Monthly Archives: January 2012

Flash-grenades & tear-gas: 400 arrested at Occupy Oakland (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Published: 29 January, 2012, 05:40
Edited: 30 January, 2012, 01:47

 CLICK PIC FOR VID.

Members of the Oakland Police Department shrouded in a cloud of tear gas put on gas masks during a confrontation with Occupy Oakland demonstrators near Oakland Museum of California in Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam), video uploaded on YouTube by brettnchls on 28 Jan 2012

(11.3Mb)embed video

TAGS: MeetingProtestUSAMarina Dzhashi,Marina PortnayaEconomy

 

Police in Oakland, California, have used tear-gas and flash-grenades as a 2,000-strong Occupy Oakland march turned violent, with some protesters claiming that rubber bullets were also fired into the crowd. At least 400 people were arrested.

Initially, authorities had said 200-300 people were detained. But later the figure was revised to over 400 arrests, reports Reuters citing the Oakland emergency operations center.

The demonstrators had attempted to take over vacant buildings to use as their headquarters, they also broke into City Hall and tried to occupy a YMCA. Police spokesman Jeff Thomason told media most of the arrests came around 8 pm local time. Police took many protesters into custody as they marched through the city’s downtown area, with some entering a YMCA building.

Officials say, at one point protesters began tearing down perimeter fences around the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, as some attacked police officers, throwing rocks, bottles and other objects. Police declared an unlawful assembly and used force, according to the Oakland Tribune newspaper.

While police were taking people into custody near the YMCA, about 100 officers surrounded City Hall, while others swept the inside of the building for protesters who had broken in. Inside the building, protesters burned flags, broke into an electrical box and damaged several art structures, according to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

“The City of Oakland welcomes peaceful forms of assembly and freedom of speech, but acts of violence, property destruction and overnight lodging will not be tolerated,” the press release by city officials stated. “The Oakland Police Department is also committed to facilitating peaceful forms of expression while protecting personal safety and property through ethical and constitutional policing.”

At the moment, the Occupy crowd in the city’s central square is being monitored by dozens of police officers.

Oakland has seen one of America’s largest and most vocal Occupy protests, with thousands of people attending since the demos started in October. Some 300 people have been arrested since then. The Occupy Wall Street movement started in September in New York and claims to represent the 99 per cent of Americans, who suffer from corporate greed and economic injustice.

RT’s Marina Portnaya has more

 

Occupy Oakland demonstrators confront a line of police officers during a demonstration in attempt to occupy a vacant building near Laney College in Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam)
Occupy Oakland demonstrators confront a line of police officers during a demonstration in attempt to occupy a vacant building near Laney College in Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam)
Occupy Oakland demonstrators shield themselves during a confrontation with the police near the Oakland Museum of California in Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam)
Occupy Oakland demonstrators shield themselves during a confrontation with the police near the Oakland Museum of California in Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam)
An masked Occupy Oakland demonstrator walks in a cloud of smoke from smoke grenades during an attempt to occupy the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam)
An masked Occupy Oakland demonstrator walks in a cloud of smoke from smoke grenades during an attempt to occupy the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam)
Members of the Oakland Police Department arrest an Occupy Oakland demonstrator during a confrontation in Downtown Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam)
Members of the Oakland Police Department arrest an Occupy Oakland demonstrator during a confrontation in Downtown Oakland, California January 28, 2012 (Reuters / Stephen Lam)

Newt repeats ‘second Holocaust’ warning!

By ALEXANDER BURNS |

1/27/12 11:40 AM EST

Newt Gingrich is standing by his warning that an Iranian nuclear weapon could cause a “second Holocaust.”

At a press conference here in Miami, a reporter noted to Gingrich that he was on the cover of casino mogul and Gingrich super PAC backer Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom. The headline declared that President Barack Obama’s policies could lead to another genocide against the Jews.

Asked if he would disavow that kind of rhetoric, Gingrich shrugged: “It’s probably my rhetoric.”

“I have said allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons … runs the direct risk of a second Holocaust. That is a fact,” Gingrich said.

However Jewish voters in Florida respond to his rhetoric, Gingrich’s most important audience for this kind of question is almost certainly Adelson, who has directed $10 million to the pro-Gingrich group Winning Our Future.

Gingrich is scheduled to address a rally of the Republican Jewish Coalition — another organization Adelson supports — elsewhere in Florida this afternoon.

Hitler Flatware To Be Included In New York Historical Society Exhibit

Hitler Flatware To Be Included In New York Historical Society Exhibit

Hitler

01/26/12 01:17 PM ET   AP

 NEW YORK — An upcoming New York City exhibition featuring four centuries of sterling silver includes two pieces of flatware that belonged to Adolf Hitler.

The fork and knife contain the initials A and H. They’re among 150 objects from the New-York Historical Society’s collection.

The exhibition opens May 4.

The museum says it received the flatware in 1946 from the late philanthropist and financier Carl Loeb.

Loeb got it from an American soldier who was a member of the force that captured Hitler’s chalet retreat in 1945.

The museum says the pieces have never been displayed. It says there hasn’t been an exhibition placing them in a historical context until now.

The museum says it wasn’t surprising that Loeb kept the flatware as evidence of Hitler’s defeat.

The Consequences of a Strike on Iran: The IRGC Navy

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N) is an integral component of Iranian defensive strategy and its forces are expected to be key players in any Iranian retaliatory strategy should the US attack Iranian nuclear facilities. IRGC-N doctrine is based on “access-denial” of the strategically vital Straits of Hormuz through which almost a third of all seaborne oil passes and could include directly targeting US warships, attacking merchant shipping, mining and attempting to close the Straits of Hormuz, as well as attacking various energy and strategic installations in and around the Persian Gulf. The net effort of IRGC-N forces is likely to impact global energy security but Iran is unlikely to be able to close the Straits of Hormuz, particularly for any extended period of time.

Iran has two navies – the Shah-era conventional Iranian Navy (IRIN) – and the IRGC-N, which emerged as an independent entity in the 1980s and came of age during the Iran-Iraq War with successful amphibious operations in southern Iraq. Following post-Revolution mistrust of all Shah-era military formations, the IRGC-N was promoted and today wields substantial influence with the Supreme Leader as well as with influential defense, government and clerical figures, as a result of which it has primacy in resource and funding allocations, and has acquired several new platforms and capabilities even as the IRIN fleet ages. Especially after the Tanker Wars of the late 1980s, Iranian strategic planners appear to have concluded that in the event of large-scale hostilities, Iran’s larger conventional fleet would be of limited use (during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, US forces destroyed over 25 percent of Iran’s larger naval ships in one day) and as such have restructured their forces to wage asymmetric naval guerrilla warfare. This fleet is expected to be far more lethal than IRIN could hope to be and is now entrusted with “full responsibility” for operations in the critical Persian Gulf. The IRIN is now relegated to the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea.

The IRGC-N seeks to operate at the lower end of the conflict spectrum and exploit vulnerabilities in the larger conventional forces of its US and Gulf Arab enemies. IRGC commander Brigadier General Jafaari explicitly stated, “The enemy is far more advanced technologically than we are, we have been using what is called asymmetric warfare methods… our forces are now well prepared for it.” The IRGC-N operates a sizable fleet of small boats, small submarines, mine-laying units, anti-ship missiles, and naval infantry units to conduct naval guerilla war. It will likely rely upon its “mosaic defense” strategy to decentralize its command and control apparatuses and allow operational zones to operate autonomously. IRGC soldiers and sailors are also generally expected to be more ideologically committed than regular forces and could even be used to conduct suicide attacks.

Iran is generally believed to be a rational player that recognizes the consequences of full-scale engagement with the US – not least of which is the effect on Iran’s 87 percent of imports and 99 percent of exports that transit by sea, most through the Straits of Hormuz. Iran has also generally abstained from escalating conflict in the Gulf beyond limited engagements, although has shown a willingness to engage in brinksmanship. In March 2007, IRGC-N forces captured 15 British marines for several days for ‘entering sovereign Iranian waters’ and Iranian small boats have occasionally harassed and provoked US warships. One such incident in 2008 may have been designed to test US rules of engagement and involved IRGC-N boats making threatening maneuvers as well as a radio transmission that stated, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes.” It remains difficult to distinguish between Iranian rhetoric and reality, but the IRGC-N has carried out several wargames in recent years, and Iranian officials have sometimes threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz in the aftermath of tensions with the US.

Organizational Structure
The IRGC-N is under the command of Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, who was appointed by Supreme Leader Khamenei in May 2010, to replace Rear Admiral Morteza Saffari. The Persian Gulf is divided into four main areas of responsibility.

District
Key Base, Location
Area of Responsibility
Commanding Officer
1st Naval District
Shahid Bahonar, Bandar Abbas
Straits of Hormuz
Reza Torabi
2nd Naval District
Shahid Mahalati, Bandar Bushehr
Central Persian Gulf
Ali Razmjou
3rd Naval District
N/A, Mahshahr
Northern Persian Gulf
Taghipour-Rezaei
4th Naval District
N/A, Babolsar
Caspian Sea
Seifolah Bakhtiarvand

Operating Bases
Click on the placemarks in the map for information on each base

The IRGC-N maintains operational control over the Persian Gulf and maintains several bases along the Persian Gulf as seen in the map below. The IRGC-N has also expanded its bases along the Sea of Oman towards the Pakistani border, moving outside its regional competency to potentially extend its “layered defense strategy” outside the Straits of Hormuz.

View IRGC Naval Bases in a larger map

Small Boat “Swarming” Attacks

The IRGC-N has prioritized the use of small missile-equipped craft to implement “swarming” tactics against warships and merchant shipping in the narrow Persian Gulf. Given US conventional superiority and air dominance, the IRGC-N is likely to have dispensed with ‘mass swarming’ tactics in favor of ‘dispersed swarming’ where highly agile small craft converge from various concealed bases to surprise and attack targets. Swarming is a crude but potentially effective asymmetric tactic to overwhelm superior conventional forces, particularly if coupled with effective anti-ship missiles. In a 2002 US Navy simulation “sunk” 16 ships including an aircraft carrier while copying Iranian asymmetric capabilities. Since then, obviously this need has been recognized, and amongst other changes, the US’s new Littoral Combat Ships are designed for precisely such encounters. In naval wargames, Iran often highlights its small-boat capacity.

The IRGCN operates a sizable fleet of small but heavily armed boats. These include the Azaraksh (China Cat) and Thondar (Hudong) fast-attack missile craft armed with the Kowsar and C-802 anti-ship missiles (ASM), the North-Korean acquired Peykaap I and II (IPS-16/IPS-16 modified) and Tir (IPS-18) missile boats, as well as patrol craft the Ashura, Tareq and Boghammer speedboats. The C-802 ASM is the same missile used to destroy an Israeli corvette during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Iran is also unveiling new lines of high-speed and “stealth” boats including the Ya Mahdi, Seraj and Zolfaghar craft and in a daring international scheme Iran acquired and intends to mass produce the Bladerunner-51, the world’s fastest speedboat.

Iranian small boats have obvious disadvantages and on their own are highly vulnerable to US firepower. Surprise will be their most important asset for any successful confrontation, a requirement acknowledged by the IRGCN. Many vessels are designed to be capable of being “launched discreetly…off the back of a flatbed truck under cover of darkness, during high tide without any special accommodations.” Many are dispersed along “small inlets, small fishing ports and hardened sites,” and the IRGC is believed to have a presence on many islands and coastal villages along the Persian Gulf.

Mining Operations

Iranian mine-laying craft Iran Ajr captured by US Navy in Sep. 1987
Iran operates multiple platforms capable of mining the Straits of Hormuz including at least three ships with dedicated mine-laying capabilities, three RH-53D Sea Stallion mine-laying helicopters, as well as the option of adapting virtually any other small boat, disguised fishing trawler or larger missile craft for the purpose of deploying mines. Submarines, particularly the Ghadir midget-class submarines are also ideal for mine-laying operations in the shallow coastal waters of the Persian Gulf. The Iranian stockpile is believed to consist of between 3,000-5,000 mines acquired from Russian, Chinese and North Korean sources, as well as developed indigenously notably the Chinese EM-11 and EM-52 and the Russian-made M-08, M-26 and MDM-6.

US and Gulf surveillance and naval capabilities make prolonged mine-laying operations exceeding difficult, but the possibility of mine-laying boats escaping undetected is not unlikely. Iran operates dhows disguised as fishing vessels in addition to regular craft, making detection difficult, and during the Tanker Wars of 1987-98, IRGC-N boats were able to lay 12 mines right in the path of Kuwaiti supertanker MV Bridgeton, while in visual range of escorting US navy warships.

Additionally, even a limited mine-laying operation would be economically costly. STRATFOR notes that even a 10 percent chance of a mine strike would entail the need to clear a Q-route, which could take a week or more, a substantial amount of time and disruption to energy flows and maritime insurance costs. Moreover, given the density of traffic transiting the Straits, it is possible that even a cleared route would restrict normal tanker traffic.

Amphibious Raiding

Iran’s amphibious raiding strategy would seek to replicate its successful operations in the southern Iraqi marshlands during the Iran-Iraq War to attack oil terminals, merchant ships and other strategic targets. Amphibious assaults would be highly vulnerable to US/Gulf military superiority, but Iran has made concerted efforts to deploy frogmen far out into the Gulf. The IRGC-N now maintains a brigade strength contingent of about 5,000 Iranian Marines, a large underwater training center at Bandar Abbas and the largest amphibious fleet amongst its Arab neighbors, barring the U.A.E. The IRGCN has modified logistics ships to deploy frogmen and sought to disguise its ships to resemble normal commercial traffic. Iran has also experimented with submersible-delivery vehicles including the Ghadir midget submarine, which contains provisions for mounting a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV).

Iranian Admiral Sajjad Kouchaki claimed that Iran has “1,500 special operation teams” with 23 landing ships and vessels, which all told could in theory transport a few thousands troops and tens of tanks. Iran also operates about 5 M-171 helicopters and could utilize civilian craft to move troops. In general, however, aside from intercepting merchant ships or attacking lightly defended areas in surprise attacks, Iran naval infantry forces are ill-equipped to move amphibious forces across the Gulf in combined operations.

“Static Warships” and Coastal Missile Batteries

The IRGC-N has geography to its advantage and is able to use the many islands dotting the Persian Gulf to create a crescent of shore-based missile batteries that ring the Straits of Hormuz. On these islands, a variety of anti-ship and ballistic missiles platforms are located using extensive networks of tunnels and underground missile bunkers that create “static warships” with which to attack enemy forces. In theory, the US could face a formidable threat with “several dozen batteries and several hundred anti-ship cruise missiles spread across an area roughly the size of Kosovo.” In reality, however, the IRGC-N may suffer from maintenance and training deficiencies, whereas US surveillance and countermeasure capabilities continue to improve.

Iranian coastal defense systems are armed with a variety of anti-ship missiles of varying sources and capabilities including but not limited to variants of the Chinese-made Silkworm (the HY-2 and HY-2G Seersucker), and the C-801 Sardine (Raad) and C-802 Saccade (Noor) missile based off the French Exocet missile. Iranian missiles have been adapted to several platforms including truck-mounted batteries, and it is not always easily apparent which service branch maintains operational control over specific coastal batteries. Some missiles are capable of hitting Gulf Arab ports, especially if forward-deployed on island chains.

US deploys 12,000 troops in Libya

Smoke coming from an oil terminal in the Libyan port city of Brega. (file photo)
The United States has sent some 12,000 soldiers to Libya, in the first phase of deployments to the oil-rich North African nation.

According to Asharq Alawsat, the troops landed in the eastern oil port city of Brega.

Although the deployment is said to be aimed at generating stability and security in the region, the troops are expected to take control of the country’s key oil fields and strategic ports.

Brega, the site of an important oil refinery, serves as a major export hub for Libyan oil. The town is also one of the five oil terminals in the eastern half of the country.

Following the popular uprising of the Libyan people, NATO launched a major air campaign against the forces of the former regime on March 19, 2011 under a UN mandate to “protect the Libyan population.”

The Western military alliance, however, was heavily criticized for its failure to protect civilians and taking action beyond the terms of the UN mandate.

On October 20, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed in his hometown of Sirte, eight months into an uprising that put an end to his 42-year dictatorship.

Human rights groups have accused NATO of committing war crimes and human rights violations against Libyans.

KTVU SAN FRANCISCO

How Do You Shut Down the Internet in a Whole Country?

Natalie Wolchover, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer
Date: 28 January 2011 Time: 02:12 PM ET
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REPRINT TODAY IN VIEW OF THIS…TOO (ASS WELL FOR BRITS):

According to David Clark, an MIT computer scientist whose research focuses on Internet architecture and development, a government’s ability to control the Internet depends on its control of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the private sector companies that grant Internet access to customers.To silence dissidents, the Egyptian government made a move Jan. 28 that has no precedent: It turned off the Internet nationwide. How did they do it — and could the same thing happen here?

“ISPs have direct control of the Internet, so what happens in any country depends on the control that the state has over those ISPs,” Clark told Life’s Little Mysteries in an e-mail. “Some countries regulate the ISPs much more heavily. China has in the past ‘turned off’ the Internet in various regions.”

When a government orders the ISP to disable service, Clark explained, “they have lots of ways of doing it technically. They could power down devices (which is sort of like unplugging things), or change the routing tables (which is more like a “digital kill,” and can serve to allow selective services to stay up).”

[INFOGRAPHIC: How to Kill the Internet]

In Egypt’s case, the government owns the main service provider (Telecom Egypt), according to William Lehr, another Internet expert at MIT. “[This allows the Egyptian state to wage] significant control over the international telecom interconnection facilities that provide the physical transport for the international Internet connections,” Lehr wrote to Life’s Little Mysteries. “Shutting off those circuits effectively shuts off the traffic from Egypt to the rest of the world that occurs over those circuits.”

Whether or not other governments—for example, the U.S. government—are able to shut down the Internet is “a regulatory question,” said Clark. “In a time of crisis, does a government have the powers to compel the ISPs to take such an action?” In the U.S., the answer is no – not only does President Barack Obama, or any president, not have access to a physical “switch” that turns off the Internet, he also has no control over ISPs.

That could change, however, if the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset” bill, introduced in the Senate last summer, ever passes. The bill would effectively give the president an Internet kill-switch to be used in cases of national cyber-emergency, which presumably would stall the operation of this country’s ISPs. Rather than blocking free-speech, the bill is intended to protect the economic infrastructure from cyberterrorists; still, it has many free-speech advocates worried – especially in light of the recent turn of events in Egypt.

Lehr explained that even in Egypt, “there are likely to be leaky ways to bypass [the shut-off].” People may be using smartphones to communicate with the global Internet, for example. Companies may be accessing private Intranet connections. And providers in Egypt with access to their own international connections could be bypassing the Telecom-Egypt-controlled circuits and supporting international connectivity for their clients.

“These sorts of leakage paths demonstrate that even if government seeks to control access to Internet by retaining an on/off switch, this can be challenging and may be circumvented by the determined few,” Lehr wrote.

As the Internet grows more complicated, it will become ever harder to completely turn off. “The ability to control or shut down the Internet or access to certain types of applications is an ongoing war. New sorts of attacks are constantly emerging and new defenses as well,” Lehr wrote. “As the Internet gets more complex, the range of potential vulnerabilities, as well as the ways to work around those, also get more complex.”

Clark also compared controlling Internet access to warfare. While one country can (to some extent) block another country’s access to their part of the Internet cloud, it is unlikely a country would try to destroy the internal access within another country. “It’s perhaps not impossible, but it would be an act of cyber-war,” he told us.

One way to accomplish this would be to sever the actual cables that carry data on the Internet. After all, the World Wide Web would not be possible without the thousands of miles of undersea fiber optic cables on which the data is able to stream from continent to continent. These bundles of cables rise out of the ocean in only a few dozen locations, and then branch out to connect to millions of computers. For example, if someone were to blow up the station in Miami – which handles some 90 percent of the Internet traffic between North America and Latin America – Internet access on the east coast could be severely hampered until the Miami connection could be repaired or traffic could be rerouted.

But even then, physical damage to one or two ports generally isn’t as final as a total shutdown like the one in Egypt. “The Internet is very richly interconnected,” Clark wrote. “You would have to work real hard to find a small number of places where you could seriously disrupt connectivity. The destruction of the major switching center in south Manhattan on 9/11 ‘healed’ in about 15 minutes as the protocols routed around the outage.” (IF…THAT IS A BIG, IF…YOU HAVE REDUNDANCY 95501 DOES NOT!)

Anonymous downs government, music industry sites in largest attack ever

Published: 20 January, 2012, 01:48
Edited: 20 January, 2012, 05:13

BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

TRENDS:SOPA

TAGS: LawInternetInformation Technology,USA

 

Hacktivists with the collective Anonymous are waging an attack on the website for the White House after successfully breaking the sites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America.

In response to today’s federal raid on the file sharing service Megaupload, hackers with the online collective Anonymous have broken the websites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA, Motion Picture Association of America and Warner Music Group.

“It was in retaliation for Megaupload, as was the concurrent attack on Justice.org,” Anonymous operative Barrett Brown tells RT on Thursday afternoon.

Only hours before the DoJ and Universal sites went down, news broke that Megaupload, a massive file sharing site with a reported 50 million daily users, was taken down by federal agents. Four people linked to Megaupload were arrested in New Zealand and an international crackdown led agents to serving at least 20 search warrants across the globe.

The latest of sites to fall is FBI.gov, which finally broke at around 7:40 pm EST Thursday evening.

Less than an hour after the DoJ and Universal sites came down, the website for the RIAA, or Recording Industry Association of America, went offline as well. Shortly before 6 p.m EST, the government’s Copyright.gov site went down as well. Thirty minutes later came the site for BMI, or Broadcast Music, Inc, the licensing organization that represents some of the biggest names in music.

Also on Thursday, MPAA.org returned an error as Anonymous hacktivists managed to bring down the website for the Motion Picture Association of America. The group, headed by former senator Chris Dodd, is an adamant supporter of both PIPA and SOPA legislation.

Universal Music Group, or UMG, is the largest record company in the United States and under its umbrella are the labels Interscope-Geffen-A&M, the Island Def Jam Motown Music Group and Mercury Records.

Brown adds that “more is coming” and Anonymous-aligned hacktivists are pursuing a joint effort with others to “damage campaign raising abilities of remaining Democrats who support SOPA.”

Although many members of Congress have just this week changed their stance on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, the raid on Megaupload Thursday proved that the feds don’t need SOPA or its sister legislation, PIPA, in order to pose a blow to the Web.

Brown adds that operatives involved in the project will use an “experimental campaign” and search engine optimization techniques “whereby to forever saddle some of these congressmen with their record on this issue.”

As Powers Maneuver, Israel Says No Decision Yet to Attack Iran

JERUSALEM — Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Israel said on Wednesday that any decision on attacking Iran because of its nuclear program was “very far off,” apparently seeking to lower the tone of increasingly nervous discourse as powers maneuver in advance of European moves to intensify sanctions against Tehran.
Related

 

Iran Tightens Its Security for Scientists After Killing (January 18, 2012)

“Iran will fight to the death to protect its history and culture. Any war in Iran will make the Iraq war look like a romp in the park.”
James, St. Paul, MN.
At the same time, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia renewed his country’s aversion to sanctions and military threats against Tehran, while Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran said his country was ready to resume negotiations with the outside powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — trying to broker a settlement.

Mr. Salehi said during a visit to Turkey on Wednesday that negotiations were under way about the venue and date, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, and that the talks “will most probably be held in Istanbul.”

The previous negotiations — also in Istanbul — broke off a year ago when Iran presented its own set of preconditions, including a lifting of sanctions, that the West considered unacceptable.

Mr. Salehi made similar remarks about a resumption of the talks during a visit to Tehran two weeks ago by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, and some European officials have interpreted his remarks as an effort to buy time just days before European foreign ministers are to meet next week to discuss possible measures to curb Iran’s critical oil exports.

Speaking at an annual news conference in Moscow, Mr. Lavrov took issue with Western policy on Iran, saying a military strike would be a “disaster.”

He said sanctions now being proposed against Tehran had been couched in terms of nuclear nonproliferation but were “seriously intended to have a smothering effect on the Iranian economy and the Iranian population, probably in the hopes of provoking discontent.”

Mr. Barak was speaking in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio at time of high tension following the assassination on Jan. 11 of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy director of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site — an act blamed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday as the work of “the evil hands of arrogance and Zionist agents.” On Tuesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered stricter security to protect Iranian scientists from what some experts have portrayed as a covert war against Iran’s nuclear program.

After the assassination, Israel’s leaders maintained a customary, cryptic silence while the White House condemned it and vigorously denied any responsibility. At least five Iranian scientists with nuclear connections have been killed since 2007.

Tehran says its uranium enrichment efforts are for peaceful civilian purposes, but that assertion jars increasingly with Western insistence, supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iranian scientists have been working toward building nuclear weapons.

Twisting the spiral of regional tension, Israel has been pressing for more aggressive and immediate American-led sanctions against Iran while the Iranians have threatened to shut off the Strait of Hormuz, the maritime conduit for a fifth of the world’s oil.

Mr. Barak’s remarks also came ahead of an imminent visit to Israel by the American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. Israeli media commentators have suggested that General Dempsey was coming in part to warn Israel against going it alone in striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Mr. Barak denied that suggestion, saying that military chiefs “are concerned with formulating different military options and bringing their views to the political leadership, and don’t deal with delivering diplomatic messages.”

Still, efforts seem to be under way on both sides to reduce regional anxieties.

Israel and the United States agreed this week to postpone major joint missile-defense exercises that had been scheduled for the spring. Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, cited “diplomatic and regional reasons, the tensions and instability,” as factors in the delay.

In the interview with Army Radio on Wednesday Mr. Barak reiterated the Israeli assessment that Iran has not started building nuclear weapons.

“The Iranians have not ended the oversight exercised by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said, adding, “They have not done that because they know that that would constitute proof of the military nature of their nuclear program and that would provoke stronger international sanctions or other types of action against their country.”

The official Islamic Republic News Agency confirmed on Tuesday that a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency would visit Iran for three days starting Jan. 29.

Israel has kept open the possibility of military action against Iran, saying that a credible threat is necessary to back up the sanctions effort.

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Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, Ellen Barry from Moscow and Alan Cowell from London.

Another great link: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/atomic_weapons/index.html

The Mossad Vs. Ahmadinejad?

While most Israelis see covert war as the preferred method for stopping Iranian nukes, some question its effectiveness.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Joshua Mitnick Israel Correspondent

Tel Aviv — “Everyone knows that we’re behind this and we should be proud!”
The comment appeared on the Facebook page of the Israeli Defense Forces’ chief spokesperson following the assassination last week of an Iranian nuclear scientist. Despite the usual silence from Israeli officials, the quip reflected the widely held consensus that Israel’s Mossad was responsible for the hit.
Amid accusations abroad that the killing represents state-sponsored terrorism and the realization that such actions won’t necessarily stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the covert war is still seen the preferred method among many Israelis for fighting Tehran.
“Covert action definitely has an impact; the question is, how much,” said Ephraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “I am sure it slows [Iran] down. There were forecasts of them finishing much sooner. So far we’ve done rather well.”
The speculation comes amid heightened concern that Iran could reach the point of obtaining a nuclear weapon in the next year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told an Israeli parliamentary committee that Western sanctions on Iran would not be sufficient to stop its nuclear quest. On Tuesday, an Israeli general told reporters that a nuclear-armed Iran could deter Israel against Hamas and Hezbollah.
The tension has escalated concern that Israel might decide to launch a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear targets. But such an attack would not take the form of the one-and-out attacks on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear installations, say experts.
Because Iran’s nuclear program is highly dispersed at various sites around the country, an effective attack could likely last more than two weeks, said Uri Dromi, a former government spokesperson and air force pilot. Even then, it is not at all certain that Israel has the capacity to deal a fatal blow to the Iranian nuclear program, Dromi said.
In lieu of a high-risk attack on Iran, undercover sabotage is seen by many Israelis as the next best means of staving off the nuclear threat.
“If Israel indeed [killed the Iranian scientist], this is part of a clandestine war, fought in a pinpoint way with minimal losses to deny Iran a nuclear weapon,” said Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad official and a former head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. “From the Israeli standpoint, what is the alternative … all-out war? The fact is that Iran is the only country in the world that openly calls for Israel’s destruction, and is at the same time hard at work creating weapons of mass destruction.”
To be sure, a minority of experts disputed the effectiveness of the assassination campaign.
“There’s only one benefit — it might frighten scientists in the nuclear project, and they might take more counter measures,” said Ephraim Kam, a political science professor at Tel Aviv University. “I’m not sure there’s much other benefit. How many can you kill? I’m not sure it’s a very efficient way to stop the nuclear project.”
Meir Javedanfar, Tel Aviv-based Iran analyst, said that assassination of nuclear staff would not prompt Iran from altering its plans. However, he argued that the bite of crippling economic sanctions could produce an improvement because it threatens the rule of the Islamic regime.
Avner Cohen, an Israeli nuclear expert at the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, wrote in Haaretz that the Israeli public doesn’t question the campaign because to do so would be seen as traitorous. He speculated that the covert campaign would harden the resolve of the Iranians to proceed with their efforts, however.
“It’s very possible that the damage of such assassinations are much larger than the utility,” he said.
Inbar was one of the few Israeli analysts to openly speculate that Israel probably had a hand in the assassination. He said the killing is reminiscent of Israeli efforts in decades past to sabotage weapons programs of enemy states, such as Egypt’s missile development program in the 1960s and the Iraqi nuclear project in the ‘70s.
More recently Israel is believed to have been behind the assassination of top Hamas and Hezbollah chiefs.
Inbar said that the current covert war, which is thought to include bombings of military installations and cyber-sabotage, was spearheaded by the recently resigned chief of the Mossad, Meir Dagan.
“We don’t have a clear address for the responsibility for the covert actions in Iran, but I don’t think you need to be too imaginative to realize that there are only a few security services that have such a capability.”
A total of four Iranian scientists have been assassinated in two years, and a fifth escaped a botched attempt. Over the same period, computers managing the enrichment efforts have been paralyzed by two software viruses. In recent months, three explosions have sown destruction at Iranian military sites believed to be linked to the nuclear program.
Iran vowed to take revenge for the assassinations. On Friday, Thai authorities arrested two Lebanese men who were allegedly part of a Hezbollah plot to attack Israeli tourists in Bangkok, prompting travel warnings from both the U.S. and Israel.
On Monday, an Israeli parliamentary committee reviewed attack preparedness at Israeli and Jewish sites around the globe. Reflecting the government’s policy of ambiguity surrounding covert attacks, Committee Chairman Danny Danon declined to acknowledge a link between heightened level of alert and the Tehran assassination.
Still, such a campaign is rooted in Israel’s aversion to inaction in the face of threats, and the willingness to take bold risks to overcome them. Acting preemptively to seize the advantage is a motif that stretches back through most of Israel’s military and political history.
The impulse to be proactive is also rooted in a psyche shaped by the trauma of helplessness during the Holocaust, said analysts.
“If there’s something that Israelis don’t like, it’s the feeling of being helpless,” said Dromi. Facing grave threats, he said, “You don’t just sit there.”