Monthly Archives: June 2012

Turkey reinforces border as Syria violence rages

By on Friday, June 29th, 2012

Twin bombs exploded outside the Palace of Justice in Damascus on Thursday as deadly violence raged across the country and Turkey reinforced its volatile border with Syria with missile batteries.

Ankara’s move came as world powers prepared for a crucial meeting on ways to end the raging conflict in Syria and to discuss a plan by peace envoy Kofi Annan for an interim government.

The meeting in Geneva, agreed only after wrangling between Moscow and Washington over the agenda and the guest list, will be attended by some regional governments but not by rival Middle East heavyweights Iran and Saudi Arabia.

According to a copy of his transition plan obtained by AFP, Annan will demand “irreversible” steps by President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition to end the conflict.

A blueprint for multi-party elections and an offer for “significant” international funding to rebuild Syria will also be discussed.

Russia has already poured cold water on the Geneva gathering, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying Moscow rejects Western pressure for Assad’s ouster.

In central Damascus, three people were wounded when bombs blasted a car park outside the court complex, state media reported. A police source told AFP that two magnetic bombs exploded in judges’ cars.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington condemned attacks “against innocents from any direction that they come from” after the bombings.

“But the larger concern is — as we’ve said for many, many weeks — it is Assad that bears the brunt of responsibility,” she told reporters.

Assad said in an interview on Iranian state television recorded a week ago and broadcast on Thursday that he believed Western and some regional countries were playing a role in supporting the uprising.

He acknowledged that “material proof does not exist” because “most of the time their support is hidden and indirect,” but “their relations (with the armed opposition) are clear.”

Elsewhere on Thursday, violence killed at least 91 people, including 59 civilians, after one of the bloodiest days of the 15-month revolt left at least 149 dead on Wednesday, a watchdog said.

Thursday’s heaviest toll was in the northern Damascus suburb of Douma where 30 people were killed, among them five members of one family, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The day’s death toll also included 23 soldiers and nine rebels, said the watchdog, adding that that regime forces backed by helicopters pounded several areas of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

More than 15,800 people have been killed since the uprising broke out in March 2011, including nearly 4,700 since April 12, when a UN-backed ceasefire was supposed to have taken effect, the Observatory says.

Turkey has sent missile batteries, tanks and troops to the border as a “security corridor” after Syria shot down a Turkish warplane last Friday, media reports said.

State-run TRT television showed dozens of military vehicles reportedly heading for the border, in a convoy that included air defence systems.

About 30 military vehicles accompanied by a truck towing missile batteries left a base in the southeastern province of Hatay for the border, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) away, Milliyet newspaper reported.

The Turkish Phantom F-4 jet was downed by Syria over the eastern Mediterranean in what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a “heinous attack” over international waters.

Turkey’s National Security Council said after a meeting on Thursday it will take steps “with determination by reserving all of its rights born out of international law in the face of this hostile act.”

Diplomats at the United Nations said on Wednesday that Annan is proposing setting up a transitional government to include representatives of both sides in the Syria conflict.

The proposed interim authority would exclude officials whose presence might jeopardise the transition “or undermine efforts to bring reconciliation,” according to a summary given by one UN diplomat.

“The language of Annan’s plan suggests that Assad could be excluded but also that certain opposition figures could be ruled out,” said another UN diplomat.

US officials had warned that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could stay away from the conference if transition from Assad’s rule was not on the agenda.

Russia also insists Iran should be part of the solution to Syria’s conflict.

“Iran is an influential player in this situation and to leave it out of the Geneva meeting, I believe, is a mistake,” Lavrov said on Thursday.

Assad’s fate “must be decided within the framework of a Syrian dialogue by the Syrian people themselves” without foreign interference, he insisted.

Clinton, who will meet Lavrov in Saint Petersburg on Friday, rejected any idea that Annan was proposing a transition imposed from outside.

“In his transition document it is a Syrian-led transition, but you have to have a transition that complies with international standards on human rights, accountable governance, the rule of law,” she said.

The opposition Syrian National Council said it would boycott any government if Assad stays, while Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, an SNC member, said forming a unity government as violence continues “would be to delude ourselves and play the regime’s game.”

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US exempts China, Singapore from Iran sanctions

By on Friday, June 29th, 2012

The United States exempted China and Singapore from sanctions over purchases of oil from Iran hours before a deadline, saying that major economies were united in pressuring Tehran.

The United States, however, did not grant exemptions to smaller-scale importers such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, meaning that banks from those countries could face punishment if they handle transactions for Iranian oil.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ruled that China and Singapore had “significantly reduced” their crude oil purchases from Iran, granting them exemptions on the final day before sanctions take effect.

Under a law aimed at pressing Iran over its nuclear program, the United States will bar financial institutions that buy oil from Iran, essentially forcing them to choose between Tehran and the world’s largest economy.

Clinton credited the threat of sanctions with severely cutting Iran’s crude oil exports and estimated that it cost the country some $8 billion in lost revenue each quarter.

The world’s “cumulative actions are a clear demonstration to Iran’s government that Iran’s continued violation of its international nuclear obligations carries an enormous economic cost,” she said in a statement.

Numerous countries initially voiced concern about the US law. China and India had been among the most outspoken, initially protesting that their energy-hungry economies should not be beholden to US domestic law.

But US officials boasted that countries with vastly different relationships with the United States — from close ally Japan to sometime competitor China — all decided in the end that it was best to cut imports from Iran.

Clinton exempted members of the European Union and Japan in March and on June 11 did the same for India, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan. The exemptions are for a renewable 180-day period.

The United States held extensive talks with China and Singapore as the deadline loomed. A US official praised a recent Chinese statement that its oil imports from Iran fell 25 percent between January and May from a year earlier and that more reductions were due this year.

“I think there’s an understanding on the Chinese side of the seriousness with which we’re going forward with this,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The official highlighted effects of pressure including a cutoff in fuel supplies to Iran Air and shipping companies’ reluctance to call on Iranian ports.

But Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized the Democratic administration, saying that China remained the single biggest purchaser of Iranian oil.

“The administration likes to pat itself on the back for supposedly being strong on Iran sanctions. But actions speak louder than words, and today the administration has granted a free pass to Iran’s biggest enabler,” said Ros-Lehtinen, a staunch critic of Beijing and Tehran.

Israel and some Western officials fear that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not ruled out a military strike, leading the Obama administration to seek economic pressure on Iran to avoid war.

Iran’s clerical regime has engaged in protracted talks with global powers and insists that its sensitive nuclear work is for peaceful purposes.

“I urge Iran to demonstrate its willingness to take concrete steps toward resolving the nuclear issue during the expert-level talks scheduled in Istanbul” on Tuesday, Clinton said in the statement.

“Failure to do so will result in continuing pressure and isolation from the international community,” she said.

A US official said that the administration has exempted all “significant” buyers of Iranian oil. But Clinton has not made exceptions for smaller-scale importers such as Iran’s neighbors Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The countries will not face sanctions as a whole, but their financial institutions will now be subject to bans in the United States if determined that they have dealt with Iran’s central bank to arrange the purchase of oil.

Singapore has said that it imported practically no oil from Iran in May.

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United Technologies sold military software to China: US

By on Friday, June 29th, 2012

United Technologies Corp. and two of its subsidiaries have pleaded guilty to exporting software that helped China build its first military attack helicopter, US officials said Thursday.

United Technologies, Canada-based Pratt and Whitney and US-based Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation entered guilty pleas to criminal charges and agreed to pay more than $75 million to the government in a settlement, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Pratt and Whitney admitted to selling to China military software that is designed to test and control the company’s helicopter engines, it said. The technology helped China develop a new combat helicopter, the Z-10.

Pratt and Whitney pleaded guilty to violating the arms export control act while United Technologies and Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation admitted to making false statements to US authorities.

The companies had claimed in statements to the State Department that they initially believed their exports would be used for a civilian helicopter that would form the basis for a military chopper. But executives admitted they knew from the start that the software was for a military aircraft, despite a US embargo on arms sales to China, the Justice Department said.

Of the $75 million owed in the settlement, about $20.7 million is due to be paid to the Justice Department and the remaining $55 million will be paid to the State Department. The payments include turning over profits made in the deal with China.

“This case is a clear example of how the illegal export of sensitive technology reduces the advantages our military currently possesses,” said John Morton, director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I am hopeful that the conviction of Pratt & Whitney Canada and the substantial penalty levied against United Technologies and its subsidiaries will deter other companies from considering similarly ill-conceived business practices in the future,” he said.

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Army to field new network after NIE reaches ‘next level’

By on Friday, June 29th, 2012

The Army’s strategy for enhancing its tactical communications network through large-scale, Soldier-driven evaluations conducted every six months has reached a critical milestone as the service moves toward fielding the network to deploying brigade combat teams.

The five-week Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, 12.2 in May and June served to validate and finalize the makeup of Capability Set, or CS, 13, the Army’s first package of network components, associated equipment and software providing integrated connectivity from the static Tactical Operations Center, or TOC, to the commander on-the-move to the dismounted Soldier.

The CS 13 network, Army officials say, will give U.S. forces a significant advantage over adversaries by enhancing situational awareness, improving maneuverability, speeding decision cycles and connecting Soldiers at the lowest level with one another and their higher headquarters.

“This allows us to have a greater communications capability at every echelon — from individual Soldier to the battalion to the brigade combat team,” said Col. Dan Hughes, Army director of System of Systems Integration. “They have communications that we never envisioned 10 years ago.”

With three NIEs now accomplished, the Army has established an integrated network baseline that will serve as the foundation for additional capabilities to be added as technology progresses. The NIE has also put in place a systematic, Soldier-driven approach to assessing network capabilities and determining their implications across doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities, known as DOTMLPF.

“When you bring those two things together, we’re really starting to see the maturity of the NIE,” said Brig. Gen. John Morrison, director of the Army G-3/5/7 LandWarNet-Battle Command Directorate. “This NIE really turns the corner to where we start taking it to the next level.”

Insights gained during the NIE in areas such as training and tactics, techniques and procedures, known as TTPs, will be essential as the Army begins to field Capability Set 13 in October, Morrison said. Equipping the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division — the unit that executes the semi-annual NIEs at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M — with CS 13 also prepared the Army to integrate, train and field the equipment to deploying brigades.

“The NIE construct is doing what we want it to do,” Morrison said. “I can’t emphasize enough bringing the Soldier into the process early, because it’s allowed us to shape decisions the Army is making. And now as we get to field the capability set, we’ve got TTPS that are already being established, we’ve got smart, informed decisions because we ran the equipment through operational paces. All the lessons-learned with actually fielding to a unit have been learned, and we are well postured heading into the fall to field this capability.”

NIE 12.2 was the largest NIE accomplished to date and was the first full brigade-level validation of CS 13 network architecture conducted in a hybrid threat environment. NIE 12.2 also accomplished three program tests for record and evaluated 35 government and industry Systems Under Evaluation, or SUE.

The NIE completed the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, Increment 2 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or IOT&E, and marked significant vehicle integration across the brigade combat team, or BCT, with more than 350 vehicles integrated with CS 13 baseline systems, including Infantry BCT, Stryker BCT and Armored BCT platforms.

While official results from NIE 12.2 will be released in the coming weeks, the Army is already applying emerging insights from the exercise to make any necessary tweaks to CS 13, Morrison said.

In parallel to the CS 13 fielding effort, the Army has also begun risk reduction activities in laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in preparation for NIE 13.1 this fall. By replicating the NIE network in the lab environment, engineers can resolve integration issues before systems get to the field — reducing test costs and allowing Soldiers to focus on the fight instead of the technology behind it. The lab activity also benefits industry by allowing companies to plug their systems into the holistic Army network and discover any interoperability challenges before Soldiers encounter them during NIE.

Industry interest in the NIE continues to grow, with 43 companies seeking to participate in NIE 12.1, 105 companies seeking to participate in NIE 12.2 and 146 companies seeking to participate in NIE 13.1 this fall.

Evaluating multiple industry solutions to capability gaps will allow the Army to obtain emerging technologies at a lower cost — a more efficient approach to acquisition as the Army aims to balance budget cuts with critical modernization needs. To date, the NIEs also have yielded more than $6 billion in cost savings and cost avoidance from the restructure of Army programs and the consolidation of test practices.

“We’re getting more effective and we’re getting more efficient,” Morrison said.

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RIMPAC 2012 to Feature More Participants, Biofuel Use

By on Friday, June 29th, 2012

This year’s Rim of the Pacific naval exercise will feature a larger group of participating countries seeking to develop better maritime cooperation, Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, told Pentagon reporters today.

“We’ve been doing RIMPAC for over 40 years now, and this year is different because it’s bigger,” Greenert said. “We have somewhere on the order of 42 ships … from 22 countries here this year. Twelve of them will bring units, and that’s sort of extraordinary.”

The RIMPAC exercise, hosted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, is the world’s largest international maritime exercise, according to its website. The exercise, which begins June 29, is the 23rd in a series that began in 1971.

“RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans,” the website states.

Greenert noted the 12 countries providing units at RIMPAC 2012 will include ships, some aircraft and even submarines.

The United States, Russia, Peru, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, France, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia are among the 20-plus nations taking part in the exercise, Greenert said.

“So we’ve got really a worldwide exercise here,” Greenert said.

The admiral said this year’s exercise will also feature vessels using biofuel. The Navy has experimented with biofuel consisting of a 50/50 mix of regular petroleum fuel and algae-derived, hydro-processed oil.

“What is different about RIMPAC? Well, we will have a carrier strike group there with the carrier, the [guided missile destroyers], and the supporting ship operating on biofuel,” Greenert said.

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Tim Aerobatik TNI AU Pertama Kali Tampil di Luar Negeri

29 Juni 2012

Tim Aerobatik Jupiter dengan pesawat KT-1 Wong Bee telah tiba di Bangkok (all photos : TAF)
BANGKOK,KOMPAS.com — Tim Aerobatik Jupiter dari TNI AU untuk pertama kalinya akantampil di arena kedirgantaraan di luar negeri. Mereka akan beraksi dalamperayaan 100 tahun penerbangan Thailand, di Bangkok, 2 Juli 2012.
Tim telahtiba di Bandara Dong Muang, Bangkok, Selasa (26/6/2012). Rombongan yangberjumlah 65 orang tersebut berada di bawah Mission Commander Komandan WingdikTerbang Kolonel Pnb M Khairil Lubis.
Tim Jupiterterdiri dari 12 instruktur penerbang TNI AU dari Pangkalan Udara Adisutjipto dibawah pimpinan Flight Leader Letkol Pnb Dedy Susanto. Tim didampingi TeamSupervisor Kolonel Pnb Anang Nurhadi.

Personelpendukung Tim Jupiter adalah para teknisi pesawat KT-1B dari Skadik 102 danSkatek 043 Lanud Adisutjipto.
Dalamperayaan 100 tahun penerbangan Thailand di Bangkok, Angkatan Udara Thailand(Royal Thai Air Force/RTAF) mengadakan kegiatan kedirgantaraan berupa AerospaceExhibition, dengan pameran kedirgantaraan berupa static show dan air show.
TimAerobatik Jupiter adalah tim aerobatik luar negeri pertama yang diundang hadirdalam perayaan tersebut. Di sisi lain, kesempatan itu menjadi penampilanpertama kali Jupiter di luar negeri.

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Malaysia minister denies French submarine graft claims

By on Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Malaysia’s defence minister on Tuesday denied allegations that a classified ministry report was sold to a French firm to land a controversial submarine deal.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has previously dismissed graft allegations linked to the $1.1-billion submarine purchase in 2002, when he was defence minister, saying it is an opposition-backed attempt to smear his image.

But in recent months, Malaysia’s online media have been aflutter with new “evidence” that opposition-leaning rights group Suaram and its lawyers say has been turned up by French judges probing the case.

The claims come at a sensitive time for Najib, who is preparing for elections, which he is expected to call soon.

They include an allegation that a classified Malaysian defence ministry report on the country’s naval needs was sold to submarine maker Thales, possibly to help the French firm land the $1.1 billion deal.

Malaysian Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, responding to opposition allegations of abuse, told parliament late Tuesday that no confidential information leaked out, and the deal was done through “direct negotiations in accordance with procurement procedures”.

“To the best knowledge of the ministry, up to now there is no information detected to have been taken out of Malaysia,” he said. “The ministry has never paid any commission directly or indirectly to any companies in the procurement of the Scorpene submarines.”

At the request of Suaram, French judicial officials opened an investigation in March 2010 into the sale of the two Scorpene submarines, which were made by French shipbuilder giant DCNS.

Suaram alleges DCNS, which owns Thales, paid a commission of 114 million euros ($142 million in current terms) to a company called Perimekar, which is linked to Abdul Razak Baginda, an associate of Najib’s.

On Monday, Asia Sentinel published 133 documents, obtained from the French inquiry, which showed securing the deal “has resulted in a long tangle of blackmail, bribery, influence peddling, misuse of corporate assets and concealment, among other allegations”, the news portal said.

It also alleged top French and Malaysian officials, including then foreign minister Alain Juppe and former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, appear to have known of some of the “misdeeds” based on the documents.

Suaram representative Cynthia Gabriel said the documents all seemed authentic. Suaram’s lawyer Joseph Breham could not immediately be reached to verify this.

The Malaysian government has long maintained that the submarine deal, brokered when Najib was defence minister, was free of graft and that Perimekar had not improperly benefited.

Abdul Razak, Najib’s associate, has also been acquitted of charges of abetting the 2006 murder of his mistress, Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu, which the opposition has also been trying to link to Najib.

But Najib has denied any link to that case. Two Malaysian policemen have been convicted for the murder and sentenced to death.

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