Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iranian Students Ransack British Embassy

In a move that has haunting echoes for Americans,a crowd of Iranian students rushed the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday evening,vandalising the premises and terrorising diplomats and their families.Unable to break the lock on the compound's iron gate,the activists just climbed over it.Once inside,they trashed documents and set fires,burning the Union Jack and raising a Shiite banner.Chanting "Death to England,"they took hostages,whom they later released.
A British residential compound was stormed in the fracas.Iranian security forces did little to stop the intruders.The British Foreign Office expressed outrage and condemned the incident.The student mob was linked to the Basij plainclothes militia.
The U.K. has recently joined Canada and the U.S. in imposing sanctions on Iranian banks to thwart Iran's suspected nuclear weapons development programme.
In 1979,a similar group of students attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran,seizing dozens of American hostages and holding them for 444 days.March 2007 saw the Iranians seize 15 British Sailors and Marines,accusing them of violating Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf,which the U.K. denied.They were released after two tense weeks in captivity.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Middle East:A Consolidation of Forces

Given recent trends,the next decade in the Middle East may see a consolidation of the current strategic reality in the region.Driven by a need to counterbalance Iran,Saudi Arabia has embarked on a significant defence buildup that will considerably solidify its pre-eminent military stature among the Gulf States.The new Saudi defence minister,Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz,is presiding over the project following the October death of his predecessor,Prince Sultan.
According to The Washington Post,the Saudis will basically double their military capabilities in both hardware and manpower.The army and national guard will grow by a combined 175,000 troops;the navy will buy more than 30 billion dollars of new ships and missiles;the air force will purchase another 450-500 aircraft;and the interior ministry will augment police and special forces by 60,000 personnel.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is calling for a dramatic intensification of sanctions against Iran.He considers Iran a grave and growing threat to international security.
In Southwest Asia,the Afghan government has been authorised by a special assembly to negotiate with the U.S. for a substantial U.S. military presence in the country beyond the current withdrawal date of 2014.The Afghans will seek an end to night raids by U.S. forces,however,which they see as unnecessarily risky.
This Afghan policy stands in stark contrast to that of Iraq,which couldn't muster enough support to keep U.S. troops beyond the end of this year.The U.S. is looking at its options for shifting some of the soldiers to Kuwait and other allied states in the region.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sapsucker Winter Visitor

The yellow-bellied sapsucker has been seen wintering in the lower elevations of the Mid-Atlantic region,fond of the parks,woodlots and suburbs that are abundant there.It is always a bird of open woods,breeding from Canada and Alaska south through much of the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains,and around the Great Lakes,in boreal and transition forests.
About 21 centimeters long,or 8 and a half inches,this nearly silent woodpecker has mottled black and white plumage with dull yellow on its belly and a splash of red on the crown and throat-females are red only on the throat.It is known for the neat rows of holes it drills in tree bark,from which it drinks sap with its tongue and eats insects caught in the sap.
A woodsman may be busily working in the forest,only to catch a pleasant glimpse of this attractive northern creature,which seems to calmly accept humans who are performing legitimate tasks.The sapsucker expects people to be working around its home.Since it favors working forests and their scattered clearings,it doesn't have a problem with the woodland laborer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Twilight of the USS Enterprise

In a few years,the world's first nuclear aircraft carrier,the USS Enterprise(CVN 65)will be decommissioned.From that date until 2015,the U.S. Navy will be short an aircraft carrier.In 2015,the USS Gerald R Ford will join the fleet,bringing the number of carriers back to 11.
The Enterprise was commissioned on 25 November,1961.Since then,she has served in every major combat operation.Originally built to last 25 years,through excellent maintenance the ship will soon surpass 50 years of service life.So far,more than 100,000 Sailors and Marines have served on her.The Big E is the second oldest ship in the fleet after the wooden-hulled USS Constitution.
The Big E was last deployed on 13 January,2011 in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean.On that cruise with her strike group of a Carrier Air Wing,guided missile cruiser and three guided missile destroyers,she participated in operations which captured 75 Somali pirates and launched missile strikes against the repressive Gaddafi regime in Libya.
The Enterprise has one or two more deployments ahead of her.A deployment typically lasts about six months.In 2013,the ship will be decommissioned,then deactivated and defueled at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News,Virginia.It is uncertain whether the Enterprise can become a museum following this massive and unprecedented safing process,which will involve dismantling much of the warship.
Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Defense Secretary Warns Iran

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a warning to Iran and others not to miscalculate over the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.For Iran and anybody else who has any other ideas,let me make clear that the United States maintains 40,000 troops in that region;23,000 in Kuwait,and numbers of others in countries throughout that region,Mr.Panetta stated while on an Asian trip last week.
Almost all U.S. forces will be withdrawn out of Iraq by 31 December on orders by President Obama.The only exceptions will be a small cadre of U.S. Marines who guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad-the largest U.S. Embassy in the world-as well as a small number to help with arms transactions with Iraq.
As well as maintaining those U.S. troops currently stationed in the Persian Gulf region outside of Iraq,the Pentagon is reportedly considering transferring some of the soldiers now in Iraq to neighboring Kuwait,The New York Times ascertained.The U.S. Navy may also keep more warships in the region.A Pentagon spokesman said they're going through a range of options and no decisions have been made.
The vacuum created by U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is a growing concern for America's Sunni Muslim Persian Gulf allies,who are wary of more Iranian Shiite Muslim influence in the region.