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Archive | January, 2012

An independent Scotland could leave Elizabeth II Head of State

Queen Elizabeth II remains the head of Scotland, even in the case of gaining independence, the region, said the First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond.

The head of the Scottish National Party (SNP) continues to promote the formulation of the question, which he proposes to make to a referendum in 2014: “Do you want to see Scotland as an independent state?”. Thus Salmond confirmed that the region will remain in the United Kingdom even if gained political independence.

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Are We Ready for a ‘Morality Pill’?

If continuing brain research does in fact show biochemical differences between the brains of those who help others and the brains of those who do not, could this lead to a “morality pill” — a drug that makes us more likely to help? Given the many other studies linking biochemical conditions to mood and behavior, and the proliferation of drugs to modify them that have followed, the idea is not far-fetched. If so, would people choose to take it? Could criminals be given the option, as an alternative to prison, of a drug-releasing implant that would make them less likely to harm others? Might governments begin screening people to discover those most likely to commit crimes? Those who are at much greater risk of committing a crime might be offered the morality pill; if they refused, they might be required to wear a tracking device that would show where they had been at any given time, so that they would know that if they did commit a crime, they would be detected.

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Update: Special Ops ‘Mothership’ Heads to Persian Gulf

Recent U.S. and European sanctions against Iran have gotten tougher, but that hasn’t stopped the Islamic regime’s quest for nuclear weapons.

Now, the United States is ready for a new military show of force. The Pentagon is sending the USS Ponce to the Persian Gulf, where it will become a floating base for U.S. Navy SEALs.

The ship was scheduled to be retired weeks ago, but now has a new mission — to search for mines and enemy activity.

“What it’s going to be is the mother ship for special operations forces that will allow the U.S. to covertly deploy our special operations warriors to really difficult parts of the world,” explained ABC News consultant and retired Col. Stephen Ganyard.

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US Eastern Pivot Causes Rift: China sanctions against Philippines urged

China should impose “sanctions” against the Philippines after the latter offered to allow more US troops on its soil, state media said on Sunday, amid growing tensions over disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In sharp contrast, China’s foreign ministry called for greater efforts toward “peace and stability” in the region.

“We hope that relevant parties will make more effort toward peace and stability in the region,” the foreign ministry said in a brief statement faxed to Agence France-Presse on Sunday.

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Dhaka’s ‘death squad’ shoots for a makeover

Bangladesh’s Men in Black

Image has always been an integral part of the RAB setup. They are quick to stress the “elite” part of “elite paramilitary force.” RAB’s members are drawn from the army, navy, air force, police force and border guards.

“We only consider the best from them, and we only pick the very best of the best,” said Sohail.

RAB takes this Men in Black ethos literally. They are an intimidating and visually striking sight, men and women patrolling the streets of Dhaka armed with assault rifles while dressed in all-black from the boots up to the bandanas and of course, sunglasses.

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U.S. to send floating base to Mideast for quick strikes

Within the president’s defense-budget plan is funding for an intriguing new item: a floating drone base that also could be used as a launching pad for commandos.

The vessel—called an “afloat forward staging base”—would be a platform that could be configured to carry and refuel small patrol boats, helicopters or pilotless aircraft.

Within the president’s new defense budget plan is funding for an intriguing new item: a floating drone base that also could be used as a launching pad for commandos. Nathan Hodge has details on The News Hub.

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UK riots: paratroopers are trained in riot control

Hundreds of soldiers from 3rd battalion The Parachute Regiment spent last week learning how to contain and arrest “rioters” in a series of exercises mirroring last summers violence.

Defence sources have confirmed that if violence were to return to British cities, especially during the Olympic Games, the Paras would be “ideally placed” to provide “short-term” support to police forces around the UK.

Such a request would have to be made by the Home Office and would have to have Prime Ministerial approval, according to the source.

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Weather Satellite Surveillance?

The FY series appear to be roughly analogous to those associated with the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. The FY-3, equipped with almost a dozen all weather sensors, is China’s most advanced space asset providing meteorological support to the People’s Liberation Army. The system also could provide measurement and signature intelligence data to China’s emerging anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) targeting architecture.

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It looks like civil war: Syrian rebel forces are buying arms and fighting closer to the capital

Sectarian rifts appear to be intensifying in these areas. The security forces are dominated by members of the Alawite sect. The battered Sunni majority has on occasion taken indiscriminate revenge, although many activists have shown remarkable patience and remained peaceful in the face of the regime’s onslaught. But a growing number are viewing an armed struggle as the only way out.

The majority fighting on the opposition side are defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army. Their leaders claim to command up to 15,000 men, though outsiders believe there may be no more than 7,000.

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African Union embraces generous Chinese financing

Weakened by chronic infighting and the demise of its long-time financier Moammar Gadhafi, the African Union is turning instead to the embrace of its richest new ally: China.

Col. Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator who was overthrown and killed last year, had been the biggest donor to Africa’s political alliance for years. But at its latest summit this weekend, the AU made it clear that Beijing is its new Libya.

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SR FlashPoint Analysis 2012/1: History repeats itself, Dire straits in Hormuz

Iran has set the stage for their own demise when they foolishly positioned themselves in the Straits of Hormuz. History has repeated itself once again and those who are students of history are patiently waiting for things to unfold as they should. From the Middle East to Middle America you can cut the tension with a knife. Iran has passed their Rubicon but no one is entirely sure how deep the ramifications will be felt and just how much they will reverberate and permeate autocratic leadership in the gulf.

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Year of The Water Dragon: 12 Chinese Maritime Developments to Look for in 2012

China has now entered the Year of the Dragon. According to traditional geomancy, for the first time since 1952, the year will be associated with the element water. Sixty years ago, in the throes of the Korean War, Beijing could scarcely have been further from the water. Today, however, China’s shipyards are humming and the PLA Navy (PLAN) is sustaining operations half a world away in the Gulf of Aden.

Beginning with the major potential newsmakers, here are 12 key things to watch for and what they mean:

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“Dirty money, blackmail, pressure to recognize Kosovo”

A combination of pressure, blackmails and dirty money induced a part of African countries to change their stand, although they had been refusing to recognize an attempted secession of a part of a sovereign state’s territory for a long time, Jeremić stated after several bilateral meetings held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Serbian chief of diplomacy is attending the African Union (AU) Summit there.

In an interview for Tanjug, Jeremić said that only a small number of countries changed their stand on the issue of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence and that a considerable number of countries in Africa still do not recognize Kosovo.

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Burma army redeploys troops to Kachin frontline

Less than a week after peace talks between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burmese government ended unsuccessfully, the Burmese army began a large scale troop redeployment, sending fresh soldiers to relieve those already based at the Kachin frontlines, the Kachin News Group learned.

Troops from Light Infantry Division No. 99 based in Meiktila in Mandalay division, who were fighting the Kachin Independence Army’s battalion 1, 12 and 27 in the Manwin, Nam Hkam and Manje area, were recently replaced with fresh troops from Military Operation Command (MOC) No. 1 based in Kyaukme and MOC No. 16 based in Theinni (or Hsenwi), said a senior official from the KIA.

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Research and Markets: Turkmenistan Oil and Gas Report Q1 2012: Potential for Gas Export Bonanza

Turkmenistan could potentially benefit from a gas export bonanza, with a major reserves upgrade at the South Yolotan field alone providing the basis for long-term supply agreements that should transform the economic outlook. There are technical and commercial hurdles to overcome, but timely infrastructure investment and moves to improve international relations should guarantee that Turkmenistan becomes a key player in global gas supply.

Business Monitor International’s Turkmenistan Oil and Gas Report provides industry professionals and strategists, corporate analysts, oil and gas associations, government departments and regulatory bodies with independent forecasts and competitive intelligence on Turkmenistan’s oil and gas industry.

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India, Pakistan closer to oil deal import from Turkmenistan

India and Pakistan are closer to agreeing on a transit fee and a joint strategy to develop gas fields and import the hydrocarbon via a pipeline from the Central Asian Republic of Turkmenistan, oil ministers of two countries said.

The statements came during joint press conference by Indian Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister S Jaipal Reddy and his Pakistani counterpart Dr Asim Hussain, after bilateral talks on energy cooperation here.
Turkmenistan has world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas. India & Pakistan are both keen to tap this source through a pipeline via the Central Asian country’s eastern neighbour, Afghanistan.

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Six Pakistanis gunned down by Iranian border guards

At least six Pakistani nationals were gunned down and four others wounded when Iranian border security guards opened indiscriminate firing without prior warning near the country’s border with Iran.

According to reports, the incident took place in the Iranian territory close to the Zaran border overlooking Chah Bahar, which is a common route for informal trade between the neighbouring countries.

The Pakistani nationals were travelling in a vehicle carrying cattle and heading towards Chah Bahar from the Zaran border when they were intercepted by the Iranian border guards, the Balochistan Levies confirmed.

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U.S. security contractors head to Mexico

With waning U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, security contractors are finding work in Mexico despite its ban on foreigners carrying guns, records show.

Security spending by private companies in Mexico, as well as the Mexican and U.S. governments, has increased since Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s ramped up war on the country’s drug kingpins in December 2006, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The U.S. State Department has promised nearly $2 billion in aid toward the cause since 2008.

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HSBC in new US money-laundering inquiry

US officials have run a series of investigations into how big banks have processed transactions involving countries which the US government claims support terrorism as well as those which could involve criminals or potentially corrupt foreign officials. It is not known exactly what the focus of the subcommittee’s inquiries into HSBC is.

The bank yesterday admitted it was holding “ongoing discussions” with US officials over “a number of regulatory and compliance matters”. In a sign it is taking the increasing hard line of US watchdogs seriously it recently named former top US Treasury Department official Stuart Levey (pictured) as its London-based chief legal officer.

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Pentagon taps students to build robots, drones

With an eye toward revolutionizing how defense systems and vehicles are made, the Pentagon has tapped a team of Bay Area-based scientists, engineers and hackers to create a program that will enlist California high school students to build robots, drones and other low- and medium-tech gadgets.

The Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has awarded $2 million of a $10 million program to two outfits that have joined forces to develop a pilot project in 10 schools.

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Russian Sixth Generation Warfare and Recent Developments

While press attention on developments in Russia focused on the disputed parliamentary elections and the following protests, which seemed to revive political activism in Moscow and other urban centers, there have been some military developments that deserve some attention. One such theme is an old topic, sixth generation warfare and its impact upon the nuclear threshold – do advanced conventional systems, which approach nuclear effects, blur the line on nuclear deterrence? The Russian press has had several recent articles that suggest this issue is becoming more acute.

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How Iran Controls Afghanistan

Afghanistan has suffered from foreign meddling since its inception. But while Pakistan’s role has been widely discussed — most Afghans will point to concrete examples — Iran’s involvement is more subtle.

Iranian influence is all encompassing–the Islamic government funds Afghan Shiite sects and politicians, has invested in building roads and providing fuel and transport, and is fighting hard against the Afghan opium trade that supplies millions of addicts. But Iran’s lasting power on Afghanistan is cultural as well as political, broadcasting state radio and television programs inside Afghanistan.

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Papua New Guinea Defense Chief Seized in Power Struggle

A group of Papua New Guinea soldiers mutinied on Thursday, seizing and replacing their chief commander in what could be a ploy to help former prime minister Sir Michael Somare return to power, the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) and local media reported.

The South Pacific nation has been plagued by political instability for weeks, jeopardizing its prospects as an investment destination just as US oil giant ExxonMobil develops a $15.7 billion liquefied natural gas plant, the country’s biggest-ever resource project.

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Russia to supply $7.7 billion worth of arms to India

“This year, Russia will supply arms and military equipment worth $7.7 billion to India, about 60% of Russia’s total arms exports and 80% of India’s arms imports,” CAWAT said in the release.

CAWAT attributes this breakthrough in the Russian-Indian military and technical cooperation in 2012 to supplies within the framework of several large-scale programmes (the centre calculates the value of supplies on the basis of actual deliveries). It is reported that a considerable part of the supplies will be behind the original schedule, “which will entail this impressive result in 2012.”

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New drone has no pilot anywhere, so who’s accountable?

The Navy’s new drone being tested near Chesapeake Bay stretches the boundaries of technology: It’s designed to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier, one of aviation’s most difficult maneuvers.

What’s even more remarkable is that it will do that not only without a pilot in the cockpit, but without a pilot at all.

The X-47B marks a paradigm shift in warfare, one that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. With the drone’s ability to be flown autonomously by onboard computers, it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently.

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Group: Chinese forces open fire on Tibetan protesters

he spread of violence came after some 30 Tibetans sheltered in a monastery after being wounded when Chinese police fired into a crowd of protesters in neighboring Luhuo county, a Tibetan monk said Tuesday. He said military forces had surrounded the building.

The monk would not give his name out of fear of government retaliation, and the Draggo monastery could no longer be reached by phone Wednesday.

The counties have been tense for some time, and at least 16 Buddhist monks, nuns and other Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest in the past year.

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Kazakhstan’s ‘dirty’ election keeps Nursultan Nazarbayev in seat of power

Kazakhstan, a central Asian country favoured by foreign investors for its oil and gas, held an early general election this month. President Nursultan Nazarbayev is still firmly in control of affairs but now three parties will have seats in the Majlis (lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament), not just one. The only hitch is that the newcomers are just a front for the ruling clique.

The president’s party, Nur Otan, took more than 80% of the vote and was again given “carte blanche”, as he puts it. Two other parties – Ak Jol and the People’s Communist party (KNPK) – reached the 7% limit required for seats in parliament.

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Gadhafi loyalists seize Libyan city

Moammar Gadhafi loyalists seized control of a Libyan mountain city in the most serious challenge to the central government since the strongman’s fall, underlining the increasing weakness of Libya’s Western-backed rulers as they try to unify the country under their authority.

The taking of Bani Walid, one of the last Gadhafi strongholds captured by the new leadership late last year, was the first such organized operation by armed remnants of Gadhafi’s regime. A simultaneous outbreak of shootings in the capital and Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, raised authorities’ concerns that other networks of loyalists were active elsewhere.

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India drawn to Iran’s favourable oil terms

India wants to take as much Iranian oil as it can because terms are “favourable”, Oil Minister S. Jaipal Reddy has said.

He made the remarks on Monday after talks between the two sides last week on payment options for $12 billion of crude a year following fresh US sanctions, Reuters reported.

“It will be our endeavour in future to tap the Iran source fully, because the terms are fairly favourable,” Reddy told journalists at an energy conference. He added that India was exploring all options to pay for the crude.

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AEI Resident Scholar: US considering ‘air strikes’, not invasion of Iran

How serious is the current crisis over Iran? Can it be solved by sanctions?

The crisis with Iran is very serious. There is no trust between Washington and Tehran. There is a sense in the United States and Europe that time is running out and that, absent stronger measures, Iran will achieve the capability to make nuclear weapons.

Iran will only reverse course if the costs of its defiance become greater than it can bear. None of the sanctions in place right now will compel Iran to change its policy. Only overwhelming sanctions leading to Iran’s economic collapse can work, but with Russia and China shielding Iran, such crippling sanctions appear unlikely.

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Saudi warns of possible Mideast nuclear arms race

An influential member of the Saudi royal family is warning if the Middle East does not become a nuclear weapon-free zone, a nuclear arms race is inevitable and could possibly include Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even Turkey.

Prince Turki Al Faisal said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that the zone is a better way of dealing with Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

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Forget Greece; it’s Portugal that’ll destroy euro

Greece is already bust — and its default is already priced into the market. But Portugal is in precisely the same position, just on a longer fuse. It too is sliding toward an inevitable default on its debts — and when it does so, it will deliver a terminal political blow to the single currency, and inflict damage on the European banking system that may well prove catastrophic.

The World Economic Forum’s annual gathering of global and corporate leaders has commenced in Davos. Tracy Corrigan, Editor-in-Chief, The Wall Street Journal Europe, tells us what the big themes are at the conference.

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The Eurasian Triple Entente: Touch Iran in a War, You Will Hear Russia and China

Despite the areas of difference and the rivalries between Moscow and Tehran, Russian and Iranian ties are increasing. Both Russia and Iran share many commonalities. They are both major energy exporters, have deeply seated interests in the South Caucasus, oppose NATO’s missile shield, and want to keep the U.S. and E.U. from controlling the energy corridors around the Caspian Sea Basin. Moscow and Tehran also share many of the same allies, from Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus to Syria and Venezuela. Yet, above all things, both republics are also two of Washington’s main geo-strategic targets.

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Arab Sheikhs fall in love with Renminbi

The short point is, the renminbi, the “people’s currency” also known as the yuan, is appearing in Doha. The China-United Arab Emirates (UAE) currency swap deal which was signed during Wen’s visit to Abu Dhabi last week already brings the yuan to the Emirates. The deal with the UAE is worth US$5.5 billion and the Chinese central bank statement said that it aims at “strengthening bilateral financial cooperation, promoting trade and investments and jointly safeguarding regional financial stability”.

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World Economic Forum: Global experts fear geopolitical disruption

The bleak outlook at the start of this year is shared by a majority of 345 respondents from business, government, international organisations and academia.

“A major geopolitical disruption early in the new year would certainly tip the global economy in the wrong direction given current confidence levels,” said Lee Howell, the managing director at the WEF responsible for the Forum’s Global Risks Report 2012.

“The possibility of a geoeconomic disruption, such as sovereign default, is to some degree reflected in the market, but a major geopolitical disruption clearly is not,” added Howell.

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Kazakh police raid opposition party office

The Kazakh television channel K+ showed police outside the house of Alga leader Vladimir Kozlov in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s commercial capital. The homes of Alga’s accountant and head of security were also searched, the party said.

Also Monday, the newspaper Respublika reported that the editor of independent newspaper Vzglyad, Igor Vinyavsky, was arrested on charges of inciting the overthrow of the government.

A government clampdown on opposition figures would undermine claims that it intends to pursue political reform.

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Report: Russia to deliver combat jets to Syria

Russia has signed a contract to sell combat jets to Syria, a newspaper reported Monday, in apparent support for President Bashar Assad and open defiance of international condemnation of his regime’s bloody crackdown.

The respected business daily Kommersant, citing an unidentified source close to Russia’s Rosoboronexport state arms trader, said the $550-million deal envisions the delivery of 36 Yak-130 aircraft. A spokesman for Rosoboronexport refused to comment on the report.

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Russia’s South Stream winning pipeline war vs. EU-US Nabucco

Gazprom’s South Stream gas pipeline, designed to ship Russian gas directly to Southern Europe circumventing Ukraine, looks to have stolen a march on the rival EU/US-backed supported Nabucco pipeline.

Construction of the South Stream gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Europe will start in December 2012, and not 2013 as previously planned, Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom said January 20. At the same time, two key backers of Nabucco – US energy envoy Richard Morningstar and German energy giant RWE – expressed doubts about the feasibility of the project, which is designed to ship Caspian basin and Middle East gas direct to Southern Europe, bypassing Russia.

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Eurasian Union and Russia’s Geostrategic Stability

US top foreign-policy strategist and a die-hard Russophobe Zbigniew Brzeziński had a point when he wrote in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives that “Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state”, moreover, a one under permanent pressure from Central Asian republics and China. He also stressed quite appropriately therein that “However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as its access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia”.

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Azerbaijan develops its partnership with NATO”

The issues of defense reforms, practical cooperation, security in the region, future development of Azerbaijan-NATO relations, including the beginning of Individual Partnership Plan, operations, energy security were discussed during the political dialog last year. The 28+1 (NATO member countries and Azerbaijan) meeting on energy security was held in NATO headquarters last year.

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David Arkhangelski : “Azerbaijan is a potential market for armament and military technology”

There are series of fields where Azerbaijan and Georgia should boost cooperation. Security zone is a many critical as we face a lot of identical threats like terrorisms, trafficking and solidified conflicts.

Azerbaijan has a really engaging and quick building military-industrial complex. Georgia would be meddlesome in a technological team-work with your country. Azerbaijan is also a intensity marketplace for armament and troops technology.

I would like to underline a significance of a preparation in counterclaim field, sell programs and knowledge pity would be profitable for both a countries.

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Saleh’s 33-year rule in Yemen set to end

Outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh apologized for “any shortcoming” in his 33-year rule before leaving Yemen for the United States on Sunday, paving the way for a transfer of power after a year of unrest.

“God willing, I will leave for (medical) treatment in the United States and I will return to Sanaa as head of the General People’s Congress party,” he told senior party and government officials in a televised speech.

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Precarious Situation: Britain, US and France send warships through Strait of Hormuz

Last month, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the Iranian navy, claimed that closing the Strait would be “easy,” adding: “As Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water.”

But USS Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear-powered carrier capable of embarking 90 aircraft, passed through this channel and entered the Gulf without incident yesterday. HMS Argyll, a Type 23 frigate from the Royal Navy, was one of the escort vessels making up the carrier battle-group. A guided missile cruiser and two destroyers from the US Navy completed the flotilla, along with one warship from the French navy.

All three countries retain a permanent military presence in the Gulf, but a joint passage through the Strait of Hormuz by all of their respective navies is highly unusual. The flotilla will have passed within a few miles of the Iranian coastline.

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Is the Successor to the KGB Targeting the Russian Opposition?

Last week, two friends—one a former parliamentarian, the other a current lawmaker andformer colonel in Russia’s spy service—met up at a café popular among members of Russia’s Parliament. The café, Akademiya, is situated a few blocks away from the Kremlin. There the men—Vladimir Ryzhkov and Gennady Gudkov—had what they thought was a private conversation.

But someone was secretly filming the conversation. On Monday, that someone posted 10 minutes of the film on YouTube. No one seemed to notice.

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Vladimir Putin’s support of spying is of Cold War calibre

Russian spies haven’t been this visibly active since the height of the Cold War.

“Much of this goes on sub rosa and never comes to public view,” said Wesley Wark, a University of Toronto security expert.

“But the general view is that the post-Soviet Russian state remains wedded to a very intensive overseas intelligence collection effort. The Putin administration in particular seems extremely keen on investing in foreign intelligence, which is perhaps not very surprising, given his KGB background.” (Mr. Putin is a former KGB spy, who was stationed in Dresden, East Germany, in 1985-90.)

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Cold War Redux: Russia’s Kaliningrad buildup causes NATO chief concern

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen Thursday urged Russia to refrain from building up its military near the alliance’s borders, saying it was a concern for the 28-nation organization.

Rasmussen questioned Russian moves to bolster its forces in its Kaliningrad territory, which borders NATO members Lithuania and Poland, both part of Moscow’s Cold War-era stamping ground.

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Saudi Arabia pivots toward Asia

Saudi Arabia’s future lies in Asia. That was the subtext of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s recent visit to Riyadh. That future might arrive a lot quicker than people think, if BP is to be believed.

BP’s most recent energy outlook report predicts that the United States will become almost self-sufficient in energy by 2030, thanks to exploitation of its shale oil and gas resources.

Per The Guardian, this is a ”development with enormous geopolitical implications”. [1]

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Maliki’s Failed Dictatorship: Iraq on the brink of civil war

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s security services have locked up more than 1,000 members of other political parties over the past several months, detaining many of them in secret locations with no access to legal counsel and using “brutal torture” to extract confessions, his chief political rival has charged.

Ayad Allawi, the secular Shiite Muslim leader of the mainly Sunni Muslim Iraqiya bloc in parliament, who served as prime minister of the first Iraqi government after the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein, has laid out his allegations in written submissions to Iraq’s supreme judicial council. Allawi, whose bloc is part of Maliki’s coalition government, demanded Wednesday that the prime minister grant the detainees legal counsel and due process.

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Chief of Iran’s Quds Force claims Iraq, south Lebanon under his control

Commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Brig. Gen. Qasem Soleimani has said that the Islamic Republic controls “one way or another” over Iraq and south Lebanon and that Tehran is capable of influencing the advent of Islamist governments in order to fight “arrogant” powers, ISNA student agency reported on Thursday.

“The enemies are trying to besiege the Islamic Republic of Iran, but this symposium is an opportunity for thousands of youth who play an influential role in the Islamic awareness to travel Iran and shed sensitivities of Iran-phobia by observing the an Islamic government founded on religious principles in Iran,” Gen. Soleimani, who reports directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said.

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EUCFR: Four scenarios for the reinvention of Europe

Looming behind the euro crisis is a larger and more fundamental challenge: the near-collapse of the EU’s political system. The rise of anti-EU populism across Europe has prevented the continent’s politicians from grasping the political challenges.

Technocratic institutional fixes have only provoked more populism. European leaders are now unable to solve the euro crisis because they can only force inadequate solutions through loopholes in the Lisbon Treaty.

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Great Salt Desert bunker could be trigger for an attack on Iran

Five years ago, Iran began ambitious excavations at this site near the holy city of Qom. Unknown to the regime, western intelligence agencies were tracking the work, eventually concluding that Iran was building a covert plant where uranium could be enriched in secret.

The existence of this facility, known as the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, was disclosed by President Barack Obama in September 2009. Simultaneously, Iran came clean and informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying its purpose was entirely civilian.

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US, NATO have some 1,000 interceptor missiles: Rogozin

The U.S. and its NATO allies already have about a thousand of missiles capable of intercepting Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Russian deputy premier in charge of defense said.

“Along with allies, whom the U.S. now persuades to buy ships equipped with the Aegis Combat System, the overall potential can be estimated at about 1,000 interceptor missiles,” Dmitry Rogozin, who is also the Russian president’s special representative for talks with NATO, said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

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Arab World: Qatar, Midwife of the new Arab world

Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani this week called for the deployment of Arab troops in Syria. The intention of this deployment, the emir said, would be to “stop the killing” by the Assad regime of its opponents.

The proposal grabbed headlines throughout the regional media. It has, however, little hope of practical application. Syria immediately and unambiguously rejected it.

An Arab intervention would need the approval of the Syrian authorities or the backing of the UN Security Council. Neither are likely to be forthcoming.

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Battle for control of Asia’s seas goes underwater

It’s getting a bit more crowded under the sea in Asia, where Andrew Peterson commands one of the world’s mightiest weapons: a $2 billion nuclear submarine with unrivaled stealth and missiles that can devastate targets hundreds of miles (kilometers) away.

Super high-tech submarines like Cmdr. Peterson’s USS Oklahoma City have long been the envy of navies all over the globe — and a key component of U.S. military strategy.

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Top U.S. General in Israel for Talks on Iran

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Israel on Thursday for a 24-hour visit with the country’s top leaders expected to focus on Iran’s nuclear program as well as the challenges posed by the past year’s regional upheavals and the American military exit from Iraq.

This is General Dempsey’s first visit to Israel since taking over as chairman in October and he will see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, military chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and President Shimon Peres. He will also visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum. He arrives following a visit to Europe.

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Kremlin Walks a High Wire on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Russia built for Iran its first nuclear power plant, then refused to sell to Tehran the anti-aircraft missiles to defend it.

A high-ranking Russian told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday that it “remains unproven” that there is a military component to Iran’s nuclear program.

On the other hand, he added, Tehran’s decision to enrich uranium violates international resolutions designed to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

As tensions rise between the West and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program, Russia is trying to play a highwire balancing act.

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European Geostrategy: ‘Britain will never accept German leadership’

Over the past five years, Germany has become very powerful. Since Britain’s (hopefully temporary) economic difficulties, the German economy has emerged not only as the largest – but by far the largest – in the European Union. Consequentially, some have asked whether we are now entering a period of German hegemony, a kind of German ‘unipolar moment’. Yesterday, however, the British strategist, Julian Lindley-French, explained that this is impossible – Germany will not become a European hegemon.

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U.S. intelligence watching Saudis after China-Saudi nuclear weapons deal

U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching Saudi Arabia for signs that the oil-rich kingdom will seek to develop nuclear weapons, amid tensions in the region centered on Iran’s nuclear program.

One key warning sign was the cooperation agreement signed Sunday in Riyadh by China and Saudi Arabia.

According to the Saudi Jidda News, the agreement will seek joint development of “atomic energy for peaceful purposes, which will help to meet the kingdom’s rising demand for energy and cut its growing dependence on depleting resources.”

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World Bank to World: ‘Prepare for the Worst’

If the euro zone finally loses its grip on its super-slo-mo meltdown, the countries paying the highest price might not be the ones confined to the euro, according the World Bank’s new morbid report on the global economy.

“Developing countries need to prepare for the worst,” the Bank said, describing how the European sovereign debt crisis could spread to every corner of the globe. “In this highly uncertain environment, developing countries should evaluate their vulnerabilities and prepare contingencies to deal with both the immediate and longer-term effects of a downturn.”

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India, China Agree To Pursue Border Solution

Six months after resuming military exchanges, India and China have agreed on a mechanism for resolving their long-standing boundary dispute.

The two countries signed a pact to establish a “Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs.” The agreement, signed by India’s ambassador to China, S. Jaishankar, and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, was finalized here Jan. 17 at the conclusion of the 15th meeting of the Special Representatives on the boundary question between Indian National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo.

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EU in uncharted legal waters on Scottish independence

Last week’s announcement by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond that he intends to hold a referendum on Scotland’s independence in 2014 implies uncharted legal territory for the EU.

A newly independent Scotland would raise a number of thorny questions around its relations with the European Union – including whether it would have to fully renegotiate membership and whether it would be obliged to become a member of the euro.

For the EU itself, the issue would present a political and legal conundrum.

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Russia’s Iran war games: responding to threats, or making them?

There’s been some interesting reporting on Russia’s annual ‘Kavkaz’ war games and their connection with the situation in Iran. Unlike previous years, the exercises – scheduled for the autumn – are explicitly designed with events ‘in the Persian Gulf’ (i.e. Iran) in mind. Specifically, they revolve around the scenario that a US-Israeli attack on Iran creates ‘spillover’, that old buzzword of the armchair general, in the Caucasus.

Significantly, this year’s exercises will probably not be confined to Russian soil: they will include components in the Georgia’s breakaway, Russian-backed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and maybe in Armenia too.

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Kim Jong Un’s Brother Thinks North Korea Will Fail

They’ve never met, but Kim Jong Un’s brother, who lives a life of exile in Macau, thinks the new leader of North Korea is too inexperienced and will wind up the victim of a military coup. And that may be a sign of hope for North Korea. In his new book My Father, Kim Jong Il, and Me, about Kim Jong Il’s eldest son Kim Jong Nam, Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi paints a portrait of a “smart, overweight playboy” (as one professor described Jong Nam) who has little faith in the future of the land of his birth.

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‘Russia develops military infrastructure in Abkhazia and South Ossetia’

The Georgian Foreign Ministry accused Russia of targeting the militarization of the ‘occupied territories’. “Russia is constantly developing military infrastructure in the occupied territories of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia, attacking the character enters the equipment and is constantly trying to permanently provoke tensions both in Georgia and around the Black Sea region,”

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Ethiopia forcing thousands off land: US rights group

Ethiopia is forcing tens of thousands of people off their land so it can lease it to foreign investors, leaving former landowners destitute and in some cases starving, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

The Horn of Africa state has already leased 3 million hectares — an area just smaller than Belgium — to foreign farm businesses and the US-based rights group said that Addis Ababa had plans to lease another 2.1 million hectares.

The United Nations has increasingly voiced concern that countries such as China and Gulf Arab states are buying swathes of land in Africa and Asia to secure their own food supplies, often at the expense of local people.

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Iran intervenes in Syria: Hizbullah launches first combat rocket salvo

The Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah has begun its first combat operations in Syria, the opposition said.

Opposition sources said Hizbullah fighters launched Russian-origin BM-21 Grad rockets toward civilian protesters on Jan. 16. The sources said the Hizbullah rocket attack took place near Damascus amid Iranian threats to increase intervention in Syria.

“The attack was coordinated with the forces of President Bashar Assad,” the Syrian Revolutionary Coordination Union said.

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Gulf states show rising confidence to rattle Iran

The Iranians have watched as frustrated bystanders while the leader of its most influential ally, China, began a tour of Gulf Arab states with talks in Tehran’s top regional rival Saudi Arabia. Two other major Iranian oil customers – South Korea and Japan – also had high-level delegations in the Gulf to discuss supply guarantees if they fall in line with U.S.-led pressures to cut back on Iranian imports.

Iran sharply warned its neighbors about making any deals that could undercut its critical oil income. The Gulf rulers barely blinked.

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Scotland gears up for breakaway vote

In 2010, the United Kingdom produced 2.2 million barrels of oil and gas equivalent (boe) per day, making it the second largest oil, and third largest gas producer in Europe. The industry employs 440,000 people, 45% of them in Scotland.

- In a geographical calculation, any oil or gas produced within Scotland’s sea area is claimed as Scottish, and, according to this calculation, Scotland produced 5.9 billion pounds) of the UK’s 6.5 billion pounds of North Sea oil revenues in 2009-2010, or 91.4%.

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CSTO Agreement on Foreign Bases Frustrates Tajikistan’s Ambitions

On December 20, 2011, members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) reached an agreement that makes it impossible for any individual country in the group to host a foreign military base on its territory without the full consent of all other members of the organization. The initiative empowers Russia to veto any foreign basing plans in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Hence, the move serves as a continuation of Russia’s efforts to counteract the influence of the US military and reassert its own role in its immediate neighborhood (Interfax, December 21).

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Militant Pakistan judges may trigger regime change

On Monday the Pakistani prime minister was threatened with jail for contempt by the supreme court and ordered to appear before judges, raising the possibility that he could be disqualified from office. His alleged offence is to refuse to reopen corruption investigation into the president, who is also chairman of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. Zardari, who was dubbed “Mr Ten Percent” for his rumoured propensity for demanding kickbacks on government contracts, has presidential immunity. Gilani does not and may have to resign.

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NATO Missile Defense Station Opened In Turkey

An early warning radar station that is part of NATO’s controversial missile defense system in Europe is now operational in Turkey, a foreign ministry spokesman said Monday.

The station is located in the city of Malatya, about 400 miles southeast of the capital Ankara, and is manned by both Turkish and U.S. personnel, the spokesman said.

Turkey is one of five countries that have agreed to deploy parts of the U.S.-designed defense system. Portugal, Poland, Romania and Spain have also agreed to participate.

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Azerbaijan ‘must not be platform for strikes on Iran’

I think that a large scale war between Iran and the US and its allies will not happen yet. Everything is leading to the Americans and their allies launching pinpoint strikes on a number of Iran’s military and strategic facilities. This is regardless of the fact that Iran is not like Iraq and Libya and, therefore, the US and its allies will face the most serious resistance. And all of this will fill Azerbaijan with refugees and bring the region face to face with a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe.

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QE3 has already begun in Europe

Most Americans associate a covert action with the CIA, not the Fed. But that’s exactly what Ben Bernanke did at the end of November.

The Fed chief authorized a coordinated action that lowered pricing on US “dollar swaps” by 50 basis points (0.5 percent) to its key allies in central banking. The Bank of England, the ECB, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of Canada are each a party to the agreement.

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False Flag: Mossad posed as US spies to recruit terrorists to fight covert Iran war

Buried deep in the archives of America’s intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush’s administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives — what is commonly referred to as a “false flag” operation.

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Iran ‘steps up military aid to Syria’

Even though Iran’s locked in a confrontation with the West in the Persian Gulf, it appears to be stepping up its military efforts to save its strategic Arab ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, as he battles an insurrection aimed at toppling his regime.

Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, head of Israel’s Military Intelligence, claimed Wednesday Tehran’s main Arab proxy, Hezbollah in Lebanon, is also “providing Assad with intelligence, weapons and other means, recently with active involvement.”

On Tuesday, Turkish customs officials, acting on a tipoff, intercepted four trucks allegedly carrying “military equipment” from Iran to Syria on the Iranian border.

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Chinese yuan could become second world currency

China and Japan will soon conduct bilateral trade directly in yuan. In 2010, trade between the two countries amounted to 260 billion euros. Could the Chinese yuan emerge as the second world currency after the dollar?
All signs point to the Chinese yuan emerging as a second world currency after the US dollar. A key step in this development was taken in late December when China and Japan agreed to conduct future bilateral trade directly in the Chinese currency.

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Pakistan nuclear material among least secure in the world: Report

A Nuclear Threat Initiative index ranks Pakistan second behind North Korea as having the least secure nuclear material, hence posing the most risk, experts said on Wednesday.

The index, which gave rankings on a scale of 100, listed Australia as having the tightest security controls among nations with nuclear material.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative, in a project led by former US senator Sam Nunn and the Economist Intelligence Unit, aims to draw attention to steps that nations can take to ensure the safety of the world’s most destructive weapons.

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Proxy Wars and the Middle East

One of the contention points that come to mind with the mention of the Middle East is the issue of proxy wars. Proxy wars have been used as one of the technologies of the struggle for survival—sometimes to keep expenditures down, and sometimes to escape accountability. The proxy wars are being carried out, sometimes through the states or insurgents, and sometimes through the sectarian and religious identities.

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Ominous turf war between Pakistani state institutions

Pakistan’s political scene looks like the OK Corral, with the main organs of state and other players heading for an inglorious showdown.

In the past few weeks, the powerful military has heaped pressure on the civilian government by participating in a Supreme Court inquiry which could see President Zardari condemned as a “traitor”.

The government has retaliated by accusing the military top brass of flouting the rules of business. It has warned them against setting up a “state within the state”.

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Indian Army prepared for all eventualities in case of military coup in Pakistan

Chief of Army Staff, General V. K. Singh, played down the rising tension in Pakistan, but declared that the army was prepared for all eventualities in case of a military coup in the neighbouring country.

“I assured you, your army is prepared for all eventualities. I would not like to comment on what is happening in Pakistan, our neighbouring country. That is not my domain to comment on it, but for various contingencies that may take place we are prepared,” General Singh told the media here on Thursday.

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US troops in Japan to be mobilized for NK provocations

Seoul and Washington will sign a strategic planning directive (SPD) this month that maps out joint operational tactics of the two allies in the case of North Korean military attacks, defense officials said Tuesday.

They said the directive will include plans to send U.S. troops and military assets from Japan to the Korean Peninsula under the command of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) in Hawaii.

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The Turkish-Iranian partition of the Middle East

During the last decade many right-wing American and Israeli analysts have described the geo-strategic struggles unfolding in the Middle East as a new “Cold War” pitting the United States against Shiite Iran. They have warned of an Arab “Shiite Crescent” ― stretching from Lebanon to Iraq ― connected to Iran via ties of religion, commerce and geostrategy.

The new year has started with an attempted Shiite power play by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to dominate the Iraqi government, and an Iranian demonstration of missile and nuclear fuel rod capacity coupled with threats to close the Straits of Hormuz if Iranian oil exports are blocked. These events can be interpreted as ample evidence of Iranian expansionism and combined with fears that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon, rendering its present regime and regional clients untouchable.

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‘Russia not interested in publicizing Gabala radar operation wave and force’

‘Azerbaijan has several times appealed to Russia concerning the assessment of the impact of Gabala radar station on the environment.

According to the agreement, a working group is to be established to assess jointly the impact of the radar station on the environment. But they have never given information about the working time, wave and force of the station’s operation. Russia has never made such a statement,’ director of the Radiation Problems Institute of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) Adil Garibov said, APA reports.

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Child Soldiers: Teenage spy school opens in Azerbaijan

Courses to train young people in army reconnaissance officially began today.

The training is organized by the Voluntary Military and Patriotic Sport and Technical Society, APA reported.

The aim of the courses, mainly for teenagers, is to train scouts for the armed forces. Those attending the courses will get certificates which will be taken into account during conscription.

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How the Middle Class Will Democratize Russia

Twenty years ago, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned, the Soviet Union ended and Russia began an imperfect transition to democratic capitalism — a transition that has proven to be far more difficult than expected. And yet the recent protests — somewhat similar to those that preceded the end of the Soviet Union — provide grounds for cautious optimism about the future.

So, what lessons can we draw from the successes and failures of Russia’s post-Soviet transition during the past two decades? And what lies ahead?

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Israeli Mossad recruiting Iranian exiles in Iraq’s Kurdish region: report

The Israeli spy agency Mossad is using Iranian exiles living in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan to target Iranian nuclear experts and sabotage the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, says an Iraqi security official quoted by the French daily Le Figaro.

“The Mossad agents have increased their infiltration in the Kurdish regions of Iraq,” the unnamed security official was quoted as saying.

He said Iranian refugees in the Kurdish regions opposed to the current regime in Tehran are being recruited by the Israeli agents to target Iranian experts in nuclear technology.

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China, Cuba and the espionage alliance against the U.S.

China’s intelligence operations are the “core arena” for achieving the superpower status which the Communist elite in Beijing so passionately desires. Central to its spy activities is the island of Cuba which is strategically located for the interception of U.S. military and civilian satellite communications. China’s spy services also cooperates closely with Havana’s own world-class intelligence services.

Inexplicably, the U.S. mass media are ignoring both the existence of the spy base as well as the Cuban-Chinese alliance which is responsible for it.

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China and India: Rival Middle East strategies

Claiming that a great deal of uncertainty hangs over the contemporary security/strategic environment in the Middle East is neither a novel statement nor an exaggeration. Although it is commonly acknowledged that the regional politics will have a stronger Islamic flavour in the years ahead, it is not at all clear how various Islamic parties will conduct themselves once in government, and how their political activism will affect extremist groups in the region and beyond. Similarly, while there is a general consensus that US power in the region is waning, the trajectory of this expected demise is yet to be determined; will it be a sudden fall or will it be a gradual one?

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Danger Waters: The Three Top Hot Spots of Potential Conflict in the Geo-Energy Era

In the years to come, the location of energy supplies and of energy supply routes — pipelines, oil ports, and tanker routes — will be pivotal landmarks on the global strategic map. Key producing areas, like the Persian Gulf, will remain critically important, but so will oil chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca (between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea) and the “sea lines of communication,” or SLOCs (as naval strategists like to call them) connecting producing areas to overseas markets. More and more, the major powers led by the United States, Russia, and China will restructure their militaries to fight in such locales.

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Philippines Protests New China ‘Intrusion’ in Disputed Water

The Philippines protested a new “intrusion” by China in waters it claims to be Philippine territory, a move that threatens to revive tensions over areas of the South China Sea that may contain energy reserves.

Two Chinese vessels and a military ship were spotted on Dec. 11 and 12 “at the vicinity” of Escoda Shoal, which is within Philippine territory, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The department on Jan. 5 “conveyed to the Chinese Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires its serious concerns over recent actions” in the South China Sea, it said in the statement.

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Zbigniew Brzezinksi: 8 Geopolitically Endangered Species That Will Suffer From America’s Decline

With the decline of America’s global preeminence, weaker countries will be more susceptible to the assertive influence of major regional powers. India and China are rising, Russia is increasingly imperially minded, and the Middle East is growing ever more unstable. The potential for regional conflict in the absence of an internationally active America is real. Get ready for a global reality characterized by the survival of the strongest.

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Russian Warships Call at Syrian Port

Two Russian warships arrived in Syria on Sunday, news agencies reported, a visit that will likely be seen as a show of force and a display of support for President Bashar Assad’s government.

Five ships, including aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and destroyer Admiral Chabanenko, put in at Russia’s naval maintenance and supply facility in the Syrian port of Tartus, Interfax said.

The ships were to be on their way on Monday, a Navy spokesman was cited by the news agency as saying. Earlier reports said the vessels, part of a group of Russian ships currently in the Mediterranean, were expected to spend several days at the Tartus facility, one of the Russian Navy’s few outposts abroad.

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U.S. debt is now equal to entire economy

The amount of money the federal government owes to its creditors, combined with IOUs to government retirement and other programs, now tops $15.23 trillion.

That’s roughly equal to the value of all goods and services the U.S. economy produces in one year: $15.17 trillion as of September, the latest estimate. Private projections show the economy likely grew to about $15.3 trillion by December — a level the debt is likely to surpass this month.

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Time for Turkey to question its militarist culture

The news came as a shock for many: a Turkish general, arrested. But for some, this week’s detention of İlker Başbuğ, Turkey’s former chief of staff, was a cause for celebration. It seemed to many of us as if Turkey had finally started to get to grips with its militarist culture. After all, Başbuğ is accused of being part of a failed coup against a democratically elected government. So the message sent to Turkey’s military establishment was clear: do not mess with Turkish people’s political choices.

Only a decade ago nobody would believe the sight of a Turkish general being tried in a civil court. In fact, the mere idea would be seen as an absurdity.

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Chechnya rebel clash with Russian troops ‘kills seven’

Four Russian security personnel and at least three Islamist militants have been killed in clashes in Chechnya, says Russia’s Interior Ministry.

The fighting happened as Russian forces confronted the rebels at a camp in heavily forested mountains, officials say.

The militants had reportedly laid trip wires and mines around their hideout, which were buried under deep snow.

Chechnya’s long-running insurgency has recently spread to neighbouring areas.

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Syria opposition split raises calls for foreign intervention

The collapse of a deal between Syria’s two main opposition factions shows that voices calling for foreign intervention to topple President Bashar Assad have gained the upper hand over those opposing it.

But the quick unraveling of the pact, which ruled out such international action, ensures that achieving that goal will remain elusive since Western powers are loath to throw their weight behind a fractured Syrian opposition.

Wary of the risks of engendering chaos and wider Middle East conflict given Syria’s internal sectarian divisions and Assad’s alliance with Iran, NATO says it has no plans to intervene as it did to back Libyan rebels who toppled Muammar Gaddafi last year.

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Balance of Power: Changing Geometrics of Asia-Pacific & Containment of China

Asia-Pacific, as the name suggests, refers to a large part of the earth, whereby countries and continents surround the vast Pacific Ocean. More than being merely a geographical entity, this region has many strategic, economic & political connotations to it. Groupings like ASEAN, ASEAN+3, EAS, APEC etc. provide the various contexts in which the politics, economics and security of the region is defined.

Importance of this region can be gauged from the fact that the countries in Asia-Pacific account for over 40% of the world’s population, 55% of the world’s GDP and about 45% of global trade. And these numbers are rapidly growing.

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X-37B spaceplane ‘spying on China’

America’s classified X-37B spaceplane is probably spying on China, according to a report in Spaceflight magazine.
The unpiloted vehicle was launched into orbit by the US Air Force in March last year and has yet to return to Earth.

The Pentagon has steadfastly refused to discuss its mission but amateur space trackers have noted how its path around the globe is nearly identical to China’s spacelab, Tiangong-1.

There is wide speculation that the X-37B is eavesdropping on the laboratory.

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Russia’s ‘democracy package’ for Syria

The Russians have been talking a lot about a Yemeni solution for Syria, without going into too much detail. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov even said it publicly, twice, in less than a week, impressed by the win-win deal between Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents.

Sources close to Moscow say that a “Russian Initiative” will be announced for Syria by late January, modeled after the Yemeni one.

The initiative, apparently, will be the brainchild of both the Americans and Russians, but it will be packaged and marketed as a Russian deal, from A to Z.

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Thought control called for at Chinese universities

The party, unnerved by a series of riots, demonstrations and strikes caused by land seizures, pollution and labour disputes, is stepping up control on different fronts – such as in propaganda, media and social controls – to minimise political risks ahead of the congress.”University party organs must adopt firmer and stronger measures to maintain harmony and stability in universities. Daily management of the institutions should be stepped up to create a good atmosphere for the success of the party’s 18th congress,” Xi said yesterday in Beijing at a gathering of Communist Party representatives from universities.

The revolutions in the Middle East last year, along with online postings calling for similar ones in China, have also put the party on high alert.

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