Bolton: Israel Will Attack Iran After U.S. Election But Before Inauguration, Arab States Will Be ‘Delighted’»
This morning on Fox News, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton continued his drumbeat for war against Iran. Adopting Bill Kristol’s argument, Bolton suggested that an attack on Iran depends on who Americans elect as the next President:
I think if they [Israel] are to do anything, the most likely period is after our elections and before the inauguration of the next President. I don’t think they will do anything before our election because they don’t want to affect it. And they’d have to make a judgment whether to go during the remainder of President Bush’s term in office or wait for his successor.
Bolton gamed out the fallout from an attack on Iran. He claimed that Iran’s options to retaliate after being attacked are actually “less broad than people think.” He suggested that Iran would not want to escalate a conflict because 1) it still needs to export oil, 2) it would worry about “an even greater response” from Israel, 3) and it would worry about the U.S.’s response.
Bolton then concluded that Arab states would be excited if the U.S. or Israel attacked Iran:
I don’t think you’d hear the Arab states say this publicly, but they would be delighted if the United States or Israel destroyed the Iranian nuclear weapons capability.
Bolton has said he is backing John McCain because he would handle the Iranian nuclear program in a “stronger” way than the Bush administration.
Russia: Moscow Looks To Expand Military Presence In Central Asia
By Farangis Najibullah
Some events this month indicate Russia is trying to boost its military presence in energy-rich Central Asia, and the region's governments seem content to expand their military ties with Russia.
Earlier this month, Russian media quoted Russian Air Force commander Colonel General Aleksandr Zelin as saying Moscow will deploy more personnel and equipment -- including more aircraft -- to its air base in Kant, outside the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
And last week, the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, ratified an agreement with Tajikistan on the mutual use of military forces. The document was first signed in November 2006 and has already been approved by the Tajik parliament.
Military and political experts both in Russia and Central Asia say the timing of Russia's ratification of the bilateral agreement with Tajikistan and its plans to reinforce the Kant air base are not coincidental, and show Moscow's seriousness about fortifying its influence in Central Asia.
Vladimir Mukhin, a Moscow-based journalist and expert on military affairs, says that while Central Asia is an important region in terms of energy resources and geopolitics, Russia "has apparently come to the conclusion that military cooperation is the first and the most important step in regaining influence in the region."
Mukhin adds that "Military and military-technical cooperation is -- should be -- of foremost importance in former Soviet countries. The security and sovereignty of these countries depend on the level of their military integration and military-technical cooperation because all armaments in the CIS are Russian-made weaponry [leftover from the Soviet era]. And Russia still produces and exports these armaments."
With some 7,000 troops from Russia's 201st Motorized Rifle Division, the military base in Tajikistan is the largest Russian deployment outside its borders.
The air base in Kant hosts some 400 personnel and is reportedly equipped with Russian Su-25, Su-27, An-24, and Il-76 aircraft as well as Mi-8 helicopters. The base was established in 2003. Sources at the base have denied reports that additional reinforcements will be sent there by Russia.
But Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha, a Russian, has reportedly confirmed the imminent reinforcement at Kant, even suggesting that the additional troops and equipment will increase the significance of Russia's military presence in Central Asia.
Russia The 'Most Realistic Partner'
Some Central Asian governments are welcoming the increased Russian military presence in their region. According to the Russian presidential office, the "further expansion of military-technical cooperation" was high on the agenda earlier this month when President Dmitry Medvedev met with his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, in St. Petersburg.
Ismoil Rahmatov, an expert on political affairs at the Strategic Studies think tank in Dushanbe, says that "after a few years of courtship with other world players -- the U.S., Europe, and China -- Central Asian countries have realized that Russia is their most realistic partner."
Rahmatov notes that while China shares a border of more than 570 kilometers with Tajikistan and the United States is "the most powerful country in the world and it provides significant assistance" to Tajikistan, "all their aid can't come close to the assistance the Tajik people get from Russia -- [that is], the money Tajik migrants make in Russia. Russia is the only country that has always been-- and will be -- by Tajikistan's side."
According to the Tajik expert, there were times -- especially after the terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001 -- that Central Asian countries were willing to expand their cooperation with the West and to decrease their dependency on Russia.
However, such cooperation did not meet all of their expectations, and two main reasons are suggested for their general disappointment in cooperating with the West.
First, most of the Western aid was conditioned on an improvement of human rights and the implementation of democratic changes in Central Asia, something the mainly authoritarian governments of Central Asia were not looking to make anytime soon.
The second reason is the great geographical distance between the West and Central Asia. Millions of families in Central Asia depend heavily on their seasonal jobs at construction sites, markets, and factories in Russia for their livelihood. Their physical connections to Europe, China, and the United States pale in comparison.
Wider Regional Cooperation To Come?
Some observers say Russia and Central Asian countries are entering a new phase in their relationships -- both in the framework of bilateral cooperation with Moscow and in the framework of regional treaties, such as the CSTO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec).
Uzbek President Islam Karimov recently suggested that the CSTO and the Eurasec should merge to create a "powerful union capable of becoming a counterbalance to NATO and the EU."
That's because none of the numerous regional organizations set up in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union have united the "newly independent states," with most such organizations -- particularly the CSTO and the Eurasec -- having been dismissed as ineffective talk shops.
And while Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's idea to form a Central Asian union has received some acceptance, it is opposed by Uzbekistan and faces far too many hurdles to become a reality any time in the near future.
So, with multiple but unsatisfying regional organizations to turn to, Central Asian countries seem to be welcoming Russia back with open arms -- though they haven't yet closed their doors to greater ties with the West.
Not far from the Russian air base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan hosts a U.S. military base at its Manas International Airport that has some 1,000 personnel. The base reportedly contributes $50 million to the Kyrgyz economy every year and is one of the greatest sources of foreign currency for the impoverished country.
There are also some 200 French troops stationed in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, and the country gets significant financial aid from the United States and the EU, including funds for constructing a bridge linking Tajikistan with Afghanistan and funds to train its border guards.
And Uzbekistan, which closed a U.S. military base on its territory in 2005, recently allowed its reuse by NATO forces involved in Afghanistan and is reconsidering its "current state of affairs" with the United States.
Even Turkmenistan, which was a reclusive country with few ties to the West, has greatly opened itself up and has even been cooperating with NATO in recent months under President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.
All prime reasons why Moscow undoubtedly believes it has no time to lose in expanding its ties -- including militarily -- with all the Central Asian countries.
USnuclear weapons parts missing, Pentagon says
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Link Published: June 19 2008 05:13 | Last updated: June 19 2008 05:13
The US military cannot locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components, according to several government officials familiar with a Pentagon report on nuclear safeguards.
Robert Gates, US defence secretary, recently fired both the US Air Force chief of staff and air force secretary after an investigation blamed the air force for the inadvertent shipment of nuclear missile nose cones to Taiwan.
According to previously undisclosed details obtained by the FT, the investigation also concluded that the air force could not account for many sensitive components previously included in its nuclear inventory.
One official said the number of missing components was more than 1,000.
The disclosure is the latest embarrassing episode for the air force, which last year had to explain how a bomber mistakenly carried six nuclear missiles across the US. The incidents have raised concerns about US nuclear safeguards as Washington presses other countries to bolster counter-proliferation measures.
In announcing the departure of the top air force officials earlier this month, Mr Gates said Admiral Kirkland Donald, the officer who led the investigation, concluded that both incidents had a “common origin” which was “the gradual erosion of nuclear standards and a lack of effective oversight by air force leadership”.
Mr Gates added that the Pentagon was evaluating the results of a “comprehensive inventory of all nuclear and nuclear-related materials [conducted] to re-establish positive control of these sensitive, classified components”.
Adm Donald briefed Congress on the results of his investigation on Wednesday. Bryan Whitman, Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on the classified report.
A senior defence official said the report had “identified issues about record keeping” for sensitive nuclear missile components. But he stressed that there was no suggestion that components had ended up in the hands of countries that should not have received them.
But Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said the revelation was “very significant and extremely troubling” because it meant the US could not establish the positive control referred to by Mr Gates.
“It raises a serious question about where else these unaccounted for warhead related parts may have gone,” said Mr Kimball. “I would not be surprised if the recent Taiwan incident is not the only one.”
A senior military officer said the military leadership, including Adm Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was “deeply troubled” by the findings of the Donald report. He added that they would be paying close attention to recommendations for improving nuclear safeguards that Mr Gates has asked James Schlesinger, a former defence secretary, to make.
Gordon Johndroe, National Security Council spokesman, declined to comment on the disclosure about the unaccounted for components. But he said the “the White House has confidence that secretary Gates through his actions with the air force is addressing all of these issues”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday warned against the use of force on Iran, saying there was no proof it was trying to build nuclear weapons.
Lavrov said Iran should be engaged in dialogue and encouraged to cooperate with the UN nuclear monitoring agency.
He made the statement when asked to comment on Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz's statement earlier this month that Israel could attack Iran if it does not halt its nuclear program.
"I hope the actual actions would be based on international law," Lavrov said. "And international law clearly protects Iran's and anyone else's territorial integrity."
The IDF refused to confirm or deny a New York Times report Friday that its warplanes staged a major rehearsal this month for a possible attack on Iran.
Lavrov said Russia had asked both the United States and Israel to provide factual information to back their claims that Iran was working to build atomic weapons. "So far we have seen none, and the same conclusion was made by the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.
"It's absolutely not right to speak matter-of-factly that Iran continues building nuclear weapons," Lavrov added.
Lavrov insisted that Iran must be encouraged to continue its cooperation with the UN monitoring agency.
"As long as the IAEA reports to us progress in its relations with Iran, as long as Iran closes the issues which were of concern to the IAEA and this process continues, we should avoid any steps which could undermine this very important process," he said, speaking in English.
Russia has maintained close ties with Iran and is building its first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr, which is expected to go on line later this year. It has backed limited UN sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program, but has opposed the US push for harsher measures.
"The key to resolving the Iranian issue is involvement," Lavrov said. "We must involve Iran, engage Iran in resolving the Iranian nuclear program, ... but also engage Iran in constructive, respectful, serious dialogue on Iraq and Afghanistan, on the Middle East in general."