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Israel ready to attack Iran

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Note: Here we go again. If Israel does strike (and they are probably more justified than any other nation), then this will have the potential to set off world wide strife, to include China, Russia and Venezuela.

Original Article found here:

Israel's prime minister sets off this week on a U.S. visit clouded by a deepening rift with Washington, which is pressing Israel to hold off on any attack against Iran's suspect nuclear program.

Although Israel says it hasn't decided whether to strike, it has signaled readiness to do so -- a move that would have deep worldwide implications.

Senior Israeli officials say Israel would have to act by summer in order to be effective. U.S. officials, wary that an Israeli strike could drive up oil prices and entangle the U.S. in a new Mideast military confrontation during the presidential election season, want to give diplomacy and sanctions more time to work.

These differences have created tension ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu's arrival at the White House next Monday. Aides to the Israeli leader would not say what he plans to tell President Obama.

"The meeting will be a good opportunity to clarify both sides' stands on ... how to act against the Iranian nuclear threat, which both sides agree is grave," Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio.

Israel's Haaretz and Israel Hayom newspapers reported Wednesday that Netanyahu wants Obama to deliver an explicit military threat to Iran in a joint statement to be issued after the meeting.

Differing assessments of urgency underlie the disagreements on Iran.

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be a threat to the existence of the Jewish state. It cites Iranian leaders' repeated calls for Israel's destruction, support for anti-Israel militant groups and its arsenal of ballistic missiles that are already capable of striking Israel. It also fears a nuclear Iran would touch off an atomic weapons race in a region hostile to Israel's existence.

Israel itself is thought to have a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons, though it does not admit that as a matter of policy.

Israel takes little comfort in the U.S. assessment, reiterated Tuesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that Tehran has not decided whether to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies it is making nuclear weapons.

Israeli officials note that the U.N. nuclear agency said recently that Tehran is rapidly moving ahead with a key elements associated with bomb making, and Iran is moving its nuclear operations deeper underground. They believe these developments are strong signs of Iranian intentions.

Experts say work on a bomb could begin within a year, if not earlier, but Israeli officials who favor a strike do not want Iran to reach that point. Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently fueled speculation about an Israeli strike by warning the window of opportunity was closing.

Israeli officials have told the U.S. it will not give any warning of an impending attack -- a development confirmed by a U.S. intelligence official this week.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress this week he has not counseled Israel against attacking Iran. Instead, he said, "we've had a conversation with them about time" and added he would "absolutely not" take military force against Iran off the table.

Dempsey, U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon and director of national intelligence James Clapper have all been sent by Obama recently to pressure Israel to hold off.

The U.S. and Europe have approved tough sanctions on Iran's central bank and its key oil sector that are to go into effect this summer. They believe these measures must be given time to work.

Israel has welcomed the sanctions, but it is skeptical they will persuade Iran to back down. Israeli officials believe that by the time the toughest sanctions go into effect this summer, it may be too late to strike.

U.S. officials and others think an Israeli attack could set back the Iranian program a few years at most.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has expressed reservations about the effectiveness of an attack on Iran's heavily fortified nuclear facilities and Dempsey has publicly questioned whether it would be worth risking the cascade of consequences liable to follow.

The Iranian nuclear threat is a world problem and not Israel's alone, said Danny Yatom, a former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency. Even a temporary setback to the nuclear program would be useful, Yatom said, because it would buy the world time to try to knock it out entirely.

Iran has warned it would pummel Israel with missiles if attacked, and it could also recruit its allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, to attack Israel with rockets and missiles from closer range.

Tehran could also block the Strait of Hormuz, a key transit route for the world's oil tankers, or strike Gulf targets such as Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. Either move could send global oil prices skyrocketing and draw the U.S. military into the conflict.

The disagreements over Iran have stoked the tensions that have characterized relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments, primarily over frozen Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, which pointedly seems to be a non-issue in the upcoming visit.

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Chinese Submarine

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Note: How has our military (US Navy) come to this? Quite embarrassing and dangerous!

The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced


Original Story

When the U.S. Navy deploys a battle fleet on exercises, it takes the security of its aircraft carriers very seriously indeed.

At least a dozen warships provide a physical guard while the technical wizardry of the world's only military superpower offers an invisible shield to detect and deter any intruders.

That is the theory. Or, rather, was the theory.

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Song Class submarine

Uninvited guest: A Chinese Song Class submarine, like the one that sufaced by the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" - a reference to the Soviet Union's first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age.

The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.

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Kitty Hawk

Battle stations: The Kitty Hawk carries 4,500 personnel

The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines.

And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it.

According to the Nato source, the encounter has forced a serious re-think of American and Nato naval strategy as commanders reconsider the level of threat from potentially hostile Chinese submarines.

It also led to tense diplomatic exchanges, with shaken American diplomats demanding to know why the submarine was "shadowing" the U.S. fleet while Beijing pleaded ignorance and dismissed the affair as coincidence.

Analysts believe Beijing was sending a message to America and the West demonstrating its rapidly-growing military capability to threaten foreign powers which try to interfere in its "backyard".

The People's Liberation Army Navy's submarine fleet includes at least two nuclear-missile launching vessels.

Its 13 Song Class submarines are extremely quiet and difficult to detect when running on electric motors.

Commodore Stephen Saunders, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, and a former Royal Navy anti-submarine specialist, said the U.S. had paid relatively little attention to this form of warfare since the end of the Cold War.

He said: "It was certainly a wake-up call for the Americans.

"It would tie in with what we see the Chinese trying to do, which appears to be to deter the Americans from interfering or operating in their backyard, particularly in relation to Taiwan."

In January China carried a successful missile test, shooting down a satellite in orbit for the first time.

The world's intelligence agencies and defense experts are quietly acknowledging that North Korea has become a fully fledged nuclear power with the capacity to wipe out entire cities in Japan and South Korea, the Times of London reported.

The new reality has emerged in off-hand remarks and in single sentences buried in lengthy reports. Increasing numbers of authoritative experts -- from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the U.S. Defense Secretary -- are admitting that North Korea has miniaturized nuclear warheads to the extent that they can be launched on medium-range missiles, according to intelligence briefings.

This puts it ahead of Iran in the race for nuclear attack capability and seriously alters the balance of power between North Korea's large but poorly equipped military and the South Korean and U.S. forces ranged against it. "North Korea has nuclear weapons, which is a matter of fact," the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, said this week. "I don't like to accept any country as a nuclear weapon state we have to face reality."

North Korea carried out an underground nuclear test in 2006 but until recently foreign governments believed that such nuclear devices were useless as weapons because they were too unwieldy to be mounted on a missile.

With 13,000 artillery pieces buried close to the border between the two Koreas, and chemical and biological warheads, it was always understood that the North could inflict significant conventional damage on Seoul, the South Korean capital. Military planners had calculated, however, that it could not strike outside the peninsula.

Now North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong Il, has the potential to kill millions in Japan as well as the South, and to lay waste U.S. bases and airfields in both countries. It will force military strategists to rethink plans for war in Korea and significantly increase the potential costs of any intervention in a future Korean war. The shift from acknowledging North Korea's nuclear weapons development program to recognizing it as a fully fledged nuclear power is highly controversial. South Korea, in particular, resists the reclassification because it could give the North greater leverage in negotiations.

Note: So, will we (or Japan) shoot this thing down or not? I'm thinking we're more bark than bite!

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has removed the cover from the top of a long-range rocket and started a radar needed to track its flight, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Sunday in an unsourced report, indicating a launch is imminent.

The United States, South Korea and Japan have said they would see the launch as a test of the North's Taepodong-2 missile, which is designed to fly as far as Alaska.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- North Korea has begun fueling its long-range rocket, according to a senior U.S. military official.

A satellite image shows a rocket sitting on its launch pad in the northeast of the country.

The fueling signals that the country could be in the final stages of what North Korea has said will be the launch of a satellite into space as early as this weekend, the senior U.S. military official said Wednesday.

Other U.S. military officials said the top portion of the rocket was put on very recently, but satellite imagery shows a shroud over the stage preventing a direct view of what it looks like.

The officials said the payload appears to have a "bulbous" cover, which could indicate that there is a satellite loaded on it. Such a cover protects a satellite from damage in flight.

Although the sources did not know for sure what the payload is, they said there is no reason to doubt that it is a satellite, as indicated by North Korea.

Pyongyang has said it will launch the rocket between April 4 and April 8. A launch would violate a 2006 United Nations Security Council resolution banning the reclusive state from launching ballistic missiles.


Pentagon officials worry less about the payload and more about the launch itself, saying that any kind of launch will give the North Koreans valuable information about improving their ballistic missile program.

The United States believes that the North Koreans have the technology to hit Alaska or Hawaii with a missile and that the country is working on advancing that technology so it could hit the west coast of the United States.

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan --  The commander of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a Pakistani police academy and said the group was planning a terrorist attack on the U.S. capital.

Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., said Monday's attack outside the eastern city of Lahore was in retaliation for U.S. missile strikes against militants along the Afghan border.

"Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world," Mehsud told The Associated Press by phone. He provided no details.

Mehsud and other Pakistani Taliban militants are believed to be based in the country's lawless areas near the border with Afghanistan, where they have stepped up their attacks throughout Pakistan.

Masked Palestinian Hamas members are seen during a demonstration to show solidarity with Sudanese President Omar Al-Beshir, in the Bureij refugee camp, central Gaza, on March 6, 2009.  (UPI Photo/Ismael Mohamad)
Masked Palestinian Hamas members are seen during a demonstration to show solidarity with Sudanese President Omar Al-Beshir, in the Bureij refugee camp, central Gaza, on March 6, 2009. (UPI Photo/Ismael Mohamad)

PORT SUDAN, Sudan, March 26 (UPI) -- An Israeli airstrike on a weapons-laden convoy in Sudan affirms arguments Iran is secretly supplying arms for Hamas fighters in Gaza, analysts said.

The January airstrike in the desert northwest of Port Sudan, which Israel refuses to comment on, reportedly killed 39 people riding in 17 trucks.

The attack, which Paris's Sudan Tribune called an "embarrassment" to Sudan's government, also exposed a network that stretches from Iran through the Persian Gulf and Yemen to Sudan, Egypt and Hamas-ruled Gaza, said analysts, including U.S. terrorism and security expert Reva Bhalla.

Around the time of the attack, Bhalla suggested Lebanon's militant Hezbollah Shiite movement was involved in the Iranian-created arms network, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.

"You'll have a bunch of Hezbollah agents who will procure arms through Sudan," said Bhalla, director of geopolitical analysts at Strategic Forecasting Inc., an Austin, Texas, private intelligence agency.

"They'll enter Egypt under forged documents, pay off disgruntled Bedouins in the Sinai with things like light arms, cash, Lebanese hashish -- which they can sell in the black market -- and pay off Egyptian security guards as well so that they can travel covertly into Gaza to pass off the weapons shipments through Hamas' pretty extensive underground tunnel network," Bhalla said at the time.

Before conducting its airstrike, Israel learned of plans to move weapons through Sudan north toward Egypt and then through the Sinai into the Gaza Strip, CBS News reported.

Morning Edition, March 24, 2009 · Sometime during the first week in April, North Korea is expected to launch a three-stage, long-range rocket for only the third time in its history.

The North Koreans say the rocket is purely civilian in nature, designed to put a satellite in orbit. But suspicions have grown that this launch may actually be a test of a long-range ballistic missile.

American satellites are watching the launch site carefully to determine North Korea's true intentions.

Preparations have been under way for weeks at Musudan-ni in North Korea for the launch of a rocket, known as the Taepodong-2. The activity at the site provoked concern in the U.S. that the North Koreans were preparing to test a long-range missile that might have the capability one day to deliver a warhead on U.S. territory.

But recently, the North Korean government has taken steps that point to an attempt to put a satellite into orbit, says Mitchell Reiss, vice provost at the College of William and Mary and former head of policy planning at the State Department.

"There's a context in which this launch is going to take place. And so far, the North Koreans are trying very hard to manipulate and shape the context to persuade everybody that this is a civilian-based space launch vehicle," he says.

Earlier this month, North Korea notified international organizations that it intends to launch the rocket between April 4 and 8, on a trajectory east from North Korea. It has warned ships and aircraft to avoid that flight path during those days.

The North Korean actions have been persuasive, says Jack Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute.

"I do think that they are going to attempt to launch a satellite of some form," he says.

Recently, the U.S. director of national intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had reached the same conclusion.

"I tend to believe that the North Koreans announced that they are going to do a space launch, and I believe that that's what they intend. I could be wrong, but that would be my estimate," he said.

Still, uncertainties persist. The North Koreans are assembling the rocket inside a long covered building, out of sight. They will disassemble it, bring the parts out to the launch pad, and reassemble it there. Erecting the rocket on the launch pad will take three days, and it will take another two days to fill it with liquid fuel.

Satellite photos of the rocket on the launch pad will not be available until then.

The rocket will be highly vulnerable to attack once it's been reassembled, hardly a sign that this is a military test launch. But many analysts say civilian and military launches are quite similar, according to Evans Revere, president of the Korea Society.

"Whether it's a satellite launch or something else, what they are essentially doing here is developing the launch vehicle, the same launch vehicle that could be used to launch a warhead of some sort at one of its neighbors or even the United States at some point down the line," he says.

Experts in rocketry say there are significant differences between a space launch vehicle and a long-range missile. Their trajectories are quite different, and that makes for different stresses on the rocket.

With its assortment of sensors in space and radars in Japan, Alaska and at sea, the United States will know within the first minute whether the North Koreans really are trying to put a satellite in orbit.

There has been much talk of using American missile defense interceptors to destroy the North Korean rocket, but such an attempt would be considered only if it was on a flight path to reach U.S. territory. North Korea has said that would constitute an act of war.

Pritchard, of the Korea Economic Institute, believes the North Korean rocket is highly unlikely to pose a threat to the U.S.

"There's no public, nor do I understand, any classified information that suggests that there is any type of warhead, conventional or otherwise. So the potential for this being a risk to U.S. security is not there, as far as we know," he says.

There also is great concern in Japan about this rocket because it will overfly Japanese territory.

Reiss, of the College of William and Mary, believes that everybody ought to take a deep breath and use diplomacy to get North Korea back to the bargaining table over its nuclear weapons and its missile development.

"What we need to do is to think very clearly about what level of threat this space launch vehicle really presents to us, make sure that our allies don't overreact, then try to think through exactly what it is that we want from the North Koreans in the future," he advises.

This will be only the third time North Korea has launched a Taepodong-2. In 1998, Pyongyang claimed it put a satellite in orbit, but there has been no proof of that. In 2006, there was a missile test, but it exploded 45 seconds after launch.

JERUSALEM  --  Israel's military condemned on Monday T-shirts worn by soldiers that depict scenes of violence against Palestinians as the army faces increasing domestic criticism over its conduct during the recent Gaza war.

The T-shirts, ordered by troops to mark the end of basic training and other military courses, were worn by a number of enlisted men in different units, the daily Haaretz newspaper reported. They were not made or sanctioned by the military.

One depicts a child in the cross-hairs of a rifle with the slogan, "The smaller they are, the harder it is," said one of T-shirts shown in Haaretz. Another shows a pregnant woman in the cross-hairs and the words "1 Shot 2 Kills." Others depict a soldier blowing up a mosque and Palestinian women weeping over a gravestone.

The Tel Aviv factory that made many of the shirts, Adiv, refused to comment.

The shirts "are not in accordance with IDF values and are simply tasteless," the army said in a statement. "This type of humor is unbecoming and should be condemned."

The statement said disciplinary action would be taken against troops wearing the T-shirts.

The Israeli military has been facing increased criticism at home for its conduct in Gaza in the aftermath of published testimony from several unidentified soldiers released last week.

The soldiers' testimony described troops killing Palestinian civilians, including children, by hastily opening fire under relaxed rules of engagement. The soldiers also reported the wanton destruction of civilian property.

The three-week Gaza offensive, launched to end years of rocket fire at Israeli towns, ended on Jan. 18. According to Palestinian officials, around 1,400 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis died, three of them civilians.

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