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Current News – Early Bird (April 24, 2013)

C U R R E N T   NEWS
E A R L Y   B I R D
April 24, 2013
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HAGEL TRIP

1. Pentagon Chief Heads To Egypt In Mideast Tour
(Agence France-Presse)…Dan De Luce, Agence France-Presse
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel travels to Egypt Wednesday as part of a Middle East tour designed to bolster America’s alliances amid growing concern over the fallout from Syria’s roiling civil war.
2. Israeli Focus On Syria Gives Hagel Respite On Iran
(Yahoo.com)…Robert Burns, Associated Press
On Chuck Hagel’s inaugural visit to Israel as U.S. defense secretary, Syria surpassed Iran as the security threat of greatest urgency to the U.S.’ closest Mideast ally. That quite unexpectedly gave the new Pentagon chief a temporary respite from the delicate duty of tempering Israeli warnings about attacking Iran to stop it from building a nuclear bomb.

MIDEAST

3. U.S. Wary As Israel Says Syria Used Chemical Weapons
(Washington Post)…Anne Gearan and William Booth
The Obama administration expressed caution Tuesday about new claims by Israel that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels.
4. U.S. Still Not Sure Syria’s Assad Has Been Using Chemical Agents
(USA Today)…Tom Vanden Brook
The Obama administration said it has not verified that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is using chemical weapons and will not commit to U.S. intervention despite Israeli claims Tuesday that the Syrians are using such weapons.
5. Dozens Killed In Battles Across Iraq As Sunnis Escalate Protests Against Government
(New York Times)…Tim Arango
Gun battles erupted in cities with Sunni majorities across Iraq on Tuesday after security forces from the Shiite-led government stormed a Sunni protest encampment in a village near the northern city of Kirkuk. The clashes left dozens dead and wounded, and raised fears that the sectarian civil war that is roiling Syria might spill into Iraq.
6. Dubai Flights Rely On Fuel Refined From Iranian Oil
(Reuters.com)…Daniel Fineren, Reuters
Fuel made from Iranian oil is legally powering thousands of flights a year out of Dubai’s booming airport, despite U.S. pressure on buyers to shun Tehran’s petroleum exports. It may even fuel U.S. allied military jets in the Middle East.

ASIA/PACIFIC

7. Japan Leader Charts Path for Military’s Rise
(Wall Street Journal)…Yuka Hayashi
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pivoting from an early focus on economic policies that has won him praise to a more contested agenda: revisiting wartime legacy issues that are riling the country’s neighbors and could pave the way for a more muscular military.
8. Old Sore Spots Flare Up In China-Japan Disputes
(New York Times)…Martin Fackler
Japanese lawmakers paid their respects at a shrine to those killed in war, including those executed as war criminals, in what the local news media described as the biggest group visit by Parliament members in recent memory.
9. China To Build Second, Larger Carrier: Report
(Reuters.com)…Pete Sweeney, Reuters
China will build a second, larger aircraft carrier capable of carrying more fighter jets, the official Xinhua news service reported late Tuesday, quoting a senior officer with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

10. Deputy Secretary Of Defense Discusses Wartime Spending And Outlook
(Harvard Crimson)…Mason S. Hsieh
There was a theme of “hope” at the Institute of Politics Tuesday night, as United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter detailed a plan for how the United States can make the transition from a war-burdened economy to one that fosters peace and international cohesion.

CONGRESS

11. Drones Instill Hatred Of U.S., Senate Panel Is Told
(Washington Post)…Ernesto Londono
A bipartisan panel of senators held a spirited and unusually public debate Tuesday afternoon about the legality and unintended consequences of America’s targeted killings overseas, a forum convened amid growing calls for stronger oversight of the government’s use of armed drones outside conventional battlefields.
12. Congress Eyes Emergency Options
(Washington Times)…Rowan Scarborough
Congress has new plans to keep working if an attack on Washington makes it impossible for lawmakers to meet at the U.S. Capitol. The military has built facilities at Fort McNair, a short ride on South Capital Street to the P Street Southwest site where the House and Senate can meet, according to sources familiar with the arrangements.

AFGHANISTAN

13. Kerry Vows Post-2014 Support For Afghans
(Washington Post)…Karen DeYoung
Secretary of State John F. Kerry joined his NATO counterparts here Tuesday for discussions on the 28-member alliance’s joint operations in Afghanistan and plans to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014.
14. Sharp Rise In Civilian Casualties In Afghanistan: UN
(Agence France-Presse)…AFP
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by almost 30 percent in the first three months of 2013, a UN envoy has said, describing a recent Taliban attack on court staff as a “war crime”.
15. Afghanistan’s Karzai Backs Clerics’ Demand For Media Crackdown
(Reuters.com)…Mirwais Harooni, Reuters
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed with a call from the country’s conservative religious council for a crackdown on television stations, calling some of their programs “immoral and un-Islamic”, officials said on Tuesday.

ARMY

16. Army Warns Of Steeper Reductions In Troop Numbers
(Yahoo.com)…Richard Lardner, Associated Press
Senior Army officials warned Tuesday they may have to cut more than 100,000 additional soldiers over the next decade unless automatic spending reductions forcing the military services to slash their budgets are stopped.
17. Bales Defense Must Decide Strategy
(Tacoma News Tribune)…Adam Ashton
Attorneys for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians last spring are five weeks from a deadline for declaring whether they intend to use a mental health defense at his court-martial.

NAVY

18. Cyber Vulnerabilities Found In Navy’s Newest Warship: Official
(Reuters.com)…Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
The computer network on the U.S. Navy’s newest class of coastal warships showed vulnerabilities in Navy cybersecurity tests, but the issues were not severe enough to prevent an eight-month deployment to Singapore, a Navy official said on Tuesday.
19. Navy Still Seeks To Decommission More Ships
(NavyTimes.com)…Christopher P. Cavas
Rebuffed by Congress in an attempt to inactivate nine warships as a cost-cutting measure, the US Navy is set to try again – in 2015.

AIR FORCE

20. Donley Backs F-35 Despite Flying Hour Cost
(Aerospace Daily & Defense Report)…Amy Butler
U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley says the service does not plan to adjust its purchasing plans for the F-35A to make up for the projected higher cost of maintaining the stealthy fighter compared with the F-16, one of the Air Force aircraft it is slated to replace.
21. Donley: Article 60 Change Is ‘Right Place To Start’
(AirForceTimes.com)…Jeff Schogol
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley reiterated Tuesday the need to revise the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the wake of the scandal after a three-star general threw out the sex assault conviction against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson.
22. Ex-Lackland Instructor Not Guilty In Rape
(San Antonio Express-News)…Sig Christenson
A former Air Force basic training instructor was found guilty Tuesday of abusing recruits four years ago at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, but he was acquitted of raping an airman during a stint overseas.

MARINE CORPS

23. Marines’ Visit Brings Hope And Laughter
(Boston Globe)…Eric Moskowitz
… That is why the two Marines are here: Between them, they lost three legs and part of a hand in Afghanistan in separate bomb blasts in 2010, their agony then just as unimaginable, their futures just as uncertain. But the Marines brim with vitality now — smiling, laughing, living examples of overcoming pain and loss like this, standing before Corcoran atop artificial legs purposefully exposed beneath shorts.

DETAINEES

24. More Medics To Arrive As Tube Feedings Rise
(Miami Herald)…Carol Rosenberg
The number of those on hunger strike at Guantánamo held at just more than half of the camp’s prisoners on Tuesday as the Southern Command said it was sending additional medical forces to help out the 100-member Navy staff carrying out forced feedings.

EUROPE

25. NATO Leader: Allies In Europe Must Take On Larger Defense Burden
(Stars and Stripes)…John Vandiver
European allies must invest more in their own defense to achieve more equitable burden-sharing within NATO, which has become too dependent on the U.S., according to NATO’s top officer.
26. Russia Plans To Deploy Fighter Jets, Base In Belarus
(Reuters.com)…Andrei Makhovsky and Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters
Russia plans to deploy fighter jets in Belarus this year and eventually establish an air base in the former Soviet republic, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.
27. Russia Studying U.S. Missile Defense Moves, Still Seeks Guarantees
(Reuters.com)…David Brunnstrom, Reuters
Russia is studying changes to the U.S. missile defense program, but still wants guarantees that the system would not be used against Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.

MILITARY

28. No Suspicious Letters Found At U.S. Military Base After Ricin Alert
(Reuters.com)…Phil Stewart and David Lawder, Reuters
A Pentagon spy agency said tests found no suspicious letters after an alert during a screening of incoming mail at a military base in Washington on Tuesday led a prominent senator to declare that the deadly poison ricin had been detected.

BUSINESS

29. Lockheed Expects A Hit From Sequester
(Washington Post)…Marjorie Censer
Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin forecast Tuesday that government budget cuts would wipe out $825 million of the company’s anticipated revenue this year.

COMMENTARY

30. Dithering While Damascus Burns
(New York Times)…Bob Corker
AS Syria slips further into chaos, America is acting hesitantly at a pivotal moment for our national interests and for those of our allies in the region.
31. Crossing Obama’s ‘Red Line’ On Syria Will Require Concrete Proof
(Reuters.com)…Matt Spetalnick and David Alexander, Reuters
While President Barack Obama has declared a “red line” over Syrian use of chemical weapons, U.S. officials suggested on Tuesday that Washington was unlikely to respond without clear-cut evidence of such use – evidence that may be very hard to come by.
32. Military Trials Don’t Work
(Washington Post)…Dana Milbank
… But that technicality stopped us from addressing a more important consideration: Even if authorities could bring him or any suspected terrorist before a military commission, why would they ever want to?
33. The Terrorist’s Sojourn In A Most Dangerous Place
(Wall Street Journal)…Glen E. Howard
In addition to having a predilection for high-profile acts of terror, Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri have at least one other thing in common: Both spent months in the mountainous Russian republic of Dagestan, a thriving center of global jihadist activity.
34. The Defense Department In Sequesterland
(ForeignPolicy.com)…Gordon Adams
Sequestration is not pretty and managing it is not easy. But go back a year or so, to those days when our military was about to be devastated by the sequester. The rhetoric was hyperbolic; the damage to national security would be severe.
35. Bending The Pentagon’s Medical Costs Curve
(Washington Times)…Roy Ramthun
The military’s health care system known as Tricare is in need of a major overhaul, according to news articles.
36. Chinese Support For North Korea Is Quite Rational
(Financial Times)…Timothy Beardson
not based on mutual respect and friendship but on cold calculation. Beijing has agreed to support US moves at the UN to place sanctions on North Korea, but the world is puzzled by its apparent reluctance to follow Washington’s lead with any great enthusiasm.
37. Japan’s Unnecessary Nationalism
(New York Times)…Editorial
Since taking over as Japan’s prime minister in December, Shinzo Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party have been juggling a packed agenda of complicated issues, including reviving the country’s economy, coping with the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and managing prickly relations with neighbors like North Korea. Stirring up extraneous controversy is counterproductive, but that’s exactly what he and his nationalist allies in Parliament have done.
38. No Blurring This ‘Red Line’
(Washington Post)…Editorial
… With Syria blocking a U.N. investigation and few assets on the ground, it can be difficult to determine what happened in the reported chemical-weapons attacks. But it is important that the United States reach a conclusion, and soon.
39. Military Decline Is A Threat To Our Future — (Letter)
(Wall Street Journal)…K.S. Hartwell
Mark Helprin hits the nail on the head with his pertinent analysis of the Obama administration’s take on the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya (“Benghazi’s Portent and the Decline of U.S. Military Strength,” op-ed, April 10).

CORRECTIONS

40. Corrections & Amplifications
(Wall Street Journal)…The Wall Street Journal
Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) supports an effort to divert government funds to continue a BAE Systems PLC contract to make Bradley fighting vehicles. “I realize that we have to come up with savings and make difficult decisions about defense, but I think, in this case, there are other places to find savings,” he said. A Marketplace article on Tuesday about the effort incorrectly attributed the quotation to Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.).
Agence France-Presse April 24, 2013

Pentagon Chief Heads To Egypt In Mideast Tour

By Dan De Luce, Agence France-Presse
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel travels to Egypt Wednesday as part of a Middle East tour designed to bolster America’s alliances amid growing concern over the fallout from Syria’s roiling civil war. In his first trip to the Middle East as Pentagon chief, Hagel is promoting longstanding US military ties with traditional allies — including Israel and Saudi Arabia — as a way of countering Iran and deterring Islamist militants. Hagel, who was in Riyadh on Tuesday evening to finalise a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia, was scheduled to fly to Cairo to meet his counterpart, General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, and later hold discussions with President Mohamed Morsi. For years Egypt was at the centre of America’s strategic influence in the region but since the 2011 ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, the United States has had to contend with new political realities and an independent-minded government in Cairo. US officials, however, say security ties cultivated over decades between the two countries have survived the revolution and that America’s military leaders still have a direct channel to Egypt’s powerful top brass. “We can pick up the phone, the secretary of defence, and have his counterpart who we can talk to at any time,” a senior defence official told reporters last week before Hagel’s trip. “Despite changes in the Egyptian military and political system, that’s been constant.” In the post-Mubarak era, the United States still provides more than a billion dollars in annual military aid to Egypt. The huge funding package has always been seen as a way of ensuring Cairo abide by the 1979 peace accords with Israel. Hagel and his counterparts are expected to discuss relations with Israel, deteriorating security in the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt’s domestic politics, officials said. Tensions rose after two rockets were fired from the Sinai at the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat last week, with a Salafi jihadist group claiming responsibility for the attack. Israel has complained to Egypt over the incident and threatened to take military action if the attacks continue. Hagel’s visit coincides with political crises and power struggles in Egypt, including a haemorrhaging economy and threats by the opposition to boycott parliamentary elections. “He’ll have an opportunity to talk directly with Egyptian officials about the difficult times they’re in,” said the defence official. Hagel’s trip will mark the first meeting between US and Egyptian defence chiefs since former defence secretary Leon Panetta paid a visit last August. The new Pentagon chief, who took office two months ago, came to the Middle East touting an elaborate arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, designed to bolster America’s partners as a counterweight to Iran. But Syria’s raging civil war has topped the agenda through much of Hagel’s trip, amid renewed fears Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has turned to deadly chemical weapons in its fight with rebel forces. An Israeli general in military intelligence said Tuesday that the Damascus regime had employed chemical agents, most likely sarin, more than once in battles in recent months. The United States has said any use or transfer of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and possibly trigger military action. But Hagel’s spokesman said the US government was still not convinced chemical agents had been employed and that the claims were being reviewed. Hagel began his tour with a three-day visit to Israel and he stopped in Jordan before flying to Riyadh on Tuesday. After discussions in Egypt, Hagel will head to the United Arab Emirates, which has signed up to buy nearly $5 billion worth of American-made F-16 fighter jets as well as sophisticated missiles that can hit targets at a long-range.
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Yahoo.com April 23, 2013

Israeli Focus On Syria Gives Hagel Respite On Iran

By Robert Burns, Associated Press
JERUSALEM — On Chuck Hagel’s inaugural visit to Israel as U.S. defense secretary, Syria surpassed Iran as the security threat of greatest urgency to the U.S.’ closest Mideast ally. That quite unexpectedly gave the new Pentagon chief a temporary respite from the delicate duty of tempering Israeli warnings about attacking Iran to stop it from building a nuclear bomb. Israeli leaders see Iran’s nuclear ambitions as a threat to their country’s very existence, given Tehran’s vow to wipe it off the map. But Syria suddenly has emerged so prominently that it overshadowed Iran during Hagel’s three days in Israel. That explains, in part, why Hagel repeatedly stressed in public Israel’s right to defend itself and to decide on its own, if necessary, whether and when to attack Iran. He gave less emphasis than usual by American officials to Washington’s wish that diplomacy and sanctions be given more time to persuade Iran to change course. Notably, Israel’s new defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, said at a joint news conference with Hagel on Monday that he, too, thinks non-military means ought to be pursued further. “By one way or another, the military nuclear project of Iran should be stopped,” Yaalon said. “Having said that, we believe that the military option, which is well discussed, should be the last resort anyhow.” He added, “There are other tools to be used and to be exhausted, whether it is diplomacy, economic sanctions, or even more support of the opposition in Iran.” Hagel seemed to sense slightly less urgency in the Israeli concern about Iran, although he by no means dismissed the problem. One year ago, Hagel’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, was letting it be known that he feared Israel could attack Iran in a matter of weeks. Washington worries that such a strike could ignite a wider war in which it would be difficult for the U.S. to avoid getting involved. That was before the Syrian civil war had reached the point of widespread concern that its illicit stockpiles of chemical weapons could pose a threat to Israel and other neighbors. Jordan, too, is worried about transfers of Syrian chemical weapons. Hagel stopped briefly in Jordan Tuesday. “The United States and Jordan share mutual concerns about the ongoing crisis in Syria and continue to consult closely on a number of issues including chemical weapons and the demands posed by the influx of Syrian refugees fleeing the violence,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said after Hagel’s meeting in Amman. Little said the Pentagon has provided more than $70 million to Jordan this year to help secure its border and prevent the transfer of chemical weapons from Syria. Hagel ended his day in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he met with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who also serves as the Saudi defense minister. Little said they discussed a proposed sale of advanced U.S. missiles for Saudi F-15 fighters as well as mutual concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and the violence in Syria. The Israelis see immediate dangers in the Syrian civil war, not only in the threat along Israel’s northeastern border but also in the grim possibility that Syrian chemical weapons could fall into the hands of extremists. Israel says each of those possibilities is a “red line” beyond which it would have to act. The concern is that if President Bashar Assad is overthrown, any of the Islamic extremist groups trying to oust him could turn his extensive arsenal against Israel. A senior Israeli military intelligence official said Tuesday that Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons against insurgent groups. It was the first such public claim by Israel and appeared to increase pressure on Washington and other Western countries to intervene in Syria. President Barack Obama has warned that the use of chemical weapons by Assad would be a “game changer.” Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said Tuesday the U.S. government is still assessing reports of Syrian chemical weapons use, adding that such acts would be “entirely unacceptable.” He did not elaborate on possible U.S. actions. The White House said Tuesday the U.S. hasn’t yet come to the conclusion that Assad has used chemical weapons even though close U.S. allies say he has. In his assessment, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the head of research and analysis in Israeli military intelligence, told a security conference in Tel Aviv that Assad has used chemical weapons multiple times, including near Damascus, the capital, last month. During Hagel’s visit, Israeli leaders still emphasized the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran — as did Hagel. But to a degree not foreseen when Hagel arrived in Israel over the weekend, the threat posed by Syria’s chemical weapons overshadowed Iran. Hagel wrapped up his visit Tuesday by meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who greeted him with a brief but pointed caution about resolving the Iran problem. He complained of Iran arming terrorist groups with sophisticated weapons, and its “attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons.” “This is a challenge that Israel cannot accept, and as you and President Obama have repeatedly said, Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat,” Netanyahu said. Associated Press writer Ariel David contributed to this report.
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Washington Post April 24, 2013 Pg. 10

U.S. Wary As Israel Says Syria Used Chemical Weapons

Administration officials still assessing allegations against Assad regime

By Anne Gearan and William Booth
The Obama administration expressed caution Tuesday about new claims by Israel that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels. U.S. officials said they are still evaluating whether the Syrian regime has employed chemical weapons, a step that President Obama has said could trigger direct U.S. involvement in a civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people. “We support an investigation. We are monitoring this,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “We have not come to the conclusion that there has been that use. But it is something that is of great concern to us, to our partners, and obviously unacceptable, as the president made clear.” Two senior Israeli military officials asserted Tuesday that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deployed chemical weapons in several incidents that killed dozens of rebel fighters. The officials told reporters in Israel that their evidence – including photographs that purportedly show victims foaming at the mouth – made them “nearly 100 percent” certain. “To the best of our professional understanding, the regime used lethal chemical weapons against gunmen in a series of incidents in recent months,” said Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, chief of the research division of Israel’s army intelligence. A second senior Israeli military officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said chemical weapons appear to have been used in five cases. He said “dozens” of people were killed in the attacks when a “sarin-type” chemical was dispersed. Brun’s comments, made at a security conference in Tel Aviv, were the most public claim by Israel that Syria has resorted to chemical weapons, a move that would mark a steep escalation in a brutal civil war that is in its third year. But the Israelis released no hard evidence to back up their claims. Coming less than a week after France and Britain made similar assertions to the United Nations, the remarks from a close U.S. ally added to pressure on Washington to step up assistance to Syrian rebel forces. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who is in Brussels for NATO meetings on Syria, said that he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone Tuesday morning and that Netanyahu “was not in a position to confirm” the assessment by Israel’s military. Kerry said further investigation is necessary. Pentagon spokesman George Little, traveling with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the Middle East, said U.S. officials are still conducting their own assessments. He did not address directly whether the U.S. military agreed with the Israeli assertions. “We are concerned about reports of potential chemical weapons use, which is precisely why we’ve called for a thorough investigation,” he told reporters. “It’s important that we do whatever we can to monitor, investigate and verify any credible allegations, given the enormous consequences for the Syrian people and given [Obama’s] clear statement that chemical weapons use is unacceptable.” Little declined to comment on whether Israeli officials shared their findings with their U.S. counterparts during Hagel’s three-day visit. But he said that the U.S. government “remains actively engaged with other countries to underscore our common concern about the security of these weapons” and that it was coordinating “closely with our partners, including the French, British and Israelis.” A senior U.S. defense official said corroborating claims “in an environment like Syria’s is very difficult.” The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, indicated that the administration was reacting more skeptically than Israel, Britain or France. Israel is chiefly concerned that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group could obtain chemical weapons from Syria and use them against Israel. In recent weeks, Israel has been pushing to consider military intervention to destroy Syria’s extensive chemical stockpile. Israeli or U.S. airstrikes would be the most likely means of attacking the arsenal, a move that Israel acknowledges would be difficult and that carries many downsides. With the Israeli concern in mind, Obama has warned that the transfer of chemical weapons to “non-state actors,” such as Hezbollah, would be unacceptable. He has never said exactly what the United States would do in response to a proven use or transfer of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. The administration has approved wider battlefield support for Syrian rebels but has stopped short of sending weapons, fearing that they will go astray or lead to an arms race with Russia and Iran, which supply the Assad regime. In letters last week to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, France and Britain said there is credible evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons on more than one occasion since December. According to senior diplomats and officials briefed on the accounts, the evidence included soil samples and witness interviews that point toward nerve agents used in and around the cities of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. In Brussels on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov accused “certain Western members” of the U.N. Security Council of politicizing the investigation of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria and compared it to the hunt for nuclear weapons in Iraq a decade ago. Lavrov spoke after discussions on Syria with foreign ministers from NATO’s 28 member nations and a separate closed-door session with Kerry. He said any accusations of chemical weapons use should be investigated by experts. Booth reported from Tel Aviv. Craig Whitlock in Amman, Jordan, Joel Greenberg in Jerusalem and Karen DeYoung in Brussels contributed to this report.
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USA Today April 24, 2013 Pg. 4

U.S. Still Not Sure Syria’s Assad Has Been Using Chemical Agents

By Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today
The Obama administration said it has not verified that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is using chemical weapons and will not commit to U.S. intervention despite Israeli claims Tuesday that the Syrians are using such weapons. Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the head of research and analysis in Israeli military intelligence, said during a security conference that Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons multiple times. “Shrunken pupils, foaming at the mouth and other signs indicate, in our view, that lethal chemical weapons were used,” he said. Brun said sarin, a lethal nerve agent, was probably used. He also said that the Syrian regime was using less-lethal chemical weapons, and that Russia has continued to arm the Syrian military with weapons such as advanced SA-17 air-defense missiles. However, the Obama administration has “not come to that conclusion,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. He reiterated Obama’s stance that use or transfer of chemical weapons remains “unacceptable.” The White House supports a United Nations effort to investigate previous allegations that Syria has deployed chemical weapons. Carney charged on Tuesday that Assad is blocking such an investigation, while treading carefully on the latest accusation, which Carney said still needs to be investigated and verified. “What I won’t do is jump to the next step and say ‘If claims are verified, what action will we take,'” Carney added. “That’s speculating, and I won’t be doing that.” A senior Defense official told USA TODAY the U.S. government is examining evidence to determine whether chemical weapons have been used. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the U.S. position has not been announced. Brun’s assessment echoes similar findings from British and French officials, who told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon last month that they have evidence Syria used chemical weapons that injured and killed Syrians. Their evidence included soil samples and interviews with witnesses and members of the Syrian opposition. The allegations by Britain, France and Israel that chemical weapons have been used by the Assad regime are not definitive, according to a senior Pentagon official, who was speaking anonymously because the official was not authorized to speak publicly on intelligence issues. Low-confidence assessments by foreign governments of chemical warfare in Syria cannot be the basis for a U.S. intervention, the official said. U.S. intelligence analysts are working with those allies to determine whether chemical weapons have been used. Meanwhile, George Little, Pentagon press secretary, said the United States believes the Assad regime maintains control of its chemical weapons, meaning they have not been passed on to terrorist groups, one of the so-called red lines triggering deeper U.S. involvement in Syria. U.S. military intervention in Syria to corral chemical weapons would be risky, said Christopher Chivvis, a military analyst at RAND Corp., a think tank. Such intervention could provoke Assad to use the weapons more widely or transfer them to terrorist groups, Chivvis said. Contributing: Jim Michaels and Aamer Madhani in Washington
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New York Times April 24, 2013

Dozens Killed In Battles Across Iraq As Sunnis Escalate Protests Against Government

By Tim Arango
BAGHDAD — Gun battles erupted in cities with Sunni majorities across Iraq on Tuesday after security forces from the Shiite-led government stormed a Sunni protest encampment in a village near the northern city of Kirkuk. The clashes left dozens dead and wounded, and raised fears that the sectarian civil war that is roiling Syria might spill into Iraq. The fiercest fighting was at the encampment in a town called Hawija, where Sunni gunmen fought government forces throughout the day. At least 42 people were killed, 39 of them civilians, and more than 100 wounded. As evening fell, sporadic fighting continued there and in Ramadi in the Sunni homeland of Anbar Province, where protesters set fire to two military vehicles and tribal sheiks called on young men to take up arms against the government. The fighting represented the deadliest turn yet in a Sunni-led protest movement against the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. By the end of the day, the country was on edge as Sunni tribesman mobilized, declaring jihad, or holy war. Adding to the tensions, an influential Iraqi religious leader who lives in Amman, Jordan, Sheik Abdul Malik al-Saadi, seemed to endorse the call to arms by saying, “Self-defense has become a legitimate and legal duty.” By nightfall, however, Iraq’s leaders on both sides of the sectarian divide were scrambling to calm the situation. After first defending the fighting as a necessary operation against Al Qaeda and Baath Party sympathizers, the Maliki government promised to compensate victims, provide medical treatment to the wounded and hold military leaders accountable for mistakes. Osama Nujaifi, the Sunni speaker of Parliament, said, “What happened this morning is a disaster by any measure.” He added that the fighting “has opened the door to great strife.” “Now there are clashes taking place between Iraqi tribes and the Iraqi Army,” he said. “We call on the armed forces not to obey the orders to attack the demonstrators or shoot Iraqis, and we call on the tribes to cease fire and be calm.” Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis fought a brutal civil war from 2005 to 2007, but while violence has declined, there has never been a full reconciliation. The civil war in Syria, which pits a Sunni-led rebellion against a government dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, has hardened differences here, as each sect takes sides. The fiercest fighting group in Syria, Jabhet al-Nusra, has been fostered by Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group. Iraq’s government has lined up on the side of the Syrian government, allowing its territory to be a transit corridor for the supply of weapons — mainly from Iran — to the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. As the war in Syria grinds on, analysts and American officials are increasingly worried about its spreading into Iraq. Barham Salih, the former prime minister of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday after the violence in Hawija that “Iraq, Syria dynamics” could merge into one fight with “dire consequences.” The American Embassy released a statement in the evening condemning “the actions that resulted in the death and injury of civilians and security personnel in Hawija.” “We regret that this violence took place before ongoing efforts to reach a peaceful resolution of this situation were given sufficient time to succeed,” the statement said. The clashes reverberated across the country in seething Sunni communities, where protesters have set up encampments like those established in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution. Sunni mosques were bombed in the mixed Baghdad neighborhood of Dora and the volatile city of Diyala, killing 10 people. In Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit, the authorities imposed a curfew after gunmen twice attacked security forces. In Falluja, where clashes between the army and protesters in January killed at least seven protesters, thousands of citizens took to the streets demanding that the international community stop what they described as the “massacres of the government.” Near Hawija, Sunni gunmen briefly took control of some government checkpoints. “The peaceful demonstrations are over, due to what happened today,” said Saddoun al-Obaidi, a tribal leader in Hawija who is a leader of the protest movement. “Now we are going to carry weapons. We have all the weapons we need, and we are getting support from other provinces.” Protest leaders in other Sunni cities vowed solidarity with their brethren in Hawija. “The demonstrators in Mosul left the sit-in area to take up arms in support of demonstrators in Hawija and take revenge for them,” said Salim al-Jabouri, a spokesman for the Sunni movement there. In Baghdad, security forces blockaded the Sunni-dominated neighborhood of Adhamiya, allowing entry only to those who proved they were residents. Two Sunni government ministers said they had resigned their positions, and leaders of Iraqiya, a largely Sunni bloc of lawmakers, announced they were suspending their participation in Parliament. The raid by government forces followed days in which the army and the police had surrounded the protest camp, demanding that its leaders turn over the gunmen who the authorities said had sought refuge there after attacking a government checkpoint, killing one soldier and wounding three others. A statement released by the Ministry of Defense said that gunmen on Friday had “attacked a joint checkpoint of the police and army that led to the death and injury of our fighters, and they also took our weapons and then disappeared among the protesters.” On Tuesday morning, after the protesters refused to turn over the gunmen, soldiers and police officers stormed the protest camp, the Defense Ministry said. “The security forces did their duty to impose the law,” the statement said. “They faced heavy weapons and snipers, and the clashes resulted in the death of a number of our forces and the killing of a number of Baathists and Al Qaeda members that have been coordinating with the protesters.” The ministry said security forces had seized 40 Kalashnikov rifles and other automatic weapons, hand grenades and swords and knives. Martin Kobler, the United Nations’ representative in Iraq, rushed to Kirkuk on Tuesday to meet with local officials, urge an end to the fighting and demand that detainees rounded up by security forces be treated humanely. “It’s up to the leaders of this country to sit together in dialogue in order to avoid further bloodshed,” Mr. Kobler said in an interview. The violence occurred days after Iraq held local elections, which were largely peaceful and carried out under extraordinary security measures. The elections, though, were postponed in two largely Sunni provinces, Anbar and Nineveh, and were never scheduled in Kirkuk, which is rich in oil and disputed by Arabs and Kurds. Yasir Ghazi and Duraid Adnan contributed reporting from Baghdad, and employees of The New York Times from Kirkuk, Anbar, Nineveh and Salahuddin Provinces, Iraq.
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Reuters.com April 23, 2013

Dubai Flights Rely On Fuel Refined From Iranian Oil

By Daniel Fineren, Reuters
DUBAI — Fuel made from Iranian oil is legally powering thousands of flights a year out of Dubai’s booming airport, despite U.S. pressure on buyers to shun Tehran’s petroleum exports. It may even fuel U.S. allied military jets in the Middle East. Washington and the European Union have slashed Iran’s exports in half over the last year by leaning on importing countries to find alternative feedstock for their refineries. Meanwhile, close U.S. ally Dubai, long a major user of Iranian light oil known as condensate, continues to process tens of thousands of barrels a day at an Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) refinery, according to oil industry sources and shipping data. ENOC then pumps the resulting fuel to Dubai airport, the world’s second busiest. ENOC’s chief executive declined to comment this week on how much Iranian oil the company was still importing and ENOC media relations did not respond to repeated requests for comment. U.S. and European companies are not allowed to buy any Iranian refined oil products, under tough sanctions imposed by Washington to force Tehran to stop its nuclear activities. But any airline is free to use fuel made from Iranian oil in other countries, because once it passes through a refinery outside Iran it is no longer considered of Iranian origin under sanctions. “In our view jet fuel from an Emirati refinery is Emirati jet fuel, it is not Iranian no matter what it was made from,” a U.S. government official in Washington said. ENOC says it is the largest provider of jet fuel at Dubai International Airport (DXB) and that its portfolio boasts a growing number of military customers. One such customer is the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) which supplies planes at the Al Minhad airbase near Dubai, a hub for U.S.-allied forces in the Middle East. “DLA Energy does contract with ENOC International Sales, LLC to supply jet fuel to Al Minhad Air Base,” a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense said. “The contract was let in August 2011. This contract expires in August 2013.” It is not clear whether or not some of the fuel ENOC supplies under contract to the DLA come from ENOC’s Jebel Ali refinery near Dubai. A western government source said ENOC also buys some fuel produced in refineries in Bahrain and Kuwait. ENOC did not comment on whether some or all the fuel it supplies to the DLA is produced at Jebel Ali. But ENOC’s website says most of the jet fuel it supplies to the airport is pumped through a 60,000 barrel per day (bpd) pipeline from the refinery, and demand at the world’s fastest growing airport is rising so much that it is laying a second pipeline. Iran exported about $7.5 billion worth of condensate from its main export facility at South Pars in the year ended March 20, 2013, according to Iranian media reports. ENOC was the biggest buyer of Iranian condensate in 2012, when its imports rose to an average of 127,000 bpd, according to analysts’ estimates. An executive order issued on July 31, 2012, gives U.S. President Barack Obama the option to impose sanctions on buyers of Iranian condensate, but only if the U.S. believes there is sufficient alternative supply to permit a significant reduction in volumes from Iran. ENOC announced in February it had secured about 20,000 bpd of condensate from Qatar to feed its 120,000 bpd refinery and said it was working to find more alternatives. The company has not announced further substitution deals, suggesting it has not yet found long-term alternative supplies. Ship tracking data on Reuters shows a vessel able to carry around a million barrels of oil shuttles between the refinery and South Pars once a week. A full tanker would carry enough to run the refinery at capacity for about a week. With shrinking export options, traders say Iran is likely to be selling its condensate fairly cheaply, helping ENOC offset multi-million dollar loses it has to take because it is obliged under UAE law to sell gasoline at a subsidised rate. Dubai has been a key trading partner for Iran for decades, but the UAE is also one of Washington’s closest allies. The UAE is the largest export market for the United States in the Middle East, with Dubai flagship airline Emirates alone having placed a $24 billion order with Boeing in 2011, according to the website of the UAE Embassy in Washington. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is touring the Gulf this week, with the U.S. close to finalizing a deal to sell the UAE 25 F-16 Desert Falcon jets worth nearly $5 billion. Unless ENOC can find another 100,000 barrels per day of alternative supplies at competitive prices, the opening of a second pipeline due later this year could take more fuel made from Iranian oil into the tanks of international airlines. The existing pipeline can carry around 9.5 million litres of jet fuel a day – enough to fill up 44 Boeing 747s a day or 16,000 a year, although most routes do not use a full tank. ENOC is not the only jet fuel supplier, because its refinery and existing pipeline are not big enough to meet demand at DXB, where an average of around 470 flights a day took off in 2012. Several western oil companies also supply jet fuel to the airport – Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Chevron – but they say they source it outside the UAE and in full compliance with sanctions on Iran. Some U.S. and European airlines said they do not use ENOC when they call at Dubai, with some having global purchase deals with other suppliers. But for many of the 130 airlines flying into Dubai, the fuel derived from Iranian oil that ENOC offers is indispensable. Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington.
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Wall Street Journal April 24, 2013 Pg. 7

Japan Leader Charts Path for Military’s Rise

Abe Seeks to Leverage Legislative Strength to Remake Pacifist, World War II-Era Constitution, a Proposal Riling Tokyo’s Neighbors

By Yuka Hayashi
TOKYO—Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pivoting from an early focus on economic policies that has won him praise to a more contested agenda: revisiting wartime legacy issues that are riling the country’s neighbors and could pave the way for a more muscular military. Mr. Abe has in recent days talked more openly about returning to his life’s goal of rewriting Japan’s 66-year-old pacifist constitution. Meanwhile, three members of his cabinet and a mass delegation from his ruling party paid visits to a war shrine, while Mr. Abe himself made an offering. On Tuesday, tensions intensified around a collection of islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China, while Mr. Abe told parliament he wouldn’t hesitate to use force to defend the territory currently controlled by Japan. “I have given instructions to take resolute measures against attempts to enter our territorial waters and make a landing,” he said. “If they do land, then of course we will forcibly expel them.” While the shrine visits and the territorial spats have dominated the recent news, it is Mr. Abe’s constitutional push that could create the most dramatic changes in Japan. “It’s been over 60 years since its enactment, and its contents have become obsolete,” Mr. Abe said in an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun, a leading daily, last week. “The spirit of writing our own constitution is what will take us to the next era.” It would be the first change to Japan’s postwar constitution since it was drafted by American occupying forces in 1946. Despite the potential to raise hackles abroad, Mr. Abe has a good shot at pushing through the changes, political analysts say. Any amendment would require support from two-thirds of the lawmakers in each chamber of Japan’s legislature, followed by a national referendum. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, combined with a small coalition partner, already has that strength in the lower house, following December’s landslide victory. Polls suggest Mr. Abe could win a similar margin in July upper-house votes. Ruling-party officials have suggested constitutional revision could be a central campaign theme. Rising regional military tensions with China and North Korea have made the Japanese public more receptive to a stronger defense. In a tactic designed to sidestep opposition to constitutional revision, Mr. Abe wants to make the bid more about process than substance. Well aware that efforts to dilute the pacifist language in the constitution would set off a round of criticism from liberal lawmakers, as well as Beijing and Seoul, Mr. Abe recently began suggesting that he wants to lower the bar for constitutional revision first, an act that in itself calls for a constitutional change. Specifically, Mr. Abe now says he wants to revise Article 96, the section that requires approval of two-thirds of the parliament members to call a referendum. He proposes lowering the required votes to a simple majority in both houses. “It doesn’t make sense that opposition from a little over one-third of parliament members can put up a complete blockade even if it’s the will of the people to change the constitution,” Mr. Abe said on Sunday in a campaign speech for a regional by-election. The idea to revise Article 96 emerged rather abruptly in recent weeks and took many political observers by surprise. Previously, Mr. Abe’s constitutional focus had been Article 9—in which Japan renounces war and the possession of a military—but proposed revisions to this article have always sparked controversy. Changing Article 96 first would likely meet less opposition while clearing the way for a possible future revision of Article 9. Those who support Article 9 believe it has kept Japan a peaceful nation and contributor to regional stability and prosperity. “Given the Japanese government’s refusal to apologize for Japan’s aggression during World War II, the revision of Japan’s constitution…is a cause for concern for the rest of the world,” the China Daily said in an editorial late last month. Chosun Ilbo, a leading South Korean daily said in a recent editorial: “Japan is trying to use North Korea’s nuclear test as an excuse to amend its pacifist constitution and to rally the public around re-armament.” Domestic critics call revision of Article 96 a slippery slope to the wholesale abandonment of the constitution. Some say revising Article 96 would have far greater ramifications for the nation’s future than simply changing Article 9. Signaling what may come, Mr. Abe’s LDP published a draft proposal to a new constitution last December that listed a number of causes embraced by conservative lawmakers. Among them: calling the emperor the “head of the state,” rather than just the “symbol” under the current constitution, and renaming the Self-Defense Forces a military. “In most nations, the constitution is written in a way that makes it very difficult for those in power to rewrite it,” said Setsu Kobayashi, a constitutional law professor at Keio University. “This revision would completely shift the power balance between the people and those who have power.It’s a real taboo that must be avoided regardless of whether we revise [Article 9] or not.” In the U.S., a constitutional amendment generally requires a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures. Germany and South Korea’s constitutions also require support from two-third legislative votes, with the latter also requiring a referendum. There have been 27 amendments to the U.S. constitution since its enactment in 1787. Germany and South Korea have implemented changes to their post-war constitutions 59 times and nine times, respectively. Mr. Abe—among the most nationalistic of the current generation of Japanese politicians—has long discussed the need for constitutional revision, arguing that the constitution, because it was forced upon Japan by the occupying U.S. forces, failed to give Japan “conditions for an independent nation.” He began laying the groundwork during his first truncated term as prime minister, passing in 2007 a law that spelled out the procedures for national referendum, a step needed for a constitutional change but hadn’t been explained in detail until then. Now back in power after five years out of the limelight, he is eager to complete the work. “Abe is frustrated. He is in a hurry. This is a man who got an unexpected second chance at getting his job done,” said Rikki Kersten, professor of Japanese politics at the Australian National University. Territorial tensions with China and North Korea’s military threats have given Mr. Abe a new opportunity, providing oxygen to a debate to build a stronger military. Meanwhile, his economic stimulus steps have so far generated intended results, sending Japan’s long-dormant stock market soaring, along with the prime minister’s approval ratings to a 60% to 75% range. Even so, Japanese voters appear mixed on the need for constitutional change. Among those polled by NHK, the national broadcaster, earlier this month, 28% said they supported a revision of Article 96, while 24% opposed it. Asked in an Asahi Shimbun daily poll to name the Abe policies they supported, 50% chose economic policies and 14% chose diplomacy and security. Only 6% picked constitutional revision.
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New York Times April 24, 2013

Old Sore Spots Flare Up In China-Japan Disputes

By Martin Fackler
TOKYO — Japanese lawmakers paid their respects at a shrine to those killed in war, including those executed as war criminals, in what the local news media described as the biggest group visit by Parliament members in recent memory. The visit threatens to exacerbate tensions with South Korea and China, which view the shrine as a symbol of a lack of repentance for Japan’s brutal expansion across Asia. It took place as a territorial row with China flared, with boats carrying Japanese nationalists and Chinese paramilitary ships converging on a group of contested islands. The 168 mostly low-ranking conservative lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo just days after a visit by members of the cabinet of Japan’s conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Last year, a group of 81 lawmakers visited the shrine during the same three-day spring festival, when many nationalists say they feel obligated to recognize soldiers’ ultimate sacrifice for their country. Analysts said the size of this year’s visit was partly a byproduct of December’s landslide victory by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which installed the hawkish prime minister and an increased number of rightists in Parliament. But the analysts also called it the latest example of how Japanese ultraconservatives have become more vocal in recent years, amid growing unease over China’s rising power and its increasingly forceful stance on the long-simmering dispute over the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in Chinese. On Tuesday, the Japanese Coast Guard reported that eight Chinese patrol ships had entered waters near the islands, the largest number to appear at one time since the dispute surged last summer. The Coast Guard said the Chinese ships converged from several directions into waters near the uninhabited, Japanese-controlled islands. The Chinese ships appeared at the same time as 10 boats carrying members of a Japanese ultranationalist group. The boats were followed by Japanese Coast Guard ships apparently seeking to ensure that they did not try a landing, as some nationalists did last year. Those landings, and the decision in September by the Japanese government to buy three of the islands from their private owner, set off violent street demonstrations in China. Accusing Japan of disrupting the hazy status quo that prevailed before then, China has been sending armed ships from various coast-guard-like civilian agencies on an almost daily basis into or near waters around the islands, apparently to challenge Japanese control. The tensions were especially fraught earlier this year after several high-profile episodes, including the scrambling of fighter jets by both sides, that raised fears the dispute would continue to escalate. On Tuesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador to lodge a formal protest over the latest intrusions, which the top Japanese government spokesman, the chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, called “unacceptable.” Mr. Suga told reporters that while he did not know why China sent the ships, he did not think they were meant to protest the round of visits to Yasukuni over the weekend by leading members of Mr. Abe’s government. On Monday, the Chinese government criticized those visits, and the South Korean foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, canceled a trip to Japan to talk about issues that included the nuclear crisis with North Korea. There was no immediate response by China or South Korea to the lawmakers’ visit to the shrine. The leader of the group, which includes members of the governing Liberal Democrats as well as opposition lawmakers, said they had the right to honor Japan’s war dead without causing an international incident. “It is common in any country that a parliamentarian offers prayers for the souls of the departed war heroes who gave their lives in defense of their country,” the leader, Hidehisa Otsuji, a Liberal Democratic lawmaker, told reporters after praying at the shrine. “The angry reactions are hard to comprehend.” Chris Buckley contributed reporting from Hong Kong.
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Reuters.com April 23, 2013

China To Build Second, Larger Carrier: Report

By Pete Sweeney, Reuters
SHANGHAI — China will build a second, larger aircraft carrier capable of carrying more fighter jets, the official Xinhua news service reported late Tuesday, quoting a senior officer with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. The report comes after Chinese officials denied foreign media reports in September 2012 that China was building a second carrier in Shanghai. “China will have more than one aircraft carrier… The next aircraft carrier we need will be larger and carry more fighters,” Xinhua quoted Song Xue, deputy chief of staff of the PLA Navy, as saying at a ceremony with foreign military attaches. Song said foreign media reports saying the carrier was being built in Shanghai were still inaccurate but did not elaborate, according to the report. China currently has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which was refitted from a Russian-made model. Considered by military experts to be decades behind U.S. carrier technology, it was originally intended to serve as a floating casino, but was turned to military use in the runup to a once-in-a-decade power transition in late 2012. China is also building up other forms of military hardware, including a stealth fighter jet believed to be capable of landing on a carrier, drone aircraft and nuclear submarines. China is alone among the original nuclear weapons states to be expanding its nuclear forces, according to a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Song also said the PLA Navy is building a naval aviation force for the Liaoning, and there will be at least two aviation regiments on one carrier, including fighters, reconnaissance aircraft, anti-submarine aircraft, electronic countermeasure (ECM) planes and rotary-wing aircraft, the report said. Chinese officials have said the Liaoning will be used primarily for training purposes.
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Harvard Crimson April 24, 2013

Deputy Secretary Of Defense Discusses Wartime Spending And Outlook

By Mason S. Hsieh, Contributing Writer
There was a theme of “hope” at the Institute of Politics Tuesday night, as United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter detailed a plan for how the United States can make the transition from a war-burdened economy to one that fosters peace and international cohesion. Carter began the forum by briefly addressing the recent Boston Marathon bombings and the sense of loss yet hope that resulted through community support. “If there is anything good about being in a war for 10 years is that we know a great deal,” Carter said. In his talk, Carter addressed the steps the United State would have to take to “turn a corner from that era dominated by [the wars in] Iraq and Afghanistan, towards the challenges and opportunities that will define the future of our security.” Carter advocated cutting wartime spending by slimming down the military while keeping and redistributing the technology and resources acquired over the course of the two recent wars. “We only deserve the amount of money that we need and not the amount of money that we’ve gotten used to,” Carter said. To curb defense spending, Carter brought up the war in Afghanistan, where the end goal of American involvement was simply to maintain security, he said. “[The goal is] not to end it, but to wind that war down,” Carter said. Carter noted that President Obama has requested that the American military make the transition from a large, rotational, counter-insurgency force to a leaner, more flexible, and utility-based force. The final step in Carter’s plan is to shifts its budgetary and strategic outlook to the Asia Pacific region. Through winding down current wars, concentrating the military, and reclaiming many of the resources and capital used in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense can regroup and reallocate those supplies to the Asian Pacific for defense, humanitarian efforts, and disaster relief. Carter said he believes that American presence and post-war rebalancing in Asia will be welcomed by most countries, including China. Will Shih ’16, who attended the event, said that Carter’s plan to pivot towards the nation’s relationships with Asian countries was “the best.” “He said the most important stuff when he was talking about setting new priorities and moving forward in the future,” Shih said.
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Washington Post April 24, 2013 Pg. 8

Drones Instill Hatred Of U.S., Senate Panel Is Told

By Ernesto Londono
A bipartisan panel of senators held a spirited and unusually public debate Tuesday afternoon about the legality and unintended consequences of America’s targeted killings overseas, a forum convened amid growing calls for stronger oversight of the government’s use of armed drones outside conventional battlefields. Among those testifying before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee was a young Yemeni activist who argued passionately that American drone strikes in Yemen are emboldening the country’s al-Qaeda franchise, embittering Yemenis against the United States and delegitimizing the government in Sanaa. Six days ago, Farea al-Muslimi said, a suspected U.S. drone strike was carried out in his village of Wessab, enraging residents. “They fear that their home or a neighbor’s home could be bombed at any time by a U.S. drone,” said Muslimi, who studied in the United States as an exchange student when he was 16. “What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: There is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.” Senators from both parties lamented that the White House declined to make a witness available for the hearing, titled “Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterrorism Implications of Targeted Killings.” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who presided over the hearing, said it was important to review whether current laws sanction drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where the United States is not formally fighting a war but relies on remotely piloted aircraft to killed suspected militants. “The use of drones has, in stark terms, made targeted killing more efficient and less costly – in terms of American blood and treasure,” said Durbin, noting that the hearing was the first of its kind. “There are, however, long-term consequences, especially when these airstrikes kill innocent civilians.” The legal underpinning of the drone program is a congressional resolution passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks authorizing the use of military force. Legal experts say the new realities of U.S. warfare urgently need an updated rule book. President Obama has said he would like Congress to help him establish a “legal architecture” for targeted killing to “make sure that not only I am reined in but any president is reined in.” But no such initiative appears to be underway. Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor and former Pentagon policy adviser, said the use of drones would not necessarily be problematic if the country had a clear and sound legal framework for targeted killings. “Every individual detained, targeted, and killed by the U.S. government may well deserve his fate,” she said. “But when a government claims for itself the unreviewable power to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, based on secret criteria and secret information discussed in a secret process by largely unnamed individuals, it undermines the rule of law.” Retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally, who oversaw targeting operations in Africa, said remotely piloted aircraft have proven to be highly precise, nimble weapons and argued that their use is currently subject to a thorough review process. “The time between strike approval and weapons release is minimal, maximizing the opportunity to reach the desired effect,” she said. Muslimi said that across villages in Yemen, mention of the weapons elicits such fear that parent have used the threat of drone strikes to get kids to go to bed. “Go to sleep or I will call the planes,” he said, quoting a parental tactic he had learned about.
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Washington Times April 24, 2013 Pg. 2

Congress Eyes Emergency Options

Members would hold sessions at Fort McNair

By Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times
Congress has new plans to keep working if an attack on Washington makes it impossible for lawmakers to meet at the U.S. Capitol. The military has built facilities at Fort McNair, a short ride on South Capital Street to the P Street Southwest site where the House and Senate can meet, according to sources familiar with the arrangements. In addition, Congress has contracted with movie theaters around the nation to host the House and Senate if attacks prevent legislators from convening in Washington, a source familiar with the planning told The Washington Times. The Boston Marathon bombings have rekindled memories of the al Qaeda terrorist network’s attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush and other administration officials went deep inside the White House complex or to undisclosed locations to maintain what is called “continuity of government.” Congress, however, had no place to go. Its large bunker complex at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., closed in 1995. Built in the Cold War days of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Greenbrier’s bunker had dormitory space for more than 1,000, a dining room, a huge supply of rations and a medical clinic. There were separate chambers for the House and Senate, and a large room for joint meetings, according to a Brookings Institution report. At that time, the fear was an all-out nuclear war. Today, the planning includes for not only a nuclear attack but also a coordinated terrorist assault on the nation’s capital. Work on the Fort McNair facilities began last decade. Hints that Congress had an alternative site to conduct business surfaced in 2010, when Democrats discussed holding a retreat there. But federal law prevents military bases from hosting political events. The retreat was conducted on the Capitol grounds. Asked if the fort now hosts an emergency meeting complex for Congress, the command issued the following statement to The Times: “Due to the safety and security of our installations, specifics about facilities are not released, but the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington are committed to safeguarding our nation’s capital and elected members of our government.” Fort McNair has a dual command role. It houses the Military District of Washington and the Joint Force Headquarters, which is a part of U.S. Northern Command, the military arm responsible for homeland defense. A spokeswoman for the House sergeant at arms, whose office includes the Office of Emergency Management, declined to comment.
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Washington Post April 24, 2013 Pg. 9

Kerry Vows Post-2014 Support For Afghans

By Karen DeYoung
BRUSSELS – Secretary of State John F. Kerry joined his NATO counterparts here Tuesday for discussions on the 28-member alliance’s joint operations in Afghanistan and plans to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014. “I reaffirmed our commitment to the Afghan people and to our determination that Afghanistan not ever become a haven for terrorists,” Kerry said in a news conference after the foreign ministers’ meeting. “To that end,” he continued, “we are committed beyond 2014″ to a training and advisory mission whose parameters are being negotiated between the Afghan and U.S. governments. “Obviously, President Obama has yet to make his personal decision about the numbers” of troops for that longer-term mission, Kerry said. Other NATO members that are part of the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan are awaiting the U.S. agreement with Kabul before committing their own post-2014 troops, although Germany and Italy are expected to maintain forces of at least several hundred each. In a brief statement after his own meeting with the alliance, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that his nation’s forces – “the ones you trained and equipped”- would provide security after the international combat troops leave but that he was “glad to hear” of the commitment to continued training. Karzai is scheduled to hold a meeting here Wednesday with Kerry and Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. U.S. efforts to bring the neighboring countries closer are designed to facilitate peace negotiations with the Taliban, but the Afghan-Pakistani relationship has been fraught with difficulties.
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Agence France-Presse April 24, 2013

Sharp Rise In Civilian Casualties In Afghanistan: UN

By AFP
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by almost 30 percent in the first three months of 2013, a UN envoy has said, describing a recent Taliban attack on court staff as a “war crime”. Jan Kubis, UN special representative for Afghanistan, said the “troubling” rise, compared to the same period last year, followed a 12 percent drop in civilian casualties over the whole of 2012. He told a NATO ministerial briefing in Brussels on Tuesday that 475 civilians were killed and 872 wounded from January to March. “I once again call on anti-government groups to cease targeting civilians, using children in suicide operations and attacking public places including places of worship,” Kubis said, in a copy of a speech released by the UN in Kabul. The UN official described an April 3 attack on a court complex in the western city of Farah as “nothing less than a war crime”. Taliban statements that courthouses and judicial staff are now considered targets “are of extreme concern”, he said. Taliban gunmen killed 46 people including 36 civilians at the complex in a bid to free insurgents standing trial. They moved ruthlessly from room to room, shooting everyone they found, officials recounted. At least another 95 people were wounded. Kubis also called on Afghan and US-led NATO forces to take continuing measures to prevent civilian casualties and to investigate abuses. Overall attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups rose by 47 percent in the first quarter compared to January-March 2012, according to a study by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office. It said 10 percent of the attacks targeted civilians seen as associated with the Kabul government, which the Taliban are striving to topple.
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Reuters.com April 24, 2013

Afghanistan’s Karzai Backs Clerics’ Demand For Media Crackdown

By Mirwais Harooni, Reuters
KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed with a call from the country’s conservative religious council for a crackdown on television stations, calling some of their programs “immoral and un-Islamic”, officials said on Tuesday. The decision by Karzai may alarm some of Afghanistan’s international backers, who have invested heavily through 12 years of war in promoting liberal values and freedom of expression in Afghanistan’s deeply conservative society. The decision could also imperil advances in the country’s media industry, which has enjoyed significant progress since the ouster of the austere Taliban regime 12 years ago. Karzai issued a decree setting out the crackdown. “The Ministry of Information and Culture must prevent (television channels) from broadcasting programs which are vulgar, obscene and un-Islamic and are counter to social morality,” Karzai said in a statement issued by the Council of Ministers. Neither Karzai nor the Council of Ministers specified in the statement what was meant by vulgar, obscene or immoral programs. However, Jalal Noorani, an adviser to the minister of culture and Information, told Reuters immoral programs included Indian television soap operas and Afghan music videos featuring “half-naked” dancing girls. Afghanistan’s Ulema council met Karzai on Friday and demanded the government take action against some television broadcasters, accusing them of promoting prostitution, the Council of Ministers said in the statement. The Ulema council is an influential group of scholars and religious leaders who debate religious matters and exert significant political influence. Karzai provoked international outrage last year when he backed recommendations from clerics to segregate the sexes in the workplace. Another recommendation allowed husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances, a decree which some saw as reminiscent of Taliban regime. More than 50 private television stations, 150 radio broadcasters and about 1,000 newspapers have emerged in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, according to Noorani. Some of the stations broadcast Indian soap operas, dancing and songs which have drawn harsh criticism from conservative clerics and some politicians. “There are many TV stations that turn to vulgarisms and broadcast immoral programs, which are counter to national interests and Islamic values,” the Council of Ministers cited the clerics as telling Karzai. Karzai’s critics say such directives are aimed at mollifying the Taliban, who banned television during their five-year rule, and luring them to the bargaining table. Afghan and U.S. officials have been seeking negotiations with the insurgents in the hope of ensuring stability after most foreign combat troops leave at the end of next year, though the talks are widely believed to have stalled. Noorani said broadcasters who failed to abide by the rules could have their licenses canceled.
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Yahoo.com April 23, 2013

Army Warns Of Steeper Reductions In Troop Numbers

By Richard Lardner, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Senior Army officials warned Tuesday they may have to cut more than 100,000 additional soldiers over the next decade unless automatic spending reductions forcing the military services to slash their budgets are stopped. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Secretary John McHugh said the losses would undermine the service’s ability to be prepared for wartime missions. “Today we find our Army at a dangerous crossroads,” McHugh said. The Army has already planned to trim its ranks from a wartime footing of 570,000 soldiers to 490,000 due to previously planned budget reductions approved by Congress in 2011, according to McHugh said. But if the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are extended into future years, tens of thousands more soldiers, including members of the Army National Guard and Reserve, will have to be let go due to a lack of money, he said. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the budget cuts could threaten readiness levels on the Korean peninsula, where military forces remain on high alert after North Korea threatened to attack the United States and South Korea. Sequestration has forced the cancellation of a series of training exercises intended to help prepare soldiers for possible combat there, he said. Odierno also said the cut of 100,000 additional troops is a minimum number if sequestration is allowed to continue. “The cuts are simply too steep,” he said. Sequestration went into effect March 1. Overall, the Defense Department is required to cut nearly $42 billion by the end of September. If no action is taken to reverse sequestration, the mandated cuts will extend into future years. The Army’s share of the automatic cuts over the next six months is $7.6 billion. In addition to sequestration, the military also has to absorb a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next 10 years mandated by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011. Fewer soldiers won’t translate into cost savings because the departing troops will have to be paid separation benefits, Odierno said. The longer the automatic cuts last, the prospect of using involuntary separations becomes greater, Odierno said. During an exchange with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Odierno said the Army is heading toward becoming “hollow,” a term used to describe a force that looks good on paper but lacks adequately trained troops and modern equipment. “If we cut another 100,000 out, we put into question our ability to respond to large scale contingencies,” Odierno said. Two week furloughs for as many as 250,000 Army civilian employees will generate enough savings in the 2013 budget to ensure that deployments for soldiers serving in Afghanistan won’t have to be extended, Odierno said. The decision to go forward with the furloughs as a difficult one, he said. As many as 700,000 civilian employees at the Defense Department will be furloughed for as long as 14 work days beginning in June, eight fewer days than originally anticipated after Congress gave military officials greater flexibility to apportion automatic budget cuts driving the layoffs.
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Tacoma News Tribune April 24, 2013

Bales Defense Must Decide Strategy

By Adam Ashton, Staff writer
Attorneys for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians last spring are five weeks from a deadline for declaring whether they intend to use a mental health defense at his court-martial. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales faces the death penalty on charges that he slipped out of his combat outpost by himself twice in the early hours of March 11, 2012, to murder the civilians in their homes and to wound six more noncombatants. His lawyers have said for the past year that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and combat-related head injuries, suggesting those ailments overcame him on what was his fourth combat deployment from Lewis-McChord since 2003. Army judge Col. Jeff Nance on Tuesday ordered the lawyers to signal by May 29 whether they plan to argue that Bales’ mental health ailments diminished his responsibility for the massacre in Kandahar province’s Panjwai district. They also must hand to prosecutors by that date a summary of a sanity review Bales recently completed if they plan to call a mental health expert to testify at any point. “Bottom line is, on the 29th of May the defense has to advise the government if they are going to defend on lack of mental responsibility,” Nance said. His attorneys on Tuesday also asked Nance to change one of their key mental health experts in Bales’ defense, requesting to consult with Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Roger Pittman. They are seeking to replace psychiatrist Thomas Grieger, their current PTSD expert. Defense attorney Emma Scanlan would not say why Bales’ team requested the change, citing attorney-client privilege. Prosecutor Maj. John Riesenberg charged the defense team was “witness shopping” for someone who would support their point of view at the government’s expense. Also Tuesday, Nance granted a series of requests to have the Army provide character witnesses who knew Bales as a young man, if the case proceeds to a sentencing phase after a guilty verdict in a court-martial. The witnesses include his mother, aunt, one of his brothers, a high school football coach, a high school administrator or teacher, two high school friends, and the father or uncle of a disabled child whom Bales befriended. Prosecutors sought to block some of those witnesses, but Nance tended to give the benefit of the doubt to defense attorneys. They argued that testimony from any of those character witnesses could represent the difference between life and death for Bales. Bales “was a good kid, a good man and a good soldier,” Scanlan said. Bales sat quietly through the three-hour hearing. He talked with his wife, Kari, for about 20 minutes during a recess, affectionately catching up with each other.
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Reuters.com April 23, 2013

Cyber Vulnerabilities Found In Navy’s Newest Warship: Official

By Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
WASHINGTON — The computer network on the U.S. Navy’s newest class of coastal warships showed vulnerabilities in Navy cybersecurity tests, but the issues were not severe enough to prevent an eight-month deployment to Singapore, a Navy official said on Tuesday. A Navy team of computer hacking experts found some deficiencies when assigned to try to penetrate the network of the USS Freedom, the lead vessel in the $37 billion Littoral Combat Ship program, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Freedom arrived in Singapore last week for an eight-month stay, which its builder, Lockheed Martin Corp., hopes will stimulate Asian demand for the fast, agile and stealthy ships. “We do these types of inspections across the fleet to find individual vulnerabilities, as well as fleet-wide trends,” said the official. Cybersecurity is a major priority for the Navy, which relies heavily on communications and satellite networks for its weapons systems and situational awareness. Defense Department spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said the Pentagon’s chief weapons test agency addressed “information assurance vulnerabilities” for the Littoral Combat Ship in an assessment provided to the Navy. “The details of that assessment are classified,” Elzea said. Lockheed spokesman Keith Little said the company was working with the Navy to ensure that USS Freedom’s networks were secure during the deployment. The Navy plans to buy 52 of the new LCS warships in coming years, including some of Lockheed’s steel monohull design and some of an aluminum-hulled LCS trimaran design built by Australia’s Austal. The ships are designed for combat and other missions in shallower waters close to shore. Freedom’s first operational deployment was in the Caribbean Sea in 2010, where the ship participated in four drug transport busts and captured a total of five tons of cocaine. Additional reporting by David Lawder.
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NavyTimes.com April 23, 2013

Navy Still Seeks To Decommission More Ships

By Christopher P. Cavas
WASHINGTON — Rebuffed by Congress in an attempt to inactivate nine warships as a cost-cutting measure, the US Navy is set to try again – in 2015. The effort is reflected in data tables sent by the service to Capitol Hill in advance of a Wednesday-morning hearing on acquisition plans for the Navy and Air Force. The tables, prepared to accompany the forthcoming annual 30-year shipbuilding plan, were sent to Congress this week without explanation as, according to Navy sources, the final report has yet to be approved. The tables show few changes over last year’s shipbuilding plans, but nine additional ships appear in the retirement column planned for fiscal 2015. Other ships also are scheduled to leave service in 2015, reflecting earlier plans, but unexpectedly, two T-AOE fast combat support ships are now on the early retirement list, one each in 2014 and 2015. Previously, the earliest T-AOE retirements weren’t scheduled until 2033. At about 49,000 tons, the Navy’s four T-AOEs, operated by the Military Sealift Command, are some of the world’s largest and most sophisticated support ships, carrying fuel, ammunition and supplies. The high-speed ships usually accompany aircraft carrier strike groups on overseas deployments. The renewed effort to reduce the numbers of cruisers and amphibious ships follows an initial announcement in February 2012 that, as a cost-cutting measure, the cruisers Cowpens, Anzio, Vicksburg and Port Royal would be decommissioned in 2013, with the cruisers Gettysburg, Chosin, Hue City and amphibious dock ships Whidbey Island and Tortuga following in 2014. All were being inactivated prior to the normally-expected end of their service lives. The service looked for savings by cutting operations, canceling further modernization of the ships and reducing the need for about 3,000 sailors. But Congress objected to the force reductions and, in the 2013 defense authorization bill passed Jan. 1, required the Navy to keep the ships in service. But the Navy didn’t request operating funds for the ships it wanted to inactivate in 2013, and they were placed in an “operational but not funded” status. It is not clear from the data tables if the seven cruisers and two amphibs to be decommissioned in 2015 are the same ships the Navy early planned to inactivate. But the decommissionings are sure to be a point of contention on Capitol Hill. “If decline is a choice, this new 30-year shipbuilding plan willingly chooses to continue the slow, painful decline of American seapower,” Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said Tuesday in a statement. Forbes chairs the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, set to hold the Wednesday morning hearing. “After committing to a 313-ship fleet,” Forbes continued, “this plan has the Navy headed to just 270 [in 2015] after retiring 31 vessels and only procuring 16 new ones during this time. More alarming, while this fleet is shrinking by retiring and building less major surface combatants and amphibious ships, we are artificially filling these gaps with smaller surface combatants and support vessels. “In the decade ahead we will lean more heavily on our seapower forces to underpin our national security strategy; prioritizing a shipbuilding budget to resource this strategy should be one of our first priorities,” Forbes said in the statement. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the service’s top spokesman, defended the service’s efforts. “Today we provided Congress information tables from our draft 30-year shipbuilding plan,” Kirby said in a statement. “We believe the information found in these tables clearly articulates our intention to modernize and grow the fleet to our required minimum of 306 ships. “We have been upfront and transparent about the need to decommission older ships,” Kirby continued, “while at the same introducing new and more capable platforms. Both Secretary [Ray] Mabus and Admiral [Jonathan] Greenert,” chief of naval operations, “have been clear about the need to further our success in shipbuilding. Indeed, under Secretary Mabus’ leadership the Navy has put 43 new ships under contract. We look forward to working with the Congress to discuss the way forward.”
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Aerospace Daily & Defense Report April 24, 2013 Pg. 3

Donley Backs F-35 Despite Flying Hour Cost

U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley says the service does not plan to adjust its purchasing plans for the F-35A to make up for the projected higher cost of maintaining the stealthy fighter compared with the F-16, one of the Air Force aircraft it is slated to replace. The Air Force has said for years it plans to buy 1,763 of the single-engine aircraft made by Lockheed Martin, despite increases in the development and production price and now a higher anticipated cost to use the aircraft. F-35 Program E xecutive Officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan last week told Dutch government officials that the cost-per-flying-hour of the F-35A will exceed that of the F-16 by 10%. This information has been long awaited by the U.S. Air Force and foreign services as they plan to introduce the fighter into their operations. Lockheed Martin had promised the fighter would be less costly to maintain than its predecessor aircraft; cost-perflying-hour is one portion of that life-cycle price. Company officials said in February that though the cost-per-flying-hour is projected to be higher, they still expect the total ownership cost to be less than legacy aircraft combined. Despite the increased maintenance cost, Donley says the Air Force is sticking to its plans for 1,763 F-35As in service. “I don’t think there is a link between projected operational cost and how many we are going to buy,” he told reporters at a Defense Writers’ Group breakfast in Washington April 23. “That discussion has not occurred in the department” of defense. Though the Pentagon appears to be proceeding with the F-35 despite a murky understanding of its life-cycle cost, foreign customers are being more cautious and holding off on or curtailing commitments in the near term. The F-16 comparison provided by Bogdan is likely the tip of the iceberg in operational cost data to come for the F-35 this year. In late May, the Pentagon is scheduled to send its annual selected acquisition report to Congress, which is expected to include more data on comparisons between the F-35B, optimized for short takeoff and vertical landing, and the F-35C designed for use on aircraft carriers. Likely aircraft to be compared are the AV-8B, F-18 and A-10. The Pentagon is projected to spend about $400 billion developing and buying the F-35. — Amy Butler
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AirForceTimes.com April 23, 2013

Donley: Article 60 Change Is ‘Right Place To Start’

By Jeff Schogol, Staff writer
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley reiterated Tuesday the need to revise the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the wake of the scandal after a three-star general threw out the sex assault conviction against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson. Following an outcry by lawmakers, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended Congress change Article 60 of the UCMJ to end the commanders’ authority to nullify verdicts from military juries while retaining their right to reduce sentences. While a review into the Wilkerson case found “nothing untoward” and “no legal errors” by any of the parties involved, the proposed changes to Article 60 are the “right place to start” because the military justice system has an appellate system that was not in place when the article was written, Donley said at a breakfast with reporters in Washington. “It’s harder to see in this mix if justice was served as part of all of this,” Donley said. “People are going to arrive at different conclusions. What is easier to see is that the broad scope of Article 60 probably needs to be changed. That comes through in our analysis and that’s what we recommended to the secretary of defense.” Donley defended Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the convening authority in the case, who has upheld three separate sex assault convictions in Third Air Force. In the aftermath of Wilkerson’s conviction being overturned, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called for Franklin to be fired, but Donley said Franklin is a valuable commander. “When you think about why you would remove a commander, there are other things to consider as well,” he said. “Gen. Franklin has been doing some important work for us in the eastern [Mediterranean] with other partners on missile defense. He’s been supervising the work in northern Africa in Mali. So he has been performing well in those responsibilities.”
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San Antonio Express-News April 24, 2013

Ex-Lackland Instructor Not Guilty In Rape

By Sig Christenson, Staff writer
A former Air Force basic training instructor was found guilty Tuesday of abusing recruits four years ago at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, but he was acquitted of raping an airman during a stint overseas. Tech. Sgt. Bobby Bass, who is on trial at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Miss., faces as much as 33 years in prison, but prosecutors sought just 24 months’ confinement. Witnesses took the stand to recount how he treated them, with one saying boot camp had destroyed his career. “He said that ‘these incidents broke what I believed would happen and who I would become,’” said Col. Polly Kenny, a top lawyer with the 2nd Air Force in Biloxi. The rape allegation was the most serious charge faced by Bass, who was an instructor at Lackland before and after a deployment to Kyrgyzstan. Kenny said jurors could have found him guilty of a lesser offense stemming from the incident at Manas Air Base, but did not. They did, however, decide that Bass had an unprofessional relationship with the airman, who said they shared alcohol before the alleged sexual assault. One of 33 instructors accused of misconduct with 63 recruits and technical school trainees at Lackland since 2008, Bass was found guilty of a long list of charges alleging he abused recruits in a flight he led from Aug. 1-Oct. 31, 2009. Jurors weighed punishment for about 80 minutes before breaking for the day. As they return to court this morning, the panel of two officers and six NCOs will consider a defense plea to give Bass hard labor. “They asked for mercy for the family,” Kenny said, noting that the defense said confinement “should be measured in days, not months or years,” if ordered. Prosecutors alleged that Bass ordered more than a dozen recruits to stand naked in a shower, touching each other, and that he kicked two recruits while they exercised. The jury found him guilty of that and forcing all but one of the recruits to stand naked. That airman testified he wore underwear. Jurors also found Bass not guilty of forcing one recruit to write a break-up letter to his partner, and squeezing the shins of a trainee in his flight at Lackland. Just one airman testified about the reported incident, which led to the victim being put on suicide watch. Bass was found guilty of abusing two recruits he ordered to rub the muscle cream Icy Hot on their genitals. Early in the afternoon, one of the trainees forced to do that took the stand and wept. The recruit joined the Air Force looking for stability, but Kenny said his experience in basic training “changed everything.” He left the Air Force under an honorable discharge after failing in technical school, “which he attributes to the anxiety and apprehension that he got from basic training,” Kenny said. Bass gave an unsworn statement that allowed him to comment without being cross-examined, and his wife also testified. Kenny said she told the jurors she had to be strong for her children. Bass addressed her directly in his statement. “To his wife he said, ‘I’m sorry for the pain. I owe you so much more. I love you,’” Kenny recalled. “In summary he said, ‘I pray for my family not to suffer any more.’”
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Boston Globe April 24, 2013 Pg. 10

Marines’ Visit Brings Hope And Laughter

Finding the way to recovery

By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff
Looking up from her hospital bed through tears, she is at first morose and mournful, six days after losing both of her legs below the knee. “I can’t do anything right now,” Celeste Corcoran says, voice sodden. That is why the two Marines are here: Between them, they lost three legs and part of a hand in Afghanistan in separate bomb blasts in 2010, their agony then just as unimaginable, their futures just as uncertain. But the Marines brim with vitality now — smiling, laughing, living examples of overcoming pain and loss like this, standing before Corcoran atop artificial legs purposefully exposed beneath shorts. “Right now, I’m telling you — you know, with all my heart — you are going to be more independent than you ever were,” says Gabe Martinez, drawing Corcoran in with a reassuring voice, and with the power of his presence. In the video, captured Sunday at Boston Medical Center and posted this week to a fund-raising page for Celeste and her 17-year-old daughter, Sydney Corcoran, who was also injured, the Marines accomplish the incredible. Within minutes, they have mother and daughter laughing from adjacent hospital beds, even getting Celeste to joke about the upside of her situation. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 100,000 viewers had watched the clip, a poignant scene ending in uplift for a community and nation craving reasons for optimism amid so much grief and the first signs of healing. “We’re the exact same,” Martinez says. “This is a new beginning for the both of you, and you know, there’s so many opportunities that’s going to come your way and so much support.” “That makes me so glad to hear,” says Corcoran, a Newbury Street hairdresser who lives in Lowell. She wipes her eyes, smiling a little. “You have your daughter to go through this with you,” Martinez adds, as Corcoran reaches out to clutch the hand of her daughter, who lost copious amounts of blood in the attack last week but whose leg and life were saved by a man named Matt Smith, seen applying a makeshift tourniquet in a now-famous photo. “And you know this isn’t the end; this is the beginning.” Where Martinez has the comforting but measured air of a trusted counselor, his friend and fellow Marine, Cameron West, provides the good humor of a favorite uncle, dispensing with formalities. “Well, obviously, she got her pretty looks from you,” he says, pointing at Sydney and leaning in to hug Corcoran. “Great to see ya. You look good, you look real good. This doesn’t matter. This” — he sweeps his hands in the air above her heavily bandaged legs — “is just a change of scenery. It really is. I mean, Gabe here, he’s moving and running, he’s doing the Paralympics.” “Really?” Corcoran asks. Sure, West says. “And you may want to do that too, one day.” At ease now, she offers a personal tale, about how she had watched the Boston Marathon on TV many times but had never seen it in person, until she went down to cheer on her sister, Carmen Acabbo, running her first marathon. “She worked so hard to do it, and I was so proud to be there to cheer her on, and she was coming around almost onto Boylston Street – – she didn’t actually get to finish the race because of the bomb and everything,” Corcoran says, holding back tears. “So after, I think it was Matthew, her 11-year-old son, said, ‘You know, Mom, are you gonna run the race again next year for Auntie Cel?’ “She said, ‘Yes,’ and when she was telling me the story — I always joke around, like I’m not super athletic. I like to work out and stuff, but running’s never been my thing because I always get the most horrible shin splints,” Corcoran says, and suddenly she is laughing, gesturing, and talking with the pace of a storyteller among friends at the salon, building to the punch line. “But I was like, ‘Hey! I don’t have shins anymore. I’m not gonna be having shin splints. I can do this.’ ” “That’s the attitude, right there,” one of the Marines says, as the clip ends. The veterans, ambassadors of a nonprofit called the Semper Fi Fund that supports critically injured soldiers, visited victims at four hospitals in a 24-hour trip to Boston. They deliberately avoided publicizing their trip, focusing on intimate sessions with patients and families. “We knew that everyone had had a very rough week, and we knew that these guys would walk in and just give them hope and let them know that they were going to be OK,” said Karen Guenther, president of the fund. But Alyssa Carter, a cousin by marriage who has been managing the Facebook page and website for the Celeste & Sydney Recovery Fund (“our new angel,” Acabbo called her), thought the video was worth publicizing afterward. “Progress, one day at a time,” she wrote. Guenther agreed. “We all need good stories,” she said. Acabbo said her sister desperately needed “some support and a pep talk.” “The reality of what had happened was settling in and no pill could have ever helped to regain her strength and hope for the future like that visit from the Marines did,” she added by text. “The timing was just perfect.”
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Miami Herald April 24, 2013 Pg. 3

More Medics To Arrive As Tube Feedings Rise

The U.S. military prepared to beef up its medical staff as the number of those on tube feedings increased to 17 on Tuesday.

By Carol Rosenberg
The number of those on hunger strike at Guantánamo held at just more than half of the camp’s prisoners on Tuesday as the Southern Command said it was sending additional medical forces to help out the 100-member Navy staff carrying out forced feedings. The Southern Command asked the Pentagon for nearly 40 more military medical staffers over a month ago, while it planned for the April 13 raid at Guantánamo that put dozens of prisoners under lockdown, Army Col. Greg Julian said Tuesday morning. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the order, and individual medical forces are being trained for the assignment for arrival by the end of May, he said. At Guantánamo, acting prison spokesman Lt. Col. Samuel House said he was told to expect an all-Navy medical staff of doctors, nurses, corpsmen and psychological technicians “in the next few weeks.” Confirmation of the coming expansion to the 1,700 or so staff members working at the prison of 166 captives came on the same day that House said another captive was now too malnourished or too sick to go without supplemental feedings. Medical military staff listed 84 captives as hunger strikers, he said, the same count as the day before. But the number of captives receiving liquid nutritional supplements through tubes was 17 on Tuesday, up from 16 on Monday. The hunger strike figure has nearly doubled since the April 13 operation that put nearly every captive under lockdown. Julian said from Southcom’s Miami-Dade headquarters that commanders were attributing the rise to examinations of captives who had turned noncooperative in communal lockups as well as the current lockdown. An attorney who saw a one-named Afghan hunger striker, Obaidullah, on Monday said he was struck by how “really, really thin” the 30-something captive had become. Obaidullah’s handshake was delivered by “a bag of bones,” said Marine Maj. Derek Poteet, who quoted the captive as saying that 10 to 12 detainees a day were seeing doctors at the former communal Camp 6, or about one-sixth of the population under lockdown in that one prison building. Obaidullah described a form of collective punishment being meted out to all the Camp 6 captives, Poteet said, with those who resisted the April 13 operation getting the same few basic issue items in their cells as those who went peacefully. The Afghan said since his lockdown in an empty cell he had never received soap or a toothbrush — a claim Julian flatly disputed as “nonsense.” “We anticipate more claims of mistreatment since we have transitioned to single-cell procedures,” Julian said by email. “But at no time is a detainee deprived of the basic elements of humane treatment: food, water, religious articles, hygiene items, medical treatment, or physical recreation opportunities.” Obaidullah claimed through his lawyer that he was in the outdoor recreation yard before dawn at the time of the raid, doing his ritual washing, or ablutions, when the guards came inside firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Julian said that prisoners were put under lockdown after the military found that they were disobeying the rules by disabling or covering up cameras monitoring their cells.
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Stars and Stripes April 24, 2013 Pg. 3

NATO Leader: Allies In Europe Must Take On Larger Defense Burden

By John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes
STUTTGART, Germany — European allies must invest more in their own defense to achieve more equitable burden-sharing within NATO, which has become too dependent on the U.S., according to NATO’s top officer. “[T]he declining European defence budget and the fact that the U.S. accounts for nearly 73 percent of total NATO defence spending is unbalanced and unsustainable over time,” Adm. James Stavridis wrote in a blog posting published on Monday. “American taxpayers will begin to feel that the European Allies and partners are ‘getting a free ride’ as some already say in the U.S.” Stavridis, who in the coming weeks will step down as NATO’s supreme allied commander and head of U.S European Command, outlined a host of challenges facing the 28-nation alliance in the years ahead in a blog titled: “The Future of European Defence.” Among the challenges Stavridis said incoming commander U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove will have to contend with: *Cyber threats, where there is the “greatest mismatch between the level of potential threat and our preparation for it,” Stavridis wrote. *The potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction from states such as Iran and Syria, along with piracy and illicit trafficking, are other zones of concern for Stavridis. The sharp austerity measures introduced in many European countries to cope with the financial crisis have triggered cuts in military spending, exacerbating longstanding U.S. concerns over defense expenditures by European allies. Collectively pooling resources as part of a so-called “smart defense” strategy that calls for targeted spending on key areas of common interest is one way to deal with the consequences of a budgetary crunch, Stavridis said. Still, allies should also meet their own goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, a self-imposed benchmark that most NATO members fail to achieve. In fact, defense budgets have steadily declined across the alliance. While the U.S. spends more than 3 percent of GDP on defense, NATO’s overall average shrank to 1.6 percent in 2012, down from 1.9 percent in 2009, according to Stavridis. A number of European governments expect to further slash defense budgets after NATO ends its combat mission in Afghanistan and withdraws most troops next year. Critics of higher defense spending have pointed out that the continent faces no external military threat and that funding could be better used to offset the effects of austerity measures. Although NATO countries still account for more than 50 percent of the world’s GDP and spend nearly $1 trillion on defense, “dwarfing any possible opponent or combination of opponents,” Stavridis said allies need to do more. “To meet these many challenges, there is much to be done on this side of the Atlantic, and inevitably NATO will continue to be a useful platform for encouraging a re-emergence of European defence,” Stavridis wrote.
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Reuters.com April 23, 2013

Russia Plans To Deploy Fighter Jets, Base In Belarus

By Andrei Makhovsky and Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters
MINSK/MOSCOW — Russia plans to deploy fighter jets in Belarus this year and eventually establish an air base in the former Soviet republic, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday. The moves would increase Russia’s military presence in Belarus, viewed by Moscow as a buffer between Russia and NATO, and could unnerve neighbouring members of the Western alliance. Russia agreed in 2009 to set up a joint air defence system with Belarus and talks were held before then on establishing an air base there, but few concrete steps have been taken. “We have begun considering the plan to create a Russian air base with fighter jets here,” Shoigu said at a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the capital, Minsk. “We hope that in 2015 there will be a regiment of warplanes (in Belarus) which will serve to defend our borders,” Shoigu said in a portion of the meeting shown on Russian state television. Shoigu said the plan is for the first fighter jets to arrive in Belarus this year. Russian aviation regiments normally consist of roughly 60 warplanes. While Russian and NATO officials say armed conflict between the former Cold War adversaries is all but unthinkable, relations are strained and former Soviet satellites now in the Western alliance are particularly wary of the Russian military. An anti-missile shield the United States is deploying in Europe together with NATO nations is a chief source of tension. Shoigu’s remarks coincided with a meeting in Brussels at which Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told NATO that Moscow still wants guarantees the system would not be used against Russia, despite a recent decision to scale it back. Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow defence think-tank CAST, said the deployment of fighters in Belarus would do little to increase security and would be seen by Russia’s Western neighbours “as a display of hostility”. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been seeking to strengthen Moscow’s military and economic ties with other former Soviet republics since he came to power in 2000. Russia has an air base in Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia, and is the most powerful nation in a security alliance of ex-Soviet states, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Russia uses a Soviet-era early-warning radar station in Belarus and has supplied it with weapons including air defence missile batteries. Lukashenko told Shoigu that the West “should understand that if they look at us will ill intentions, we will react”, according to Belarusian state news agency Belta. But he made no specific public comment on Russia’s plans for the deployment of fighters or a base, and the Foreign Ministry declined to comment. Lukashenko’s suppression of dissent has made him a pariah in the West but he has also been wary of giving Moscow too much influence on the nation of 10 million.
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Reuters.com April 23, 2013

Russia Studying U.S. Missile Defense Moves, Still Seeks Guarantees

By David Brunnstrom, Reuters
BRUSSELS — Russia is studying changes to the U.S. missile defense program, but still wants guarantees that the system would not be used against Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. U.S. and NATO plans to build an anti-missile shield around Western Europe to protect against attack from Iran and North Korea have been a major irritant in relations with Russia, which fears the system’s interceptors could eventually shoot down its long-range nuclear missiles. The Pentagon said last month it would station additional missile interceptors in Alaska in response to North Korean threats and at the same time forgo a new type of interceptor that would have been deployed in Europe. This latter type of missile had caused most concern to Moscow, which believed it could be used to shoot down Russian strategic missiles. U.S. officials hope the change will end the standoff with Moscow. Lavrov said he discussed the issue in his talks at NATO headquarters on Tuesday where he met NATO ministers, including his U.S. counterpart John Kerry. “We are studying the proposals conveyed by the American side to us to further deepen the dialogue on missile defense cooperation. We are studying these proposals and the current developments and plans of the United States in this field,” Lavrov told a news conference at NATO headquarters. “We are ready for dialogue but cooperation could be only equitable, with clear-cut guarantees,” Lavrov said.
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Reuters.com April 23, 2013

No Suspicious Letters Found At U.S. Military Base After Ricin Alert

By Phil Stewart and David Lawder, Reuters
WASHINGTON — A Pentagon spy agency said tests found no suspicious letters after an alert during a screening of incoming mail at a military base in Washington on Tuesday led a prominent senator to declare that the deadly poison ricin had been detected. Still, the Defense Intelligence Agency said the FBI took samples and would conduct further tests. It described the investigation as “ongoing.” The United States is on edge following the Boston bombings last week and the discovery of letters laced with ricin addressed to President Barack Obama and Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. The Mississippi man charged with sending the toxic letters was released from jail on bond on Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals Service said. Earlier on Tuesday, the DIA said initial tests indicated the presence “possible biological toxins.” It said DIA security personnel detected a potentially harmful substance during routine screening of incoming mail at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. The DIA later made clear that did not mean any specific letter or package had been located. Adding to confusion during the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, asked about the release of the Mississippi man charged in last week’s ricin letters to Obama and Wicker, said the latest incident involved the “same substance.” It was unclear what information was provided to Reid. The DIA referred further queries on testing to the FBI.
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Washington Post April 24, 2013 Pg. 12

Lockheed Expects A Hit From Sequester

Defense contractor predicts revenue loss of $825 million this year

By Marjorie Censer
Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin forecast Tuesday that government budget cuts would wipe out $825 million of the company’s anticipated revenue this year. The automatic federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, went into effect in March and have caused little damage so far, company officials said. But that will change soon, they said. “We expect to see those impacts grow over the next three quarters,” Bruce L. Tanner, Lockheed’s chief financial officer, said in a call with reporters Tuesday. “While we’re pleased with where we are, we’re mindful that sequestration hasn’t really hit thus far.” The effect of sequestration has slowly begun to ripple throughout the defense industry. Contractors have complained that the cuts will force layoffs and ramped up efforts to expand into new markets. For Lockheed, the world’s largest weapons maker, the early effect is expected to be mostly felt in its information systems and mission systems units. Information technology and training contracts are easier and faster to cut than large weapons systems, such as Lockheed’s F-35 fighter jet or a combat ship. But cuts to those programs could come later, company officials said. Despite those projections, Lockheed reported that its first-quarter profit jumped nearly 14 percent to $761 million. But sales fell 2 percent to just shy of $11.1 billion. Lockheed also took a $30 million charge during the quarter related to layoffs. The company trimmed more than 650 employees in its Gaithersburg-based information systems unit, including about 240 mid-level managers who accepted voluntary layoffs. About 168 of the 650 were Washington area workers, a Lockheed spokeswoman said. The company has no further “plans for reductions at this point in time,” Tanner said.
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New York Times April 24, 2013

Dithering While Damascus Burns

By Bob Corker
WASHINGTON — AS Syria slips further into chaos, America is acting hesitantly at a pivotal moment for our national interests and for those of our allies in the region. It appears that President Bashar al-Assad’s fall is inevitable, but the question is how long it will take and how much suffering and bloodshed will occur before it happens. There is a looming second battle in Syria, as the opposition is divided along sectarian lines and between moderates and extremists. Simply being against Mr. Assad is no longer enough. In both practical and moral terms, no one’s interests will be served by a chaotic collapse of the Syrian state, the empowerment of violent extremist groups with ties to Al Qaeda and the sectarian reprisals that could follow Mr. Assad’s fall. America must therefore prepare to make new investments and commitments to avoid an even deeper catastrophe. American leadership, including providing arms and training to moderate rebels, are likely to be the only things that can tip the balance, help end the bloodshed and halt brewing threats to us and our allies. Yet the Obama administration has been indecisive, neither fully “in” nor “out,” as radicals and militants are rapidly becoming a more influential force inside Syria. Furthermore, if allegations of Syria’s use of chemical weapons — a “red line” that Mr. Obama has said Syria must not cross — prove true, it will force the White House and Congress to decide about expanding our involvement there. President Obama and his advisers face difficult decisions about Syria. He should work closely with Congress in devising his strategy and not deploy any military forces without Congressional consent. Like the president, I am reluctant to commit the United States as an active participant in a complex and distant war and do not support the deployment of American forces to topple Mr. Assad. But the time for “leading from behind” is over. First, the United States must act to affect the balance of power on the ground, shifting momentum away from radical Islamist groups toward more moderate elements that we hope can lead Syria after Mr. Assad’s fall. Unfortunately, the moderate elements we must support are not the most formidable or the most cohesive of the forces fighting in Syria. We must use American resources and ingenuity to help change that — beyond the “nonlethal assistance” we currently provide. This will require weapons and training for rebel units vetted by the United States as well as assistance to improve leadership skills, and cohesiveness in both military and civilian institutions. We should not be engaged in nation building, but we can certainly support Syrians committed to rebuilding their country. But sending arms alone will not solve the problem. After all, small arms are already flowing to combatants from other sources in the region at an alarming rate. By more fully engaging vetted units and training them to respect the law of armed conflict, protect critical infrastructure and secure dangerous weapons sites, America can make a down payment on Syria’s future by building relationships with future partners. In addition, the United States must take the lead in building an international consensus on what the next government of Syria will look like. We can be under no illusions: this will be very difficult and will require that we secure significant changes in policy from Russia and other countries in the region. Establishing common cause between moderate Sunni groups and Alawites — parties that are currently at war with one another — against radical Sunni groups and Iranian proxies will be central to building Syria’s next government. The Alawites are largely clinging to Mr. Assad’s regime for fear that a Sunni victory will lead to sectarian violence against them and that it may be part of the larger, increasingly bitter Sunni-Shia divide throughout the region. When it comes to Russia, America must display a deeper understanding of Russia’s regional interests and take advantage of our shared concerns about Islamic extremism. Russian leaders believe that Syria is becoming a safe haven for extremists, and we should take that concern seriously while at the same time insisting on sending aid to moderate groups. This could be the basis for a new understanding with Moscow and a shared approach toward Syria. Only Russia can convince Mr. Assad that he must step aside, which is an essential first step toward a negotiated solution, and only the United States is in a position to persuade the Friends of Syria — a group of 11 nations — to isolate extremists and bring the core of the opposition to the negotiating table. The United States must also be more aggressive in stopping Iranian support for Mr. Assad. Likewise, public and private sources of support for anti-Assad extremists in Syria should be publicized and targeted with sanctions. Other countries opposed to Mr. Assad, including American allies, must also be much more selective about who they arm and support in the war in Syria. They must recognize that it is in their interests, as well as America’s, to build an Alawite-Sunni alliance of the center to oppose both Mr. Assad’s army and Sunni extremists with ties to Al Qaeda. Changing the dynamics of the conflict in the short term will help preserve and rebuild a stable Syria over the long term. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent trip to Istanbul reflects this view and is a welcome step. But ending the violence in Syria will require the United States to play an even greater role, and it will force both us and our partners to make difficult decisions. The consequences of our continued collective failure are unthinkable, and grow more serious every day. Bob Corker, a senator from Tennessee, is the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
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Reuters.com April 24, 2013

Analysis

Crossing Obama’s ‘Red Line’ On Syria Will Require Concrete Proof

By Matt Spetalnick and David Alexander, Reuters
WASHINGTON/RIYADH — While President Barack Obama has declared a “red line” over Syrian use of chemical weapons, U.S. officials suggested on Tuesday that Washington was unlikely to respond without clear-cut evidence of such use – evidence that may be very hard to come by. Israel’s top military intelligence analyst said in Tel Aviv on Tuesday that Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons – probably the nerve gas sarin – in their fight against rebels trying to force out President Bashar al-Assad. He cited photographic evidence of victims foaming at the mouth, their pupils contracted. The Israeli allegations, which came during a week-long visit by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the Middle East, followed similar concerns of chemical weapons use voiced by Britain and France. But so far, those assessments appear to lack the concrete proof Washington would need to accept the kind of deeper U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war that Obama has resisted. That, in turn, raises questions about just how well-defined the president’s “red line” is. White House spokesman Jay Carney walked a cautious line speaking to reporters, making clear that Washington was taking the Israeli accusations seriously but would require “conclusive evidence” before deciding whether to move forward. “We have not come to the conclusion that there has been that use,” Carney said. “But it is something that is of great concern to us, to our partners, and, obviously, unacceptable as the president made clear.” A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that “low confidence” assessments by foreign governments could not be the basis for U.S. action. Officials appeared to play down the extent of any evidence of chemical weapons use provided by British and French diplomats in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office on March 21. An Obama administration official noted it was based on second-hand sources and third-party information. “The letter did not provide conclusive evidence of chemical weapons use, but did request a U.N. investigation into all allegations of use in Syria,” the defense official said. A U.N. team of specialists has been prevented from going to Syria to investigate the claims because of a dispute with the Damascus government over access. On a visit to Israel last month, Obama said of reports the Syrian government may have used chemical weapons, “Once we’ve established the facts, I have made clear the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer.” The Obama administration’s determination to avoid committing itself without air-tight proof, plus international backing, is due in part to the lessons of Iraq, a source close to White House policymaking said recently. Then, the George W. Bush administration used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion in pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that turned out not to exist. “There will be no rush to judgment,” the source said. U.S. officials and experts have cited the difficulty for the United States in confirming chemical weapons use in Syria. For example, officials have said they are reluctant to give much credence to information on alleged chemical weapons use that emanates from the Syrian opposition, considering such claims suspect because of a vested interest to get Washington involved militarily. So far, the United States has limited itself to mostly non-military support for the opposition. Last weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a new package of non-lethal aid partly destined to rebel fighters. That has fallen far short, however, of what some U.S. lawmakers, U.S. allies like Britain and France and Syrian opposition leaders themselves have sought. Washington could face further criticism if it is perceived to have failed to enforce Obama’s chemical weapons ultimatum to Assad, who has clung to power despite repeated U.S. calls to step down. Raymond Zilinskas, a chemical and biological weapons expert at the Monterey Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said photographic evidence cited by the Israeli official – with victims foaming at the mouth – showed symptoms consistent with the use of a nerve agent such as sarin gas. But he questioned whether photographic evidence alone could prove chemical weapons use. “The difficult part is – what you really need are samples,” said Zilinskas. Sarin or other nerve agents would linger in blood and tissue samples for some time, and probably longer in hair samples, he said. “That’s almost like a smoking gun.” It is not known if Western intelligence agencies, perhaps with aid from Syrian rebels, have procured biological or soil samples from the sites of the alleged attacks last month. Even if proof of chemical weapons use met Washington’s standards of proof, U.S. action might further be delayed while intelligence analysts try to figure out how widespread it was – a factor that would determine the extent of any U.S. response. While contingency plans have been crafted, U.S. officials have continued grappling with questions such as whether U.S. forces would be able to locate enough of Assad’s stockpile and whether the material could be “safe-guarded” inside Syria in the midst of civil war or whether it would have to be taken out. Another wild card could be how Israel might respond. Carney declined to answer a question whether the White House had been aware that Israel would go public with the accusation on Tuesday and whether it was prudent to do so. The source close to White House policymaking speculated that Israel may have gone public with its findings to send a message to Assad that its military had Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile in its sights, and would not hesitate to take action if deemed necessary to secure it. Writing by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Warren Strobel and Peter Cooney.
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Washington Post April 24, 2013 Pg. 15

Military Trials Don’t Work

By Dana Milbank
Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev won’t be sent before a military tribunal for a technical reason: As a U.S. citizen, he isn’t eligible. But that technicality stopped us from addressing a more important consideration: Even if authorities could bring him or any suspected terrorist before a military commission, why would they ever want to? By coincidence, Tsarnaev was read his Miranda rights on Monday – the very day the marquee defendant of the military tribunal system, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was supposed to have had a pretrial hearing at Guantanamo Bay. But that hearing was postponed by two months after it was revealed that somehow hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails – oops! – wound up in the files of the prosecution. That outrage was just the latest snafu in a military tribunal system that has careened from disaster to fiasco over the past dozen years. This comedy of errors has been thoroughly documented in a new book by Jess Bravin, the Wall Street Journal’s Supreme Court correspondent. “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay” makes compelling arguments that, compared to civilian trials, the military trials take longer, cost more, have inferior procedures and produce more lenient sentences. Forget about the ideological and legal debates over the military tribunals; the things just don’t work. Bravin writes that, after 9/11, the Bush Justice and Defense departments and the CIA didn’t see the need for a new military system to try terrorism suspects. Rather, Bravin writes, “commissions were conceived and championed by officials whose primary motive was redistributing powers from the legislative and judicial branches to the executive.” President Obama wanted to end that pointless system but “was persuaded that his political capital was better spent on other priorities.” The Bush administration’s chutzpah and Obama’s cowardice left us with the absurd arrangement we have today. Of the 800 people to pass through Gitmo, Bravin reports, there have been all of seven convictions in the tribunals: five plea bargains and two trials, only one of which was contested. The trials cost the government hundreds of thousands of dollars per week (much of it due to judges, lawyers, witnesses, journalists and all the rest who must be flown to the base in Cuba, where some sleep in tents) and produce questionable outcomes. David Hicks, an Australian who was the first to be sentenced by a terrorism tribunal, got a nine-month sentence in addition to time served in Gitmo; he is now a free man and wrote a book about his experience. Compare that to John Walker Lindh, tried on similar charges in civilian court because of his U.S. citizenship. He got a 20-year sentence. The prosecution of KSM and his co- defendants had a kangaroo-court feel, even before the defense e-mails mysteriously wound up in prosecutors’ hands. As my Post colleague Peter Finn reported, microphones had been hidden in rooms where defense lawyers met with their clients. Without the judge’s knowledge, censors thought to be from the CIA operated a “kill switch” that kept the audio of court proceedings from being broadcast to the public whenever topics such as torture came up. At another point, a large tranche of defense lawyers’ files disappeared from the military computer network they were stored on. Confidence in the integrity of the system is so low that defense lawyers have resorted to filing handwritten motions and communications. There have also been problems with mistranslations by interpreters and uncertainty about which laws applied to the proceedings. There should be little wonder, then, that it took nearly a decade for KSM to be arraigned. First, the CIA kept him at a “black site” prison, where he was waterboarded 183 times, Bravin recounts. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hamdancase in 2006, the Bush administration had to shut down the prison and transfer Mohammed to Guantanamo Bay – but concerns that details of torture would be made public slowed the prosecution. In 2008, KSM tried to plead guilty, but under military rules he wasn’t allowed such a plea to a capital charge. More delays came when the Obama administration tried to transfer him to civilian court, then retreated after a public backlash. By the most optimistic forecast, the military trial could start sometime next year – 11 years after his capture. And some would have had us put the Boston suspect into this black hole? That’s nuts – not because the military tribunals are unconstitutional or unfair but because they’re unworkable.
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Wall Street Journal April 24, 2013 Pg. 15

The Terrorist’s Sojourn In A Most Dangerous Place

Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent seven months in Dagestan, where the capital sees violent attacks weekly, if not daily.

By Glen E. Howard
In addition to having a predilection for high-profile acts of terror, Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri have at least one other thing in common: Both spent months in the mountainous Russian republic of Dagestan, a thriving center of global jihadist activity. Zawahiri visited Dagestan in the mid-1990s and was detained there for six months by Russian security services. Tsarnaev spent seven months in the region last year visiting his father, who had just returned there from the United States. Tsarnaev, who was born in Kyrgyzstan, traveled on a fake Russian passport because U.S. authorities, citing a 2009 domestic-violence complaint against him, had denied his application for citizenship. Located in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region—between the Caspian and Black seas, in the country’s southwest—Dagestan is home to assorted militant groups that combine jihadist ideology with their aim of independence from Russia. The same is true in the neighboring region of Chechnya. Militants launch violent attacks in Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala, on a weekly if not daily basis, and while visiting there Tsarnaev would have had little trouble reaching out to local insurgents for training. One of the YouTube videos posted by his brother and accused co-conspirator, Dzhokhar, cited the deceased Dagestani militant Rappani Khalilov, who was killed by Russian security services in 2007. An associate of the noted Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, Khalilov was skilled in guerrilla tactics and urban insurgency, glimpses of which were seen in the Tsarnaev brothers’ shootout last week with Boston police. While one of the leading Dagestani militant groups has issued a statement rejecting any ties to the Boston bombings, there are many suggestions that the brothers had Dagestan on their minds. According to their uncle (with whom I have spoken), the leading force behind Tamerlan’s increasing religiosity in recent years was the boys’ mother, Zubeidat, an ethnic Avar from Dagestan. Their father, a Chechen, is more secular. Postings to Twitter show the boys rooting for the Dagestani soccer club called Anzhi, rather than the Chechen club, Terek. Yet the Chechen jihad couldn’t have been far from the men’s thinking. One of the books listed on Tamerlan’s Amazon.com wish list was “The Lone Wolf and the Bear: Three Centuries of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule.” Chechnya’s reputation for skill in fighting Russia (mentioned frequently, for example, in the writings of al Qaeda figure Abu Musab al-Suri) has elevated Chechens to high social status in Muslim communities around the world. The special status bestowed on Chechens makes Chechen youth especially appealing to Islamist clerics who seek to radicalize and deploy them as foot soldiers in the global jihad against the U.S. and its allies. Tamerlan Tsarnaev might have appeared especially appealing for such a role, given his prowess as an amateur boxer in and around Boston. While it is too early to tell, I suspect that Tamerlan was radicalized in the U.S. but used his months in Dagestan to receive the military training and bomb-making skills needed for the Boston attack. If true, then this occurred right under the noses of the Russian security services that work very hard (and brutally) to keep down insurgents in the North Caucasus. Russian authorities tipped off the FBI about Tamerlan’s radical leanings in 2011, but still they didn’t detain or arrest him during his extended 2012 visit to Dagestan. Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. has largely ignored Chechnya’s separatist wars against Russia and Russia’s suppression of its Muslim minorities. The conflict has spread from Chechnya to other parts of the North Caucasus, effectively Balkanizing southern Russia. With the Boston bombing, the U.S. would do well to take a more active role in addressing this conflict-ridden region. The increasing Balkanization of Russia’s southern frontier will likely push more refugees like the Tsarnaevs to seek asylum in the U.S. and Europe. While my research suggests that fewer than 200 Chechens currently reside in the U.S., more than 200,000 Chechen refugees have fled to Western Europe since 1999. Many have obtained European passports and travel back and forth to their homelands all across the North Caucasus. The offspring of these refugees—like Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—often resent that more than 200,000 Chechens have died in wars with Russia since 1994, and radical clerics can prey on this resentment as they seek recruits for international terrorism. It is important that the U.S. continue counterterrorism cooperation with Moscow (even as the Kremlin tries to dismiss all of its opponents as terrorists or other enemies of the state). But Washington should balance its cooperation with Moscow by reaching out to staunch American allies in the region—such as Georgia and Azerbaijan, which border the North Caucasus—to glean insights and exchange information about threats. Equally important: In less than a year, the U.S. and other Western countries will dispatch nearly 3,000 athletes and 500,000 spectators to the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian Black Sea town of Sochi. Sochi is on the western fringes of the North Caucasus, with Russia’s beleaguered Muslim minorities close by. Ever since the horror at Munich in 1972, security at the Olympics has been a high-tension business, but Sochi could be the most dangerous Games in four decades. Mr. Howard is president of the Jamestown Foundation.
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ForeignPolicy.com April 23, 2013

The Defense Department In Sequesterland

The Pentagon will make it through sequestration better than most.

By Gordon Adams
Sequestration is not pretty and managing it is not easy. But go back a year or so, to those days when our military was about to be devastated by the sequester. The rhetoric was hyperbolic; the damage to national security would be severe. Just a few short months ago, DOD was handed the biggest megaphone in the executive branch to protest the consequences. Sequestration would bring Doomsday, readiness would be fatally damaged, and the United States would become a second-rate power. During the campaign last year, the defense politicians and lobbies stepped up to the mic. Senators McCain, Ayotte, and Graham toured the country, “defending defense.” With the support of the Aerospace Industries Association, George Mason regional economist Steven Fuller asserted that a million jobs would be lost as a result of the sequester. Fooled me once, your fault. All that time, the Defense Department was better off in “sequesterland” than virtually all of the other federal agencies. DOD, it turns out, has the greatest flexibility to handle sequestration of all of them. I have been suggesting this for months, despite the cacophony of horror stories. It was clear from the first day of the Budget Control Act that if sequestration happened, most of the defense budget would be exempt or touched only slowly. And the most vulnerable part of the defense budget had the greatest flexibility to adjust to a lower level. Pay and benefits for military personnel — a third of the defense budget — would be exempt, waived by the president under the law. Contractors found out that the dollars already committed to their contracts would be untouched. Once DOD reassured them that they did not need to send WARN Act layoff notices to their workforce (and that any legal costs incurred by not doing so would be allowable costs under their contracts), the industry stepped back and became mute. That left the military’s operating funds — about another third of the overall defense budget — as the primary target of sequester. The Pentagon fretted heavily, trotting out the dangerous consequences. These are the funds that cover equipment repairs, training and education, wartime operations, fuel purchases, buying services, and paying civil servants. And the impact of the sequester would be severe — perhaps a $35 billion hole in the operating budget. The operating funds sequester problem is slowly eroding, however; the mirage of Doomsday is lifting. It turns out there is a lot more flexibility in these accounts than one thought. For one thing, last September and again this February, OMB defined the “line item-by-line item” nature of sequestration flexibly when it came to DOD operating accounts. Rather than cut equally from every training session, military exercise, fuel purchase, and civil servant, OMB said DOD would have the flexibility to lump them all together in the standard military operating accounts: Army Operations and Maintenance, for example. The Pentagon could make tradeoffs between these expenditures, setting priorities. Then, a third of the Pentagon’s problem went away when the Congress passed the full defense bill in March this year. That bill added $11 billion to the operations accounts above the level provided in the continuing resolution, just as the administration had requested. The military services discovered that the threatened 22-day furlough of civil servants might not be needed. It dropped to 14 days, or even 7 days, and, in the Navy’s case, conceivably to zero. The new bill helped, as did the search for other ways to set priorities. Today the Pentagon is working, sensibly, on another flexible instrument it has to move funds around in those operating accounts and reset those priorities: reprogramming. Every year, Congress provides DOD with a set amount of funds it can reprogram to other purposes — so-called General Transfer Authority (GTA). This year, it amounts to $4 billion. Congress has also provided another $3.5 billion in transfer authority in the Overseas Contingency Operations accounts. So that makes a total of $7.5 billion DOD can move around, as long as it notifies its key committees it intends to do so, unless they have a strong objection. There is a major reprogramming notification coming this month, eating up almost all of that ceiling but turning another piece of the sequester Doomsday into a whimper. It is not an easy task to find the sources for this reprogramming, because “sources” must be found to provide the funds the Pentagon wants to add to key operating programs. So the “scrub” is on to find those sources and maybe the Navy and the Air Force will have to pony up some operating fund “give backs” to fix the most serious operating fund problems, which are largely in the Army budget (including underestimating war operations costs). But the scavenger hunt for offsets is well underway, and found they will be. No other federal agency has as big a pot of sources for the hunt as the Pentagon has, even more so because of the significant growth over the past 10 years in DOD’s “back office,” the administrative overhead. Even that is not all. Every year the Pentagon reprograms significant sums of money at levels that fall below the congressional reporting requirement for General Transfer Authority. In fact, between FY 2000 and FY 2011, they reprogrammed nearly $175 billion, or an average of over $14 billion a year. In FY 2008, between GTA and below-the-threshold reprogramming, DOD managed to move nearly $50 billion in all, no doubt a good deal of that inside the operating accounts. This is not as easy to do today because we are in a defense drawdown and the sources are getting scarcer. In the heady days of the last decade, finding the bill-payers was a piece of cake; today, it takes some scratching. But what is interesting about all of this is that, for all the difficulties of dealing with a deep reduction like the sequester, it is the Pentagon that has, relatively, the easiest task and the greatest flexibility, compared to the rest of the executive branch. And it was the Pentagon that was leading the parade toward Doomsday. In the end, this flexibility is a good thing. Not because it is fun, but because it is bringing some discipline to a department the budget of which grew beyond control over the past decade. And good, because the sequester seems likely to be with us all year, bar an unlikely general agreement on the federal budget. Sequestration, it seems, is a kind of deus ex machina, a “God-like” appearance from the sky, lowering the federal budget with no one to blame. The Defense Department will get through it, not unscathed, but not rendered helpless by any account. Given its flexibility, and, truthfully, its planning capabilities, it may be more successful than other departments. Gordon Adams is professor of international relations at the School of International Service at American University and Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center.
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Washington Times April 24, 2013 Pg. B3

Bending The Pentagon’s Medical Costs Curve

The same old proposals for reform won’t work

By Roy Ramthun
The military’s health care system known as Tricare is in need of a major overhaul, according to news articles. The cost of military health care has almost tripled since 2001, from $19 billion to $53 billion in 2012, and now represents one-tenth of the entire defense budget. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that health care costs for military personnel will increase to $65 billion by 2017 and $95 billion by 2030. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has warned that military health care spending is creating a growing imbalance among Pentagon resources. He implied that money dedicated to health care or benefits is challenging the department’s allocation of resources from preparing our troops for battle and meeting their health care needs at home. Mr. Hagel is not alone in his concern. Two previous defense secretaries, Leon E. Panetta and Robert M. Gates, also insisted that costs must be brought under control. Mr. Panetta said personnel costs put the Pentagon on an “unsustainable course,” and Mr. Gates bluntly said in 2009 that “health care is eating the department alive.” However, the Pentagon keeps offering the same old proposals: higher out-of-pocket fees and enrollment costs for military families and retirees. President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal missed another opportunity to offer a different approach. Tricare provides health care coverage to nearly 10 million active-duty personnel, retirees, reservists and their families. Retirees and their dependents outnumber active-duty members and their families, 5.5 million to 3.3 million. It is not uncommon for service members to retire from active duty in their 40s. Some go to work for defense contractors. Others take different civilian jobs. But they retain their Tricare coverage for the rest of their lives. Military retirees younger than 65 and their family members pay small annual enrollment fees for their coverage – $230 a year for an individual, $460 for a family. There is no deductible. Tricare offers some free options but limits choices of medical providers in an effort to keep down costs. Unlike the federal government and most private employers (including defense contractors), Tricare does not offer any high-deductible plan that would make individuals eligible for health savings accounts. These types of plans are almost 10 years old and have grown substantially over the past decade. Studies have shown consistently that health savings accounts keep down costs by encouraging more consumer involvement in maintaining their health. According to Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, companies with at least half of their workers enrolled in health savings accounts or similar plans report that their per-employee costs are more than $1,000 lower than companies without these plans. This is hard evidence for “bending the cost curve” that is so elusive for the rest of our nation’s health care system. Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. have reported that their employer clients who switched to the savings accounts and similar plans saved millions of dollars on their employee health benefit costs while the health of their employees improved. Cigna has gone so far as to say that if the share of Americans enrolled in health savings accounts and similar health care plans rose to 50 percent and achieved the same results as their analysis, the United States could save $350 billion over 10 years and the level of patient care would improve. This potential for reducing health care spending was confirmed last year when researchers at the Rand Corp. published the results of their analysis of the potential impact of account-based plans on the American health care system in the policy journal Health Affairs. The Rand analysis suggested that if enrollment in health savings accounts and similar plans grows to represent half of all employer-sponsored insurance in the country, health care spending could drop by $57 billion annually. The study acknowledges that the accounts are far more cost-effective and estimates that if all of these people were enrolled in the plans, the annual savings would be as high as $73.6 billion. Because Tricare does not offer health savings accounts or similar plans, it is missing out on the savings that the Defense Department so desperately needs. If Tricare offered savings accounts, it might lower its costs while allowing its personnel to participate in the many benefits offered by the accounts that millions of other Americans are realizing. There is a second reason to offer health savings accounts. Because Tricare coverage follows military retirees for life, it prevents them from future participation in the savings plans. Because Tricare doesn’t offer any high-deductible plans, the Tricare coverage carried by military retirees prevents them from contributing to savings accounts even if their employers offer them. It’s time the Pentagon and Congress create the option of health savings accounts within Tricare. Thousands of their contractors have done it. Federal workers can choose them, too. Indiana has more than 90 percent of its workers enrolled in savings accounts. If money is truly as tight as our leaders say, health savings accounts deserve serious consideration. Roy Ramthun is president of HSA Consulting Services and former senior adviser for health initiatives to the U.S. Treasury secretary.
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Financial Times April 24, 2013 Pg. 9

Chinese Support For North Korea Is Quite Rational

By Timothy Beardson
Why does China tolerate North Korea’s extraordinary behaviour? The relationship is an unusual one – not based on mutual respect and friendship but on cold calculation. Beijing has agreed to support US moves at the UN to place sanctions on North Korea, but the world is puzzled by its apparent reluctance to follow Washington’s lead with any great enthusiasm. China was supportive of North Korea during the Korean war (1950-53). The Chinese may also see Kim Jong-eun’s nuclear posturing as a rational use of the extremely weak cards in his hand. After all, the regime presides over tens of millions of malnourished and miserable people and it is desperate not to fall. But China and North Korea are not happy neighbours. The two countries disagree about their border; China occupies part of Baekdu-san, a mountain seen as sacred within Korea. Both countries believe that parts of the Tumen river delta are wrongly occupied by the other. Last year, uniformed North Korean sailors kidnapped, beat and robbed 28 Chinese fishermen in Chinese waters. It cannot help that North Korea has a racist view about the superiority of their own people – interracial liaisons can lead to forced abortions and imprisonment. Furthermore, Beijing does not welcome its volatile and nuclear-armed neighbour issuing threats and firing missiles, not least because the deteriorating situation has led to an influx of US military planes and naval ships to the region. However, China has certain clear interests. The first is that it went to war in the 1950s to ensure that the US did not dominate its borders. If North Korea collapses, US troops could be on its frontier. Second, in the event of a North Korean collapse, China does not want millions of refugees endangering its stability. The impoverished North Korean population today is estimated at 24m. China already has two million ethnic Koreans living within its borders. Third, it is useful for Beijing to have a clear neighbourhood “bad boy”. Pyongyang fulfils this role with aplomb, offering the dual advantage of distracting Washington from criticising China through its egregiously unpopular activity while allowing China to assume a leadership position in the multinational group discussing the North Korea problem. Moreover, a future united Korea could have 70m citizens, a potentially successful economy, low labour costs, high population density, a strongly nationalist mentality – and nuclear weapons. Here, China’s reservations are echoed by Japan, which faces steady demographic decline and regular attacks from South Korea over its pre-1945 wartime behaviour. A united Korean state is likely to be led by southerners. Their advantages are not just economic – just consider the expected large mental health bill in the north and the fact that its people are on average three inches shorter than southerners. Southern leadership will worry China. In an international survey last year, South Korea ranked as the most anti-Chinese country. Almost two-thirds of respondents held a negative view of China’s influence. The South has been planning a space mission, is building up its armaments and is increasing the range of its missiles to 500 miles. It has overseen repeated confrontations between its coastguards and Chinese fishing vessels; more than 800 Chinese fishermen have been arrested and more than 2,600 boats seized since 2006. Beijing’s longstanding support for North Korea has nothing to do with sharing a common ideology – they don’t – but it has everything to do with protecting China’s national interests. The way a northern regime collapse is seen largely explains the behaviour of the players in this Korean crisis. While the potential collapse of the North Korean government would lead to an increase in stability for the region when viewed from Washington, it would mean a decrease in stability for China, Russia – and even Japan. The writer is author of the forthcoming book ‘Stumbling Giant: The Threats to China’s Future’.
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New York Times April 24, 2013

Japan’s Unnecessary Nationalism

Since taking over as Japan’s prime minister in December, Shinzo Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party have been juggling a packed agenda of complicated issues, including reviving the country’s economy, coping with the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and managing prickly relations with neighbors like North Korea. Stirring up extraneous controversy is counterproductive, but that’s exactly what he and his nationalist allies in Parliament have done. On Tuesday, a group of 168 mostly low-ranking conservative lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo, which honors Japan’s war dead, including several who were executed as war criminals after World War II. It was the largest mass visit by Parliament in recent memory. The Japanese news media said that Mr. Abe didn’t visit the shrine, instead sending a ritual offering, but his deputy prime minister and two other ministers made a pilgrimage there over the weekend. He has a record of defending Japan’s conduct during World War II. Mr. Abe and his allies know well what a deeply sensitive issue this is for China and South Korea, which suffered under Japan’s 20th-century empire-building and militarism, and the reaction was predictable. On Monday, South Korea canceled a visit to Japan by its foreign minister and China publicly chastised Japan. On Tuesday, tensions were further fueled when Chinese and Japanese boats converged on disputed islands in the East China Sea. Japan and China both need to work on a peaceful solution to their territorial issues. But it seems especially foolhardy for Japan to inflame hostilities with China and South Korea when all countries need to be working cooperatively to resolve the problems with North Korea and its nuclear program. Instead of exacerbating historical wounds, Mr. Abe should focus on writing Japan’s future, with an emphasis on improving its long-stagnant economy and enhancing its role as a leading democracy in Asia and beyond.
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Washington Post April 24, 2013 Pg. 14

No Blurring This ‘Red Line’

Evidence mounts that Syria has used chemical weapons

THREE MAJOR U.S. allies – Britain, France and Israel – have now concluded that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has very likely used chemical weapons. This would cross a “red line” drawn by President Obama not once but on multiple occasions. An Israeli general said Tuesday that “the regime used lethal chemical weapons against gunmen in a series of incidents in recent months,” including a March 19 attack near Aleppo where a “sarin-type” substance was employed. The British and French governments reported to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that they had corroborating evidence, including soil samples, of chemical-weapon use in three instances since December. Though his policy on Syria has been weak and muddled, Mr. Obama has been very clear that the United States “will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people,” as he put it last month. He has said that such use would be a “game-changer.” Yet the administration now declines to join the analysis of its close allies. Perhaps it is the case, as White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday, that “conclusive evidence” is still lacking. Administration officials point out that the British, French and Israelis are not saying they are certain. No one wishes to repeat the mistake of intervening in Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence. But another danger is that the Assad regime will conclude that Mr. Obama’s warnings were never serious. Many analysts believe the relatively limited use of chemical weapons until now was intended to test international reaction. If there is no response, Damascus may decide that it is free to use its chemicals on a larger scale. Mr. Assad suggested something like that this week in a meeting with a Lebanese delegation. According to a Lebanese newspaper report, he said, “The Americans have been pragmatic from the very beginning and never pursued any course to its logical conclusion. They would eventually side with the victor.” In truth, Mr. Obama has been inching toward more decisive action. At a meeting of opposition supporters last weekend, Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced a doubling of U.S. aid for the opposition to $250 million, including direct funding for rebel forces. Yet U.S. support for the rebels remains far below what would be necessary to accelerate the downfall of the Assad regime. Syrians are furious at the United States and increasingly supportive of an al-Qaeda militia that has won a string of battlefield victories. If Mr. Obama waffles or retreats on the one clear red line he drew, U.S. credibility across the region will be severely damaged. With Syria blocking a U.N. investigation and few assets on the ground, it can be difficult to determine what happened in the reported chemical-weapons attacks. But it is important that the United States reach a conclusion, and soon.
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Wall Street Journal April 24, 2013 Pg. 14

Military Decline Is A Threat To Our Future

Mark Helprin hits the nail on the head with his pertinent analysis of the Obama administration’s take on the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya (“Benghazi’s Portent and the Decline of U.S. Military Strength,” op-ed, April 10). In my view, if America continues down this path of feeble negotiation backed by an increasingly weakened military, we are inviting further attacks by terrorists known or unknown, from around the world. Only with certain overwhelming military strength will negotiation have any chance of success. Yet the Obama administration continues to ignore this fact, i.e., cutting our defense budget by 50%. What a slap in the face to our returning troops after successfully operating in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past 10 years. No, instead let America be a nation of preparedness, supported by strong leadership from all our elected officials, including our president, so that another Benghazi won’t be a tragedy the American people ever have to face again. K.S. Hartwell, USN (Ret.), DuPont, Wash. Editor’s Note: The op-ed by Mark Helprin appeared in the Current News Early Bird, April 10, 2013.
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Wall Street Journal April 24, 2013 Pg. 2

Corrections & Amplifications

Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) supports an effort to divert government funds to continue a BAE Systems PLC contract to make Bradley fighting vehicles. “I realize that we have to come up with savings and make difficult decisions about defense, but I think, in this case, there are other places to find savings,” he said. A Marketplace article on Tuesday about the effort incorrectly attributed the quotation to Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.). Editor’s Note: The article by Dion Nissenbaum appeared in the Current News Early Bird, April 23, 2013.
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