Crimea crisis: Nato commander calls for allies to mobilise after Russia prepares ‘incredible force’ on Ukrainian border

Nato’s top military commander has warned that Russia is building an “incredible force” on its border with Ukraine, and said the time has come for Western allies to move its own troops to the east.

There are growing fears that President Vladimir Putin may be preparing to follow up the annexation of Crimea with a move into Moldova’s mainly Russian-speaking separatist Transdniestria.

US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said Russia had used “snap” military exercises apparently as a tactic to shift vast numbers of troops towards the border. Continue reading

Germany is ‘planning to step up counter-espionage’: report

Germany is planning to possibly resume counter-espionage measures against several Western allies, according to a report in the news magazine Spiegel. The report said British and US embassies could be targeted.

Germany is debating plans to expand its counter-espionage personnel and conduct “foundational monitoring” of the embassies of such nations as the United States and Britain, Spiegel said in its report on Sunday. Continue reading

Saudi Arabia warns it will act against West’s policy in Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to London has claimed the country is determined to independently arm Syria rebels after rejecting the diplomatic tactics of its Western allies

Saudi Arabia has warned it has been forced to go its own way in foreign policy as its Western allies seek diplomatic solutions to the war in Syria and crisis with Iran. Continue reading

Germany in the Island Dispute

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Own report) – Despite escalating tensions in East Asia, German companies have announced new arms exports to Western allies in China’s vicinity. Kiel’s HGW shipbuilding company has confirmed its decision to sell two submarines to Singapore. In the island disputes in eastern and southeastern Asia, Singapore is seen as one of the West’s reliable partners. The current territorial disputes over the archipelago known as the “Diaoyu Islands” (in China) and the “Senkaku Islands” (in Japan), which are claimed by both countries, gives an indication of the conflicts emerging in the region. Interest in these islands is based not so much on their resources but rather on conflicting geo-strategic interests: These Islands are part of a chain of islands Beijing considers an important defense against possible aggression. Berlin is observing these tensions with apprehension because they could threaten German business interests. German arms exports to the region, as well as the Bundeswehr’s growing cooperation with Japan, South Korea and other Western allies, are an indication that, in the case of an escalation of conflict, Germany would take sides – against China. Continue reading

Syria crisis: warplanes spotted in Cyprus as tensions rise in Damascus

Signs of advanced readiness at likely hub of air campaign as UN inspection team comes under fire near site of alleged chemical attack

Warplanes and military transporters have begun arriving at Britain’s Akrotiri airbase on Cyprus, less than 100 miles from the Syrian coast, in a sign of increasing preparations for a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria. Continue reading

Canadian goods destined for Iran’s nuclear program slip through: Documents

OTTAWA — Despite repeated Harper-government boasting about imposing some of the toughest sanctions against Iran, newly released documents show that Canadian customs agents are stretched thin — and have been missing some shipments intended for Iran’s surreptitious nuclear program.

The documents raise questions about the effectiveness of Canadian sanctions — and whether efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring Canadian technology for its nuclear program are mere rhetoric given a lack of resources and personnel.

Canada and other Western allies have been steadily tightening sanctions against Iran in recent years over the country’s rampant human-rights abuses, ongoing support for terrorism and clandestine efforts to establish a nuclear program.

Its nuclear aspirations have been of particular concern because of fears it is trying to acquire a nuclear arsenal.

The sanctions include prohibitions on the export of anything that could help Iran acquire nuclear weapons, including goods used in the petrochemical, oil and gas industries, as well as items that could be used to build ballistic missiles.

The Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for enforcing those prohibitions — and according to the documents, obtained by researcher Ken Rubin, there have been some successes.

“These shipments were prohibited because they were to listed entities, involved prohibited (listed) goods, or involved prohibited (oil refining and gas liquefaction),” the paper reads. “Other seizes involve nuclear dual use goods.”

The paper states that Canada is a target for “clandestine and illicit procurement activity since it is a recognized leader in many high technology sectors, (including nuclear, aerospace, chemical, electronics).”

But the same paper also made it clear the border agency is facing extreme resource limitations in enforcing sanctions against not just Iran, but the more than a dozen other countries against which Canada has placed export and trade restrictions.

“The number of CBSA staff dedicated to export control are very limited (approximately 53 staff members),” the paper reads. “The number of export shipments that the dedicated export teams must target and examine is overwhelming (8,000 to 10,000 per day).”

The paper said because of these limitations, “most of the efforts of CBSA’s export control program are focused on Iran and known transshipment areas,” though nuclear procurement networks from Syria, China and Pakistan are also operating in Canada.

Meanwhile, a secret memo recently prepared for senior CBSA managers outlines the increasing complexities in monitoring and preventing the export of Canadian technology and goods to Iran for suspected use in its nuclear program.

“Although Iranian procurement networks have been identified as working in Canada,” the memo reads, “intercepting export shipments is becoming increasingly difficult as the networks adapt to the increased scrutiny and sanctions enforcement (by) using more transshipment points and circuitous routes to ship their exports.”

And officials admitted some suspect shipments have slipped past them.

“Despite the latest rounds of international and Canadian sanctions,” the memo reads, “Iranian procurement agents have still been able to export items, albeit with more difficulty, greater costs, but effective nevertheless.”

Even when shipments have been stopped or seized, the documents note that prosecution is extremely difficult, though they add that “success can also be considered when procurement efforts are disrupted and/or delayed.”

Full article: Canadian goods destined for Iran’s nuclear program slip through: Documents (o.Canada.com)