Monday, April 30, 2012

AQI Terrorists Pour into Syria; Suicide Bombings Result

Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists are responsible for a spate of suicide bombings and other attacks in Syria and may even be taking control of key rebel factions. Read more

'Visual Traveling' to Pyongyang's Big Party

Learn more about the video below by visiting the Visual Traveling website and by clicking here to read an interesting interview with the producers.

North Korea's capital as seen through the eyes of visiting foreign skateboarders! The media landscape is changing, alright.

China Plays Up Iranian Pressure on Persian Gulf

In line with its imperialist foreign policy--meaning, a policy aimed at overthrowing the status quo--Iran is pressuring for an end to U.S. and other foreign forces in the Persian Gulf. And China's state-owned news agency is playing up the story. Click here to read the Xinhua article.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

SEC Charges Wall Street Executive With Bribing Chinese Official

Alleged Secret Business Relationship With State-Owned Entity

The Securities and Exchange Commission last week charged a former executive at Morgan Stanley with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) as well as securities laws for investment advisers by secretly acquiring millions of dollars worth of real estate investments for himself and an influential Chinese official who in turn steered business to Morgan Stanley’s funds.

The SEC alleges that Garth R. Peterson, who was a managing director in Morgan Stanley’s real estate investment and fund advisory business, had a personal friendship and secret business relationship with the former Chairman of Yongye Enterprise (Group) Co.--a Chinese state-owned entity with influence over the success of Morgan Stanley’s real estate business in Shanghai. Peterson secretly arranged to have at least $1.8 million paid to himself and the Chinese official that he disguised as finder’s fees that Morgan Stanley’s funds owed to third parties. Peterson also secretly arranged for him, the Chinese official, and an attorney to acquire a valuable Shanghai real estate interest from a Morgan Stanley fund. Peterson was acquiring an interest from the fund but negotiated both sides of the transaction. In exchange for offers and payments from Peterson, the Chinese official helped Peterson and Morgan Stanley obtain business while personally benefitting from some of these same investments. Peterson’s deception, self-dealing, and misappropriation breached the fiduciary duties he owed to Morgan Stanley’s funds as their representative.

Peterson agreed to a settlement of the SEC’s charges in which he will be permanently barred from the securities industry, pay more than $250,000 in disgorgement, and relinquish his interest in the valuable Shanghai real estate (currently valued at approximately $3.4 million) that he secretly acquired through his misconduct. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a related criminal case against Peterson.

“Peterson crossed the line not once, but twice. He secretly bribed a government official to illegally win business for his employer and enriched himself in violation of his fiduciary duty to Morgan Stanley’s clients,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “This case illustrates the SEC’s commitment to holding individuals accountable for FCPA violations, particularly employees who intentionally circumvent their company's internal controls.”

Lined His Pockets and Those of an Influential Official

Kara Novaco Brockmeyer, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit, added, “As a rogue employee who took advantage of his firm and its investment advisory clients, Peterson orchestrated a scheme to illegally win business while lining his own pockets and those of an influential Chinese official.”

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Peterson’s violations occurred from at least 2004 to 2007. His principal responsibility at Morgan Stanley was to evaluate, negotiate, acquire, manage and sell real estate investments on behalf of Morgan Stanley’s advisers and funds. He was terminated in 2008 due to his FCPA misconduct.

The SEC alleges that Peterson led Morgan Stanley’s effort to build a Chinese real estate investment portfolio for its real estate funds by cultivating a relationship with the Chinese official and taking advantage of his ability to steer opportunities to Morgan Stanley and his influence in helping with needed governmental approvals. Morgan Stanley thus partnered with Yongye on a number of significant Chinese real estate investments. At the same time, Peterson and the Chinese official expanded their personal business dealings both in a real estate interest secretly acquired from Morgan Stanley as well as by investing together in Chinese franchises of well-known U.S. fast food restaurants. Peterson failed to disclose these investments in annual disclosures that Morgan Stanley required him to make as part of his employment.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Peterson openly credited the Chinese official with helping obtain approvals required from other Chinese government entities for a deal to close. He wrote to several Morgan Stanley employees in response to an e-mail discussing the terms of one of Yongye’s purported investments, “Everyone pls keep in mind the big picture here. YY gave us this deal. ... So we owe them a favor relating to this deal. ... This should be very easy and friendly.” In another e-mail a week later, Peterson described “YYI” as “our friends who are coming in because WE OWE THEM A FAVOR.”

Ignored Compliance Reminders

The SEC alleges that a Morgan Stanley compliance officer specifically informed Peterson in 2004 that employees of Yongye, a Chinese state-owned entity, were government officials for purposes of the FCPA. Peterson also received at least 35 FCPA compliance reminders from Morgan Stanley, but nonetheless committed the FCPA violations.

The SEC’s complaint charges Peterson with violations of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA, and with aiding and abetting violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Peterson consented to a court order requiring him to disgorge $254,589 and relinquish to a court-appointed receiver the interest he secretly acquired from Morgan Stanley’s fund in the Jin Lin Tiandi Serviced Apartments. Peterson’s interest has a current estimated value of approximately $3.4 million. The proposed settlement is subject to court approval. Peterson also has consented to permanent industry bars based on the anticipated entry of the injunctions against him and his criminal conviction.

The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Fraud Section of DOJ’s Criminal Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Morgan Stanley, which is not charged in the matter, cooperated with the SEC’s inquiry and conducted a thorough internal investigation to determine the scope of the improper payments and other misconduct involved.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by David Neuman of the Asset Management Unit and Assistant Director Greg Faragasso, and the litigation was led by Richard Hong.

Source: SEC

Jordanian Protestors Escalate Pressure

Slogans Become More Daring

Mona Alami reports from Amman:
On a warm Friday afternoon, police cars blocked the roads around the Al Husseini mosque, where hundreds of men were kneeling for the noon prayers. At the end of the service, the crowds rose and marched in a compact protest behind a car bearing a banner for the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. 
"With our blood, our soul, we sacrifice ourselves for Jordan," chanted the crowd.
Such protests have become a weekly sight in the Hashemite Kingdom, but they have been relatively peaceful, contrary to uprisings in neighbouring countries. 
"Protestors are slowly upping the ante, with slogans becoming more daring day by day," observed Mohamad Masri, a political scientist at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Jordan University.
Read more.

North Korean Elite Enjoy Good Life in Capital

Supply Networks Evade Embargo on Luxury Goods

Gilles Campion reports from Pyongyang:
 Nuclear-armed North Korea has been under heavy sanctions for years but there is little sign of any effect on the elite in Pyongyang, who enjoy unfettered access to upmarket cars and consumer goods. 
The economy of the isolated North--where famine killed hundreds of thousands in the 1990s--is widely believed to be battered and stuttering, but the luxury shops of the showcase capital tell a different story…. 
And outside Pyongyang is another country--one where, according to the UN, a third of under-fives still suffer from chronic malnutrition and an entire generation is stunted in growth after the 1990s famine.
Click here to read the entire AFP report.

Overlooked: N. Korea Reiterated 'Ashes' Threat

Regime Again Vows 'Special Action' Against Seoul

North Korea last Thursday reiterated its dire threat to reduce the South Korean government "to ashes with unprecedented means." Read more.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Iran Appears to Threaten EMP Attack on US

Threat to East Coast Implies Asymmetric Warfare 

Iran has threatened the East Coast of the United States in a way that could mean that the mullahocracy has already deployed seemingly civilian cargo ships equipped with camouflaged (containerized) systems capable of launching nuclear-tipped missiles--in order to strike U.S. coastal cities or effectively destroy the U.S. in a surprise EMP attack. Click here for the news.

The Iranian threat follows a North Korean EMP threat against the U.S. homeland.

A taboo question: Could Iran have bought one or more nuclear weapons from its proliferation partner, North Korea, including, possibly, primitive bombs and warheads and radiological (dirty) bombs?

Related: Iranian Admiral Threatens New York 
Ahmadinejad Aims to Attack America 

Israeli Leaders More Outspoken on Syria

Israeli leaders are increasingly outspoken on the Syrian crisis. There is now a broad consensus that Syrians and Israelis--and the region in general--would be better off without the current Syrian regime. In fact, intelligence reportedly makes Israel's leaders more hopeful that a pro-Western Sunni government will replace Shiite Islamist Iran's secular ally, Bashar al-Assad.

Given the involvement of the clerical fascist (Islamist) Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian uprising and the support that it has from MB-backing Turkey's supposed "moderate" Islamist government, one can only hope that the intelligence is accurate. On the one hand, Assad's alliance with Iran (and North Korea) has posed a serious threat to Israel; on the other hand, the last thing Israel needs is another Islamist neighbor on its northern border. Lebanon, which is in the grip of Iran's Shiite Islamist proxy, Hezbollah, is a big enough problem for Israel--the Hitlerian terrorist group has been allowed to amass an arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles capable of striking targets across the Jewish State.

It's hard to believe that there was a time when it was commonly believed by Israelis and their supporters and friends abroad that Lebanon--back in the days when Beirut was "the Paris of the Middle East"--would be the second Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Nowadays, it looks like Lebanon will be the last to sign.

Then, again, it's also hard to believe that there was a time when Iran was an ally of both the United States and Israel. But that's another story.

Tasteless,Terrifying Ad Touts Water as the Next Oil

Water as a globally traded commodity? Creating, trading, leveraging life-sustaining liquid assets? What's the next Big Trade--air? Read more.

The Fidelity ad is tasteless, stupid, scary. Shame on Yahoo for approving it. Water privatization and the threat of water wars are serious, controversial issues, as Californians and others in the American West well know.

A North Korean May Day Nuclear Test?

Preparations are underway in North Korea for another nuclear test.

Analysts expect the event to take place before the end of May.

The North could possibly detonate a nuclear device as early as next Tuesday, May 1, which is May Day.

May Day, also known as International Workers Day, is a major North Korean holiday, an occasion for displaying the Stalinist/Kimist country's military might.

Related: Kim Observes Military Exercise Amid Threats

Friday, April 27, 2012

Barak Restates Israeli Position on Nuclear Iran

Dan Williams reports from Jerusalem:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak restated Israel's fears of a nuclear-armed Iran on Thursday after his top general clashed with the government's line by describing the Islamic republic as "very rational" and unlikely to build a bomb. 
Addressing foreign diplomats on Israel's independence day, Barak said Iranian leaders were not "rational in the Western sense of the word - connoting the quest for status quo and the peaceful resolution of problems." 
Believing otherwise "borders on blindness or irresponsibility", said Barak, who branded Iran, with its religiously fuelled calls for the Jewish state's demise, as seeking regional hegemony and being "undeterred by the apocalyptic."
Read more.

Suggestion: stop arguing over "rational." Intentions is the key word. The clerical fascist regime that muses openly about "a world without America and Zionism" clearly intends to destroy Israel and drive the United States from the Middle East--for starters. Iran's foreign policy is imperialist in that it seeks to overthrow the status quo, or power relations among nations, as Barak said. As such, it can't be appeased--appeasement will only make war inevitable--and certainly cannot be allowed to acquire atomic arms. That Iran, which is bristling with ballistic missiles, could already possess or be close to possessing an arsenal of primitive nuclear warheads and dirty bombs, along with presumed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, is both scary and scandalous.

Phony Missiles Not a New Tactic

From an English king's legendary "family jewels" to the Kimist regime's fake missiles … a concise, colorful history of a certain kind of military deception. Click here to read it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Analysts Say New N. Korean Missiles are Fakes

Good news. Analysts who have studied photos of the ominous new missiles that North Korea paraded call them fakes, a "mishmash of … components that could never fly together." Read more.

But complacency is not in order, especially in light of the North's belligerent boasts and threats. The Kimist regime has enough real missiles, including ballistic missiles capable of being fired from seemingly civilian cargo ships, real nuclear bombs, and real terrorist commandos to create real nightmares for the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Israelis Fear Iran Could be Building Dirty Bombs

DEBKAfile is reporting that Israelis are increasingly concerned that Iran may be on the verge of developing primitive nuclear devices, including dirty bombs--a concern that Foreign Confidential™ has been raising since January 2010. On January 9 of this year, Foreign Confidential™ observed that

Iran has nuclear materials, money, missiles and warheads, scientific and technical expertise, conventional explosives, and political will and determination, etc. So why shouldn't we assume that Iran, while working on nuclear weapons, has already produced an arsenal of advanced radiological dirty bombs--and various means of delivering them? 
The distinction some experts make between weapons of mass destruction and "mass disruption" is clever … but far from comforting when one stops to consider: the large numbers of people powerful explosives are capable of killing and maiming; the immediate and long-term health hazards from radiation poisoning; the billions of dollars in economic damage that a dirty bomb could cause; and the potentially paralyzing, psychological impact of a dirty bomb attack on a targeted population.
Moreover, given the focus on Al Qaeda's quest for a dirty bomb, what, exactly, is the deterrent against an anonymous and deniable Iranian dirty bomb attack on an American city, which could be carried out by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force operatives and/or terrorist proxies and allies? 

N. Korea Claims its Mobile Weapons Can Defeat US

'Single Blow' Boast Suggests EMP Stealth Strike Capability

North Korea claims to have "mobile weapons" capable of defeating the United States "at a single blow." Click here for the story. [NOTE: urgent update added below at 1:37 PM EDT.]

The boast could refer to a covert, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) strike capability. North Korea and Iran are believed to have jointly developed and tested systems for launching conventional and nuclear-tipped missiles from cargo ships in order to attack a coastal city or, in an EMP assault scenario, to detonate a nuclear warhead high above the targeted nation. An explosion of this kind could in a flash wipe out all electronic and communications systems and plunge the United States back into the pre-electric, early 19th Century--without that era's infrastructure and resources. As one columnist who has written about the EMP threat has noted:
The resulting electromagnetic pulse effect … could knock out most of our computers and electronics, shutting down the electric grid system and leaving us without power, light, heat, water, transportation and most agriculture. The chairman of the congressionally authorized EMP Commission estimated 70 to 90% of our entire population would die from starvation and disease within one year.
There is no known land defense against such a sea-launched missile attack. Thousands of cargo vessels flying flags of convenience regularly approach U.S. coastal waters. It is not inconceivable that North Korea and Iran may have already deployed a fleet of freighters equipped with the deadly weapons and launch pads--concealed in seemingly ordinary shipping containers. Some of these vessels could even be lurking offshore as of this writing; hence, the continued defiance and apparent absence of fear on the part of the world's foremost partners in nuclear and missile crimes. Commenting on their brazen threats in March 2007,  Foreign Confidential™ (then China Confidential) reported that Iran and China
are suspected of illegally acquiring Soviet-era Russian cruise missiles via Ukraine and perhaps Pakistan and successfully reverse engineering and further developing the technology with the assistance of North Korea. 
Tehran's arsenal of Chinese-designed and -assisted weapons includes the Shahab series of medium range ballistic missiles; potential families of solid-fueled missiles and long-range land-attack cruise missiles; and short-range anti-ship and man-launched anti-aircraft missiles. 
Cruise and other missiles could be launched from a number of different offshore platforms or basing systems that would give citizens in coastal cities almost no warning before impact…. 
Some 75% of the US population lives within 200 miles of the US coastline. Nuclear-tipped missile strikes could cripple the country. The destruction caused by a nuclear warhead detonating in the air over the nation's capital would make the 9/11 attacks look mild by comparison.
The Foreign Confidential™ article went on to describe the most plausible sea-based attack scenarios: 
(1) SCUD-IN-A-BUCKET: Foreign flagged commercial ships could carry Russian designed Scuds or Chinese Silkworm cruise missiles for easy launch from international waters. Some types of dry cargo ships could launch the missiles from their holds. A container ship could conceal a missile and launch mechanism in an innocent looking shipping container on top of its deck before authorities even knew that an attack was in progress. Iran and North Korea have successfully test-fired Scuds from cargo ships. And the US itself experimented with the technique back in the early 1960s. 
(2) CANISTER-LAUNCH: The Soviet Union developed this technique during the Cold War. It involves placing a ballistic missile in a sealed tube and dropping it in the sea from the deck of a commercial vessel. The bottom of the tube, sealed off from the missile, is weighted with ballast to achieve a specific level of buoyancy to ensure that the nose of the missile points up just enough to barely break the sea’s surface. After an interval to allow the mother ship to move on--and maybe drop off other encapsulated missiles--the rockets could be remotely launched or fired by timers and guided to their targets by the ship's commercial GPS system.

UPDATE: The North Korean warning coincides with the publication by Asia Times of a long essay by Pyongyang's unofficial spokesperson in Japan, Kim Myong Chol, which includes a chilling EMP threat. "Whether the Americans are aware of it or not," Kim warns, "the US faces two worst-case scenarios in a showdown with the administration of Kim Jong-eun: One is the prospect of finding their skyscraping metropolitan centers bombed back to the Stone Age and vaporized in a consuming thermonuclear exchange. The other is a certain prospect of nine of ten Americans dying in a swift retaliatory EMP strike to be launched by North Korea." This may be the first-ever EMP threat by North Korea against the United States--with an added threat against Japan: "Supreme commander Kim Jong-eun may be tempted to single the Japanese archipelago out as the first testing site for EMP bombs for the Americans to see the extent of its destructiveness."

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Iranians Will Observe N. Korean Nuclear Test

Foreign Confidential™ analysts say an Iranian delegation will observe North Korea's next nuclear test, which will occur sometime between now and the end of May.

Iranian scientists, technicians, and military and intelligence officers observed North Korea's previous nuclear tests, analysts add. 

Analysis: N. Korean Sneak Attack on Seoul Possible

Foreign Confidential™ analysts believe that North Korea, while readying its next nuclear test, may also be preparing to launch a spectacular sneak attack on South Korea's capital, Seoul, following the North's threat to reduce the South Korean government to ashes within minutes.

Analysts say the attack possibilities include aerial assaults involving ballistic missiles or airplanes, suicide bombings, and a bomb strike using smuggled explosives, including a radiological (dirty) bomb.

An attack by the North on the South "by unprecedented peculiar means and methods" would be designed to avoid a confrontation with U.S. forces, analysts say. The United States has approximately 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea.

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™

Monday, April 23, 2012

How is a Missile Different From a Bomb?

A handy primer on missiles from the Times of India. Click here to read it.

Egypt Bans Eight American NGOs

Egypt has rejected applications by eight American nongovernmental organizations to operate in the country, including an election-monitoring group led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Egyptian state news agency MENA said Monday the country's Social Affairs Ministry denied licenses to the American civil society organizations because their activities violate Egyptian sovereignty. The news agency said the eight blacklisted groups include the Carter Center, Coptic Orphans and Seeds of Peace. The names of the other five organizations could not be confirmed.

Egyptian authorities raided the offices of several American pro-democracy groups and other NGOs last year, and filed criminal charges against 16 American activists on suspicion of using illegally obtained funds to undermine Egypt's stability.

The crackdown triggered a major diplomatic dispute, with Washington threatening to withdraw $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Cairo for imposing a travel ban on the American activists. An Egyptian judge lifted the ban last month, allowing the Americans to leave the country and avoid possible imprisonment.

Iran Oil Sector Struck by Computer Virus

Iran acknowledges that its oil ministry and national oil company have been hit by computer malware. Read more.

Israel Urges Egypt to Uphold Peace Treaty

Cairo's Canceling of Gas Deal is Cause for Concern 

WJC reports:

Israel on Monday urged Egypt to uphold their 1979 peace treaty after Cairo canceled a long-term deal to supply natural gas to the Jewish state. "The supply of gas is not part of the peace agreement, but it is certainly an important commercial agreement, which expresses the stable relations between the two states," said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He expressed hope that the issue would be solved "like any commercial disagreement, without taking on political dimensions" but said the unilateral cancelation of the gas deal was "not a good sign." Lieberman told Israeli radio: "Israel is interested in keeping the peace agreement and we think this is also in Egypt‘s highest interest.”

Read more.

US Warns of Terror Attacks in Nairobi

Embassy Advises Americans in Kenya's Capital to be Alert 

The U.S. embassy in Kenya is warning of possible terrorist attacks in the capital, Nairobi, and is telling Americans in the city to stay alert.

The embassy issued a message Monday saying it has credible information about a possible attack on Nairobi hotels and prominent Kenyan government buildings.

The statement says the timing of the attack is not known but that the embassy has “reason to believe the potential attack is in the last stages of planning.”

There was no immediate comment from the Kenyan government.

Britain issued a similar warning about possible attacks in January.

There have been a number of small-scale attacks in Nairobi and in northeastern Kenya since last October, when Kenya sent troops into Somalia to fight the Al Qaeda-associated Al-Shabab group.

Terrorists linked to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden bombed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in August 1998, killing more than 200 people.

Iran Resorts to Floating Oil Storage

Half of Iran's large oil tanker fleet is now anchored and being used to store oil at sea. Click here for the story.

Austerity Backlash Builds in Europe

Voters punish Sarkozy, threaten Merkel. Read more.

North Korea Threatens to Incinerate Seoul

A major escalation in rhetoric from nuclear-armed North Korea. Read about it here. 

The tirade is unusual in terms of its specificity, as reported here. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

French Far Right Soars

Le Pen emerges as a major force in French politics. Read more

China Lauds North Korea

A Chinese show of support for the world's worst dictatorship. Click here for the story.

Weird (Earth) Day in History: Sierra Nevada-N. California Region Rocked by Exploding Fireball 50 Years After Nevada Nuclear Test

Breaking News About a Big Boom

Dateline USA … Earth Day 2012…. Fifty years to the day after a Cold War-era Nevada nuclear test--see photo below--a mysterious, exploding fireball rocked the Sierra Nevada-Northern California region, as reported here and here. There is so far no definitive explanation for the event, which may have been caused by a disintegrating meteor, part of a meteor shower brought by a comet's annual fly-by. 

Disturbing Video Images From a Thankfully Bygone Era ...

France Holds First Round of Presidential Election

Voters in France are casting ballots for their favorite among 10 candidates vying to become the country's next leader.  A second-round face-off is likely between incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Francois Hollande.

Jobs and France's sickly economy are top issues, especially in working class suburbs with high immigrant populations and high unemployment rates.  

Sarkozy is banking on his experience steering France through hard economic times.  As president, he promised people would earn more by working more.  But unemployment grew during his presidency, and many voters are disillusioned.

Lieberman Dismisses Iran Drone Building Boast

The chairman of the U.S. Senate's Homeland Security Committee is dismissing Iran's claim that it has reverse-engineered a U.S. spy drone it captured last year. Lawmaker Joe Lieberman said Sunday on U.S. television that he considered the claims little more than "Iranian bluster."

Earlier Sunday, a senior Iranian commander declared Tehran had reverse-engineered the drone and begun building a copy.

Iranian news agencies quoted General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the aerospace division of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, as saying experts also are recovering data from the RQ-170 Sentinel drone captured in December in eastern Iran.

U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the surveillance drone. They have said Iran will find it hard to exploit any data and technology aboard it because of measures taken to limit the intelligence value of drones operating over hostile territory.

"Secret Codes"

Hajizadeh said the drone contained many "secret codes," but he implied that these had been cracked, saying the spy plane now had "no hidden points."

He said exact information about the drone's history had been recovered indicating that it had flown "above [al-Qaida leader Osama] bin Laden's Pakistani hideout two weeks before he was assassinated."

The Washington Post reported two weeks ago that a CIA stealth surveillance drone flew deep over Iranian territory more than three years ago, capturing images of a secret uranium enrichment facility near Qum before returning home.

The newspaper, quoting former senior U.S. intelligence officials, said there was no sign the aircraft was ever detected. It said such CIA spy planes scoured dozens of suspicious sites related to Iran's disputed nuclear program before the RQ-170 aircraft crashed in December.


The World Runs on Oil; Hating it is Irrational

A Foreign Confidential™ Editorial for Earth Day 2012

Dateline USA…. The Democrats' decades-old hatred of oil--they seem to despise the "fossil fuel" regardless of how or where it is produced or who produces it--is fundamentally irrational, politically unwise--ordinary Americans are pro-production and apparently appreciate that the current increase in domestic output is happening in spite and not because of the party in power--and inherently threatening to America's national security and well being owing to the importance of oil to the nation's economy.

Contrary to that which nearly all Democrats from President Obama on down would have you believe, the crude reality (pun intended) is that the world runs on oil and will continue to run on oil for at least the next 20 years. There are no presently available or soon-to-be available substitutes for gasoline and diesel, which are made by refining crude oil, to meet global needs for motor transport fuel. (Similarly, there are no substitutes for coal and nuclear energy for producing baseload, as opposed to intermittent, electricity, without which our society would cease to exist.)

Yes, we can use more natural gas, especially to fuel municipal vehicles, assuming the transportation and environmental hurdles can be overcome (the threat to water supplies from gas fracking is formidable) along with more electric cars and trucks (although these, as indicated, are really coal and nuclear vehicles) … and, yes, it's also true that emerging technologies for biomass-derived, drop-in diesel and gasoline may make marginal contributions toward reducing dependence on their non-renewable counterparts (just as woody biomass-derived bio-coal and industrial wood pellets suitable for co-firing with coal may help cut its use in coal-burning power stations and steel plants, assuming feedstock sustainability issues can be addressed in order to preserve precious forest resources and to avoid using farmland to grow inedible energy crops instead of food for a hungry planet). But oil and petrochemicals--products that make modern civilization possible--will continue to be vitally important for the foreseeable future. There is no escaping this; nor should there be, because it turns out that there is enough oil to go around for everyone. Nobody needs to die for oil; no oil wars need to be planned or waged.

Running into Oil

In fact, the world is running into oil and not out of it, as alleged by the oil shortage propagandists--an unholy alliance that includes Big Oil companies, aiming to control the transition from relatively scarce and inexpensive conventional oil resources to more plentiful and costlier heavy crude and oil sands resources, and extreme environmentalists, seeking to cripple and eventually end all oil production for climate change/global warming reasons, regardless of the pain and suffering caused by high gasoline and diesel prices that affect practically all economic activities, from the cost of growing and transporting food crops to the cost of commuting to work. You say we can't drill our way into an era of energy independence and affordable gasoline prices? Simply Google heavy oil, heavy crude, oil, Enhanced Recovery Oil (EOR), etc. The truth is hiding in plain sight--on US Government and other authoritative websites. (Foreign Confidential™ has been a rather lonely voice in pointing this out.)

Unfortunately, energy independence and affordability don't necessarily go hand in hand. In principle, high oil prices could trigger a truly historic oil boom--we could be self-sufficient in crude just by squeezing new oil from old fields using commercially proven and available EOR methods--but we could still end up exporting much or even most of the end products of the boom because of a lack of oil refineries and pipelines. (High oil prices also make inefficient and nonexistent alternative energy sources more attractive.) More important, high is a relative concept. What may be high to a domestic, independent oil producer is not necessarily high enough to attract a multinational (American-in-name-only) energy behemoth.

The same holds true for the terms profitable and economical. Domestic onshore EOR and heavy crude development is clearly economical yet apparently not economical enough--producing the resources isn't profitable enough--for publicly traded multinationals whose business models and stock market valuations depend on the exploitation of giant conventional oil fields, both onshore and offshore. Which is why the oil that the nation needs has been and is likely to remain in the ground unless something dramatic, something really radical, is done to both produce and refine it with the national interest in mind.

The Case for a National Oil Company

One such "something"-- a solution that so-called progressives should long ago have embraced, dating to the the first energy crisis during the Carter administration, and that Republicans are certain to reject on account of their fanatic opposition to non-defense-related arms and programs of the federal government--would be the creation of a national oil company, or NOC, that would be charged with developing domestic resources, exclusively, with a focus on EOR and heavy crude. (Nationalizing energy is too radical to even consider in the United States absent a catastrophic national emergency, such as a devastating nuclear or biological attack on the U.S. homeland or a complete collapse of the financial system.) National--meaning, state-controlled--oil companies hold about 75% of the world's oil and gas reserves. The case for an American NOC, which could directly and indirectly create millions of well paying, permanent jobs, has never been greater, except, that is, for the period during President Obama's first few months in office, at the height of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, when he missed the opportunity to most meaningfully stimulate the economy by spurring the development of neglected natural resources and arguably blew the chance to become the leader the country so clearly yearned to see in the White House and that many voters, including some disaffected Republicans, following the disastrous, country-and-party-ruining Bush years, believed they had elected--namely, a new FDR.

Foreign Confidential™ intends to make the case for an American NOC in the coming months, along with the alternative case for a national energy policy that would for the first time seriously support private-sector domestic oil output, in the context of an overall policy that would encourage the development of  natural resources--America's real wealth--while still striving to protect the environment and preserve the country's awesome wilderness areas for future generations. Our view is that energy independence and the economic strength that can come from massive but responsible domestic oil development are essential both for the much needed formulation and conduct of a smarter, more effective foreign policy--one that would result in far fewer foreign interventions and finally produce the peace dividend that should have materialized at the end of the Cold War--and for laying the foundations for establishing a historic, new era of long-term prosperity marked by major advances in environmental protection and public health.

All of which should at least theoretically be of some interest to independents and true progressives.

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™ 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

China Says India Understates Agni 5 Range

China says India deliberately downplays the range of its successfully tested, nuclear-capable Agni 5 ICBM--that the range is really 8,000 kilometers, not 5,000 kilometers, as India claims. Click here for the story (which has a misleading headline). The missile is designed to carry multiple warheads that can strike dispersed targets.

Internal IAEA Report Links Khamenei to Decision to Seek Nukes

Internal IAEA information links Iran's Supreme Leader to a 1984 decision to seek a nuclear arsenal. Click here  … and here … to read more.

Friday, April 20, 2012

China Denies US Spying Charge

UPI reports from Beijing:

Chinese officials have denied U.S. accusations that China's progress in space exploration is partly owed to espionage. 
A report Wednesday by the U.S. Defense and State departments recommended loosening U.S. export controls on items used to build satellites and other relevant equipment but suggested maintaining or tightening controls on exports to particular countries such as China and Iran, and accused China of stealing space technology.

Read more. 

CIA's Greatest Operation Can Now be Told

Click here to read all about Project Azorian, the CIA's secret--and arguably greatest--operation, to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the Pacific Ocean floor in the summer of 1974.

VOA Editorial: US Response to North Korean Provocation

The Security Council made clear that any such launch 
is a 'serious violation' of resolutions 1718 and 1874.

The United Nations Security Council has adopted a Presidential Statement strongly condemning North Korea’s recent failed attempt to launch a satellite using ballistic technology.  “The swift and unanimous adoption of this strong presidential statement,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, “shows that the international community is united in sending a clear message to North Korea that such provocations are serious and totally unacceptable.”
The Security Council made clear that any such launch, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, is a “serious violation” of Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874.  The launch has caused grave security concerns in the region.
The Security Council has demanded that North Korea not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology and that North Korea comply with its obligations under previous Security Council resolutions by suspending all activities related to its ballistic missile program and reestablishing a moratorium on missile launches.  The Security Council also demanded that North Korea comply with its obligations under previous Security Council resolutions, including that it abandon its nuclear programs, cease all related activities, and not conduct any further launch, any nuclear test, or any further provocations.
To ensure that there are consequences for North Korea’s actions, the Security Council directed its North Korea Sanctions Committee to make another round of targeted sanctions designations of North Korean entities and identify and ban additional proliferation-sensitive technology from being transferred to or from North Korea.  The Committee will take steps to improve enforcement of existing sanctions.

The United States, for its part, will propose to the North Korea Sanctions Committee a package of new designations, including the names of companies responsible for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and a list of technical items that North Korea needs to proceed with its illicit programs.
 “North Korea,” said President Barack Obama, “is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry. . . . North Korea will only show strength and find security by abiding by international law, living up to its obligations, and by working to feed its citizens.”

Source: VOA

European Left Gaining from Economic Crisis

Peter Martino reports:

Next Sunday, the first ballot of the French presidential elections will be held. The two candidates with the most votes will run against one another in the second and final round on May 6. The big surprise of the French electoral campaign so far has been the rising support for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left Left Front. Mélenchon will not be able to make it to the second round, but the party, which he established in 2009 after leaving the center-left Socialist Party (PS), is expected to do very well in the parliamentary elections next June. 
Mélenchon could become the kingmaker, deciding which of the two major candidates, the incumbent center-right Nicolas Sarkozy or PS candidate François Hollande, will win the second round. If Hollande manages to win thanks to Mélenchon's support, there are bound to be consequences for France's relations with the United States and Israel. 
The rise of the French far-left is not an isolated case. One can see this phenomenon all over Western Europe. While Europe is facing economic decline, the far-left is gaining popularity. The rise of the far-left is a direct consequence of the eurocrisis. As this crisis deepens, the appeal of the far-left grows.

Read more.

Bo Xilai Still Admired Locally in China

Residents of Chongqing Talk About Their Fallen Star, Tainted

by Corruption and an Ambitious, Allegedly Murderous Wife

Chinese state media are painting former Communist Party leader Bo Xilai as a fallen star, tainted by corruption and an allegedly murderous wife. But in Chongqing, the southwestern megalopolis he governed, the politician was often admired for overseeing impressive economic growth and city improvement projects.

The swift removal of Bo from his post, and his wife’s arrest for the alleged murder of a British citizen, have shocked many residents of Chongqing.

“The mood here is bafflement and surprise. The average people on the street tend to love him. People can’t stop talking about all the things they’ve done for the city. He’s made the streets safer. He’s made it better looking,” says VOA’s Stephanie Ho, reporting from Chongqing.

Chongqing boasted China’s fastest economic growth rate, 16.5 percent last year. As business development projects have sprung up across the city, low income housing has, too, gaining Bo favor with the poor.

A Politician Who Connected with the Poor

“People in public housing had met him when he toured the complex, and they were still in awe of him because they felt like he connected with them,” says Ho, adding that Bo is unusual in China for a charisma more often seen in Western leaders like former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Despite the respect for Bo’s development projects, Ho says there is still widespread trust in the Central government’s decision. She reports that many people believe there must be a bigger political battle being fought behind the scenes.

Communist Party Central Committee officials have not detailed what violations Bo may have committed, saying only that he was suspected of involvement in “serious [party] discipline violations.”

The state-run China Daily newspaper on Thursday hinted at the charges to come, quoting Liu Lin, the deputy head of the Henan Provincial Corruption Prevention Bureau, as saying Bo’s investigation demonstrates the party’s “resolution and confidence in fighting corruption.”

A Murder Case and Alleged Graft

His alleged graft would not be unusual in China, where officials smuggled about $127 billion out of the country in the two decades leading up to 2008, according to a report released last year by the Central Bank’s anti-money laundering bureau.

While allegations of corruption may be met with a shrug by Chinese citizens, murder is still a big deal.

Stephanie Ho says the homicide investigation of Bo’s wife Gu Kailai came at an opportune time for the Central government as it moves to distance Bo from its key leadership body ahead of a Party Congress meeting that will choose the country’s next generation of leaders.

Kailai, and an orderly in the Bo household, are being held by judicial authorities for suspicion in the November death of Neil Heywood, a British businessman with close ties to Bo’s family.

“For the central government to have this murder scandal come up if it is indeed true, is amazingly opportune, because that’s something that people can understand is bad,” says Ho. “Murder is bad. Whereas corruption is bad but everybody is corrupt here in the leadership. You can’t get to the top leadership without being somewhat corrupt.”

Kate Woodsome contributed to this report.

N. Korea Stages Anti-South Rally

Aggressive Language, Defiant Stance; 

Regime Vows More Rocket Launches

North Korea said Friday a rally was being held in Pyongyang's central square to protest against South Korea's government, which has been sharply critical of the North's failed rocket launch last week.

In typically aggressive language, the official Korean Central News Agency said the square was crowded with military members and civilians who vowed to "wipe out" South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's administration.

On Thursday, North Korea vowed to launch satellites into space "one after another," a week after it defied international protests by launching a long-range rocket that failed just after taking off.

KCNA quoted space agency officials as saying Pyongyang will continue conducting the launches, which it says are aimed at placing weather satellites into orbit.

Statement Says Cause of Failure Known

The defiant statement said scientists have already discovered what caused the failure of last week's launch, though no details were given. It also did not give a time frame for the next rocket launch.

The announcement comes days after the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the launch and threatened further sanctions, saying the move violated resolutions barring North Korean use of ballistic missile technology.

This week in New York, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the world body stands ready to take further action if North Korea persists in its actions.

On Thursday, North Korea threatened to wage a "sacred war" against President Lee's government unless he apologizes for suggesting last week that Pyongyang would rather spend millions of dollars on weapons than on food for its poverty-stricken population.


India Struggles to Produce Electricity

India can't get enough coal to burn in order to generate the electricity the country needs to grow. Read more. 

Tiny Gulf Islands Overshadow Iran Nuclear Issue

Three tiny, contested islands … Iran wants to turn them into tourist attractions and warns it is ready to go to war over them. Click here for the story.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ex-CIA Director Says N. Korean Nuke Test Likely

'We've Seen this Pattern,' Says Michael Hayden

Commenting on North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, and on growing concern that the country is preparing a nuclear test following last week's missile launch, former CIA director Michael Hayden told VOA: "We have seen this pattern in the past, where they have a missile launch, the rest of the world has responded and rather than to compromise or to negotiate, the North has taken another provocative action and in several instances, in two instances the provocative action has been an attempt at a nuclear test."

Hayden said some analysts believe the untested new leader's actions may be an attempt to show his strength.  But others say the missile launch--just weeks after an announced agreement not to carry out such tests and to stop nuclear development in return for food aid--may have been inevitable.

"Both the missile test and the food aid from the United States were set in motion by Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un is not yet quite strong enough in his own position to have turned off either since they were both started by his father," Hayden said.

Sierra Leone Reviving Agriculture

Rice Farmers Make Money

Damon Van der Linde says a Sierra Leone government-run program "tries to draw people back to the countryside with the potential of better pay and a higher quality of life. And it may be working." Read more.

Israeli Report Supports Foreign Confidential™ Fear on Iran

Nuclear Deal Could Effectively Allow Secret Bomb Building

Enterprising reporting by DEBKAfile--click here to read the article--supports a point that Foreign Confidential™ made yesterday in connection with Iranian participation in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs--namely, that Iran could "decide to end its nuclear standoff with the West by accepting an agreement that will make it possible for the mullahocracy to stop its suspect uranium enrichment activities while leaving intact both an ability to secretly make several nuclear weapons at short notice and a presumed stockpile of dirty bombs."

Guarded Reaction From China on India's ICBM

Chinese media slam India's successful ICBM test while the Chinese government talks of cooperation between two emerging powers. Click here for the story; below, to watch an Indian TV news report on the "huge watershed moment."

Iran: Ready to Fight Over Gulf Island

An Iranian commander says Iran is ready to defend a disputed Gulf island that Iran controls--the first such statement by a member of the country's military. Click here for the story.

N. Korea Threatens South with 'Sacred War'

Seoul Deploys New Cruise Missile Capable 

of Striking Deep into North; Tensions Rise

AFP reports

North Korea demanded Thursday that South Korea apologise for what it called insults during major anniversary festivities, or face a "sacred war", as Seoul unveiled a new missile to deter its neighbour.

Read more. 

VOA reports South Korean military officials announced the deployment of the new cruise missile on Thursday at a news conference for South Korean reporters, apparently in reaction to the North's failed rocket launch and fears that it is again preparing to test a nuclear weapon.

South Korea's semi-official Yonhap News Agency reported that a senior Defense Ministry official, Maj.-Gen. Shin Won-sik, described the missile as having a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (over 621 miles) and a capability to strike anywhere in North Korea. Cruise missiles are designed to fly low to the ground and weave through enemy defenses in order to reach their targets.

South Korean Defense Ministry officials reportedly said the new missile was developed using entirely home-grown technology--comments clearly aimed at highlighting the contrast between their country's impressive technological achievements and the embarrassing failure of North Korea's three unsuccessful attempts to test long-range ballistic missiles.

Yonhap News quoted Shin as saying South Korea has also deployed a new tactical ballistic missile with a range of 300 kilometers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

India Poised to Enter Elite Nuclear ICBM Club


Michael Richardson reports:

In a quantum leap over North Korea's controversial though unsuccessful long-range rocket launch on April 13, India plans to test not just one but three ballistic missiles in quick succession over the next week, including the first firing of its Agni 5 missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers.

All three of the different range Indian missiles can be armed with nuclear warheads. But a successful launch of the Agni 5 would bring India close to membership of the elite club of nuclear-armed nations that have intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with ranges of more than 5,500 km. Even with a strike distance slightly below this threshold, the Agni 5 can cover the whole of China — India's strategic rival — which has ICBMs that can travel over 11,000 km. The Agni 5 is designed to carry multiple warheads that could hit widely dispersed targets.

The Wang Lijun Affair

Click here to read about the Wang Lijun Affair and its importance to the Bo Xilai Scandal, the related Heywood Murder Mystery--and politics in the United States, whose Chengdu-based diplomats did not grant asylum to Wang Lijun after listening to (and presumably recording) his revelations about the nexus of power and money in today's China.

The former vice mayor of Chengdu--Bo was his patron--could be convicted of treason and executed.

N. Korea Believed Close to Testing Uranium Nuke

North Korea is believed to be preparing its first test of a uranium nuclear weapon--Pyongyang's previous nuclear tests used plutonium. Click here to read more.

As the Reuters article makes clear, there is no civilian purpose for such a test. Nor was there a peaceful purpose to Pyongyang's plutonium device detonations. North Korea clearly intends to become a producer of nuclear bombs and warheads--its scientists and technicians have been working on miniaturization--and proving that it can use enriched uranium instead of plutonium to manufacture the weapons is a significant step forward for the "military-first" regime.

Iran Also Benefits

There is an Iranian hand in the North's uranium push. Should Iran decide to end its nuclear standoff with the West by accepting an agreement that will make it possible for the mullahocracy to stop its suspect uranium enrichment activities while leaving intact both an ability to secretly make several nuclear weapons at short notice and a presumed stockpile of dirty bombs, the regime would like to be able to outsource nuclear weapons production to its proliferation partner. Bombs and warheads can be smuggled; and nuclear-tipped missiles can be concealed in shipping containers and fired at coastal cities from seemingly civilian cargo vessels, using camouflaged launch systems that Iran and North Korea are believed to have already tested.

Endnote: Kimist/Communist North Korea and clerical fascist Iran will never scrap their nuclear arms programs altogether. They will stall and play for time--and play the useful idiots of the West like violins. Eventually, North Korea and Iran may even enter into phony arms control agreements. But they will never really disarm. Both rogues have learned from their common ally, Castroite Communist Cuba, that atomic arms can be used to extract a non-intervention commitment from the United States; and the regimes have also learned--by watching what happened to Libya's late leader after he abandoned weapons of mass destruction--the importance of preserving credible WMD capabilities. (Cuba is believed to have built up a formidable arsenal of biological weapons--another story.)

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lack of Insurance Could Halt Iran Oil Trade

Reuters reports:

Marine insurance, or lack of it, may yet turn out to be the most effective sanction used by Western nations in 17 years of tightening the screws on Iran's nuclear program.

A European Union oil embargo on Iran, set to take effect in July, prohibits EU insurers from covering Iranian oil exports anywhere in the world. With around 90 percent of the world's tanker insurance based in the West, the arcane world of reinsurance and liability coverage has become a powerful weapon.

South American Security Agenda Ignores Iran

The Iranian threat--its intelligence gathering operations, sponsorship and control of terrorist cells and covert commando units, arms smuggling activities and cooperation with organized criminal gangs--is off the radar in South America. Click here for the story.

N. Korea Threatens US over Rocket, Food Aid

North Korea is behaving as expected, threatening the United States with retaliation for suspending food aid and hinting at new ICBM tests and possible armed confrontations. Click here for the news.

Some Iranian ICBM Experts May Still be in N. Korea

Continued Presence Signals Possible Preparations

For More Missile Firings, Including Tests, Attacks

Foreign Confidential™ analysts believe that at least three Iranian ballistic missile experts are still in North Korea following its failed "satellite launch"--a thinly disguised test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that was produced with Iran's assistance. The remaining visitors were part of a larger Iranian delegation that observed the launch of the rocket that broke up about a minute after blasting off from the North's so-called space center.

The continued presence of Iranian missile experts in the country could be a sign that Pyongyang is preparing more missile firings, analysts say, possibly including tests of medium and long-range missiles and actual, medium-range missile strikes on South Korean targets.

Foreign Confidential™ was first among media outlets in reporting--and predicting--Iranian involvement in the North's ICBM test.

The North is also believed to be preparing a third overt test of a nuclear weapon--the regime is strongly suspected of conducting covert tests--and analysts say a delegation of Iranian nuclear experts will again observe the explosion, in keeping with past practice.

Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs would not be possible without Iranian support. The partnership of the world's most militantly atheist country--Kimist/Communist North Korea--and the world's foremost clerical fascist nation--Islamist Iran--is both ironic and telling. At the very least, their close cooperation in nuclear and missile crimes makes a mockery of the argument, popular in pro-appeasement circles, that Iran's hostility to the West in general and to the United States in particular stems to a significant degree from alleged Western and U.S. insults to Islam.

The Kimist-Islamist alliance also makes a mockery of the term international community. But that's another story.

Foreign Confidential™ (formerly China Confidential) is the only media outlet that predicted the North's two publicly acknowledged nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, including accurately forecasting the exact dates of the detonations.

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™

US Looking at All N. Korea Options as China Warns Ally

Nuclear Test Looms

The United States is looking at "all options" as it seeks to discourage North Korea from conducting a third nuclear test, a senior U.S. military officer said on Tuesday, days after a failed long-range rocket launch by the North that drew international condemnation.

VOA reports China has joined other world powers in warning the North that China will not tolerate further provocations. VOA:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late Monday in Brasilia that the U.N. Security Council members, including China, are agreed there will be "further consequences" in the event of another provocative act by North Korea. Recent satellite photographs show Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground nuclear test.

China's state-controlled media are also showing signs of frustration with Pyongyang, noting that China took "a clear attitude in condemning" its longtime ally when it backed a U.N. Security Council statement criticizing the rocket launch.

China's Communist Party-controlled Global Times newspaper said Tuesday that Pyongyang should not be misled into thinking it can ignore Beijing's wishes with impunity. The paper said North Korea will "pay the price if it tries to abduct China's North Korea policy."

Global Times quotes the dean of the Center for Korean Peninsula Studies at Tongji University in Shanghai as saying the North knows the consequences of another nuclear test would be much graver than in the past.

"The rocket launch has already cost the state roughly $850 million, enough to buy 2.5 million tons of corn," Cui Zhiying is reported to have said. "Does it have enough money to carry out another nuclear test? I seriously doubt it."

But Pyongyang may indeed have the money, given its (a) "military-first" policy and (b) relationship with Iran, which is believed to be subsidizing the Kimist regime's nuclear and missile programs in order to gain knowledge and divert attention from related Iranian activities.