Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Austerity Has Wrought in Greece

Larry Elliott reports:
Greece is broke and close to being broken. It is a country where children are fainting in school because they are hungry, where 20,000 Athenians are scavenging through waste tips for food, and where the lifeblood of a modern economy--credit--is fast drying up. 
It is a country where the fascists and the anarchists battle for control of the streets, where immigrants fear to go out at night and where a woman whispers "it's like the Weimar republic" as a motorcycle cavalcade from the Golden Dawn party, devotees of Adolf Hitler, cruises past the parliament building. Graffiti says: "Foreigners get out of Greece. Greece is for the Greeks. I will vote for Golden Dawn to remove the filth from the country." 
As ever, it is economic collapse that is pushing politics to the extremes. Businesses that have not already gone bust are clinging on by their fingertips hoping the country's second election in two months will be a turning point. Not the moment when the economy starts to recover, because Greeks have seen enough and suffered enough to know that the slump will grind on through 2012 and 2013; instead, they are banking on the rest of Europe cutting Greece some slack for fear that a nation accounting for less than 3% of the eurozone's output could be the catalyst for a terminal crisis that will destroy the single currency.
Read the whole story.

IMF Boss Regrets Insulting Greeks

The IMF's pro-austerity and essentially anti-Athens chief has more or less apologized for offensive remarks that caused an uproar in Greece, where forced spending cuts have plunged the country into a politically and socially destabilizing depression. Read more.

South Korea Arrests Two Men for Spying for North

Suspects May Have Aided GPS Jamming Operation

South Korean police said Thursday that they had arrested two men in May for alleged espionage activities on behalf of North Korea. Prosecutors say they are attempting to determine whether the suspects played a role in the recent widespread jamming of global positioning signal (GPS) receivers in South Korea, which forced planes and ships to rely on backup navigational equipment.

Authorities say the jamming was noted by pilots of hundreds of commercial flights over South Korea between April 28 and May 13. The interference also affected GPS receivers in ships in and near the port of Incheon.

At the time, officials here said they had pinpointed the jamming as emanating from Kaesong, above the DMZ in North Korea.

Businessman Has Previous Espionage Conviction

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency says one of the suspects, a 74-year-old businessman identified only by his surname, Lee, has a previous espionage conviction.

The second suspect, identified as Kim, 56 years of age, acquired citizenship in New Zealand and was conducting business there. A third individual, named Chung, who is under investigation, but has not been arrested, is a former defense contractor.

Police say one of the men had orders from Pyongyang to acquire GPS jamming devices and radar systems.

A police inspector says that Kim and Lee had sophisticated technical knowledge and met with a North Korean agent in Dandong in northeastern China in July of last year.

The president of the non-governmental Korea Defense Network, Shin In-kyun, says people are not dissuaded from spying for the North because actual sentences are not severe, even though those convicted of espionage can face a death sentence.

Shin says that when Lee, the suspect in this current case, was previously convicted in the 1970s he only served a 17-year sentence. But currently the punishments for spying are much lighter, usually about a three-to-four year prison term. Shin says the prison terms need to be lengthened to send a warning to those contemplating acts of espionage.

No one has been executed in South Korea since 1997.

From time to time, South Koreans are apprehended on charges of spying for the North.

Other Security Threats

News of the latest arrests come as South Korea's political mainstream began to move against a pair of lawmakers in the National Assembly regarded as potential security threats.

Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon took their seats in the parliament Wednesday despite allegations that the pro-North sympathizers won their posts in March through a rigged party primary.

The two are among 13 lawmakers from the far-left United Progressive Party (UPP). They are members of the party's largest faction, composed of former student activists known for their sympathies towards Pyongyang.

Conservative members in the legislature say they are worried some of the UPP lawmakers will leak state secrets to the North that they will have access to as potential members of the intelligence or defense committees.

The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations and no peace treaty. The United States and Soviet Union in 1945 agreed to divide the peninsula along the 38th parallel. Elections in the south brought to power in Seoul the anti-communist Rhee Syng-man while the Soviets installed Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang.

Kim invaded the South in 1950. A devastating three-year civil war with foreign troops on both sides was fought to a stalemate.

The Internationalization of the Egyptian Elections: Analysis

Pinhas Inbari reports on the "web of international involvement" in Egypt's elections. Click here to read his analysis.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

North Korea Enshrines Nuclear Arms

North Korea's new constitution proclaims the country's nuclear status. Read more.

Foreign Confidential™ analysts are not surprised by the development, having repeatedly said that the North will never scrap its nuclear arsenal.

Regarding the threats posed by North Korea and its partner in nuclear and missile crimes, Iran, there is only one solution: regime change. In the North Korean case, China's cooperation is key; in Iran's case, the cooperation of Russia is critically important.

Foreign Investors Plan Zimbabwe Fund

Hong Kong-based Global Alliance Partners (GAP) concluded a two-day conference, from May 21-22,  in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.

The meeting was hosted by GAP member Imara Holdings, a pan-African investment banking and asset management firm. Zimbabwe’s Economic Planning minister, Tapiwa Mashakada, delivered the keynote speech.

Imara Holdings Group CEO Mark Tunmer said: “Hosting the 8th semi-annual GAP Conference in Zimbabwe came at an opportune time for Imara because it is well-positioned to take advantage of the country’s expected growth rate of 9.9% this year, and share opportunities with members of Global Alliance Partners.”

GAP's board of directors also elected a new chairman, John P. O’Shea, a veteran Wall Street investment banker, who announced that some GAP members are planning to set up a fund to invest in listed Zimbabwean companies.

“We are keen to take the project off the ground and there are ongoing talks with Imara on how to structure the fund,” O’Shea said. “The Zimbabwe fund could be the model for future GAP principals and employees to get involved in emerging markets."

O'Shea explained that GAP’s cross-border capabilities cover private equity, pre-IPO placements, share trading, research, funds management, and equity placement opportunities. The organization has 14 partners in 28 countries, whose scope and reach span strategic markets in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and North America, providing a truly global platform.

Al Qaeda Eyes Syrian Chemical Weapons

The West may have to intervene in Syria to prevent the Assad regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. Read more.

'The Flame' First Struck Iran's Oil Sector

The super-sophisticated computer virus that struck Iran--dubbed "the Flame"--represents a breakthrough in break-in spyware. Read more.

Related: Computer Viruses Won't Stop Iran

Israel Weighs West Bank Withdrawal

Israel's broad coalition government appears to be seriously considering a unilateral withdrawal from most of the West Bank--i.e. the disputed lands west of the Jordan River--to preserve Israel's Jewish character and to make way for the creation of a Palestinian Arab state. Read more.

Jordan's Uranium Reserves Larger than Previously Believed

Jordan's uranium deposits are larger than previously believed, energy officials say, raising expectations for the potential of a Jordanian uranium industry. Read more.

No Surprise: Anti-Austerity SYRIZA Leads in Greece

The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has regained its lead ahead of Greece's June 17 election. Read more.

Controversy and Concerns Over General's Commando Comments

Covert Ops Story Could Provide Pyongyang With Pretext for Provocations 

By Steve Herman

A U.S. Army general has stirred controversy this week about comments about American and South Korean military operations in the North. The U.S. military is denying reports that the head of U.S. special operations in South Korea acknowledged that American and South Korean commandos operate covertly in North Korea.

There are concerns about the ramifications of what the leader of the U.S. special operations command in South Korea said at a panel discussion in Tampa, Florida, on May 22.

Brigadier General Neil Tolley, speaking to an audience of hundreds of people at the Special Operations Forces Industry conference, discussed the challenges the United States faces determining what is inside North Korea's many secret tunnels.

Freelance combat reporter and technology writer David Axe was among those listening to the general.

"He was describing the utility of human intelligence on the ground in North Korea. He was describing it as though it were actually happening right now," Axe said. "He since has walked that back to say that he was speaking hypothetically, although he didn't say at the time he was speaking hypothetically."

Transcript Confirms Reporting

Another person who attended the panel discussion said he heard the same thing and a partial transcript corroborates Axe’s recollection.

“Without going into too much detail on our war plans, we send ROK [South Korean] soldiers, Koreans, to the North and U.S. soldiers, to do the old special reconnaissance mission" Tolley said during the discussion. "We used to do it in the 80's in Europe. It’s roughly the same kind of thing.”

If true, such cross-border operations would be a violation of the 1953 armistice that brought to a halt the three-year Korean War. Still,  Axe says he did not realize the apparent significance of the general's remark at the time he wrote his story.

"I thought it was interesting. I hadn't heard that before, but I wasn't shocked by it because I've encountered U.S. special forces all over the world, in some places where their presence is not widely known or known publicly at all. It seemed kind of obvious they would be in North Korea," he stated.

"Parachuting" and a Pulled Post

Axe's report was published on Monday by the Japan-based online publication The Diplomat. In it, he also asserted U.S. special forces were “parachuting” into North Korea to spy on extensive underground military facilities. It prompted an unequivocal denial from U.S. Forces Korea, which insisted the quote was “made up."

The Diplomat then pulled Axe's blog post, acknowledging the possibility that the general was speaking about future war plans, not current operations.

Pentagon spokesman George Little reiterated to reporters at Tuesday's regular briefing that General Tolley was misquoted.

"My understanding is that the general's comments were contorted, distorted, misreported and that there is in no way any substance to the assertion," Little stated. "Again, that was misreported that there are U.S. boots on the ground in North Korea. That is simply incorrect."

North Korea has repeatedly violated the terms of the truce, over the years. The North sent commandos into South Korea repeatedly in decades past, with sometimes tragic consequences for both the infiltrators and South Korean civilians.

There are far fewer reports of violations from the South Korean or American side. In February of this year, during a defense committee hearing, a member of South Korea's National Assembly, Lee Jin-sam, made a stunning revelation. Lee claimed that in 1967 he was part of a secret mission that infiltrated the North, killing 33 enemy soldiers and sabotaging dozens of facilities.

The Kookmin Daily newspaper quotes a defense ministry official saying South Korean forces have not been involved in any such operations since 1972.

But a spokesman for the defense ministry in Seoul who handles international media inquiries says he cannot confirm that information.

Hidden History?

A U.S. military veteran has written of his participation in five secret Marine Corps missions after the armistice to find and rescue fellow service members still held by the North Koreans. In the book, The Untold Experiences of a Navy Corpsman, C. Gilbert Lowery claims U.S. Marine reconnaissance patrol teams in the North freed 26 prisoners of war.

General Tolley's comment last week raised speculation about whether contemporary U.S. special forces covertly infiltrate the North. Most analysts consider that highly implausible because of the great risks of such missions compared to their scant potential intelligence gains.

Nevertheless some Asia watchers, such as Chris Nelson of Samuels International Associates, are expressing concern. Writing in his influential Nelson Report he accuses Tolley of “proving the adage 'loose lips sink ships...this time with potentially deadly consequences.”

Nelson worries that the comment - even if it was a hypothetical - could be used by North Korea's leadership “grasping at any excuse for some kind of military 'response'” to perceived American and South Korean provocations.

At his home in South Carolina, reporter Axe says this is one story he no longer cares to pursue.

"I'm bewildered and I regret diving into waters that are far deeper than I had ever imagined," he said.

Axe says he has resigned as a contributor to the online publication which carried his controversial blog post.

A veteran journalist in Asia, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America bureau chief and correspondent based in Seoul. Prior to taking his post in South Korea in 2010, Steve, for more than three years, was VOA's South Asia bureau chief based in New Delhi, India.

In Focus: Iran's Offensive in America's Backyard

An Alarming Expansion in the Western Hemisphere

By Clare M. Lopez 

While much attention lately has rightly been focused on Iran's nuclear weapons program, the mullahs have also been busy elsewhere—especially in America's own backyard. During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two-term presidency, Iran has expanded its activity in the Western Hemisphere to an alarming degree.

Tehran has found hospitable terrain among some of Latin America's most anti-American regimes, including in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The jihadist regime's hundreds of commercial, diplomatic and security ventures across the region not only help it break out of isolation, evade U.S. and international sanctions and forge relationships that provide access to needed resources, but also gain a foothold for Iranian intelligence, military and terrorist operations within striking distance of the American homeland.

Since Ahmadinejad took over the Iranian presidency in 2005, his administration has expanded Iran's diplomatic facilities in Latin America from five to 11 and set up 17 "cultural centers." Every one of these provides cover slots for operatives of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Quds Force and intelligence service (MOIS – Ministry of Intelligence and Security).

Their job is to manage relationships with narcotrafficking, organized crime and terrorist organizations. Riding the vector of a bourgeoning Lebanese Shi'ite immigrant population in South America dating to the 1970's, Hizballah has made the region a focus of its attack plotting, fundraising, money laundering, proselytizing, recruitment and terror training activities.

Terrorist Cells and Drug Cartels

Evidence also is mounting that Hizballah cells, with members in the hundreds, increasingly are working in cooperation with Mexican drug cartels, sharing terrorist expertise with them, and moving northward, across the border and up into the U.S. and Canada.

Reza Khalili, a former IRGC officer and CIA spy, says that IRGC units are running operations out of U.S. mosques and Islamic Centers. Toronto authorities have just discovered antisemitic, jihadist passages from Iranian sources in public school textbooks.

To date, though, U.S. leadership, fixated on negotiating Iranian compliance on nuclear issues, has been reluctant to see Iran's Western Hemisphere activities as the critical national security threat that they are.

Ahmadinejad has developed close ties with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, (shown left together) with whom Iran has signed at least 262 bilateral agreements totaling some $30 billion in agriculture, energy, finance and trade. According to Roger Noriega, former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States and a Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, however, many of these "development" initiatives serve another purpose for Iran.

Banking and Finance Accords 

Banking and finance accords, such as with the Venezuelan International Development Bank (actually owned by the Iranian Saderat Bank, which is under U.S. and EU sanctions for connections to Iran's nuclear weapons program), serve as cover for money laundering and sanctions evasion.

Joint commercial ventures operate as fronts for military projects: Venezuelan government-owned Compañía Anónima Venezolana de Industrias Militares (CAVIM) is involved in military projects with Iran's Parchin Chemical Industries and Quds Aeronautics Industries. Both of these companies were sanctioned by the UN in 2006 for involvement in Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The Venezuelan airline Conviasa operates regular flights from Caracas to Damascus and Tehran—but often carries cargo that U.S. authorities believe includes Iranian military technology bound for Venezuela. Mining projects may provide Venezuelan uranium to the Iranian nuclear weapons program, "bicycle" and "cement" factories actually produce rifles and other ventures support FARC cocaine and heroin trafficking.

Reports from Germany's Die Welt about an Iranian missile base on Venezuela's Paraguana Peninsula are even more alarming. A bilateral strategic cooperation agreement signed by IRGC Air Force commander Amir al-Hadjizadeh in October 2010 during a Tehran visit by Hugo Chavez authorized the project, currently under construction by the IRGC's Khatam al-Anbia division.

Iranian Missile Base 

The missile base reportedly will contain in-ground missile silos for Iranian Shahab-3 (~ 2,000 km. range with the Sejil-2 variant reaching up to 2,400 km.) and other missiles. The Paraguana Peninsula forms the northernmost tip of Venezuelan territory and sits due south of Florida, about 2,400 km. away.

In February 2012, Michael Braun, former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) operations chief, told a congressional hearing that Mexican drug cartel operations in more than 250 U.S. cities offered a ready-made network for Hizballah, which uses their human and drug trafficking channels, money laundering operations and forged document expertise. Ambassador Noriega goes into even more detail, identifying "two parallel yet collaborative terrorist networks … in Latin America": One operated by Hizballah and the other directly by the Quds Force.

According to Noriega, these two networks include more than 80 operatives in at least twelve countries and also feature state-level links back to Iran, Lebanon and Syria. These Iranian-sponsored terror networks establish ties within Muslim communities throughout the region for proselytizing and recruitment activities as well as management of Hizballah's primary financial hub in the Western Hemisphere, located on Venezuela's Margarita Island.

Aside from Iranian missiles aimed at the continental U.S., the next most imminent concern to the U.S. is the deteriorating situation along the southern border with Mexico. Hizballah links with key Mexican drug cartels, such as the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, help the Iranian terror proxy become increasingly financially self-sufficient (as sanctions bite into the Iranian economy) and also facilitate access into the U.S. and Canada.

Tunnels and Bombs

The case of Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, who was sentenced to sixty years in prison in 2008 on charges of organized crime and human smuggling, focused attention on his base of operations in Tijuana, Mexico, just south of San Diego, CA.

A September 2010 internal memo of the Tucson, Arizona, Police Department leaked by an internet hacker group highlighted the possibly inevitable eventuality that Hizballah expertise in explosives—improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and car bombs—will be transferred to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Sophisticated narco-tunnels found along the U.S.-Mexican border also raise suspicions that Hizballah tunnel construction technology is finding its way to the Western Hemisphere.

U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), left, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King (R-NY), have sought to raise the alarm about the Iranian threat on our doorstep, but not enough yet is being done.

Blockbuster Finding

For instance, despite the December 22, 2011, ruling by NYC Federal District Court Judge George Daniels in the Havlish case that Iran shares responsibility with Al Qa'eda and Hizballah for the 9/11 attacks, not one single official at any level from the New York Police Department to the White House has acknowledged or addressed the implications for U.S. policy of this blockbuster finding.

In fact, in his January, 2012, testimony, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper (shown right) actually stated that Iran's leaders may "have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime" – as though he were not perfectly well aware that Iran and Hizballah already struck the homeland more than a decade earlier.

Such candor failure before the American people and refusal to confront the Iran-Hizballah-Al Qa'eda terror alliance threat to the U.S. homeland belie the urgency of the whole government strategy that's needed to begin degrading and dismantling their network of operations—before an event, such as an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, triggers activation orders from the Supreme Leader to awaiting Hizballah cells.

As Norman Bailey, former National Security Council and senior ODNI official, has suggested, these measures should begin with designating Venezuela a state sponsor of terror, imposing penalties on countries and companies that facilitate Iran's Western Hemisphere activities and ensuring no let-up in the pace of U.S. Treasury Department designations of banks and other entities involved in enabling Iran's terror operations. Additionally, both unilateral and multilateral measures taken with friendly governments will be required to disrupt and dismantle the Iranian offensive in America's backyard.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

US Envoy's Undiplomatic Talk Riles Russia

The architect of the Obama administration's Russian "reset"--America's ambassador to Moscow--has made a practice of antagonizing the Kremlin with language that is not merely undiplomatic; it is downright insulting. Read more.

Euro Falls Against Dollar on Spain Woes

The euro hit a two-year low relative to the U.S. dollar on Spanish bank woes. Read more.

Britain Bets on Biomass

Britain is cutting coal use to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and making huge investments in woody biomass, burning industrial-grade wood pellets and wood chips in electricity-generating power stations--or co-firing biomass with coal. Read more.

Foreign Confidential™ analysts add that sustainability is a key concern for UK utilities, which means demand for woody biomass from North America--Canada and the U.S. Northeast--is certain to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years. Africa, South America, and Russia have vast biomass resources; but illegal logging, human rights abuses and corruption are commonplace in these regions.

70% of Britons Now Anti-Austerity

Seven out of 10 Britons are fed up with spending cuts, want the government to stimulate the economy, according to a new poll. Read more.

Iran Hit by Another Cyberattack

A Russian firm says Iran has been the main victim of a major, new, Middle East-focused cyberattack. Israel seems to be encouraging speculation that it is responsible for unleashing the virus. Read more.

US Denies N. Korea Mission Stories

The United States is denying reports it parachuted special forces soldiers into North Korea to gather intelligence on a secret tunnel network. Read more.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Real Heroes … US Special Forces in N. Korea

Carlo Munoz reports:
Members of U.S. special forces are on the ground in North Korea, gathering intelligence on the country's network of clandestine military bases near its border with the South. 
Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley, head of all American special operations forces in South Korea, said units of elite U.S. troops were conducting "special reconnaissance" missions in the North. 
Read more.

Understanding Syria's Wanton Slaughter

DEBKAfile on the Al Houla atrocity: "The wanton slaughter by Syrian forces of 92 confirmed victims, 32 of them children under ten, at the Homs village of Al-Houla Friday, May 25, was the most horrifying atrocity in the Middle East this week, but not the only one: In Sanaa, six days ago, al Qaeda’s suicide bombers, having penetrated Yemeni military ranks, detonated two tons of explosives at a parade rehearsal killing more than 100 soldiers and civilians and injuring 400."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

US Think Tank: Iran Has Enough Uranium for Five Bombs

The Institute for Science and International Security says Iran has produced enough enriched uranium to make at least five nuclear weapons. Read more.

To recap, appeasement and engagement of Iran (attempts to actually align with the monstrous mullahocracy) and the folly of sanctions--well meaning but wishy-washy measures--have made war with the imperialist, clerical fascist regime inevitable, much as a policy of appeasement made war with Nazi Germany inevitable in the years leading up to the Second World War.  That conflict was fought on Germany's terms. Will the coming conflict with Iran be fought on its terms?

Time will tell. The notion that Israel, which Iran is bent on destroying, is somehow obligated to risk the rubbling of its cities and the resultant slaughter of masses of Israeli civilians from retaliatory Iranian and Hezbollah missile attacks defies reason. The point is worth repeating: given its presumed arsenals, Israel, if need be, can end the Iranian threat as easy as E-M-P.

Related: Key Lesson of 1967 and the Looming Iran War

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™

Again, Prisoners Will Perish in a N. Korean Nuclear Test

Regarding North Korea's next nuclear test, this much is certain: Iranian nuclear experts will observe the blast, as they have observed their proliferation partner's previous provocations, and a number of North Koreans--prisoners slated for execution--will die in the underground explosion. They will be put into a portion of the newly excavated test tunnel that will be under special video surveillance in order for their final moments of agony to be viewable in real time by North Korea's sadistic rulers, including the country's 20-something Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.

The condemned list includes political prisoners and purged officials, according to Foreign Confidential™ analysts, who assert that Pyongyang has executed prisoners in each of its (Iranian observed) nuclear tests. Kim's father, Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, who died last December, is believed to have delighted in witnessing the nuclear executions--live and on video.

Related: 30 North Korean Officials Die in Staged Traffic Accidents 

Revealed: North Korea's Gas Chambers 

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™

Friday, May 25, 2012

China Limiting Purges Following Bo Scandal

Reuters reports:
Chinese President Hu Jintao has demanded senior Communist Party officials stifle tensions over the ousting of ambitious politician Bo Xilai and show unity as they prepare for a change of leadership, sources briefed on recent meetings said. 
Hu urged the party to close ranks at a meeting of about 200 officials early this month at a Beijing hotel, declaring the downfall of Bo--China's biggest political scandal in two decades--to be an "isolated case," the three sources said.
Read more.

Related: Key Bo Ally to be Tried for Treason 

German Austerity Drives Greek Mother, Son to Suicide

Another victory for German austerity….

An ailing 90-year-old mother and her 60-year-old musician son jumped to their deaths in Athens this week. Read more.

Austerity, which has not worked anywhere, is pushing Greece … and Spain … to the edge of catastrophe. The middle classes are being pauperized; the poor, ground into dust under the iron heel, or jackboot, of German/EU austerity.

Israel: All Iran Options On the Table

Israel has reportedly revived the military option for ending the Iranian nuclear threat--this year. Read more.

Iran's ability to retaliate is a critical concern, given its formidable arsenal of long-range, ballistic missiles, the huge missile buildup of Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and their repeated threats to "burn Tel Aviv," etc.

But this, too, should be considered: should push come to shove and the clerical fascist regime in Tehran dare to try to make good on its Hitlerian threats, the Jewish State, in light of its presumed atomic arsenal … and related delivery systems … could end the Iranian threat as easy as … E-M-P.

As for Hezbollah, it should know that if Israel is forced to fight another defensive war with the terrorist group, World War II (rather than CNN) rules of engagement will apply.

So it goes.

Related: Clare Lopez on the Folly of Sanctions on Iran

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™ 

Cuba Still Confined by Dial-Up Internet as Mystery Surrounds Submarine Cable Connecting Communist Country to Venezuela

Mystery surrounds Cuba's undersea fiber-optic link to Venezuela, which was supposed to liberate long-suffering citizens (victims) of the Communist island nation from the confines of dial-up Internet. But the link remains dark--with Cubans still confined to the dark ages of impossibly slow dial-up--despite claims by officials in Caracas that the cable is working.

Click here to read more about the mysterious cable.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Seoul Says North Korea Ready to Conduct Nuclear Test

Foreign Confidential™ Says Iranian Nuclear Experts Will Observe the Explosion 

South Korea says the North has completed preparations for another nuclear test, which could happen "any time." Read more.

Another North Korean nuclear test will serve the interests of Pyongyang's partner in nuclear and missile crimes, Iran. The detonation will divert international attention away from Iran's nuclear program; and the explosion, which will be observed by Iranian nuclear experts, will provide Tehran with valuable data.

Foreign intelligence services are aware of Iran's involvement in North Korea's nuclear arms program. Yet the oil-rich mullahocracy has the nerve to still insist that its intentions are peaceful with regard to its costly pursuit of nuclear power, and. more incredibly, Iran's claims are still treated seriously by many Western politicians and pundits. Even worse, there are those who argue that it will be possible for the United States and its allies, including Israel, to "live with but never accept" a nuclear-armed Iranian regime.

Related: N. Korea May be Planning to Mar US Memorial Day

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

UN Official Stresses Need for Rapid Response to Food Crisis

The United Nations humanitarian chief today stressed the need to respond rapidly to the food and nutrition crisis in Burkina Faso, which is affecting some 2.8 million people, and underlined the importance of building resilience in the country for future emergencies. Read more.

The Folly of Sanctions on Iran

Well Meaning Efforts Ignore Iran's Intentions and Ideology

By Clare M. Lopez

World powers are scrambling to find some magic formula that will ratchet back rising tensions over Iran's nuclear weapons program. United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) secretary-general Yukiya Amano flew to Tehran on Sunday, 20 May 2012, for last-minute talks with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in advance of the P-5 + 1 talks scheduled to begin in Baghdad on Wednesday, 23 May 2012.

His trip follows by several days a remarkable op-ed, authored by a distinguished group of Western leadership figures, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 16 May 2012. Meir Dagan, August Hanning, and R. James Woolsey are former heads of the intelligence services of Israel, Germany, and the U.S., respectively; Gen. Charles Guthrie is a former chief of staff of the British armed forces, Ms. Kristen Silverberg is a former U.S. ambassador to the EU, and Mr. Mark D. Wallace is a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. for management and reform. These people have joined together in a new initiative of the U.S.-based group United Against Nuclear Iran and the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue. The urgent purpose that animates all of them--Secretary General Amano, the P-5 + 1, and this group--is to persuade Iran's leadership to abandon its quest for a deliverable nuclear weapon before Israel, the U.S. or some combination of world powers decides that a military strike against Iran is the only way to halt its nuclear weapons program.

Disturbing Tendency 

What is so striking about all of these well-meaning efforts is their apparent foundation on the conviction that the Iranian leadership makes cost-benefit calculations the way Westerners do. Collectively, these authors are world leaders who represent some of the finest minds and real-world experience of their generation. And yet, their conviction that "it is still in Iran's interest to change course and address international concerns regarding possible military aspects of its nuclear program" betrays a disturbing tendency to presume that the Iranian regime somehow shares with them a common perspective about the objectives of governance and the conduct of foreign affairs. This is mirror-imaging of the most dangerous kind.

Because the stringent sanctions imposed on Iran by the international community demonstrably "are having a tangible impact" and causing serious damage to the Iranian economy, judgments are made that, at some point, the Iranian leadership will conclude that it is either unable or unwilling to continue its drive for a deliverable nuclear weapons capability. While measures such as recommend by the WSJ op-ed team--denial of access to the international banking system, shipping, and insurance coverage-- indeed could bring the Iranian economy to its knees if globally enforced, it is also just as likely that anticipation of such increasingly stringent measures would galvanize the Iranian regime to accelerate completion of its nuclear weapons program.

This is because a number of unsustainable assumptions underlie the sanctions plan. First and foremost is a failure to understand the ideological motivation that drives Iran's current leaders, from the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, himself to the commanders of the Iranian military forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its affiliated Qods Force, and the most influential clerics identified with Khomeini's revolution, such as chairman of the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Even though traditional Twelver Shi'ite doctrine holds that full-on jihad has been illegitimate since the Greater Occultation cut off communications with the Twelfth Imam (the Shi'ite Mahdi) in the 10th century and that pious Shi'a neither can nor should do anything to force Allah's hand (to send back the Mahdi or usher in the End Times scenario), it is precisely because Khomeini and his successors broke ranks in some ways with the historical, traditional Shi'a Islam--but reverted to it in others--that the current Tehran regime's quest for the bomb is so threatening. Realization that Iran is working on a potentially devastating pre-emptive capability to deliver perhaps just one nuclear bomb of the Super-EMP variety should lend the utmost urgency to our focus on this ideology.

State Sponsored Terrorism 

By institutionalizing jihad in the 1989 Iranian constitution as a policy of state to spread the Khomeini revolution, and designating the IRGC/Qods Force and a strategy of "striking terror into the hearts of the enemy" (Q 8:60) as the means to accomplish that, Tehran's mullahs clearly challenge traditional Twelver doctrine in a number of ways. For example, even as Khomeini cracked down on the Hojatieh Society (established in the 1950s to counter Bahá'í beliefs) because its members presumed to expedite the return of the Twelfth Imam, he also permitted his own followers to bestow on him the title of "Imam," which would have been blasphemous for anyone else (although Khomeini never claimed actually to be the Twelfth Imam). In fact, Khomeini's ideology more accurately may be described as an extrapolation of traditional Shi'ite thought about the necessity of an all-powerful "Guardian Jurist" to guide Shi'a society in the period of waiting for the return of the Mahdi; but in arguing for an activist, frankly jihadist Imamate in the interim, he allowed the Shi'ite clergy significantly to stretch earlier bounds of theological inquiry and scholarship.

In other ways, Khomeini's personification of the all-powerful Guardian Jurist hearkens back in time, for example, to the 16th-century figure of Muhammad al-Baqir Majlesi, who was one of the most powerful and influential Shi'a clerics of all time. In his position as Sheikh al-Islam (Islamic Leader of the Land), a title given him by the Safavid ruler Sultan Husayn, al-Baqir was tasked with imposing Shi'a Islam on a Persian population theretofore Sunni. Certainly, Khomeini's visceral Jew-hatred echoes that of his forbear. Under the rule of Khomeini's successor as supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, though, it has been but a short ideological leap from "preparation" for the imminent return of the Mahdi to Ahmadinejad's fervent formulation of "let my words and deeds hasten the return of the 12th Imam." The Iranian president's apparent fixation on his own role as a central figure in the Mahdi narrative and quarrels about this with Khamenei, however, should not obscure the very real devotion to that same narrative by the supreme leader, who sees himself as the mythical "Khurasani Sayyed," foretold in the Shi'a ahadith as the leader who prepares the way for the 12th Imam.

One of the most revealing glimpses the West has seen of this deeply internal Iranian worldview came to light by way of Reza Kahlili, the pseudonymous former IRGC Pasdar and CIA recruited agent, who obtained a copy of a disturbing Iranian video whose title translates as "The Coming is Upon Us." Produced by Ahmadinejad's office and screened for the supreme leader to apparent acclaim followed by wide distribution among the ranks of the IRGC, this film lays out the conviction of Iran's current leadership that the 12th Imam will return during their tenure in office and that they will play a central role in the cataclysmic events attendant to his reappearance on earth.

Unsustainable Assumptions

This brings us back to the unsustainable assumptions upon which current sanctions strategies appear to be based. Obviously, the current Iranian regime and a significant percentage of its power centers operate at least to some extent under a set of ideological beliefs all too often dismissed out of hand by "rational" Westerners, whose confidence that they can understand and even influence the behavior of these adversaries in ways that will deter them from acts hostile to U.S., Western, and international interests may be disastrously misplaced. Another unsustainable assumption about the existence of somehow "universal" definitions of national-level reason and rationality that inevitably must lead to a rejection of violent solutions fails to take into account how doctrinally inspired mindsets deliberately can implement policy that appears to all outside the inner circle militarily impossible or even knowingly suicidal (ideologically driven martyrdom).

None of this is to assert that the current Iranian regime is definitely, without any doubt, a "suicide bomber in macrocosm," as Louis Rene Beres, professor of political science and international law at Purdue University, would put it. It is to acknowledge, however, that irrationality and barbarism quite routinely overwhelm more idyllic visions of human nature. Jihadis around the world almost daily choose to place their individual human mortality on the sacrificial altar to a deity they believe promises in return both personal immortality in Paradise and the survival and triumph of Islam on earth. Not confined to the totalitarian paradigm of Islamic metaphysical belief, apparent irrationality occurs in the secular but equally totalitarian world, too: during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro actually urged Moscow to initiate nuclear war with the U.S. rather than give in to President Kennedy's demands to remove its missiles, in the full knowledge that retaliatory strikes from the U.S. would obliterate Cuba.

Difficult as it may be for those who see themselves as enlightened thinkers of the 21st century to accept that a totalitarian dictatorship, whether of the Islamic or secular variety, may be willing to sacrifice not just its own people (economically or existentially), but its own very existence, in the quest for an ideological higher value, when dealing with this Iranian regime, it is imperative that we do so. Supposing that Khamenei or his Islamic revolutionary cohorts can be convinced by any means to abandon the quest for what has been the sine qua non of their 33-year reign of power--the acquisition of deployed nuclear weapons with which to impose their will upon and perhaps annihilate their ideological enemies-- is not realistic. While increasingly harsh economic sanctions may well convince the mullahs that their window of opportunity to complete Iran's nuclear weapons program is closing rapidly, it does not follow that such a realization would convince them to relinquish the quest. Quite to the contrary, that realization would more than likely spur them to accelerate the program with every resource at their disposal to achieve what they seek before it gets even more difficult. Additionally, it must be noted that the regime's firm belief in its own place in the Shi'ite eschatology of the 12th Imam also comes with temporal boundaries. Ahmadinejad's term of office ends in 2013.

The bottom line is this: the Iranian regime cannot, by any means, be induced to give up its intent and motivation to "get the bomb." Intent cannot be changed. But the regime can and should be.

Global Markets Plunge Over Greece, China

Concerns about China's economy and worries over Greece and a possible euro zone breakup caused anxious markets to fall Wednesday. Read more.

London Mining Ships Iron Ore From Sierra Leone to Europe, China

Sierra Leone's mining boom shows no signs of slowing.

London Mining today announced that it is on track to hit its full year target of 1.5 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate output at the Marampa mine in Sierra Leone. The UK-listed company said it produced 300,000 dry metric tonnes of iron ore in the first quarter of 2012 and shipped over 230,000 dry tonnes to Europe and China, thanks to a mine-to-ship logistics plan that worked as designed.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor, deputy chairman of London Mining, told shareholders at the company's AGM that the ore was shipped in five Supermax vessels, four of which went to China and one to Europe.

The Marampa project began producing iron ore--the raw ingredient for steelmaking--in December. The
ore output is forecast to rise to 3.5 million tons in 2013 and 4.6 million tons in 2014.

A Supermax bulk carrier has a size from 50,000 to 60,000 DWT (deadweight tonnage) and can be as long as 200 meters, or 656 feet.

Bo's Downfall May Alter China's N. Korea Policy

An expert believes the ouster of Bo Xilai could help China to push North Korea towards reform and a cessation of provocative acts. Read more.

This reporter is skeptical. While it is true that Bo is considered a neo-Maoist and a member of China's New Left, he was, until his downfall, essentially a privileged princeling (he's the son of Bo Yibo, one of the Eight Immortals) who used nostalgia for Mao to advance his career and amass wealth for himself, his family and his cronies. The struggle between China's so-called leftists (ironically referred to by western media as reactionaries) and reformers is really a fight over the future of bloated, state-run enterprises. Bo and his allies and followers wanted to maintain control over the companies in order to provide jobs for their constituencies and to milk them for personal profit; the reformers are eager to privatize--or piratize--the companies for personal gains. Mao and Marxism have nothing to do with any of this.

Endnote: Linking Bo to North Korea smacks of disinformation--a case of Chinese Communist Party officials seeking to further discredit the disgraced Bo by feeding foreign friends what they want to hear.

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

North Korea Upgrades ICBM Launch Pad

Amid nuclear test concerns, Iran's proliferation partner has upgraded a launch pad to accommodate larger, longer range, intercontinental ballistic missiles. Read more.

Tsipras: German Medicine is Poison for Greece

Alexis Tsipras, who heads the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in Greece and could emerge from the country's next round of elections as prime minister, traveled to Berlin to deliver a blunt message to policymakers: Germany's austerity medicine is wrong for the Greek patient; increasing the dosage could be catastrophic for Greece and for the entire euro zone. Read more.

SYRIZA is a coalition of leftwing Greek political parties that includes democratic socialists, green groups, and Maoist, Trotskyist and eurocommunist organizations.  As the president of Synaspismos, the largest party in the coalition, Tsipras, a former Communist youth leader, is its parliamentary leader.

Related: Beginning of a Revolution?

N. Korea Vows to Boost Nuclear Deterrent

North Korea on Tuesday vowed to beef up its nuclear deterrent in response to U.S. diplomatic pressure over its forthcoming nuclear test--which the North dismissed as U.S. propaganda. Read more.

The North has ramped up work on its nuclear test site, as shown by an analysis of satellite images.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mission Impossible Director Posits Post-Electricity America

J. J. Abrams Produces TV Series Set 15 years After EMP Event

Read more. Learn more
Related: EMP - Not If, but When

Why the Euro May Survive, After All

Breakup of the euro zone--fears of this happening may be overblown. Germany is more likely to fold in the current showdown than Greece. Read more.

Sierra Leone's Future Sparkles as Recovering West African Nation Puts 'Blood Diamond' Past Behind it Amid Modern Mining Boom

Israeli Firm Starts Stone Crushing Plant at Well Managed Diamond Mine 

There are no more "blood diamonds" in Sierra Leone; instead, there are pockets of prosperity and an overriding sense of optimism as foreign investment pours into modern mining operations and other sectors of the economy, including construction and road building. Read more.

Sierra Leone is one of Africa's great success stories. The country's potential is truly tremendous.

Again, Pyongyang May be Planning to Mar US Memorial Day

Next N. Korean Nuclear Provocation Could be Set for Monday, May 28

North Korea may be preparing to again attempt to overshadow the long U.S. Memorial Day weekend, traditional start of the summer vacation season in the United States, by again detonating an atomic device on the holiday, which will be observed this year on Monday, May 28. Simply signaling that a nuclear explosion is imminent would mar the holiday for the Obama administration, which has tried to engage the North, but, like its predecessor, the Bush administration, has failed to put an end to Pyongyang's provocations, including illegal nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests and acts of armed aggression against U.S. ally South Korea.  

Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday that is observed annually on the last Monday of May. The holiday originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers (although there is evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves of Confederate soldiers before the conflict's end). Memorial Day has since been extended to honor all Americans who have died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

The U.S. suffered 33,686 battle deaths, along with 2,830 non-battle deaths during the Korean War and 8,176 missing in action, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

The U.S. keeps some 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea as a deterrent against a North Korean attack on the South.

North Korea's second and last confirmed, or overt, nuclear test took place on a U.S. Memorial Day, May 25, 2009. The North's first nuclear test, on October 9, 2006, was timed to spoil the U.S. Columbus Day holiday. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The North is believed to have conducted two covert nuclear tests in 2010. According to published accounts from EU scientists, the explosions bore all the radio-isotope signatures of uranium-based fusion devices, which could be used in electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attacks.]

Endnote: A new North Korean provocation this Memorial Day or this Fourth of July--it hardly matters. What matters most is the failure of the international community to prevent the Kimist regime from defiantly continuing to commit nuclear and missile crimes. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, the impotence of the international community makes the term seem meaningless. If it can't contain impoverished North Korea, a country (or country-sized concentration camp) with few natural resources that survives on smuggling, counterfeiting and foreign aid--China supplies most of the North's food, fuel and weapons--what reason is there to believe that the international community can contain Pyongyang's partner in proliferation, oil-rich Iran?

Iranian Nuclear Experts Ready to Observe Blast?

On that note, Foreign Confidential™ analysts say Iranian nuclear experts will observe the North's next nuclear test, just as they have witnessed previous blasts (and just as Iranian missile experts have observed the North's ICBM launches). Foreign intelligence services might have already detected the presence of an Iranian delegation in the North; hence, a flurry of activity aimed at persuading Pyongyang to cancel the test. VOA reports that Glyn Davies, Washington's special envoy for North Korea policy, and other U.S. officials plan to meet Tuesday in Beijing with China's chief nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei. The U.S. delegation will then head to Japan on Wednesday for talks in Tokyo. Also on the Asia trip: the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Japan and Korean Affairs, Jim Zumwalt; Ambassador Ford Hart, the State Department's envoy in charge of the long-stalled six-party talks about North Korea's nuclear programs; and the Korea policy chief at the White House, Syd Seiler, who spent nearly 30 years in the intelligence community focused on North Korea.

Meanwhile, there are escalating tensions between Tokyo and Seoul--at the worst possible time, given the North Korean threat--and the development constitutes a major setback for the Obama administration's foreign policy "pivot" towards Asia. Click here for the report.

Related: US Warns N. Korea Against Another Nuke Test 

Copyright © 2012 Foreign Confidential™

Commentary: Iran Committed to Developing Nuclear Arms

Stalling … smoke and mirrors … explosive experiments. Iran's nuclear program has only one real purpose: weapons. Read more.

Gunmen For and Against Assad Clash in Beirut

Conflict Spilling Over into Lebanon 

Lebanese officials say heavy clashes have killed at least two people in Beirut, increasing fears that the conflict in Syria is spilling into its western neighbor.

Officials said gunman clashed in the capital's Tariq al-Jadideh district Monday. Fighters cut off roadways and and fired machine guns early into the morning.

The violence between Lebanese Alawites supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Sunni Muslims sympathetic to the Syrian opposition comes a day after Lebanese troops opened fire on a speeding car carrying a Sunni cleric through a military checkpoint. The shooting killed cleric Ahmed Abdul-Wahid and his aide, who were both members of Lebanon's anti-Assad alliance.

The Lebanese military issued a statement of "deep regret" and said an investigation of the incident has been launched. The cleric's supporters protested his death by burning tires and blocking roads in parts of northern Lebanon.

Fighting between pro- and anti-Assad groups in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli has killed at least eight people in the past week.

In Syria, activist say security forces attacked a rebellious town in the country's central province of Hama Sunday, killing 34 people, including children.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says government artillery and gunfire hit the town of Souran. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

'German Austerity Means Global Catastrophe'

Britain's Ed Balls: Berlin Must Change Course

Bloomberg reports:
The global economy faces a “catastrophe” unless Germany eases pressure on euro-region nations to cut spending, said Ed Balls, finance spokesman for Britain’s main opposition Labor Party.     
“Somebody’s got to persuade Germany that this is a catastrophe for Britain, Europe and the world and Germany’s got to change course,” Balls said in an interview with Sky News television today.    
Read more. Click here for the transcript. This reporter's view: German democracy is one of the great postwar success stories; and the importance of Germany's friendship with the United States--and support for Israel--cannot be overstated. But the country that embraced and backed Hitler's mad dream of world domination and genocide--and would probably have been conquered by Stalin had it not been for the U.S. policy of containment--should feel a special responsibility not to wreck the global economy. After two world wars and the destruction that Germany brought to millions of Europeans, there is something especially odious about the spectacle of a chancellor in Berlin lecturing--and essentially threatening--Greece, where memories of the German jackboot are still very much alive.

Related: Thousands March in Frankfurt Against Austerity
Local Italian Vote to Test Anti-Austerity Movement

Czech Prime Minister Strongly Supportive of Israel

Necas: Israel’s Situation Recalls Czechoslovakia’s in the 1930s 

Click here to read the Jerusalem Post story; below, to watch the joint news conference of the Czech and Israeli prime ministers.

The full text of the Czech Republic news release on the meeting via IsraPundit:

Prime Minister Petr Necas today held talks with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu. Members of both countries’ governments then participated in a joint meeting.
“We have assured the Israeli delegation of our support for Israel. We support the development of relations between our two countries, as well as relations between the EU and the State of Israel, which we believe are highly beneficial to both parties,” remarked Prime Minister Petr Ne?as after the meeting. 
“We categorically reject the de-legitimization and any boycott of Israel. We unequivocally support Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist attacks. Together we share the global concern about Iran’s nuclear programme,” said the Czech prime minister. 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Czech stance, noting that few nations are able to understand that only a secure Israel can achieve peace. “Israel has no better friend in Europe than the Czech Republic. The friendship between the Czech people and the Jewish people goes back a thousand years. We are both ancient nations, we value our past and cherish our values, but we also want to seize the future,” said the Israeli prime minister. 
“Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we believe that lasting peace can only be achieved if both parties negotiate directly. The Czech Republic does not back unilateral actions, which have no contribution to make to the peace process. A stable solution must be based on the principle of two states that are borne of the right of the Jewish and Palestinian people to self-determination and that will live side by side in peace,” said Prime Minister Ne?as. 
Czech Republic and Israel Cooperate on Science and Research 
The joint meeting of the Czech Republic and the State of Israel, the first of its kind, was organized following an invitation extended by Czech Prime Minister Petr Ne?as to the Israelis during his visit to Israel last September. The main topics of discussion included mutual economic relations, culture and mutual cooperation in education and research and development. “We want to share with you our high technology, but also learn from you, your vocational training, your industrial design and see how you are progressing in these areas,” said Netanyahu. 
A central theme of the talks was reciprocal trade and economic relations, which have evolved and grown significantly from the perspective of both exports and imports since the independence of the Czech Republic. Mutual trade turnover has registered strong expansion in the past few years in particular. Last year, for example, there was a 10% increase on 2010. 
Israel has long been the Czech Republic’s most important partner in the Middle East. By total volume of Czech exports, it is fifth among non-European countries. 
Another matter discussed today was research and development cooperation, which has also been on the agenda of the two prime ministers’ previous meetings. A subject of particular interest is the ministerial agreement on the Gesher/Most Programme, signed by the education ministers on a previous occasion. Under this programme, Czech and Israeli companies are able to cooperate on research projects and experimental developments for commercial use. 
At today’s meeting, the two countries’ prime ministers signed a joint statement confirming the friendship and historical partnership between the Czech Republic and the State of Israel, their lasting reciprocal support, mutual respect for the sovereign status of the two countries and recognition of the common political, defence and economic needs of both countries. 
At the post-meeting press conference, foreign ministers Karel Schwarzenberg and Avigdor Lieberman signed a joint declaration aimed at extending and deepening dialogue between the two countries. This document will form the basis, among other things, of regular meetings of foreign policy and security experts and researchers. 
Other agreements signed between the Czech Republic and the State of Israel also concerned arrangements ensuring wider access to the Czech-Israeli transport market, greater air transport flexibility and themes touching on restoration, reconstruction and affordable housing. The education ministers also agreed on joint Czech-Israeli projects on basic research in neurodegenerative diseases and advanced programming. 
The Israeli prime minister brought seven Israeli government ministers with him for the talks with their Czech counterparts. Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, industry minister Shalom Simhon, science and technology minister Daniel Hershkowitz, social affairs and communications minister Moshe Kahlon, transport minister Israel Katz, construction minister Ariel Atias and cultural and sports minister Limor Livnat came to Prague, where they also held separate bilateral meetings with their Czech ministerial counterparts. 
The Czech delegation, headed by Prime Minister Petr Ne?as, was represented at the joint meeting of the Czech and Israeli governments by foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, industry and trade minister Martin Kuba, education minister Petr Fiala, labour minister Jaromír Drábek, transport minister Pavel Dobeš, regional development minister Kamil Jankovský and culture minister Alena Hanáková.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

North Korea Defies Sanctions

Luxury Goods Flow In, Weapons Flow Out

North Korea--the world's worst dictatorship and Iran's number-one proliferation partner--continues to defy sanctions, according to UN Security Council diplomats. Read more.

Related: Iran Insists Sanctions Haven't Worked Yet Demands Measures End Ahead of Talks

Merkel's Meddling Irks Greece

Again, Berlin blunders.

Germany's austerity-obsessed Chancellor Angela Merkel clearly tried to intervene in Greek politics. When her heavy-handed attempt failed--in fact, it backfired--she denied the whole thing.

Read more.

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Overlooked, Disturbing Irony

Ironically, Europe, which, has strong socialist and trade union movements, has embraced disastrous, draconian austerity measures. The measures have backfired terribly--austerity hasn't actually worked anywhere--which is why Europeans are rising up and voting out incumbents.

Even though it has basically crushed organized labor and weakened the middle class to an alarming degree, the United States, in contrast with Europe, wisely opted for a stimulus--albeit a feeble one--as opposed to spending cuts during the biggest bust since the Great Depression. Thus, although it, too, is in poor economic shape, the U.S. has so far avoided the pain and misery that threatens Greece and Spain with economic ruin and massive social instability.

Sierra Leone Luring Back Tourists to its Beaches

Fran Blandy reports: "Bone-white sand squeaks beneath your feet, the curved beach framed by lush forested hills, empty but for a handful of expats and intrepid tourists who have got wind of Sierra Leone's raw beauty."

Read more

Probably offering the greatest potential in the tourism industry, the beaches along the Freetown Peninsula are breathtaking; and, because tourism is still a developing industry in Sierra Leone, the beaches are not overwhelmed with visitors. Most are still in pristine condition.

International Investors Plan Euro-Style Beach Club
and Reality TV Series to be Launched on Facebook

Foreign Confidential™ has learned that an international investor group is developing a novel plan for a European/Miami-style beach bar and restaurant in Sierra Leone and a companion, Internet-based reality TV series. The program, which would launch on Facebook, would feature a team of young entrepreneurs and deal with the challenges and rewards of creating a cool, environmentally friendly tourist business in a developing nation. The pitch to investors: they get equity in both the tourism and media properties.

More…. Click below to watch a documentary-style promotional video about a non-profit venture (no relation to the above-described Freetown project) that is developing a seasonal, socially conscious, earth-friendly community on a beautiful but remote Sierra Leone beach--a kind of eco-tourism time share experience--alongside a fishing village located 20 miles south of the capital. The Sierra Leone government is pushing eco-tourism, seeing mass tourism as essentially destructive to the environment and local communities and culture.

UN Chief Blames Al Qaeda for Syria Attacks

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes Al Qaeda is behind twin bombings in Damascus that killed 55 people last week.

The UN chief said Thursday that the terror group's involvement had "created again very serious problems." He also said Syria's death toll from 15 months of anti-government related unrest may have reached 10,000.

In a Friday news conference, the UN observer mission head, Major General Robert Mood, said an Al Qaeda  presence would be a "worrying development."

Related: Al Qaeda Role in Syrian Revolt Increasingly Apparent 

Israel Nearing Iran Attack Decision

Deadline Draws Near; Another June War?

The mood in Jerusalem is dark as Israel's political leadership "locks down" for what could be the hardest decision in the State's history. Read more.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Investor Alert: Alleged Chinese Reverse Merger Fraud

Reverse mergers are increasingly being used by many Chinese companies to publish false or misleading financial statements, which can result in the loss of billions of dollars in market value.

A Chinese company looking to trade in the U.S. and gain access to its capital markets may merge with a publicly traded U.S. shell company. By pursuing a reverse merger, the Chinese company is able to avoid the regulatory process required with an IPO (as the shell company has already undergone this process) and is able to gain access to U.S. capital markets within mere weeks of completing the reverse merger process.

Read more.

Likely Next Greek PM Lashes Out at Austerity

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which is expected to win new elections in Greece, described austerity as a "disease" that is destroying Greece and spreading to the rest of Europe.

He also called on Germany's chancellor to stop "playing poker with the lives of people." Read more.

A senior judge, Panagiotis Pikramenos, has been sworn in as Greece's caretaker prime minister to lead Greece until new elections on June 17.

US Envoy Says Military Option on Iran 'Ready'

While the United States prefers to resolve the Iran nuclear issue diplomatically, the military option is both "fully available" and "ready," the U.S. ambassador to Israel told the IDF radio station Tuesday in an interview that was aired today. Read more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

N. Korea Resumes Reactor Work

North Korea has resumed work on an experimental reactor that could enhance its ability to make nuclear weapons. Read more.

Latvia's Economic Growth Surprises Analysts

Austerity is increasingly--and understandably--a dirty word in Europe. But proponents of the unpopular measures are pointing to one (and apparently only one) seemingly unlikely success story: Latvia. Its 6.8% GDP growth in the first quarter of 2012 has exceeded all forecasts following the worst recession in Europe, when the country's GDP collapsed by nearly 25% in 2009-2010.

In related news, Latvia and China are pledging to boost military ties, and critics are accusing Latvia of being an unreliable NATO member.

Latvia joined the alliance in 2004, along with Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania. The last two nations to join NATO were Albania and Croatia in 2010.

Syria Still Leading Iran Arms Destination

Syria is still Iran's top destination for arms shipments in violation of a U.N. Security Council ban on weapons exports by the Islamist nation, according to a confidential report on Iran sanctions-busting. Read more

FBI Investigates JPMorgan as Shareholders Sue Bank

The FBI has opened a preliminary investigation of JPMorgan Chase, America's biggest bank; and two separate shareholder lawsuits have been filed (so far) over the minimum $2 billion trading losses, accusing the bank of excessive risk.

Click here for the FBI story and here for the lawsuit story. Again, it is worth noting that nobody, no matter how rich or famous he or she may be, relishes the thought of being questioned by men and women with guns and badges.