Saudi Arabia will join the nuclear club by buying “off the shelf” atomic weapons from Pakistan, U.S. officials told a London newspaper.
The Saudis – who financed much of Pakistan’s nuke program – are fearful of international efforts to keep its enemy Iran from acquiring a bomb, the Sunday Times of London reports. The Saudis think the deal, backed by President Obama, will actually accelerate Iran’s nuke push.
Saudi Arabia has talked for years about acquiring a bomb from the Pakistanis. “The House of Saud has now made the strategic decision to move forward,” a former U.S. defense official said.
Islamic State fighters took control of Ramadi, Iraq on Saturday. The ISIS rebels immediately began public executions of anti-ISIL fighters.
The Islamic State on Saturday consolidated its control over Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, whose capture by the militants on Friday marked the worst defeat for the Iraqi government since the fall of Mosul nearly a year ago.
Iraqi and local officials said Islamic State fighters were combing through neighborhoods in search of government employees and pro-government tribal fighters and were conducting summary public executions.
The mayor of Ramadi, Mohammed Kubaisi, told McClatchy by phone that some government soldiers and police had withdrawn to a northern suburb in hopes of holding out until promised reinforcements from Baghdad arrive. But as of Saturday evening, despite claims by government officials in Baghdad that fresh troops had been deployed, no reinforcements had arrived and the Islamic State was operating freely in the area, the mayor said.
“There are hundreds of families stuck inside Daash-held areas and they are being used as human shields against the coalition air strikes,” he said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to the Islamic State.
Kubaisi said Islamic State fighters had burned most of the government buildings they captured on Friday and then withdrew “out of fear of the American planes, which would easily be able to target government facilities.” But he said the withdrawal was simply a repositioning to safer locations and that the group controlled virtually all of Ramadi, a city with an estimated 500,000 inhabitants that until Friday was one of the last government-held areas in Anbar province. More than 1,300 U.S. soldiers and Marines lost their lives in Anbar during the U.S. occupation.
Hundreds of residents were filmed fleeing the city on foot.
The Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology useable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions, U.N. experts and Western sources said.
The incident could add to Western concerns about whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal being negotiated with world powers under which it would curb sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.
The negotiators are trying to reach a deal by the end of June after hammering out a preliminary agreement on April 2, with Iran committing to reduce the number of centrifuges it operates and agreeing to other long-term nuclear limitations.
Some details of the attempted purchase were described in the latest annual report of an expert panel for the United Nations Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee, which has been seen by Reuters.
The panel said that in January Iran attempted to buy compressors – which have nuclear and non-nuclear applications – made by the U.S.-owned company Howden CKD Compressors.
A Czech state official and a Western diplomat familiar with the case confirmed to Reuters that Iran had attempted to buy the shipment from Howden CKD in the Czech Republic, and that Czech authorities had acted to block the deal.
It was not clear if any intermediaries were involved in the attempt to acquire the machinery.
There was no suggestion that Howden CKD itself was involved in any wrongdoing. Officials at Prague-based Howden declined to comment on the attempted purchase.
The U.N. panel, which monitors compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime, said there had been a “false end user” stated for the order.
“The procurer and transport company involved in the deal had provided false documentation in order to hide the origins, movement and destination of the consignment with the intention of bypassing export controls and sanctions,” it added.
The report offered no further details about the attempted transaction. Iran’s U.N. mission did not respond to a query about the report.
CONTRACT WORTH $61 million
The Czech state official said the party seeking the compressors had claimed the machinery was needed for a compressor station, such as the kind used to transport natural gas from one relay station to another.
The official declined to say exactly how the transaction was stopped, provide specifications of the compressors or confirm the intended purchaser. However, he made clear it was the Czech authorities who halted the deal
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the total value of the contract would have been about 1.5 billion Czech koruna ($61 million).
This was a huge amount for the company concerned, the previously named CKD Kompresory, a leading supplier of multi-stage centrifugal compressors to the oil and gas, petrochemical and other industries.
The firm was acquired by Colfax Corp. of the United States in 2013 for $69.4 million. A spokesman for Colfax declined to comment.
The United States and its Western allies say Iran continues to try to skirt international sanctions on its atomic and missile programs even while negotiating the nuclear deal.
The U.N. panel of experts also noted in its report that Britain informed it of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to blacklisted firms.
While compressors have non-nuclear applications in the oil and gas industry, they also have nuclear uses, including in centrifuge cascades. Centrifuges purify uranium gas fed into them for use as fuel in nuclear reactors or weapons, if purified to levels of around 90 percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235.
“Such compressors can be used to extract enriched uranium directly from the cascades,” Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a nuclear expert currently at Harvard University, told Reuters.
“In particular, they are useful when working with higher enrichment such as 20 percent enriched uranium,” he said, adding that precise specifications of the compressors in question would be necessary to make a definitive assessment.
Iran has frozen production of 20 percent enriched uranium, a move that Western officials cite as one of the most important curbs on Iranian nuclear activities under an interim agreement in 2013.
Tehran rejects allegations by Western powers and their allies that it is seeking the capability to produce atomic weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The IAEA and the United States have said repeatedly that Tehran has adhered to the terms of the 2013 interim deal.
The five Taliban prisoners in the proposed exchange are from top left: Mohammad Nabi Omari, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa. (NY Times)
The five top Taliban leaders released by Obama last year in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl will be set free by Qatar on June 1st.
The five senior Taliban Commanders released from Guantanamo (GITMO) in exchange for the return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are set to be freed from their “luxurious” confinement in Qatar effective June 1. These five hard-core terrorists are Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammend Nabi Omari. They were classified as some of the most dangerous Taliban commanders held at GITMO, according to Thomas Joscelyn of The Long War Journal.
There is little doubt that these five Taliban commanders will return to the Afghanistan battlefield. The real issue that should not be overlooked is why these five hardcore terrorists were traded for the return of Bergdahl, a deserter, according to his platoon mates. Bergdahl left his guard post and walked away from his base in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He took off his body armor and left his weapon behind.
An AP report of March 2, 2014, states that Bergdahl willingly walked away from his post while deployed in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The article further refers to aRolling Stone article that quoted e-mails from Bergdahl to his parents saying that he was disillusioned and had lost faith in the US Army mission, and that he was considering desertion. He told his parents that he was “ashamed to even be American.” Prior to deserting his position, he mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books. The AP could not verify the e-mails.
Afghan officials worried the Taliban leaders released by Barack Obama will rejoin the battle against the government.
One former Gitmo prisoner, Taliban leader Noorullah Noori, promised to return to Afghanistan and fight the Americans after his arrival in Qatar.