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The Iranian Nuclear Question

Posted November 10th, 2011 in International by Adrian MacNair

Because I work in news I tend not to want to listen to news on the way in to work, so I usually have the radio tuned to some rock or pop music station. But there’s only so long you can listen to Katy Perry before you go crazy, so I also switch to AM radio to try CKNW and CBC radio. The Current on CBC this morning featured an interesting war games scenario involving Israel and Iran.

The host, Jim Brown, discussed three scenarios to war with Iran to curtail their nuclear weapons program, and none of them sounded very appealing. Brown interviewed, Sam Gardiner, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, about the possible approaches to Iran’s regime. They were as follows:

1. Israel attacks Iran’s program preemptively with about 70 stealth bombers that would target identified locations, and then follow up with a special forces team that would set charges on underground facilities. The resulting fallout would likely draw the United States into supporting Israel internationally, while Iran retaliated against Israel with terrorist attacks and would inspire more fanaticism in the Middle East. The nuclear weapons program would likely be set back by five to 10 years.

2. The United States and Israel launch a coordinated attack involving bombing and special forces. No land invasion would occur and the entire operation would take place overnight. The fallout would likely be the same, says Gardiner.

3. Do nothing. Gardiner believes the Iranian threat is not existential to Israel, since he doesn’t think Iran would use the weapons on Israel without dooming itself to annihilation.

Listen to the segment. Which option do you support? Is there a fourth option?

F-35: UK making out like bandits? MND MacKay “blowing smoke out his tailpipe”/Dutch Update

Posted December 9th, 2010 in Canada, International, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

From the end of an earlier post:

Canadian Government has no idea what the F-35 will cost…/Video Upperdate/What LM said Uppestdate

The Brits, for their part, are reducing their planned F-35 buy, probably severely. UK companies have the largest share of non-US F-35 work. Will that be reduced with the Brits’ much smaller F-35 acquisition? That’s what Mr Burbage [Executive Vice-President and General Manager F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program Integration] said would happen to Canadian companies if we do not buy the F-35.  And if we do buy the plane will our firms pick up some of that UK business? That would follow Mr Burbage’s logic.  One wishes an MP had asked the question; and one wishes our media would…

Now we read in the Daily Telegraph:


BAE also works on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) [more here], which Britain will now buy fewer of. However, the company has an 18pc share of the whole JSF programme, an aircraft that is designed to become the mainstay of the US Air Force. As a result, as many as 3,000 of the fighters could be built. BAE’s workshare is not dependent on the size of the UK order.

Talk about a sweetheart deal.  More from that earlier post:


[David] Burt [director for air requirements] conceded the $70-million to $78-million price tag per plane is not guaranteed. It could rise or fall, he said, depending on the timing of the delivery. Lockheed Martin has only recently started the F-35’s mass-production process. The earlier the slot in which an aircraft is produced, the more costly it is [emphasis added, our government says the Air Force will start receiving the planes in 2016--when full-rate production will just be starting and the full-rate price will therefore be at its highest].

Burt added that commodities prices and other factors could also drive up prices. “But they could also drive prices down,” he noted.

Talk about grasping at refuelling nozzles…And now we read:

F-35s will be on time, on budget, MacKay told

…Mr. MacKay said he is convinced that the program is on budget after holding discussions with U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates and senior Lockheed-Martin officials while on an industrial visit with Canadian manufacturers. He said orders are pouring in [emphasis added], which will keep costs down for the Canadian government, which is already in the queue [read on to see what happened regarding Norway and the F-35; there's more here on that]…

The good minister is really getting a snow job given the US government’s own public concerns about F-35 costs, more here.  He’s also really blowing smoke out his tailpipe–there is only one recent order, a real contract that is, for 31 planes, all for the US except one for the UK.  That is unless one includes the give-away to Israel.

Update: Looks like the Dutch government is rather better informed, and more realistic (honest?), than ours:

Netherlands Sees Big JSF Cost Jump

More here.

Mark
Ottawa

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WikiLeaks: Jack takes his gloves off/Norman wonders if the NYT and Guardian covered the same story

Posted December 7th, 2010 in Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

Norman Spector was not best pleased yesterday:

“WikiLeaks’s mad attack on Canada”/Gadhafi Update

Now the good historian Jack Granatstein is some riled.  From a post at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute’s 3Ds Blog:

Close Down WikiLeaks Now

…the latest release of the US telegrams that detail the critical infrastructure in nations such as Canada that could cause most harm to American interests if destroyed takes me beyond my anger at WikiLeaks’ other releases. These cables are not merely embarrassing to outspoken envoys; these are criminal. The list of critical points is a gift to terrorists everywhere, put out in the open on Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks’ website. It demonstrates now that Assange’s aim is to cause harm, not merely to embarrass…

We are now at the point where the New York Times and The Guardian, for example, should stop publishing WikiLeaks’ material. We are now at the point where those who cooperate with Assange should be charged with aiding and abetting terrorism…

Meanwhile Norman today compares how the NY Times and Guardian covered the same basic story:

WikiLeaks exposes newspaper bias

http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/archive/00785/julian_assange_785894cl-3.jpg

Though troubling to many people, bias in the media is not always due to some dark plot – political or economic. In fact, it is inevitable. And the WikiLeaks document dump provides the perfect case study to prove the point.

Of all the newspapers in the world, four were provided privileged access by WikiLeaks to the diplomatic cables; in return, these newspapers promised to spread out and co-ordinate their publication dates on major issues. One paper, the Guardian, agreed to share the documents it received with the New York Times, which had refused WikiLeaks’s offer this time, though not on two previous occasions.

Both of these newspapers are generally considered to be quality broadsheets [The Guardian is now actually a "Berliner"]. Both would fairly be described as being on the liberal end of the political spectrum [The Guardian is actually a whole lot further to the left]. Both have had financial difficulties in recent years, but have striven to maintain their values in the current environment. And their Tuesday editions provide an excellent case study of media bias…

On the front page of today’s New York Times, under the headline “America Prods and Protests But Can’t halt Arms Trade,” one reads the following report:

Just a week after President Bashar al-Assad of Syria assured a top State Department official that his government was not sending sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, the Obama administration lodged a confidential protest accusing Syria of doing precisely what it had denied doing…

In contrast, the Guardian report of the arms trade cables is on Page 6 of today’s edition and is headlined “US used Israel intelligence to block arms from Iran and Syria.” It is accompanied by a colour photo captioned: “Palestinian civilians and medics run for safety as Israeli missiles fall in Beit Lahia in the Cast Lead offensive in January 2009.” And the report – written by Mideast editor Ian Black – differs so markedly from that in the New York Times – both in what it includes and what it omits – that you have to wonder whether the two sets of first-rate journalists were reading the same cables…

Mark
Ottawa

Galloway, But Only For Select Members Of The Media

Posted November 23rd, 2010 in Vancouver by Adrian MacNair

As you probably already know, I tried to cover an assignment for my college newspaper in downtown Vancouver yesterday. I went with my voice recorder, camera, and notes to see George Galloway speak. I showed my press pass at the front door and the organizer, Derrick O’Keefe (of rabble.ca and stopwar.ca fame), stepped forward and said, “Oh we know you. You’re a rightwing propagandist.”

A case of mistaken identity? O’Keefe insisted I was a writer for Propagandist Magazine and refused to let me in to do an assignment I’d been covered to do. After a bit of a blow up at the front door about freedom of the press and the glowing hypocrisy of lefties crying foul about free speech and then denying select members of the press from reporting about it, I paid my entrance fee and listened to George Galloway.

That night I filed to the Vancouver Sun with a few pictures. They did confirm acceptance of the story and were scheduled to run it, but as other media didn’t really pick up on the Galloway speech last night I guess they dropped it from the queue. Regardless, here was the “propaganda” I submitted to the Vancouver Sun:

George Galloway said he would use “every cent” he receives suing Canada’s immigration minister to fund the anti-war movement in a speech made in Vancouver Monday night.

The former British politician became a controversial figure in Canada after Immigration Minister Jason Kenney barred him from entering the country in March of 2009. Galloway said he doesn’t mind being called controversial if it gets people discussing Palestine, but believes he has been libelled by the Canadian government.

Dressed all in black with a Palestinian-coloured scarf around his neck, Galloway spoke to a packed house of several hundred people at St.Andrews Wesley United Church downtown.

Mocking Kenney and the Harper government, Galloway said he resents being called a member of a terrorist organization and a threat to Canada’s national security.

The crowd gave warm applause to the criticisms of the Harper government, particularly when Galloway said Canada’s reputation has fallen internationally for its support of Israel.

“Harper says it’s a badge of honour,” Galloway said. “Well, it’s a badge of shame!”

Galloway also rejected being labelled as anti-Semitic or a supporter of Hamas. He told the audience that he supports democracy and that only the Palestinian people have the right to choose their government. Palestine elected Hamas to government in January of 2006, the paramilitary wing of which is designated as a terrorist organization by Canada.

In response to the 2008 conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Galloway took humanitarian aid in a convoy and donated it to the Hamas government, along with a personal donation of £25,000 to the prime minister.

Galloway had harsh words for Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan as well. He said the war there is only fueling more terrorism every time a Muslim in killed by foreign forces.

“All that a young Muslim needs to get radicalized is the possession of a television and the ability to watch the news”, he said.

Galloway’s Vancouver visit was organized by the StopWar.ca coalition. He’s in Canada on a 10-city speaking tour, and is scheduled to appear in Yellowknife on Tuesday.

That was my professional, unbiased record of the event. What did I think personally? I thought Galloway relied on the usual specious arguments and half-truths. When an audience member asked how he could work with Iranian Press TV he gave an equivocal answer criticizing the Iranian government for the last elections, but then said that “at least Iran had elections.” He then turned to condemn our “allies” in Saudi Arabia for having unelected leaders. Confusingly, he had earlier in the evening condemned Canada for getting booted from the U.A.E.

I’m not really going to dissect his speech, but I do find one thing confusing. Galloway, and many others like him, seem to genuinely believe that Canada’s post-2011 mission in Kabul would involve combat. I just don’t understand where he’s getting this idea from.

Is there an inherent danger of maintaining Canadian Forces in Afghanistan beyond 2011 behind-the-wire? Yes. About the same level of danger as exists driving on the 401 every day to work. Not to minimize the casualties, but the facts are the facts.

At any rate, perhaps it’s for the best the Sun dropped the story. A lot of Galloway’s remarks are polemic, hyperbolic, and one-sided. As he himself admitted in his speech, he’s only controversial in Canada. Everywhere else in the world he’s a relatively insignificant partisan on the Palestinian side of the Middle Eastern Israeli-Arab stalemate.

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Headline of the day

Posted November 10th, 2010 in International, united states by MarkOttawa

From the front page of the NY Times–not enough for, say, low-income families?

In Curt Exchange, U.S. Faults Israel on Housing

Mark
Ottawa

Canada Too “Pro-Zionist”?

Posted October 13th, 2010 in International by Adrian MacNair


It isn’t difficult to guess how much this guy likes the idea of Israeli-loving Canada on the security council.

“Experts are blaming Canada’s failure to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council”, reads the beginning of this CBC article. But no experts [plural] are presented in the copy that follows, save Paul Heinbecker, Canada’s former ambassador to the UN and, a salient point if there is one to find, a “leading critic of the government’s foreign policy.”

Heinbecker blames four things on Canada’s failure to gain a seat on the security council: decreased African aid, its support of Israel, and its stance on climate change and peacekeeping. He asserts these things are unpopular with the international community.

It’s certainly in line with the Liberal party talking points that Canada has lost its way in the international community with a poor foreign policy. Decreased foreign aid to Africa may or may not be a factor. Certainly it’s arguable that our reluctance to entertain jobs-killing climate legislation has destroyed our international reputation. One need not read the press release from the Suzuki Foundation to guess what their opinion is.

What about so-called peacekeeping? It’s true that we curtailed our commitments to open-ended UN assignments involving futilely guarding refugee camps in the Congo in order to pursue a more robust counter-terrorism strategy that aligns our geopolitical interests in Central Asia. But I can’t imagine that had a significant impact on the decision either. After all, ISAF is joined by such nations as Sweden and Norway in the NATO effort in Afghanistan. One need not mention what the foreign policy impact of leaving our allies in the lurch will be down the road.

If I were to select one of Heinbecker’s four reasons as being most plausible, it would have to be our position on Israel. Certainly few nations have been so recklessly supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself against a neighbouring territory that routinely launches rocket attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

It is not with the intent of making friends and influencing people that Canada supports Israel, but because it’s the right thing to do. The popular yet craven choice would be to shun Israel in order to tap into the vast numbers of Palestinian sympathizers, not only at the United Nations but throughout the Muslim world.

Rising antisemitism disguised as criticism of Israel’s paradoxical standoff with Hamas is de riguer. How anyone can seriously expect a nation to deal with an enemy sworn to destroy it in a conscientious manner that guarantees no casualties is beyond me. But then again, the fact that Israel is one of the only legitimate democracies in the Middle East escapes a great number of people as well.

So Canada didn’t get a seat on the security council. Is the United Nations relevant enough that it’s a huge blow to our national ego? After all, security council resolutions pertaining to Afghanistan were adopted long after action had been taken against the Taliban government that was shielding al-Qaeda, which conjures up a barn door metaphor.

Ironically, the United Nations involvement in Afghanistan has not been enough to quell the antipathy toward Canada’s mission there, nor even inspire people to learn more about what Afghans actually want from the international security forces.

The F-35 and the fighters the US Navy still is buying…/Gov’t silence Update

Posted September 29th, 2010 in Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

…whilst waiting for the F-35C.  A new order for Super Hornets running until 2015.  Will Canadian governments really need fighters more capable than the US Navy for our future foreign policy and expeditionary military deployments?  All the some 20 we might actually send:

Boeing lands $5.3 billion fighter jet contract with Navy

Boeing landed a $5.3 billion contract Tuesday to build more than 124 fighter jets over the next four years.

The latest deal calls for the delivery of 66 F/A-18 Super Hornets and 58 EA-18G Growler aircraft from 2012 to 2015…

More:


This puts the per-unit price at about $43 million, not including engines, though each variant would have slightly different pricing…

It seems to me the Canadian government would be in a rather strong position, in terms of negotiating prices in a competition for a Canadian fighter purchase, given Boeing’s obvious interest in keeping the line going.

Further discussion here at Milnet.ca.  While they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Liberals’ objection to fighter-jets deal puts high-calibre jobs at risk, industry warns

More here on that, and earlier:

F-35: Norwegians deploy air brakes

Please people, on all sides, think about what new fighters might realistically be called upon by future governments to do rather than just being presently political.

Update: What our government is not telling us:


None of the eight countries that committed $4.5 billion to F-35 development has placed an order for production jets, although Australia and Canada have said they plan to.

The U.S. and Lockheed would like to secure orders to help lower the production costs of new airplanes. Israel will buy 20, but those will be paid for with U.S. military aid [more here]…

Meanwhile the Super Hornet’s price has been steadily declining:


I researched Boeing’s press releases to find out how much the Super Hornet’s price has changed over the last decade. Even as the company introduced the Block II Super Hornet/Growler with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, the price has steadily declined. Keep in mind these figures don’t include ‘actuals’ — Congressional plus-ups make true cost comparisons impossible. But the trend is clear.

  • MYP 1 (June 2000) — orders 222 aircraft for $8.9 billion, or $40.09 million per copy. Adjusted for inflation based on consumer price index: $49.45 million (2009 dollars)
  • MYP 2 (December 2003) — orders 210 aircraft for $8.6 billion, or $40.95 million per copy. Adjusted for inflation based on consumer price index: $47.65 million (2009 $), a 7.6% decrease
  • MYP 3 (September 2010) — orders 124 aircraft for $5.3 billion, or $42.72 million per copy, a 10.4% decline compared to MYP-2 and 13.6% decline compared to MYP-1

* Boeing MYP contracts exclude government furnished equipment, which includes engines [emphasis added]

Mark
Ottawa

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Iranian President: Scary…

Posted September 23rd, 2010 in International by MarkOttawa

…but scary smart too?  Perhaps a lot of us have been underestimating the man–Bret Stephens in the Wall St. Journal (with video):

Breakfast With Ahmadinejad
Lox, bagels and the ‘Zionist regime.’

It’s a few minutes before eight in the morning on Tuesday, and the 30 or so journalists who have assembled to meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the conference room of a midtown Manhattan hotel are gorging themselves on lox and bagels and wondering whether the buffet is some kind of sly catering joke. A prominent TV personality seated next to me is approached by an Iranian film crew wanting to know her thoughts about their president. She says something cringingly obsequious about how gracious he is for making himself available to the media…

Now CNN’s Fareed Zakaria asks Ahmadinejad whether he would accept whatever deal Palestinians might strike with Israel in the current negotiations.

The question is meant as a trap—if he says no, he is potentially contradicting the Palestinians; if yes, he might have to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Ahmadinejad’s answer showcases his rhetorical gifts. He says he has no trouble deferring to the wishes of Palestinians; he merely wishes they be represented by the people they actually elected, meaning Hamas. In a stroke, he has put himself on the side of democracy and exposed the central fallacy of the current peace process, which is that a majority of Palestinians want to co-exist with a Jewish state called Israel…

In the New York Times’s account of the breakfast, reporter Neil MacFarquhar—who asked an opaque question about Cyrus the Great and was roundly mocked for it by Ahmadinejad—described the president’s remarks as “standard talking points” plus “a little fresh bluster.” Perhaps I haven’t achieved the appropriate degree of jadedness, but my own impression of Ahmadinejad was that he was easily the smartest guy in the room. He mocked us in a way we scarcely had the wit to recognize. We belittle him at our peril.

Mr. Stephens writes the Journal’s Global View column.

Earlier:

President Ahmadinejad: At least he did not call them “bacilli”/Cruise missile Update

Update: Meawhile, a Canadian may face death in Tehran (but I do not share Mr Glavin’s approbation of the MEK):

“Free Hossein Derakhshan”: A Responsory Chant To Murmur While Kneeling.

Whilst the Iranian president is another troofer. Scary, really scary, what egregious people put forward,

Mark
Ottawa

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Attacking Iran: It’s Friday and so far no bombs away

Posted August 20th, 2010 in International, united states by MarkOttawa

Earlier:

This Friday: The bombs of August?

Looks like the US is working hard to hold back the Israelis:

U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent

The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year — and perhaps longer — for Iran to complete what one senior official called a “dash” for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.

Administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country’s nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats…

Christopher Hitchens, for his part, sees a bigger picture:

The price of not disarming Iran

With Russia’s ever-helpful policy of assisting Iran to accelerate its reactor program, allied to the millimetrical progress of sanctions on the Ahmadinejad regime and the increasingly hopeless state of negotiations with the Palestinians, there is likely to be no let-up in the speculation about an Israeli “first strike” on Iran’s covert but ever-more-flagrant nuclear weapons installations. I have lost count of the number of essays and columns on the subject that were published this month alone. The most significant and detailed such contribution, though, came from my friend and colleague Jeffrey Goldberg in a cover story in the Atlantic. From any close reading of this piece, it was possible to be sure of at least one thing: The government of Benjamin Netanyahu wants it to be understood that, in the absence of an American decision to do so, Israel can and will mount such an attack in the not-too-distant future. The keyword of the current anguished argument — the word existential — is thought by a strategic majority of Israel’s political and military leadership to apply in its fullest meaning. To them, an Iranian bomb is incompatible with the long-term survival of the Israeli state and even of the Jewish people.

It would be a real pity if the argument went on being conducted in these relatively narrow terms…

These, then, are some of the prices to be paid for not disarming Iran. Is it not obvious that the international interest in facing this question squarely, and in considering it as “existential” for civilization, is far stronger than any political calculation to be made in Netanyahu’s office?

Mark
Ottawa

This Friday: The bombs of August?

Posted August 18th, 2010 in International by MarkOttawa

Advocacy indeed. The Washington Times (very conservative):

EDITORIAL: Bombs away in three days
It’s time to strike Iran’s nuclear program

Israel’s long-anticipated attack on Iran’s nuclear program may come as soon as Friday. Yesterday, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Israel had eight days to strike Iran’s nuclear facility at Bushehr before it would become operational. He revised the timeline to three days after word came that nuclear fuel would begin loading on Friday. We’re now down to two days and counting…

Via Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs.

The bolt from Bolton (very conservative); this Friday would be even before the Israelis get their F-35s: 4), 5) and Upperdate here.  A previous Israeli effort:

The Israeli Strike Against OSIRAQ

Mark
Ottawa