Wednesday, August 25, 2010

View on News 19-08-10

US warns Turkey on Iran and Israel

President Barack Obama has personally warned Turkey’s prime minister that unless Ankara shifts its position on Israel and Iran it stands little chance of obtaining the US weapons it wants to buy. Mr Obama’s warning to Recep Tayyip Erdogan is particularly significant as Ankara wants to buy American drone aircraft – such as the missile-bearing Reaper – to attack the Kurdish separatist PKK after the US military pulls out of Iraq at the end of 2011. The PKK has traditionally maintained bases in the remote mountains in the north of Iraq, near the Turkish border. One senior administration official said: “The president has said to Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised on the Hill [Congress] . . . about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally. That means that some of the requests Turkey has made of us, for example in providing some of the weaponry that it would like to fight the PKK, will be harder for us to move through Congress.” Washington was deeply frustrated when Turkey voted against United Nations sanctions on Iran in June. When the leaders met later that month at the G20 summit in Toronto, Mr Obama told Mr Erdogan that the Turks had failed to act as an ally in the UN vote. He also called on Ankara to cool its rhetoric about an Israeli raid that killed nine Turks on a flotilla bearing aid for Gaza.While the two men have subsequently sought to co-operate over Iraq’s efforts to patch together a coalition government, the US makes clear its warning still stands.

Iran condemns possible US military action

Iran took its case against the United States to the United Nations on Wednesday and strongly condemned the top U.S. military chief for saying military action remains a possibility if the country develops nuclear weapons.Iran's acting U.N. ambassador Eshagh Alehabib claimed in letters circulated to the secretary-general and presidents of the Security Council and General Assembly that Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other U.S. officials and lawmakers "threatened" to use military action under the "totally false" pretense that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Mullen said earlier this month that the U.S. military has a plan to attack Iran, although he thinks a military strike is probably a bad idea. Still, he said the risk of Iran developing a nuclear weapon is unacceptable and he reiterated that "the military option" remains on the table. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Wednesday that Iran's response to an attack would not be limited to the region, suggesting Iran would target U.S. interests beyond the Persian Gulf. "It's unlikely that they (U.S.) will make such a stupidity (to attack Iran) but all must know that if this threat is carried out, the field of the Iranian nation's confrontation will not be only our region," Khamenei told state TV. "The area of confrontation will be much wider."

Afghanistan and African nations at greatest risk from world food shortages

Soaring commodity prices and natural disasters in Russia and Pakistan have combined to put African nations and conflict-ridden countries such as Afghanistan most at risk from food shortages, according to a report released today.Sharp price rises for wheat and other grains will hit the world's neediest countries hardest, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, as they grapple with their own poor harvests and failing transport networks, according to a food security index by risk management consultancy Maplecroft. It also says conflict is a key factor behind food insecurity and Afghanistan tops the index of threatened countries. The other nine nations categorised as "extreme risk" are all in Africa, led by Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia. African nations make up 36 of the 50 countries most at risk in the index. The report highlights climate change as having a "profound effect on global food security", with a heatwave in Russia coinciding with devastating floods in Pakistan – ranked 30th and "high risk" in the index."Russian brakes on exports, plus a reduction in Canada's harvest by almost a quarter due to flooding in June, are provoking fluctuations in the commodity markets," said Fiona Place, environmental analyst at Maplecroft. "This will further affect the food security of the most vulnerable countries."

Pakistan: Relief Operations hampered as US controls airbase

Health relief operations in Jacobabad are not possible because the airbase in the area is controlled by the US. The stunning statement was made by Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari during an appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on Health on Wednesday. “Health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is with the United States,” Mr Lashari said while answering a question asked by Senator Semeen Yusuf Siddiqui of PML-Q. Dr Jahanzeb Aurakzai, coordinator of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre, said: “Foreign health teams could not start relief operations in remote areas because there are no airstrips close to several areas, including Jacobabad.” The town has been evacuated and 500,000 to 700,000 people have been affected. People displaced from Jacobabad, Thul, Kandhkot, Kashmore, Ghouspur and Karumpur are camping in Dera Allahyar. “It is very unfortunate that Americans can launch a drone attack from Shahbaz airbase but the government is helpless even in using the country’s base for relief operations,” Senator Semeen said while talking to this correspondent.

The Chinese Military Challenge

The Pentagon's annual report on China's military power finally surfaced Monday, five months overdue. Considering that the report tells us little that we didn't already know—not least, that China is rapidly modernizing and expanding its arsenal of missiles, ships and aircraft—we'll put the delay down to the Obama Administration's reluctance to offend Beijing's sensitivities. That may be the most alarming fact of all. A shift is afoot in the People's Liberation Army's attitude toward the U.S. in Asia. As recently as a few years ago, Chinese officials acknowledged that the American military is a stabilizing force in the region. But while China's civilian leaders still want to enhance military-to-military ties, Chinese officers have become increasingly confrontational, in written statements and deeds.Exhibit A is the PLA's challenge to the U.S. Navy's right to operate in international waters near China's coast. In response to the announcement this month of new exercises in the Yellow Sea involving the aircraft carrier USS George Washington—something the Navy has been doing for decades—Rear Admiral Yang Yi told an Australian journalist that this was "some kind of challenge and humiliation to China's national interest and the feelings of the Chinese people." After similar protests last month the Pentagon caved, opting to deploy the Washington and its battle group on the other side of the Korean peninsula. Beijing has also decided to enforce its claim to almost the entire South China Sea as its "historical waters," identifying this as a "core interest" on a par with Taiwan and Tibet. Early last year, Chinese patrol vessels and trawlers mounted a coordinated effort to intimidate an unarmed U.S. Navy surveillance ship. China has been equipping its fisheries service with ex-Navy ships to enforce a summer fishing ban in the South China Sea. In June, one such ship was involved in a confrontation with the Indonesian navy off the Natuna Islands. China's broader strategic goal is to keep the U.S. from operating freely in the waters bounded by Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia. Beijing's strategy, known as "access denial," involves fielding a large submarine force, developing cruise and ballistic missiles that could take out an American aircraft carrier, and deploying antisatellite weapons that can disrupt U.S. communications. These and other forms of "asymmetric" military capabilities are intended to prevent the U.S. Navy from gaining access to these waters in the event that, say, China decides to bully Taiwan into accepting reunification on Beijing's terms.

August 19 2010

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