President Bush


WASHINGTON — The United States lost a long battle when Russia, as it announced on Monday, delivered nuclear fuel to an Iranian power plant that is at the center of an international dispute over its nuclear program. Iran, for its part, confirmed on Monday plans to build a second such plant.

In announcing that it had delivered the first fuel shipment to the power plant, at Bushehr in southern Iran, on Sunday, Russian officials said that while the fuel was in Iran, it would be under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear monitoring agency for the United Nations. Russia also said the Iranian government had guaranteed that the fuel would be used only for the power plant.

The Bush administration took pains not to criticize the Russian move publicly, even expressing support for outside supplies if that led Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program.

“If the Russians are willing to do that, which I support, then the Iranians do not need to learn how to enrich,” President Bush said Monday. “If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there’s no need for them to learn how to enrich.”

But from the American standpoint, the timing could not have been worse, coming just two weeks after the release of a United States intelligence estimate that concluded that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The National Intelligence Estimate also concluded that Iran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, undercutting a central tenet of the Bush administration’s basis for maintaining international pressure against Iran.

Full article here.

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President Bush confronted questions today about the existence of a report saying that Iran had suspended its nuclear program in 2003:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — President George W. Bush said Tuesday that Iran remains a danger and refused to rule out a military attack, despite a US intelligence report saying Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

“The best diplomacy, effective diplomacy, is one in which all options are on the table,” Bush said one day after the new intelligence assessment which has reopened the international controversy over Iran’s disputed program.

Iran said the US report had vindicated its stance, while UN atomic watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said the document could help defuse tensions though he added that Iran must step up cooperation with his agency.

Bush was adamant. “Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon,” he told a White House press conference.

Full article here.  Meanwhile, at the summit of Gulf leaders in Doha, Qatar, Ahmadinejad attempted, not altogether effectively, to shore up his ties with Arab States:

DOHA (Reuters) – Iran went on a charm offensive in Qatar on Monday, hailing its debut presence at a summit of Gulf leaders as ushering in a new era of regional ties, but its Arab neighbours offered no immediate matching welcome.

In contrast to lengthy statements to reporters by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, U.S-allied Gulf Arab leaders were yet to react to Iran’s proposals for greater cooperation on economic and security issues at the two-day summit.

Iranian officials deflected questions regarding Gulf input into defusing the crisis over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“This era has changed and the time of threats has ended…Iran has chosen its path and from our point of view the nuclear issue has ended,” Ahmadinejad told reporters, referring to the West’s plans to impose further sanctions on Iran.

See full article here.

Jacques Couvas, over at IPN, gives an interesting analysis of talks between Turkey and the U.S. over Turkey’s threatened invasion of Northern Iraq:

… Each one of the allies, Turkey and the United States, possesses something the other party wants.

Ankara needs to secure stability on its south-eastern flank at a time of unprecedented economic growth and growing demand for energy. In addition, it is betting on the Bush administration’s support to scrap the U.S. House of Representatives’ plan to declare as genocide the 1915-1916 massacres of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkey.

Washington, on the other hand, wants to keep its supply routes to Iraq open, and also convince Turkey to abstain from developing a close relationship with Iran. So, some bargaining has already started.

The meeting on Sunday probably marked its kick-off. For the moment, however, the most likely U.S. course of action seems to be to tolerate a few rounds to be fired by TSK at the borderline mountains, already vacated by PKK, and persuading Erdogan’s government and Massoud Barzani’s northern Iraqi autonomous authority to put aside bitterness and find a creative compromise.

There are other factors that neither Bush nor Erdogan can overlook. For instance, the Arab states are becoming increasingly suspicious of Turkey’s real motives to attack northern Iraq, whose ownership of oil fields it has claimed in the past.

The Arabs, who endured a 500-year long Ottoman rule until the end of World War I, see the development of Turkey into a regional military and economic power as a bad sign, and even fear a Turkish permanent occupation of other Iraqi provinces. Only the U.S. can convince both camps to abstain from any initiatives that might be detrimental to the regional balance of power.

But right now, Iran is at the centre of interest, both for Ankara and Washington. The former has in recent months set the stage for a rapprochement with the Shia state. This looks part of a larger plan by Turkey to become a significant player in the Muslim world and particularly in the Middle East.

As negotiations with the European Union for membership are stalling, common citizens and think-tanks alike are pleading for a change of direction as a suitable alternative to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s doctrine of looking towards the West. Ataturk was the founder of the Turkish republic.

In July, Turkey and Iran signed, against protests by the U.S., a memorandum of understanding that would pave the way to 3.5 billion dollars of Turkish investment in Iran’s South Pars gas field.

Iran, in return, has given proof of its friendship by clamping down on PKK separatists living in the country, and by offering mediation in the northern Iraqi crisis. This proposal was politely turned down by Ankara on Saturday, after a quick visit there by Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Mottaki has on occasion accused the U.S. and Israel of conspiring to form an independent Kurdistan, uniting around 25 to 30 million ethnic Kurds living in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.

Although the plans of the United States on this are difficult for the moment to fathom, friendly relations with Iranian Kurds are part of the U.S. State Department’s strategy to keep Tehran in check.

In spite of the Bush administration’s classification of PKK as a terrorist group and its promotion on Monday to “common enemy for the U.S. and Turkey”, Washington has stopped short of outlawing the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), an extension of the PKK based in Iran. Turkish Kurds fleeing northern Iraq will, in the minds of U.S. strategists, gross up PJAK’s ranks and give a hard time to the Iranian regime.

… William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II … or was it Pervez Musharraf?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 6 — In a telephone address to lawyers in Pakistan’s capital, the ousted chief justice of the Supreme Court urged the lawyers today to continue to defy the state of emergency imposed by the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. In the second day of protests, police arrested 50 lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore and clashes broke out between hundreds of lawyers and Pakistani police in Multan.

“The lawyers should convey my message to the people to rise up and restore the constitution,” the chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, told dozens of lawyers before his cellular phone line was cut. “I am under arrest now, but soon I will also join you in your struggle.”

It was unclear how Chief Justice Chaudhry, who is under house arrest, was able to gain access to a telephone. He and other lawyers said they hoped to recreate the protest campaign they carried out this spring when the lawyers mounted big rallies in major cities after General Musharraf removed Chief Justice Chaudhry from the Supreme Court bench. He was reinstated after four months, and then fired again on Saturday.

Full article here (registration required).  President Bush drew a lukewarm “hard line” against Musharraf’s decision to declare martial law in Pakistan in response to terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists:

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush took a hard line with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Monday, demanding he relinquish his military duties and return the country to civilian rule.

The White House, using tough rhetoric against a strategic ally in the war on terrorism, also called on Musharraf to release hundreds of opposition leaders and activists who have been rounded up since the declaration of martial law on Saturday.

“We expect there to be elections as soon as possible,” Bush told reporters in his first public remarks on the crisis in Pakistan. “The president should remove his military uniform. Previous to his decision we made it clear that these emergency measures would undermine democracy.”

Despite the tough rhetoric, the White House has decided against taking tangible measures to show its displeasure with Musharraf. Administration officials said there would be no immediate cuts to aid to Pakistan.

Full article here.  Meanwhile, Pakistan’s wild card, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is traveling to Islamabad to discuss the state of emergency with leaders of opposition parties:

KARACHI (Thomson Financial) – Pakistan’s former premier Benazir Bhutto headed for the capital Islamabad Tuesday for talks with political leaders on the state of emergency but said she had no plans to meet President Pervez Musharraf.

‘I am going to hold discussions with the leadership of other parties on the current situation and chalk out a joint strategy with them,’ she told reporters at Karachi airport.

Bhutto said that a meeting with Musharraf was ‘not in her schedule during her stay in Islamabad.’

This will be her first visit to the capital since she returned to Pakistan on October 18 from eight years in self-exile on corruption charges, a homecoming that ended in twin bombings that killed 139 people.

Bhutto, 54, flew to Dubai briefly on Thursday but came home again following Musharraf’s decision to impose a state of emergency on Saturday.

Military ruler Musharraf and Bhutto, leader of the moderate Pakistan People’s Party, had been in contact for several months for a possible power-sharing deal after general elections due in January.

Musharraf gave her an amnesty on the graft charges in October to allow her to return home.

Sometimes, when you’re cranky, and your approval ratings are in the dumpster, the words just tumble out of your mouth:

WASHINGTON – President Bush warned on Wednesday a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War III as he tried to shore up international opposition to Tehran amid Russian skepticism over its nuclear ambitions.

Bush was speaking a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin who has resisted Western pressure to toughen his stance over Iran’s nuclear program, made clear on a visit to Tehran that Russia would not accept any military action against Iran.

Full article here.

Better to be cranky at a press conference than in a meeting with the Joint Chiefs.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, today warned the US not to use force against Iran in the current nuclear dispute.

Any military intervention in the Caspian Sea area would be unacceptable, Mr Putin declared as he attended a five-country regional summit in Tehran.

“We should not even think of making use of force in this region,” Mr Putin told his fellow leaders.

His remarks also appeared directed at Azerbaijan, amid Russian media speculation that the US might be trying to negotiate with the republic on the right to use military facilities there, something Azeri officials deny.

Full article here.

Al Gore has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise awareness about global warming … which is all well and good until the U.S. Supreme Court decides to declare George W. Bush the winner instead.

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