Middle East Security staff are in attendance at the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi this week.
The exhibition is one of the largest in the region and provides a showcase for defence and security sector companies. Held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, this year’s exhibition and conference culminates on Thursday 24 February 2011. We hope to see you there.
Co-operation is key to fighting terrorism
Last week’s terrorist attempts to send explosives from Yemen to the US in air cargo shipments cut to the heart of Middle East attempts to build the region into a global cargo hub.
Billions of dollars are being spent in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha to funnel the world’s trade through their redistribution centres, which include world-class airlines and deepwater ports, as well as huge planned and existing airports.
As a result, security authorities in the region face a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, they are aware that as their airports take a larger slice of global cargo and passenger traffic – in most cases taking business away from western hubs such as in Europe – they could be finding themselves exposed to “western” problems such as security threats.
On the other hand, Gulf states have always been in a tough neighbourhood of the world, and the level of stability and security that has been enjoyed by these countries is remarkable.
Last week’s bombing attempt was the second time in less than a year that Yemen-based extremists have attempted an act of terrorism against the US.
Last December, the world was introduced to the “underwear bomber”, Umar Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who was outfitted with explosives called pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) that were sewn into his undergarments while he was in Yemen.
Last Friday, the Yemen-PETN connection resurfaced. Explosives in packages addressed to synagogues in the Chicago area were discovered in the UK and Dubai.
The discovery led to a frenzied search for other devices.
The increasing use of PETN may be worrying for authorities because it is difficult to detect by conventional means. Many commercially produced explosives are injected with chemical markers to assist with tracing and taggants, which ensure the explosive is easier to detect through vapour systems.
But some explosives produced in other countries lack these, said Paul Burke, the managing director of Middle East Security, based in the UAE and the UK. This makes the work of law enforcement agencies more difficult, Mr Burke said.
Last week’s failed act of terrorism shows Yemeni terrorists are learning from earlier failures, much like a series of mistakes led to the eventual success of the USS Cole attack in 2000, he said.
“This attempt relied on the devices being transited on to a cargo aircraft, having been configured to detonate in mid-flight,” Mr Burke said. “It sends a message that al Qae’da is still in the fight and that they have modified their tactics in accordance with previously failed attempts.”
The underwear bomber did not fly on a Middle East airline, instead boarding a KLM flight from Lagos to Amsterdam, then flying with Northwest Airlines to Detroit.
Last week’s incidents are of greater concern to regional authorities because of the involvement of a Qatar Airways aircraft to transport the explosives from Yemen to Dubai through Doha. The explosives were eventually found at a FedEx sorting centre.
The UAE and other GCC states have invested heavily in their security apparatus to detect hazardous goods sent by air freight, and they have a solid safety record.
But the heroes of the day appear to be the Saudi intelligence services, which monitored security threats within neighbouring Yemen closely and passed on information that led to the discovery of the explosives.
Companies and governments have started to respond by clamping down on goods originating from Yemen. France and Germany have halted shipments from the country. In Germany, authorities have greater cause for concern after the explosives-filled parcel intercepted in the UK was shipped by a cargo plane flying from Cologne.
At the request of US authorities, Germany’s transport ministry reportedly asked DHL, the global logistics company, to bolster security around goods from Yemen at its centre in Leipzig.
Two of the largest American cargo companies are also beefing up security. UPS suspended cargo service from Yemen and said it was co-operating with authorities. FedEx, the world’s largest cargo operator, says it will also halt Yemeni shipments.
Yemen is thought to comprise only a small share of Middle East trade that is routed through the major Gulf airport hubs. Its major exports include coffee, dried and salted fish, crude oil and liquefied natural gas, according to the CIA World Fact Book.
This would suggest a clampdown on the exports would have only a minor effect outside Yemen, although it could stifle trade for Yemen itself. Yesterday Yemen’s civil aviation authority sought to ease concerns by announcing it was considering 100 per cent X-ray screening on goods.
What would have a more profound effect is if the week’s events led to a wholesale upgrade in the way cargo was processed at the likes of Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s largest hubs. In September, the airport handled 187,390 tonnes of cargo, an 11.3 per cent gain from the same period last year.
Raising the cost of doing business through Dubai, or the time it takes to process goods through the centre, could hurt Dubai’s competitiveness as a global cargo flow hub.
So far, the Dubai Police Department and the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority have not announced any additional screening, and analysts said governments would be wary of appearing alarmist. To date, shipments from Yemen are still being allowed into the UAE.
While the longer-term implications will unfold over time, the value of information sharing is the immediate and obvious lesson.
“The intelligence provided by the Saudi authorities was credible and timely, and is yet another example of the benefits of better intelligence-sharing between GCC countries,” Mr Burke said.
“The mechanisms and agreements exist – we just need to use them more productively.”
The following report was published by “The National” newspaper on 22 October 2010. Middle east Security contributed to this report. The full text is reprinted below:
“A new naval base in Fujairah will help to protect vital shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, analysts said yesterday.
The base is the strongest signal yet of the UAE’s commitment to protecting the area, which the Armed Forces called the “life vein” of the oil industry.
The inauguration on Wednesday came two months after a terrorist attack damaged part of a Japanese oil tanker on its way from Al Ruwais to Tokyo carrying 270,000 tonnes of oil. The tanker was attacked outside UAE waters, but highlighted the need for greater vigilance in protecting the area’s shipping lanes.
The Fujairah Naval Base is an “edifice” of the Armed Forces, the base’s commander said in remarks published on the state news agency, WAM.
“This location will allow the base to play its role in the strategic defence of the country’s land and waters,” the commander said, particularly in light of the “crucial strategic importance” of the Strait of Hormuz.
“The new base will further allow the UAE to project its maritime power to a greater arc of influence than previously,” said Paul Burke, a former military intelligence officer who briefed an audience at the The Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) on maritime security and is author of a new study on the maritime security of the UAE.
The base was inaugurated by Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed al Sharqi, the Ruler of Fujairah. The opening was attended by Hamad al Rumaithi, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces.
Some government circles have placed greater emphasis on maritime security this year. The ECSSR, a government thinktank, held a session recently on maritime security threats.
The Critical National Infrastructure Authority announced this month that they had included an air wing in their maritime security forces.
The multinational Combined Task Force 152 conducts maritime security operations in the Gulf.
“The base will contribute to raising the capabilities of the naval forces,” the commander said.
That role includes defending the country’s territorial waters and critical infrastructure, providing maritime security, protecting shipping lanes to and from the country and responding to natural and industrial disasters in the area.
It signals an expansion of the navy’s role in protecting oil installations and shipments and responding to crises such as oil spills.
“It has strategic significance whether in terms of location or goals, the most important of which is protecting the country’s coast and securing sea navigation in the Strait,” the commander said, calling it a “life vein” through which 60 per cent of the world’s oil is shipped.
The base is necessary to protect the country’s eastern borders, the commander said, including 70 kilometres on the Gulf of Oman.
“The maritime threats to the UAE cover a wide spectrum, and defending against these threats requires a comprehensive, joined-up strategy to ensure that no gaps remain vulnerable,” Mr Burke said.
These can include mines, covert divers that conduct sabotage operations, anti-ship missiles fired from the coast, and small boats fitted with explosives, in addition to oil spills and attacks on ships.
“The new base will be a significant, strategic asset to the UAE’s maritime security and it will be a welcome measure of reassurance to maritime traffic passing through the Straits of Hormuz,” he said.
It is estimated that 90 per cent of all Middle Eastern-produced oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, along with 31 million tons of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), which represents 18 per cent of global LNG supplies.
The UAE is a “choke point” for oil supplies, and the economic effects of a disruption in the supply could be devastating, Mr Burke said. Yemen lost almost $4 million a year in port and other fees after the attack on the USS Cole by al Qa’eda in 1999, he said”.
Buried in the code, experts found a concealed reference to the word “MYRTUS”, believed to refer to the Myrtle tree, or Hadassah in Hebrew. This was apparently the birth name of the former Jewish queen of Persia, Queen Esther whom the Bible describes as having persuaded her husband to launch a pre-emptive strike on Persian forces, before his own forces were attacked. The virus is most likely to have been introduced into the Iranian systems by a Russian technician, unknowingly, by means of a USB memory stick. The Bushehr and Natanz nuclear facilities are the most probable primary targets of the attack.
The STUXNET virus specifically targets SIEMENS-manufactured Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems which are employed for the controlling and monitoring of industrial processes. STUXNET has some unique and highly sophisticated characteristics, and it has still not been fully decoded, at the time of writing. The worm carries a sophisticated fingerprinting capability through which it can specifically identify the system which it infects. It then searches for its target system, constantly checking the parameters of what it sees, against the target parameters of the target system. This calculation is believed to take place once every five seconds. In this way, it waits until it has identified the exact target before launching its attack. Although specific details of this attack capability are unclear, experts believe that it most probably involves the worm achieving over-ride control of physical systems, and then forcing them to overwork, causing catastrophic failure and destruction.
The STUXNET worm is believed to be the first one identified to specifically target critical industrial infrastructure. It raises the stakes in the cyber-warfare field as it has proven the concept of attacking a nation’s Critical National Infrastructure by means of a specifically written virus.
Abu Dhabi has begun work on an ambitious Dh1.6 billion plan to create a stockpile of underground water supplies to provide it with resources in the event of a national emergency. The planned reserve would provide up to 40 million gallons a day for three months, according to the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company.
The plan could provide a safety net of upto 3 months’ water supply in the event of a catastrophic failure in the UAE’s desalination programme. Currently, more than 95% of the Emirate’s water supply comes from desalination, leaving this part of the Critical National Infrastructure vulnerable. Earlier this year, the Managing Director of Middle East Security gave a lecture on the terrorist threat to the UAE’s maritime security, as part of the Emirates Lecture Series. During the lecture, he highlighted the UAE’s absolute dependence upon these desalination plants and he described the array of potential terrorist threats to these vital installations. Examples of such threats included: the laying of underwater mines close to the entrance of the plants; infiltration by divers for the purpose of destroying critical nodes; internal sabotage conducted by staff infiltrated into the workforce; a deliberate release of oil in the Strait of Hormuz which would threaten the desalination plants, cause widespread environmental damage and could potentially close the vital shipping lanes, affecting the global flow of oil supplies.
From AP news:
A recent government raid on the offices of an Iranian opposition leader suggests that authorities may be preparing to haul the leaders of the country’s reform movement into court, analysts said.
Security forces stormed the office of former prime minister and 2009 presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi late Wednesday, confiscating documents and computers. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard also reportedly removed Mousavi’s bodyguards, some of whom have been with him for years, and replaced them with new ones from their own ranks.
News of the raid was published Thursday on Mousavi’s Kaleme news website .
Earlier this month the home of another opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, was raided, just before the state-sponsored Quds Day celebrations in support of the Palestinian cause. About 50 militiamen dressed in civilian clothes reportedly threw stones at the residence of the former parliament speaker, dismantled security cameras and splashed paint on the walls.
Both Mousavi and Karroubi ran in last year’s presidential election and the government has accused them of fomenting “sedition” after they led a series of protests over the disputed vote that coalesced into the Green Movement.
On Thursday, the Mehr news agency quoted prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi as saying Karroubi and Mousavi would be put on trial “once public opinion is ready.”
Analysts say they doubt authorities would arrest and imprison the two opposition leaders, but they may decide to tie them up in legal proceedings.
The raid on Mousavi’s office “cannot be considered a prelude to something more serious such as arrest,” said Reza Kavian, a Tehran political analyst. “The hardliners want to intimidate him.”
Authorities appear to be increasing pressure on Mousavi and Karroubi, with both reporting increased harassment by security forces stationed outside their homes and offices. Posts on Mousavi’s website and Facebook page, which is run by a supporter in Germany, report that anyone who comes to see him is questioned and forced to sign a paper promising not to return.
The renewed crackdown coincided with the start of the holy month of Ramadan in mid-August and may have been motivated by fear that traditional holiday gatherings could be used to mobilize the opposition. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently blamed opposition leaders for Iran’s lack of economic progress and diplomatic troubles over the last year, but did not identify them by name.
“Those who started the  sedition … dealt a heavy blow to the affairs of the country,” he said in a statement broadcast by state-run TV. “Had it not been for this sedition, various affairs of the country would have made better progress. They made the enemies hopeful and lifted hopes in those who are against the Islamic system and have formed a front.”
Despite his anger, experts say Khamenei is reluctant to try to arrest the opposition figures and make them into heroes.
“The supreme leader does not want them … to be arrested at this juncture,” Ahmad Bakhshayesh, a Tehran political scientist who teaches at Azad University, told The Times. “The hard-liners want to encourage Mousavi and Karroubi to show their enmity with the supreme leader, but Mousavi and Karrubi are cautious enough not to give them an excuse. “
The US Embassy in Jordan provided the warning about the Red Sea port of Aqaba, stating that there is credible evidence of a potential terrorist attack against Aqaba, within the next 48 hours (PM Wednesday 15 September to PM Friday 17 September 2010). The Embassy is urging US citizens to avoid both the Downtown and the Port areas of the city for the next 48 hours.
The following article was written by Micheal Theodolou, the Foreign Correspondent of the UAE-based daily newspaper “The National”. In this detailed study, he profiles the background of Hossein Shariatmadari, the Editor responsible for the verbal attacks upon Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (among others). Sahriamadari called for the French First Lady’s death earlier this month (August 2010), in retribution for her support for Sakineh Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned death. The original article can be found here and it is reproduced below in its entirety, with full acknowledgment to The National newspaper.
Given his sinister reputation and vociferous contempt for the West, US reporters who interview Hossein Shariatmadari are invariably surprised to find him humble, affable and even “courtly” in person.
Surprised because the ultra-radical editor-in-chief of Kayhan, Iran’s most influential pro-regime newspaper, is feared and loathed by many of his compatriots.
Critics of Shariatmadari, who was appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, view him as a dangerous peddler of conspiracy theories and a vicious character assassin who incites violence against the regime’s opponents – assertions he has robustly denied.
He also has made scurrilous accusations against reformists that have been used as evidence in Iran’s courts, analysts say.
Kayhan, which means universe, made headlines in the West last week when it branded Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, France’s first lady, a “prostitute” after she condemned the stoning sentence against an Iranian woman convicted of adultery. Two days later, the daily opined that Ms Bruni-Sarkozy deserved to die because of her “perverted lifestyle”.
Some compare the diminutive Kayhan editor to Joseph McCarthy, the Republican senator who led the witch-hunt in the US against suspected communist sympathisers in the 1950s. “He’s the attack dog for the intelligence and security services,” said Hadi Ghaemi, a New York-based Iranian human rights activist.
Shariatmadari spearheaded the regime’s virulent propaganda offensive against opposition leaders in the turbulent wake of the disputed presidential elections in June last year.
He penned a notorious editorial in early July 2009 accusing Mir Hossein Mousavi, the man millions of Iranians believe was the real vote winner, of being an American agent and called, unsuccessfully, for him to be tried for “horrible crimes and treason” along with Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s reformist former president.
Kayhan’s diatribe against Ms Bruni-Sarkozy dismayed Iran’s foreign ministry, which plaintively called on the Iranian media not to insult foreign dignitaries. That mild rebuke is unlikely to rein in Shariatmadari, who has headed Kayhan for nearly two decades.
As an adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei and his representative at Kayhan, the supreme leader’s imprimatur gives Shariatmadari, 61, virtual impunity. It also gives Kayhan influence well beyond its circulation, which is said to be about 70,000 in a country of 70 million people. The daily was first published in 1942 and once enjoyed a distinguished reputation – and much bigger readership.
As a young man, Shariatmadari planned to be a doctor and was studying medicine when he was jailed for life in his 20s for activities in support of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. He was freed when the shah was ousted in 1979, and served as a commander in the Revolutionary Guard during Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq.
The shah’s torturers are said to have ripped out Shariatmadari’s fingernails and smashed in his teeth. “However, this does not seem to have encouraged any humanitarian spirit in him,” Ali Ansari, an Iran expert at St Andrews University in Scotland, said in a telephone interview.
A persistent accusation against Shariatmadari is that he himself was an interrogator in the 1980s, a charge he denied in a 2007 interview with The New York Times, while he added that it was a job he happily would have done.
While more popular reformist dailies have been shuttered, Kayhan has never received as much as a warning from Iran’s Press Supervisory Committee, even when it upsets close aides of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which the daily generally supports.
Kayhan was taken to court last February on a defamation charge against the president’s controversial chief of staff. But Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei’s complaint that Kayhan had accused him of an “anti-national act” was promptly dismissed.
Other notable plaintiffs who, equally unsuccessfully, have taken Kayhan to court for defamation include Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights campaigner.
Yet “somebody can be prosecuted or taken to court because of the charges Shariatmadari raises,” said Gary Sick, an eminent Iran scholar and professor at New York’s Columbia University. “Shariatmadari is not in the least bit concerned about verifying facts or getting his story straight,” Prof Sick said.
He speaks from experience. Shariatmadari accused him last year of being a CIA agent. “Normally, I simply ignore silly accusations such as this,” Prof Sick wrote in his blog at the time. But Prof Sick felt compelled to speak out when Kian Tajbaksh, an Iranian-American scholar with a PhD from Columbia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying after a show trial in Iran last year.
One of the accusations against Tajbaksh – whose sentence was reduced to five years by an appeals court in March – was that he had been in contact with Prof Sick, “an agent of the CIA”.
“It’s one thing to make a statement in your paper, but it’s another when the judiciary accepts it without further evidence and uses it to prosecute people,” Prof Sick said in an interview.
Hadi Ghaemi, the Iranian-born director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), listed Shariatmadari as one of 15 “men of violence” who he accused of perpetrating the ferocious crackdown that followed last year’s disputed re-election of Mr Ahmadinejad.
It was an indication of the Kayhan editor’s influential standing that the others listed in the 36-page June report included police, military, intelligence and judiciary chiefs, as well as two high-ranking fundamentalist ayatollahs.
The ICHRI called on Ayatollah Khamenei to order an investigation into Kayhan’s “promotion of violence against peaceful protests” and its “accusations and libel against legal dissidents”.
In a telephone interview, Mr Ghaemi said: “Shariatmadari is not just influential as the editor of a national newspaper – he’s a mover and shaker in the intelligence circles and in the way that dissidents are looked at, analysed and repressed.”
The exercise is designed to enable the two navies to further develop mine hunting techniques in the warm, shallow waters of the Middle East, which form a busy and important maritime environment.
For the Royal Navy, it is also an opportunity for the Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force to direct a bilateral, multi-ship mine countermeasures task force at sea.
The British contingent consisted of two Hunt Class MCMVs, HMS Middleton and HMS Chiddingfold, and two Sandown Class vessels, HMS Grimsby and HMS Pembroke. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship RFA Lyme Bay has also joined the exercise as the afloat headquarters. The UK ships were joined by four ships from the US Navy’s Avenger Class – USS Ardent, USS Dextrous, USS Gladiator and USS Scout. Commander David Bence, Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force, said: “Sea mines and unexploded ordnance have the potential to cause great disruption to international shipping lanes, restricting freedom of the seas and damaging world economies. “The Royal Navy is at the forefront of mine countermeasure capabilities in experience, expertise and in technology. It is important that we maintain these capabilities across a range of different environments, from the cold Atlantic to the warmer coastal waterways of the Middle East.
“This exercise was an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to deploy an expeditionary mine countermeasures task force and battle staff in conjunction with international partners.” The four British MCMVs are forward deployed to Bahrain for several years at a time. They are maintained locally and crew members are rotated with counterparts in the United Kingdom on a regular basis. They are among several Royal Navy warships and auxiliaries operating in the Middle East region, undertaking maritime security operations such as counter-piracy and counter-terrorism alongside partner nations from NATO, the European Union Naval Force and the 24-nation Combined Maritime Force.
Although the “M.STAR” vessel’s owners immediately claimed that it had probably been hit by an external attack, this was initially dismissed by officials in the UAE and Oman who said that a freak wave was probably to blame, caused by an earth tremor which was recorded off the Iranian port of Bandar-e Abbas. Subsequent theories have included a collision with a US submarine, a mine strike and an attack with an RPG missile. A collision would result in significant scraping of the superstructure which is not immediately apparent in close-up photos of the damaged vessel. An RPG warhead would almost certainly have either detonated aganst the superstructure, leaving blast marks, or it would have penetrated the hull and detonated inside. Both an RPG attack and a mine explosion would leave significant forensic evidence on the vessel’s hull, which would be immediately identifiable by experts on the scene.
In 2000, a US warship, the USS COLE, was attacked by an Al Qa’eda suicide bomber in a small boat. The attack killed 17 US sailors, injured a further 39 and resulted in $250 million of damages to the ship.
The “M.STAR” tanker, carrying around 2.3 million barrels of oil, was heading out of the Straits of Hormuz towards the Gulf of Oman when it reported an explosion at the rear of the vessel. Initially the Japanese owners believed that the vessel may have suffered an attack, quoting a crew member who reported seeing a flash of light before the impact. The Omani Coastguard confirmed that a tremor had occurred in the region and seismological sources in Iran state that the tremor was measured at 3.4 on the Richter scale in the Iranian naval port of Bandar Abbas. Some crew members are believed to have suffered minor injuries and the vessel itself has reportedly suffered only minor damage to a number of access hatches and to one lifeboat. Specialist examination of the vessel’s superstructure will rapidly indicate whether or not the vessel was subjected to an external blast. The tanker is now heading for Fujirah port in the UAE, using its own engines, without assistance from the Coastguard.
The last significant maritime terrorism attack in the region occurred in 2002 when a French-owned oil tanker, the “MV Limburg”, was attacked by an Al Qa’eda cell, using a suicide boat.
For previous reporting on this issue, see Middle East Security news – Amiri defection
Amiri was described by US sources as a nuclear scientist involved in Tehran’s nuclear programme, a claim denied by Amiri and the Tehran regime. On his arrival at Tehran airport, Amiri was met by Hassan Qashqavi, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran. In a subsequent press conference, Amiri claimed that he had been abducted by CIA agents while undertaking the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia last year, adding that he was forcibly injected and awoke on a large aircraft. He has claimed that he was subjected to harsh mental and physical torture while undergoing CIA interrogation but says he revealed nothing to his interrogators.
In September 2009, the US, the UK and France revealed secret intelligence that Iran had been “building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years.” Amiri is believed to have spent some time working at the Qom nuclear plant. Amiri is believed to have provided IAEA inspectors with key details of the Ferdo nuclear site at Qom, immediately before the inspectors conducted a site visit there. During a covert meeting, Amiri is thought to have given the fine detail of the installation’s purpose and capabilities to the IAEA inspectors, enabling them to target specific areas about which they had the greatest concerns.
Prior to Amiri, the most high-profile Iranian defector was believed to be General Ali Reza Asgari, a founder member of the IRGC, and a deputy Minister of Defence, who disappeared during a visit to Turkey in 2007. Both Asgari and Amiri are allegedly successes of a targeted programme of enticed defections from Iran, known as the “Brain Drain”. Programme. This US-funded initiative aims to deprive the Iranian government of the targeted person’ knowledge and expertise, while at the same time, they incentivize defectors to provide intelligence on the progress of the Iranian nuclear programme. US sources state that Amiri received around $5 million for the information he provided on the Iranian nuclear programme, initially when he covertly provided intelligence to the US while working in Iran, and subsequently after he defected to the US where he was comprehensively debriefed by US officials.
Amiri’s release has been linked in media reports to a possible release of the three US hikers currently detained in Iran, but this has been strenuously denied by Tehran. The Iranian government is believed to have exerted significant pressure on Amiri’s wife to persuade him to return to Tehran. US sources state that Amiri defected to the US in a pre-arranged operation but after several months he became increasingly concerned for the welfare of his family, which eventually led to him suffering a nervous breakdown. It was this breakdown which apparently led to the scientist’s increasingly erratic behaviour, finally resulting in him voluntarily returning to Tehran.
Defectors returning to their own country, after providing intelligence to the other side, have historically been treated harshly, and in some cases, they have been executed. In 1986, IRA informer Frank Hegarty was murdered after returning to Northern Ireland following promises from senior IRA and Sinn Fein, that he would be safe. His mother reportedly received assurances that his life would be spared. In fact, Hegarty was abducted, tortured and executed and his body was dumped on a public road.
Amiri claims to have written evidence that he was held against his will in the US, and that he was not working co-operatively with US Intelligence agencies. It is certain that he will be fully debriefed by security elements of the Iranian government once the dust has settled and he has spent some time with his family. Questions remain over Amiri’s motive for returning. His family were left behind when he defected, common practice due to the significant logistical difficulties involved. A deal with the US would probably have hinted at the eventual relocation of Amiri’s family, dependent upon the quality and validity of the information he provided. Pressure upon the defector’s family can be a significant factor in tipping the balance of a defector’s mind in favour of returning home and in Amiri’s case, this may well have been the lever used by elements in Tehran to persuade Amiri to return to Iran.
The two men, Mayma Ytiming Shalmo (35) and Wimiyar Ging Kimili (31), were also convicted of membership of a terrorist organization, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The ETIM group has only been noted active within China but in July 2008, a group which called itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in several Chinese cities. These included bus explosions in Kunming and Shanghai. This group had also threatened to attack the Beijing Olympics. Some experts believe that the TIP was simply a “group of convenience” for ETIM, allowing it to conduct attacks without attributing responsibility to its main group. The US State Department asserts that in May 2002, two ETIM members were deported to China from Kyrgyzstan for allegedly plotting attacks on the U.S. embassy in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, as well as against other U.S. interests abroad.
The manufacturing of homemade explosives is a relatively simple process and with the exception of detonators, the majority of the necessary ingredients can be obtained legally. For many years, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) conducted terrorist attacks against targets in Northern Ireland, on the UK mainland and in Europe. They became experts in manufacturing homemade explosives from ammonium nitrate fertiliser and fuel oil. Potassium-based explosives have been a popular choice for homemade devices, and hydrogen peroxide has been a long-time staple ingredient. TATP and HMTD are both peroxide-based and have been used extensively in terrorist devices. Richard Reid, the “Shoe Bomber”, used TATP in the devices in his shoes. TATP is highly unstable and can easily result in premature detonations, killing the bomb-maker. An American student, Matthew Rugo, was killed when a container of home-made TATP exploded in his apartment, while another US student was killed when his backpack containing TATP is believed to have detonated prematurely, when he was outside a crowded football stadium in Oklahoma in 2005.
Much work is ongoing by the chemical industry to enable an invisible “chemical marker” to be added to certain substances, which enables the tracking and post-incident profiling of substances. The UK has a voluntary reporting mechanism for the chemicals industry. This encourages businesses to make a confidential report to Law Enforcement agencies, if they suspect that chemicals purchased may be diverted to criminal, terrorist or narcotic use. If the UAE does not operate such a scheme, it would certainly be a useful topic for further investigation.
The bombing of Dubai’s Dragon Mart would have generated immediate, wide-scale publicity for ETIM’s grievances and would have raised the issue of the Uighurs in the international media. The UAE has a reputation as a tolerant, multi-cultural society and the large, multinational conglomerates of the private sector know that this tolerant reputation draws people from all countries to work in the UAE. In the same way that the assassination of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, the HAMAS official, became a matter of UAE National Security, the planned attack against the Dragon Mart was also a National Security threat.
Those convicted of the attack claim that they did not intend to cause casualties, only to cause material damage, but their planned use of unstable, homemade explosives would have carried a significant risk that the device would have detonated prematurely. If this had happened in a public area, while the device was being transported to the attack site, it could have resulted in a high numbers of casualties and extensive damage. Such an attack would undoubtedly have an adverse impact upon the national reputation of the UAE and especially upon the reputation of Dubai, which relies heavily on its role as a global financial hub and as a regional centre for Middle Eastern business.
During the lecture, the MD spoke about the current weaponry used by terrorists and gave delegates a glimpse of the new generation of weapons coming onto the battlefield, two of which have successfully been used by anti-State groups in the last couple of years. In addition to the presentation, the MD will also be chairing the one-day workshop at the Summit, entitled “Enhancing Border Security Through A Clearer Understanding of the Terrorist Threat and the Intelligence-Gathering Capabilities of Terrorist Groups”. The conference brochure is provided here.
During the interview Mr. Larijani, a former nuclear advisor to the Iranian government, said
“if the Americans want to seek adventure, whether in the U.N Security Council or in (the U.S.) Congress, all the efforts of Turkey and Brazil will be in vain and this path will be abandoned. In this situation parliament will make a different decision over Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA”.
Iran is expected to provide a formal submission to the IAEA on Monday, giving full details of the recent nuclear fuel swap agreement brokered by Turkey and Brazil. Mr. Larijani previously held the post of Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council from 2005-2007 and is seen as an influential figure among Iranian conservatives.
Under the deal, Tehran has agreed to send 1200 Kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey. In exchange, 120 Kg of nuclear fuel, processed to 20%, will be provided for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), within 12 months of the fuel being transferred to Turkey. The Iranian media is lauding the deal as a major step forward in the continuing crisis between the Iranian government and large sections of the international community, regarding the opaqueness of the Iranian nuclear programme. A closer look at the agreement, however, shows that a lack of fine detail and the inclusion of intrinsic conditions in the Iranian proposal fall short of full compliance with international regulations for nuclear programmes.
The current agreement is an Iranian compromise to an agreement signed with the UNSC last October, under which Iran was to send its LEU to Russia, in return for French-manufactured nuclear fuel being supplied to Iran. Iran subsequently insisted on several major modifications to the agreement, one of which was the requirement for the fuel to be exchanged simultaneously, on Iranian soil. Ahmadinejad’s greatest fear was that Iran’s LEU would not be returned to it, once it had been sent abroad. One of the aims of the original agreement was to build in a delay of upto 12 months, to ensure that Iran could not continue significant progress towards the construction of a nuclear weapon, a key fear of the IAEA and major elements of the international community.
The October agreement was designed to be a confidence-building measure, within which both parties would make a mutual step towards further understanding. The October deal was proposed by the IAEA, based on international regulations for domestic nuclear fuel programmes. The current deal does not match those conditions. A senior diplomat from the EU, who is working on the Iranian nuclear issue, said:
“If they (Iran) are accepting what was originally proposed by the IAEA back in October, then fine, some progress might be possible….but if this is some new suggestion that goes in a different direction, then it would appear to be stalling… It would be quite wrong to present this as being important and a breakthrough (unless it is based on the IAEA proposal).”
Iran also insists that it will not cease its domestic enrichment programme, an issue which is a “red line” for both Tehran and the US Administration. Iran insists that it should be domestically allowed to enrich its own uranium, arguing that this is enshrined within the conditions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The P5+1 group, comprising the five permanent members of the UNSC (US, France, UK, China and Russia) together with Germany, insist that a cessation of domestic enrichment by Iran is a requirement under previous UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
The announcement of the deal came at the eleventh hour of stringent US efforts to gain agreement for a draft resolution among the permanent members of the UNSC, for a fourth round of international sanctions against Iran. Indeed, the Turkish-brokered deal is widely seen as being little more than an Iranian effort to spike the guns of the efforts to impose further sanctions against Iran. Knowing that the international community, and particularly the UN, do not work quickly, the Iranian regime has had notable successes in the last few years by showing a significant thawing of hardline policies at the last moment, thus frustrating efforts of its more vocal opponents on the world stage.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the Director of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, and also the Vice President of Iran, criticised the push for further sanctions, stating:
“They won’t prevail and by pursuing the passing of a new resolution they are discrediting themselves in public opinion“.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been the driving force behind the efforts to unite the UNSC permanent members behind a draft resolution for further sanctions. During a recent visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, she worked to gain an undertaking from the Saudi government that they would guarantee a significant supply of fuel to China, in an effort to reduce Chinese dependency on Iranian oil.
The tempo on the Iranian nuclear file is rising, as the situation develops. The publication of a NATO report yesterday revealed that Iran’s ballistic missile program together with their nuclear programme constitute a “major threat” to the security of the NATO alliance, which could result in NATO’s Article 5 being invoked. Article 5 underpins the entire NATO alliance, as it directs that an attack against one NATO member constitutes an attack against all members. The 55-page report, entitled “NATO 2020: ASSURED SECURITY, DYNAMIC ENGAGEMENT” stated:
“Iran’s efforts to enrich nuclear fuel, develop nuclear weapons designs, and stockpile long-range ballistic missiles could create a major Article 5 threat to the alliance in this decade. Iran’s conventional weapons programmes, especially its anti-ship cruise missiles, raise concerns about the security of critical maritime trading routes. Given the abundant international diplomatic activity focused on Iran and the obscurity of Teheran’s intentions, it is unclear whether the difficulties posed by Iran will multiply or diminish in the years ahead. NATO should do all it can to encourage the latter possibility, while preparing itself for the former”.
The report was written by a group which is led by the previous US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
The exercises will include launches of short and medium range missiles. Announcing the war games, the Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Hossein Salami stated: “This war game is not a threat for any friendly countries”. In a further comment which appeared to be a veiled threat, he also announced that “We want the world to know the importance of security of this region and the Islamic Republic’s undeniable role in this regard”. The exercises will involve combined-arms manoeuvres involving the Iranian army, navy, air force and IRGC units.
Around 40% of all oil traded globally passes through the Strait of Hormuz. Regionally, 90% of oil produced in the Middle East passes through this vital chokepoint, averaging around 17 million barrels per day (mbpd). In addition, 31 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG), or 18% of the global supply, also pass through it.
The war games come at a time of increasing tension in the Gulf region as the US administration attempts to exert increasing pressure on the Iranian regime, over concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme. Iran has consistently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, in the event that the US or Israel launches an attack against Iran. The impact of closing the Hormuz Strait would be enormous upon the already fragile global economy.
(See photos: area map of Baghdad showing Mansour district where the majority of foreign embassies are located; aerial photo showing Iranian embassy location; aftermath of the attack against the Iranian embassy in Baghdad)
One of the targets is believed to be the official residence of the German embassy. The Iranian Charge d’Affairs, Kazem Sheikh Forutan, said that no there were no casualties among Iranian embassy staff at the Mansour site, adding “fortunately none of the Iranian embassy employees have been hurt, but the embassy building is heavily damaged,”. There were also believed to be no casualties among the Egyptian embassy staff. It is not yet known whether any of the German embassy’s staff were among the casualties. The Headquarters of Ahmad Chalabi’s pro-Iranian party, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), was also caught in the blast of one attack close to the Syrian embassy. It is believed that a large number of security guards and employees of the INC were among the casualties.
The Managing Director of Middle East Security Ltd will be giving a presentation at the “3rd National Security Summit Middle East 2010: Counter Terrorism and Border Control” to be held in Abu Dhabi, from 13-16 June 2010.
The presentation is entitled “Terrorist intelligence capabilities and weaponry in the maritime sector” and will cover the following areas:
In addition, he will be chairing the post-conference workshop entitled “Enhancing Border Security Through A Clearer Understanding of the Terrorist Threat and the Intelligence-Gathering Capabilities of Terrorist Groups”. The workshop, lasting one full day, will cover the following topics:
A conference brochure can be downloaded here.
Shahram Amiri, a nuclear physicist, had been working at the Malek Ashtar University in Tehran when he visited Saudi Arabia to complete the Haj pilgrimage. Malek Ashtar University has close links with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, the official guardians of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. After Amiri’s disappearance, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, accused the US of kidnapping Amiri, and demanded his return. His wife and other close members of his family had demonstrated outside the Saudi Embassy in Tehran after his disappearance, demanding his safe return. She maintains that Amiri did not work for the nuclear programme in Iran. After his disappearance, Amiri’s wife told journalists that he had told her in a phone call that he had been questioned by Saudi police.
Last September, the US, the UK and France revealed secret Intelligence that Iran had been “building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years.” Amiri is believed to have spent some time working at the Qom nuclear plant. The defection will be seen as a significant achievement for the US Intelligence community’s efforts to gain a clearer picture of the covert aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme. While the defection of one scientist will not have a significant impact upon Iran’s strategic nuclear programme, the biggest impact will undoubtedly be Amiri’s ability to assist US Intelligence officials in filling in some of the gaps in their overall knowledge of the Iranian nuclear programme. Amiri is also believed to have provided IAEA inspectors with key details of the Ferdo nuclear site, at Qom, immediately before the inspectors conducted a site visit there. During a covert meeting, Amiri is thought to have provided the IAEA inspectors with the fine detail of the installation’s purpose and capabilities, to enable then inspectors to target the specific areas about which they had the greatest concerns. Prior to Amiri, the most high-profile Iranian defector was believed to be General Ali Reza Asgari, a founder member of the IRGC, and a deputy Minister of Defence, who disappeared during a visit to Turkey in 2007. Both Asgari and Amiri are allegedly successes of a targeted programme of enticed defections from Iran, known as the “Brain Drain”. Defections such as these have a twin-track benefit for the Intelligence agency which inspires such defections. They remove the individual’s expertise from an opponent’s key areas, such as Iran’s nuclear programme, and they are additionally invaluable in improving the Intelligence picture of their area of work.
During the interview with Iranian Student News Agency, Mr. Salehi mentioned that work would begin very shortly on two new plants, in the Iranian new year (March 21), adding that they would be “be built inside mountains”, similar to the facility in Qom. Iran is known to have recently manufactured equipment used to enrich uranium, yet the machinery has not been noted at any of the sites in which it would most likely be expected, including the facilities at Natanz and Qom. Iran maintains several small factories dispersed around the country, which manufacture equipment for its domestic nuclear program. The plants are considered reasonably well penetrated by foreign Intelligence services, and a flow of Intelligence has been produced about the capabilities and recurring shortages within these plants, derived from this penetration.
An update to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is currently being prepared by US Intelligence staff, to include the latest information on Iranian capabilities for enriching uranium. Key to that study will be a revised assessment of how long Iran would need to enrich sufficient uranium to create a warhead, and to weaponise it. The 2007 NIE created significant problems for the Obama administration, as it stated that Iran had probably ceased work on enrichment in 2003. The US government has had to devote a great deal of energy in clarifying exactly what the NIE meant, at a time when it could ill afford to divert energy away from the main business of garnering international support for further sanctions against Iran.
The US State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, (Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs), has said that initial newspaper reports carried “significant inaccuracies” and that “there’s nothing to take off the table”. He also mentioned that the US Government intends to concentrate on the financial holdings of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (known as the Pasdaran), in an effort to specifically target the Iranian regime and to minimise increasing the hardship of the Iranian population. In February this year, we reported on a new raft of US Treasury-imposed sanctions which targeted General Rostam Qasemi, a senior official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The sanctions also targeted four other companies connected to the Headquarters of the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya Construction: the Fater Engineering Institute, the Imensazen Consultant Engineers Institute, the Makin Institute and the Rahab Institute. In addition, the US froze Qasemi’s assets outside Iran, as part of the new financial penalties. The Khatam al_Anbiya company is alleged to funnel the revenues from its construction business back into the IRGC weapons proliferation programme. Other IRGC senior officials on the US list of financial targets include:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, in an effort to persuade the Saudi government to guarantee supplies of oil to China, in an effort to remove this particular financial angle from US-China negotiations. Although Crowley stated that he is “satisfied with the level of engagement of all countries involved in the contacts”, China remains opposed to sanctions against Iran. Although that visit was not widely seen as a major success, the latest intelligence provided by the energy derivatives sector is showing some interesting movements. In the first two months of this year, Iranian exports of crude oil to China fell by 37.2% compared to the same period last year. Iran has now slipped to fourth place in the league table of countries supplying crude oil to China. Saudi Arabia remains the major supplier and their supplies in the first two months of this year rose by 5.65%. Angola is the second-largest exporter, and the supply of Angolan crude oil to China increased by 71.6%. Russia, previously in fourth place, has also see a significant increase in their supplies to China, up 50.8% on the first two months of last year.
While the Obama administration may be tempted to see this as a sign of success coming directly from Clinton’s visit, energy market analysts say that there is no political pressure in the markets currently, to reduce imports of Iranian oil to China. They may, however, be used by Washington as a lever to show China that it can safely reduce imports of Iranian oil, without affecting China’s wider energy security.
Despite US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent efforts to bring China on board to the idea, China remains robustly resistant to the idea of sanctions against Iran, while Russia is more lukewarm. Included in the measures to be withdrawn are believed to be financial measures designed to place a stranglehold on the Iranian regime’s access to services of the global banking industry and the closure of international airspace and international waters to the national air carriers and shipping companies of the Iranian government. Further diplomatic horse-trading is expected from Hillary Clinton, in her efforts to garner the tacit support of both Russia and China to the principle of requesting UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against Iran.
The NOOR, based on the Chinese C-802 missile, has a stated maximum range of 200km but this test firing was launched at a target at a distance of 60 miles (95 kilometres). The JAMARAN is Iran’s first, domestically produced missile “Destroyer”. While Iran designates the vessel as a Guided missile Destroyer, Western and NATO countries classify the vessel as a Frigate. The JAMARAN has an estimated top speed of around 30 knots and is based on the British ALVAND-class frigates, of which Iran has several. It carries a Bell-214 helicopter which acts in close co-operation with the vessel’s sensors to conduct anti-submarine warfare. In addition, it carries 324-mm torpedoes, four SM-1 Surface-to-Air missiles (SAM), two 20mm and one 40mm cannon, and a 76-mm FAJR deck gun which can fire rounds to ranges of around 15 kilometres, at a rate of 85 rounds per minute.
The British government has announced it is expelling a senior Israeli diplomat from Israel’s London embassy, over Israel’s forgery of British passports used in the Dubai assassination of HAMAS official Mahmoud al Mabhouh.
The expulsion could not come at a worse time for Israel, already under pressure this week following the UN Secretary General’s expressions if his dismay at the living conditions of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, as well as US Secretary of State’s strong words to the AIPAC conference in the US, concerning the announcements to build a further 1,600 apartments for settlements in the occupied territories. An Israeli official recently described US-Israeli relations as being at their lowest point since 1975. Now UK-Israeli relations are at their lowest ebb since Margaret Thatcher’s government expelled Israeli diplomat Arie Regev for “activities incompatible with diplomatic duties”, the standard term used when a diplomat has been involved in espionage work. In 1987, the UK also banned a second Israeli diplomat, Jacob Barad, from returning to the UK. Both Israeli diplomats were strongly suspected of helping to co-ordinate activities for the Israeli MOSSAD agency inside the UK. Both diplomats were also suspected of having assisted MOSSAD in forging British passports. One of these instances of the diplomats’ activities in supporting MOSSAD operations only came to light when an Israeli embassy official accidentally left an Israeli Embassy envelope inside a telephone box in London, containing a total of eight, professionally forged British passports. When the envelope was handed in, the ensuing checks revealed the Israeli embassy’s involvement, a fact which Margaret Thatcher’s government did not take lightly.
In a frank statement to the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Milliband said:
“Given that this was a very sophisticated operation in which high quality forgeries were made, the Government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a State intelligence service. Taking this together with other inquiries and the link to Israel established by SOCA, we have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports. The Government takes this matter extremely seriously. Such misuse of British passports is intolerable. It presents a hazard for the safety of British nationals in the region. It also represents a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. The fact that this was done by a country which is a friend, with significant diplomatic, cultural, business and personal ties to the UK, only adds insult to injury. No country or Government could stand by in such a situation. I have asked that a member of the Embassy of Israel be withdrawn from the UK as a result of this affair, and this is taking place“.
(The full transcript of the speech made by David Milliband, British Foreign Secretary, is provided here). The senior Israeli diplomat is believed to be a senior MOSSAD official and his identity is expected to be learned within days. Following the Foreign Secretary’s statement to the House, the Foreign and Commonwealth office has upgraded its travel advice to urge UK citizens not to hand over their passports to Israeli officials unless absolutely necessary. The latest advice (available here) states:
“UK passport holders should be aware of a recent Serious Organised Crime Agency investigation into the misuse of UK passports in the murder of Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai on 19 January 2010. The SOCA investigation found circumstantial evidence of Israeli involvement in the fraudulent use of British passports. This has raised the possibility that your passport details could be captured for improper uses while your passport is out of your control. The risk applies in particular to passports without biometric security features. We recommend that you only hand your passport over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary“.
Israel’s Ambassador in London, Ron Prosor, commented “It is now our intention to strengthen the firm foundations of our relationship, which is vital for both our countries.”
The Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan, Masha’allah Shakeri, has expressed his surprise at Pakistani indifference to an Iranian offer to supply electricity to Pakistan.
In a deal signed in December 2008, Iran pledged top supply Pakistan with 1,135 MW of electricity, and included an offer to double that amount, should Pakistan require a greater supply. The deal was signed on the back of shortages in Pakistan of around 4,500 MW, which have resulted in power outages in some areas of Pakistan for upto 10 hours each day. Iran currently produces around 50,000 MW of electricity each year, exporting it to Afghanistan, Turkey and Armenia. Iranian electricity production is expected to rise by another 5,000 MW in the next couple of years as hydroelectric capacity increases.
Officially, explanations for Pakistani reluctance to engage with Iran include a lack of financial resources, the absence of necessary infrastructure and differences of opinion about the price of the electricity supplied by Iran. Following his meeting with Ahsanullah Khan, Pakistan’s stand-in Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Iranian Ambassador Shakeri stated “I’m perplexed. I can’t understand what’s wrong with the Iranian offer. Honestly we would like to go with Pakistan. Our objective is to address Pakistan’s immediate electricity needs. We are ready to build infrastructure. Our cooperation can even include financial assistance”.
This reluctance, however, can be viewed through the prism of the recent visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the region, in her efforts to bolster support for further sanctions against Iran. It is quite possible that Washington has offered Pakistan incentives and “sweeteners” to reject the deal, in a similar tactic employed by Clinton during her visit to Saudi Arabia. In her meetings with Prince Saud Al Faisal, Clinton sought to gain an undertaking from the Saudis to supply China with a guaranteed quantity of oil, thus reducing Chinese dependence on Iranian oil exports, and making it more likely that China would then relax its objections to further sanctions against Iran, at the United Nations Security Council. (For further reporting, see a previous news item from middle East Security Ltd, on Clinton’s visit to Saudi and its implications for sanctions against Iran).
Any petrol used after the subsidised allowance will cost the standard Iranian price of 40 cents per litre. Last week, a British newspaper reported that three major trading bodies had ceased supplying Iran with refined petrol, following US pressure. Glencore, Vitol and Trafigura were previously large-scale suppliers of refined petrol to Iran but have succumbed to pressure from the US government as it seeks new sanctions against Iran, due to Iranian non-compliance with international monitoring requirements regarding the Iranian nuclear programme. Iran’s current daily consumption of refined petrol is around 65 million litres, of which over 30% is imported. Despite holding the world’s third largest reserves of crude oil and also of natural gas, Iran is a net importer of oil as its domestic refining capacity is significantly below its extraction capability. The Head of Iran’s Fuel Management Committee, General Mohammad Rouyanian, informed Iranian agencies that the rationing was only for an initial period of three months. The Iranian Ministry of Oil has promised to increase production by 13 million litres per day. Around $US 20 billion of subsidies are to be removed at the start of the next Iranian financial year, after the cut was voted through in the Iranian Parliament this week. It is believed by many senior Iranians that the removal of these subsidies will have a severe, negative impact upon inflation, currently running at around 11%. Some Iranian officials believe that the subsidy removal could lead to as much as a tripling of inflation. President Ahmadinejad has been at loggerheads with the Iranian Parliament over who gets to control the money returning to government coffers from the subsidy cuts.
Details of the consignment of 195 “BLU-110″ and 192 “BLU-117″ bombs, to be shipped to Diego Garcia, were revealed on an open internet site used by defence contractors for tendering purposes. Ten crates of these weapons are due to be shipped shortly from Concord, California, to the US airbase by the Superior Maritime Services company in Florida, at a cost of $US 699,500.
The most powerful of the so-called “Bunker Buster” ordnance, the BLU-113 Super Penetrator, can penetrate concrete upto a thickness of 6m (20 feet). These weapons operate on the “camouflet” principle, which creates a cavern below the target, into which the target building falls, and is then subsequently buried by the resulting rubble and displaced earth. Diego Garcia is a part of the British Indian Ocean Territory but it has been leased to the US since 1971. The photos below show the post-detonation “camouflet” effect being created by a GBU-24 bomb, part of the BLU-109 series of bombs.
The US Department of Defense refused to comment on the matter.