Home > News > News in Brief: 2 October 2007

News in Brief: 2 October 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

US plan for air strikes on Iran ‘backed by Brown’. A plan by the Bush administration to launch surgical strikes on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has won the support of Gordon Brown, according to a US report, although a presidential “execute order” required for such an operation has yet to be issued. The report in The New Yorker magazine by the journalist Seymour Hersh states that the White House has concluded that many of its problems in Iraq are the responsibility of Tehran. But rather than conduct an unpopular all-out assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the US is planning limited air strikes, arguing that they are needed to defend soldiers in Iraq. The article stated that, “The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from … Gordon Brown”, but this was denied yesterday by some with close ties to the US military. (The Independent)

Russians employed at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor suddenly depart in a body, according to local Arab sources. The Khorramshar News Agency, which is published by the ethnic Arab underground of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan, reported early Oct. 1 that the entire staff of Russian nuclear engineers and experts employed in building the nuclear reactor at Bushehr had abruptly packed their bags Friday, Sept. 28, and flew back to Russia. The agency’s one-liner offers no source or explanation. DEBKAfile have obtained no corroboration of its report from any other source. If true, DEBKAfile can offer three hypothetical scenarios to account for the Russians’ precipitate departure: 1. Another crisis has cropped up in the patchy Russian-Iranian dealings over the Bushehr reactor. This is unlikely because Russian president Vladimar Putin is due for a high-profile visit to Tehran on Oct. 16, when he plans to sign a series of nuclear accords with the Islamic Republic. 2. Moscow or Tehran has been tipped off that a US or Israeli attack is imminent on the Bushehr plant and Iran’s other nuclear installations and acted to whip Russian personnel out of harm’s way. 3. Moscow has learned that an Iranian pre-emptive attack is imminent against American targets in Iraq and the Persian Gulf and/or Israel. (DEBKAfile)

Political factions denounce U.S. Congress proposal to divide Iraq. Iraqi politicians from across the country’s political spectrum have strongly denounced a proposal by the U.S. Congress to divide the country along its sectarian and ethnic lines. Besides Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who has called the suggestion a “recipe for disaster” almost all political factions in central and southern Iraq have harshly criticized the proposal. The non-binding resolution, passed by the Senate on Wednesday, has sparked anger at the United States which has nearly 160,000 troops in Iraq. The Shiite Fadhila party said the Senate had no right to issue such legislation. “It is a flagrant interference in Iraqi domestic affairs. Issues like these are to be decided by Iraqi legislators and not U.S. Congressmen,” said Basem al-Sharif. (Azzaman)

U.N.: Violence in Afghanistan up almost 25 percent in ’07. Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, according to an internal United Nations report that sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. (McClatchy)

UN envoy meets with junta and opposition in Myanmar. A United Nations envoy to Myanmar met Tuesday with both the leader of the military junta and the leader of the democratic opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, completing a four-day trip that followed the brutal suppression of mass popular demonstrations. (International Herald Tribune)

Report Details Killings by Blackwater Staff in Iraq. Blackwater security contractors in Iraq have been involved in at least 195 “escalation of force” incidents since early 2005, including several previously unreported killings of Iraqi civilians, according to a new congressional account of State Department and company documents. In one of the killings, according to a State Department document, Blackwater personnel tried to cover up what had occurred and provided a false report. In another case, involving a Blackwater convoy’s collision with 18 civilian vehicles, the firm accused its own personnel of lying about the event. (Washington Post)

US ‘biggest global arms dealer’. The US has reaffirmed its domination of global weapons trading, cornering nearly 42 per cent of the arms market, according to a US congressional report. The US concluded $16.9bn worth of arms deals last year, a $3.4bn increase over 2005, the Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations report said. Pakistan, a key US ally, was the developing nation which purchased the most arms with $5.1bn worth of deals. But despite the fears of a new global arms race, the size of the market actually shrunk from $46.3bn in 2005 to $40.3bn last year. However, the report does not take into account for the huge number of illegal weapons transfers, worth an estimated $10bn. The report was released just days after 139 countries at the UN voted to develop a global Arms Trade Treaty. The US was the only country to vote against the treaty that would seek to prevent international arms transfers that fuel conflict, poverty and serious human-rights violations. (Al Jazeera)

U.S. Senate Passes Defense Authorization Bill. The U.S. Senate passed a mammoth $648 billion defense policy bill Oct. 1, shorn of attempts by disappointed anti-war Democrats to dictate President George W. Bush’s Iraq strategy. The bill included around $128 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate. (Defense News/AFP)

Israel admits to Syria air strike. Israel has confirmed that it carried out a strike on a Syrian military installation last month.It is still not known why Israel carried out the strike or what exactly was hit. In the early hours of 6 September a number of Israeli jets appeared to enter Syrian airspace from the Mediterranean Sea. Later, unidentified drop tanks, which may have contained fuel from the planes, were found on Turkish soil near the Syrian border, indicating a possible exit route. (BBC)

Pakistani Legislators Quitting. Opposition legislators resigned on Tuesday to undercut President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s re-election bid, but the Pakistani leader pushed ahead with plans for an expected victory — naming a trusted ally to head the military in his place. Musharraf has enraged opponents by simultaneously serving as head of the army and president, and has promised to doff his uniform if he wins Saturday’s vote by national and provincial lawmakers. (New York Times)

Corruption charges against Bhutto dropped. Corruption charges against the former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto have been dropped in a controversial move that will boost her chances of forming an alliance with the president. (Guardian)

Korean leaders meet for Pyongyang summit. The leaders of North and South Korea today shook hands in Pyongyang at the start of the second ever summit between the two countries, which are still technically at war. (Guardian)

South Africa: High Stakes Battle Between Mining and Environment. Environmentalists and tour operators appear to be losing the battle against mining companies in Mpumalanga, a province in the east of South Africa. This confrontation — which also pits two ministries against each other — will determine the future of hundreds of lakes and rivers, and has implications for the economic sustainability of the province. (IPS)

Mexican bombings recall ‘dirty war’ of decades ago. No two periods in history are identical, and Mexico has come a long way economically and politically since the days of unchallenged one-party rule and widespread police brutality. But 39 years after the Oct. 2 massacre at Tlatelolco Square, when government troops opened fire on unarmed demonstrators during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Mexico is awash in the echoes of past conflict. (McClatchy)

Ecuador: Correa Wins Majority in Constituent Assembly. The landslide victory for Ecuador’s governing Movimiento Alianza País in the election for a constituent assembly to rewrite the Ecuadorean constitution has cleared the way for the foundations to be laid for a “solidarity economy.” Acosta, a close economic adviser to Correa, told IPS that “We believe the economy should be based on human beings,” and that capital, investment, the profit motive and the workings of the state should be subordinate to human beings. (IPS)

Moscow measure the new Western unity on Iran. International issues have been overshadowed during the last three weeks as the Russian governmental crisis triggered an avalanche of speculation that has swept aside two stale presidential hopefuls – First Deputy Prime Ministers Dmitry Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov – and swirled around the new prime minister, Viktor Zubkov, who tries his best not to show surprise about own rising star. Questions about the “presidential potential” of this rather uncharismatic bureaucrat are certain to find a variety of answers in the coming weeks, but it is quite unusual that the escalating diplomatic intrigue regarding Iran, in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been a key player, has received so little attention. Sufficient coverage was given to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fiery speeches at the UN and Columbia University, but the new content of Russia’s position in the changed international settings remains obscure. (Eurasia Daily)

Putin says he’ll lead party in next election. President Vladimir Putin announced Monday that he would be the leading candidate on the ticket of Russia’s dominant political party in parliamentary elections in December, and said he might become the country’s prime minister next year. Putin’s statements strongly suggested what most analysts had already assumed: that he planned to maintain a hold on much of the power he had accrued during his eight years in the Kremlin, a period during which Russia’s economy and international influence have expanded and living conditions improved for many Russians. (International Herald Tribune)

Basra may be handed over in 2 months: Brown. Iraq’s southern province of Basra could be handed over by British forces to Iraqi control within two months, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Tuesday. (Khaleej Times/AFP)

Buyukanit: Independent Kurdish state is security risk. Turkey’s military chief said Monday that the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq would constitute a political and security risk for Turkey. Buyukanit also vowed Monday that the military would press ahead with its campaign against the separatist the PKK. He complained the group was receiving foreign support, but did not name the countries allegedly backing the PKK. (The New Anatolian)

Zimbabwe to introduce new currency. Zimbabwe is to introduce a new currency by the end of the year in an attempt to control the country’s extreme rate of inflation, the governor of the country’s central bank has said.Zimbabwe’s world-record inflation rate of 6,592 per cent has led to shortages of commodities and mass unemployment. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president, has prioritised reducing inflation, with the government imposing a price freeze three months ago to try to control spiraling prices. But the move has prompted businesses to stop stocking bread, milk and other basic consumer items. (Al Jazeera)

Burundi: Nkurunziza Strikes Deal to End Political Stalemate. After many weeks of a political deadlock that saw the Burundian parliament fail to pass any laws, President Pierre Nkurunziza has announced a deal with opposition parties to end the stalemate, a move welcomed by political analysts and observers as positive for the country’s peace process. For about a month, [the opposition] FRODEBU and UPRONA had stopped participating in parliamentary debate, resulting in delays in bills being passed and other parliamentary procedures. They were protesting at not getting the portfolios they are constitutionally entitled to according to their performance in the 2005 general election. Nkurunziza’s Conseil national de défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) won the elections. (allAfrica)

The Arctic’s alarming sea change. The Arctic ice cap shrank so much this summer that waves briefly lapped along two long-imagined Arctic shipping routes, the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia. (International Herald Tribune)

Israel vexed over Egypt letting 80 Hamas men into Gaza Strip. Israel on Monday issued a message to Egypt over its decision to allow at least 80 Hamas militants to cross into Gaza last Sunday, saying that some of the Islamic group members have recently undergone extensive military training in Iran and Syria, security sources said. An Israeli spokesman said that Egypt appeared to want to play down its level of coordination with Hamas, and Israel was told that those who crossed on Sunday had broken through the border fence. Those crossing into the Gaza Strip included senior members of the organization’s political leadership, Palestinian sources told Haaretz on Monday. However, the independent Palestinian news agency Maan reported Monday that Egypt had agreed to the crossing of the Hamas members following a deal that had been struck between Egyptian intelligence and the group. According to the report, an Al-Qaida militant who had fled to the Gaza Strip from Asyut, a city in southern Egypt, had been handed over to Egyptian authorities by Hamas. (Haaretz)

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