India and Middle-east news and discussion

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by ajtr, Jul 13, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Egyptian jailed for raping Indian housewife in UAE


    DUBAI: A Sharjah court has sentenced an Egyptian to 10 years in jail after founding him guilty of raping an Indian housewife.

    The man, identified only as AO, acted as a municipality employee to enter the house of the woman in Sharjah, where he beat up and raped the female resident.

    The Sharjah Sharia Court of First Instance sentenced the 25-year-old accused to 10 years in jail to be followed by deportation. However, the victim was not identified.

    According to police, the culprit, who is now in Sharjah Central jail, will appeal the sentence, which is now being reviewed by the Appeals Court.

    The man was arrested a few days later after he allegedly committed a similar crime. He denied that he raped the woman but was convicted on the basis of the scientific evidence against him.
     
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Indian prisoners in Dubai refuse to be transferred to Indian jails, call them 'hell'

    Sharjah, July 12 (ANI): A 76-year-old prisoner, Vinayak, who is in a Dubai jail on drug charges, has said that he doesn't want to go to India to serve his remaining term because prisons there are like "hell".


    Buzz up!
    According to Gulf News, Vinayak is among the scores of prisoners who may be given a chance to serve their remaining prison terms back in India.


    The UAE and India are on the verge of finalising an agreement in which thousands of Indian prisoners here will be able to serve their terms back in Indian jails.

    The response to this has been lukewarm as Indian prisoners in the UAE said they prefer to serve their jail sentence in Dubai and not in India, even though they would be near their families.

    Vinayak is among five prisoners convicted of drug charges by a Dubai court and serving life terms in the country's central jail. They have been in jail for 12 years now.

    "I cannot go to Indian jails at this age, here they treat me well. The jail is clean and I am given health care," he said.

    Vinayak's 82-year-old sister, he says, has repeatedly asked the Indian embassy to help him, but the only response they received was: wait.

    Another Gujarati prisoner and Vinayak's accomplice, 45-year-old Y.G., has said that he has been in jail from 1998 for dealing in drugs.

    "I am one of five prisoners who are here for many years after being convicted in a drug related case, I prefer to finish my jail term in the UAE despite the fact that my partners and I were not included in two pardons but I still have faith in the generosity of people here," he said.

    He said he doesn't want to be in Indian jail because his family approached the Indian authorities several times for help but got no response. (ANI)
     
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Oman-India fund to be inked this week


    MUSCAT: A $100 million ($38.5m) Oman-India joint investment fund will soon become a reality with the two countries set to sign the final agreement this week.

    The Sultanate's Minister of National Economy and Deputy Chairman of the Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki will sign the pact with his Indian counterpart during his visit to New Delhi between July 13 and 15.

    The fund is expected to provide the much-needed fillip to bilateral investment and trade, an Indian Embassy press release has said.

    A memorandum of understanding to set up India-Oman Joint Investment Fund was signed between the two countries during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to Oman in November 2008. Although the initial corpus is $100 million, this can go up to $1.5 billion later. The State General Reserve Fund of Oman and State Bank of India will contribute the corpus money from Oman and India, respectively.

    The projects
    With this, Oman will become one of the first countries to sign a joint investment fund with India. The fund will be used to finance projects in tourism, infrastructure, health, telecommunication and urban infrastructure in either country.

    The Sultanate is keen to diversify its oil and gas industry-based economy to a modern industrialised economy. While Oman needs investment in manufacturing, tourism, warehousing and other supporting industries, India is keen to develop its ports, highways, power, refineries, refrigeration and related industries.

    The joint fund, apart from increasing bilateral commercial relations, will also enhance people-to-people contact, the statement said.

    Trade between the countries touched $2 billion last year and is expected to touch $2.5 billion this year.

    While over 100 Indian companies operate in the Sultanate, over 30 Omani companies are present in India. There has been a growing interest among Omani companies to invest in India in recent years.

    For instance, Oman Oil Company last year acquired a 24 per cent stake in the 6-million tonnes refinery set up by Bharat Oman Refineries Ltd.
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    India and Oman Sign MoU on Cultural Cooperation

    15:17 IST

    India and Oman signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) here today on bilateral Cultural Cooperation. The MoU was signed by Shri Jawhar Sircar, Secretary, Ministry of Culture on behalf of the Government of India, and by H.E. Mr. Humaid Al-Maani, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman in India on behalf of the Oman Government. The MoU comes into force with immediate effect and will remain in force for a period of five years and shall stand renewed automatically thereafter for successive periods of five years.

    The MoU seeks to:

    Encourage exchange of visits by the cultural, art and literature delegations.

    Promote cultural relations on heritage, including archaeology, museums and conservation of the ancient monuments.

    § Encourage exchange of expertise, visits and publications between cultural institutions, establishments and authorities of the two countries. Exchange copies of documents and manuscripts relevant to the history of both countries.

    § Encourage exchange of visits by delegations in the field of music, theatre and folklore and learn about the other party’s experience in this context.

    § Encourage exchange of visits by writers and literateurs and exchange of expertise in the field of scientific clubs and literature.

    Encourage cultural and art weeks where fine arts and photography exhibitions may be held in each other’s country.

    Encourage participation in the International Book Fairs in each other’s country on commercial basis.

    Exchange experience on renovation, bibliography, documentation and categorization in order to maintain manuscripts or documents of historical importance.

    Exchange publications in the field of literature, culture and periodicals.

    Encourage cooperation in the protection of intellectual property rights.
     
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    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    UAE delegation to woo Puducherry entrepreneurs


    Puducherry: A three-member official team of the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority in Sharjah will be on a visit to the city on July 16 to address a CII seminar on business opportunities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).The seminar 'Hamriyah Free Zone-Your Venture to success' was aimed at benefiting entrepreneurs and industrialists and would discuss about the business opportunities in UAE with the focus on the small and medium sector, a CII Puducherry state council release said today.

    The team would comprise Saud Al Mazrouee (deputy director
    of commercial affairs), SH Ahmed Al Qassimi (senior commercial officer) and Muhamed Basheer (head of sales) of the Hamriyah Free zone Authority.
     
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Lessons to learn in Obama's 'other' war​

    By M K Bhadrakumar

    United States Vice President Joseph Biden's mission to Baghdad over the July 4 weekend brought attention back on America's "other" war - the one in Iraq that has been all but forgotten amid the incessant bloodshed and spreading chaos in Afghanistan. No doubt, the war in Iraq is drawing to a close; the invader is packing bags and going home.

    A country that stood at the threshold of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) 20 years ago in terms of social and economic indices barely survives. It no more matters who won or who lost the war.

    The endgame in Iraq holds meaning in certain ways for the war in Afghanistan.

    One main purpose of Biden's mission on a day that America was


    celebrating its independence was to reassure the Iraqi nationalists that the Barack Obama administration intends to stick to the time schedule to end the military occupation of their country. Biden said, "I hope you know we've kept our commitment so far, and on August 31 we will change our military mission by drawing closer to all of you, not further apart."

    The US troop strength in Iraq at present stands at 77,500, the lowest since the 2003 invasion and less than half of the peak level of 165,000 during the "surge". This will fall to 50,000 by September 1, which suggests that at an average roughly 2,500 troops a week will be withdrawn through July and August. With this we will see the end of the US's "combat mission" in Iraq.

    How, beyond that defining moment, the US proposes to retain the power to shape events in Iraq and the wider region remains a big question. Uncertainty envelops the fate of the US troops remaining in Iraq after September 1. As per commitments, they are also to be pulled out of Iraq by the end of 2011. However, there is continuing speculation that Washington and Baghdad may renegotiate the terms of the troop withdrawal so that provisions can be made for some form of long-term US-Iraqi military agreement. Unlike in Afghanistan's case, the US has well-established military bases and "lily pads" in Iraq's neighborhood.

    Biden claimed the US had no "hidden agenda" in Iraq, but the fact is there are pressure groups in Washington seeking to slow the drawdown. This is where the political alignments in Iraq and the calculus of power within the next government that assumes office in Baghdad after the March 27 parliamentary elections become important.

    The massive US$750 million American Embassy in Baghdad, sprawling across 42 hectares along the ancient banks of the Tigris and staffed by over 1,200 diplomats, soldiers and personnel drawn from various wings of the US government, does exude an air of permanence. So indeed does the quaint "little Americas" replicated painstakingly within the perimeters of dozens of US military bases scattered all over Iraq.

    Without doubt, if the US pulls its troops out from Iraq by the end of 2011, its ability to influence the country will dramatically decline, and the US will have to redefine its role not only in Iraq itself but also in the wider region, including with key allies like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan or Turkey, which surround Iraq.

    Unmanageable politicians
    Countries like Iraq and Afghanistan carry the curse of geography, which inevitably makes them hubs of regional politics. Which is why the lengths to which Obama will go to fulfill his commitment to rid America of a war he always opposed still remains an open issue, no matter what Biden maintained during his visit to Baghdad.

    In Afghanistan's case, Obama's dilemma is manifold as there are other issues of US global strategy involved - the future role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a global security organization, the US's approach toward China's rise, and simply the desirability of keeping a military presence in such a vital area as Southwest Asia.

    But other determinants ultimately dictate the outcome in Iraq. First there is the doubt that the US has the ability to shepherd the squabbling Iraqi politicians belonging to the myriad of parties into a shuffle that is willing to acquiesce with the perpetuation of the foreign military occupation of their country. All Biden would say - and in a somewhat plaintive tone - was: "In my humble opinion, in order for you [Iraqis] to achieve your goals, you must have all communities' voices represented in this new government - proportionately ... all are going to have to play a meaningful role in this new government for it to work, in my humble opinion."

    Incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who enjoys US support, is desperately keen to keep his job and head the new government, but he leads a Shi'ite alliance - State of Law - which has a serious problem to work with the US's favorite proxy, Iyad Allawi, to form a coalition government. But the conundrum is such that although Allawi is a Shi'ite himself and heads Iraqia, a "secular" coalition - as secular, arguably, as can be found in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq - it also comprises some Sunni groups the State of Law would find distasteful as allies.

    Maliki's best bet in the interest of political stability would be to form a coalition with the Iraqi National Accord, an alliance of Shi'ites who are loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric viscerally opposed to the US occupation, and the Islamic Supreme Council (ISCI) of Iraq. But then, both the Sadrists and the ISCI reject Maliki's leadership and the US also views them suspiciously for their closeness to Iran.

    Curiously, the US is already grappling with the reality of Afghan politics spinning out of its control. It is no longer that easy for the American viceroys to micromanage President Hamid Karzai and his brother in Kandahar, leave alone the plethora of interest groups that have sprung up, tasted power and have come to like it.

    Paradoxically, Shi'ite empowerment in Iraq - like Pashtun empowerment - would undoubtedly have a political logic, and was probably a historical necessity, but the Iraqi Sunnis will not accept a political framework that excludes them. Indeed, on the eve of the US's withdrawal of combat troops, Iraq remains divided along other fault lines, too, as revealed by the outbreak of fighting in early July between Iraqi army troops and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia in the northern regions.

    US forces have been inserting themselves so far betwixt the antagonists by jointly patrolling with the Iraqi army units and with the Kurdish Peshmerga. Significantly, the outgoing commander of the US troops in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, has warned of the very real danger of another Iraqi civil war involving the Kurds and the Arabs and has suggested that it might be necessary to bring in United Nations peacekeeping forces when the US vacates the occupation. Shades of Afghanistan!

    Surge of regionalism
    Second, the decline of the US influence in Iraq also coincides with the sharp increase in the influence of the regional powers surging to claim the political vacuum resulting from the decline of US influence - Iran in particular. Washington will need to factor in such an eventuality with regard to Afghanistan as well.

    Tehran is already dealing with Iraq as a "normal" country with which it is on manifestly "brotherly" terms. Iranian exports, which stood at $1 billion in 2007, are cruising comfortably toward the $10 billion mark. Ironically, it is the Iraqi smugglers who may lethally sabotage US-sponsored sanctions against Iran.

    Pakistan is capable of playing a similar role in Afghanistan, but the issue is whether it has the political wisdom to do so.

    A politico-economic partnership between the two largest Shi'ite-majority powers in the region holds profound implications for the geopolitics of the entire Middle East. An Afghan-Pakistan confederation - possibly with Uzbekistan alongside - similarly has the potential to redraw the geopolitics of South and Central Asia in terms of communication routes, energy security, trade and investment. As the well-known Middle East expert and author Patrick Seale puts it, "Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Qatar and others are already making deals and forming alliances outside the American orbit."

    The US worked hard against perceived Iranian influence over Iraqi affairs but failed. The US has tacitly recognized the inevitability of a preponderant Iranian influence and is even willing to tap into it provided it remains benign and cooperative. A similar US approach toward a Pakistani role in Afghanistan is entirely conceivable.

    On the other hand, Iraqis - like Afghans - are great nationalists. They may be prepared to view Tehran favorably as a regional ally and will be gratified to take Iranian help in their reconstruction but, as the well-known American academic on the Middle East Juan Cole argued recently, "they [Iraqis] are unlikely to take their marching orders" from Tehran.

    In sum, Obama's AfPak strategy could draw morals from Iran's role as a factor of stability in Iraq. Pakistani strategists will need to be cautious about the feasibility of their desire to gain "strategic depth" in Afghanistan - wrapping Kabul in rings of friendship and cooperation is one thing, but any expectation of exercising "control" over the power structure there in the long-term may prove far-fetched.

    Biden promised the Iraqis, who still lack even rudimentary essential services or infrastructure, that Washington would remain engaged. He said, "As you continue to stand up and build your democracy, we'll be there with you economically, politically, socially, science, education," he said. "I've been put in charge of our government's effort to unite all the elements of our government, from the Department of Education to the Department of Commerce to the Department of Science and Technology - to work with you if you want us to."

    It is extremely doubtful if Iraqis take these words seriously. There will be skepticism about the US's capacity to deliver as its own economic stimulus fails to deliver the intended results at home.

    'Post-American' era
    This syndrome may well be repeated in Afghanistan, too. The US and the recession-ridden European countries may be disinclined to bankroll Afghanistan in a post-conflict situation. It is here that regional countries like China, Saudi Arabia or India can play a role that need not be viewed in rival capitals - Moscow, Tehran or Islamabad - as a zero-sum game. The forthcoming international conference in Kabul on Tuesday will be an occasion to ponder over the politics of aid for Afghanistan.

    Indeed, Iraq is far better placed than Afghanistan in a "post-American" era. The Iraqi military patrols the cities and Iraq can generate an income. On June 29, Baghdad approved a deal with Shell to develop 25-30 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in the Basra region. Seale concluded: "Money will flow in. Iraq will slowly rebuild itself from the devastation of war. A political formula for governing the country will eventually be found."

    However, at the root of this optimism lies a startling reality, which would have a huge relevance for Obama's Afghan strategy even as he prepares to rework it by the yearend: The Iraqis have a government that works reasonably well, which became possible only because the US let go and allowed Iraq to seek out its natural habitat, and, secondly, because Washington drew a timeline in the sand for the end of occupation - and the desert winds ravishing the dunes refused to blow it away.
     
  8. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Iranian unrest grows over economic woes

    By Barbara Slavin

    WASHINGTON - Last year's Iranian political demonstrations have given way to economic protests that could prove more worrisome for the Tehran government.

    The unrest includes the first prolonged strike in the Tehran bazaar and protests by industrial workers who have gone unpaid for months.

    While these incidents are not directly related to the latest round of United Nations, United States and European penalties against Iran - and do not appear to have been coordinated with the


    opposition Green movement - the new sanctions contribute to a climate of uncertainty that is undermining the Iranian economy and rattling Iran's leaders.

    "Sanctions could be the proverbial straw," says Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of economics at Virginia Tech who is on sabbatical this year at the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "These little things can suddenly coalesce."

    Salehi attributed Iran's economic woes primarily to the drop in oil prices and to Iranian government policies: over-stimulating the economy when oil prices were high and then cutting back on spending to reduce double-digit inflation.

    Inflation is now down to about 9.4%, but unemployment is officially 14% overall and close to 30% for young people, Salehi said.

    While wealthy Iranians are still spending freely in the cappuccino bars of north Tehran, they are not hiring new workers or investing.

    "There is a real credit squeeze," says George Lopez, a Jennings Randolph senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace and an expert on the use of economic sanctions. "There is an air of conservatism, caution and even a bit of panic."

    A strike that began on July 6 among gold and fabric traders in the main Tehran bazaar continued this week despite a government pledge to scale back a planned 70% increase in taxes to 15%.

    Strikes in the bazaar were a major factor in the 1978-79 revolution; bazaars remain an important constituency in Iran although they have been overshadowed in the economy by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

    Meanwhile, industrial workers are increasingly restive. According to the Iran Labor Report, an Internet publication of Iranian labor activists, 180 workers at the Alborz china company in the northwestern city of Qazvin staged a demonstration July 6, complaining that they had been paid only twice in the past 12 months. They had previously protested on May 1.

    Kevan Harris, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who frequently travels to Iran, noted that the head of a government-run trade union in the northern city of Tabriz complained recently that workers there had "reported not receiving wages on time, receiving below the minimum wage, no payment of overtime, being cut out of government sponsored entitlements such as food vouchers, and moving towards temporary contract labor."

    Iranian entities are not only suffering from a lack of investment. They must pay more for a range of imported materials, including refined petroleum products.

    Iran, which imports about 30% of its gasoline, appears to have found Turkish, Chinese and Iraqi Kurdish substitutes for European suppliers. Most major European oil companies have stopped selling to Iran to avoid falling afoul of a new US law that threatens to block firms that do business with Iran's energy sector from access to the US banking system.

    Iran is also having problems selling its crude and is increasingly resorting to discounts and shady middlemen, according to a Tehran-datelined story for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

    United States and European sanctions on Iranian banks in effect for several years have raised the cost of most imports by about 20%, according to Western diplomats. Harris said it is "too soon to tell" whether the latest round "will add to that bill in any substantial manner".

    He said it was also premature to say whether the embattled leaders of the Green movement - Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi - would be able to capitalize on Iran's economic problems. The movement, born in the aftermath of Iran's disputed presidential elections last year, has focused on political and civil rights.

    A major test is likely to come when the government phases out subsidies of consumer staples and replaces them with cash payments. The subsidy reform, already postponed several times, is now due to be implemented in late September.

    Salehi said initial plans to give more money to Iran's poor had been scrapped in favor of equal payments to all Iranians because the government lacks the bureaucratic capacity to carry out more sophisticated income redistribution.

    "The one positive thing [from the Iranian government's point of view] is the realization that this is a complex economy," Salehi said.

    It remains unclear whether Iran's mounting economic problems will convince it to curb its nuclear program - the ostensible rationale for the sanctions. Iran has expressed interest in new negotiations with the United States but has met with a skeptical response.

    While the Barack Obama administration is congratulating itself over enacting tough new sanctions, Lopez says, "The danger is that it forgets why it went after sanctions to begin with."
     
  9. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    UAE Will Support Strike Against Iran If Necessary

    Jul 8, 2010
    Rick Francona--

    President Obama, you constantly use the phrase, "Let me be clear."

    Take a lesson in clarity from Yusif 'Utaybah, the distinguished ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States. Call him - he's at (202) 243-2400; I am sure he'll take your call.

    You can't be much more clear than this. Ambassador 'Utaybah was speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival about the Iranian nuclear program. The ambassador stated that if sanctions fail to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the UAE supports an American military strike to halt the program. He went on to explain that the consequences of such an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities - and there certainly will be consequences - are far less damaging in the long term than Iran in possession of nuclear weapons.

    In his words: "I think it's a cost-benefit analysis - I think despite the large amount of trade we [UAE] do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what."

    Here is where he get even clearer: "We cannot live with a nuclear Iran. The United States may be able to live with it; we can't."

    The UAE is not the only Gulf Arab country to have these views. I would estimate that neither Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar nor Oman want to be neighbors with a nuclear-armed Iran. However, as the ambassador points out, if the United States will not fulfill its traditional leadership role in the region - which includes protection for the Gulf Arab states - these states will be forced to either make an accommodation with Iran, or in the case of larger countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, acquire their own nuclear arsenal.

    Failure to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, in the eyes of these countries, will be an abdication of America's role in the Gulf - it will be the end of our status as the key power in the region. On top of that, we do not need a nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf.

    Most of us who speak with people in the Middle East have comments similar to those of Ambassador 'Utaybah. I was a bit taken aback by a remark by Representative Jane Harmon (D-CA) that she had never heard an Arab government official say this before. Either she meant that she never heard them say it publicly, or she's not listening. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

    I served as the defense attaché at the American embassy in Abu Dhabi - it was a privilege to work with the defense officials and military officers of the UAE. Reading the ambassador's words reaffirms my high regard for the Emiris - they get it.

    How about some clarity on Iran, Mr. President - a clear, simple statement that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Take a lesson from the ambassador.

    (Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona is a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, a veteran of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, and service in the Balkans. His assignments include the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency, with tours of duty in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, and operational duties in virtually every country in the Middle East.

    During the last year of the Iran–Iraq war in 1988, Rick was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces intelligence service, where he served in the field with the Iraqi army and flew with the Iraqi Air Force.

    Throughout the first Gulf War he served as the personal Arabic interpreter and advisor on Iraq to General Norman Schwarzkopf and later co-authored the report to Congress on the conduct of the war. His is the author of book, Ally to Adversary – An Eyewitness Account of Iraq’s Fall from Grace.)
     
  10. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table




    In late 2006, George W. Bush met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon and asked if military action against Iran's nuclear program was feasible. The unanimous answer was no. Air strikes could take out some of Iran's nuclear facilities, but there was no way to eliminate all of them. Some of the nuclear labs were located in heavily populated areas; others were deep underground. And Iran's ability to strike back by unconventional means, especially through its Hizballah terrorist network, was formidable. The military option was never officially taken off the table. At least, that's what U.S. officials always said. But the emphasis was on the implausibility of a military strike. "Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote in 2008. It would be "disastrous on a number of levels."

    Gates is sounding more belligerent these days. "I don't think we're prepared to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran," he told Fox News on June 20. "We do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons." In fact, Gates was reflecting a new reality in the military and intelligence communities. Diplomacy and economic pressure remain the preferred means to force Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal, but there isn't much hope that's going to happen. "Will [sanctions] deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability?" CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC News on June 27. "Probably not." So the military option is very much back on the table.

    What has changed? "I started to rethink this last November," a recently retired U.S. official with extensive knowledge of the issue told me. "We offered the Iranians a really generous deal, which their negotiators accepted," he went on, referring to the offer to exchange Iran's 1.2 tons of low-enriched uranium (3.5% pure) for higher-enriched (20%) uranium for medical research and use. "When the leadership shot that down, I began to think, Well, we made the good-faith effort to engage. What do we do now?"

    Other intelligence sources say that the U.S. Army's Central Command, which is in charge of organizing military operations in the Middle East, has made some real progress in planning targeted air strikes — aided, in large part, by the vastly improved human-intelligence operations in the region. "There really wasn't a military option a year ago," an Israeli military source told me. "But they've gotten serious about the planning, and the option is real now." Israel has been brought into the planning process, I'm told, because U.S. officials are frightened by the possibility that the right-wing Netanyahu government might go rogue and try to whack the Iranians on its own.

    One other factor has brought the military option to a low boil: Iran's Sunni neighbors really want the U.S. to do it. When United Arab Emirates Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba said on July 6 that he favored a military strike against Iran despite the economic and military consequences to his country, he was reflecting an increasingly adamant attitude in the region. Senior American officials who travel to the Gulf frequently say the Saudis, in particular, raise the issue with surprising ardor. Everyone from the Turks to the Egyptians to the Jordanians are threatening to go nuclear if Iran does. That is seen as a real problem in the most volatile region in the world: What happens, for example, if Saudi Arabia gets a bomb, and the deathless monarchy there is overthrown by Islamist radicals?

    Of course, it is also possible that this low-key saber-rattling is simply a message the U.S. is trying to send the Iranians: it's time to deal. There have been rumblings from Tehran about resuming negotiations, although the regime has very little credibility right now. The assumption — shared even by some of Iran's former friends, like the Russians — is that any Iranian offer to talk is really an offer to stall. A specific, plausible Iranian concession may be needed to get the process back on track. But it is also possible that the saber-rattling is not a bluff, that the U.S. really won't tolerate a nuclear Iran and is prepared to do something awful to stop it.
     
  11. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    India’s Gulf links multiply

    July 21, 2010 1:20pmby beyondbrics | Share
    By Girija Shivakumar in New Delhi

    While Indian companies struggle to expand in neighbouring countries in south Asia, they are making considerable headway in the Gulf and Africa. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, many do so without government support. And Oman is one to watch.

    New Delhi’s engagement with the Gulf country appears to be something of an exception. It has launched a “guns and butter” initiative we are likely to see more of in the years to come as India develops its own arms industry alongside its economic muscle.

    In recent months, India has extended an invitation to the Omani army to train in India. It has also sent Indian-made assault rifles, for trials with an eye to future arms sales.

    Alongside a hand of military friendship, New Delhi has despatched top officials to Muscat, Oman’s capital, headed by Manmohan Singh, the prime minister. Corporate India, meanwhile, has sent its out-sourcers and engineers with delegations from Larsen and Toubro, Punj Lloyd, Dynamic Logistics, Essar Group and Tata Consultancy Services.

    Oman’s relationship with India traditionally hinged on the supply of oil to energy-starved India. New Delhi is desperate to change that, and has had success in fields like education, fertiliser and food. Bilateral non-oil trade which was less than $200m eight years ago, today stands at nearer $2.5bn.

    Now the two countries are setting up joint investment funds across the Arabian Sea. Earlier this month, the State Bank of India and an Omani sovereign wealth fund created a joint fund with $100m seed capital. In time, this is expected to grow to $1.5bn and develop a focus on infrastructure investments.

    This venture may encourage other such joint funds with big Gulf investors. Whether they will be preceded by the sale of rifles, viewed as inferior to Russian equivalents, is less assured.
     

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