Iran's Military Strength

Iranian Army soldiers march during Iran's Army Day at the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran

Iranian military forces parade during Iran's defense week

Iran's Qadr 1 missile is displayed during a military parade to mark the beginning of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq in Tehran, Iran.

Iran's Army Day

Iranian Army camouflages soldiers march during Iran's Army Day at the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran. (UPI Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah)

Iran's Army Day

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) listens to an unidentified general as a missile passes during Iran's Army Day at the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran.


An Iranian soldier shoots missiles during the third day of the military maneuvers at Sistan-Baluchestan province, east of city of Zahedan near the Pakistani border in Iran. (UPI Photo/Sajjad Safari/Iranian Student News Agency)

Small craft worry U.S. Navy in Persian Gulf

Small craft suspected to be from the Islamic Republic of Iran Revolutionary Guard Navy (IRGCN), maneuver aggressively in close proximity of the U.S. Navy Aegis-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) and frigate USS Ingraham (FFG 61) in the Persian Gulf . All three ships were steaming in formation and had just completed a routine Strait of Hormuz transit. Coalition vessels, including U.S. Navy ships, routinely operate in the vicinity of both Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and IRGCN vessels and aircraft, without incident. (Photo/US Navy)

President Ahmadinejad during unveil ceremony of rocket

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) and other government officials are underneath the Simorgh home-built satellite rocket during the unveiling ceremony in Tehran, Iran on February 3, 2010. Iran on Wednesday successfully tested a new satellite rocket named Kavoshgar 3. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also unveiled Wednesday the new domestically produced carrier engine Simorq, which can take a 100-kilogram satellite into orbit.

Iran's Army Day Iran's Army Day
Iran's Army Day

An Iranian paratrooper lands during Iran's Army Day at the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran. (UPI Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah)


An Iranian Revolutionary guard patrols during a parade marking the 27th anniversary of the outset of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday that renewed United Nations Security Council resolutions and sanctions against Iran would not work. (Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah)


Iranian missiles are launched during a military maneuver dubbed "al-Tasoul al-Aazam," or Greater Prophet, in a desert near the holy city of Qom 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Tehran. During the 10-day maneuvers across several parts of Iranian territory, the Gulf waters, and the Sea of Oman, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will test long-range Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 ballistic missiles carrying cluster heads and new types of torpedoes fired by submarines and military vessels. The Iranian exercises follow similar maneuvers in Gulf waters by the United States and five other countries which are said to be aimed at blocking possible nuclear proliferation. (UPI Photo/Mehr News Agency/Sajjad Safari)
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Private Guards Kill Somali Pirate for First Time

The death comes amid fears that increasingly aggressive pirates and the growing use of armed private security contractors onboard vessels could fuel increased violence on the high seas.
NAIROBI, Kenya - Private security guards shot and killed a Somali pirate during an attack on a merchant ship off the coast of East Africa in what is believed to be the first such killing by armed contractors, the EU Naval Force spokesman said Wednesday.

The death comes amid fears that increasingly aggressive pirates and the growing use of armed private security contractors onboard vessels could fuel increased violence on the high seas. The handling of the case may have legal implications beyond the individuals involved in Tuesday's shooting.

The guards were onboard the MV Almezaan when a pirate group approached it twice, said EU Naval Force spokesman Cmdr. John Harbour. During the second approach on the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship which is United Arab Emirates owned, there was an exchange of fire between the guards and the pirates.

An EU Naval Force frigate was dispatched to the scene and launched a helicopter that located the pirates. Seven pirates were found, including one who had died from small caliber gunshot wounds, indicating he had been shot by the contractors, said Harbour. The six remaining pirates were taken into custody.

Crews are becoming increasingly adept at repelling attacks by pirates in the dangerous waters of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. But pirates are becoming more aggressive in response, shooting bullets and rocket-propelled grenades at ships to try to intimidate captains into stopping.
Several organizations, including the International Maritime Bureau, have expressed fears that the use of armed security contractors could encourage pirates to be more violent when taking a ship.

Sailors have been hurt or killed before but this generally happens by accident or through poor health. There has only been one known execution of a hostage despite dozens of pirate hijackings.
International navies have killed about a dozen pirates over the past year, said Harbour. Hundreds more are believed to have died at sea, either by drowning or through dehydration when their water and fuel runs out, said Alan Cole, who heads the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime's anti-piracy initiative.

Pirate attacks have not declined despite patrols by dozens of warships off the Somali coast. The amount of ocean to patrol is too vast to protect every ship and pirates have responded to the increased naval presence by moving attacks farther out to sea.

Experts say piracy is just one symptom of the general collapse of law and order in the failed state of Somalia, which has not had a functioning government in 19 years. They say attacks on shipping will continue as long as there is no central government capable of taking on the well-armed and well-paid pirate gangs.
READ MORE - Private Guards Kill Somali Pirate for First Time

UK to expel Israeli diplomat over British passport abuse

Expulsion follows use of 12 fake passports by suspected Mossad agents during killing of Hamas leader in Dubai

The mother of Hamas militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh holds a photo of him
The mother of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh holds a photo of him in Gaza. Britain is to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of fake British passports during the killing of the Hamas militant by suspected Mossad agents. Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP
Britain is to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged UK passports by the killers of a senior Hamas official in January.
The foreign secretary, David Miliband, will make a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, blaming Israeli intelligence for the cloning of passports belonging to British citizens. The documents were carried by an assassination team that killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.
British officials said Miliband would "request" the immediate departure of an Israeli diplomat, adding that they expect the request to be honoured.
"We think they mucked around with our passports, and we believe that requires consequences," an official said.
Miliband will announce the results of an investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) into the abuse of British passports in the assassination, which will implicate Israel.
Diplomats stressed that the foreign secretary's remarks would be confined to the issue of passports and would not address Mabhouh's murder: "That is for the Emirati authorities," an official said.
However, the statement will be widely seen around the world as the first definitive allegation from a western government of Israeli responsibility for the murder.
The expelled official is not being accused of direct personal involvement, officials said. The unusual step is intended as a gesture to reflect British anger.
In 1986, a Mossad agent left an Israeli embassy envelope containing eight forged British passports in a German telephone box. Israeli diplomats were only expelled a year later after a Palestinian working as an Israeli double agent was found with a cache of weapons in Hull. Margaret Thatcher also closed down the Mossad's London base.
Mabhouh was assassinated in his hotel room on 19 January by a group of killers wearing fake beards, wigs and other disguises.
Dubai officials said they were "99% certain" that the Mossad agents were behind the murder but Israel has refused to confirm or deny the link.
At the time Miliband called the abuse of British passports "outrageous" and demanded that Tel Aviv co-operate fully with the UK's investigation.
Israel's ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, was summoned to the Foreign Office last month to discuss the situation, but he denied there was any "additional information" to give.
Soca detectives reportedly flew to Israel three weeks ago to interview the dual British-Israeli nationals whose identities were used in the killings.
It is understood the officers attempted to interview Israeli government officials but were given only "limited co-operation", according to one Whitehall source.
A file was prepared by the officers, and sent to the Home Office last week. It had since been forwarded to the Foreign Office and resulted in the statement to be made later today.
A total of 12 British passports are alleged to have been forged. An initial six had the names of Michael Barney, James Clarke, Stephen Hodes, Jonathan Louis Graham, Paul John Keeley and Melvyn Mildiner. Last month, Dubai identified the use of a further six fake British passports with the names of Mark Daniel Sklar, Roy Allan Cannon, Daniel Marc Schnur, Philip Carr, Stephen Keith Drake and Gabriella Barney. A Foreign Office spokesman said the government believed their passport details had been used fraudulently.
Other members of the hit squad travelled on fake Irish, French and Australian travel documents, Dubai police said. At least 15 of the suspected killers share names with Israeli citizens, fuelling suspicions that the Mossad was behind the hit. Interpol has published a wanted list of 27 people in connection with the killing.
READ MORE - UK to expel Israeli diplomat over British passport abuse

New Details of Elaborate Dubai Assassination Emerge

Michael Isikoff

Dubai Police / Reuters-Landov
A chart released by the Dubai police shows the travel ports of entry and exit of suspects in the murder of Hamas officer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
The assassins who killed Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh at a five-star Dubai hotel in January made one mistake: their work was too perfect. The hit team took elaborate steps to make the Hamas military commander's cause of death appear natural. His body was found lying in bed unclothed, his pants folded neatly over a chair and a bottle of heart medicine on the nightstand beside him. There were no bruises on the corpse, and no sign of a struggle in the room. The door was even chain-locked from inside. But the scene was so immaculate that when Dubai police finally entered the room, after his wife complained she couldn't reach him on his cell phone, "they were struck by how neat everything was," in the words of a foreign law-enforcement official who is close to the investigation, and provided fresh details to NEWSWEEK on condition of anonymity. "It made them suspicious."
That was the opening of an international murder mystery that continues to unfold. The Israeli spy agency Mossad is widely assumed to be responsible for the killing. But the hit team's 26 suspected members have vanished. They probably hoped to avoid detection altogether. Still, now that the assassination is exposed, no one expects Israel to deny that its agents were behind it. On the contrary, operations like this have upsides when they become public. They cause paranoia among the victims' associates: Who helped the hit team? Who might be next? "It will make those people more distrustful of each other," says Martin van Creveld, the widely respected Israeli analyst of modern warfare. "They will assume that they have traitors in their midst." Such operations also boost morale in Israel, showing people that their security forces have a "long arm" and can strike at enemies when they least suspect it.
Mabhouh has few mourners in the West. A major figure in Hamas's efforts to smuggle weapons from Iran to Gaza, he arrived in Dubai under an assumed name. Still, Interpol is joining a global task force dedicated to the case--in part because suspects in the plot used false passports from half a dozen countries.
The United States hasn't shown much interest in joining the chase, even though there are some apparent connections. An Iowa financial firm had issued debit cards to some of the suspects, and two of them allegedly flew to the United States after the murder. Asked last week if the Justice Department was prepared to assist the Dubai police in the case, spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said it was department policy not to comment on such matters. Perhaps more telling, when Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren paid recent visits to the White House and the State Department, nobody raised the matter. "The subject was not brought up," said an Israeli official who asked not to be identified discussing diplomatic talks.
How did police in Dubai first find the assassins' trail? The story has more twists than have been publicly revealed--and shows the difficulty in pulling off such jobs with the emergence of today's sophisticated surveillance technology. When the inquiry began, the cops examined the hotel's security-camera recordings and found footage of Mabhouh entering his suite (room 230) on the evening of Jan. 19--and someone noticed that the shirt he had on in the video was nowhere to be found among the victim's effects. Police now theorize that the killers may have removed it because it was torn in a struggle.
Further inquiries revealed that another guest at the hotel, a French passport holder, had specifically requested the room across the hall, room 237. But that man flew out of Dubai just hours after renting the room. Instead, the videos showed, room 237 became the hub for a team of spotters who were trailing Mabhouh. Some wore disguises, including false beards and wigs (videos at another hotel showed two of them, a man and woman, ducking into bathrooms and reemerging with their new appearances).
When medical examiners inspected Mabhouh's corpse, they found an injection mark on his thigh. Toxicology tests showed that he had been dosed with succinylcholine, a paralyzing agent. The cops concluded that after sedating Mabhouh, the killers smothered him with a pillow. But by the time the results had come in, police say the suspects had fled to Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong--and possibly Iran.
READ MORE - New Details of Elaborate Dubai Assassination Emerge

Pakistan seizes Taliban and Al Qaeda cave network

Pakistan's Army declared victory in a weeks-long offensive after it seized control of a Taliban and Al Qaeda cave network that served as a hub in the Bajaur tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

Soldiers walk through a cave, on Tuesday, which the Pakistani Army said was built and used by the Pakistani Taliban in Damadola, located in the Bajaur tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

Lahore, Pakistan

Pakistani security forces declared victory on Tuesday after a weeks-long offensive in the northwest, retaking control of Bajaur tribal area and seizing a Taliban and Al Qaeda cave network that was a final militant holdout.
More hiding places remain for militants in the vast range of mountainous territory along the Afghan-Pakistani border. But at a press conference held in the rugged mountain village of Damadola, Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, commander of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, stressed the strategic importance of reclaiming the militant stronghold. “We have concluded operations up to the Afghan border. We think the Bajaur operations have now more or less ended as dedicated military operations,” Khan said.
The offensive, launched in late January, follows major efforts to clear the Taliban from nearby South Waziristan tribal area last fall and from the Swat Valley last spring. Troops remain in both areas to conduct snap operations and address one of the key challenges the Army has faced: holding on to territory.

Taliban fighters melted away

Some 75 militants, including Egyptians, Uzbeks, Chechens, and Afghans were killed in the offensive, according to Khan. Another 76 were arrested and 364 forced to surrender. In Damadola, militants had dug 150 caves into the mountain to use as refuge. Military officials showed reporters the caves, which were stocked with blankets and pillows and were apparently abandoned hastily.
Underscoring the difficulty of holding territory, however, the Army also waged an offensive in Bajaur in late 2008, only to have militants reenter the area.
The bulk of Taliban leaders and fighters is believed to have slipped away during previous offensives and taken refuge in nearby regions.
Pakistani Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas says that key Taliban leaders are probably hiding in Orakzai tribal agency and the Tirah Valley, where the Army has some presence.
“Things are going as per plan. We are already in Orakzai, Bajaur has now fallen after South Waziristan, and before that Malakand and Swat,” says Abbas.

More tribal areas to go

Security analyst and retired general Talat Masood says the military “is placing the squeeze on the militants.”
Seizing Damadola was important because “it was a kind of a nerve-center for a lot of routes. It was also a major sanctuary for the Swat Taliban,” he says.
Recent battlefield wins coincide with a relative lull in major terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s major cities, although bomb attacks have continued in the main northwestern town of Peshawar.
Securing Orakzai will be crucial in bringing stability to Peshawar, says Rifaat Hussein, a security analyst at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. The tribal agency is believed to be a launching point for attacks.
READ MORE - Pakistan seizes Taliban and Al Qaeda cave network

200 Russian tanks found abandoned in forest

The Russian army is embroiled in an embarrassing scandal after 200 of its tanks were found abandoned near a forest in central Russia, unguarded and unlocked.

Russian tanks abandoned in a Russian forest
The tanks have been sitting in the forest for almost four months covered in snow Photo: LIFE NEWS
A news website near the city of Yekaterinburg posted a video of the forgotten tanks showing passers-by clambering inside the vehicles and playing with empty ammunition belts. The only items that seemed to be missing were live rounds and the keys to the tanks' ignitions.
"There are tanks all over the forest, abandoned," an unnamed reporter on the video says. "If you need one, come and get it."
Locals in a nearby village said the tanks had been sitting there for almost four months covered in snow. The armoured vehicles were identified as a mixture of T-80 and T-72 battle tanks, the workhorses of the Russian army.
"We were shocked," Pavel L, a local, told Russian media. "It is like you can sit behind the wheel, start up the engine and drive off and nobody would notice!"
A military spokesman claimed the tanks were in fact being guarded by special patrols and were in the process of being dispatched to a military base. But military prosecutors appeared sceptical about his claims and opened an official investigation. Wary of further bad publicity, the army has urgently begun relocating the tanks.
The scandal comes days after one of Russia's top military commanders suggested the country did not need half of its 20,000 tanks and might scrap many older models. Tanks played an important role in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, with Russia capturing dozens of Georgian tanks in the short conflict.
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