Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Iran deploys submarines in Red Sea

An Iranian Navy submarine
Iran's Navy submarines have reportedly been deployed in the Red Sea to conduct maritime surveillance operations and also identify warships of other countries.

The military submarines entered the Red Sea waters on Tuesday and are sailing alongside the warships of Iran's Navy 14th fleet, Fars News Agency reported.

The report added that the fleet entered the Gulf of Aden region in May and has now entered the Red Sea in the continuation of its mission.

The deployment of Iranian military submarines in the Red Sea is the first such operation by Iran's Navy in distant waters.

Iran has deployed warships further afield, as far as the Red Sea, to combat Somali pirates.

Rampant piracy off the Indian Ocean coast of Somalia has made the waters among the most dangerous in terms of pirate activities.

The Gulf of Aden, which links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea, is the quickest route for more than 20,000 vessels traveling annually between Asia, Europe and the Americas.

However, attacks by heavily armed Somali pirates on speedboats have prompted some of the world's largest shipping firms to switch routes from the Suez Canal and reroute cargo vessels around southern Africa, leading to climbing shipping costs.

'US aims to sabotage Pak N-facilities'

President Ahmadinejad unveils US plots in Pakistan and Bahrain
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a press conference in the Iranian capital, Tehran, June 7, 2011.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the United States plans to sabotage the nuclear facilities of Pakistan in a bid to weaken the Pakistani government and nation.

“We have accurate information that, in order to gain dominance over Pakistan and weaken the country's government and nation, the Americans want to sabotage Pakistan's nuclear facilities and pave the way for the US's extended presence and the weakening of the national governing of the people through the lever of the [United Nations] Security Council and some international organizations,” Ahmadinejad said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The Iranian president noted that colonialists used the 9/11 attacks as a pretext to launch their largest military invasion on the [Middle East] region in order to "save from destruction the ailing economy of themselves and the Zionist regime (Israel) as the main base of ultra-modern colonialism."

The press conference is being held in the Iranian capital of Tehran with the participation of almost 350 reporters and photographers from Iranian and foreign media.

Elsewhere during the conference, the Iranian president said that Washington is planning to gain popularity in the Middle East by pretending to support the people of Bahrain.

The Americans, who have themselves given the carte blanche to confront the people in Bahrain, now want to act as supporters of the Bahraini people and pressure the ruler of this country to make concessions and restore parts of the rights of the people and put an end to the story, Ahmadinejad said.

Through that, the US wants to gain popularity among the nations of the region and show themselves as supporters of the rights of the people, he added.

Ahmadinejad noted that the problem of Bahrain is not between the people and the government, but the US military base is the problem.

He added that "if the people of Bahrain are under pressure today, or if the Bahraini government has to stand against the people of the country to defend the US base," it is because of the US and its illegitimate interests.

F-35 Engine Maker to Slowly Lower Cost

Engine maker Pratt & Whitney says it is incrementally lowering the price of its F-35 power plant and could possibly drop the cost even more as the Pentagon begins negotiating for the latest batch of fighter jets.
Engine maker Pratt & Whitney says it will lower the price of the F-35 power plant. (CHERIE CULLEN / U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE)
"We have activities planned and in place to bring the cost down in [low-rate initial production] 5," Bennett Croswell, president of Pratt & Whitney military engines, said during a June 6 briefing in Washington.
Negotiations for the fifth batch of Joint Strike Fighters between the Pentagon and F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin just commenced.
The company has a goal to reduce the F135 cost to the price of the F-22A power plant, the F119, by the 250th engine. Pratt has developed a metric of shrinking the cost of the F135 incrementally to reach that goal. Company officials declined to cite those prices, which they consider proprietary.
Pratt officials said they were able to beat their projected pricing targets during negotiations for the fourth batch of F-35 production aircraft last year.
"We're constantly looking at ways to do even better than what that plan is," Croswell said.
At the same time, the company has validated an improvement to increase the thrust of the Marine Corps version of the F-35, which can land vertically.
Through a software change "that reduces the variability of the lift system components," the company is able to add about 100 pounds of thrust, according to Edward O'Donnell, director of F135 and F119 business development. The company is also working to lighten the engine about 100 pounds.
Validating these improvements before the end of the fiscal year in September could become critical for Pratt if language in the House version of the 2012 defense authorization bill become law. The language would require the Pentagon to restart the canceled F-35 alternate engine program - run jointly by General Electric and Rolls-Royce - should a future requirement for more thrust crop up.
"Right now, the F135 meets all of our thrust specification requirements," O'Donnell said. "As we look at the program going forward, there does not appear to be any need to increase the thrust of the engine."
Addressing the House language, O'Donnell said: "It's unfortunate that language in Congress would tie our hands or prevent us from being able to work on the engine should that requirement come forward."

Nuclear Weapons Threat Not Decreasing, Study Says

STOCKHOLM - More than 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed around the world and nuclear powers continue investing in new weapon systems, making meaningful disarmament in the near future unlikely, a report published Tuesday said.
"More than 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed and ready for use, including nearly 2,000 that are kept in a high state of alert," according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
SIPRI's report said the world's eight nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the U.S. - possess more than 20,500warheads.
As of January 2011, Russia had 11,000 nuclear warheads, including 2,427deployed, while the United States had 8,500 including 2,150 deployed, the report said.
The U.S. and Russia have signed a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that calls for a maximum of 1,550 warheads deployed per country.
However SIPRI argued that prospects for meaningful disarmament in the short-term are grim as all eight countries seem committed to either improving or maintaining their nuclear programs.
"The five legally recognized nuclear weapons states, as defined by the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty are either deploying new nuclear weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so," the report said, referring to Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.
India and Pakistan are "expanding their capacity to produce fissile material for military purposes," according to the report.
SIPRI Director Daniel Nord said south Asia, where relations between India and Pakistan seem perpetually tense, is "the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons arms race."
While Israel, which has never conclusively declared itself a nuclear weapons state but is almost universally assumed to be one, "appears to be waiting to assess how the situation with Iran's nuclear program develops," SIPRI said.
Nord argued that because "nuclear weapons states are modernizing and are investing in their nuclear weapons establishments (it) seems unlikely that there will be any real nuclear weapon disarmament within the foreseeable future."
The report said that North Korea "is believed to have produced enough plutonium to build a small number of nuclear warheads, but there is no public information to verify that it has operational nuclear weapons."
Nord identified Pakistan "losing control of part of its nuclear arsenal" to a terrorist group as a specific concern.
He also voiced worry over the potential consequences if "Israel or the United States decide that they will have to intervene and do something about the program in Iran."
Iran has repeatedly insisted that its nuclear program is non-military, but several world powers have demanded closer international inspection of Iran's nuclear sites to verify the claim.
SIPRI is an independent institution that receives 50 percent of its funding from the Swedish state.

Obama, Karzai To Videoconference on Wednesday

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will hold a videoconference with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on June 8, the White House said as the U.S. administration weighs a calendar to pull out troops.
The news came after Obama met for two hours with his national security team June 6 to discuss the war in Afghanistan and the situation in neighboring Pakistan, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
The White House meeting in the Situation Room came a little over a month after U.S. Navy SEALs killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at his hideout deep in Pakistan.
The killing fueled calls for a major withdrawal when Obama fulfills a vow to begin pulling out troops in July, a promise he made in December 2009 before deploying 30,000 "surge" forces to Afghanistan.
It also comes amid tensions with Afghan leaders, after Karzai last week issued a furious warning over civilian casualties, saying the U.S.-led foreign military risks becoming an "occupying force" if fatal air strikes continue.
A looming U.S. decision on troop drawdowns could include a timeline for pulling out 30,000 "surge" forces deployed last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a farewell visit to Afghanistan.
He indicated for the first time June 5 that Obama may lay out a long-term plan for U.S. troop levels over the next few years.
But Carney said Obama had not yet made any decision, promising any decision would be a "real drawdown" but would depend on "conditions on the ground."
He said the withdrawal calendar was not discussed at Monday's meeting between Obama and his national security team.
"The president has not received yet a recommendation from these commanders or the secretary of defense for a troop drawdown figure, that will obviously be a decision he makes relatively soon," he said, adding he did not have a date for it.
Carney said Gates briefed Obama by video on his visit to Afghanistan "in preparation for the president's upcoming videoconference with president Karzai which will take place on Wednesday June 8."
Obama sent 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in a bid to reverse a Taliban insurgency that has become increasingly deadly since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion brought down their regime, and vowed to begin a pullout by mid-2011.
A war-weary American public's opposition is growing and patience in Congress is wearing thin as the conflict approaches its 10-year mark with no let-up in sight from the Taliban insurgents and a soaring body-count.
The New York Times reported that Obama's national security team is pondering much bigger reductions than those discussed even a few weeks ago following bin Laden's death and amid concerns over the war's cost.
A senior U.S. official denied a Times claim that Obama is expected to announce his decision on troop withdrawals in an address to the nation this month, telling AFP: "There's not a speech scheduled or written that I'm aware of."
Roughly 100,000 U.S. troops are still stationed in Afghanistan as part of a 130,000-strong international force.

NATO Defense Ministers to Discuss Pooling, Sharing

BRUSSELS - NATO defense ministers will discuss pooling and sharing options here at a meeting June 8-9, part of the alliance's "smart defense" concept to more efficiently use resources.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there would be a "preliminary discussion" among defense ministers, based on a presentation by Gen. St├ęphane Abrial, the commander of NATO's Allied Command Transformation.
Based on responses from defense ministers, "concrete proposals" will be presented, "hopefully for approval" at a meeting in October, said Rasmussen.
He described smart defense as an ongoing project that NATO is working on with a view to its May 2012 summit. "It [smart defense] is the answer to the economic challenges we are faced with," he said.
Asked about NATO coordination with the European Union, he said it is "my intention to ensure cooperation between the EU and NATO to avoid any waste of taxpayers' money. If we are to reach the full potential of multinational cooperation, we need cooperation between NATO and the EU," he added.
Among other subjects, on June 8 defense ministers will take stock of progress made in protecting Libyans from the Gadhafi regime.
"I expect us to discuss how we plan for the day after Gadhafi goes," said Rasmussen. "When the [NATO] mission is over, I don't imagine NATO will play a primary role," he added. "It's the U.N. who will lead the transition [to a peaceful democracy]. NATO can provide a contribution. We are ready to help if we're invited to."
Rasmussen also said he would present a proposal on the geographic locations of NATO military command headquarters as part of the alliance's command structure reform.
"I think we can reach an agreement [on this] at the defense ministers' meeting," he said.
A NATO-Russia Council meeting on June 8 is expected to cover a wide range of issues relating to the partnership between Russia and NATO, including the idea of having one or two missile shields to protect Europe against missile attacks.