Saturday, June 30, 2007

Claim : Australia's Secret Plan To "Abandon" America In Iraq

Australian prime minister, John Howard, has said in the past that Australians "don't abandon their mates" and he used that philosophy to explain why Australia would have to keep its 1500 or so troops in Iraq until the United States told him he could bring them home.

But a major Australian newspaper leads today with a story that claims Howard is going to double-cross the Bush administration, and is hoping to win back some of his plummeting support with the voters, before the coming federal election, by announcing he will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq in February, 2008 :

Prime Minister John Howard has a secret plan to begin withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq by February, a senior military source has revealed.

A well-placed source said the plan is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the top levels of the bureaucracy.

It is understood the plan has not yet been put to the Bush Administration or even gone before the National Security Committee of Cabinet.

"The Government is quietly saying to Defence: 'We don't want to get caught in Iraq if it comes unstuck for the Americans'," another well-placed source said.

"They want to be ready to go, even before the Americans."

Australia's planned troop withdrawal is expected to begin at the same time the US military is expected to begin drawing down its presence in Iraq in February.

But the story is not all that it appears to be.

Go To 'The Orstrahyun' For The Full Story

Iraqis Slam US Raid That Left 26 People Dead, And Dozens Wounded

Poll : 77% Of Americans No Longer Believe The Iraq War Is Working

Turkey Warns It Is Planning To Invade Northern Iraq To Deal With Kurd 'Terrorists'

US Now Only Controls Half Of Baghdad, As Insurgency Attacks Slay Dozens Of Iraqis Daily And Increase American Troop Casualties

Five Years On, The Search For Iraq's WMDs Officially Ends, Without Finding Any Of The Claimed Stockpiles

Friday In Iraq : Five Americans, 52 Iraqis Killed

Mission Accomplished : Wolfowitz Slinks Back To American Enterprise Institute, Now US Has Spent $500 Billion Fighting In Iraq And The Middle East Has Been Further Destabilised
Wave Of Attempted Car Bombings Hit UK

Two Car Bombs Found In London, Burning SUV Crashes Into Scotland Airport

A burning SUV slams into the main building at Glasgow Airport

In a dramatic 24 hours, three suspected terror attacks using vehicles shut down Central London and Scotland's Glasgow Airport.

Two abandoned Mercedes containing materials that could have been used to turn the vehicles into bombs were found in the West End theatre district.

More on that, and the implacably calm response from most Londoners can be read on 'Your New Reality'.

In the last two hours, a burning SUV was purposely crashed into the main building of Glasgow's Airport. The dramatic events, and the immediate response from witnesses and police are detailed in this BBC report :
A car on fire has been driven at the main terminal building at Glasgow Airport, police have confirmed.

Eyewitnesses have described a Jeep Cherokee being driven at speed towards the building with flames coming out from underneath. They have also described seeing two Asian men, one of whom was on fire, who had been in the car. Strathclyde Police said two people had been arrested and detained in connection with the incident.

One eyewitness said: "I heard the sound of a car's wheels spinning and smoke coming out.

"I saw a Jeep Cherokee apparently as if it was trying to get right through the doors into the terminal building.

"The police ran over and the people started fighting with the police. I then heard what sounded like an explosion."

Eye-witness Richard Grey told BBC News 24: "A green Jeep was in the middle of the doorway burning.

"The car didn't actually explode. There were a few pops and bangs which presumably was the petrol."

Stephen Clarkson said he saw people running towards him and "panicking" then noticed a crashed Cherokee jeep. He said he helped police restrain one of the men.

"It was lucky that I was there," he said. "I managed to knock the man to the ground with my forearm and the police got on top of him and restrained him and put handcuffs on him."
Eyewitnesses said the two men smashed molotov cocktails around the crashed vehicle to "make sure the car would go up big style."

Taxi driver Ian Crosby said: "This was no accident. This was a deliberate attack on Glasgow Airport."

What would appear to be a co-ordinated series of attacks, all of which failed, come as new prime minister Gordon Brown takes over No. 10 from Tony Blair.

Not unsurprisingly, the British anti-terror squad believe the apparently co-ordinated series of attempted car bombings are linked to the Al Qaeda network.

London Car Bomb "Could Have Killed 1700"

Police Hunt London 'Car Bombers'

London Nightclub Bomb Threat Alert Issued Two Weeks Ago

Car Bombs Come To London

First Day On The Job : New Home Secretary Thrust In Centre Of Terror Crisis

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Coming War In The Arctic

Russia Announces Plan To Annexes Huge New, Oil & Gas Rich Territory

Graphic From BBC

Note : As some commenters pointed out, there is little actual land under the ice of the North Pole to be fought over. The below article probably doesn't make the point clear enough that potential conflicts will be over the divvying up of energy and mineral spoils from the ocean and the currently ice-covered coastal regions. The potential for future conflict not only includes the temptation for the more powerful nations to lay claim to territory that is rich in oil and gas, be it on land or in the ocean, but the US, Russia, Canada and Greenland do not have well defined borders in the Arctic, and the control of two potential new ice-free sea lanes for shipping will also be challenged.


When we first started writing about 'The Coming Arctic Wars' on this site more than 15 months ago, we thought the reality of such a situation as reported below actually developing to be not much more than a rank outsider in the sprawl of possible conflicts that could break out between nations out as the 'War on Terror' spreads, and increases its momentum and capacity to destabilise.

But Russia has decided that the United States is weak enough, now it has most of military and equipment bogged down in the Middle East, to not put up much of a fight over who owns what in the the Arctic Circle, so it has decided to announce a plan to annex an astounding 460,000 square miles of international territory. That's equal to the land mass of Italy, Germany and France, combined.

Sure, it's covered by ice and snow right now. But if global warming increases, and some of the more mind-boggling predictions of rapid climate change turn true, and the Arctic loses most of its summer ice, there are hundreds of millions of hectares of land up there that may be ready for development and exploitation in less than 20 years.

Even the most conservative estimates of untapped oil and mineral wealth in the currently frozen Arctic are in the range of many trillions of dollars. Unofficial estimates, the kind that oil and mining companies don't make public, because they are usually guesstimates, think there could be tens of trillions of dollars worth of oil, gas, coal and various minerals up there.

In the scope of world headlines, the news of what Russia is going to do will impact little. Right now. But decades from now, the day that Russia decided to announce it intendeds to annex international territory in the Arctic will probably be marked as the day the Arctic Wars really began.

And have no doubt that the countries bordering the Arctic will fight over the land that is losing its shield of ice and snow, and the North and NorthWest trade routes that are opening up now the sea ice is diminishing. They will fight over it all.

Not all the fights will end up with exchanges of missiles and gun boats blocking new shipping routes, but in a world where resources are running low, and vast tracts of land are depleted turning to desert, an ice-free Arctic will be the most coveted prize in the history of modern humankind.

Unpolluted, unexploited, unclaimed, undeveloped, unpopulated.

The Arctic will be a prize worth fighting and dying for. At least for the troops that the US, Canada and Russia send in to seize and hold territory some time after 2010.

From the UK Guardian :
It is already the world's biggest country, spanning 11 time zones and stretching from Europe to the far east. But yesterday Russia signalled its intention to get even bigger by announcing an audacious plan to annex a vast 460,000 square mile chunk of the frozen and ice-encrusted Arctic.

According to Russian scientists, there is new evidence backing Russia's claim that its northern Arctic region is directly linked to the North Pole via an underwater shelf.

Under international law, no country owns the North Pole. Instead, the five surrounding Arctic states, Russia, the US, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland), are limited to a 200-mile economic zone around their coasts.

On Monday, however, a group of Russian geologists returned from a six-week voyage on a nuclear icebreaker. They had travelled to the Lomonosov ridge, an underwater shelf in Russia's remote and inhospitable eastern Arctic Ocean.

According to Russia's media, the geologists returned with the "sensational news" that the Lomonosov ridge was linked to Russian Federation territory, boosting Russia's claim over the oil-and-gas rich triangle. The territory contained 10bn tonnes of gas and oil deposits, the scientists said.

Russia's Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper celebrated the discovery by printing a large map of the North Pole. It showed the new "addition" to Russia - the size of France, Germany and Italy combined - under a white, blue and red Russian flag.

Mr Priamikov said the area was one of breathtaking natural beauty. It was much drier, colder and quieter than the western Arctic, he added. "I've been there many times. It's an oasis for marine life," he said. Asked whether it would be feasible to drill for oil, he said: "Yes".

The shelf was 200 metres deep and oil and gas would be easy to extract, especially with ice melting because of global warming, he said.

Russia has the world's largest gas reserves. It is the second largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia. The Kremlin is keen to secure Russia's long-term hegemony over global energy markets, and to find new sources of fuel.

Well, not only has Russia now found "new sources of fuel", it's annexed the territory in which they lie. And Russia is likely to claim more, as the ice melts, and the 'Arctic Gold Rush' begins in the next decade.

Before the United States starts fighting with Russia over who can claim how much Arctic territory for themselves, they have to sort out their own borders with Canada and get out of Iraq.

Russia isn't waiting for Canada, Greenland and the United States to work out what they want. Russia knows what it wants, and it's taking it now, before the real fighting begins.

Canada, however, has not been slack when it comes to marking out future territory for energy exploitation and new trading and shipping routes.

From The Fourth World War blog, March, 2006 :
Russia, the US and even Greenland are enthusiastically eyeing off the opening up of new shipping lanes that will cut months off the journeys of major freight travels. As the ice retreats, not only do new shipping lanes become passable, but new areas exploitable for mining, oil extraction and even coastal residential development all become reality.

Canada controls some of the most valuable coastline in the new ice-free Arctic of the coming decades, but even they are already aware they will have to defend it.

The idea that war could break out in the Arctic between countries like Canada, Russia, Greenland and the US seem almost incomprehensible, but Canada at least is taking this future issue very seriously indeed.

April, 2006 : Canada Deploys Military On 'Epic' Arctic Recon

'Arctic Wars' Heat Up As Canada Makes Move On Rapidly Melting Territory

January, 2006 : Canada Steps Up Arctic Patrols, Plans Military Deployments, Clashes with US over NorthWest Passage

Russia Lays Claim To North Pole And All Its Oil, Gas And Diamonds

Russia Begins Mass Production Of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

Canadian Sub Will 'Fly Flag' As It Takes Part In Arctic Military Exercises

Russia Sends Nuclear Powered Ship To Arctic For "Tests"

Friday, June 22, 2007

Iraq : US Troops Told To Get Out Of Their Tanks And Walk

Insurgent Attacks Render Tanks, Humvees Useless

Car Bombs Continue To Strike Baghdad, Despite The US Troop "Surge"

The use of IEDs and shaped charges by Iraqi insurgents against American tanks and Humvees has proven to be so effective a method of combating their enemy that US troops have been told to get out of their vehicles and conduct patrols on foot instead. Even with sniper fire, it's safer to be on foot, and spread out. When improvised bombs detonate, less Americans are killed than if they are confined inside a vehicle.

Astounding. Iraqi insurgents, who US Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly dismissed as all but harmless and not worth worrying about, up until 2006, have effectively rendered useless the entire US fleet of tanks and military vehicles, by making use of a basic weapons technology that has been included in American war fighting and counter insurgency manuals for decades.

From Raw Story :
Top US commanders in Iraq have been encouraging soldiers in Baghdad to "get out and walk."

In fact -- they've been using those very words. According to Friday's LA Times, a counterinsurgency guidance memo "released last week by Army Lt. Gen Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day military operations, urges Iraqi and American troops to 'get out and walk.'

The paper notes that the memo argues that although Humvees offer protection, "they also make units predictable and 'insulate us from the Iraqi people we intend to secure.'"

More to the point, according to soldiers interviewed for the article, walking is safer: "U.S. troops working the streets of the capital fear one Iraqi weapon more than others -- a copper-plated explosive that can penetrate armor and has proved devastating to Humvees and even capable of severely damaging tanks," writes the LA Times Julian Barnes.

"The power of what the military calls an EFP -- for explosively formed penetrator, or projectile -- to spray molten metal balls that punch through the armor on vehicles has some American troops rethinking their tactics," Barnes adds. "They are asking whether the U.S. should give up its reliance on making constant improvements to vehicle defenses."

IED and shaped-charged attacks are killing and wounding more than 60 American soldiers every week in Iraq. Now Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are adopting the roadside bombing tactics of the Iraqi insurgency.

48 Hours In Iraq : 14 American Troops Killed, More Than 300 Iraqis Killed And Wounded

Rockets, Mortars, Rain Down On The Green Zone, Daily Attacks Now A Reality

Fighting Around Baghdad Leaves 17 Insurgents, 1 US Soldier Dead

Rising American Death Toll In Iraq Not A Sign Of Failure, Says Marine General Peter Pace, It's Just The "Wrong Metric"

Turkish Troops Mass On The Border Of Northern Iraq, Kurds Flee Their Homes In Anticipation Of Invasion

PTSD Impacts American Army : Accidents, Divorces, Suicides On The Rise

Pope Worried About Christian Exodus From Iraq

Blogging From The Front Lines Of The War

Monday, June 18, 2007

Afghanistan : 10o Killed In Three Days Of Attacks, Bombings

Suicide Bombers Kill More Than 30 In Kabul

US Air Strikes Kill Dozens Of Children, Civilians At Religious Schools

The war in Afghanistan grows more deadly, more confused, more convoluted as the current joint Taliban-Al Qaeda offensive unfolds.

It seems all but a certainty that military elements of Pakistan's dictatorship will seep through the border states and join in the fighting. Or to join those who have already crossed into Afghanistan to take on NATO. Clearly, some in Musharraf's military have, but it's only a matter of time before many more of the jihadist elements of Musharraf's clique decide to take on NATO and the forces of the Afghanistan government.

Musharraf can only push back so hard, and the US can only push Musharraf so far. He has already told President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that if they continually pressure him, and embarrass him in the world's media, he will rein in his current efforts to hold back Pakistan jihadists.

The time when a greater regional conflict breaks out across the borders will be hastened by a furtherance of attacks by American elements in NATO like that of yesterday, where missiles believed to have been fired by a US-controlled drone slammed into a Warziristan madrassa, killing and wounding dozens of teachers, students and locals in a small village.

Earlier in the week, at least seven children were killed, and many more wounded when US air strikes hit a mosque and religious school in the eastern Afghanistan province of Paktika.

US military spokesmen claimed that Al Qaeda fighters were sheltering at the mosque-school complex, and used the children as "human shields." Such claims may play well to the Western audience, but they are dismissed mostly as lies, even if they are true, in Taliban-friendly regions of the border lands.

The belief that the 'War on Terror' is a mere Western-friendly title for what is actually a War On Islam is already a widespread belief across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and most of Muslim dominated countries. Such attacks on religious schools, while presumably killing Al Qaeda fighters, also ratchet up civilian casualties and supply endless propaganda material for Al Qaeda and the Taliban to capitalise on. And capitalise they do.

In three days of fighting
in southern Afghanistan, more than 100 people have been killed, including Taliban militants, police and dozens of civilians :
Mullah Ahmidullah Khan, the head of Uruzgan's provincial council, said clashes in Chora district had killed 60 civilians, 70 suspected Taliban militants and 16 Afghan police.

An official close to the Uruzgan governor, who asked not to be identified because he was talking about preliminary estimates, said 70 to 75 civilians had been killed or wounded, while more than 100 Taliban and more than 35 police had been killed.

Police said Monday they had detained a suspect in connection with the deadly suicide bombing that destroyed a bus full of police instructors at Kabul's busiest transportation hub, killing 35 people and wounding 52.

Sunday's enormous blast didn't leave much of the bus and it didn't leave much left of the notion that the renewed Taliban insurgency is being contained in Afghanistan...

The attack wasn't only deadly, it made several points: the Taliban attacks are becoming bolder, more frequent and are spreading across the country...

The bombing raised the specter of an increase in Iraq-style bombings with heavy casualties. It was at least the fourth attack against a bus carrying Afghan police or army soldiers in Kabul in the last year. The bomb sheared off the bus' metal sidings and roof, leaving a charred frame.

The explosion was the fifth suicide attack in Afghanistan in three days, part of a sharp spike in violence around the country.

Afghan officials have recently said that civilian deaths are the main concern of Afghans, and President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for foreign troops to do more to prevent civilian casualties.

Insurgency-related violence has killed more than 2,400 people in Afghanistan this year, mostly insurgents, according to an AP count based on figures from U.S., NATO, U.N. and Afghan officials.
More on the Sunday suicide attack on Afghan police trainers from the UK Independent :

The deadliest attack by militants since the ousting of the Taliban killed 35 people and wounded at least the same number yesterday when a bomb destroyed a bus packed with police recruits in Kabul.

One of the wounded recounted how the bomb had exploded when the bus was close to the station. Khalid Mohammed Ali, who suffered injuries to his stomach and legs, said: "There were lots of policemen in the bus and the bomb was near the front. The top of the bus blew off and there were people screaming and shouting. I felt something hot and a pain in my stomach. Then I saw blood on my right leg and there was a hole there."

Amir Nasrullah, 38, a shopkeeper said: "I first heard a roaring noise then I saw the bus was on fire. I saw one man with his arm hanging off but he was still alive. There were two others who looked dead."

Officials said at least 22 of the dead were police recruits and that two Pakistanis, two Japanese and one Korean national were among the wounded.

Last Saturday, suicide bombers hit targets in Kabul and killed four people :

A suicide car-bomber attacked a military-civilian convoy in Kabul on Saturday morning, killing at least three civilians and wounding five others, government and police officials said.

Hours later, two bombers riding a motorcycle attacked a military convoy in Mazar-i-Sharif, killing at least one Afghan civilian and wounding 15, a local security official said.

A spokesman for the Taliban, waging an insurgency against the Afghan government and its foreign allies, said the group was behind the attacks, which included two suicide blasts on Friday in south and central Afghanistan.

"Our many Taliban suiciders are present in the all cities in Afghanistan," Taliban spokesman Zabi-u-llah Mujahid told Reuters by satellite phone. "We will increase our suicide and guerrilla coming days," he added.

The Taliban and their al Qaeda allies have adopted the tactics of Iraq's insurgency over the past two years, using suicide bombings, mostly aimed at foreign troops, to try to dispel the notion that foreign and Afghan forces are in control.

In Mazar-i-Sharif, seen as one of the most peaceful Afghan cities, the motorcycle bombers blew up as the convoy swept past on a stretch of road near a crowded vegetable market. It was the first suicide bombing in Mazar-i-Sharif in three years
The Taliban promised earlier this year that it had more than 2000 fighters willing to become suicide bombers and they had been sent out to every city and every major town and village to wait for their moment to attack NATO forces and their allies in the Afghanistan government, police and military forces. When a wave of suicide bombings failed to appear in April, US commentators, and some US government military and government spokespersons, adopted mocking tones claiming the Taliban had conned the world's media into repeating its propaganda as fact.

The last week has proved that the Taliban's claim of having 2000 suicide bombers in reserve may not have simply been propaganda.

A remarkable confession from a former British ambassador to Washington on why the UK felt such an urgent need to join the United States in the War On Afghanistan, following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Prime Minister Tony Blair was afraid that if he didn't join the US, and the US went in alone, President Bush would have "nuked the shit" out of the Taliban dominated country :

Christopher Meyer said that fear explained why Prime Minister Tony Blair chose to stand with US President George W. Bush in his decision to invade Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- to temper his aggressive battle plans.

"Blair's real concern was that there would be quote unquote 'a knee-jerk reaction' by the Americans ... they would go thundering off and nuke the shit out of the place without thinking straight..."

Finally, David Ax, writing for, has an essential read : Anatomy Of A Suicide Bombing. It takes you through the process of how investigators piece together the trail that leads up to a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. It's a very important story, the kind that is rarely reported in the mainstream media, and Ax has done a remarkable job.

3 American Troops, Afghan Interpreter Killed By Roadside Bomb In Southern Afghanistan

US/NATO Air Strikes Killing Civilians Seriously Erode Afghan Goodwill Towards Coalition, Build Grassroots Support For Taliban-Al Qaeda

3 Canadian Soldiers, 5 Afghans Killed In Roadside Bombings In Southern Afghanistan

BBC : Can The War In Afghanistan Be Won?

The Iranian Influence In Afghanistan

The Misery Of Heroin In Afghanistan Spreads Amongst Poverty, Trauma, High Unemployment

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Go Here To Read The Poem 'American Sniper'

An excerpt :

I bled from my ears as I slept
and dreamed of home
dreamed I was home again
but I woke up here
it's still night
but almost dawn now
I need water
my throat is on fire
I need bullets
I need food
I need to see that helo
coming in through the dust storm
that fills the distant sky
I hold my knife, ready
I can hear them coming up
to get me
now they've cleared the bodies
and wounded from where the stairs
used to be
I can hear them coming
I can't stop them but
I can secure my zone of defence
they come onto the rooftop
my rooftop in Fallujah
there's so many of them

Read the whole poem here

Friday, June 15, 2007

Now US Intel Claims China Is Arming Terrorists In Iraq And Afghanistan, Via Iran

China, Russia Cop The Demonisation Treatment In American Mainstream Media

Monstrous Defence Budgets Always Require Monstrous Enemies

The fact that this story appears in "the Bush family's favourite newspaper", the Washington Times, doesn't make the claims that are raised factually true, or untrue. In reality, it's probably a bit of both.

But it does mean someone in the Pentagon, or the White House, wanted the so-called 'intelligence' on China arming terrorists who are trying to kill Americans to get out into the mainstream media, and to smack heavily onto the news desks of right-wing talkback radio and Fox News.

This is the latest chapter in the growing demonisation of China and her military plans fashioned for an American audience.

At the same time, Russia is also getting the demonisation treatment in the mainstream American media.

As the Bush administration loses further ground in Iraq, and it becomes all but impossible to claim that the troop "surge" is working, or needs more time to work, the media voices blaming Iran, Russia and China for America's problems in Iraq and Afghanistan will only get louder.

Such leaked 'intelligence' serves to not only fill news time and column inches that would otherwise be devoted to the horror of Iraq, or the ceaseless bad news about the Bush administration, but it creates a need in the minds of Americans that they must continue to spend stunning amounts of money on defence - an estimated $530 billion in the next twelve months alone.

That China, as one of the top five weapons and arms manufacturers in the world, is selling military product that eventually winds up in the hands of terrorists and insurgents is barely an issue at all.

The other key arms makers - Russia, France, the UK, Germany, Israel and the US - also sell their weapons of war in open markets across the planet that constantly infiltrated by middle men who see no problem selling weapons on to genocidal thugs in Africa, jihadist tribes in Afghanistan, or IED-planting insurgents in Iraq, and face little international restrictions when it comes to doing so.

The international sales and export of bombs, missiles and bullets and the means to deliver them into humans is the biggest legal industry in the world, worth more than a trillion dollars a year.

When it comes to filling the world with appallingly vicious weapons of war, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, who also happen to be the five biggest manufacturers of the weapons of war, are all as guilty as each other.

From the Washington Times :
New intelligence reveals China is covertly supplying large quantities of small arms and weapons to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, through Iran.

U.S. government appeals to China to check some of the arms shipments in advance were met with stonewalling by Beijing, which insisted it knew nothing about the shipments and asked for additional intelligence on the transfers. The ploy has been used in the past by China to hide its arms-proliferation activities from the United States, according to U.S. officials with access to the intelligence reports.

Some arms were sent by aircraft directly from Chinese factories to Afghanistan and included large-caliber sniper rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and components for roadside bombs, as well as other small arms.

The Washington Times reported June 5 that Chinese-made HN-5 anti-aircraft missiles were being used by the Taliban.

According to the officials, the Iranians, in buying the arms, asked Chinese state-run suppliers to expedite the transfers and to remove serial numbers to prevent tracing their origin. China, for its part, offered to transport the weapons in order to prevent the weapons from being interdicted.
But here's the disclaimer, the double-cover :
The Bush administration has been trying to hide or downplay the intelligence reports to protect its pro-business policies toward China, and to continue to claim that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism. U.S. officials have openly criticized Iran for the arms transfers but so far there has been no mention that China is a main supplier.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that the flow of Iranian arms to Afghanistan is "fairly substantial" and that it is likely taking place with the help of the Iranian government.

Defense officials are upset that Chinese weapons are being used to kill Americans. "Americans are being killed by Chinese-supplied weapons, with the full knowledge and understanding of Beijing where these weapons are going," one official said.

The arms shipments show that the idea that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism is "utter nonsense," the official said.
Behind the demonisation of China over allegedly supplying weapons to terrorists are a ream of vastly under-reported financial and business-related stories.

The US wants China to devalue its currency, and to help wind back attempts by Iran and Russia to cease pricing its oil and energy in Euros, or other non-US currencies.

Bush himself said that China, and other Asian nations, must encourage its citizens to stop saving so much of their money, and start spending it, preferably on American goods and services, or even better, on American stocks and bonds.

But of course, those stories are nowhere near as exciting, or instantly infuriating, as hearing that China is supplying weapons that terrorists use to kill American soldiers.

War may break out one day between China and the US, probably over the independence of Taiwan, as many have long predicted.

But the trade war between China and the United States is already well underway. As readers of the history of World War I well know, the trade war always begins a few years before the military war fires up.

US Prepared For "Worst" With China As Military Tensions Increase

China, US To Hold 4th Strategic Dialogue In Washingon

China Objects To US Playing Up "China Threat", Warns US Not To Interfere On Taiwan

China Wants To End US Naval Dominance Of The Pacific

China Rejects US Pressure On Currency

Chinese Yuan Hits Highs As Currency Showdown With US Looms

Five Permanent Members Of UN Security Council To Spend More Than $1 Trillion On Weapons
Somalis Want To See Return Of Islamists To Drive Out Ethiopian Troops And Warlords

Mogadishu Becomes More Like Baghdad Every Day

As widely predicted earlier this year, Somalia, and in particular the capital Mogadishu, are now becoming a little bit more like Iraq every day.

Roadside bombs tear apart the vehicles of government ministers and occupying military forces. Civilians are gunned down in the street by mercenaries and torn to pieces by suicide bombers trying to hit military targets. Food, water and electricity shortages are a daily reality. And thousands of locals are trying to get the hell out of their homeland.

Little wonder, then, that so many Somalis are looking back on those all too short months of 2005 when Islamists ruled the contry, and kept the warlords, the Ethiopians, and the international pirates and resource exploiters at bay.

From the UK Independent :

Local people, from teen-agers to elders, now talk of the brief period of rule by the Islamic Courts in wistful tones. For the first time in a generation, there was a level of security in the district that few had believed was possible. The various clan-based militias which terrorised the region, setting up checkpoints and settling disputes with guns, buried their arms.

Before the Courts' arrival, there had been nine roadblocks along the route from Marere to Kismaayo, a port town roughly 100 miles away. Controlled by individual militia groups, they demanded money from everyone who passed. Under the Courts, the roadblocks disappeared.

The effect was immediate. The price of food in Marere fell as traders travelling from Kismaayo no longer had to factor in the cost of roadblocks. The cost of travelling between Marere and Kismaayo also fell - from 100,000 shillings to just 30,000. One commodity increased in price: cigarettes. The Courts banned smoking, along with the chewing of khat, a mild narcotic popular throughout Somalia. The price of a packet of cigarettes rose from 6,000 shillings to 20,000. But strict conservative policies like this began to erode much of the UIC's popular support in Mogadishu.

With the demise of the Courts, the militias have dug up their weapons and the checkpoints and insecurity have returned. A vehicle belonging to Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) was shot at two weeks ago. MSF, which runs a hospital and feeding centre in Marere, was forced to evacuate its small team of expatriate staff.

"If the Islamic Courts came back, not just this area but the whole of Somalia will be safer," said Mohammed Abdullahi Gure, chairman of Marere elders' committee. "People used to fear the Islamic Courts. The government does not have the holy Koran so they do not fear them." The UIC's presence in Marere district was limited, but effective, Mr Gure said. A commander was appointed, based in the village of Gududey. He had just one technical - the souped-up 4x4s armed with machine guns - and a handful of soldiers, but few were prepared to risk committing a crime.

"There wasn't a militia man who would move with guns," said Mr Gure. "They feared because they were told the Islamic Courts forces would have the Holy Koran as their guide." Without the sharia law which the UIC imposed, Mr Gure and his committee of elders are unable to keep the peace. There is no system of justice in Marere. The men who shot at MSF were forced to write a letter apologising for their actions but they continue to live freely in the community.

The weak transitional government is now entering its sixth month based in Mogadishu but it is still struggling to assert its authority, reliant on the support of Ethiopian troops. In an Ethiopian-led offensive in April, up to 400,000 people fled the capital as the government attempted to pacify an insurgency.

Ethiopian And Somali Government Forces Come Under Attack In Mogadishu

Somalis Skeptical Of Peace 'Under Occupation'

UN Plans Peace Keeping Forces For Somalia

Nine Slain In Somali Blasts

The US War Of Terror Against Somalia Escalates

Somali Official Killed As Ethiopian Bases Hit By Explosive Attacks

May 2006 : US Hires Warlords To Fight 'Terror' In Somalia

June 2006 : Islamic Militants Take Mogadishu From US-Backed Warlords

April 2007 : Car Bombs Rock Mogadishu, 300 Killed In Seven Days Of Fighting
Sri Lanka : The War That Never Ends

4800 Killed In Since Late 2005

More Than 1000 Tamil Civilians Kidnapped, Killed, In 18 Months

While the Tamil Tigers independence movement continues to unleash its bloody, explosive war against Sri Lankan government forces, more than 1000 mainly Tamil civilians have been kidnapped, many killed, in the past 18 months.

Mano Ganesan, a Tamil MP, is in a potentially dangerous situation. He believes the Sri Lankan government is at least indirectly responsible for the waves of kidnappings, but while in Colombo, at least, he is sometimes reluctant to raise the issue.

Like many prominent Tamils, Ganesan is afraid of being kidnapped and killed himself. In a bizarre irony, he is 'protected' from becoming a victim of the shadowy forces he believes operates within the Sri Lankan government by a security detail.

But the security guards are provided by the very same government he believes is responsible for the terrorising kidnappings.

Excerpts from a story
in the New York Times follow, giving an overview of the Sri Lankan conflict, if you haven't been keeping track of what's going on over.

While the battle between the Tamil Tigers independence movement and Sri Lankan government military and special forces rarely gets the media coverage devoted to the conflicts in the Middle East, the fighting in Sri Lanka is certainly serious, and deadly enough.

At least 4800 fighters and civilians have been reportedly killed in less than two years, and today more than 15,000 people are waiting to flee their homeland by boat.

Excerpts from a report filed from Jaffna, featured in the New York Times :

At least 15,000 are waiting to get on government ships to the relative safety of Colombo, the capital.

This is Jaffna, the picturesque prize of Sri Lanka’s ethnic civil war, girding for a new storm. The army commander for the area, Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri, said he expected a major battle for Jaffna before the August monsoon.

No other place in Sri Lanka is so scarred because no place carries Jaffna’s special curse: it is the heart of the homeland that the Tamil Tigers have fought to carve out, and the trophy that soldiers and rebels have fought over for nearly 25 years.

A 2002 cease-fire, which had stanched the bloodshed for a time, has collapsed. For a year, fighting has spread across the island between the Sri Lankan military, dominated by the ethnic Sinhalese majority, and the separatist force called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

According to the Defense Ministry, more than 4,800 people, civilians and fighters, have been killed since December 2005. Though the number is not entirely reliable, it points to a significantly lethal period even by the standards of this long, ugly war.

It is likely to continue. Peace talks are nowhere on the horizon. Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Sri Lanka’s influential defense secretary, says the military is under instructions to eliminate the rebel leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and eradicate his organization once and for all.

“That’s our main aim, to destroy the leadership,” Mr. Rajapakse said in an interview in May. The job, he said, would take two to three years.

Pressure from abroad has done little to temper either side’s ambitions. The Tamil Tigers, banned in many countries, including the United States, upped the ante this spring by carrying out air raids with modified two-seater propeller planes. Britain and the United States, which extended a hand after the devastating tsunami of December 2004, have suspended aid.

The Tamil Tigers regularly deploy suicide bombers. Journalists, diplomats and aid workers face hostile scrutiny for any criticism of the security forces. On a Sunday morning in April, a young reporter for a Tamil-language newspaper in Jaffna was shot and killed as he rode his bicycle to work. In May, fliers appeared at Jaffna University, containing a hit list of people accused of being rebel sympathizers.

A new fear also stalks Jaffna, more ominous than any its people recall from the past: mysterious abductions usually carried out during the curfew hours. No one is quite sure who is being taken, for what reason, by whom. Sometimes, bodies turn up on the street. More often, they do not turn up at all.

The Human Rights Commission, a government agency, said it received 805 complaints of abductions in Jaffna from December 2005 to April 2007; the army says it is aware of 230 abductions.

June 4 : Tamil Tigers Attack Army Bases, 82 Killed

Tamil Tiger Propaganda Is Terrorism?

Heavy Fighting Continues In North And East Of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Navy Accused Of Killing Aid Worker

September 2006 : Dozens Of Soldiers Die In Sri Lanka Fighting, 200,000 Civilians Flee To Refugee Camps

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Global Arms Sales Hit More Than $1 Trillion In 2006

2007 Total To Be Even Higher

China, US, UK, Russia, France Are All Planning To Update Nuclear Arsenals

Not since the most intense and paranoid days of the Cold War has the world's nations spent so much money arming themselves, and each other.

The United States spent more than $528 billion dollars, and even Australia, with a population of some 21 million, spent more than $16 billion on defence, with more than $21 billion allotted for 2007-2008.

From UPI :
Worldwide military spending in 2006 reached levels unseen since the Cold War, with nearly half of all money spent by the United States, and China coming in at the No. 4 spot for the first time, according to a report compiled by a Sweden-based peace research institute.

Last year some $1.204 trillion was spent on military matters all over the world, according to a report released Monday by the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

That's a 37 percent increase in the last decade and the highest amount since 1988 -- a time when the Berlin Wall was an impossible hurdle for millions of East Germans and nuclear war was just a button push away.

The United States accounted for $528.7 billion, nearly half all money spent, SIPRI said, followed by Britain ($59 billion) and France ($53 billion).

The increase in U.S. military spending is mainly rooted in the costly missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ongoing war on terrorism, but those are not the only reasons, observers say.

"The United States has a global leadership demand, and the military expenditures reflect that," Sascha Lange, military expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told United Press International Tuesday in a telephone interview. "The American arms industry, with its many big firms responsible for a large amount of jobs, not only carries security importance, but also economic importance."

Some 40 U.S. firms accounted for 63 percent of the Top 100 arms sales worth a combined $290 billion in 2005.

"Parts of the U.S. arms industry have benefited substantially" from the policy decisions taken since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Elisabeth Skons and Eamon Surry concluded in their analysis of the arms production market.

Yes, that's why when the American stock markets opened five days after 9/11, the hottest stocks were anything related to defence or the military. And it wasn't just Raytheon and Haliburton that saw their stocks surge. Even companies that packaged ready-to-eat meals for deployed troops saw their value increase dramatically.

The defence industry knew the scale of the wars to come even before the twin towers imploded.

...for some observers, the most alarming military expenditure growth didn't happen in the United States or Europe, but in Asia.

Based on SIPRI's best estimates, China last year for the first time overtook Japan as Asia's biggest military spender and the world's fourth-biggest, with a budget of $50 billion. India ranked No. 3 in Asia, with $24 billion, and Russia spent an estimated $35 billion.

"The United States and the European Union countries continue to supply vast quantities of arms to the Middle East, despite the knowledge that it is a highly volatile region," SIPRI arms transfers expert Siemon Wezeman said.

All these weapons aren't just going to sit there. You have to use some of them up so there is a reason to make more. Nothing like a full scale global conflict to clean out the warehouses.

But the money isn't just being spent on stealth bombers and Humvees and joint striker fighters.

Incredibly, France, the UK, China, the US and Russia still hold more than 26,000 nuclear warheads between them, and according to the UPI story, all five are planning major new programs to update their arsenals.

Read The Full Story Here

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Gaza City Goes To Hell

27 Killed In Hamas Vs Fatah Clashes In 24 Hours

Syria Says Palestinians Are "Playing Into The Hands Of Israel"

Reality inside Gaza has become so warped that one 'terrorist' group, backed, armed and funded by Israel and the US, is warring against another 'terrorist' group that is actually the democratically elected government.

If what is happening today in Gaza is not civil war, it is something so close as to be all but indistinguishable.

More than 50 people have been killed in five days of fighting, mostly militants, with at least 27 killed in one day. Fatah and Hamas militants are gunning each other down in the street, raiding each others' homes, destroying each others' security compounds and taking each other hostage :

Hamas militants waged an assault on the three main security forces compounds in Gaza City on Wednesday, seizing control over most of the Gaza Strip, in clashes with the rival Fatah movement which left at least 27 people dead.
Hamas' armed wing said "the coup-seekers" - a reference to Fatah - in that area have until Friday evening to hand over their weapons.

Hamas' assault on Gaza City, the main city in the coastal strip, came hours after the key southern town of Khan Yunis fell to Hamas. The Islamic militants detonated a one-ton bomb underneath the Preventative Security headquarters there, nearly demolishing the building and killing at least one person, Palestinian security and medical officials said.
From ABC :

Hamas Islamist fighters have gained ground against forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in intense battles for control of the Gaza Strip.

Diplomats said a top aide to Mr Abbas told them that some of the president's men ran for their lives, others ran out of bullets and that after five days of battle "Gaza is lost".

As Hamas continued to press for control of Gaza, the Arab League tried to end the fighting between Hamas and Mr Abbas's more moderate Fatah faction.

Hamas forces took important ground in north and central Gaza as they pressed their attacks on Wednesday (local time).

With the machine guns and mortars of civil war echoing in Gaza City after dark, hospital officials tallied another 33 deaths over the day, including a teenager at a peace rally and schoolboy shot leaving an exam room.

But most of the dead were fighters from Abbas's secular Fatah faction and their Hamas rivals.

Forty members of the security forces, loyal to Fatah, blew a hole in the fence between Gaza and Egypt and fled the chaos. Another 300 members of a clan which is loyal to Fatah surrendered to Hamas in a refugee camp in Gaza city.

Civillians demanding an end to the chaos came under fire and two were killed. It was not immediately clear who shot at them.

The Arab League has scheduled a meeting this weekend in a bid to end the fighting.

Syria claimed the fighting factions in Gaza are "playing into the hands of the Israelis" and warned them to stop :
"Syria is watching with concern the confrontations between brothers, which only serve the interests of the enemies of the Palestinian cause and of the Arab nation,’ the foreign ministry said.

‘We exhort our Palestinian brothers to stop the violence, because the recovery of (their) rights and the achievement of national objectives come through national unity.

‘The building of an independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the guarantee that Palestinians will return to their homes can only be achieved by unity in the ranks against the Israeli occupation."

A 'secret' UN report,
written by Israel's highest ranking UN officials, condemns the United States for "pummelled into submission" moves by the United Nations to try and bring peace to the region. The report's chief complaints include the following :
* The international boycott of the Palestinians, introduced after Hamas won elections last year, was "at best extremely short-sighted" and had "devastating consequences" for the Palestinian people

* Israel has adopted an "essentially rejectionist" stance towards the Palestinians

* The Quartet of Middle East negotiators - the US, the EU, Russia and the UN - has become a "side-show"

* The Palestinian record of stopping violence against Israel is "patchy at best, reprehensible at worst"

Leaders Of Fatah And Hamas Both Survived Assassination Attempts

EU Will Consider Military Role In Gaza, If Asked

Palestinian Government On Brink Of Collapse

Secret UN Report Condemns United States For Middle East Failures

Bloody Battles Push Gaza Towards Civil War

Monday, June 11, 2007

US Military Plans Ready For War On Iran

Israel Media Mouthpieces Openly Lust For Attacks And Oil Blockade

Will President Bush deliver the War On Iran that he has long promised, and long been demanded of him?

This report from the Jerusalem Post all but says the War On Iran will be a reality within a year, and it will not just be Iran's nuclear energy facilities that will be targeted, but the oil exports that drive the development of China and supply more than one-fourth of the world's oil-derived energy :

Predicting that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon within three years and claiming to have a strike plan in place, senior American military officers have told The Jerusalem Post they support President George W. Bush's stance to do everything necessary to stop the Islamic Republic's race for nuclear power.

Bush has repeatedly said the United States would not allow Iran to "go nuclear."

A high-ranking American military officer told the Post that senior officers in the US armed forces had thrown their support behind Bush and believed that additional steps needed to be taken to stop Iran.

Predictions within the US military are that Bush will do what is needed to stop Teheran before he leaves office in 2009, including possibly launching a military strike against its nuclear facilities.

On Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said the US should consider a military strike against Iran over its support of Iraqi insurgents.

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," he said. "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."

According to a high-ranking American military officer, the US Navy and Air Force would play the primary roles in any military action taken against Iran. One idea under consideration is a naval blockade designed to cut off Iran's oil exports.

The officer said that if the US government or the UN Security Council decided on this course of action, the US Navy would most probably not block the Strait of Hormuz - a step that would definitely draw an Iranian military response - but would patrol farther out and turn away tankers on their way to load oil.

Does all this help explain why Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Peter Pace, who was publicly opposed to military action on Iran, was removed last week by President Bush? Was he tossed aside to clear the way for the War On Iran?

If you have any delusions that Russia or China will allow the US and/or Israel to not only attack Iran's nuclear facilities, but to blockade international oil supplies, then you have been watching too much Fox News.

Russia and China have both openly, and clearly, stated that they will not allow anybody to attack an ally of theirs as important as Iran, or to take action that would threaten the supply of oil to world markets.

What the JPost story fails to make clear is that an attack on Iran will place every single coalition soldier in Iraq in the direct path of an Iraq wide, Shia-led uprising.

Nor does it explain that such an oil blockade would drive per barrel prices beyond an estimated $150, smashing fragile economies across the world.

Joint US-Israel Military Exercises Underway

Israel Deputy Prime Minister Meets With US Officials, Announces Military Action Against Iran "On The Table"

If US Hits Iran Nuclear Plants, Iran Promises To Blitz The Gulf

Iranian President Says It's Too Late To Stop Nuclear Drive

Monday, June 04, 2007

"This Is Not A New Cold War" Or Is It?

Putin Warns US Over Missile Shield, Threatens To Target Europe With Nukes

Bush Panics, Says Missile Shield Is No Threat To Russia

As world leaders gather for in Germany for a G8 gathering, a remarkably explosive, and extremely public, feud has broken out between the United States and Russia over American plans to deploy missile batteries in Eastern Europe, close to Russia's borders :

President Vladimir Putin has sent a chilling message to world leaders...with a threat to aim Russian nuclear missiles at European cities for the first time since the Cold War.

In comments that seemed calculated to cause consternation and division at tomorrow's meeting in Germany, the Russian leader said that American plans to erect a missile defence shield in eastern Europe had left him with no choice but to retaliate.

"If the US nuclear potential extends across the European territory, we will get new targets in Europe," he said...

"It will then be up to our military experts to identify which targets will be aimed by ballistic missiles and which ones will be aimed by cruise missiles," he said.

It's not that the US 'missile shield' plan is extensive, or even poses a major military threat to Russia, being little more than a move to position 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, and covert a Cold War era bunker in the Czech Republic into a radar station, it is that Russia has warned the US extensively in the past 12 months that it will not tolerate American missiles close to its borders, and the United States is still pushing ahead with its plans.

Russia says the United States is trying to covertly position and then aim missiles at Russia, from just over the border, and this insolence will not stand. China nods quietly in agreement, and Iran grins happily, knowing it is safe for now, with Russia's barely reported promise of protection from attacks by the United States or Israel.

President Bush made a special effort, as he arrived in Europe, to address Putin's concerns ahead of the G8 meetings :

"My message will be: 'Vladimir - I call him Vladimir - you shouldn't fear a missile defence system. As a matter of fact, why don't you cooperate with us on a missile defence system?'" Mr Bush said.

"Russia is not the enemy...we can work together on common threats".

"The cold war is over, it has ended. The people of the Czech Republic don't have to choose between being a friend of Russia or a friend of the US. You can be both. I don't believe in a zero-sum world, I don't believe a country should be forced to choose."

In his remarks, Mr Bush reiterated that a missile defence system was designed for an attack from "rogue states".

"It is purely a defensive measure, not aimed at Russia but at true threats," said Mr Bush..

True threats? Yes, Iran and North Korea, and those mysterious 'rogue states'.

Bush won't say who the 'rogue states' are, or might turn out to be, and claiming that Iran and North Korea pose a strategic threat to the United States, or its allies, just makes the Russians laugh.

Russia grows in power and wealth by the day, locking up a huge percentage of natural gas supply and pipelines to European countries, cutting oil and nuclear energy deals with Iran, quietly expanding its military ties and military technology-sharing with China. All the while, the United States declines internationally, off the back of the Iraq War failure, and spreading dissent in the homeland.

Putin has made it very clear that it is not Russia who is making the kinds of moves that could lead to further destabilisation in Europe, or across the former Soviet states. It is the United States who has "started altering the strategic balance."

The United States has refused to abandon its 'missile shield' plans, and is expanding its vision of another shield array across south, and north, East Asia, including development deals with Japan and Australia.

Following are some examples of the recent Putin rhetoric on the American missile shield, as he clearly sees no need to be polite as President Bush has tried to be.

From The Australian :

"It is obvious that if part of the strategic nuclear potential of the US is located in Europe and will be threatening us, we will have to respond.

"This system of missile defence on one side and the absence of this system on the other... increases the possibility of unleashing a nuclear conflict."

He speculated that the US's real motive was to provoke Russia's retaliation and so "to avoid further closeness of Russia and Europe".

He called on "our American friends to rethink their decision" and warned that "we cannot be responsible for our reciprocal steps because it is not us who are initiating an arms race in Europe".

"We will need to establish such systems, which would be able to penetrate the (US) missile defence systems ... What kind of means will be used to hit the targets that our military believe are potential threats - ballistic missiles, or cruise missiles, or some kind of new weapons system?"

"We have brought all our heavy weapons beyond the Urals and reduced our military forces by 300,000. But what do we have in return?" he asked.

"We see that Eastern Europe is being filled with new equipment ... Unilateral disarmament of Russia is happening."

From the New York Times :

''We are being told the anti-missile defense system is targeted against something that does not exist. Doesn't it seem funny to you, to say the least?'' a clearly irritated Putin said.

''If a part of the strategic nuclear potential of the United States appears in Europe and, in the opinion of our military specialists will threaten us, then we will have to take appropriate steps in response,'' Putin said. ''What kind of steps? We will have to have new targets in Europe.''

These could be targeted with ''ballistic or cruise missiles or maybe a completely new system.''

US Secretary Of State, Condoleezza Rice
has warned Russia that the US-EU partnership cannot, and will not, be divided by Russia :

"The security of the United States and the security of European allies is indivisible," Dr Rice said on the margins of the Organisation of American States gathering here. "It doesn't really help anybody to start threatening Europeans."

Dr Rice said US officials "don't consider Russia an adversary and I hope they don't consider the United States an adversary".

"This is 2007 and not 1987," Dr Rice said. "This isn't the Soviet Union and we need to drop the rhetoric that sounds like what the United States and the Soviet Union used to say about each other, and realise that the United States and Russia are in a very different period."

Jason Burke, writing in the UK Observer, discusses the changing face of the former Soviet states, as they grow closer to America and Europe, much to the alleged chagrin of Russia, who would prefer to keep them close, and under the thumb :

The storm is large and potentially very dangerous. Locally, Russia is blamed for stoking riots in Tallinn last month in which one died and 153 were injured, for the roughing up of Estonian diplomats in Moscow and for a massive 'cyber-attack' on the infrastructure of the small Baltic state.

According to Andres Kasekamp, director of Tallinn's Foreign Policy Institute, the Russian government is mounting a deliberate attempt to destabilise former Soviet republics. 'This strategy is intensifying as Moscow's attitude to the US, the UK and the EU becomes more aggressive and assertive,' Kasekamp said.

'They are seeing how far they can push us, the European Union, Nato, the Americans, everybody.'

Some Estonians even fear Moscow may be searching for a casus belli. At the international level the Russian testing last week of an inter-continental ballistic missile led to an extraordinary diplomatic spat between the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice - who deplored Moscow's 'missile diplomacy' - and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attacked American 'imperialism'.

For the UK, already strained relations were put under new stress when the dispute with Moscow over the poisoning in London of Russian dissident and British citizen Alexander Litvinenko six months ago took another turn for the worse. Last week the prime suspect, whose extradition has been demanded by Britain and refused by Russia, surfaced on Wednesday in Moscow. Andrei Lugovoi told TV cameras that the British secret services were behind Litvinenko's murder.

Then there are profound disagreements over the future of Kosovo and policy on Iran, a row over the rights of major British commercial investors to parts of the massive Siberian gasfields, harassment of British officials and diplomats in Moscow, and a series of apparently state-encouraged propaganda pieces in the Russian media against the West. Analysts are talking of relations between Moscow and London being at a 25-year low.

'This is a delayed confrontation between the Soviet past and the European future,' Igor Grazin, an Estonian MP, told The Observer. And his country, home to 1.3 million, is in the middle.

For James Nixey, of Chatham House - the Royal Institute of International Affairs, based in London - Russia's recent broadside against Estonia is part of a wider vision of the region. 'It seems that Russia feels that those countries around it which are democratic and have liberal attitudes are a threat and those that are illiberal and autocratic are not,' he said last week.

Analysts and diplomats are working to decipher the logic behind Russia's hardening stance. The missile test last week was partly provoked by American plans to install an anti-missile defence system in Eastern Europe. 'The most explicit message from Moscow was that Russia is the main strategic partner for America,' said Thomas Gomart, of the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. 'It's a way of marginalising the Europeans and other emerging powers.'

Bush To Putin : Russia Is Not Our Enemy - "The Cold War Is Over"

Son Of 'Star Wars' No Threat To Russia's Nuclear Arsenal

Europe Shivering In Early Days Of New Cold War

In Your Face - Bush Drops In To Visit 'Missile Shield' Countries Before Attending G8 With Putin

Vladimir Putin's Anti-West Rhetoric Is Calculated Attempt To Re-Establish Russia As World Power

Putin : Look At US - Horror, torture, homelessness, Guantanamo, Detention Without Courts Or Investigation