Recent News from ACT! for America

BRUSSELS (AP) — Terrorist groups have expressed interest in obtaining some of the thousands of shoulder-launched missiles that have gone missing in Libya and the issue has become a priority for the Obama administration, a senior U.S.official said Friday.

Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, said Friday the missiles "could pose a threat to civil aviation."

"We know that terrorist groups have expressed interest in obtaining these weapons," he said, adding that the issue issue of securing the weapons was a priority for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Libya was believed to have about 20,000 such missiles in its arsenals before civil war began in March, Shapiro said. Although many were destroyed by NATO air strikes, thousands are missing.

"The possibility that these weapons may cross borders is an area of considerable concern," Shapiro said. "That's why U.S. has been working with countries bordering Libya to prevent (proliferation)."

Reports that thousands of the portable, short-range missiles were missing first surfaced at the end of September, when NATO's top military officer, Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, was cited as telling German lawmakers that the alliance had lost track of at least 10,000 surface-to-air missiles from Libyan military depots.

The State Department had sent 15 specialists to Libya to track down the weapons and plans to increase the number to 50 soon, Shapiro said, adding the U.S. has allocated $30 million to the effort.

He said vast majority of the missing missiles were Soviet-made SA-7 Strela (Arrow) with infrared homing.

The United States and other Western nations have been trying for decades to reduce the global stock of portable missiles, fearing they could fall into the hands of terrorists. The small, easily concealable SAM-7s are considered obsolete by modern military standards but could pose a threat to civilian airliners or helicopters.

Weighing just 14 kilograms (31 pounds) and only 1.40-meters (4-feet) long, the 1960s-era missile can reach an altitude of over 3,000 meters (10,000 feet).

Thousands have been used in wars in the Middle East, Latin America, Central Asia and former Yugoslavia. Civilian aircraft as well as U.S. and allied warplanes and helicopters have been damaged or downed by the missiles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Libya was largest non-producing country holding MANPADS," he said, referring to the weapons by their official designation of Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems.

Also on Friday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that although the missing weapons were a matter of concern, "it's not a part of NATO's mandate to deal with that."

He said that according to a U.N. Security Council resolution it was the responsibility of the new authorities in Libya to make sure the stockpiles of weapons are monitored and controlled effectively.

"But I know that individual NATO allies are also engaging with the new authorities to help them fulfill that task." Fogh Rasmussen said in an AP interview.

Follow Slobodan Lekic on Twitter at http://twitter.com/slekich

 
 

The Wall Street Journal
10/11/2011

WASHINGTON —As the Pentagon looks to cut $450 billion over the next decade, the largest savings will come from forgoing projects to modernize Pentagon weapons, U.S, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

Mr. Panetta promised "targeted changes" to modernization efforts, but he also repeated his past warnings against steps that would "hollow out" the military.

In an address at the Woodrow Wilson Center think tank billed as his first major policy speech, Mr. Panetta said the department would save $60 billion in the next five years from general budget efficiencies, on top of the $150 billion already slated for cost cutting by his predecessor, Robert Gates.

But the budget efficiencies alone will not be enough to ease the financial pressures, requiring the department to turn to proposals to eliminate some weapons modernization, Mr. Panetta said.

Mr. Panetta did not name any specific weapons programs as targets. Defense secretaries usually try to keep secret proposals for program cuts, to prevent opposition from building in Congress.

Anticipating that any specific proposal for cuts would encounter controversy in Congress, Mr. Panetta called on lawmakers to support "a strong defense strategy that may not always include their favorite base or weapons system."

"Every program, every contract and every facility will be scrutinized for savings that won't reduce readiness or our ability to perform essential missions," he said.

Mr. Panetta said he also expects the size of the military to shrink. "A smaller, highly capable and ready force is preferable to a larger, hollow force," he said. The National Guard and military reserves will be ready to respond in a crisis, making up for some gaps created by a smaller active-duty force, he added.

In a question-and-answer session, Mr. Panetta said the coming force cuts was one reason it was necessary to continue to require teenagers to register for the draft, and why he opposed dropping that practice.

Mr. Panetta said while looking for benefits cuts, he hoped to allow current members of the military to keep their existing retirement plans. Reduced benefits only would apply to future members of the military.

"We must recognize that if the growth in personnel costs is not addressed, we won't be able to afford the training and equipment our troops need to succeed on the battlefield," Mr. Panetta said.

Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203633104576625260844237984.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

 
By Jeffrey Heller and Nidal al-Mughrabi
10/11/2011 5:24pm EDT

JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) - Israel and Gaza's Hamas Islamist rulers agreed on Tuesday to swap more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit, resolving one of the most emotive and intractable issues between them.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking his cabinet to approve the lopsided swap and under constant public pressure to bring Shalit home, said the soldier would be reunited with his family "in the coming days."

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip greeted the agreement, brokered by Egypt and a German mediator, with celebratory gunfire. Hamas confirmed that it only remained to conclude technical arrangements for the exchange.

The breakthrough pact, after many false dawns in years of secret efforts to free Shalit since he was captured in 2006, has no direct bearing on Middle East peace negotiations.

But it was virtually certain to improve the climate for international efforts to restart peace talks.

Prospects for peacemaking have been clouded by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's request for UN recognition of a Palestinian state and Israeli settlement expansion which Abbas has said must stop if negotiations are to begin again.

A source involved in the talks said the long elusive pact had been mediated by Egypt, playing a role which is likely to strengthen Israel's ties with Cairo, which have suffered since the fall of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in a revolution this year.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Israel will release 1,027 prisoners in two stages. Within a week, 450 will be swapped for Shalit and the rest will be freed two months later. Twenty-seven women are among those on the release roster.

It was not immediately clear how many of the prisoners were jailed for attacks that caused Israeli casualties. Under Israeli law, opponents of their release have at least 48 hours to appeal to courts to keep them behind bars.

PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS

In tandem with a public campaign waged by Shalit's parents for his freedom, relatives of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks have lobbied Netanyahu not to give in to Hamas by releasing prisoners with blood on their hands.

There are about 6,000 Palestinians prisoners in Israeli jails. They are regarded as heroes in what Palestinians call their struggle against Israeli occupation and quest for statehood.

"We are happy with this great achievement and we thank our God for that. But our happiness is mixed with sorrow because we were not able to gain the freedom of all prisoners," Meshaal said in a televised address from Damascus.

Israeli television quoted Netanyahu as telling Shalit's parents that ever since he took office three years ago "I've been waiting for the chance to make this telephone call" to inform them of the deal.

Shalit's family, which has maintained a vigil in a protest tent near Netanyahu's Jerusalem home for months, had accused him of not doing enough to secure his release.

Announcing to his cabinet, and television cameras, that a deal had been signed earlier in the day, Netanyahu said he feared time was running out for Shalit amid political upheaval in the Arab world.

"I believe we have reached the best agreement possible at this time when storms are raging in the Middle East. I don't know if we could have reached a better agreement, or even achieved one at all, in the near future," he said.

"It's possible that this window of opportunity would have closed for good and we never would have brought Gilad home."

The wife of Marwan Barghouti, a charismatic activist seen as a future Palestinian leader, told Reuters in the West Bank that she was eagerly awaiting word that he will be included in the prisoner swap.

In Gaza the families of men jailed for life by Israel waited to see if their names would be on the list.

Israel has carried out several lopsided prisoner swaps in the past, notably in 1985 when hundreds of Palestinian prisoners were freed in exchange for several soldiers captured by a guerrilla group in Lebanon.

The ordeal of Shalit, a fresh-faced corporal, transfixed Israel after the tank gunner was captured by militants who tunneled their way out of Gaza and then forced him back over the border.

He was 19 at the time and had begun his mandatory three-year army service nearly a year previously.

Shalit, who also holds French citizenship, was last seen in a videotape released by his captors in September 2009 showing him looking pale and thin.

He received no visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross, despite many appeals.

(Reporting by Nidal al Mughrabi, Allyn Fisher-IlanAli Sawafta, Jeffrey Heller and Douglas Hamilton; Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/11/us-israel-palestinians-shalit-idUSTRE79A58R20111011

 

By RICHARD ESPOSITO and BRIAN ROSS
ABC News
10/11/2011

FBI and DEA agents have disrupted a plot to commit a "significant terrorist act in the United States" tied to Iran, federal officials told ABC News today.

The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, with a bomb and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.

Bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were also discussed, according to the U.S. officials.

The stunning allegations come against a backdrop of longstanding tensions between Iran and the United States and Saudi Arabia. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has attempted to build an anti-Iran alliance to push back against perceived aggression by Iran in the region.

Click Here to Sign Up for Breaking News and Investigation Alerts From The Brian Ross Investigative Unit

The State Department has listed Iran as a "state sponsor" of terror since 1984. Officials in Argentina have said Iran was behind an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992.

The new case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

The Iranian-American thought he was dealing with a member of the feared Zetas Mexican drug organization, according to agents.

The DEA office in Houston brought in FBI agents as the international terror implications of the case became apparent.

The Iranian-American, identified by federal officials as Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, reportedly claimed he was being "directed by high ranking members of the Iranian government," including a cousin who was "a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform," according to a person briefed on the details of the case. Counter-terrorism officials said they believe the cousin may be part of the special operations unit of the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds force.

U.S. officials said Arbabsiar met twice in July with the DEA informant in the northern Mexico city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, and negotiated a $1.5 million payment for the assassination of the Saudi ambassador. As a down payment, officials said Arbabsiar wired two payments of $49,960 on Aug. 1 and Aug. 9 to an FBI undercover bank account after he had returned to Iran.

Federal agents said the DEA and the FBI recorded a number of meetings and phone calls between the informant and Arbabsiar, some of them from Iran.

Officials said Arbabsiar flew from Iran through Frankfurt, Germany, to Mexico City Sept. 28 for a final planning session, but was refused entry to Mexico and put on a plane to New York, where he was arrested.

Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed "utter disregard for collateral damage" in the planned bomb attacks in Washington, according to officials.

He also reportedly told the undercover DEA informant that his contacts in the Iranian government could provide "tons of opium" for the Mexican cartels, according to officials who have reviewed the case file.

Officials said Arbabsiar is now cooperating with prosecutors and federal agents in New York, where the case has been transferred.

Senior Justice Department officials in Washington are reported to still be closely reviewing the specific language to be used in any charging documents.

A spokesperson at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., said she was unaware of the plot.

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-iran-tied-terror-plot-washington-dc-disrupted/story?id=14711933

 

Page 20 of 197

<< Start < Prev 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Next > End >>


You are here:   HomeLearnRecent News