Israeli Ministers Mull Plans for Military Strike against Iran


The Israeli Air Force is known for its “inventive solutions to military problems,” says Bruce Riedel, a Middle East expert who has strong contacts to Israel. “Israeli military planners tell me it is mission doable.”

The Israeli government no longer believes that sanctions can prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. A broad consensus in favor of a military strike against Tehran’s nuclear facilities — without the Americans, if necessary — is beginning to take shape.

Dani Yatom, a member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, was invited to attend a NATO conference in Brussels last year. While reviewing the agenda, Yatom, a retired major general, was surprised to see that the meeting was titled “The Iranian Challenge” and not “The Iranian Threat.”

When a speaker with a French accent mentioned that a US military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be the most dangerous scenario of all, Yatom said, politely but firmly: “Sir, you are wrong. The worst scenario would be if Iran acquired an atom bomb.”

Yatom, 63, has spent most of his life in the military. He was a military adviser to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and, in the mid-1990s, was named head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. Nevertheless, Yatom, a member of the Labor Party, is not some reckless hawk. Unlike most Knesset members, he flatly rejects, for example, a major Israeli offensive against the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

But Yatom’s willingness to strike a compromise ends when he is asked what he considers to be the best response to the Iranian nuclear program. “We no longer believe in the effectiveness of sanctions,” says Yatom. “A military operation is needed if the world wants to stop Iran.”

When Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, expressed similar sentiments 10 days ago, they were viewed, especially in Europe, as the isolated opinions of a card-carrying hardliner seeking to score points with the electorate in a bid to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In truth, however, there is now a consensus within the Israeli government that an air strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities has become unavoidable. “Most members of the Israeli cabinet no longer believe that sanctions will convince President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to change course,” says Minister of Immigrant Absorption Yaakov Edri.

The one question over which Israel’s various political groups disagree is the timing of an attack. The doves argue that diplomatic efforts by the United Nations should be allowed to continue until Iran is on the verge of completing the bomb. That way, Israel could at least argue convincingly that all non-military options had been exhausted.

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German government backs enhanced surveillance


Wolfgang Schauble, Minister of the Interior for Germany, at the First International Security Forum of Ministers of Interior and Public Security in Jerusalem on May 29. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse)

BERLIN: Despite strong criticism from the opposition and even its own coalition partners, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government agreed Wednesday to give Germany’s police forces greater powers to monitor homes, telephones and private computers, maintaining that an enhanced reach would protect citizens from terrorist attacks.

But opposition parties and some Social Democrats who share power with Merkel’s conservative bloc criticized the measures in the draft legislation, saying they would further erode privacy rights that they contend have already been undermined, after revelations of recent snooping operations conducted by Deutsche Telekom, one of the country’s biggest companies.

Deutsche Telekom had for some time been monitoring calls of its employers, despite federal regulations on strict data protection.

The proposed legislation would for the first time give federal police officers the right to take preventive measures in cases of suspected terrorism.

The bill, for example, calls for video surveillance of private apartments, online computer searches and phone monitoring.

But the nature of the surveillance, which would require the approval of the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, has worried many Germans, with some commentators recalling the Nazi past and its vast machinery of spying. They also point to the more recent role of the Stasi, the hated secret police in the once Communist-ruled East Germany, which established a pervasive system of keeping tabs on almost everyone in the country.

The draft law was fashioned after months of intense debate led by Wolfgang Schäuble, the conservative interior minister, who has long wanted the security forces to be given more leeway for surveillance.

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Putin Calls U.S. ‘Frightening Monster’

May 31 (Bloomberg) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin compared the U.S. to a “frightening monster” and urged France to distance itself from its American ally.

“How can one be such a shining example of democracy at home and a frightening monster abroad?” Putin said in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde transmitted live to journalists in Paris yesterday.

Putin, speaking the day after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said the U.S. was creating “new Berlin Walls” in Europe by pushing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to expand into ex-Soviet states Georgia and Ukraine.

The Russian prime minister, who passed on the presidency earlier this month to his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, continues to set the foreign and domestic policy agenda. Under Putin’s eight-year presidency, Russia clashed with the U.S. and the European Union over matters such as NATO expansion and a planned U.S. missile-defense system in eastern Europe.

“France, I hope, will continue to conduct an independent foreign policy,” said Putin, whose interview was embargoed until publication by Le Monde today. “This is in the nature of French people, they don’t want their country tied down, and any French leader will have to respect that.”

The election of Medvedev, 42, a lawyer who has called for more dialogue between the East and West, has raised hopes of an eventual thaw. Still, Sarkozy decided to meet with Putin, breaking with the tradition of Group of Eight leaders of dealing with Russia at a presidential level, showing the 55-year-old former KGB colonel’s dominant influence.

Presidential Power

Under Russia’s constitution, the president is supposed to be solely responsible for foreign policy and has more formal authority than the prime minister, who can be fired by presidential decree and is charged with implementing Kremlin policies.

Putin “remains the pre-eminent power” in Russia, said Michael Emerson, a former EU ambassador to Moscow and an analyst at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. “The EU has to deal with the people who are there, both of them.”

Putin, who has threatened to point missiles at Ukraine should it host missile bases as a NATO member, said expanding the military alliance deeper into former Soviet territory risked a return to Cold War competition.

“NATO expansion means drawing up new dividing lines in Europe, new Berlin Walls,” he said. “This time we can’t see them, but they’re no less dangerous.”

Military Infrastructure

Putin said Russia sees “military infrastructure coming closer to our borders,” and denounced the U.S. for seeking a “monopoly in world affairs.”

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German Telecom Rocked By Spy Scandal

Former telecoms monopoly Deutsche Telekom over the weekend became the latest German firm to be rocked by revelations of spying on its employees.

Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s biggest phone company, confirmed on Saturday allegations in Spiegel magazine that it hired an outside firm to track hundreds of thousands of phone calls by senior executives and journalists in 2005-6.

It denied that the Berlin consultancy firm listened to the conversations, instead merely logging details on who phoned whom as well as the time and duration of the calls.

Spiegel said that “Operation Clipper” and “Operation Rheingold” were set up in order to identify the source of leaks of sensitive financial information to financial journalists.

Chief executive Rene Obermann, who was not in charge when the spying took place, said that state prosecutors and a law firm in Cologne were investigating the affair.

Less than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany, Germans are particularly sensitive about infringements into their privacy.

Other firms have also been accused of spying on their own workers.

The biggest such scandal involved Lidl, one of German’s biggest budget supermarket chains, which reportedly violated labour laws by by installing hidden cameras in its stores to systematically keep tabs on staff.

Lidl even recorded employees when they used the toilet, their conversations while on break, and kept track on who their friends outside work were, reports said in March.

Anti-terrorism surveillance measures introduced by the government such as installing secret cameras in terror suspects’ homes and including biometric data on passports have also riled civil liberties groups.

May 25 08:04 PM US/Eastern

Source: AFP

Germans said to plan major surveillance centre

Berlin – Germany is planning to set up a new authority to combine its various eavesdropping operations in a purpose-built headquarters near Cologne, the news magazine Der Spiegel said Saturday.

The combined police and espionage centre would be modelled on the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States or the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Britain.

The project was being pushed by the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police and domestic intelligence, the magazine said in a story to appear in print on Monday.

Approached for comment by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, a ministry spokesman a possible merger of telecommunications surveillance was at the “consideration” stage.

Including surveillance by the 16 German states, Germany had more than 75 surveillance offices at present, Der Spiegel said.

The interior ministry was keen to take away surveillance functions from the BND foreign intelligence service, and would argue that a new authority similar to the NSA could provide foreign and domestic eavesdropping from one spot.

A revamp was needed because modern communications were mainly digital and used sophisticated new encryption methods, creating a risk that police and intelligence services would be unable to crack the codes, according to Der Spiegel.

Source: DPA

Bush under fire at Paris climate meeting

Leading players in talks to forge a pact for tackling climate change took the lash on Thursday to President George W. Bush’s new blueprint for global warming, with Germany mocking it as “Neanderthal.”

At a ministerial-level meeting of major carbon emitters, South Africa blasted the Bush proposal as a disastrous retreat by the planet’s number-one polluter and a slap to poor countries.

The European Union — which had challenged the United States to follow its lead on slashing greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020 — also voiced disappointment.

His proposals “will not contribute to the fight against climate change,” EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told AFP, adding he hoped the US would “reconsider its options and policies.”

“Time is running out and we have the duty to reach an agreement in Copenhagen in 2009,” said Dimas.

Germany accused Bush of turning back the clock to before last December’s UN climate talks in Bali and even to before last July’s G8 summit.

In a statement entitled “Bush’s Neanderthal speech,” German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: “His speech showed not leadership but losership. We are glad that there are also other voices in the United States.”

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Germany to Allow Video Surveillance of Private Homes


Not even the home will be safe from surveillance

Changes proposed to the law governing Germany’s federal criminal police operations would allow investigators to use wire taps and surveillance cameras in homes of innocent citizens to keep tabs on terror suspects.

Under the government proposals, federal police would be permitted to install “hidden technical equipment, that is to say bugs or cameras inside or outside apartments … if there is a pressing danger for state security,” interior ministry spokesman Stefan Paris said at a news conference on Friday, April 18.

“I would urgently like to stress that there are very, very strict conditions … and it is not the case that everywhere in this country secret cameras or listening devices will be installed in living spaces,” he said. “It is about terrorist threats that would be averted through preventative measures by the federal police.”


Be careful what you — and your friends — say at home

He added that such methods were already allowed in several German states.

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The Collapsing Dollar – Authorities lose patience

Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s ‘Mr Euro’, has given the clearest warning to date that the world authorities may take action to halt the collapse of the dollar and undercut commodity speculation by hedge funds.


Jean-Claude Juncker, who is calling for Washington to
take steps to halt the slide of the dollar

Momentum traders have blithely ignored last week’s accord by the G7 powers, which described “sharp fluctuations in major currencies” as a threat to economic and financial stability. The euro has surged to fresh records this week, touching $1.5982 against the dollar and £0.8098 against sterling yesterday.

“I don’t have the impression that financial markets and other actors have correctly and entirely understood the message of the G7 meeting,” he said.

Mr Juncker, who doubles as Luxembourg premier and chair of eurozone financiers, told the Luxembourg press that he had been invited to the White House last week just before the G7 at the urgent request of President George Bush. The two leaders discussed the dangers of rising “protectionism” in Europe. Mr Juncker warned that matters could get out of hand unless America took steps to halt the slide in the dollar.

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Germans Fear Meltdown of Financial System

Germany and other industrialized nations are desperately trying to brace themselves against the threat of a collapse of the global financial system. The crisis has now taken its toll on the German economy, where the weak dollar is putting jobs in jeopardy and the credit crunch is paralyzing many businesses.

trader1.jpgA trader reacts in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange.

The Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, doesn’t like to see its employees working too late, and it expects even senior staff members to be headed home by 8 p.m. On weekends, employees seeking to escape the confines of their own homes are required to sign in at the front desk and are accompanied to their own desks by a security guard. Sensitive documents are kept in safes in many offices, and a portion of Germany’s gold reserves is stored behind meter-thick, reinforced concrete walls in the basement of a nearby building. In this environment, working overtime is considered a security risk.But the ordinary working day has been in disarray in recent weeks at the Bundesbank headquarters building, a gray, concrete box in Frankfurt’s Ginnheim neighborhood, where the crisis on international financial markets has many employees working late, even on weekends.

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