пятница, 20 июня 2008 г.

Nuclear Government Decision

UK denies US approval is needed to use its nuclear weapons London, Nov 1, IRNA UK-Nuclear Weapons Defense Secretary John Reid has denied that the British government needs prior permission from the United States to use its ageing American-made Trident nuclear weapons.

"The United Kingdom's independent nuclear deterrent can be targeted and used without the approval of any other country," Reid said.

In a written reply to parliament published Tuesday, he also said that with regard to requiring US permission for any planned upgrade for the submarine-based system, 'no decisions on any replacement for Trident have yet been taken'.

The defense secretary further insisted that decisions on replacing Trident was 'still some way off' and that it was 'too early to speculate' and what type of successor system is being preferred.

The British government is under growing pressure from backbench MPs to allow a parliamentary vote for the first time before any final decision is made to buy a replacement from the US.

Former international development secretary, Clare Short, who resigned from her cabinet post in protest over the government's post-war Iraq policy, says that there is an overwhelming political case against replacing Trident.

"There is also a strong argument that a weapon to replace Trident would breach the non-proliferation treaty (NPT)," Short said in an article for the Independent newspaper Tuesday.

"There would be no prospect of the UK using it without US approval.

If the UK replaces Trident, we will be locked into the role of US poodle for another generation," she also said.

Other backbench MPs have also argued that British government is being hypocritical in opposing Iran's nuclear program when it is not abiding itself by the terms of the NPT.

Curbing Korea's nukes

North Korea's secretive leader Kim Jong Il is a nuclear cheat and an extortionist. The world will only believe his pledge yesterday to scrap nuclear weapons when United Nations inspectors can verify it.

Still, North Korea may just be on the verge of taking a sensible cue from Libya and pre-war Iraq in abandoning weapons of mass destruction. If so, U.S. President George Bush will have managed to isolate Iran as the world's last truly worrisome nuclear renegade, and Tehran will be under intense pressure not to build a bomb it does not have, or need.

That was the hope raised by yesterday's announcement that China had brokered a deal between the United States and North Korea to ease a three-year crisis on the Korean Peninsula, home to 70 million.

This cools a bitter conflict between Washington and Pyongyang. It rewards South Korea's "sunshine policy" of engagement with the North. It shows the U.S. can accomplish more by working closely with countries like China, Russia and Japan.

In principle, Kim has agreed to "abandon" his one or two nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees and aid. He will allow U.N. inspectors back in and rejoin the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

This eases a crisis triggered in 2002 when Bush exposed Kim for cheating on a 1994 pledge to freeze plutonium-based efforts to build a weapon in exchange for aid. The Koreans were secretly using another route: enriched uranium.

Kim then expelled U.N. inspectors, cut U.N. seals on a mothballed reactor at Yongbyon, withdrew from the non-proliferation regime and announced he had the bomb.

Bush threatened to have the U.N. declare Pyongyang an outlaw, urged sanctions and contemplated military action to prevent Kim from giving terrorists nuclear materials.

In exchange for Kim's climb-down yesterday, Bush has pledged to respect the North's sovereignty, has affirmed he won't attack, has muted a demand that Kim give up civilian atomic power, and has agreed to provide aid and energy supplies. In effect, this resurrects the 1994 deal.

In November, the diplomats hope to negotiate the "sequencing" of all this. That will be tricky.

Kim deserves an early reward in food, energy and aid. But he can't be trusted. The U.N. must have speedy access to nuclear sites to deter cheating. And Kim should shut down the Yongbyon reactor.

His pledges are welcome. Prompt follow-up would be better yet.

Canada should not open doors to U.S. deserters

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is illegal and will go down in history as a political and human tragedy for the United States. Much like Vietnam.

But that does not mean I would advocate that Canada open its doors to American military deserters, like we did during the Vietnam War.

Iraq war deserters chose their own fate. For us to open the door to them could harm our delicate relations with the United States. Iraq may yet become America's second Vietnam, but the circumstances of those who fought in these wars are different. Many deserters who came here during Vietnam were conscripts who could make the legitimate claim that they never chose to fight.

But today, the U.S. military is an all-volunteer force. Thus it makes little sense that American military deserters can come to this country and claim the same victim status as someone fleeing the civil war in Sudan or elsewhere.

"The war in Iraq is a completely separate issue than was the case in Vietnam," says Russell Terry, founder of the Iraq War Veterans Organization. "They signed a contract and that involves a commitment to do whatever they were told, as long as that order was a lawful order."

It is the legality of the order sending troops to Iraq that is used as justification by many of the deserters and those helping them in this country.

"This contract that the U.S. serviceman signs today is not unlimited," says Lee Zaslofsky, co-ordinator for the War Resisters, a Toronto-based support group that provides assistance to American military deserters. "A contract has two parties and the other party, the president of the United States, has been clearly proven to have launched an illegal war on the basis of fraudulent information."

But before we open the border to deserters solely on the grounds that the war is illegal, Canadians should first ask themselves: Who in the U.S. should have the power to place restrictions on the president? In other words, should any democratic society sanction insubordination and desertion as a right that all military or police personnel can freely exercise whenever they may feel the political mandate for their task may not be legitimate under domestic or international law?

Or, should the power to challenge government policy in a democratic society come from the voters and their elected representatives? More importantly, if we open the door to American military deserters we may be accused, at least in the court of American public opinion, of indirectly meddling in that country's internal affairs.

The White House has already hinted that the war may continue for some time, and Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the trickle of military deserters coming to Canada. Should this trickle turn into a flood, it is quite possible a U.S. politician would claim that allowing American deserters to remain here is a government-sanctioned attempt to deliberately weaken the already strained ranks of the U.S. military.

Talk-Northkorea-Nuclear

China tries to woo N.Korea back to nuclear talks 2 BEIJING "It is unlikely the six-party talks will be resumed in the near future," he told state television.

"But all parties concerned, including China, are conducting consultations with each other positively."

China is reclusive North Korea's closest friend and U.S. officials, while grateful to Beijing for already having brought it to the negotiating table three times, have faulted the Chinese for failing to exert more influence.

North Korea, described by U.S. President George W.

Bush as part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and pre-war Iraq, said for the first time last week it had nuclear weapons, arguing it needed them to deter a hostile United States.

It announced it was pulling out of the talks in what analysts said could be a tactic to win concessions at a time when attention is focused on Iran's nuclear programmes.

North Korea said on Saturday there was also no justification for one-to-one talks with the United States -- something it had previously requested.

"Because the United States insists on its hostile policy towards the DPRK (North Korea) and refused to co-exist with the DPRK ...

the DPRK has no justification to take bilateral talks by one-to-one on the nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula with the United States now," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.

Iraq`s charge d`affaires meets press with US

Hussain met the press in New Delhi in the company of US Ambassador to India David Mulford while requesting Indian assistance for rebuilding infrastructure in post-war Iraq.

The press interaction, the first since landmark elections were held in the war-ravaged country, was packed with Indian and foreign print and electronic media.

According to IRNA`s correspondent here, the new representative noted that India has a long experience of working in the Mideast region.

"Iraq could benefit from their expertise," he added.

Asked whether Baghdad has made any formal request to India for assistance, he said, "Iraq appreciates the positive stance of the Indian government...I wish we can receive more and more help from it."

Addressing the unconventional press meet in the company of the US ambassador, the new Iraqi charge d` affaires said in an intriguing statement that the US invasion of of Iraq was a "small price" to pay for "democracy."

The press conference was held with the Iraqi and American flags in the backdrop in the hastily done up residence of the Iraqi ambassador in New Delhi.

The US ambassador said he was optimistic that his government was not making any special request to the Indian side for assistance in Iraq, and added that it was left for India and Iraq to work out matters between themselves.

Another interesting moment of the press conference came when questions were raised about the fate of the former dictator, Saddam Hussein, which elicited this response: "We do not like to think about Saddam Hussein, we do not like to remember him."

The press meet was an introductory venture of the new charge d` affaires to India intended to attract new enterprising players into the war-torn economy.

However, the attending mass of media professionals learned from the charge d`affaires that there was no possibility of withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in the near future.

Republic of Iraq - history

The Tigris-Euphrates valley, formerly called Mesopotamia, was the site of one of the earliest civilizations in the world. Mesopotamia ceased to be a separate entity after the Persian, Greek, and Arab conquests. The Arabs founded Baghdad, from where the caliph ruled a vast Islamic empire in the 8th and 9th centuries. Mongol and Turkish conquests led to a decline in the region's population, economy, cultural life, and irrigation system.

Britain secured a League of Nations mandate over Iraq after World War I. Independence under a king came in 1932. Rebellious army officers killed King Faisal II, July 14,1958, and established a leftist, pan-Arab republic, which pursued close ties with the USSR. Successive regimes were increasingly dominated by the Baath Arab Socialist Party. In the 1973 Arab-Israeli war Iraq sent forces to aid Syria.

A Baath leader, Saddam Hussein, became president of Iraq, July 16, 1979. After purging his enemies, he ruled as a dictator for more than 2 decades, repressing Iraq's Kurds and Shiites and launching disastrous wars against 2 neighboring nations, Iran and Kuwait. Hussein was believed to be seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction; Israeli planes destroyed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad June 7, 1981, claiming it could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

After skirmishing intermittently for 10 months over the sovereignty of the disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway that divides the two countries, Iraq and Iran entered into open warfare on Sept. 22, 1980. Iran repulsed early Iraqi advances, producing a long and costly stalemate; hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives during the 8-year conflict. Hussein used poison gas against the Iraqi Kurdish minority in 1988, killing up to 5,000 people in Halabja, in the 1st mass use of poison gas since the Holocaust.

Iraq attacked and overran Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990, sparking an international crisis. Backed by the UN, a U.S.-led coalition launched air and missile attacks on Iraq, Jan. 16, 1991. The coalition began a ground attack to retake Kuwait Feb. 23. Iraqi forces showed little resistance and were soundly defeated in 4 days. Some 175,000 Iraqis were taken prisoner, and Iraqi casualties were estimated at over 85,000. As part of the cease-fire agreement, Iraq agreed to scrap all poison gas and germ weapons and allow UN observers to inspect the sites. UN trade sanctions would remain in effect until Iraq complied with all terms.

In Feb. 1991, Iraqi troops drove Kurdish insurgents and civilians to the borders of Iran and Turkey, causing a refugee crisis. The U.S. and allies established havens inside Iraq for the Kurds. The U.S. launched a missile attack aimed at Iraq's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad June 26, 1993, citing evidence that Iraq had sponsored a plot to kill former Pres. George Bush. Iraqi cooperation with UN weapons inspection teams was intermittent throughout the 1990s. On Dec. 9, 1996, the UN began a program that allowed Baghdad to begin selling limited amounts of oil for food and medicine. (The UN, Apr. 2004, launched an investigation of the program amid charges that the administration of the program was corrupt and that the Hussein regime skimmed billions of dollars from the fund.)

Iraqi resistance to UN access to suspected weapons sites touched off diplomatic crises during 1997-98, culminating in intensive U.S. and British aerial bombardment of Iraqi military targets, Dec. 16-19, 1998. After 2 years of sporadic activity, U.S. and British warplanes struck harder at sites near Baghdad on Feb. 16, 2001.

In a speech before the UN, Sept. 12, 2002, Pres. George W. Bush accused Iraq of repeatedly violating UN resolutions to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, refrain from supporting terrorism, and end repression. Under Security Council Resolution 1441, approved Nov. 8, Iraq allowed UN inspectors to search for banned weapons, while the U.S. and Britain built up troops in the Persian Gulf. Despite opposition from some countries, including France, Germany, and Russia, a U.S.-led coalition launched an invasion of Iraq on the evening of Mar. 19 (EST), 2003. By Apr. 6 the British controlled Basra and other areas in the S, and the U.S. entered Baghdad Apr. 7. Hussein had disappeared, the Iraqi government had collapsed, and most of Iraq's armed forces had dissolved into the civilian population. On May 1, Pres. Bush declared that major combat there was over. Continuing searches failed to uncover evidence of stockpiled chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

The U.S. initially governed Iraq through a Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by L. Paul Bremer. A 25-member Iraqi Governing Council was appointed and named a cabinet Sept. 1, 2003. Reconstruction efforts continued but were hampered by guerrilla attacks from Baath remnants, Islamic extremists, and others. Iraqi resistance activities widened with the bombings of the Jordanian embassy, Aug. 7, the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Aug. 19, killing UN special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others, and a blast in Najaf Aug. 29 that killed at least 83 people, including Ayatollah Mohammad Bakir al-Hakim, a Shiite leader. After a 2nd bombing at its Baghdad headquarters Sept. 22, the UN scaled back its presence in Iraq.

Coalition forces succeeded in neutralizing many leaders of the former regime. Two of Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed July 22, 2003 by U.S. troops in Mosul. Saddam Hussein was captured in an underground hideout Dec. 13; he appeared before an Iraqi tribunal July 1, 2004, and was charged with crimes against humanity. The insurgency continued to mount attacks that killed large numbers of Iraqi civilians as well as many foreign troops and civilians participating in reconstruction, under leaders such as radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; the U.S. believed Zarqawi was behind a series of kidnappings, beheadings, and suicide bombings. Fallujah remained a center of Sunni Muslim resistance. Among other atroocities, gunmen ambushed and killed 4 security contractors in Fallujah in March, and a mob dragged their bodies through the streets. Attacks on pipelines and other facilities cut Iraq's oil production.

Photographs released in Apr. 2004 graphically showed instances of physical abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi inmates by U.S. military personnel at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison in fall 2003. The images sparked widespread outrage.

On June 28, 2004, the U.S. authorities officially transferred sovereignty to a transitional Iraqi government led by Prime Min. Iyad Allawi. About 140,000 U.S. troops remained, along with 25,000 allied forces and thousands of foreign civilian advisers and contractors. A 3-week confrontation at Najaf, with U.S. and Iraqi forces battling Sack's Mahdi Army guerrillas, was defused Aug. 27 by Iraq's most influential Shiite leader, the Grand Ayatollah All al-Sistani.

PRIMITIVE BANKING

The existing financial system comprises the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), six state-owned 'monolithic' banks and 19 small private banks — formed during the early 1990s. The CBI and state banks — notably Rafidain and Al Rasheed — were merely fiscal instruments for the Baathist party, or more specifically, they acted as Saddam Hussein's personal bankers and as such were responsible for massive 'flight capital' from pre-conflict Iraq.

According to the US Treasury Department, total assets are now estimated at about $2bn, equivalent to 10% of gross domestic product, while the aggregate equity of Iraq's 25 banks is reported at a mere $42m. The sectors capital-assets ratio of 2.1% is extremely low by international comparison.

Most, if not all of Iraq's banks are 'technically insolvent', possessing negligible capitalisation, while the true value of assets falls well short of liabilities to depositors and other creditors, including foreign banks and western export credit agencies.

Moreover, the bad debts of these 'typical' Iraqi banks exceed their own paid-up capital, while reserves are far too small to cover loan losses. Inadequate accounting systems and poor regulations enabled banks to conceal non-performing loans (NPLs) in their accounts by constantly rescheduling principals and capitalising interest arrears in order to maintain the status quo.

The main reasons for NPLs are excessive directed lending for the financing of ballooning budget deficits, funding operations of public enterprises and large, uneconomical projects during the past three decades. Other irregular practices such as inside lending to former ruling elites/cronies have also resulted in huge bad debts.

The 'Old Iraq' lacked a commercial banking culture, with lending based on cronyism, not credit quality.

To date, effective competition remains weak, and therefore concentration in the banking sector is extremely high. The two big banks, Rafidain and Al Rasheed, control 85%-90% of total banking assets. During the 1980s, Rafidain (founded in 1941) was the largest Middle Eastern bank with assets of $47bn, but today it owes some $24bn to western and regional Arab banks, as well as Paris Club countries.

Rafidain Bank also carries the old regime's [unpaid] sovereign debts and letters of credit. Until the issue of Sl27bn-plus external debt is settled, international trade-finance business is closed to state-owned banks. The Trade Bank of Iraq, a consortium of 13 international banks led by JP Morgan Chase (US), was established in December 2003 to handle all trade documentation, covering Iraqi exports/imports and is solely responsible for issuing and confirming letters of credit.

The distressed banks are unable to provide services and products largely taken for granted elsewhere in the world, including corporate financing, structured trade finance, cash management/treasury services, mortgages, insurance, leasing, credit cards, and cash machines (ATMs).

Iraq remains a predominantly 'cash-based' economy, where banking is confined to deposit taking and a few short-term loans. It is estimated that only one-third of the total money supply in circulation is inside the banking sector. Apparently, most Iraqis elect to keep their savings "under the bed".

Meanwhile, the domestic payments system is almost primitive — money transfers between two banks, or even between branches of the same bank, can take over a week. Due to the absence of electronic links and a depleted telecommunications infrastructure, the system is largely 'manually-based', with banks processing checks via messengers. This has often led to long delays and high levels of credit float.

Substantial investment in IT systems is urgently needed. Neither SWIFT (Society For Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) — a messaging system that facilitates global funds transfers — nor MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) — a secure, high-speed method of scanning and processing information used by banks — are available in Iraq.

The CBI has raised minimum capital requirements for private banks to help promote consolidation and restore solvency ratios. The move should encourage mergers and acquisitions within the sector. By April 2005, core capital (shareholders' funds) must reach $5m. Among the large private institutions are the Bank of Baghdad, Iraqi Middle East Investment Bank, Commercial Bank of Iraq, Investment Bank of Iraq and Credit Bank of Iraq. The clientele group frequently includes family members or business associates of the owners. A recent Citigroup report shows that the total deposits of private banks were mostly invested in treasury bills and affiliated companies.