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    Position Statement on National Security

    Aubrey Immelman
    Aubrey Immelman
    July 23, 2008

    The primary reason I’m running for Congress is my grave concern about the unintended consequences of our invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

    Prior to the invasion, we had in place a very successful containment policy against Iraqi aggression, instituted by the first President Bush after the first Gulf War. By keeping Saddam Hussein in power, in concert with a vigorous weapons inspection regime and enforcement of no-fly zones, President George H. W. Bush preserved a delicate balance of power between Iran and Iraq in one of the world’s most volatile regions, the Middle East.

    We’ve heard the phrase “The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power” so often from apologists for the Iraq war that many of us have uncritically come to accept it as fact. But in truth, the Middle East after Saddam is vastly more complex and unpredictable, and poses much greater national security challenges than before.

    With some notable exceptions – Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) foremost among them — few congressional Republicans have shown the courage or insight to acknowledge this important truth. And Democrats, at best, have been timorous in challenging the conventional wisdom that the world is safer without Saddam, calling instead for rapid troop withdrawal, which no longer is the most important issue, if ever it was.

    Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance at Georgetown University; and Aubrey Immelman, Associate Professor of Psychology, St. Johns University, Collegeville, Minn., Sept. 23, 2009.
    Chuck Hagel and Aubrey Immelman

    The truth about Iraq is that without a significant U.S. presence in the region, Islamic fundamentalist Iran, with its nuclear ambitions, will quickly fill the power vacuum left by the removal of Saddam, thus creating an infinitely more serious threat to U.S. national security than Iraq under the secular Saddam, inherently hostile to Islamic fundamentalism, in power. And this time, the threat of weapons of mass destruction may well be real.

    The invasion and occupation of Iraq has already exacted a huge cost in American blood, treasure, and international stature. It’s the worst foreign policy blunder in a generation.

    Unfortunately, it’s also an irreversible error and a military and economic burden we will have to bear for some time to come.

    As a people, we must come to terms with that reality and see it with a clear eye for what it is, unclouded by partisan lenses. For the sake of our children and the future security and prosperity of our great nation, we must learn the lessons of history and move on to a better tomorrow, with judicious leadership for the new century.

    ——

    In 2002, John Hostettler (R-Indiana) was one of only six Republican members of the United States House of Representatives to vote against the House resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to preemptively engage in military conflict with Iraq. At the time, in October 2002 before the vote was cast, Rep. Hostettler said the intelligence supporting the claim of a program of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was “tenuous at best.”

    Nothing for the Nation

    In his book, Nothing for the Nation: Who Got What Out of Iraq, Rep. Hostettler reveals why political leaders and their subordinates sought to remove Saddam Hussein from power. “The sages who secured for us the blessings of liberty would not have been surprised by the true motivation of those who sold America on the idea of ousting the Butcher of Baghdad.”

    ——

    TOPICAL NEWS REPORTS

    Video

    America’s top military officer on stability in the Asia-Pacific region (NBC Nightly News, June 14, 2010) — The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, shares his perspective on military tensions in Asia including Afghanistan, Korea, and China. NBC’s Lea Sutton reports. (03:08)

    ——

    North Korea Threatens to Shoot Down U.S. Planes


    April 1, 2009

    SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea accused the United States of spying on the site of an impending rocket launch and threatened Wednesday to shoot down any U.S. planes that intrude into its airspace.

    North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit on a multistage rocket between April 4 and 8. The United States, South Korea and Japan suspect the reclusive country is using the launch to test long-range missile technology, and they warn Pyongyang would face sanctions under a U.N. Security Council resolution banning it from ballistic activity. …

    It was unclear what capability North Korea has to shoot down the high-flying Boeing RC-135, which can reach altitudes of nearly 10 miles. The threat came a day after the North claimed the United States and South Korea conducted about 190 spy flights over its territory in March, including over the sea off the launch site. …

    Clinton criticizes ‘provocation’

    In the Netherlands, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Pyongyang’s move “an unfortunate and continuing example of provocation by the North Koreans.”

    “There will be consequences, certainly, in the United Nations Security Council if they proceed with the launch,” she said.

    Clinton also strongly backed Japan’s plans to shoot down any incoming North Korean rocket debris, saying the country “has every right to protect and defend its territory from what is clearly a missile launch.”

    Japan has deployed battleships with antimissile systems off its northern coast and stationed Patriot missile interceptors around Tokyo to shoot down any wayward rocket parts that the North has said might fall over the area.

    Tokyo has said it is only protecting its territory and has no intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself, but North Korea said it is not convinced and accused Japan of inciting militarism at home to justify developing a nuclear weapons program of its own.

    If Japan tries to intercept the satellite, the North’s army “will consider this as the start of Japan’s war of re-invasion … and mercilessly destroy all its interceptor means and citadels with the most powerful military means,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday.

    Details of North’s technology unclear

    The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank that provides detailed analysis about North Korea, said in a report that the country is believed to have “assembled and deployed nuclear warheads” recently for its medium-range Rodong missiles, which are capable of striking Japan.

    But its Seoul-based expert, Daniel Pinkston, said it is unclear if it has mastered the technology necessary to miniaturize the warheads and put them on Rodong missiles, which have a range of 620 to 930 miles. …

    ——

    U.S. Wary of Upcoming North Korea Missile Launch

    March 12, 2009

     
    Image: Jim Miklasszewski
    Jim Miklaszewski
    Chief Pentagon correspondent
     

    WASHINGTON – U.S. military officials confirmed Thursday that North Korea has filed an official notice that it intends to conduct a missile launch early next month. 

    North Korea claims the purpose is to launch a satellite into space, but the Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told a congressional hearing this week that if the launch is successful it would mean that for the first time North Korea would have the capability to launch a ballistic missile that could reach the continental United States.

    Today’s “Notice to Airmen and Mariners” (NOTAM) is the first indication of the timing of the North Korean launch.

    Image: North Korean missile facility
    This satellite image shows the North Korean missile site at Musudan on Feb. 26, 2009. (Photo credit: GeoEye Satellite Image via Reuters)

    Based on intelligence, U.S. officials have estimated the launch was at least “several weeks away.” The North Korean notice indicated a launch between April 4-8 [2009]. …

    U.S. military and intelligence agencies will closely monitor the launch with satellites and sophisticated intercept radar to gather whatever information they can about North Korea’s capabilities. Military officials say the United States will be prepared to try to shoot down the missile if it becomes a threat, intentional or otherwise, to any U.S. territories or its allies in the region. …

    Reports began emerging in February that North Korea was preparing to test a long-range missile. North Korea has since sought to portray the launch as a legitimate and peaceful space program, and has vowed to retaliate against anyone who tries to prevent it.

    Related report: N. Korea may not be faking on satellite launch

    ——

    North Korea Threatens ‘War’ If Satellite is Shot Down


    March 8, 2009

    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Monday its armed forces are “fully combat ready” and that they will retaliate against any attempt to intercept its planned satellite launch, which neighboring governments suspect might be a missile test.

    The harsh rhetoric came as the United States and South Korea kicked off annual war games involving tens of thousands of troops, which the communist nation has condemned as preparations for an invasion.

    The joint drills across South Korea began as concerns mounted that Pyongyang could be gearing up to test-fire a long-range missile capable of reaching U.S. territory. North Korea says what it plans to launch is a communications satellite, but neighboring governments believe it is a cover for a missile test.

    “If the enemies recklessly opt for intercepting our satellite, our revolutionary armed forces will launch without hesitation a just retaliatory strike operation not only against all the interceptor means involved but against the strongholds of the U.S. and Japanese aggressors,” the general staff of the North’s military said in a statement.

    “Shooting our satellite for peaceful purposes will precisely mean a war,” said the statement, carried by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.

    U.S. and Japanese officials have suggested that they might shoot down a North Korean missile if it’s deemed necessary.

    The North’s military also ordered all personnel to “be fully combat ready” so that they could “deal merciless retaliatory blows” at the enemy, KCNA said in a separate dispatch.

    The United States and South Korea have conducted annual military exercises a few times a year for decades, and Pyongyang has routinely condemned them as rehearsals for invasion.

    In the run-up to the drills that began on Monday, the North has also stepped up its war rhetoric. Claiming the maneuvers pose grave threats to its security, the North last week threatened South Korean passenger planes flying near its airspace.

    Seoul and Washington have repeatedly said the drills, which involve its 26,000 military personnel in South Korea, an unspecified number of southern soldiers and a U.S. aircraft carrier, are purely defensive.

    ——

    Intelligence Czar: Economy is Top Threat to U.S. National Security


    Feb. 12, 2009

    WASHINGTON – The economic crisis has trumped bullets and bombs in the intelligence agencies’ latest assessment of threats to the United States. …

    Sounding more like an economist than the war-fighting Navy commander he once was, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told a Senate panel Thursday that if the crisis lasts more than two years, it could cause some nations’ governments to collapse. …

    Blair said the financial meltdown, which started in the United States and quickly infected other countries, already has eroded confidence in American economic leadership and belief in free markets. …

    “The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee, as Congress prepares to vote Friday on a $789 billion stimulus package. …

    Full story 

    ——

    North Korea Says Two Koreas on Path to War

    Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il 
    North Korea’s secretive leader, Kim Jong Il, center, appears to have rebounded politically from his recent health scare. (Photo credit: KCNA / Reuters)


    Feb. 1, 2009

    SEOUL – North Korea warned on Sunday that the downward spiral of relations with the South has pushed the peninsula to the brink of war, two days after it said it was scrapping all pacts with its rich capitalist neighbor.

    Analysts say the rhetorical volleys are aimed at changing the hardline policies of the South’s president and are meant to grab the attention of new U.S. President Barack Obama.

    “The policy of confrontation with the DPRK (North Korea) pursued by the (South Korean) group is … the very source of military conflicts and war between the North and the South,” the North’s official KCNA news agency reported a commentary in the communist party newspaper as saying.

    “In Korea in the state of armistice confrontation means escalated tension and it may lead to an uncontrollable and unavoidable military conflict and a war,” it said.

    Technically still at war

    The states, technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended with a cease fire and not a peace treaty, have more than 1 million troops near their border. There are about 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea to defend the country.

    The North’s bureaucracy works slowly to form policy and it may still be trying to figure out its approach with the new Obama team, analysts said, making it easier for Pyongyang to direct its anger at Washington’s allies, including Seoul.

    The North in recent months has repeatedly threatened to destroy the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak, which ended a decade of free-flowing aid to Pyongyang after taking office a year ago.

    Lee’s government mostly ignores Pyongyang’s taunts.

    “North Korea’s escalating threats do not indicate major hostilities are imminent,” said Bruce Klingner, an expert on Korean affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

    “However, they could easily presage another round of tactical naval confrontations with South Korea in the Yellow Sea.”

    Deadly skirmishes

    The two Koreas fought deadly naval skirmishes in disputed Yellow Sea waters off the west coast in 1999 and 2002. …

    The latest move follows comments by a U.S. national security official that the secretive state’s leader, Kim Jong Il, appeared to have rebounded politically from his recent health scare and is making major decisions.

    Kim inspected a military unit and a power plant at the weekend, KCNA said, with Kim noting “the (North) Korean people are ready to flatten even a mountain and empty even a sea at one go when called for by the Party.”

    Related reports

    N. Korea scraps all accords with South (Jan. 30, 2009; scroll down)

    Korea headache looms for Obama (Jan. 28, 2009)

    ——

    North Korea to Give Up Nukes for U.S. Ties?

    Image: Kim Jong Il
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, center, inspects the Pyongyang Silk Mill while touring factories in the capital on Jan. 17, 2009. (Photo credit: AFP – Getty Images file)


    Jan. 21, 2009

    SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea is willing to give up its nuclear weapons if President Barack Obama agrees to conditions imposed by the communist regime, including establishing formal diplomatic relations, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said.

    The Japan-based Choson Sinbo paper – considered a mouthpiece of Pyongyang – said in a story posted on its Web site hours before Obama’s inauguration Tuesday that the North was waiting to see what position the new president would take on the nuclear standoff.

    “It is too early to predict whether the Obama administration will endorse the North’s nuclear possession or try to realize denuclearization through normalization of relations,” the paper said. “But what is sure is that the North side is ready to deal with any choice by the enemy nation.” …

    The U.S., South Korea, Japan, Russia and China have been trying for years to coax North Korea into giving up its atomic ambitions. Pyongyang agreed in 2007 to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for aid, but the process has been stalled since August.

    Last week, the North’s Foreign Ministry said it would give up its nuclear weapons only if Washington establishes diplomatic relations with the regime and the U.S. ceases to pose a nuclear threat to the North – an apparent reference to Pyongyang’s long-standing claim that American nuclear weapons are hidden in South Korea. Both Seoul and Washington deny the accusation.

    In its statement the ministry also rejected U.S. demands to verify its list of nuclear programs. The North wants verification to take place later in the disarmament process than the U.S. has requested. …

    The North has ratcheted up tension on the peninsula in recent days, accusing the South of plotting war and warning it would respond to any South Korean aggression with “one strike” capable of annihilation.

    Analysts say the North’s saber rattling is a well-timed negotiating tactic aimed at getting the new president’s attention.

    Obama has said he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il if it helps the international process to disarm Pyongyang.

    ——

    Panel Warns Biological Attack Likely by 2013

    Report recommends Obama administration prepare for germ warfare


    Dec. 1, 2008

    WASHINGTON –he United States can expect a terrorist attack using nuclear or more likely biological weapons before 2013, reports a bipartisan commission in a study being briefed Tuesday to Vice President-elect Joe Biden. It suggests the Obama administration bolster efforts to counter and prepare for germ warfare by terrorists.

    “Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing,” states the report, obtained by The Associated Press. It is scheduled to be publicly released Wednesday. …

    The report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, led by former Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and Jim Talent of Missouri, acknowledges that terrorist groups still lack the needed scientific and technical ability to make weapons out of pathogens or nuclear bombs. But it warns that gap can be easily overcome, if terrorists find scientists willing to share or sell their know-how. …

    More likely than nuclear

    The commission believes biological weapons are more likely to be obtained and used before nuclear or radioactive weapons because nuclear facilities are more carefully guarded. Civilian laboratories with potentially dangerous pathogens abound, however, and could easily be compromised. …

    It notes that the U.S. government’s counterproliferation activities have been geared toward preventing nuclear terrorism. The commission recommends the prevention of biological terrorism be made a higher priority. …

    ‘Time is not our ally’

    Al-Qaida remains the only terrorist group judged to be actively intent on conducting a nuclear attack against the United States, the report notes. It is not yet capable of building such a weapon and has yet to obtain one. But that could change if a nuclear weapons engineer or scientist were recruited to al-Qaida’s cause, the report warns.

    The report says the potential nexus of terrorism, nuclear and biological weapons is especially acute in Pakistan.

    “Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan,” the report states. …

    “We think time is not our ally. The (United States) needs to move with a sense of urgency,” Graham said.

    ——

    World in 2025: U.S. Declines, Russia Rises?

    U.S. intelligence analyis predicts Moscow will benefit from oil boom while American influence wanes

    Video

    Intel report predicts U.S. decline (NBC News Web Extra, Nov. 21, 2008) – Tom Fingar, the top U.S. intelligence analyst, briefs reporters on the findings of the intelligence community’s report with projections about what the world may look like over the next 17 years. (29:31)

    Full story

    ——

    Iran Test-Fires Precision, High-Speed Missile

    Image: Iranian missile test
    Iranian officials said the country test-fired this Sajjil ground-to-ground missile at an undisclosed location on Wednesday. In the past Iran has often boasted of developing new weapons systems only to be met with skepticism from Western defense analysts. (Photo: Fars News via AFP — Getty Images)

    AP and Reuters via MSNBC.com
    Nov. 12, 2008

    TEHRAN, Iran – Iran said it successfully test-fired a new generation of long range surface-to-surface missile on Wednesday – one that could easily strike as far away as southeastern Europe with greater precision than earlier models.
     
    The Sajjil is a solid fuel high-speed missile with a range of about 1,200 miles, Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar said on state television. At that range, it could easily strike Israel and go as far as southeastern Europe. …
     
    Najjar said the missile was a defensive weapon and not a response to threats against Iran. He didn’t name any country, but Israel has recently threatened to take military action against Iran to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb. Najjar said the missile was part of a “defensive, deterrent strategy … specifically with defensive objectives.” …
     
    The name “Sajjil” means “baked clay,” a reference to a story in the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in which birds sent by God drive off an enemy army attacking the holy city of Mecca by pelting them with stones of baked clay. …
     
    ——
     
    North Korea to Shut Border with South

    Also won’t allow outside inspectors to take nuclear samples
     
    South Korean labors work in front of the gate of S...
    The South and North Korea Transit gate near the demilitarized zone at Goseong, east of Seoul, South Korea, is seen on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008. Pyongyang announced plans to “cut off all the overland passages” from Dec. 1, 2008. (Photo credit: AP / Ahn Young-joon)


    Nov. 12, 2008

    SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea’s military announced Wednesday it will shut the country’s border with the South on Dec. 1 — a marked escalation of threats against Seoul’s new conservative government at a time of heightened tension on the peninsula. The military’s chief delegate to inter-Korean talks informed his South Korean counterpart that the North will “restrict and cut off” cross-border routes next month, state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

    Analysts called it a political move designed to humiliate Seoul by hobbling a joint industrial park in the city of Kaesong, just across the border, that has served as a beacon of hope for reconciliation. Relations between the two Koreas — separated by troops, tanks and one of the world’s most heavily armed borders since a three-year war that ended in a truce in 1953 — have been frosty since South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak took office in February.

    Lee pledged to be tough with communist North Korea, an abrupt departure from his liberal predecessors’ decade-long policy of fostering reconciliation with aid and other concessions. … The tension comes amid questions about the health of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il. U.S. and South Korean officials say Kim, 66, suffered a stroke, but North Korea denies he was ever ill. …

    Meanwhile, North Korea also said Wednesday that it won’t allow outside inspectors to take samples from its main nuclear complex to verify its accounting of past nuclear activities. …

    ——

    North Korea Fires Missiles


    Oct. 7, 2008

    SEOUL – North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the Yellow Sea on Tuesday in an operation considered part of regular military training, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.
     
    “We understand North Korea fired two short-range missiles in the afternoon of the 7th into the (Yellow) Sea,” Yonhap quoted an unidentified South Korean official as saying. “The launch appears to be part of usual military drills.” …
     
    Regional powers are trying to salvage a six-country deal to end North Korea’s nuclear program after Pyongyang recently said it would start rebuilding nuclear facilities that it had started to disable earlier this year.
     
    North Korea previously launched short-range missiles off both its coasts, coinciding with tense political developments that officials in Seoul and Washington played down as part of conventional military drills. …
     
    Analysts have said North Korea may try to elevate tension as it remains in negotiations with Washington over getting off a U.S. terrorism blacklist and as regional powers try to move forward in the aid-for-disarmament deal. …
     
    ——
     
    Iran’s Influence? You Can Hear It on Iraqi Streets


    Sept. 30, 2008
     
    NAJAF, Iraq – In the holy Iraqi Shi’ite city of Najaf, Iranian tourists throng the streets, speak to shopkeepers in Farsi and pay in Iranian money. Farsi chants blare from speakers at a nearby shrine.
     
    The scene would probably horrify both the United States and Iraq’s Sunni Arab neighbors, who suspect Shi’ite non-Arab Iran of nefarious and subversive influence in Arab lands. Even some of Najaf’s citizens are wary of Iranian leverage.
     
    But the city, a center of religious and political power in Shi’ite-majority Iraq, benefits from Iranian tourism and aid. The uniforms of garbage men sport Farsi inscriptions, as do their gleaming new Iran-donated rubbish trucks. Iranian builders toil at the site of a new Iranian-sponsored hospital.
     
    Iranian donations pay for the renovation of Shi’ite holy sites, and Iran has offered cash and expertise to boost electricity capacity in Iraq’s Shi’ite south.
     
    Each year hundreds of thousands of Iranian pilgrims visit Najaf’s shrine of Imam Ali, one of the most important figures of Shi’ite Islam. …
     
    Iraq and Iran were sworn enemies under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab dictator who launched a ruinous eight-year war with Shi’ite Iran in the 1980s in which 1 million people died, many Iraqi Shi’ite conscripts.
     
    But since U.S. troops overthrew Saddam in 2003 and a Shi’ite led-government came to power in Baghdad, Iran has conspicuously shown off its clout, partly through its ties with Shi’ite politicians and parties that were based in Iran for years during the rule of Saddam.
     
    In March this year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a triumphant visit — becoming not only first Iranian leader to visit Iraq since the 1980s, but also the first regional head of state to visit since the U.S.-led invasion.

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
     
    Iran has had a full-service embassy in Baghdad for years, while no Sunni Arab state had an ambassador in the Iraqi capital for three years until this month. …
     
    Almost all of oil-rich southern Iraq’s provincial councils, including Najaf, are dominated by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), a Shi’ite political group formed in exile in Iran during Saddam’s reign. …
     
    Ali Abshar, an Iranian pilgrim in Najaf, said he felt comfortable in the city, and that it was just like the Iranian city of Qom, Shi’ite Islam’s other main seat of learning. He had no hard feelings over U.S. demonization of his country.
     
    “Americans came and got rid of Saddam,” he said, holding two thumbs up and grinning.
     
    ——
     
    U.S. Army Faces Training Limits to 2010


    Sept. 29, 2008
     
    WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army will not be able to train for the full spectrum of military threats facing the United States before 2010 at the earliest because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the force’s top civilian said on Monday.
     
    Army Secretary Pete Geren said the 12-month period soldiers spend at home between deployments to the two counterinsurgency wars is not long enough to practice all the skills for conventional warfare against standing armies.
     
    “We are out of balance right now,” Geren said at a forum hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We expect by 2010, 2011, we’ll be in a position to expand the redeployment period, the reintegration period, and be able to start training across the full spectrum.”
     
    An Army official said the service hoped to extend so-called dwell times — the period at home between deployments — by expanding the active duty force to 547,000 troops by 2013 and by withdrawing additional forces from Iraq. …
     
    In the meantime, Geren said the U.S. Air Force or Navy could be called upon in an emergency to carry out operations that would normally fall to the Army.
     
    ——

    U.S. Tries to Save Crumbling North Korea Nuke Talks

    Signs indicate communist state trying to restart atomic reactor
     

    Sept. 22, 2008
     
    NEW YORK – The Bush administration is trying in its waning months to salvage a crumbling international effort to get North Korea to give up nuclear arms even as the communist state moves to restart its atomic reactor.
     
    Over the next week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet her counterparts in the six-nation negotiations – China, Japan, South Korea and Russia – to discuss possible routes ahead despite North Korea’s apparent unwillingness to remain a part of the process.
     
    “The six-party process has had its difficult moments in the past and we’re certainly experiencing another one now,” chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said Monday. “Clearly, it is a difficult moment … and it’s a time when we’re going to have to work together.
     
    “This is a very rough and tumble moment in the negotiation process,” he said following an announcement from the U.N. atomic watchdog that North Korea had asked it to remove seals and surveillance equipment from its Yongbyon nuclear reactor. …
     
    That step follows the uncrating and reassembling of equipment used at Yongbyon that had been removed and dismantled in June when the North submitted a long delayed accounting, or declaration, of its nuclear activities as part of the negotiating process.
     
    Since then, however, amid reports that began to surface in August about the failing health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, North Korea has essentially halted cooperation and refused to accept a U.S.-proposed scheme to verify its declaration. This has kept Washington from meeting one of the North’s main demands: removal from a U.S. terrorism blacklist. …
     
    Hill noted that recent North Korean actions corresponded with the timing of reports about Kim’s ill health – “We are seeing a tough line in the last month,” he said – but declined to say whether U.S. officials believe the two developments are related. …
     
    ——
     
    Car Bomb Kills 25 in Tal Afar


    Aug. 9, 2008

    BAGHDAD — At least 25 people were killed in a car bombing at a crowded market in the city of Tal Afar, officials in northern Iraq reported Saturday. …

    The bombing took place in a region where tensions have been growing among ethnic groups because of a dispute over control of the oil-rich area around Kirkuk. The city has now been placed under an indefinite curfew.

    ——

    A Wake-Up Call from Afghanistan

    Increased fighting draws more attention to strain posed by Iraq war


    Shir Ahmad / Reuters file

    By Peter Slevin
    The Washington Post
    July 23, 2008

    Excerpt

    When insurgents mustered superior numbers and overpowered U.S. and Afghan forces in remote Konar province on July 13, more U.S. soldiers died than were killed by enemy action in all of Iraq during the first three weeks in July. A pattern began to emerge about three months ago: Since May 1 [2008], 52 American troops have been killed in action in Afghanistan, compared with 43 in a quieting Iraq. …

    Full story

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