier referendum, with France suggesting its preferred date as early as mid-December. While President Sarkozy said the referendum announcement “took the whole of Europe by surprise,” the Greek Cabinet’s approval of referendum plans provoked harsh rhetoric within the EU. “The referendum raises a fundamental question – do you or do you not want to remain in the eurozone, because if you do not accept the accord, then that means not staying in the eurozone,” said Jean Leonetti, France’s European affairs minister, as quoted by Reuters. Opinion polls suggest that while the Greeks are greatly dissatisfied with the “Trojan Horse” of the bailout, euro membership still appeals to many – and this is the card George Papandreou could play in the public debates which will precede the referendum.

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Canadian and Irish ships set to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza

Canadian and Irish ships set to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza | Canadian Boat to Gaza

 Canadian and Irish ships set to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza For Immediate Release 2 November 2011 Canadian and Irish ships set to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse have successfully reached international waters, marking the start of the Freedom Waves to Gaza campaign. The boats are currently in the Mediterranean Sea, preparing to sail for Gaza within a matter of hours. “Flowing out of the Freedom Flotillas, the Freedom Waves to Gaza are now underway,” says Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer Ehab Lotayef from on board the Tahrir. Also on board in this citizen-to-citizen initiative are delegates from Australia, the US, and Palestine. “We are now in international waters and hope to reach the shores of Gaza in a matter of days. Among the significant obstacles in our way are Israel’s military and the complicity of the Harper government, but we have the wind of public opinion at our back and in our sails, which strengthens our resolve and determination to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants.” “The fact that we have reached international waters is another victory for the movement,” says Canadian Boat to Gaza organizer David Heap from on board the Tahrir. “Despite economic blackmail, despite the outsourcing of the blockade to Greece, despite being forcibly boarded by the Greek Coast Guard, and despite Israel mobilizing a significant portion of its navy to stop us, we are now even closer to reaching Gaza, breaking the blockade, and occupying the occupation.” “The Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity not charity, and have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Gazans are still prisoners with no freedom of movement,” adds Lotayef. “Israel’s illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights.” The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Bios of delegates are available here. There will also be various media outlets reporting on developments aboard the Tahrir, including Al Jazeera and Democracy Now. Restrictions at the eleventh hour by the port authorities have meant that only one third of the assembled delegates and media have been allowed to embark. Despite this latest challenge, the Tahrir and Saoirse will soon be at full speed ahead toward Gaza. “While the Tahrir will be delivering much-needed medicines, our primary aim remains to help free Palestinians from the open-air prison known as Gaza,” says Heap. “There’s a song from the civil rights movement with the chorus of “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” And we will keep challenging the illegal blockade until Gaza and the rest of Palestine is free

.” -30- For more information or to arrange an interview with a delegate on board the Tahrir:

English inquiries: Dylan Penner, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 613-859-6996

French inquiries: Denis Kosseim, Canadian Boat to Gaza, 514-923-5594 NOTE:

Interviews with Tahrir delegates are possible in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

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Iran military head warns of ‘heavy damage’ should Israel attack

Iran military head warns of ‘heavy damage’ should Israel attack « The Ugly Truth

Iran’s military chief warned Wednesday that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear development sites will come at a heavy price, according to the Iranian ISNA news agency.

 Haaretz

Responding to reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to gain a majority in the cabinet for an attack on Iran, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Hassan Firouzabadi, warned both Israel and the U.S. against such a move.

“The U.S. officials know that the Zionist regime’s military attack against Iran will inflict heavy damages to the U.S. seriously as well as the Zionist regime,” ISNA quoted Firouzabadi.

Haaretz reported Wednesday that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been trying to push for an Israeli attack on Iran in the cabinet. They recently persuaded Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who previously objected to attacking Iran, to support such a move.

Senior ministers and diplomats said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report, due to be released on November 8, will have a decisive effect on the decisions Israel makes.

The commotion regarding Iran was sparked by journalist Nahum Barnea’s column in Yedioth Ahronoth last Friday. Barnea’s concerned tone and his editors’ decision to run the column under the main headline (“Atomic Pressure” ) repositioned the debate on Iran from closed rooms to the media’s front pages.

Reporters could suddenly ask the prime minister and defense minister whether they intend to attack Iran in the near future and the political scene went haywire.

Western intelligence officials agree that Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear program. Intelligence services now say it will take Iran two or three years to get the bomb once it decides to (it hasn’t made the decision yet ).

According to Western experts’ analyses, an attack on Iran in winter is almost impossible, because the thick clouds would obstruct the Israel Air Force’s performance.


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Netanyahu trying to persuade cabinet to support attack on Iran

Netanyahu trying to persuade cabinet to support attack on Iran « The Ugly Truth

Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran, a senior Israeli official has said. According to the official, there is a “small advantage” in the cabinet for the opponents of such an attack.

Netanyahu and Barak recently persuaded Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who previously objected to attacking Iran, to support such a move.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking during the weekly cabinet meeting in the northern town of Safed October 30, 2011.

Although more than a million Israelis have had to seek shelter during a week of rockets raining down on the south, political leaders have diverted their attention to arguing over a possible war with Iran. Leading ministers were publicly dropping hints on Tuesday that Israeli could attack Iran, although a member of the forum of eight senior ministers said no such decision had been taken.

Senior ministers and diplomats said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report, due to be released on November 8, will have a decisive effect on the decisions Israel makes.

The commotion regarding Iran was sparked by journalist Nahum Barnea’s column in Yedioth Ahronoth last Friday. Barnea’s concerned tone and his editors’ decision to run the column under the main headline (“Atomic Pressure” ) repositioned the debate on Iran from closed rooms to the media’s front pages.

Reporters could suddenly ask the prime minister and defense minister whether they intend to attack Iran in the near future and the political scene went haywire.

Western intelligence officials agree that Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear program. Intelligence services now say it will take Iran two or three years to get the bomb once it decides to (it hasn’t made the decision yet ).

According to Western experts’ analyses, an attack on Iran in winter is almost impossible, because the thick clouds would obstruct the Israel Air Force’s performance.

Netanyahu did not rule out the possibility of the need for a military action on Iran this week. During his Knesset address on Monday, Netanyahu warned of Iran’s increased power and influence. “One of those regional powers is Iran, which is continuing its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would constitute a grave threat to the Middle East and the entire world, and of course it is a direct and grave threat on us,” he said.

Barak said Israel should not be intimidated but did not rule out the possibility that Israel would launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “I object to intimidation and saying Israel could be destroyed by Iran,” he said.

“We’re not hiding our thoughts. However there are issues we don’t discuss in public … We have to act in every way possible and no options should be taken off the table … I believe diplomatic pressure and sanctions must be brought to bear against Iran,” he said.

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said he preferred an American military attack on Iran to an Israeli one. “A military move is the last resort,” he said.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has not made his mind up yet on the issue. In a speech to Shas activists in the north on Monday Yishai said “this is a complicated time and it’s better not to talk about how complicated it is. This possible action is keeping me awake at night. Imagine we’re [attacked] from the north, south and center. They have short-range and long-range missiles – we believe they have about 100,000 rockets and missiles.”

Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor said he supports an American move against Iran. In an interview to the Walla! website some two weeks ago Meridor said “It’s clear to all that a nuclear Iran is a grave danger and the whole world, led by the United States, must make constant efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The Iranians already have more than four tons of 3-4 percent enriched uranium and 70 kgs. of 20 percent enriched uranium. It’s clear to us they are continuing to make missiles. Iran’s nuclearization is not only a threat to Israel but to several other Western states, and the international interest must unite here.”

Former Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said he feared a “horror scenario” in which Netanyahu and Barak decide to attack Iran. He warned of a “rash act” and said he hoped “common sense will prevail.”

On Tuesday, Barak said at the Knesset’s Finance Committee that the state budget must be increased by NIS 7-8 a year for five years to fulfill Israel’s security needs and answer the social protest. “The situation requires expanding the budget to enable us to act in a responsible way regarding the defense budget considering the challenges, as well as fulfill some of the demands coming from the Trajtenberg committee,” he said.


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Israeli Army Raid Jenin, Tanks Enter Gaza, 12 Arrested

PNN – Palestine News Network – Israeli Army Raid Jenin, Tanks Enter Gaza, 12 Arrested 

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Israeli Army Raid Jenin, Tanks Enter Gaza, 12 Arrested 02.11.11 – 20:08 PNN On Wednesday, the Israeli army raided the northern West Bank city of Jenin and the nearby Jenin refugee camp for the second consecutive day.  (PNN Archive)     Local sources reported heavy use of sound bombs when Israeli military vehicles entered the grounds of al-Shahid Khalil Sulaiman Hospital in Jenin as well as Haifa Street in Jenin camp. No arrests were made. In the central Gaza Strip, armored Israeli bulldozers and tanks penetrated to the border lands to the east of Deir al-Balah. Local sources reporting to the Palestinian official news wire Wafa said there were four bulldozers, two tanks, and “heavy gunfire” in the direction of the Wadi al-Salqa neighborhood.  According to the Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper, 12 citizens were arrested from the West Bank on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing the total number of arrests made after the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange to 100.

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