U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times

Funny how Obama now sees that Iran is a threat and is persuing nuclear weapons… I wonder what would have happened had he been privy to this level of intel when the decision to take out Saddam was made… I bet he would have sang a different tune, but then again he was just a state senator in IL and did not have access to intel this level of intel when he spoke out against going into Iraq.

Reporting from Washington — Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.” 

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

As the administration moves toward talks with Iran, Obama appears to be sending a signal that the United States will not be drawn into a debate over Iran’s intent.

“When you’re talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-proliferation organization based in Washington. 

Cirincione said the unequivocal language also worked to Obama’s political advantage. “It guards against criticism from the right that the administration is underestimating Iran,” he said.

Iran has long maintained that it aims to generate electricity, not build bombs, with nuclear power. But Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts increasingly view those claims as implausible.

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Obama’s top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

When it was issued, the NIE stunned the international community. It declared that U.S. spy agencies judged “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

U.S. intelligence officials later said the conclusion was based on evidence that Iran had stopped secret efforts to design a nuclear warhead around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Often overlooked in the NIE, officials said, was that Iran had not stopped its work on other crucial fronts, including missile design and uranium enrichment. Many experts contend that these are more difficult than building a bomb.

Iran’s advances on enrichment have become a growing source of alarm. Since 2004, the country has gone from operating a few dozen centrifuges — cylindrical machines used to enrich uranium — to nearly 6,000, weapons experts agree.

By November, Iran had produced an estimated 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium, not nearly enough to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but perilously close to the quantity needed to make a bomb.

A report issued last month by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that “Iran is moving steadily toward a breakout capability and is expected to reach that milestone during the first half of 2009.” That means it would have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material.

Tehran’s progress has come despite CIA efforts to sabotage shipments of centrifuge components on their way into Iran and entice the country’s nuclear scientists to leave.

Iran still faces considerable hurdles. The country touted its launch of a 60-pound satellite into orbit this month. Experts said Iran’s rockets would need to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds to deliver a first-generation nuclear bomb.

And there are indications that the U.S. and Iran are interested in holding serious diplomatic discussions for the first time in three decades. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that his nation was “ready to hold talks based on mutual respect,” and Obama indicated that his administration would look for opportunities “in the coming months.”

Hassan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday warned the U.S. not to wait for Iranian presidential elections this year, because ultimate authority rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He also said Iran would be patient.

“Since a new administration came to power in the U.S., we do not want to burn the opportunity of President Obama and give him time to change the reality on the ground,” Qashqavi said.

But experts said Iran was now close enough to nuclear weapons capability that it may be less susceptible to international pressure.

“They’ve made more progress in the last five years than in the previous 10,” Cirincione said.

via U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times.

Hamas Breaks Cease Fire With Roadside Bomb Attack – Israel Resumes Bombing Tunnels

Hopefully Israel will finish the job this time. It is time to take Hamas out, until Hamas is gone there is no chance for peace. 

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the air strike came in response to a remote-control bomb attack at the Gaza Strip security fence Tuesday, which killed an Israel Defense Forces tracker and wounded three other soldiers, one seriously.

The border blast was the Palestinians’ first deadly attack since the cease-fire ended Operation Cast Lead, and came the day before the arrival of George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy to the Middle East. 

Earlier on Tuesday, IAF aircraft fired a missile at a militant on a motorbike in the Khan Yunis area of Gaza. The Shin Bet security service, which helped coordinate the missile strike, said the militant, Hussein Abu-Shamaya, was involved in the bomb attack. The bomb was planted by a Hamas breakaway group identified with the Al-Qaida-affiliated Global Jihad, the Shin Bet said. 

In addition, a Palestinian man, apparently a farmer, was killed in exchanges of fire between IDF troops and Palestinians in Gaza after the bomb was detonated, according to Palestinian reports. The incident took place while IDF tanks and soldiers, assisted by helicopters, were patrolling Gaza after the attack. 

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of a “further response” to the attack. 

“What the IDF did today was not a response but a preliminary action,” he said at a meeting of ministry directors general. “A further response to this serious incident will be forthcoming.” 

The security cabinet is to meet Wednesday to discuss security projects, but the situation in Gaza might also be discussed. 

Olmert, noting that he had termed the cease-fire “fragile,” also said: “We don’t even call it a cease-fire but a holding of fire in the face of Hamas infractions, so that we can retain the IDF’s freedom of action.” 

Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to strike Hamas targets in response to the death of the tracker. 

“We do not intend to gloss over incidents like these,” Barak said. “We will not let Hamas and its outgrowths continue their hostile acts of terror. Anyone who hits us will have to absorb a serious blow in the future, too.” 

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Bureau said Tuesday Israel was not negotiating with Hamas over a cease-fire or second lull. “The Egyptians are speaking to Hamas to attain things that are important for them, but we are not obligated to anything. We have not signed understandings or an agreement with Hamas,” a source in Olmert’s bureau said. 

Israel and Egypt are apparently formulating an understanding on the passage of merchandise from Israel to the Gaza Strip, and at the same time some increased freedom of movement in the opening of the Rafah crossing from the Strip to Egypt. 

The Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings on the Gaza border were closed after the attack. Approximately 185 trucks carrying aid and equipment were to have crossed into Gaza yesterday. 

The bomb near the Gaza border detonated around 8 A.M., as an IDF patrol was passing near the Kissufim crossing, north of Kibbutz Kissufim. The tracker was killed and an officer was seriously hurt. One of his legs was amputated and the other one is severely damaged. Two other soldiers were classified as lightly hurt and will be released in a few days. Soroka Medical Center said they had extensive shrapnel wounds. 

The name of the tracker, a Bedouin, was not released, at the request of his family

A preliminary investigation revealed that the soldiers were patrolling an area that had not been patrolled for several weeks due to the fighting in the Strip. The regional brigade commander was apparently not apprised of the patrol, which was approved by the battalion commander. IDF sources said the Palestinians who planted the bomb did so Monday night, under cover of heavy fog. 

The closure of the Gaza crossings is only the first stage of Israel’s response to the attack, Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry’s political bureau, said yesterday. “The equation in the Strip has changed,” he said during a lecture at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. 

Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid contributed to this report. 

via Gaza rocket hits Negev; IAF strikes Hamas tunnels after soldier killed – Haaretz – Israel News .

Ahmadinejad Demands Apology for U.S. ‘Crimes’

Who the hell does this terrorist asshat think he is to demand the US apologize to him…

We are entering dangerous waters and Obama better grow a backbone quickly… If Obama does what he did on the muslim tv interview then we are going to empower terrorist even more.

Ahmadjinejad has seen a weakness in Obama, his interview as well as the public statement by Ambassador Rice regarding direct talks with Iran without preconditions, and he is making his first move to exploit it. 

Obama should demand that Ahmadinejad apologize to each of the 52 hostages and their families, that he held captive for 444 days. He should also apologize for supporting and training Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists. He also needs to apologize to Jews for denying the Holocaust… After that he can apologize and dismantle his nuclear weapons program…

Once Ahmadinejad has done all of these, we can arrest him for terrorist and support of terrorism and the the United States can apologize to the world for not having done it sooner…

TEHRAN, Iran —  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for “profound changes” in U.S. foreign policy on Wednesday, including giving up support for Israel, during an address to thousands of people in the western city of Kermanshah.

President Obama on Tuesday, in an interview with Arabic television, called for more dialogue with Iran to express difference and see “where there are potential avenues for progress.”

Without mentioning President Barack Obama by name, Ahmadinejad Wednesday repeatedly referred to those who want to bring “change,” a word used often in Obama’s election campaign, and indicated that Iran would be looking to see if there would be substantive differences in U.S. policy.

“We welcome change but on condition that change is fundamental and on the right track,” Ahmadinejad said. “When they say ‘we want to make changes’, change can happen in two ways. First is a fundamental and effective change… The second … is a change of tactics.”

Ahmadinejad also demanded the U.S. apologize for ‘crimes’ committed against Iran; specifically, criticizing and trying to block their nuclear program.

“Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation,” Ahmadinejad said.

Later Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the U.S. administration is undertaking a wide-ranging and comprehensive survey of U.S. foreign policy options toward Iran.

Clinton also said Iran had a “clear opportunity” to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari, speaking in Athens, Greece, said Tuesday that it was too early to say whether relations with the United States would improve with Obama as president.

Washington is at odds with Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program and its Mideast policy that seeks to destroy Israel and supports the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge and refuses to give up uranium enrichment, saying it has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to produce nuclear fuel.

“Who has asked them (the United States) to come and interfere in the affairs of nations?” Ahmadinejad said.

via FOXNews.com – Ahmadinejad Demands Apology for U.S. ‘Crimes’ – International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News.

Newly Published: Threats in the Age of Obama by Michael Tanji

A must read… Check the link at the bottom of the post to check out the book

If you are on a mission to change the way government works, particularly in the national security arena, this is one a place where some independent and intellectually diverse thinking is to be found. In these essays, we offer our view of some of the more pressing threats the Obama administration will have to deal with in these early days of the 21st century.

via Amazon.com: Threats in the Age of Obama: Michael Tanji: Books.

Obama Lays Ground Work For Direct Negotiations With Iran

Direct diplomacy without preconditions I am sure… Just wait and see. Pretty soon we will be bending over for these asshats while they builds some nukes… Remember what happened with N. Korea under the Clinton administration… 

Change You Can Believe In!

President Obama did a quick pivot Monday, shifting his focus to foreign policy by contacting a handful of major world leaders — including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nikolas Sarkozy — as his new U.N. ambassador restated the desire for vigorous and “direct diplomacy” with Iran.

President Obama did a quick pivot Monday, shifting his focus to foreign policy by contacting a handful of major world leaders — including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nikolas Sarkozy — as his new U.N. ambassador restated the desire for vigorous and “direct diplomacy” with Iran.

Obama spoke with the foreign leaders ahead of a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who was leaving immediately afterward for a trip to the region. Mitchell will go to Cairo, Egypt; Jersusalem, Israel; Ramallah in the West Bank; Amman, Jordan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He will also visit Paris and London.

Back in the U.S., U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was confirmed last week for the post, said Monday that Iran’s refusal to meet international obligations will increase pressure on Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions and cooperate with the United States and global community.

Besides pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran has called for the destruction of Israel and support for Hamas, a terror group designated by the U.S., Israel and the European Union. 

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Rice’s remarks are not a departure from statements made previously by Obama the candidate. She merely restated the administration position that no forms of communication should be off the table with the Islamic regime. 

“Whether you were on the campaign trail or not, clearly this was something that generated a lot of coverage over the past two years. And I think Ambassador Rice was simply restating the position that the president had,” he said.

Gibbs did not offer any specific initiatives on dealing with Iran, but said Rice’s remarks should come as no surprise.

“This administration is going to use all elements of our national power to address concerns” about Iran’s nuclear program. 

As for the Mitchell trip, Gibbs said Mitchell was ahead overseas “to begin the process that the president promised to be actively engaged in, the peace process there in the Middle East.”

State Department Spokesman Robert A. Wood said the purpose of the trip is to consult with regional leaders on a range of issues, including trying to contain smuggling into Gaza to prevent the rearming of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza. He said Mitchell will not meet with any Hamas leaders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

via Obama, Iran Talks Next? – First 100 Days of Presidency – Politics FOXNews.com .

Chavez Possibly Supporting Hamas And Hezbollah

Not really that much of a surprise… I wonder how much support and the types he is providing… 

Now let’s not forget Chavez is looking to start up a nuke program, allegedly for power, but I would suspect with a little Iranian help this could very easily be a weapons program…

Wonder if Obama will watch his own backyard or if they will be given the Socialists pass…

A new book published in the United States alleges that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an active and open supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, providing the Lebanese Shi’ite militia with training for its fighters.

In “The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America,” authors Douglas Schoen and Michael Rowan write that through his support of terror organizations and by providing safe refuge for terrorists, Chavez constitutes a real, concrete threat to the United States.

Venezeula earlier this month cut ties with Israel to protest its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The move came shortly days after Chavez called the attacks on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory a “holocaust.”

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Last August the Los Angeles Times reported that Western governments fear that Hezbollah is establishing a growing number of operational cells in the South American country.

Iran is long believed to have undertaken covert activity in South America in concert with Hezbollah. The LA Times reported that the U.S. State Department believes Iranian operatives were behind two terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires – the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center building. Both attacks killed dozens of civilians and wounded scores more

via Chavez providing aid to Hamas and Hezbollah, says new book – Haaretz – Israel News .

Dix Six – Last Five Defendents GUILTY AS CHARGED

The remaining Dix Six terrorists have been convicted of planning to kill US Soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ. To bad they could not get the attempted murdre charge to stick… but I guess that is a technicality and at least they are convicted of planning to kill soldiers and they will stay in jail…

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) – Five Muslim immigrants were convicted Monday of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix in a case that tested the FBI’s post-Sept. 11 strategy of infiltrating and breaking up terrorist conspiracies in their earliest stages.The men could get life in prison when they are sentenced in April. 

The five, who lived in and around Philadelphia for years, were found guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel. But they were acquitted of attempted murder, after prosecutors acknowledged the men were probably months away from an attack and did not necessarily have a specific plan. Four defendants were also convicted of weapons charges.

The federal jury deliberated for 38 hours over six days.

The government said after the arrests in 2007 that case underscored the dangers of terrorist plots hatched on U.S. soil. Although investigators said the conspirators were inspired by Osama bin Laden, they were not accused of any ties to foreign terror groups.

Defense lawyers argued that the alleged plot was all talk—that the men weren’t seriously planning anything and that they were manipulated and goaded by two paid FBI informants.

Faten Shnewer, the mother of defendant Mohamad Shnewer, said the informants should be the ones in jail. “Not my son and his friends. It’s not right, it’s not justice,” she said after the verdict. The government “sent somebody to push him to say something; that’s it.”

Convicted were: Shnewer, a Jordanian-born cab driver; Turkish-born convenience store clerk Serdar Tatar; and brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka, ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, who had a roofing business. A sixth man arrested and charged only with gun offenses pleaded guilty earlier.

“These criminals had the capacity and had done preparations to do serious and grievous harm to members of our military,” Ralph Marra, the acting U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said after the verdict.

But some Muslim leaders in New Jersey disputed that.

“I don’t think they actually mean to do anything,” said Mohamed Younes, president of the American Muslim Union. “I think they were acting stupid, like they thought the whole thing was a joke.”

Jim Sues, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “Many people in the Muslim community will see this as a case of entrapment. From what I saw, there was a significant role played by the government informant.”

The yearlong investigation began after a clerk at a Circuit City store told the FBI that some customers had asked him to transfer onto DVD some video footage of them firing assault weapons and screaming about jihad.

The FBI asked two informants—both foreign-born men who entered the U.S. illegally and had criminal records—to befriend the suspects. Both informants were paid and were offered help obtaining legal resident status.

During the eight-week trial, the government relied heavily on information gathered by the informants, who secretly recorded hundreds of conversations.

Prosecutors said the men bought several assault rifles supplied by the FBI and that they trekked to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains to practice their shooting. The government also presented dozens of jihadist speeches and videos that the men supposedly used as inspiration.

According to prosecutors, the group chose the Army post because one of the defendants was familiar with it. His father’s pizza shop delivered to the New Jersey base, which is 25 miles from Philadelphia and used primarily to train reservists for duty in Iraq.

The group’s objective was to kill “as many American soldiers as possible,” prosecutors said.

But the men’s lawyers attacked the credibility of the informants and accused them of instigating the plot.

After the verdict, Schnewer’s attorney, Rocco Cipparone, said there would not have been a conspiracy without the involvement of the informants. “I believe they shaped the evidence,” he said.

Prosecutor William Fitzpatrick defended the government’s handling of the case, telling the jury: “The FBI investigates crime on the front end. They don’t want to have to do it on the back end.”

Members of the jury would not speak to reporters after the verdict and instead released a statement that said, in part, “This has been one of the most difficult things that we have ever had to do.”

None of the defendants testified.

The government said after the men’s arrest that an attack was imminent, though prosecutors backed off that assertion at the trial.

The government has had a mixed record on terrorism prosecutions since Sept. 11. It won guilty pleas from Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui; Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner with a shoe bomb; and the Lackawanna Six, a terrorist cell outside Buffalo, N.Y. And it convicted Jose Padilla of plotting terrorist attacks.

But a case against four men in Michigan fell apart after a federal prosecutor was accused of withholding evidence. And a case in Miami against seven men accused of plotting to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower has produced one acquittal and two mistrials.