(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - March 30, 2009: Russia will prioritize the strengthening of its border guards while creating a special Arctic force in line with a new strategy to protect its regional interests, a senior parliamentary member said Monday. The Russian Security Council posted on its website last Friday a document entitled "The fundamentals of Russian state policy in the Arctic up to 2020 and beyond." The document outlines the country's strategy in the region, including the deployment of military, border and coastal guard units "to guarantee Russia's military security in diverse military and political circumstances." According to the document, Russia will create by 2020 a group of forces to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic. "This is not about the creation of a new strike force. The military component [of the Arctic Group of Forces] will be optimized to accomplish new tasks. The main focus will be on tasks performed by border guard units," said Adm. (Ret.) Vyatcheslav Popov, head of the Commission on Maritime Policy in the upper house of the Russian parliament and the former commander of the Northern Fleet. Popov stressed the necessity of building infrastructure for border guard units on Russia's Arctic coast and islands in the Arctic Ocean, as well as expanding the network of forward-based airfields in the region. "The military component of the Arctic force will include units from the Northern and the Pacific fleets and military districts whose northern borders lie in the Arctic," the admiral said. The new document also prioritizes the delineation of the Arctic shelf "with respect to Russia's national interests." High Arctic territories, seen as the key to huge untapped natural resources, have increasingly been at the center of mounting disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark in recent years as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice. President Dmitry Medvedev said in September at a Russian Security Council session that the extent of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic should be defined as soon as possible. Medvedev also said the Arctic shelf was a guarantee of Russia's energy security and that the Arctic should become a resource base for Russia this century, adding that "about 20% of Russia's GDP and 22% of Russian exports are produced" in the area. Russia has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge in the summer of 2007 - to support its territorial claims in the region. Moscow pledged to submit documentary evidence to the UN on the external boundaries of Russia's territorial shelf by 2010. A Russian proposal on creating security structures in the Arctic region will be discussed at a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in April. The Arctic Council was established in 1996 to protect the unique nature of the Arctic region. The intergovernmental forum comprises Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
Monday, March 30, 2009
China Says No Plans To Shoot Down North Korean Rocket
(NSI News Source Info) BEIJING - March 30, 2009: China has no plans for special operations against North Korea's upcoming rocket launch, a Chinese Air Force General said on Monday. North Korea announced plans last month to launch what it says is a communications satellite from its Musudan-ri launch site on April 4-8. However, the U.S., Japan and South Korea believe that the secretive state is planning to test its Taepodong-2 long-range missile. "China has focused on how to defuse tensions and bring about reconciliation... China believes that peace is golden," China Daily quoted Lt. Gen. Liu Chengjun, president of the Beijing-based Academy of Military Science, as saying. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday that the United States would not shoot down the rocket, as it does not pose a threat to the U.S. "I think if we had a missile that was heading for Hawaii, that looked like it was headed for Hawaii or something like that, we might consider it," Gates told Fox News. "I don't think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point." Japan's Security Council gave approval on Friday for the military to destroy the North Korean rocket. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned on Saturday that the launch would complicate peace and stability in northeast Asia.
Russia To Test Launch Topol Ballistic Missile In April
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - March 30, 2009: Russia will test launch on April 10 a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia, the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) said on Monday. On October 18, 2007, another successful test launch was conducted. One Topol from a mobile launcher at Plesetsk test site reached its target on Kamchatka. As the Strategic Rocket Forces representative reported, it allowed for the extension of Topol's service life to 21 years. Another test of the SS-25 was carried out on Thursday, August 28, 2008. The launch was said to be specially tasked to test the missile's capability to avoid ground-based detection systems. The test included the use of a new warhead, designed to penetrate missile defense systems. The latest test was conducted on October 12, 2008 when a Topol was launched from the Plesetsk test site in northern Russia. The missile, with a dummy warhead, hit a target at the Kura Test Range on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev observed the test on site. The Topol will eventually be replaced by the road-mobile version of the Topol-M (SS-27) missile. The RS-12M Topol (SS-25 Sickle) is a single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) approximately the same size and shape as the U.S. Minuteman ICBM. The first Topol missiles were put into service in 1985. "The goal of the upcoming launch is to confirm the reliability of the technical characteristics [of the missile] during an extended service period," the SMF said in a statement. The missile has a maximum range of 10,000 km (6,125 miles) and can carry a 550-kiloton nuclear warhead. Although the service life of the SS-25 was extended to 21 years after a series of successful test launches last year, the missile will be progressively retired over the next decade and be replaced by a mobile version of the Topol-M (SS-27 Stalin) missile. According to open sources, Russia's SMF has a total of 541 ICBMs, including 306 Topol missiles and 59 Topol-M missiles.
Pakistan: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates Urges ISI To Cut Ties With Afghan Extremists
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - March 30, 2009: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Pakistan's powerful intelligence service to cut contacts with extremists in Afghanistan, which he called an ‘existential threat’ to Pakistan itself, AFP reports. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks to reporters during a news briefing at the Pentagon. Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has had links with extremists ‘for a long time, as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever,’ he said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ ‘What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand these groups are now an existential threat to them and we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan,’ Gates said. ‘They can count on us and they don't need that hedge,’ he said, citing the ISI's links specifically to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani militant network and to the forces of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Pentagon chief's comments came after President Barack Obama Friday put Pakistan at the center of the fight against al Qaeda with a new strategy to commit thousands more troops and billions of dollars to the Afghan war. ‘He clearly understands this is a very tough fight and that we're in it until we're successful, that al Qaeda is no longer a threat to the United States and that we are in no danger of either Afghanistan or the western part of Pakistan being a base for Al Qaeda,’ Gates said. On troop levels in Afghanistan Asked about a New York Times report that US military commanders had pressed Obama for even more troops, the defense secretary said: ‘The president has approved every single soldier that I have requested of him.’ ‘Now, the reality is I've been at this a long time and I don't think I've ever in several decades run into a ground commander who thought he had enough troops. That's probably true in all of history. ‘But we have fulfilled all of the requirements that the general has put down for 2009, and my view is there's no need to ask for more troops,’ he said, referring to US commander General David McKiernan. ‘And the reality is there already are a lot of troops there. This will bring us, when all is said and done, to 68,000 troops plus another 35,000 or so Europeans and other partners.’ But the new strategy will be reviewed at the end of the year, Gates also stressed, and said the United States has not given up on extracting more troops from European nations as Obama heads to a NATO summit in France and Germany. ‘In fact, I think some of our allies will send additional forces there to provide security before the August elections in Afghanistan,’ Gates said, adding that Washington also expected more civilian experts and police trainers.
Sudan: Defiant President Omar Hassan al-Bashir In Doha Ahead Of Arab Summit Monday / Sudan Leader Thanks Arab Summit For Support
Sudan: Defiant President Omar Hassan al-Bashir In Doha Ahead Of Arab Summit Monday / Sudan Leader Thanks Arab Summit For Support
(NSI News Source Info) March 30, 2009: Sudan's embattled President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is in Qatar's capital, Doha ahead of an Arab Summit scheduled to begin today despite an arrest warrant against him issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The summit, however, is expected to support President Bashir officially over the ICC-issued directive despite deep divisions in the Arab world over the indictment. Some political observers believe Qatar will not enforce the arrest warrant since it is not a signatory to the ICC charter establishing the court. The Hague-based international court issued the arrest warrant after Bashir was accused of masterminding war crimes in Darfur. Claude Salhani is the editor of the Middle East Times newspaper. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Bashir's presence tarnishes the significance of the Arab summit. "It is going to be an interesting meeting, especially given the fact that the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon is going to be present at this meeting. And he will attend this Monday's session in the presence of Mr. Bashir, and that is going to be an embarrassing moment for Ban Ki-moon. Other than that, I think the Arab League seems to be divided, nothing new in this sense over the issue of Bashir. Some are supporting him, others are not. What's interesting is Mubarak (Egypt's president) is not going to attend this meeting, although he had hosted Bashir a few days ago," Salhani noted. He said the motivations behind the support of Bashir over the ICC arrest warrant could be attributed to several reasons including noncooperation. "It seems that some are making a stance and some are saying like Colonel Gaddafi of Libya for example said that this is an attempt by west to re-colonize their former colonies. He has always got something interesting to say, and he called it a practice of first-world terrorism. So this is a sign of defiance, I guess. On the one hand, I think Qatar is in a peculiar situation, where as the host of this meeting, it would have been hard for them to say no to President Bashir. But on the other hand, Qatar is not a signatory. They haven't signed a charter, which obliges member states to arrest those indicted once they land on their territory. So they get off the hook that way," he said. Salhani said if an Arab League member country has not signed the charter establishing the ICC, it is under no obligation to enforce the arrest warrant against Sudan's President Bashir. "First of all they have to be signatories of the charter. I don't think all of them are. So it depends on if they have signed the declaration of the charter. Then they are obliged by international law to abide by the ruling and to arrest those indicted by the International Criminal Court. But as long as they haven't signed, it's up to the individual leader of that country to decide whether he wants to follow the international ruling or not. He is under no international obligation to do so," Salhani pointed out. He said President Bashir's presence will undermine the importance of the Arab summit in Doha. "In a way it is disadvantage that Mr. Bashir is going to be in Qatar because he is going to take away some of the spotlight on the real issues, and I'm not saying this is not important. But I'm saying for the Arab world, there are some much more urgent matters that they need to discuss and focus on rather than the presence or not of one particular man. Because the presence of President Bashir is not going to change anything in global geo-politics, whereas decisions made on the ground there can change things in the Middle East," he said. This is Bashir's fourth international trip after the ICC issued an arrest warrant against him accusing him of being the brain behind the massacre of Darfuris in the troubled Darfur region. He arrived in Qatar Sunday, after visits to neighboring Egypt, Eritrea, and Libya last week. Some in the Arab world including Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi have sharply denounced the arrest warrant, describing it as an orchestration by western countries to re-colonize the Middle East and adding that it amounts to first-world terrorism. Experts believe that up to 300-thousand people have died and 2.7 million driven from their homes in the Darfur conflict since 2003. According to the joint UN- African Union peacekeeping mission, currently around 15-thousand strong is deployed in Darfur, but its forces remain under-equipped, and it has been attacked by warring factions. The United Nations and humanitarian workers say Sudan's order to expel the 13 aid groups, including Oxfam GB and CARE International punches a giant hole in the safety net that has kept many Darfur civilians alive during six years of war in the vast, arid region of western Sudan. The ICC accuses Bashir of leading a counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels that involves rapes, killings, and other atrocities against civilians. Bashir rejects the charges and refuses to deal with the ICC. Arab and African countries are pressing the UN Security Council to defer any prosecution for at least a year, hoping to defuse the crisis. They contend that the move will worsen conditions on the ground and put in jeopardy the lives of people living in Darfur. Khartoum expelled 13 of the largest aid groups operating in Darfur as part of its defiant response to the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant. The Bashir government accuses the agencies of working closely with the ICC.
Pakistan: Gunmen Storm Police School Killed 9
UP-DATE: Pakistani security forces have recaptured a police academy that was seized by gunmen, officials say. Television footage showed paramilitary troops celebrating on the roof of the compound, near Lahore, after they had besieged the building for eight hours. Pakistan's Interior Ministry official Rehman Malik said 14 people had been killed, including eight policemen and two civilians. Four militants had been killed and three others arrested, he added. The assault comes less than a month after gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, killing six policemen. Those gunmen escaped....BBC News
(NSI News Source Info) LAHORE, Pakistan — March 30, 2009: Gunmen firing indiscriminately and throwing hand grenades stormed a police training center in Lahore Monday morning, killing nine people and injuring up to 90 , according to police and media reports. Government troops outside the police training school in Lahore. About 10 to 14 gunmen were holding several hundred cadets hostage as police and the attackers exchanged fire inside the center. Armored police vehicles carrying police and rangers drove into gates of the center after the attackers took control and explosions and bursts of heavy gunfire could be heard sporadically. Scores of police vehicles and ambulances crowded around the high walls of the academy as police rushed to the compound. The attackers, wearing police uniforms, entered the Manawan police training center on the outskirts of Lahore, about eight miles from the Indian border, at about 8 a.m. as the police cadets were conducting their morning parade, police said. They threw hand grenades at the parade ground and started firing, they said. Former police officials told television reporters that security around the school was light, allowing the gunmen to breach the walls easily. The attackers were reportedly firing from the roof of the school and a police helicopter was hovering overhead. Police sharpshooters positioned at nearby buildings were firing into the center. Reached by telephone, the commander of the center, Chaudhry Tanwir, said he was heading the operation to subdue the attackers. Wounded cadets were carried out of the center on stretchers and some who had escaped by jumping over walls were shown weeping in television footage. The school was believed to have 850 cadets under training. Rizwan Naseer, a doctor in charge of emergency operations, said at least 48 people were being treated at hospitals. Local media cited 90 wounded and said there could be many more casualties. The assault appeared to have been well-planned, an intelligence expert said. “This took many weeks to plan, someone should have smelled this was going to happen,” said Masood Sharif, the former chief of intelligence in Lahore. The attack appeared similar to the assault earlier this month by a dozen gunmen on the Sri Lankan cricket team as it traveled to a stadium in central Lahore. Six police officers and a driver died in that incident.
Pakistan Seeking Membership Of SCO Regional Security Group
(NSI News Source Info) Moscow - March 30, 2009: Pakistan is seeking full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) a regional security group, the Pakistani Foreign Minister told an international conference in Moscow on Friday. "I hope that one day we will be invited to join this organization," Shah Mehmood Qureshi said. The SCO regional security group comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Russia took over the presidency of the organization last August. Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status. The SCO is currently holding an international conference in Moscow, to discuss the "situation in Afghanistan and its influence on neighboring states." Talking about Afghanistan, the minister said it was necessary to start a new page in the country's history as the Afghan population deserves peace, progress, economic recovery and development, which he said he thought was "achievable" with long-term participation by the international community. He added that Russia and China could play a key role in improving the situation in the impoverished state. The conference is being attended by foreign ministers and high-level diplomats from SCO member and observer states, as well as Afghanistan, the U.S., and Turkey. The UN Secretary General, and heads from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) are also taking part in the event.
Philippines Tense As Abu Sayyaf Deadline Looms
(NSI News Source Info) MANILA - March 30, 2009: The Philippines on Monday called on Islamic militants threatening to behead three Red Cross workers to fulfil their promise to release a hostage after troops withdrew from their jungle stronghold. The three Red Cross workers were snatched while on a humanitarian mission. There were no immediate signs the gunmen were preparing to hand over any of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hostages they seized on southern Jolo island in January, said provincial governor Abdusakur Tan, who heads the team trying to free the captives. "We have done everything we could. I don't know whether we could still give any other concessions, short of giving them the entire island," Tan told a Philippine radio station. "We hope and pray they will not carry out their threat by tomorrow," Tan said. Albader Parad, the spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf militant group, has said one of the three captives would be beheaded if government forces did not withdraw from the island. Manila initially rejected the demand, but relented after the ICRC's president in Geneva made a rare public appeal for cooperation to save the lives of Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Eugenio Vagni of Italy. Troops retreated from the Abu Sayyaf's jungle area, effectively leaving five towns on the island of Jolo under the group's control. Tan said Parad had told him in a telephone call that he now wants all government forces to be "restricted" to Jolo's provincial capital, effectively yielding the entire province to the group. "But we have already pulled a huge number of our forces out from the area where the kidnappers are," he said, adding that the rebels now have about 140 square kilometers (54 square miles). "They have said they will behead one of the hostages if we do not comply. We are leaving everything to God and hope they do not carry out the threat," he said. Lacaba, Notter and Vagni were seize by Parad's group while on a humanitarian mission on Jolo island on January 15. The Abu Sayyaf is an Al Qaeda-linked organization blamed for some of the Philippines' worst attacks.
Obama Faces Tough Issues On First Overseas Trip As US President
(NSI News Source Info) March 30, 2009: White House officials say U.S. President Barack Obama is going to Europe this week to consult and to listen. Although he is popular with the European public, Mr. Obama likely will face some tough talk from their leaders.
As Barack Obama prepares for his first overseas trip as president, differences between the United States and Europe on major issues are coming to the fore.
The global economy and Afghanistan are likely to dominate most of his discussions abroad. And while there is an international consensus that both issues need to be addressed, there is a wide range of views on how best to proceed.
In London, Mr. Obama will represent the United States for the first time on the world stage when he sits down with the heads of 20 of the biggest leading and emerging economies - the G-20.
Some countries have blamed the deregulation of financial markets in the United States for sparking the global economic crisis. And many with strapped budgets have little interest in the massive government spending Mr. Obama supports as economic stimulus.
Top White House officials insist that the president has no desire to dictate spending targets to other nations.
"There isn't any single number that is sacrosanct," said Michael Froman.
Michael Froman is the president's Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs.
"I think the important thing is that there is broad agreement that was reflected in the finance ministers' statement of a couple of weeks ago to do whatever is necessary to restore growth," he said.
While in London, President Obama will meet for the first time on a one-on-one basis with the leaders of China, Russia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and India.
The day after their summit ends, Mr. Obama will join other NATO members near the French-German border to mark the 60th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
He will go before the NATO summit with a new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS television's Face the Nation program, the president said the stakes are high.
"We have seen deterioration over the last several years and unless we get a handle on it now, we are going to be in trouble," said President Obama.
But while President Obama is very popular in Europe, the prospect of sending more NATO troops to Afghanistan is not.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he has not given up on deploying more allied combat forces, saying that some NATO members may be willing to send troops to help in the run-up to national elections in August.
But during an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, Gates stressed that more civilian help is also needed.
"I think what we are really interested in for the longer term from our partners and our allies is helping us with this civilian surge in terms of experts in agriculture and finance and government and so on to help us improve the situation inside Afghanistan," said Robert Gates.
After the NATO summit, President Obama will travel to the Czech Republic, where he will deliver a speech on weapons proliferation and hold talks on U.S. ties with the European Union.
His last stop will be Turkey - the first Muslim country to welcome the new U.S. president.
There was speculation he might deliver a speech on U.S. relations with the Muslim world while in Istanbul. Instead, President Obama will launch a dialogue with young people in the region. Aides say he will take part in a question and answer session conducted, in part, on the Internet.
American Leverage In South Asia
*In recent days three top American generals have turned their guns on Pakistan, accusing elements of its main intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants....By Barbara Plett BBC News, Islamabad
(NSI News Source Info) Islamabad - March 30, 2009: In recent days three top American generals have turned their guns on Pakistan, accusing elements of its main intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. The unprecedented broadside followed the announcement by the US President Barack Obama of a new strategy for Afghanistan. Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islam rally against the United Stated in Pakistani border town of Chaman along Afghanistan on Monday, March 23, 2009 to condemn the American policy of expanding U. S. strikes in Pakistani territory. The new director of the CIA held high-level talks in Pakistan after a provincial leader warned against expanding U.S. missile strikes on al-Qaida and Taliban targets inside the country's thinly policed border with Afghanistan. Mr Obama cited as its cornerstone the need to destroy militant safe havens in the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, something he knows can't be achieved without complete cooperation from the country's army and intelligence. To win, or compel, such support, the president and his generals have offered a mixture of incentives and warnings: for example, an increase in civilian aid alongside a warning that there's no "blank cheque" for the military if it doesn't perform. The charges against the ISI seem to be part of the latter. They are not new, but have never before been made so publicly. The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said elements of the ISI maintain links with militants on Pakistan's borders with both Afghanistan and India. General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, spoke of cases "in the fairly recent past" where the ISI appeared to have warned militants that their positions had been discovered. Collusion charge According to the New York Times, Pakistani support to Taliban commanders extends to "money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance". Last year Washington's suspicions were such that it scaled down intelligence sharing with the ISI, especially after accusing it of involvement in the July bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. The charge of collusion is rigorously denied by Pakistani officials. They insist top levels of the army and intelligence agencies were purged of ideological officers after 2001, when the government dropped its open support for the Taliban and fell in with what the US called its War on Terror. They point out that Pakistan has lost more soldiers in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda on the Afghan border than all of the NATO forces combined; and that American officials acknowledge the ISI has captured more Al Qaeda operatives than any other intelligence agency. Within the security establishment there is a belief that the ISI is being used as a scapegoat for coalition failures in Afghanistan. However, few independent Pakistani analysts doubt the intelligence agency maintains links with Islamist militants, especially the Afghan Taliban who have sanctuary in the border region. "The army will operate against militant groups that it defines as anti-Pakistan," says one informed observer who spoke off-the-record. "But it will not go after those groups that have a purely Afghan agenda, like the Afghan Taliban. Not at least until the United States listens to what the army regards as Pakistan's legitimate regional concerns." Strategic depth? There are mixed views here about what those concerns are. No state can be successfully pressured into acts it considers suicidal Ahmed Rashid and Barnett Rubin Foreign Affairs magazine Some believe the military has never given up its policy of "strategic depth": the belief that in order to defend itself against its traditional enemy, India, to the east, it needs a pro-Pakistan government (like the Taliban) in Afghanistan, to the west. Others say it wants a "neutral" Afghanistan. But Kabul is not neutral as far as the army is concerned. Its government is full of factions hostile to Islamabad and closely allied with India, Pakistan's great regional rival. And India is expanding its influence in the country. This is all the more troubling because Pakistan's worried about its borders. Afghanistan has never recognised the boundary drawn by the British, known as the Durrand Line. And the dispute with India over the Himalayan region of Kashmir continues. In such circumstances, the Taliban are an asset, not an adversary for the ISI, says the observer. "The Pakistan army knows that it and the Taliban have Pashtun support on both sides of the Durand line. This gives it leverage, and means it can signal to the United States that it will not be abandoned in any Afghan deal." Prior to his election, Mr Obama recognised that Pakistani peace with India was key to stability in Afghanistan. Since his inauguration, however, he has dropped any suggestion of an initiative on Kashmir in the face of Indian objections. Now, he hopes a mixture of carrot and stick will force a rethink of Pakistan's security calculation. But for Pakistan's security establishment, its concerns - the presence of India in Afghanistan, Kabul's refusal to recognise the border, the festering Kashmir dispute - are strategic threats far greater than those posed by Islamist militants. "The concept of pressuring Pakistan is flawed," Ahmed Rashid and Barnett Rubin have written in the Foreign Affairs magazine. "No state can be successfully pressured into acts it considers suicidal." Ultimately America's leverage is limited: in pushing too much, it may lose even the limited cooperation it has.
Mexico Drug Violence "Out Of Hand": President Barack Obama
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - March 30, 2009: Drug violence in Mexico has "gotten out of hand" and poses a serious threat to communities along the US-Mexico border, President Barack Obama said Sunday. But Obama, in an interview with CBS television, said his administration would wait to see the impact of stepped up US law enforcement efforts before deploying national guard troops to the border. "I don't think that it is what would be called an existential threat. But it's a serious threat to those border communities and it has gotten out of hand," he said. A Mexican Federal Police agent patrols the streets of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico during an anti-narcotic operation. Mexico's crackdown on drug cartels has triggered a spike in violence in Vancouver, where seven shootings have taken place in 48 hours, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police superintendent said Thursday. Echoing comments in Mexico last week by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama called the drug crisis in the south a "two-way street" fueled by US demand for drugs and availability of weapons. "We've got to reduce demand for drugs. We've got to do our part in reducing the flow of cash and guns south," he said. Administration officials announced plans last week to send 360 more federal agents and officers to the border area to target the movement of drugs and guns and to beef up security and intelligence along the border. Obama said the administration was considering calls for national guard troops in the border areas. "But we want to first see whether some of the steps that we've taken can help quell some of the violence," he said. "And we want to make sure that we are consulting as effectively as we can with the Mexican government in moving this strategy forward." Clinton delivered that message in Mexico City last week, vowing to stand with the government of President Felipe Calderon in the fight against powerful drug cartels. She also pledged to provide Mexico with 80 million dollars to buy Blackhawk helicopters to pursue the drug cartels. An estimated 6,300 have been killed in drug related violence in Mexico since 2008 in an intensifying war as Mexican troops go after drug cartels, and the gangs vie among themselves for lucrative smuggling routes into the United States. Obama said the drug cartels were "undermining and corrupting huge segments of Mexico society," but he praised Calderon for taking on the drug cartels "in the same way that Elliot Ness took on Al Capone back during prohibition." "Oftentimes that causes even more violence and we're seeing that flare up," Obama added. In a separate interview, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Fox television that Calderon had acted with "enormous courage" in sending in Mexican troops to try to control the situation. "I think that the chances of the Mexican government losing control of some part of their country or becoming a failed state are very low," he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama: America Expects Accountability From Pakistan
(NSI News Source Info) March 30, 2009: U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States will give Pakistan the tools it needs to help defeat al-Qaida, but expects accountability in return.
President Obama has made defeating al-Qaida the focus of his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He says, as he did during his campaign for the White House, that he will take action against terror targets along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
"If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we are going after them," said President Obama.
But Mr. Obama says no American ground forces will be deployed in Pakistan.
"Our main thrust has to be to help Pakistan defeat these extremists," he said.
The president spoke in an interview with the CBS television program Face the Nation - recorded Friday just hours after the announcement of his new Afghan-Pakistan strategy.
He said there is concern in Washington about a growing notion among the Pakistani people that somehow, this is just America's war.
"And that attitude has led to a steady creep of extremism in Pakistan that is the greatest threat to the stability of the Pakistan government, and ultimately the greatest threat to the Pakistani people," said Mr. Obama.
The White House consulted with Pakistani leaders leading up to the announcement of its new strategy, and the initial response has been positive.
Mr. Obama promised a more regional approach to the fight against terrorists and extremists.
He said he would send more military trainers and U.S. civilian personnel to Afghanistan. He voiced support for an increase in aid to Pakistan, but he made clear he is looking for something in return.
"Our plan does not change recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign government," he said. "We need to work with them and through them to deal with al-Qaida. But we have to hold them much more accountable."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has served in the Obama and Bush administrations. He told the Fox News Sunday program the U.S. objective has narrowed.
"Our long-term objective still would be to see a flourishing democracy in Afghanistan," said Gates. "But I think what we need to focus on, and focus our efforts [on], [is] in making headway in reversing the Taliban's momentum and strengthening the Afghan army and police and really going after al-Qaida."
Gates said al-Qaida is not as centralized and strong as it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. But he said it is still providing training and guidance to extremist elements in various countries and remains a serious threat.
Clinton Says US Will Reach Out To Iran / 'No Overnight Change In Iran-US relations'
(NSI News Source Info) March 30, 2009: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that Iran has a role to play in the region that includes neighboring Afghanistan and she hopes it will be constructive. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a press conference at the TecMilenio University in Monterrey, Mexico, Thursday, March 26, 2009. Clinton is on a two-day official visit to Mexico. Clinton told reporters in Monterrey, Mexico, that the United States will continue to reach out to Iran, even though earlier efforts were unsuccessful. President Barack Obama's outreach to Iran in a video message recently was rebuffed by Iranian leaders. Iran has accepted an invitation to a conference on Afghanistan next week at The Hague, Netherlands, that also will be attended by the U.S. U.S. State Department officials have said no substantive meetings are planned between the U.S. and the Iranians. But Clinton reaffirmed U.S. hopes that Iran will help in stabilizing Afghanistan. "Iran borders Afghanistan," she said. "It has a role to play in the region and we hope it will be a constructive role." Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected Obama's outreach, saying Tehran was still waiting to see concrete changes in U.S. policy. Obama spoke out to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year, and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of strained relations. Clinton said those efforts will continue. "We are doing what President Obama said we would do. We are reaching out to the Iranian leadership, but equally importantly, to the Iranian people. That was certainly the spirit in which the president extended new year's greetings," she said. "We have a long-held view that there are going to be difficult obstacles to engaging in the short run with the Iranians, but we are going to continue to reach out," she said.
President Dmitry Medvedev:'New Start' Possible, Necessary With US, West
(NSI News Source Info) LONDON - March 30, 2009: Russia's relations with the U.S. and the West can and should get a "new start," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview Sunday. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) gives an interview to Andrew Marr of the BBC outside Moscow in Barvikha on March 29, 2009 prior to his trip to London for the G-20 summit where he is expected to meet US President Barack Obama. "A new start is certainly possible, it is necessary. I hope our partners share that point of view," he said in a pre-recorded interview with the British Broadcasting Corp's Andrew Marr show. Medvedev meets U.S. President Barack Obama for the first time at the Group of 20 leaders summit hosted by U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London on April 2. He said he has so far had two "very fruitful and constructive conversations," with Obama and that he had been "surprised by the fact many of the views he outlined coincided with my own." Medvedev said next week's G20 leaders summit needs to agree on "fundamental" reforms. He said "the future of our countries and our people depend on it, on our determination to introduce fundamental changes to the world financial architecture." Medvedev said the troubles in Russia's economy cannot just be blamed on foreign banks. He said some Russian companies didn't think closely enough about the loans they took on and that "this is the responsibility of the owners of those companies - and not the foreign banks." The Russian president also pointed to "positive change" in the relationship with the U.K. after the strains of recent years, including the tensions at Anglo-Russian oil joint venture TNK-BP Holding (TNBP.RS) and the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian security agent who became a U.K. citizen. "It's simple, clear cut. British businessmen are welcome in Russia. We believe that British businessmen have the same rights on Russian investment market as all others," he said. Speaking later on the same program, U.K. Foreign Minister David Miliband also said he was hoping for a "new beginning" in relations. He said that was about more than the tone of relations, with ties ideally based on "hard-headed engagement." Medvedev was also asked whether he would consider a pardon for jailed former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khordokovsky, who is set to stand trial a second time. Medvedev said people should wait for the results of the second trial of Khordokovsky but added "a president has only one privilege, only one power - to grant pardon on behalf of the state. "When people make such appeals, it is my duty to consider them. That's it," he said.