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Current Topic: International Relations

Iran 'seizes' 15 British sailors -
Topic: International Relations 10:44 am EDT, Mar 23, 2007

An Iranian naval patrol seized 15 British sailors who had boarded a vessel suspected of smuggling cars off the coast of Iraq, military officials said.

The British government immediately demanded the safe return of its troops and summoned Tehran's London ambassador to explain the incident.

The Royal Marines and ordinary naval officers were believed to have been apprehended by up to six ships from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy who claimed they had violated Iranian waters.

British military patrols have been given authority to board vessels in Iraqi waters under United Nations mandate and with the permission of the government in Baghdad.

He said the captain of the merchant vessel had been cleared to proceed and the two British inflatable patrol boats were readying for departure when they were surrounded by the Iranian navy and taken into Iranian waters.

Lambert said there is "absolutely no doubt in my mind" that the marines were in Iraqi waters. But, he said, "The extent and the definition of territorial waters in this part of the world is very complicated... We may well find, and I hope we find, that this is a simple misunderstanding at a tactical level," he said.

"There hopefully has been a mistake that's been made, and we'll see early clarification and early release of my people."

CNN's Aneesh Raman in Tehran said there had been no mention of the incident on Iranian TV and calls to officials had not been answered.

It was not immediately clear where in Iran the British personnel were taken.

This is exactly the type of thing that could spin out of control quickly..

Update: The CounterterrorismBlog has posted some questions in regard to this:

Questions: Is this an intentional act approved by senior Iranian leadership in response to findings of the British personnel, or possibly in reaction to the upcoming U.N. vote against Iran? The official IRNA news site includes a story complaining that the White House is throwing up a last-minute obstacle to the issuance of a visa for President Ahmadinejad to take part in the U.N. Security Council meeting Saturday on the Iran sanctions resolution - could that be the reason for this action? Is this a provocation similar to the Hezbollah seizure last year of Israeli soldiers, which led the Israelis into invading Lebanon, to test how the British and Americans move military assets in advance of armed action? Is this a calculated measure due to Iranian claims that the waters are, in fact, Iranian and not Iraqi (a 1975 treaty gave the waters to Iraq, but Iran disputes Iraq's jurisdiction)? Or is this the action of a local commander, unauthorized by leadership, and due to anything from bad navigation equipment (hard to believe but it happens), one too many drinks, or a misinterpretation of orders? Recall that (a) Iranian forces did something like this in 2004 and held British servicemen for three days, then released them, and (b) local commanders' mistakes have had devastating consequences, such as the accidental American shoot-down of an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988.

Iran 'seizes' 15 British sailors -

The Spy Who Billed Me: New Intel Firm Signals Major Shift in Industry: CIA Knock-Off For Rent
Topic: International Relations 9:11 pm EDT, Mar 11, 2007

Cofer Black, former CIA Center for Counterterrorist (CTC) and Vice Chairman of Blackwater USA along with some other former CIA heavy-hitters have created a new private intelligence corporation, Total Intelligence Solutions with Black as chairman. The new firm is marketing itself as a security and intelligence solution for large corporations, with little emphasis upon government contracting except in Homeland Security, signaling a major shift in private intelligence corporations. Former spies are prohibited by law from plying their trade to lobby the US Government on behalf of foreign governments, corporations or individuals (that's Congressional turf). However, nothing forbids them from using their own contacts--in spy terms, agents--to get information to further the interests of clients--foreign or domestic.

Read the whole post. And I strongly suggest following RJ Hillhouse's blog.

Just in case anyone here hasn't been paying attention.. We continue on the gentle side into the world envisioned by William Gibson and Neil Stephenson. I, for one, am no longer bothered by this. Quite on the contrary, it sounds like more fun every day.

So, now we have non-nation-state standing armies * * and non-nation-state intelligence services, complete with DO. The jokes I can make here could go on forever. The only problem, is that they would only be funny to those with my warped sense of humor.

Total Intel has an infosec group too. Don't miss their Google Maps mashup intel watch map. Very Web2.0. Trans-national non-state warfare 2.0, even. Just think, with any luck... ...We will be able to trade stocks of trans-national armies and IC organizations in a few years.

The Spy Who Billed Me: New Intel Firm Signals Major Shift in Industry: CIA Knock-Off For Rent

Counterterrorism Blog | Treasury's Message About Iran: 'Be Afraid'
Topic: International Relations 10:08 pm EST, Mar  9, 2007

Dubai is a significant location for Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey to deliver his March 7 message to the world about the risks of doing business in Iran.

On the one hand, Dubai is literally across the water from Iran, a logical, nearby, natural trade partner for Iran on practically everything. On the other hand, Dubai is also a jurisdiction that has put into place a sophisticated anti-money laundering regime and increasingly capable financial regulatory regimes across the board, including for its capital markets. Counter terrorism cooperation between the U.S. and the government of the UAE of which Dubai is a part is extensive.

In light of close U.S.-UAE cooperation on a wide range of securitty issues, it was notable but not surprising that Under Secretary Levey's comments focused solely on the need of the private sector to adjust its behavior towards Iran. Under Secretary Levey told about 200 bankers at a Eurofinance conference in Dubai "to consider whether it is wise for your company to focus its efforts on doing business with Iran. . . The world's top financial institutions and corporations are re-evaluating their business with Iran because they are worried about the risk and their reputations. You should worry too and be especially cautious when it comes to doing business with Iran."

He went on to commend the cancellation of a planned conference in Dubai entitled "Doing Business in Iran."

The Under Secretary then made explicit what was implied in his formal remarks, stating that "those who are tempted to deal with targeted high-risk actors are put on notice: if they continue this relationship, they may be next to be targeted for action."

Will Treasury move forward with sanctions under Section 319 of the Patriot Act, freezing funds in the U.S. at a financial institution that is holding assets of a sanctioned Iranian entity outside the U.S.?

As Wednesday Addams might say, "be afraid. Be very afraid."

Counterterrorism Blog | Treasury's Message About Iran: 'Be Afraid'

Taiwan Legislature Dissolves Into Chaos -
Topic: International Relations 10:39 pm EST, Jan 19, 2007

A ruling party lawmaker threw a shoe at the speaker of Taiwan's legislature on Friday and assorted colleagues pushed and shoved each other, throwing the final day of the winter legislative session into chaos.

The scenes were reminiscent of past Taiwanese legislative brawls, and represented another low point in the island's sometimes stormy transition from dictatorship to democracy.

How dignified.. No wonder the PRC thinks they could run a better show.

Taiwan Legislature Dissolves Into Chaos -

China Tests Anti-Satellite Weapon, Unnerving U.S. - New York Times
Topic: International Relations 2:33 am EST, Jan 19, 2007

China successfully carried out its first test of an anti-satellite weapon last week, signaling its resolve to play a major role in military space activities and bringing expressions of concern from Washington and other capitals, the Bush administration said Thursday.

Only two nations — Russia and the United States — have previously destroyed spacecraft in anti-satellite tests, most recently the United States in the mid 1980s.

Arms control experts called the test, in which a Chinese missile destroyed an aging Chinese weather satellite, a troubling development that could foreshadow either an anti-satellite arms race or, alternatively, a diplomatic push by China to force the Bush administration into negotiations on a weapons ban.

“This is the first real escalation in the weaponization of space that we’ve seen in 20 years,” said Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launchings and space activity. “It ends a long period of restraint.”

I saw this earlier today, and intended to comment in length. I've since remembered how hard that is to do with a broken hand.

We should just come up with a set of reasonable terms and make a treaty happen. I don't see the weaponization of space as a strategy that will lead to the monetization of space.

China Tests Anti-Satellite Weapon, Unnerving U.S. - New York Times

Stratfor | Rhetoric and Reality: The View from Iran
Topic: International Relations 12:14 am EST, Jan 19, 2007

Stratfor focusing on the Iranian perspective...

By George Friedman

The Iraq war has turned into a duel between the United States and Iran. For the United States, the goal has been the creation of a generally pro-American coalition government in Baghdad -- representing Iraq's three major ethnic communities. For Iran, the goal has been the creation of either a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad or, alternatively, the division of Iraq into three regions, with Iran dominating the Shiite south.

The United States has encountered serious problems in creating the coalition government. The Iranians have been primarily responsible for that. With the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June, when it appeared that the Sunnis would enter the political process fully, the Iranians used their influence with various Iraqi Shiite factions to disrupt that process by launching attacks on Sunnis and generally destabilizing the situation. Certainly, Sunnis contributed to this, but for much of the past year, it has been the Shia, supported by Iran, that have been the primary destabilizing force.

So long as the Iranians continue to follow this policy, the U.S. strategy cannot succeed. The difficulty of the American plan is that it requires the political participation of three main ethnic groups that are themselves politically fragmented. Virtually any substantial group can block the success of the strategy by undermining the political process. The Iranians, however, appear to be in a more powerful position than the Americans. So long as they continue to support Shiite groups within Iraq, they will be able to block the U.S. plan. Over time, the theory goes, the Americans will recognize the hopelessness of the undertaking and withdraw, leaving Iran to pick up the pieces. In the meantime, the Iranians will increasingly be able to dominate the Shiite community and consolidate their hold over southern Iraq. The game appears to go to Iran.

Americans are extremely sensitive to the difficulties the United States faces in Iraq. Every nation-state has a defining characteristic, and that of the United States is manic-depression, cycling between insanely optimistic plans and total despair. This national characteristic tends to blind Americans to the situation on the other side of the hill. Certainly, the Bush administration vastly underestimated the difficulties of occupying Iraq -- that was the manic phase. But at this point, it could be argued that the administration again is not looking over the other side of the hill at the difficulties the Iranians might be having. And it is useful to consider the world from the Iranian point of view.

The Foundation of Foreign Policy

It is important to distinguish between the rhetoric and the reality of Iranian foreign policy. As a general principle, this should be done with all countries. As in business, rhetoric is used to shape perceptions and atte... [ Read More (1.3k in body) ]

MyFox WGHP | Countdown to the Apocalypse: Scientists Change Doomsday Clock
Topic: International Relations 4:16 pm EST, Jan 17, 2007

Scientists on Wednesday changed the time on Chicago’s Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight, or the apocalypse, based on what they said is the “most perilous period since Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” during dual announcements in London and Washington, D.C.

"We foresee great peril if governments and societies don’t take action now” to offset climate change, said astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who has warned that the survival of the human race depends on its ability to colonize space because of the increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth.

I've been wondering when the clock would be advanced for awhile now...

MyFox WGHP | Countdown to the Apocalypse: Scientists Change Doomsday Clock

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran - Sunday Times - Times Online
Topic: International Relations 4:17 am EST, Jan  7, 2007

Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran - Sunday Times - Times Online

ABC News: North Korea Prepping Nuclear Weapons Test
Topic: International Relations 8:01 pm EST, Jan  4, 2007

North Korea appears to have made preparations for another nuclear test, according to U.S. defense officials.

"We think they've put everything in place to conduct a test without any notice or warning," a senior U.S. defense official tells ABC News.

The official cautions that the intelligence is inconclusive on whether North Korea will actually go ahead with another test, but said the preparations are similar to steps taken by Pyongyang before it shocked the world by conducting its first nuclear test on Oct. 9.

Two other senior defense officials confirm that recent intelligence suggests the North Koreans appears to be ready to test a nuclear weapon again, but the intelligence community is divided about whether another test is likely.

"Somebody pay attention to me!! So lonely.. So lonely..." - Kim Il Jong

ABC News: North Korea Prepping Nuclear Weapons Test

U.S. intelligence chief to switch jobs -
Topic: International Relations 11:10 pm EST, Jan  3, 2007

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte will resign to become deputy secretary of state, a government official said Wednesday night.

U.S. intelligence chief to switch jobs -

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