December 08, 2007

The Gujarat Miracle : Facts

An archangel of death from Italy in Gujarat

Saturday, 08 December, 2007 , 03:20 PM

“Remember friend, as you pass by.
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, you soon shall be.
So, prepare for death, and follow me.”
—Author unknown.

Sonia Gandhi is no Archangel of Peace in Gujarat or for that matter in any other part of India. The experienced people of Gujarat know her to be an unrivalled ‘Archangel of Death’.

Digressing for a moment from Sonia’s sustained and continuous psudo-secular and historic peace initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir, let me turn to Gujarat where elections are taking place in the next few days.

All the Hindus of India know that Islam-embracing and Christianity-coveting Sonia promoted peace in Godhra through the Muslim terrorists in February, 2002. Later she promoted peace through the Muslim terrorists when they attacked ‘Sankat Vimochan Temple’ at Benares.

When the Muslim terrorists killed scores of people in a railway train in Mumbai through the use of cleverly deployed Bombs, Sonia Gandhi expressed her compassion towards the minorities saying that they were being targeted unnecessarily by the Hindu fundamentalists.

She and her slavish Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh showed their patriotism two years ago by deliberately absenting themselves from participating in the function connected with the centenary of the ‘Vande Mataram Song’ in New Delhi. On that historic occasion, both of them treated their own Government sponsored function with pseudo-secular contempt.

Sonia Gandhi absented herself from the public function connected with the birth centenary of the great Revolutionary Freedom Fighter Baghat Singh held in New Delhi. Sonia and her puppet Government view great revolutionaries like Baghat Singh, Sukh Dev and Chandrasekar Azad as misdirected terrorists and all the Islamic terrorists of today as selfless nationalists.

About ten days ago Sonia Gandhi went to Gujarat and during an elections speech described Narendra Modi as a dishonest Merchant of Death. She rose to poetic heights by saying that Narendra Modi has converted Gujarat into a Godse Land. It is a pity that the grand old Congress party has gone dearth of strategies and become bankrupt of vital national issues to be raised and placed before the people of Gujarat in its on-going electoral campaign.

Sonia Gandhi and her party have been driven to the helpless desperation of being forced to rake up the issue of encounter death of a criminal and a terror suspect Shorabuddin. What is disgusting and disgraceful to note is that the shameless Congress Party in Gujarat has joined forces with the Sardar Patel Utkarsh Samiti led by Gordhan Zadaphia who was Home Minister in Narendra Modi’s Cabinet during the 2002 violence in Godhra. Thus a pro-Hindu terrorist of 2002 fame has become an acceptable pseudo-secular and anti-Hindu Congress nationalist of today after he has been duly baptised by Sonia Gandhi.

The Congress President Sonia, has always treated the Hindu majority with contempt and describes all the Hindu leaders as ‘Communalists’. She duly follows the Nehru legacy of appeasing the Muslims, but unlike Nehru, she has a hidden Christian agenda of de-Hinduising this great nation by dividing the people on communal lines.

In the present run-up to the Gujarat elections, she had said, ‘The Gujarat government is being run by leaders who are liars, dishonest and merchants of religion & death’. This is an arrogant and uncivilized statement, which deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

B R Haran, has dissected Sonia Gandhi’s known anti-Hindu pseudo-secular stance in these words: ‘In fact, the three terms ‘Lier, Dishonest & Merchant of Death’ suits only her, in the most appropriate way and certainly not Mr Narendra Modi . Her first ‘lie’ was a blatant lie, when she went to the then President Mr. K R Narayanan after the 1998 elections and said, ‘I have the support of 272 MPs’ and claimed to form the government, with an intention of becoming the Prime Minister.

Since then, she had lied many times on many issues like Bofors, Oil for Food scam and even in the affidavits with regards to her educational qualifications & citizenship, which she submits during elections from time to time. Her ‘dishonesty’ was evident when she delayed her Indian citizenship for more than fifteen years and also when she told the nation in May 2004, ‘My inner voice told me to renounce the post of Prime Ministership’, while her claim to become the PM was actually turned down by the then President Dr Kalam due to obvious legal reasons. Her dishonesty was also evident when she visited Thirupathi Thirumala without even signing the register confirming her faith’.

“The term ‘Merchant of Religion’ could be found applicable to all Sonia’s speeches, wherein she has always tried to appease the minorities and ridicule the majority. Even during the recent UP Assembly elections, she had written a personal letter to thousands of Muslim clerics and leaders saying, ‘help me generously to fight against communalism (read majority Hindus), so that, I can build a society of your dreams’.

This is just an example and many such irrefutable facts can be cited. It is time for all the Hindus of India to adopt this working slogan: “Hindus of India unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! Congress Hatao aur Desh ko Bachao”.

The term ‘Merchant of death’ is the most appropriate term suiting her since the day she captured power as an extra constitutional authority without any accountability or sense of moral responsibility. The nation’s security has been in shambles for the last three years and Islamic terrorism, Naxalism & Maoism have increased at an alarming rate due to her appeasement policies and vote bank politics resulting in deaths of thousands of innocent people and destruction of billions of rupees worth of private and public properties.

I spoke to Dr Subramanian Swamy who as a young parliamentarian fought against the terrorism of Indira Gandhi during emergency in 1975-77 and who is now leading a One-Man Brigade fighting the terrorism being let loose against the Hindus of India by the UPA Government in New Delhi under the stranglehold of a champion of Islamic Terrorism, though she calls herself an ‘Archangel of Christian Peace’, like Sonia Gandhi. Dr Swamy has this to say on Sonia’s observations on Narendra Modi and Gujarat:

‘I am rather amused by the observations of Sonia Gandhi to the effect that Narendra Modi is functioning as a ‘Merchant of Death’ and that he has converted Gujarat into a ‘Godse Land’. And yet I am not surprised because I know that she is an international terrorist with close links with merchants of death not only in India but in several other parts of the world.

Otherwise, she would not have teamed up with those terrorists who are responsible for the murder of her husband Rajiv Gandhi—I mean the DMK Party with its multiple layers of financial and political underground connections with the LTTE. Sonia Gandhi can never understand India and much less Hinduism and Hindu way of live. She can never understand Indian feelings, emotions and sentiments.

No other Indian widow would have teamed up with the killers of her husband or those who praised those killers in poetic terms, as Sonia has done, to keep herself and her family in a position of unchallenged power in New Delhi. Moreover, Sonia is ignorant about the fact that Nathuram Godse was a Maharashtrian and not a Gujarathi. Godse killed another Hindu and not a Muslim or a Christian. In short, I can only say that Sonia herself is a ‘Merchant of Death’ for all the Hindus of India regardless of the State of their origin.’

As usual, the Congress has lived up to its known pseudo-secular standard of supporting Islamic terror. The people of Gujarat will, no doubt, give a fitting and resounding reply to the Congress Party in the coming fortnight.

Gujarat Polls 2007 - Why beat when you can bait ?

It is now clear that the battleground in Gujarat is no longer just about what happens on the 11th and 16th of December in the polling booths. There are now essentially two battles. The first battle involves the people and will in all likelihood be determined by how much the BJP rebels and the disenchanted special interest groups undercut the traditional Modi vote bank.

The second battle on the other hand is about rendering the people of Gujarat irrelevant.

So you have this troika of the usual suspects Congress, the mainstream media, radical left wing pressure groups coming together even before the people of Gujarat face the battle at the hustings.

The Congress as Offstumped had pointed is no longer focused on Gujarat but on its Muslim vote bank in the rest of the country. The radical left wing pressure groups are known Modi baiters with a stated agenda to haul him to court.

Offstumped based on extensive analysis over two posts has laid bare the surreptitious campaign by the mainstream media to target Modi with a relentless barrage over the last 45 days invoking communal issues.

If one believes that this troika is attempting to influence public opinion in Gujarat so the people make an informed choice come 11th or 16th one must be seriously deluded.

This is no longer about beating Modi at the hustings by influencing public opinion in Gujarat. This is about baiting Modi even before he can get to the hustings. Hence you have the Election Commission joining this troika unwittingly as a partisan player in this game of bait.

Look at the grounds on which the Election Commission has issued the notice of violation of the model code of conduct

the speech amounts to an open exhortation to violence and misuse of religion for political ends

the references to Late Shri Sohrabuddin and linking his name to terrorism, made in the speech, amounts to indulging in activity which may aggravate existing differences, creating mutual hatred and causing tension between different communities

It is funny that the one fundamental issue or concern that one could have with Mr. Modi’s speech - condoning an extra-judicial killing, finds no mention in the Election Commission’s Notice.

Consider the pervesity here.

The EC is not concerned if Mr. Modi condoned or did not condone the fake encounter, instead the EC wants to take offence to the speech only because Mr. Sohrabuddin is Muslim and Mr. Modi is Hindu.

This coming from an autonomous Constitutional Authority that has looked the other way when Congress President Sonia Gandhi calls Mr. Modi a “Merchant of Death” in the context of Muslim fears and Congress General Secretary Digvijay talks of “Hindu Terrorism” without any factual basis.

Offstumped Bottomline: Mr. Modi’s fate must be decided by the people of Gujarat and the Courts and not by unelected bureaucrats sitting in Nirvachan Sadan. The Election Commission’s notice to Mr. Modi gives Institutional Sanction to the perversity of taking offense to a criminal’s extra-judicial death based on his religious background. By ignoring remarks from the Congress which were blatantly communal and replete with hatred, the Commission has exposed its partisan dark side. The EC must withdraw its notice or face the prospect of a future impeachment.

QUOTE OF THE DAY : Narendra Modi

"I am saying in front of all the media that Modi is not a merchant of death. Those running the central government in Delhi should be called the merchants of death.It's been more than a year since Supreme Court passed a death sentence against Afzal Guru. Why is Sonia Gandhi's government refusing to hang him. Isn't it vote bank politics?"


Is Sonia bhen losing her marbles?

Lately Sonia Bhen has gotten to gutter level in the way she is attacking Narendra Modi and Gujarat. I also do not agree with lot of things about Modi, but if I am opposing him, I would engage in constructive debate on how I can do things better than he did.

"I am saying in front of all the media that Modi is not a merchant of death. Those running the central government in Delhi should be called the merchants of death.It's been more than a year since Supreme Court passed a death sentence against Afzal Guru. Why is Sonia Gandhi's government refusing to hang him. Isn't it vote bank politics?"


Whether one loves or hates Modi, there are some indisputable facts. He has brought Gujarat to new level of unprecendented prosperity. The best proof is the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation headed by Sonia Bhen determined that Gujarat is the best state in India. Modi is a great administrator, impeccably honest. Can Sonia and her cohorts vouch they are honest and corruption free. I am not saying BJP Leaders are and some of them are as bad as Congress Leaders, which resulted in Modi making enemies of some of his own partymen.

All Sonia Bhen can talk about is 2002 riots. Anyone in his right mind be it a Muslim or Hindu, we all condemn Gujarat Riots. These should never have happened, so do burning alive of 3000 Sikhs directly by instigation of Congress leaders who are holding positions of power today.

But Sonia Bhen does it make more sense to talk what you can do better for Gujarat's 5.5 crore people than Narendra Modi did. You nominated PM talks about Muslims have a first right to National resources while Narendra Modi talks about the welfare of 5.5 crore Gujarathis. How clever you can still call him communal while your party deliberately practices communal politics. Madam, do you have the wisdom to see that this kind of flawed communal policy of giving unfair advantage to one community and marginalizing another would only lead to unrest in the country? While you are concerned so much for your children, please tell how we can one raise our children who works hard and plays by the rules but could not get ahead in life?

You call Modi a Merchant of Death, but can you explain the death due to Sikh riots by your party leaders where three times more people died and no justice was ever done since 1984? Can you explain deaths due to terrorism which is just next to Iraq caused due to your government soft policies for Vote Banks. Can you explain while millions of taxpayers money are used for your protection, you take away the protections from terrorism to the citizens by removing POTA and other laws? Let us see, how many blasts occurred since your party took power? Delhi Blast , Varanasi Blast, Bombay Blast, Malgoan Blast, Samhita Express, Bangalore attack, Hyderabad Blast (three of them) and probably many others. How many terrorists are caught while innocent people die? You are boosting morale of terrorists by asking clemency for Afzal and your hand picked PM loses sleep of terror suspects, while in Gujarat all Gujarthis are living free of terrorism. Who is Merchant of Death, Madam?

You denigrate whole state of Gujarat consisting of honest entrepreneurial and hardworking people of India as Godse Country. Gujarat is the land that gave India Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. It is quite obvious you come from a Fascist Nation, do not have much of an opportunity to study in school like the born Indians, or study in college like some other westerners. Madam Gandhi, your statements show lack of intellectual depth to understand great people of India. It looks like you parrot whatever your speech writers write, without knowing the facts.

Let me suggest an alternative. Would you disposed to challenging Modi on the human development index (say Gujarat Vs Andhra Pradesh or Gujarat Vs West Bengal?). Would you challenge Modi where the minorities are better off, in Gujarat or any other congress ruled states? Would you engage in an honest debate whether handing out special privileges at the expense of other community would lead to prosperity or peace? Would you bother to study what happened in US and how they are smart enough to fix it with respect to African Americans. How today African Americans in US are increasingly becoming strong middle class without special privileges.

Sonia Bhen, please do not divide my beloved country. We worked very hard to kick out British. Won't you try a different approach of, "Equal Opportunity for all, special privileges for none". This is what our constitution calls for. If it is not there, please put it in. Won't you challenge Modi on how your party can bring in more prosperity and peace to all Gujarthis?

Here are my last words to you Sonia Bhen. Indian people are very generous people, please do not let them down, which you are doing now. The day you follow "Dharma", and play it by the rules, may be even I will vote for you.

Patriot of India

Please visit: (a very professionally created website by NRI groups with video clips of development etc.)

Musharraf in soup dancing to US tune
Dinanath Mishra

Rapid changes at the apex level in Pakistan have once again brought about political upheavals. However, the events are yet to unfold with January 2008 scheduled for parliamentary election which are going to be held under Emergency Rule as per present indications.

Two exiled former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are sworn enemies. Now they have come together to issue a statement that Bhutto's People's Party of Pakistan and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League would boycott the proposed election if Emergency is not lifted and free and fair elections not guaranteed.

There are other demands like reinstatement of sacked Chief Justice of Supreme Court and other judges and unshackling the media.

Under US pressure, Musharraf has shed his uniform to become the President for the next five years. He continues to be the repository of all Governmental powers but he is losing ground. He did not want Bhutto or Sharif to be in Pakistan. Despite his best efforts to stop their entry both of them are there. Musharraf did not want to shed his uniform but he had to. The two main players in the Pakistan politics had been trying hard to return to Pakistan and actively involve themselves in the country's politics. Musharraf buckled under US pressure to accept them.

Now that both these leaders have teamed up to press for lifting of Emergency and holding free and fair elections, it seems that Musharraf will have to concede these demands also. If elections are held after fulfilling the demands, no leader or party is likely to get a majority. During Musharraf's incumbency, the political map of Pakistan has undergone a change. He has eroded quite a bit of the support base of both Bhutto and Sharif. Now Benazir has started campaigning in NWFP. This is a shrewd move to recapture her pashtoon ground. This area is dominate by Al-Qaeda and Taliban outfits. By this move she has demonstrated her physical courage. Sindh may by and large go Benazir's way and she may get a little bit of Punjab also. The Punjabis would provide political fodder for Sharif. Muttaihada Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) is in power in NWFP and Baluchistan. The third power is likely to become important in the post-election scenario.

Whatever may be the shape of the ruling groups after the election, Pakistan has always had two big power poles, the US and Pakistan Army. General Kiyani, the newly appointed Army Chief, is US' choice and not Musharraf's, though he had appointed him. The Pentagon has groomed Kiyani from his earlier ranks. The US feels that it can safely repose confidence in him. Of late, the US has been worrying over rising temperatures, political as well as jehadi terrorism, in Pakistan.

Musharraf spoke candidly on November 30, 2007 on ABC channel. He said: "The West must share the blame for Pakistan's current political crisis and Pakistan alone is not responsible for any failure of the US' war on terror." He faulted the US for its inconsistent support. For 30 years, the US turned a blind eye towards terrorism until 9/11. Describing the US and Pakistan's support to Mujahideen in Afghanistan against Soviet Union, Musharraf said, "we launched a jehad together".

Meanwhile, a small group of US military experts and Intelligence officers assembled in Washington to explore war game strategies for securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenals, if the country's political institutions and military safeguards fall apart. The US has conducted several such exercises in recently examining various options and scenarios including as to how many troops may be required for military intervention in Pakistan.

President Bush has declared that if they get definite information of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the US Army will directly intervene. Pak foreign affairs spokesperson meekly reacted by saying that Pakistan is capable of protecting its sovereignty and its nuclear weapons are fully secured under a clear command. It ultimately concluded that there are no palatable ways to ensure the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenals. Military intervention would ruin US-Pakistan cooperation.

In the last two years, the US has understood Musharraf's strategy to deal with it without doing much on war on terror front. That ultimately went against him. The US handled Musharraf in a way that seems to benefit the US. So far as Pakistan is concerned, it is facing worst-ever political crisis. If Musharraf does not lift Emergency and conduct election, people of Pakistan will agitate. Confrontation and bloodshed is feared. Ushering in democracy with least of the modicum may look very difficult. If disheartened Musharraf defies US, General Kiyani is there to watch US interests. And Pakistan will rot as a failed State.

Demanding a democracy which Pakistan has never known

Written By: Thomas Houlahan
Article Date: Dec 8, 2007

Many commentators seem to believe that the only reason Pakistan has not developed into a smoothly running democracy is that the Pakistani army is constantly involving itself in politics.

I think those commentators have gotten it pretty much backward. It is clear to me that the Pakistani army ends up involved in politics because Pakistan lacks some of the key prerequisites for the smooth functioning of a democracy.

In the United States, the Republican and Democratic parties differ dramatically in their ideologies, but they share a national focus.

The focus of Pakistan's political parties tends to be regional, like that of the Balochistan National Party, religious, like that of the Jamaat-e-Islami, or personal, like that of the Pakistan People's Party or the Pakistan Muslim League (N).

The latter two parties are currently President Pervez Musharraf's two most popular opponents.

The PPP is essentially the fiefdom of Benazir Bhutto, its self-described "chairperson for life." Before her, it was the fiefdom of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was executed after having been convicted of authorizing the murder of a political opponent.

The PML(N) is the fiefdom of Nawaz Sharif. In fact, the parenthetical "N" in the organization's name stands for Nawaz.

Because these parties stress loyalty to the leader over honesty and competence, all four administrations of Bhutto and Sharif ended early due to corruption and mismanagement on a massive scale.

The internal workings of these parties are anything but democratic. Both Bhutto and Nawaz rule their parties with an iron fist. New leaders are not allowed to emerge.

We are seeing some evidence of this now with Bhutto. Pakistan has term limits for the post of prime minister. No one can hold the post more than twice. Bhutto has held it twice, and is therefore barred from holding it again.

Rather than put forward another PPP candidate for prime minister, Bhutto is trying to get the law changed to allow her a third term.

Pakistan also lacks the traditions of responsible exercise of power and a loyal opposition.

In the United States, the party that wins gets to run the Congress or occupy the White House. It does not immediately start rounding up those who criticize it.

In Pakistan, the leaders of the party in power, who rule their own parties with an iron fist, do likewise with the country. Even with about 2,000 people in jail under the current emergency, I think any Pakistani who is being honest will tell you that it has been safer to criticize the government under Musharraf, a serving army general, than it was under Bhutto or Sharif.

In the United States, the party that loses spends the next few years criticizing the party that won. It does not, however, try to topple the government.

The idea that losing parties work with the government in a subordinate role has not caught on in Pakistan. Losing parties tend to see their role as: "to obtain power at the earliest moment by just about any means necessary."

Unfortunately, the means for gaining power often involves doing their utmost to cripple the government. Again, Bhutto is providing us with an example. Essentially forced on Musharraf by the George W. Bush administration which hoped to produce harmony in Pakistan, she pulled a classic double-cross. When Musharraf agreed not to pursue the corruption charges which had caused her to flee Pakistan, she returned, almost immediately rejected compromise and has since worked ceaselessly to oust Musharraf. As a member of the opposition, she is after power, not harmony. She has thus stoked and exploited the unrest rather than attempting to calm it.

Pakistan also lacks a tradition of respect for separation of powers. Just as loyalty to party tends to trump loyalty to country in the Pakistani polity, the interests of one's bureaucracy can take precedence over the nation's interests in the minds of Pakistani officials. Organs of the Pakistani government therefore have a rich history of intruding into prerogatives reserved for other organs.

Musharraf's original assumption of power was occasioned by such an attempted power grab. Sharif, prime minister at the time, had pushed through a series of constitutional amendments that had stripped the president of any meaningful power and legislators of any real independence, turning the parliament into a virtual rubber stamp. He then intimidated the Supreme Court by bringing about the dismissal of the chief justice. Finally, he attempted to stock the upper echelons of the army with his supporters.

While Musharraf, chief of army staff, was out of the country, Sharif ordered his removal. When Musharraf attempted to return, Sharif ordered the closure of Karachi Airport to keep his plane from landing. The plane was able to land only after Pakistani army troops seized the airport. The plane had seven minutes of fuel remaining when it landed. The army promptly took control of the government and arrested Sharif on charges of hijacking and terrorism.

The assumption of power was challenged in the Supreme Court. The court ruled that Musharraf's assumption of power was "extraconstitutional" but both legal and necessary, since Sharif had left no other means of challenging misuse of his power.

The recent state of emergency stemmed from an attempt by the Supreme Court to expand its power.

There was already tension with the judiciary over what the government felt was excessive use of its right to take up issues on its own initiative, known as "suo-motu jurisdiction." Issues like road traffic, prices, environmental problems, and appointment and transfers of senior officials were increasingly becoming court matters. In addition, government and civil service officials were being called to court with increasing regularity and dressed down by judges.

Musharraf felt that the judiciary's activity rose to the level of interference with the conduct of government.

It has also been reported that two Supreme Court justices warned Musharraf that the court was preparing to rule him ineligible for election as president.

Such a ruling would have gone against not only any reasonable interpretation of the constitution, but an April 13, 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court on the very same issues.

It may not look good for a serving army general to run for president of a country, but under the constitution of Pakistan, Musharraf was clearly entitled to run.

Ruling that Musharraf was ineligible would not have been a defense of judicial independence or even an act of judicial activism. It would have represented a direct challenge to the authority of Pakistan's parliament to set eligibility requirements for elected officials.

Musharraf's declaration of emergency may have served his own interests, but it may have also forestalled what would have been a dictionary-definition constitutional crisis.

There is a clamor for a return to democracy in Pakistan, but there was never a true democracy there to begin with. And there won't be until political leaders and officials of the bureaucracy learn to put Pakistan's interests ahead of their own narrow interests.

Until then, Pakistan will know only brief periods of imitation democracy between civilian-instigated national crises and intervention by the military to restore order.

* Thomas Houlahan is the director of the Military Assessment Program at the Center for Security and Science.

Russia will supply India with modern tanks

12:52 | 06/ 12/ 2007

Weapons exports grow from year to year. "In 2006, Russia reached a record $5.3 billion. This year, it is planning to beat this record and post $5.5 billion. I am sure we will meet this target and perhaps go one better," Sergei Chemezov, general director of Rosoboronexport, the state arms-exporting agency, said in late November.

Iran stops accepting U.S. dollars for oil

16:34 | 08/ 12/ 2007

TEHRAN, December 8 (RIA Novosti) - Iran has stopped selling its oil for U.S. dollars, the Iranian ISNA news agency said on Saturday, citing the country's oil minister.

"In line with a policy of selling crude oil in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, the sale of our country's oil in U.S. dollars has been completely eliminated," ISNA reported Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari as saying.

He also said "the dollar is no longer a reliable currency."

Iran is the world's fourth-largest crude oil producer.

At a November summit of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries heads of state, Iran proposed that oil sales be carried for a variety of currencies, excluding dollars, but was not supported by any other members except Venezuela.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had previously called the U.S. currency a "worthless piece of paper."

2007 has seen a significant fall in the value of the U.S dollar against other major world currencies.

Tensions remain high between Iran and the U.S., which has accused the Islamic Republic of attempting to build a nuclear weapon, as well as providing insistence to insurgents in Iraq.

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), published on Monday, stated that Tehran had put a stop to weapons production in 2003, although it was continuing to enrich uranium.

The report contradicted a previous U.S. intelligence assessment in 2005 which said that Iran was actively pursuing a nuclear bomb.

U.S. President George W. Bush remained hawkish, despite the report, saying on Tuesday that, "Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the know how to make a nuclear weapon."

When asked if military action remained an option, the president answered, "The best diplomacy - effective diplomacy - is one in which all options are on the table."

Iran stops selling oil in U.S. dollar
Service: Economy
News Code :8609-09943

ISNA - Tehran
Service: Economy

TEHRAN, Dec. 08 (ISNA)-Iran has completely stopped selling oil in U.S. dollar.

The oil minister, Gholam Hussein Nozari said considering dollar depreciation and the loss of crude oil exporter countries, now dollar is not considered as a trustworthy currency any more.

Iranian authorities in the OPEC summit suggested a trustworthy currency to be determined to stop the loss of oil exporter countries, he added.

A team of oil, economy, and finance ministries of OPEC members has been organized to pursue this issue on the expert level and the results will be announced in the next meeting, he pointed.

Nozari also highlighted that the Sinopec Chinese Company has recently requested to purchase more oil from Iran and regarding fluctuating oil market such requests are usually accepted.

End Item

World’s leading superpowers may soon launch war for Arctic and Antarctic riches

04.12.2007 Source: Pravda.Ru URL:

World’s leading superpowers may soon start fighting for Earth’s poles. It seems that the North Pole will be the first to be divided. The Artic territory was virtually divided during the 20th century into several zones currently owned by near-Arctic countries.

In the summer of 2008 Russia symbolically placed its flag on the bottom of the Arctic shelf, having spurred international controversy on the matter. A statement from Russia’s Ministry for Natural Resources said that the square of Russia’s expanded Arctic shelf will make up 1.2 million square kilometers with the hydrocarbon potential of 4.9 billion tons of fuel.

Russia’s Arctic initiatives made other countries launch their own endeavors on the development of the Arctic treasures.

Similar activities can be observed in the South Pole. Great Britain set out claims for a part of the Antarctic continent in October of the current year. The United Kingdom would like to obtain one million square kilometers of the Antarctic territory under its national jurisdiction. The square of the Antarctic totals 14 million square kilometers, which means that many other countries may put forward similar claims too. However, The Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 says that the continent is considered to be the common property of mankind that can be divided under no circumstances.

It may seem at first sight that there is nothing valuable in Antarctica – only snow and ice. On the other hand, ice is the biggest value of the frozen continent: Antarctica holds up to 90 percent of world’s fresh water reserves. In addition, it is rich in fish and other biological resources.

Geologists say that the Antarctic shelf is rich with oil. Natural gas, coal, iron ore, copper, nickel, lead, zinc, molybdenum, and precious minerals can be found there too.

The struggle for the Antarctic riches began back in 1819, when the continent was discovered by Russian scientists Lazarev and Bellingshausen. Russia had been trying to reject other countries’ claims for the newly discovered land for 150 years. Eventually, Antarctica failed to become a part of Russia. The USSR and eleven other countries signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959. It has been officially considered nobody’s land since that time. Furthermore, it is strictly forbidden to conduct industrial activities on the continent.

As experience shows, the issue of the national jurisdiction of Antarctica was simply delayed indefinitely. There is quite a number of countries that still view the frozen land as a source of immense income. For the time being, they conduct scientific research works there. Antarctica was divided into several national sectors, where 12 countries that signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 have their research missions.

Nevertheless, the continent became a center of yet another territorial dispute. Australia, for instance, believes that it has a right for a half of the Antarctic territory.

It is worthy of note that the first war for the Antarctic continent has already taken place. Britain and Argentina were in a legal dispute over the Falkland Islands for 25 years. London was actually aiming to strengthen its positions in the struggle for the sixth continent.

There are about 20 countries willing to obtain a piece of Antarctica nowadays. France, Japan and Norway, for instance, are struggling for both the North and the South poles. Japan claims that it is the only country that has the technology to develop Antarctic natural gas fields. Therefore, Japanese officials believe that their country has a full right to own a certain part of Antarctic natural resources.

World’s leading countries have thus been trying to obtain property rights for Antarctica that may come in handy in the near future. Experts say, though, that the political and technological competition may gradually develop into an armed struggle for the Antarctic and Arctic ice.


Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

Conference : Strategic Importance of the Eurasian Land-Bridge

EIR Ottawa Conference

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Strategic Importance of the Eurasian Land-Bridge: Canada and the Coming Eurasian World

Prompted by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the strategic threat posed by such great instability, Lyndon LaRouche and the Schiller Institute proposed, in 1989, an economic reconstruction plan for Europe, known as The Productive Triangle: Paris-Berlin-Vienna, and in 1991 a proposal for the development of all Eurasia, which came to be known as The Eurasian Land-bridge. These proposals were discussed and elaborated at many conferences and seminars throughout the world.

Now, after many years of ceaseless toil, this grand project for the coherent development of the world economy is becoming a reality. Governments throughout Asia and South America are throwing off the yoke of British System, or neo-liberal economics, and returning to the American System of political-economy, a system best typified by the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The desire on the part of these nations to acquire nuclear power, now referred to as the nuclear renaissance, and to construct modern rail and infrastructure systems, is typical of this new direction in global affairs. At the same time, however, as these promising changes are taking place, the world is wavering on the precipice of a chain-reaction collapse of the global financial system in combination with the threat of generalized warfare spreading throughout Eurasia.

This crisis is most evident in the U.S. sub-prime mortgage fiasco, but in fact it is the breakdown of the system as a whole which has created the sub-prime crisis; it is the looting of the physical economy of the planet (in terms of both agricultural and industrial production as well as infrastructure) by a rapacious monetary system of usury, which is now the dominant factor in global politics.

The United States is, in fact, bankrupt. Only by adopting emergency measures, as outlined by Lyndon LaRouche in his recent policy paper, The State of Our Union: The End of Our Delusion, that the United States, and by extension the rest of the world, can avoid a descent into a worldwide catastrophe. Central to LaRouches program is the requirement that a reformed USA bring together a new alliance of great powers, the USA, Russia, China and India, to establish the framework of a new international monetary system. On this basis, and with the collaboration of other willing nations, a collapse of the US dollar could be prevented and a new fixed exchange-rate system established, which is the first step toward ensuring the long range physical economic growth the world so desperately needs.

It is in this context that Canada will play a crucial role, as a rising continental power, in shaping the next fifty years, and already great opportunities are presenting themselves. For example, leading circles in Russia have proposed that Canada and the United States participate with them in constructing the Bering Strait Tunnel, while the Russian government has allocated as much as $1 trillion USD for infrastructure over the next 12 years. The construction of nuclear power facilities around the world will place great demands upon Canadas nuclear power industry, and our expertise in machine-tooling, engineering and mining will be in high demand as well.

The world is entering a new era, in which nations are beginning to recognize that all must work for the common aims of mankind. Humanity can no longer tolerate a system of such massive injustice as currently dominates; no longer can humanity permit itself to be ruled by a tiny barbarous elite. Thus, it is time for Canada to assume a role of leadership in the world, in a world free of pre-emptive warfare and colonialism of any kind. As history teaches, every great revolution, every rebirth of civilization and culture, begins with ideas, and with dialogue. Thus the necessity for this conference, which will include speakers from Eurasia as well as North America, who will address the themes outlined above.

R.S.V.P. by Wednesday, December 5.

To register please call Mr. Robert Ainsworth at 514-855-0907, or 514-561-8210.

Arctic Energy Summit Technology Conference

At the Arctic Energy Summit Technology Conference in Anchorage, Alaska in mid-October, a number of Russian participants presented a perspective of high-technology, advancedscience programs to develop the circumpolar region, to a gathering of 300 at this key event, held in conjunction with the International Polar Year (2007-2009). The focus of the Summit, sponsored by entities including the U.S. State Department, the government of Canada, and BP, and organized by the Anchorage-based Institute of the North, was on energy resources, with four themes: extractive energy, renewable energy, rural energy, and sustainability. Representatives of the eight polar nations (Canada, Greenland/Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the U.S.A.), plus six others (Australia, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, Britain, and Switzerland), participated over the Oct. 15-18 period, in various of 96 sessions, and in opening and closing plenary sessions, addressed also by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens, and British Consul General Julian Evans (for northwestern U.S. states).

Read more

The flip side to US intelligence

Asia times Online

By Jacob Heilbrunn

With the release of the new intelligence estimate debunking the claim that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is earning laurels for puncturing the George W Bush administration's alarms about Tehran's intentions.

But is its new report really any more reliable than its original 2005 estimate, which declared that Iran was marching briskly towards attaining nuclear status? A look at the history of CIA estimates suggests that caution is in order. While estimates are only that - not, as is sometimes assumed, ironclad statements - and the

difficulties of assessing clandestine programs are obvious, in no area has American intelligence gotten it wrong more often than when it comes to assessing foreign powers' nuclear prowess.

The CIA's first blunder established the pattern. In 1946, the CIA's Office of Reports and Estimates confidently predicted that Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union was years away from producing a bomb: "It is probable that the capability of the USSR to develop weapons based on atomic energy will be limited to the possible development of an atomic bomb to the stage of production at some time between 1950 and 1953. On this assumption, a quantity of such bombs could be produced and stockpiled by 1956." On August 24, 1949, the office again declared that Stalin would most likely not be able to field an atomic bomb until mid-1953. Five days later, the Soviet Union conducted its first atomic test.

The Office of Reports and Estimates was supposed to prevent a repetition of the blunders and failure to organize intelligence that occurred before Pearl Harbor. Instead, its egregious mistakes, including failing to predict the beginning of the Korean War, meant that it was abolished in 1950. According to CIA historian Donald P Steury, "It had been the object of repeated investigations, all of which condemned its failures without reservation."

In the 1950s, the CIA also failed to anticipate how quickly the Soviet Union would detonate a hydrogen bomb. It began to reverse course, perhaps partly as a result of these embarrassments. Where it had previously downplayed Soviet progress, the agency now exaggerated it. Aware that the Soviets were tapping into the expertise of captured German scientists, the CIA concluded that a missile gap existed between the US and the Soviet Union. Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev had claimed, in the wake of the 1957 Sputnik success, that the USSR was producing missiles "like sausages".

The CIA took him at his word. According to Sidney Graybeal, who was a CIA analyst at the time, "The estimates were based on capabilities rather than hard facts." They were also wrong. After John F Kennedy became president, satellite photography revealed not only that there wasn't a missile gap, but that the US was far ahead in the arms race, one reason that the Soviets backed down during the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

A new round of contention erupted in the mid-1970s. Neo-conservatives, led by Albert Wohlstetter, Richard Pipes and other members of the Committee on the Present Danger, charged that the CIA was tailoring its estimates on behalf of detente and soft-pedaling the size of the Soviet missile force.

The famous Team B that challenged the CIA's Team A charged, in what critics later claimed was an anticipation of the bogus claims made in the run-up to the Gulf War, that the USSR was on the march and that the CIA was all wet. Who got it right? In retrospect, the hawks wildly exaggerated the power and coherence of the Soviet Union, but it does seem clear that the Soviet Union was pouring vastly more resources into the military than the CIA had realized. (In addition, the CIA had rather amusingly concluded in the 1970s that East Germany was one of the top ten economies in the world. It remains an economic basket-case today.)

If the CIA had difficulties judging the Soviet Union, it also badly bungled its assessment of another country's capabilities. In the 1950s, Israel's Shimon Peres began dickering with France to obtain nuclear technology. In order to weaken Egypt, then supporting an anti-French insurgency in Algeria, Paris began helping Israel develop nuclear technology. It took the CIA until 1960 to realize that Israel was building a bomb in Dimona. John F Kennedy successfully pressured Ben-Gurion into allowing a team of Americans to inspect the facility there, but they saw what they wanted to see, being unable to find any evidence that it was something other than a peaceful project.

The CIA report on the failure to identify the Dimona project earlier has a familiar ring. It stated: "The general feeling that Israel could not achieve this capability without outside aid from the US or its allies ... led to the tendency to discount rumors of Israeli reactor construction and French collaboration in the nuclear weapons area."

Then there was India. In 1998 New Delhi conducted three nuclear tests. Once again, the CIA was caught napping. According to the May 18, 1998 Washington Post, "six hours before the tests, no CIA warning was issued because the US analysts responsible for tracking the Indian nuclear program had not expected the tests and were not on alert". Congress was apoplectic. "Our failure to detect this shows that India did a good job of concealing their intentions, while we did a dreadfully inadequate job of detecting those intentions", said Senator Richard Shelby, then chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. In response, the CIA could only state the obvious: "It is apparent that the Indians went to some lengths to conceal their activities and intentions."

Is it that surprising, then, that the intelligence community has found Iraq and Iran to be so vexing? When it came to Iraq, American intelligence agencies radically underestimated the progress that Saddam Hussein had made before the first Gulf War toward a nuclear bomb. This was one of the reasons that it then reversed course before the second Gulf War, furnishing the Bush Administration with what it wanted in the National Intelligence Estimate released in 2003. That document infamously declared, "We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."

Now, in the midst of Bush's mutterings about a possible World War III with Tehran, the CIA has performed a somersault on Iran. Opponents of bombing Iran have seized on the latest estimate to discredit Bush, while neo-conservatives like Norman Podhoretz splutter that it represents a dastardly CIA plot to undermine Bush. Neo-conservative distaste for the CIA is longstanding.

It has been voiced by Laurie Mylroie, who believes that Saddam Hussein was behind the first bombing of the World Trade Center; David Frum and Richard Perle, in their book An End to Evil, present the CIA as a subversive institution intent on sabotaging the fight against terrorism. In a sense, such inanities signal that neo-conservatism, which started out as a Trotskyist movement vociferously opposed to American government institutions, has now come full circle.

Neither the boosters of the new report nor its detractors really have it right. The rapidity with which the CIA has reversed course on Iran should itself induce circumspection. Dealing with Iran diplomatically may well be the best option, but the latest intelligence report shouldn't serve as the final verdict on its nuclear intentions. Deciding how best to deal with Iran cannot rest on a single estimate that likely represents guesswork and inferences more than verifiable information.

Jacob Heilbrunn is a senior editor at The National Interest.

(Used by permission the National Interest Online.)

(For the original article, click here)

Secret, but no service

The Age

Jason Koutsoukis
December 9, 2007

Like the CIA, Australia's spy agencies are incompetent money-guzzlers and should be abolished.

KEVIN RUDD has talked up the idea of taking a meat axe to the public service. He might start by ridding taxpayers of the bloated network of "intelligence" agencies that suck up hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Why anyone takes the business of spying seriously remains a mystery. To quote a former Central Intelligence Agency counterintelligence officer, Aldrich Ames, who is serving a life sentence for passing on secrets to the Soviet Union, the espionage racket was basically just an expensive sideshow.

"A self-serving sham carried out by careerist bureaucrats who managed to deceive policy-makers and the public about the necessity and value of their work," said Ames.

A reminder of just how incompetent the CIA is came last week when the agency admitted that Iran was not stockpiling an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Given what happened in Iraq, one would have thought this admission a mite embarrassing.

Not for the CIA, though, whose officials went on the offensive telling the world this was a sign of self-improvement. In reality, however, nothing has changed.

The CIA never gets anything right. Anyone who doubts this should pick up a copy of New York Times journalist Tim Weiner's just published book, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. The agency's litany of mistakes is remarkable.

Over the course of its 60-odd years, it failed to notice the Soviets getting the atom bomb in 1949, was blind to the Chinese invasion of North Korea, the 1956 revolt in Hungary, and Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.

The CIA sponsored the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, then failed to spot the Soviet missiles there in 1962.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, the agency was responsible for installing Saddam Hussein's Baath party in Iraq, and Mohammad Pahlavi as the Shah of Iran.

Then it missed the Iranian revolution of 1979, and Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The list of howlers goes on: the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the explosion of an atom bomb by India in 1998, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and then its bogus intelligence on Iraq in 2002-03, most of which was based on the cock-and-bull fantasies of a source named "Curveball". Failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union is the one I like the most. This was the very thing the entire intelligence apparatus of the West had been dedicated to destroying for 50 years, yet no one had any idea the USSR was about to fall in on itself.

Even when an intelligence agency manages to get on to a rich source of hot information, they and their governments rarely know how to use it.

For years, the British spy Kim Philby passed on stacks of top-secret information to the Soviets, yet it was all in vain because the Soviets never believed him. They thought the British were setting them up.

There were mountains of evidence that al-Qaeda was planning the September 11 attacks, yet petty in-fighting between the CIA and FBI rendered the information useless.

So what has all this got to do with us, you might well ask?

Simply the fact that the problems endemic to foreign intelligence services are bound to be endemic to ours.

Yet every year, more and more of our money goes into beefing them up.

At the time of writing, there are six intelligence agencies located here in Canberra, ASIO, ASIS, the Defence Signals Directorate and the Defence Intelligence Organisation among them.

All staffed by bright, conscientious and talented people, I'm sure, I challenge any one of them to list a single important historical peacetime event in which their intelligence has played a decisive role.

I feel very confident that not a shred of evidence will be produced to prove me wrong.

To quote distinguished Australian journalist Phillip Knightley, the finest chronicler of the espionage game this country has produced, the whole spying game ranks as the "greatest con trick of the century".

"Writing about spies and intelligence agencies occupied a large part of my career," wrote Knightley in his memoir, A Hack's Progress. "I do not regret it … but espionage itself is a dirty business riddled with deceit, manipulation and betrayal."

Which makes you wonder what sort of person would want to get into the business in the first place. Anyone who finds the idea of spending their entire working life not being able to tell a soul — not even their own families — what they do for a living is bound to be a fairly warped individual.

Spend long enough in Canberra and you eventually get to observe these misfits at play. A more conspicuous bunch of odd-bods you couldn't imagine.

Yet these are the people to whom we are giving millions of dollars to sweep up dodgy bits of information you could probably find on the internet.

Cloaked in such obsessive secrecy, the agencies never give taxpayers the chance to test value for money.

This is not to say that taxpayers don't benefit from some sort of intelligence gathering. And we have two open and effective agencies that are perfectly capable of gathering all the intelligence we need.

On the domestic front, this is the Australian Federal Police. There is nothing done by ASIO that could not be performed by the AFP. The two organisations should be merged immediately.

As for foreign intelligence, there is no need to go beyond the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It has hundreds of normal, well-educated people stationed all over the world who spend their days learning all sorts of interesting facts and gossip about the countries they are living in. And they send all that information back home in neatly packaged cables that inform policy-makers throughout the government.

To sustain a belief in the efficacy of cloak-and-dagger secret agents is to ignore the past 70 years worth of ineptitude, inadequacy and dereliction.

It's time we put an end to this racket.

This story was found at:

Behind the Iran-Intelligence Reversal

December 8, 2007; Page A9

Wallstreet Journal

A new U.S. intelligence report concluded that Iran abandoned its nuclear-weapons program in 2003 -- a reversal of findings issued two years ago -- and underscored the challenges facing the intelligence community.

The surprise assessment followed intelligence-community changes triggered by faulty intelligence reports on Iraq that fueled the run-up to war, by asserting that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical and biological weapons and was pursuing nuclear weapons.POINT OF VIEW

The [estimate] doesn't do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world -- quite the contrary."
-- President Bush
This was a final shot to those who ... spread a sense of threat and concern in the world through lies of nuclear weapons.'
-- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

• Review & Outlook: Iran Curveball

The new estimate could decelerate already-sluggish diplomatic efforts to suspend Iran's uranium-enrichment program by the United Nations Security Council, and calls into question Washington's increasingly hawkish rhetoric toward Tehran. Here's a closer look:

How definitive are National Intelligence Estimates? The estimates reflect the consensus opinion of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, and while they provide a snapshot of current judgments about future events, estimates don't always deliver the final word on a subject. The conclusions of a 2002 Iraq estimate were wrong in part because analysts, according to a Senate investigation, were led to "ignore or minimize" evidence that Iraq didn't have an active program to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Some conservative critics received the new Iran estimate skeptically, and Republican senators called for a review of the contradictory conclusions.

What prompted the new conclusions? Officials said a combination of new intelligence and a review of old evidence, not a "smoking gun" or single piece of evidence, prompted the new assessment.

The estimate reasserted the intelligence community's independence by reaching potentially inconvenient conclusions for policy makers and included new language stating what the agencies "did not know." That shift is a signal that "intelligence reform is moving forward," says Ellen Laipson, a former vice chairwoman of the National Intelligence Council, the government body responsible for issuing such assessments. But she says the shift also suggests that in "adapting to the bruising experience of getting Iraq wrong," the intelligence community may be "overcompensating in the other direction."

Washington shuffled the intelligence community after the Iraq invasion, creating a new director of national intelligence that effectively demoted the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the invasion's aftermath, a 600-plus page report that criticized intelligence shortcomings also warned that the U.S. knew "disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of the world's most dangerous actors."

Could Iran still develop nuclear weapons? Yes. The estimate didn't revise earlier predictions that Iran could have a nuclear weapon by around 2015 and concluded with only "moderate confidence" that Iran hasn't restarted its program. At a congressional hearing on Thursday, a senior U.S. intelligence official cautioned against the idea that Iranian ambitions were "benign."

One big reason for the uncertainty: Iran continues to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel, which it says is part of a civilian energy program -- and which is permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Some in the U.S. and Europe worry that Iran is using the treaty's cover to produce nuclear fuel that could someday be used for weapons, in part because Iran doesn't have an operating nuclear-power plant and has plenty of other fuel sources available. Iran's nuclear program began in 1959 when the shah purchased a research reactor from the U.S.

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Association reported that Iran had nearly 3,000 centrifuges operating at its Natanz nuclear facility, enough to make a nuclear weapon, and an increase from 300 a year earlier.

What prompted Iran to halt its weapons program? The intelligence estimate suggested Iran shelved its weapons program in 2003 after the covert effort had been exposed and Iran had come under increasing international pressure.

The covert program led the IAEA to conclude that Tehran had violated international agreements and recommended the case to the U.N. Security Council, which has since approved two rounds of limited economic sanctions.

How could it change international pressure on Iran? While the new intelligence report isn't likely to erase doubts about Iran's nuclear intentions, the assessment likely will frustrate efforts to put further international pressure on Tehran.

The reversal of U.S. intelligence assessments "is so dramatic that Iran will be able to dismiss any effort to impose limits on its nuclear activities that go beyond the narrow interpretation of existing rules," wrote George Perkovich, an expert at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who first suggested two years ago that the intelligence community check to see whether Iran had suspended its weapons program.
* * *

Just the Facts
• Some 27% of Iranians believe Iran will have a nuclear weapon in the next 50 years, compared with 86% of Americans, according to a December 2006 poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes.

• A National Intelligence Estimate this year concluded Iran was playing only a minimal role in fueling sectarian violence in Iraq, a view that contrasted with White House accusations.

• The U.S. has enforced sanctions against Iran since 1987. The State Department eased those sanctions in 2000 to allow Americans to purchase rugs, dried fruits, nuts and caviar from Iran.

• In the year's first quarter, China's exports to Iran increased by 36% to $1.6 billion, and Russia's exports by 57% to $609 million. German exports fell 9% to $1.2 billion, and French exports fell 8% to $484 million.


Source: SAAG
By Bhaskar Roy

The meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the Second East Asia Summit (EAS) in Singapore last month suggested Beijing was inclined to keep aside contentious issues at the moment and maintain cordiality. In keeping with tradition the Indian delegation made a public display of bonhomie.

Recently, a Hong Kong weekly, Yazhou Zhoukan, made enquiries at the Indian Consulate General if India had offered Taiwan nuclear weapons technology. The Zhoukan journalist said he was trying to get confirmation from officials in Beijing also, and they would be running the story soon.

The story that Zhoukan was trying to confirm was that when former Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes visited Taiwan in 2004 he had carried that offer with him. It was alleged that a Taiwanese opposition legislator of Guomindang (KMT) party had stated that the Taiwanese government was pursuing a nuclear weapons programme and that the Defence Minister of a nuclear weapons capable party had visited Taipei in 2004 to discuss necessary assistance for the Taiwanese programme. The story goes on to say that Su Chi had confided to friends that it was former Indian Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes who had carried the offer to the Taiwanese officials.

Senior Chinese officials in Beijing have reportedly given a loaded answer to the magazine’s enquiries –– that they were aware of Mr. George Fernandes’ visit to Taiwan, but have not heard Taiwan denying the allegation. It was a typical Chinese practice of deception. Saying it all, yet not stating it categorically. It is for the observers to draw their obvious conclusions.

The story was apparently planted in Zhoukan, a publication of the usually neutral Ming Pao group of newspapers. This was done to maintain a distance between the Chinese psychological propaganda agents and the story. Had Ta Kung Pao or Wen Wei Po used this story, fingers would have pointed at China, since both these publications are controlled by Beijing.

The effort to project India as a nuclear weapons proliferator was clever, but may not be clever enough.

Apparently, the Chinese tried to kill two birds with one stone. Apart from giving India a bad name, Taiwan could be projected as a dangerous entity with nuclear weapons ambition which could derail the stability of the entire region. There have been projections in the past by international strategic experts that if North Korea went nuclear, then Japan, South Korea and Taiwan would follow suit.

Given Japan’s technological advancement it is said that Tokyo is a screw driver turn away from the bomb. Both South Korea and Taiwan have been assessed as having technology to quickly jump into the nuclear path. But with North Korea now in the process of dismantling its nuclear weapons infrastructure, the nuclear weapons shadow over East Asia should have receded. Beijing, however, is trying to create a new fear of nuclear proliferation in the region.

Instead of following Mao Zedong’s dictum, “seek truth, from facts”, it is perhaps the application of “scientific development” theories by China’s agencies who converted the above dictum into Mao’s Yenan Caves’ philosophy, “plant falsehood among facts.”

Mr. George Fernandes was India’s Defence Minister during he NDA government. Following India’s nuclear tests in May 1998, he declared India’s nuclear programme was to counter China. KMT legislator Su Chi also visited India, but in 2006. When Mr. Fernandes visited Taiwan in 2004 a new government had come to power in New Delhi, led by the Congress. In fact, Mr. Fernandes’ political career was on the wane in 2004.

Further, the defence minister or the defence ministry has nothing to do with nuclear and missile development unlike in China. In India this is the prerogative of the Prime Minster’s office. Further, the May 1998 nuclear tests were conducted in utmost secrecy, and Mr. Fernandes was not privy to any information regarding the tests or the preparation for them.

China is highly concerned that Taiwan under President Chen Shui-bian of DPP may do something to embarrass Beijing in the run up to the prestigious Beijing Olympics next year. Therefore, Beijing may be seeking an instrument to beat Taiwan with.

Taiwan, however, is a smaller target for Beijing in this game. The main target is India. The important focus is the proposed US-India peaceful nuclear agreement, and the growing Indian profile in South East Asia and East Asia, now generally referred to as East Asia.

Notwithstanding strong opposition to the India-US deal from sections of the Indian political and strategic community, China view the deal as empowering New Delhi’s nuclear weapons capability further, and opening the door to USA’s cutting edge dual use technology.

Initially, China took a hard approach to the India-US deal, and demanded if the US entered into the agreement, it should also be offered to Pakistan. Beijing warned against a new arms race in the region if India alone was the beneficiary of the “123” agreement. India’s clean record in proliferation against that of Pakistan’s (for which China was also responsible) made the difference.

To stop the nuclear deal, non-proliferation hawks in the USA tried but failed to label India as a proliferator. They have not given up, and China is apparently trying to give them new ammunition.

China is also beginning to feel that its own space in East Asia is being squeezed by India, and a possible India–US–Japan–Australia quartet’s strategy to restrict China in its own backyard. According to Chinese master strategist Sun Zu’s “Art of War,” –– “When confronting a coalition of enemies hit the weakest one and befriend the stronger ones”. In this quartet India is the weakest and, therefore, the candidate for attack. In a move that has astounded China watchers the world over, Beijing recently sent a modern warship to Japan on a friendly post call.

For a decade now Chinese state sponsored articles in its official media and think tank writings have been slandering India as an expansionist and hegemonistic country, and a threat to a swathe of countries from the Gulf to South East Asia.

The Media bashing by China was one thing. But psychological warfare of the kind under discussion takes us back almost a generation to the cold war between the USA and the Soviet Union. Former KGB agent, Vasili Metrokhin, who defected to the West when the Soviet Union began to crumble, describes some of Moscow’s Operations in the book “Mitrokhin Archives”. The KGB named this department of psychological warfare as the department of “Active Measures”. The Americans apparently had a much stronger operation, openly declared as the initiative for “Peaceful Evolution”, which ultimately broke up the Soviet Union.

The kind of psychological warfare used by Beijing’s agencies to charge India as a dangerous proliferator amounts to subterfuge and sabotage of India’s reputation. This can lead to further escalation of a deniable non-traditional warfare which can have an undesirable domino effect.

The Chinese would certainly deny that they had anything to do with this propaganda which will be taken up by the whole of East Asia, the US non-proliferation hawks, and the smaller countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which can be influenced by China.

The Chinese leaders have steadfastly denied their own proliferation track record though the whole world is aware of it. The USA always let off China lightly even at the risk of endangering global nuclear society.

It is time the Chinese leaders did a scientific introspection of their ambition to create a unipolar Asia with China as the pole, while gathering a force of countries demanding a multi-polar world order.

Asia has enough room for India and China to grow together and support the development of the rest of the continent. But if Beijing thinks it can use its muscle power and concocted historical evidence to subvert India, and even Japan, it may be walking on a dangerous path of multiple confrontation.

The venerable strategist Sun Zu’s strategies were mainly meant for the various warring states of China and invaders like the Mongols.

No one can deny the vision and strategy of the great Master Sun Zu. His theories are being studied and developed in China’s military institutions for application in modern times. But unless matured, some of the theories involving “denial” and “deception” may not work to the desirable extent. The world has undergone fast and critical changes in the last decade.

Sabotaging India and befriending Japan may not work for China ultimately. There are certain historical and cultural permanencies that cannot be changed. It can be said with some certainty that China is the only country in Asia that has been trying to change history through clever polemics, and to grab territory.

There is enough space in Asia, the fastest growing region in the world, to accommodate all its constituents, peacefully. It should be left at that.

The author is an eminent China analyst with many years of experience of study on China and can be reached at

December 07, 2007

Indian Polishers Now Play Major Role in Antwerp Diamond Industry

Voice of America
By Nina Maria Potts
Antwerp, The Netherlands
06 December 2007

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The city of Antwerp has been home to a prosperous diamond industry for centuries. Traditionally, the fine craft of polishing belonged to the city's Jewish community. But the success of Indian firms in Antwerp, the availability of low cost labor in Asia, and the decision by diamond-producing countries in Africa to develop their own industry are all changing the face of Antwerp's diamond trade. Nina-Maria Potts reports.

A stone polisher in the Antwerp diamond business district
Antwerp's Diamond Bourse -- a place where your word, not a contract, clinches the deal. Founded in 1904, its members include retailers, manufacturers and brokers who must abide by a strict code of conduct.

Today, some 1,500 diamond firms are housed in three high-security, inter-connected streets. Antwerp diamond authorities say this is where 80 percent of the world's rough diamonds are bought and sold.

European Orthodox Jews once dominated the industry, but that is a thing of the past. The Antwerp World Diamond Center says Indians now make up two-thirds of Antwerp's $29 billion diamond trade and the Jewish share has dropped to about a quarter.

Philip Claes
Philip Claes of the Antwerp World Diamond Center rejects suggestions the change is the source of community tensions. "In fact, everyone was very happy that the Indian traders were moving in, because it proved that Antwerp was important and they needed Antwerp."

As Indian traders moved in, Antwerp's polishing industry moved out -- to India and China. The Diamond Center says in the 1960s there were roughly 25,000 to 30,000, mainly Jewish polishers in Antwerp. Today, fewer than 1,000 polishers remain.

Some 30,000 Antwerp Jews died in the Holocaust during World War Two, but the trade eventually recovered. The craft was passed down from father to son, in a tradition that goes back to the 15th century.

Alain Majerczyk's company, SAFDICO, employs fewer polishers than it once did, but he says that with modern technology they are among the best in the world. "To make a study of the stone, you need really to simulate everything on computer before you touch a stone, and even then when you simulated everything on computer, you need a very skillful polisher, to make it a reality," he said.

Some diamond traders say the best skills and technology have already been outsourced.

But for Raj Mehta, of Rosy Blue, Antwerp offers something else -- a neutral environment where anybody can trade.

Mehta attributes the success of Indians in Antwerp to family tradition. "We, in the Indian culture, have the system traditionally that our children will join the father's business. I joined my father's business, and I hope that my son will also join my business. Which is not the fact in the Western or European culture at all."

In Antwerp's main diamond district, business appears to be thriving for both the Jewish and Indian communities. And traders are confident Antwerp's facilities, skills and technology can keep the world's best stones right here.

Nigeria: N/Delta - MEND Opts Out of Peace Pact

Daily Champion (Lagos)

7 December 2007

Dennis Naku

GOVEMENT for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has distanced itself from the peace pact brokered yesterday by the federal government and some militant groups in the region, declaring the event as mere publicity stunt.

This came as the Federal Government has enjoined militant youths in the region to be patient even as the Bayelsa state governor Timipre Sylva has ordered that all militant camps in the state be shut.

Government and several militants groups met yesterday at Yenagoa, possibly to find lasting solution to the many years of hostiles in the Niger Delta.

However, MEND while reacting to the peace pact said the event was a publicity stunt to impress the international community.

The group said peace could only be achieved if one of its leaders was released from prison in Angola.

In a statement, MEND spokesman described the peace ceremony as a "stage-managed play which would make a bad B-grade movie."

He said those groups involved were simply being paid to take part and accusing the government of using a "rent-a-militant" tactic to impress the international community.

But speaking at the closing of the two-day symposium entitled, "Challenges of peace in the Niger Delta," the vice-president, who was represented by the Rivers state governor, Chibuke Amaechi traced the problems in the region to unemployment and lack of infrastructures

Describing youths in the region as responsible, he said, that they wouldn't have taken recourse to arms or kidnapping had they been gainfully employed.

He said the present administration was ready to look into the agitation of the people in the region and proffer necessary solution but called on them to exercise.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Sylva said with the decision of the militant groups to give peace a chance, all the militant camps in the state would be shut, even as the state ceases to be the headquarters of the militant groups.

He said the decision to lay down the arms justify the confidence reposed on the present administration by the youths not only in the state but in the region.

The governor said the next phase of the agreement was rehabilitation of the militant youths, adding that this would be done through training, empowerment and engagement.

"Our youths have agreed to lay down their arms as they are now saying no to hostage takings, vandalisation of the petroleum products pipelines and other related social vices. To this end, as government and multinational corporations' representatives, we must be committed to their well beings through employment, vocational trainings and empowerment," he said

Bayelsa chapter chairman of the peace committee, James Jephtah called on the corporate organizations and individuals that fled the state in the wake of the crisis to return, describing the state as haven of peace.

Abramovich buys into British gold company

14:51 | 07/ 12/ 2007

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti economic commentator Oleg Mityayev) - Roman Abramovich, Russia's richest man according to Forbes, is buying gold assets.

He is also the governor of the Chukotka region and the owner of Britain's Chelsea football club.

On November 4, Millhouse LLC, the company that manages Abramovich's assets, announced that it signed an agreement with Highland Gold, the fourth largest gold miner in Russia, on the acquisition of a 40% stake in it for $400 million.
Thanks to the new shareholder, the Britain-registered Highland Gold will get the funds to develop new deposits and overcome Russian bureaucratic barriers.

Highland Gold Mining Ltd., which was established in 2002 for the purpose of acquiring, consolidating and developing a portfolio of quality gold mining projects in Russia, owns the fully operational Mnogovershinnoye mine in the Khabarovsk Territory; three development projects - Novoshirokinskoye and Taseyevskoye (Chita Region), and Mayskoye (Chukotka); six exploration areas - Belaya Gora, Iska and Maya Inikan in the Khabarovsk Territory, Lubavinskoye-Malo-Fedorovskoye in the Chita Region, Sovinoye in Chukotka and Unkurtash in Kyrgyzstan (Central Asia).

Before the Russian tycoon bought into Highland Gold, the company's shareholders, including its largest beneficiary, Canadian Barrick Gold (34%), were looking for a strategic investor. It was a very delicate task, because last July the Russian environmental authority Rosprirodnadzor proposed revoking Highland Gold's development license for Mayskoye, the most promising project in its portfolio.

There will be no problems with Mayskoye now that Abramovich has bought 40% of Highland Gold's additional share issue. The company will even have more chances to access other Russian deposits, in particular the largest gold ore deposit at Sukhoi Log, in East Siberia's Irkutsk Region. The deposit is so far on the strategic list, but may soon be put up for auction.

The deal between Abramovich and Highland Gold was made in strict compliance with market conditions. The billionaire offered a price adequate to the company's gold reserves, 8.1 million ounces, to be paid in cash rather than securities. Highland Gold needs the funds to repay its $100 million debts and finance its projects.

Abramovich is likely to use Highland Gold as a step toward establishing a gold segment in his business empire. He controlled Mayskoye in the past, when businessman Oleg Savchenko turned over a 70% stake in it to the Chukotka administration and Millhouse for management in 2003.

Highland Gold later bought out the development license for the deposit, but this year Abramovich decided to resume his gold business. He started buying gold assets at the Dvoinoye deposit, also located in Chukotka, last summer.

The reason for his interest is the price of gold, which has soared to $800 per ounce, the highest price since 1980.

Steel magnate Alexei Mordashov, another Russian billionaire, is completing the acquisition of Ireland's Celtic Resources, which owns gold deposits in Kazakhstan. He plans to become one of the Russia's top four gold miners within a few years.

But his task has become more complicated now that Abramovich has bought Highland Gold.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

What will be Russia's response to Kosovo's independence?

19:40 | 07/ 12/ 2007

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Yelena Shesternina) - The troika of international mediators (the U.S., EU and Russia), after several months of trying to think up an elegant solution to the Kosovo problem, has admitted its failure.

The final report, which it decided to submit to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon ahead of schedule (the original deadline was December 10), does not contain a single concrete recommendation to Belgrade or Pristina, or indeed, to the UN. What will happen next? How will Moscow respond if the Kosovo authorities carry out their threat and proclaim independence unilaterally?

The troika mission has failed, as it should have. The positions of its members were too wide apart.

Washington was pressing for the province's independence and Moscow went out of its way to argue that there should be no haste. The European Union, supposed to represent the interests of all its 27 member countries, was doing a balancing act between the two positions.

Not everyone in Europe would welcome the appearance of a new state on the world map. The most vocal opponents are Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia. They know that as soon as Kosovo declares its independence their own separatists will be quick to put forward similar demands.

But it is not the position of the mediators that is the main stumbling block. The Serbs were prepared to offer Pristina everything, including the broadest autonomy, the likes of which no other autonomy in the world enjoys, as long as the word "independence" is not used.

The Kosovars, however, were determined from the start that secession from Serbia was only a matter of time. Yes, they were ready to go through the diplomatic motions, even to sit down at the negotiating table with the Serbs, but no more than that. And why should they if the United States and several European countries had promised them independence in advance? The Kosovars do not quite know themselves what they will do with the independence. They seem to hope that the West will address their numerous economic problems with greater zeal than now.

Moscow is still behaving as if the issue of the province's independence has not been closed. But it seems that it has. The Kosovars are right when they say it is only a matter of time. The question that remains is when the independence will become official and how it will be "acted out"?

The scenario until the end of the year is more or less clear. After Ban Ki-Moon reads the report it will be submitted to the UN Security Council. The discussion promises to be stormy, but the result is a foregone conclusion: Moscow will categorically object to any document that contains the word "independence." If it manages to persuade the West that another round of talks is needed, it would be its biggest foreign policy triumph of the year.

Most experts believe the Kosovars will not dare to proclaim independence immediately after the collapse of the UN debate. First, they have to wait for the presidential elections in Serbia, where the first round will take place on January 20. Second, it would be good to enlist the support of the "united Europe" in addition to that of the United States. The EU leaders will try to agree their actions on the "Kosovo issue" at their summit in Brussels next week. The declared position so far is encouraging: the EU says it is necessary "to prevent unilateral moves on Kosovo's part."

The Europeans, at least those of them who do not think Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent, are developing at least two secret plans. According to the report of the International Crisis Group, Britain, Germany, Italy and France will support independence before May 2008. For starters, they will try to get the Brussels meeting to pass a joint statement to the effect that the EU considers the Kosovo negotiations closed and the best way out of the impasse is to revert to the Ahtisaari Plan (Martti Ahtisaari is the UN Secretary General's special representative who developed a plan for Kosovo's independence). If Spain, Greece and other countries opposed to the Ahtisaari Plan put their foot down, the European Commission will give every country a carte blanche to decide whether or not to recognize Kosovo's independence.

The second plan has been worked out in Paris. According to a leak to the press, Pristina will issue its "final warning" in January and officially proclaim independence in February. Albania would be the first to recognize the new country, followed by the United States, Muslim countries and some EU members.

What are Moscow's options in this situation? There are not many. The "adequate response" variant (recognizing the independence of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transdnester) is unlikely to be used.

Sergei Lavrov has said more than once that the Foreign Ministry will proceed strictly within the legal framework and will not violate the territorial integrity of other states. And there is no point in aggravating the quarrel with Georgia, especially because the West would certainly throw its weight behind Tbilisi (it is not for nothing that it has prudently declared the Kosovo case "unique").

Such a response will not lead to a reversal of Kosovo's independence, and Russia will end up with more troubles on its borders than it can handle. Tbilisi would not take the secession of rebel republics lying down, no matter who wins the presidential election.

So, the chances are that we will again see Moscow trying to do some diplomatic footwork. For example, stopping Kosovo from being admitted to the OSCE and, far more importantly for Pristina, to the UN. After all, Kosovo cannot join the United Nations without the consent of the Security Council.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Iran report's impact overstated

A new intelligence assessment has fundamentally shifted the foundations underpinning US policy on Iran. However, a fundamental policy shift appears unlikely.

By Dominic Moran in Tel Aviv for ISN Security Watch (07/12/07)

A pan-agency US intelligence assessment released this week has fundamentally reversed working assumptions regarding the Iranian nuclear program. However, its impact may be more limited than the current tumult indicates.

In its National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the Iranian atomic program, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) overturned previous agency assessments of the nature, history and intent of Iranian nuclear development, finding that Iran had put a stop to work on its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Political Fallout
The NIE is a major embarrassment for the White House insofar as it has again demonstrated the George W Bush administration's reliance on faulty intelligence in determining its foreign policy positions.

Asked by ISN Security Watch to gauge the domestic political impact of the NIE, Dr Lawrence Potter from Columbia University's Institute for International and Public Affairs said, "Obviously, it makes the Bush administration look bad and I think Congress will be very concerned about making parallels with the reports on Iraq that proved to be wrong."

Given the limited release of the DNI report - with the issuance of an eight page cherry-picking of key findings from the NIE - it is impossible to build an accurate picture of the level of US intelligence penetration of the Iranian program.

Nevertheless, the fundamental reversal of previous intelligence findings concerning Iran's nuclear work and intentions would appear to signal the procurement of new information and/or fostering of additional sources.

It remains unclear whether the NIE will promote a fundamental shift in Bush administration policy away from the course of unilateral measures, seen in recent sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard and related financial institutions.

Dr Matthew Levitt from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told ISN Security Watch that he did not foresee a significant shift: "From the US perspective - say what you will about the report - it underlines the fact that what they are doing is working so I don't think there is going to be a change."

Military option nixed
The key impact of the NIE is that it virtually rules out the option of military interdiction openly considered by the US and Israel.

While Bush has made it clear in his post-NIE comments that all options remain on the table, the case for a military strike or campaign against Iranian facilities is effectively scuppered by the report's finding that the Islamic Republic's atomic weapons program is moribund.

Asked if there are disagreements within the Bush administration on Iran policy, Potter said, "There have been divisions from day one and the question is whether the balance of power has shifted away from the more hard-line view of the vice-president [Dick Cheney] about attacking Iran."

"I think the opinion has clearly turned against the ideas of an attack on Iran," he concluded.

While some analysts believe that the possibility of a US or Israeli attack has been key to encouraging Iran to address international concerns regarding its atomic program, it has become clear in recent months that the military option is now no more than a rhetorical threat.

Israeli analysts are generally of the opinion that the country's air force is in no position to carry out a strike on Iranian nuclear sites - despite protestations to the contrary from the military leadership.

According to Time magazine, Bush was informed a year ago by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff that they opposed an attack on Iran despite assessments predicting that US strikes could inflict significant damage on the Iranian military and nuclear program. The defense officials argued that potential Iranian counter-measures made the probable "blowback" too great.

With Arab states openly cooperating for the first time in efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace track and end the Lebanese and Palestinian political crises the prospects for such an attack have further diminished.

"Bush is taking steps now to revive Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and there is really no time to deal with Iran. And I think that after this announcement Iran will recede a bit from the news," Potter predicted.

The NIE and a lack of progress on the EU-Iranian negotiations track place the ball firmly in the court of Russian President Vladimir Putin - Iran's key atomic partner.

"Basically what Putin has been saying - that he didn't see that Iran had a nuclear weapons program - has been vindicated" by the NIE, Potter said, adding, "If the official US position now is closer to that of Russia perhaps there will be some opportunity to coordinate with the Russians in terms of Iran policy."

The Chinese reportedly agreed to a third round of UN sanctions against Iran the day before Monday's release of the NIE. However, Russian and Chinese officials have sought to downplay prospects for extended sanctions as the post-NIE fallout settles, in a clear message to the US that Beijing and Moscow will now decide the short-term trajectory of the crisis.

Levitt believes the current focus on the 2003 mothballing of the Iranian atomic weapons program is drawing attention away from the more important NIE finding, "that Iran is in large part a rational actor and there are non-military soft-power tools that can be effective, have in the past been effective, and are being effective now."

Levitt does not believe the NIE will undermine progress on a new sanctions package. "My sources that I have spoken to today [Wednesday], both Europeans and Americans involved in the process in New York and Paris, say that negotiations over a third UN Security Council resolution are going quite well," he said.

Potter disagrees: "I think the Europeans are going to feel that the US wasn't really leveling with them and this is going to cut the ground out from under their [US] efforts. I suspect that there will not be another UN round and the US will have to think creatively about another diplomatic instrument if they want to affect Iranian policy."

The Kremlin will play an important role in deciding the future pace of Iranian nuclear development. Russia has been withholding nuclear fuel supplies for the newly built Bushehr reactor for much of 2007, explaining their initial decision by claiming Iranian tardiness in keeping to payment schedules for the US$1 billion project - a claim strongly denied by Tehran.

Levitt predicts Russian backing for strengthened sanctions: "I think at the end of the day Russia is going to be on board and is going to do more to ease US-Russia tensions." He believes that the Russians will continue to withhold fuel supplies.

"The issue of sending the fuel to the reactor is very important to the Iranians and it is clearly an important point of leverage," Potter said. "What exactly the Russians want to get out of it, or what conditions they want to see satisfied before the fuel is actually sent, I don't think we're clear about."

Capacity crucial
The EU has repeatedly failed to win Iranian acquiescence to the export of uranium reprocessing activities, with the latest round of talks on 30 November between teams led by EU foreign policy head Javier Solana and new Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili described by the former as disappointing.

Crucially, the issues and concerns regarding uranium enrichment and Iranian non-compliance with its NPT commitments remain unchanged by the DNI report and promise to inform future negotiations and efforts to promote a tighter sanctions regime.

While much of the post-NIE furor has focused on the stoppage of Iran's atomic weapons program, it is important to remember that ongoing international efforts are focused on Iran's building the material capacity for atomic weapons and possession of dual-use technologies.

To Levitt, "The issue is simple: Do you have sufficient fissile material or not? [IAEA chief Mohamed] ElBaradei has stated that [with regard to] converting that material, once you have enough of it of a good enough quality - which Iran could certainly produce in a civilian or conventional military program - it would only take a matter of months to weaponize it."

Israel and the US are already seeking to shift the debate towards Iran's ongoing expansion of its uranium enrichment capacity and missile technologies, hoping to draw an inferential relationship between the two that intimates at hidden nefarious motivations.

IAEA inspections of Iranian facilities remain limited to uranium enrichment facilities, and significant scope remains for international pressure to encourage Iran to seek parliamentary approval for a 2003 Additional Protocol agreement, which provides for greater oversight by the UN nuclear watchdog.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed mild interest in a proposal for a joint uranium enrichment consortium with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), offering cooperation on "energy and the new technologies" at the GCC summit in Doha this week, Xinhua reports.

The GCC states appeared to delay a decision on their proposed joint nuclear program at the Doha parlay.

"The announcement that the GCC states would be interested in pursuing nuclear power when they've already got 100 years worth of oil in the ground seemed to be more a way of countering the Iranian program," Potter said. He believes that revelations that the Iranian program may be limited in scope could reduce the "impetus" for GCC atomic development.

"Any kind of joint venture, or strictly commercial venture between Iran and the other Arab states I think would be helpful in terms of atmosphere, Potter said, adding, "I'm sure they [GCC] will be relieved in the sense that they are not looking at a nuclear weaponization program on the other side of the Gulf."

Referring to this and similar proposals, Levitt said, "I think those are still on the table and I think Iran is unlikely to accept them. It doesn't address, as far as Iran is concerned, its sovereignty/national rights issue." The Iranian rejection "is in large part why they are facing such problems," he added.

Dr Dominic Moran, based in Tel Aviv, is ISN Security Watch's senior correspondent in the Middle East and the Director of Operations of ISA Consulting.