Russia's Medvedev:armed action on Iran unacceptable
MOSCOW, Sept 12 (Reuters) - A military solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions is unacceptable and there is no need at the moment for new sanctions, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday.
But Medvedev said Russia continued to support a diplomatic drive led by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to offer Tehran a package of incentives in return for it reining in some of its nuclear activities.
Western states are anxious that a rift between Moscow and the West over Russia's intervention in Georgia may shatter the fragile international coalition that has been applying pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.
'We should not take any unilateral steps. It is not acceptable to opt for a military scenario. It would be dangerous,' Medvedev told the Valdai Club, a panel of journalists and academics who specialise in Russia.
'The key is that negotiations be pursued... They have been quite positive,' Medvedev said. 'We should not adopt any additional sanctions now.'
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was in Moscow on Monday for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, the two countries' first high-level contact since Russia angered the West last month by sending troops and tanks into Georgia.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said Western states will have to tackle Iran without Russia's help if they withdraw cooperation in other areas as punishment for the Kremlin's actions in Georgia.
The United States and other Western powers say they suspect Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb under cover of its civilian nuclear programme.
Tehran denies it has any such intention. It says it is exercising its sovereign right to develop nuclear technology for generating electricity.
U.S. President George W. Bush has refused to rule out the use of force against Iran, though he has said he favours a diplomatic solution.
Russia has consistently opposed military action against Iran and has also used its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to dilute U.S.-led attempts to impose tougher sanctions.
Existing U.N. sanctions include financial and travel curbs on a list of Iranian individuals and companies linked with the nuclear programme.
'We will use only proportionate sanctions. They will be aimed at individuals and organisations involved in Iran's nuclear programme,' Lavrov told the Valdai Club at a separate session earlier on Friday.
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, September 12, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Foreign Policy: Tehran has elevated its effort to become a member of the nuclear arms club. That leaves our government with a tough choice: Will it make a firm stand or be rolled over by a lawless regime?
Our own media haven't been paying much attention lately to Iran, but a couple of enterprising reporters in England have been keeping up with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration. What they found is alarming:
"With almost every day that passes, the crisis over Iran's nuclear program appears to move a step closer to what looks increasingly like its inevitable conclusion — military action," Con Coughlin writes for the Telegraph.
Meanwhile, frontpagemagazine.com reported Friday that the Russian who is president of the state-owned company building Iran's nuclear power plant in Bushehr says Iran will not be stopped from becoming an atomic nation.
"I think that in December, January and February, a whole range of technological events will be conducted that will demonstrate the irreversibility of the plant's physical launch in the foreseeable future," said Leonid Reznikov, president of Atomstroiexport.
Is it all just an innocent commercial reactor, as Iran claims?
Coughlin and a colleague report that international inspectors, whose movements in Iran are restricted by the government, believe the Iranians have moved 50 to 60 tons of uranium from a complex in Isfahan to a covert site, where inspectors won't have access. The amount of material is enough, once processed into weapons-grade uranium, to build five or six nuclear bombs.
As one International Atomic Energy Agency official said, if Iran's nuclear ambitions are only peaceful, why would they have moved the uranium? Don't expect answers later this month when IAEA governors meet to talk about Iran's nuclear program. The IAEA, an arm of the United Nations, is as feckless as the U.N. itself.
The most likely entity to take action against Iran is Israel, which helped the world avert an inevitable crisis when it disabled Iraq's Osirak atomic reactor with an air strike in 1981. The bold raid justly derailed Saddam Hussein's goal of developing nuclear weapons.
But the U.S., if a report in Israel's Haaretz newspaper is true, has Israel on a short leash. No U.S. bunker-buster bombs to destroy hardened nuclear facilities in Iran. No permission to use Iraqi air space, under U.S. control, as a flyover space into Iran. And no advanced tankers for refueling Israeli fighters for their return flights.
We have no way of knowing if this is true, or if, as Haaretz says, the U.S. is still seeking a diplomatic resolution. We hope the U.S. isn't holding back Israel. Yes, we recognize an attack during the current campaign would be questioned, and that Israeli warplanes flying over Iraq is a sensitive issue.
But the ugly wound on our planet that is Tehran's deranged regime can't be allowed to fester much longer. A nuclear-armed Iran may just try to act on its threats to raze Israel. And it will certainly try to bully intimidated nations in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Diplomacy can be effective if both sides are rational. But when outlaw governments are in control, as in Tehran, diplomats' failures turn up as legions of battlefield corpses. Sometimes a short burst of force is the only way to ensure a long spell of peace.
Turkey Walks a Tightrope Between Russia and the West
By Daniel Steinvorth in Istanbul
Turkey was traditionally adept at maintaining good relations with both Russia and the West -- until the Georgian crisis came along. Now both sides are making demands on Turkey. Has the time come for Ankara to choose sides?
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, 62, is Russia's most flamboyant far-right politician and professes to be big friend of Turkey. "No one loves you the way I love you," the thick-set populist who speaks fluent Turkish, recently sang before a Turkish audience in Istanbul.
Zhirinovsky, a graduate of Oriental studies, visited Turkey for the first time in 1962 as a translator for the Soviet Union's State Committee for Exports. During his visit he was arrested for spreading "communist propaganda" and spent 17 days in jail. Later he wrote a pamphlet about his experiences and recommended that his country annex all Turkic countries because the Russian soldier "must clean his boots in the Indian Ocean."
Now Zhirinovsky's passion for the southern neighbor has been reignited once more. "Learn Russian, don't look to the West, look north," the troublemaker preaches during his regular visits to Turkey. "The EU doesn't want you, but we want you. We'll give you gas, you give us nuts!"
Russia is Turkey's Biggest Trading Partner
It's true that Turkey and Russia have moved closer to each other recently, and not just because of energy resources. Russia is the NATO member country's biggest trading partner. Turkey imports almost 70 percent of its gas requirements and 50 percent of its coal from Russia. On Turkey's riviera, in Antalya and Side, Russian tourists now outnumber Germans.
And whenever the Europeans criticize his government, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan grumbles that Turkey has an alternative and could align itself with another country. There's little doubt he's referring to Russia.
If he were to pursue an alliance with Russia, Erdogan would be turning history on its head, though. The Crimean War of 1853 to 1856 was the ninth war between the two countries. More followed, until eventually the Ottoman Empire lay in ruins after World War I. Then Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, did what he could to shield his country from Stalin's agents. Atatürk's successor later allowed the US to station nuclear missiles in Anatolia, along with whole forests of aerials to eavesdrop on the Soviets.
Turks as Model Europeans
Turkey has always looked westward, an aspect that has been overlooked in Europe in the debate about Turkey's bid to join the EU. The Turkish government in 1999 offered ground troops in the conflict with Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. Turkey, like Europe, maintains good relations with Israel and opposes Iran's nuclear ambitions. Last week Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan signed an agreement with the Arab Gulf states which is aimed at curbing Tehran's influence.
And it was the Turks who pushed for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline through which Caspian oil is pumped to Europe, bypassing Russia and Iran. Aside from the Cyprus conflict, the Turks are, in foreign policy terms, model Europeans.
But their balancing act between Europe and Russia has rarely been as difficult as after the Georgian war. Erdogan's government had no choice but to join the EU and US in supporting the territorial integrity of the small republic. The pipeline from the Caspian Sea means there are common interests with Tbilisi. That has led to consequences for Turkey.
In mid-August Russia began to punish Ankara. Since then customs officers at the Georgian-Russian border have been scrutinizing Turkish trucks with unprecedented thoroughness, causing a tailback of several hundred trucks and $500 million in losses. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has promised that the "technically necessary" controls will soon be lifted.
'Welcome to the Lukewarm War'
Russia is also angry about Turkey's stance on the presence of American and European naval ships in the Black Sea, regardless of the fact that those vessels were supposedly delivering aid to the Georgian port city of Poti. Lavrov described the West's ships as a form of "gunboat diplomacy" and called on Turkey to tighten control over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles straits. Under an international agreement dating back to 1936, naval vessels must spend no longer than 21 days in the Black Sea.
But the US was also angry because the Turks -- referring to the same agreement -- were refusing to allow the passage of further warships, saying they were simply too big.
"Welcome to the lukewarm war," wrote Turkish columnist Cengiz Aktar about the new dilemma facing his country. Ever since the end of the Cold War Turkey has been putting its feelers out in all directions. But now the time had come to set priorities, wrote Aktar. "Do we want to behave like our northern neighbor and create peace by means of war?" he asks. "Or do we want to be like the European Union and conduct policy by peaceful means?"
Flexibility is Turkey's trump card. All doors are open to it. It has always pursued good relations with the US, Europe and Israel. And after the end of the Cold war it extended its sphere of influence among its "Turkic brothers" in Central Asia.
Friend to All
Even the Islamic-Arab world has moved closer to Turkey since the moderately Islamic AKP party of Erdogan came to power. Turkey's move to initiate secret talks between Syria and Israel is regarded as the biggest foreign policy success of the conservative government.
And the Georgia conflict? The Turkish prime minister responded with a suggestion that could have come from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He proposed am international forum -- a "Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform" -- in which all states could resolve their differences.
The forum is to include Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia and Armenia -- the country Turkey has been in dispute with for decades over the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces in World War I. To this day Ankara refuses to recognize the killings as genocide.
But diplomatic relations between the two countries weren't broken off until 1993 after Armenia seized control of Nagorno-Karabach, an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.
Nevertheless, the fact that Turkish President Abdulla Gül flew to the Armenian capital Yerevan last weekend to watch a football match with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian is being seen as the beginning of a thaw in relations.
And Zhirinovsky? The Russian nationalist recently travelled to Turkey again. He called the NATO an "imperialist club" and once again urged Turkey to forget about Europe and forge an alliance with his country -- the peace-loving Russia.
US stops being polite as spat with Venezuela grows
By FOSTER KLUG and IAN JAMES, Associated Press Writer
Friday, September 12, 2008
WASHINGTON, (AP) --
The United States stopped trying to be polite Friday in an escalating diplomatic shoving match with the populist leaders of Venezuela and Bolivia. Washington slapped new sanctions on three aides close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and called him weak and desperate. The Venezuelan ambassador got the boot for good measure, a move that was purely for show. Chavez had already brought his man home.
"Those who shout the loudest are not making the real news in the Americas," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said after Chavez used bathroom profanity to accuse the Americans of meddling in Latin America.
The rupture began Wednesday when Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador there, accusing him of inciting violent protests. Chavez followed suit Thursday, accusing the "U.S. empire" of helping plot a coup against him. He later gave the American ambassador 72 hours to quit the country.
McCormack adopted a grave tone to read a long defense to reporters Friday.
"The only meaningful conspiracy in the region is the common commitment of democratic countries to enhance opportunities for their citizens," he said. "The only overthrow we seek is that of poverty."
Separately, the United States accused three members of Chavez's inner circle of aiding Colombian rebels known as the FARC by supplying arms and helping drug traffickers.
Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement that the "designation exposes two senior Venezuelan government officials and one former official who armed, abetted and funded the FARC, even as it terrorized and kidnapped innocents."
Violent clashes over Bolivia's future have claimed eight lives. U.S. diplomats say Chavez and Morales are punching the United States to distract attention from mismanagement and unpopularity at home.
"This reflects the weakness and desperation of these leaders," McCormack said.
Not long after he spoke, Honduras announced that it will hold off on the accreditation of a new U.S. ambassador in solidarity with Venezuela and Bolivia. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said the Central American nation is not breaking relations with the United States.
Zelaya said small nations need to stick together. "The world powers must treat us fairly and with respect," he said. Zelaya previously planned to receive credentials Friday from U.S. diplomat Hugo Llorens.
Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega, a close ally of Morales, has not announced yet whether he will take any action against the U.S. ambassador in Nicaragua.
"Dark forces of the empire are conspiring against the government of Morales," Ortega said Thursday, referring to the United States.
By the end of the week, it was clear that the Bush administration's second-term strategy to get along with many left-leaning governments in Latin America while saying as little as possible about Chavez had fizzled.
Chavez and Morales suggested they had no interest in improving ties with Washington until a new administration takes over in January.
Chavez has made a specialty of anti-American broadsides, including an infamous 2006 reference to President Bush as the devil. Morales, on the other hand, was seen by Washington as a potential partner. The former coca growing union boss campaigned with a mild anti-American edge, but shook hands warmly with Rice at a much-watched get-acquainted session in 2006. He gave her a present she couldn't keep: A traditional Bolivian string instrument plastered with coca leaves.
A two-week protest against Morales' plans to redo the constitution and redirect gas revenues turned violent this week as demonstrators in the country's energy-rich eastern provinces stormed public offices, blocked roads and seized gas fields.
His surprise move Wednesday to kick out the U.S. ambassador drew a mild response from Washington at first. The State Department said the diplomat had done nothing wrong, and then stalled for time to see if Morales was serious.
All hesitation was gone Friday.
"The charges leveled against our fine ambassadors by the leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela are false — and the leaders of those countries know it," McCormack said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Bush's government is "the only one responsible for the state of deterioration" of its relations with Latin America.
The government said it will "submit all its relations with the United States to an intense process of evaluation."
The new sanctions target Hugo Carvajal Barrios and Henry Rangel Silva, both chiefs of Venezuelan intelligence agencies. A former government minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, was also named. The officials have served as Chavez's most trusted security chiefs.
U.S. drug czar John Walters has said Venezuela, which suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2005, is failing to take action against a sharp rise in cocaine smuggling. By U.S. estimates, the flow of Colombian cocaine through Venezuela has quadrupled since 2004, reaching an estimated 282 tons last year.
U.S. officials said the sanctions had been in the works for some time and are unrelated to the diplomatic dispute.
Watching the developments both internationally and here in the United States economically and politically, it is not difficult to see the design of the enemies of our country to bring us to our knees.
The shear weight of financial pressure that a War such as we must fight against Islamofascism has placed on our nation, as well as the unyielding greed and vote-buying of both political parties that has gone on for decades, is finally catching up to us.
Hate Bin Laden, but don't underestimate his intelligence. He knew the vices of our political system, and the fragility of the house of cards they've built. He also sensed the indecision or apathy of the American people. And he accurately observed that the generations of history during which the American nation and her principles have crushed their ideological foes has left wreckage and carnage out of which new generations of hate could be harnessed to bombard the United States here at this time.
And indeed, our enemies are piling on -- economically now, but how much longer before a China lunges for the wayward Taiwan? Or a stricken North Korea strikes South Korea? Or the Fascist thugs in charge in Russia now take out another former "satellite state"? Or Iran develops nukes and tries to take out Tel-Aviv to kill all the "Zionists"? Or all of the above -- at the same time?
More to follow....