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Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

U.S. to send 1,400 extra troops to Afghanistan: report

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:13 am

The United States plans to send 1,400 additional Marines to Afghanistan to boost its combat forces ahead of the spring fighting season, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The United States, which led a 2001 invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban, has about 100,000 troops in the country, and President Barack Obama is under pressure to show results so he can begin a promised withdrawal this year.

A U.S. Marine patrols with a member of an Afghan border guard unit in the desert of the lower Helmand River valley, in southern Afghanistan in this July 1, 2009 file photo

“The Marine battalion could start arriving on the ground as early as mid-January. The forces would mostly be deployed in the south, around Kandahar, where the U.S. has concentrated troops over the past several months.” the paper said. It cited unnamed officials.

The Taliban are at their strongest since they were ousted form power, although operations against the insurgency have intensified since 2008. More than 700 foreign troops were killed in Afghanistan last year, and civilian casualties were at record levels.

Obama said last month that enough progress was being made in the campaign to meet his pledge to start withdrawing U.S. troops by July and hand over security to Afghan forces by 2014.

Source: SGGP

Vietnam welcoming third investment flow from the U.S

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

Vietnam welcoming third investment flow from the U.S

QĐND – Monday, December 20, 2010, 21:48 (GMT+7)

“Vietnam is expecting to have the third investment flow from the U.S.A. in the forthcoming time”, said Mrs Jocelyn Tran, Chairwoman of AmCham Vietnam.

According to Ms Tran, American businesses have been successful in doing business in Vietnam. Two-way trade between Vietnam and the U.S rose to around US$18 billion in 2010 from almost US$1 billion in the 1995-2000 period. Several large American companies such as Nike, MAST Industries and Target have made considerable contributions to this trend by increasing the volume of imported goods from Vietnam.

“I am confident to say that in the next ten years, the two countries’ trade turnover will reach US$35 billion and Vietnam will become one of the most important trading partners of the U.S.A. in ASEAN”, Ms Tran added.

However, at present only few big US manufactures are investing in Vietnam?

The U.S. investment in Vietnam can be divided into three main stages. The first stage is from 1995 to 2000, mostly in consumer goods to explore Vietnam’s market. The second stage started from 2001 to 2005 after the two countries had signed the bilateral trade agreement. The investment mostly came from foreign companies that cooperated with the American partners to build factories to manufacture textiles and garments, footwear and wooden furniture for export to the U.S.

The third investment flow, starting from 2006, came from the modern manufacturing industry with the construction of Intel Group’s assembling factory in Vietnam at the cost of  USD1 billion

During the first months of this year, 25 of the biggest companies in the U.S.A. in the list of top 500 Fortune companies with total turnover of around US$675 billion, set up their business in Vietnam, focusing on services,  energy, chemical and auto manufacturing.

Vietnam at present can attract foreign investment in modern manufacturing industries, however it should have more open policies in energy, transportation, telecommunications, retail trade and education.

Source: TTO

Translated by Vu Hung

Source: QDND

U.S. aircraft carrier heads for Korean waters

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 6:50 am

A U.S. aircraft carrier headed toward the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, a day after North Korea launched dozens of artillery shells on a South Korean island.

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington, which carries 75 warplanes and has a crew of over 6,000, left a naval base south of Tokyo on Wednesday morning and would join exercises with South Korea from Sunday to the following Wednesday, U.S. officials in Seoul said.

“This exercise is defensive in nature,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement. “While planned well before yesterday’s unprovoked artillery attack, it demonstrates the strength of the ROK (South Korea)-U.S. alliance and our commitment to regional stability through deterrence.”

China came under heavy pressure to rein in North Korea after its reclusive ally fired dozens of artillery shells at the South Korean island, killing two South Korean soldiers and setting houses ablaze in the heaviest attack on its neighbor since the Korean War ended in 1953.

President Barack Obama, woken up in the early hours to be told of the artillery strike, said he was outraged but declined to speculate on possible U.S. military action.

However, in a telephone call with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Obama pressed the North to stop its provocative actions.

The U.S.-led U.N. Command said it had asked North Korea for talks to try to reduce tension on the divided peninsula.

“We’re in a semi state of war,” South Korean coastguard Kim Dong-jin told Reuters in the port city of Incheon where many residents of Yeonpyeong island fled in panic as the bombardment triggered a fire storm.

The bombardment nagged at global markets, already unsettled by worries over Ireland’s debt problem and looking to invest in less risky markets.

But South Korea’s markets, after sharp falls, later started to rebound.

“If you look back at the last five years when we’ve had scares, they were all seen as buying opportunities. The rule among hedge funds and long-only funds is that you let the market sell off and watch for your entry point to get involved,” Todd Martin, Asia equity strategist with Society Generale in Hong Kong, said.

Despite the rhetoric, regional powers made clear they were looking for a diplomatic way to calm things down.

South Korea, its armed forces technically superior though about half the size of the North’s one-million-plus army, warned of “massive retaliation” if its neighbor attacked again.

But it was careful to avoid any immediate threat of retaliation which might spark an escalation of fighting across the Cold War’s last frontier.

“My house was burned to the ground,” said Cho Soon-ae, 47, who was among 170 or so evacuated from the island of Yeonpyeong on Thursday.

“We’ve lost everything. I don’t even have extra underwear,” she said weeping, holding on to her sixth-grade daughter, as she landed at the port of Incheon.

South Korea was conducting military drills in the area at the time but said it had not been firing at the North. It later said it would resume those drills once the situation stabilized.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on China, the impoverished North’s only powerful ally, to help rein in the hermit state.

China has long propped up the Pyongyang leadership, worried that a collapse of the North could bring instability to its own borders and also wary of a unified Korea that would be dominated by the United States, the key ally of the South.

In a clear prod to Beijing during a visit to the Chinese capital, U.S. North Korea envoy Stephen Bosworth said: “We call on all members of the international community to condemn the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) acts and to make clear that they expect the DPRK to cease all provocations and implement its denuclearization commitments.”

On Tuesday, Obama said he would urge China to tell Pyongyang “there are a set of international rules they must abide by.”

Beijing said it had agreed with the United States to try to restart talks among regional powers over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

A number of analysts suspect that Tuesday’s attack may have been an attempt by North Korean leader Kim jong-il to raise his bargaining position ahead of disarmament talks which he has used in the past to win concessions and aid from the outside world, in particular the United States.

“It’s Mr Kim’s old game to get some attention and some economic goodies,” said Lin Chong-pin, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei.

Several analysts believe the attacks may also have been driven by domestic politics, with the ailing Kim desperate to give a lift to his youngest son, named as heir apparent to the family dynasty in September but who has little clear support in the military.

Source: SGGP

Obama’s India Trip: What U.S. May Get in Return

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2010 at 6:51 am

Asia stocks edge up as U.S. data spurs dollar

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2010 at 7:20 am

Asian stocks edged higher on Thursday after solid corporate earnings, including from Toyota Motor and chipmaker UMC, and strong U.S. economic data that lifted the beaten-down dollar.

The upbeat U.S. reports on the services sector and private jobs eased some worries about a stumbling economic recovery and prompted Japanese government bonds (JGB) to pull back from Wednesday’s rally, when yields fell to a seven-year low.

Data from the Institute for Supply Management showed the services sector grew at a faster pace than expected in July. In a separate report, payroll-processing company ADP said private employers added more jobs in July than forecast.

A man looks at a display board showing stock market prices inside a brokerage in Taipei May 25, 2010.

Strong results from Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) boosted sentiment and propelled Japan’s benchmark Nikkei average (.N225) 1.2 percent higher, reversing much of Wednesday’s 2.1 percent drop when investors worried that a yen rally toward 15-year highs would hit exports.

Toyota climbed more than 3 percent before losing some steam after reporting its biggest operating profit in two years and lifting its forecasts.

In Taiwan, United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) (2303.TW), the world’s second-biggest contract chipmaker, lifted the market by reporting strong quarterly earnings and an increase in its 2010 capital spending plans.

Japan’s benchmark 10-year government bond yield rose from a 7-year low to above 1 percent, with bonds sold on profit-taking as Tokyo stocks recouped some of the ground they lost a day earlier and after the dollar rebounded against the yen.

The dollar rose to 86.29 yen from an eight-month low of 85.32 on Wednesday, moving away from the closely watched level of 84.81, a 15-year low for the dollar struck in November.

The dollar index (.DXY) edged up 0.1 percent to 80.983, putting it back above its 200-day moving average at 80.768. However, it still needs to get past 81.650 to break a bear trend of the past seven weeks. Otherwise, it risks falling to its April low of 80.031.

The optimism reflected in the U.S. data has offset to some extent expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve might take further steps into quantitative easing at its policy meeting next week, undermining safe-haven U.S. Treasuries and JGBs.

“So not only is the services sector – the vast bulk of most modern economies – expanding, it is doing so at a faster pace,” said Adam Carr, a senior economist at broker ICAP, referring to the U.S. data.

“Commodities are telling us that this global recovery has reasonable momentum,” he said, adding that iron ore prices had risen around 20 percent in the past month, while copper was up 16 percent and wheat 40 percent.

Commodity-linked currencies such as the Australian and Canadian dollars remained strong.

The Aussie hovered around three-month highs against the dollar and the dollar slipped to its lowest in six weeks against the Canadian currency.

On Thursday, the MSCI index of Asia Pacific ex-Japan stocks (.MIAPJ0000PUS) was up 0.1 percent, after rising 2.3 percent this week to a three-month high. Consumer staples (.MIAPJCS00PUS) and resources (.MIAPJMT00PUS) were the drivers.

“Investors are tempted to lock in profits as the market continues to renew 2010 highs this week,” said Kwon Byung-ryol, an analyst at Eugene Investment And Securities.

“But rising momentum remains intact and the market could rebound any time, because we have no firm data yet indicating the economy is set to slow down sharply.”

Aggressive bets are also coming off ahead of the U.S. jobs data on Friday with the government report expected to show a drop of 65,000 in July as Census jobs dried up.

Oil prices fell for a second straight day, moving toward $82 a barrel, crimped by the dollar’s strength and after U.S. stocks of gasoline and distillate fuels, including diesel, added to a string of gains

Source: SGGP

Divided Europe spreads contagion fears in U.S.

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 at 5:19 am

China holds door open a crack to U.S. on yuan

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 at 5:16 am

Beyond Times Square: Pakistani Terrorism Targets U.S.

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Not long ago, a bomb attack on New York City‘s Times Square would have had intelligence officials and terrorism experts checking off the usual suspects among the sources of terrorist plots against the U.S. – Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq. But these days, says a top counterterrorism official, “when I hear of a terrorist plot, I can count back from 10, and before I get to zero, someone will bring up the P word.”

That’s P for Pakistan.

Over the past couple of years, more plots against U.S. targets have emanated from or had a strong connection to Pakistan than any other country. Says the counterterrorism official, who was briefed on the hunt for the Times Square bomber but is not authorized to speak with the media: “It was totally predictable that the smoking Pathfinder would lead to someone with Pakistan in his past.”

Nor would it come as a surprise if it were revealed that Faisal Shahzad, who has claimed to investigators that he was working alone, was in fact linked to an ever lengthening list of extremist groups operating in Pakistan’s northern wilds. These groups, whose attacks had long been confined to the Indian subcontinent, are now emerging as a deadly threat to the U.S. and its allies. As the core of al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, wilts under the constant pounding from the CIA’s Predator drone campaign, Pakistani groups are mounting operations deep into the West.

A surveillance photo captured in Times Square shows a Nissan Pathfinder sports utility vehicle (R) containing a bomb in this New York Police Department image released to Reuters on May 2

Such groups as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have not yet notched major successes against U.S. targets to match Hizballah’s bombings in 1980s Lebanon or al-Qaeda’s destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. But they have lately mounted operations of great audacity and sophistication. LeT has been operating in Europe for at least a decade, initially raising funds from the large Pakistani diaspora in countries like Britain and France and later recruiting volunteers for the jihad against Western forces. At least one of the plotters of the 2005 London subway bombings was an LeT trainee, and British investigators believe the group has been connected to other plots in the U.K.

The TTP, which claimed credit for Shahzad’s failed bombing, was behind the suicide bombing that killed seven CIA agents in Afghanistan late last year. And in 2008, in the most spectacular attack by a Pakistani-based group on Western targets, LeT bombed and shot up a railway station, a hospital, two five-star hotels and a Jewish center in Mumbai, killing more than 160 people, including six Americans. Afterward, Indian authorities scanning a computer belonging to one of the Mumbai plotters found a list of 320 targets worldwide; only 20 were Indian.

Now, security officials fear, Pakistani jihadis are spreading their operations across the Atlantic, recruiting U.S. citizens to their cause just as Britons were recruited a decade ago. If that assessment proves accurate, the Times Square bomb plot could be the first of more to come.

An Evolving Threat
What are the wellsprings of Pakistani radicalism? In the 1980s, many fervently Islamic groups were set up in Pakistan to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, however, these groups and their spin-offs did not lay down their arms but instead turned their attention to Pakistan’s old enemy, India. Encouraged by Pakistani civilian, military and intelligence authorities, LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed and others refashioned themselves as freedom fighters in the cause of Kashmir, the Himalayan territory claimed by both India and Pakistan. Pakistani officials regarded the jihadis as a proxy in their conflict with India, and Islamabad provided groups like LeT with land, funding and even military training, though it was understood that they could not attack targets in Pakistan or get involved in any operations against the U.S., Pakistan’s ally. Though there was some low-key cooperation between the Pakistani groups and al-Qaeda, it didn’t merit much attention from Washington.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, however, the Bush Administration began to look more closely into bin Laden’s alliances. Washington pressured the Pakistani government of General Pervez Musharraf to crack down on LeT, Jaish and others, which by then were on the State Department’s list of proscribed terrorist organizations. But the government in Islamabad allowed the groups to continue operations – in December 2001, LeT attacked the Indian Parliament in an audacious move that nearly brought the two countries to war – with only cosmetic changes to their names. LeT, for instance, merged with its charitable foundation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.

Gradually, the Pakistani groups began to broaden their targets beyond the Indian enemy. LeT propaganda, for instance, began to focus on links, real and imagined, between India, Israel and the U.S. By the mid-2000s, the group’s leader, a former Islamic-studies professor named Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, began to call for a jihad against the West using language similar to those of the fatwas issued by bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders. LeT fighters began to venture out of their comfort zone, joining the fighting in Iraq.

At the same time, a new group of radicals, the TTP, had begun to emerge along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. While LeT, Jaish and other older groups were dominated by Pakistan’s majority Punjabi ethnic group, the TTP was overwhelmingly Pashtun, the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan. And the TTP never had any qualms about challenging the Pakistani state as well as NATO troops in Afghanistan. In 2007 its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, ordered the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and attacks on military targets; he also unleashed a wave of suicide bombings in Pakistani cities. While Pakistani authorities have continued to take a somewhat tolerant view of the Punjabi groups, their attitude toward the TTP is another matter. The army began to crack down on the group in 2008, and in the summer of 2009, a CIA drone took out Baitullah Mehsud. His successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was thought to have been killed in another drone strike in January, but he re-emerged last week to claim responsibility for the Times Square attack.

Militants in Our Midst
How plausible is that? U.S. officials were initially dismissive of the TTP’s claims but began to reconsider once it emerged that Shahzad had been trained in bombmaking at a camp in Waziristan, which is Mehsud’s stronghold. There is no doubt that the TTP and other Pakistani groups are now recruiting among Americans. Last October, the FBI arrested a Pakistani American, David Coleman Headley, and a Pakistani Canadian associate, for plotting to attack the Copenhagen offices of a Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. More shockingly, the FBI said that Headley had been involved in the Mumbai attacks too (he had scoped out the hotels and the Jewish center for LeT) and was planning to bomb the U.S., British and Indian embassies in Dhaka, Bangladesh, before local authorities discovered the plot. In March, Headley pleaded guilty to all charges; he is now waiting to be sentenced.

The Headley revelations alarmed the Obama Administration’s security team. In January, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s top counterterrorism official, said in a speech to the Cato Institute in Washington that “very few things worry me as much as the strength and ambition of LeT.” The next month, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that LeT was “becoming more of a direct threat … placing Western targets in Europe in its sights.”

The TTP is certainly doing so. In 2008, it plotted to bomb the public-transport network in Barcelona, though the operation was busted before it got much beyond the planning phase. If Shahzad was indeed acting on Mehsud’s instructions, then the TTP has come closer to successfully executing a large-scale operation on American soil than any group has since Sept. 11, 2001.

Exporting Jihad
It’s fair to say that many analysts remain skeptical of the ability of a group like the TTP to operate outside Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mehsud lacks the kinds of networks cultivated by the Punjabi groups among Pakistanis living in the West. The TTP’s fighters also tend to be poor, unsophisticated peasants from the mountains, ill equipped for foreign assignments. Besides, Mehsud and his fighters now find themselves under attack from the air (the CIA drones) as well as on the ground (the Pakistani military) and may not have the freedom to think big. They’re much more likely to seek U.S. targets close at hand: in April, the TTP attacked the U.S. consulate in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

But the TTP is working on ways to export terrorism. The group’s training camps in Waziristan are a magnet for Western jihadis, including U.S. citizens. Once trained, some return home and become executors of the TTP’s global ambitions. It’s likely that the camps attended by both Najibullah Zazi, who confessed to planning attacks on the New York subway system last year, and Shahzad, the alleged Times Square bomber, were run by the TTP. Others will no doubt follow in their footsteps. Ashley Tellis, a South Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says there’s no reason to doubt Mehsud’s determination to mount attacks in the U.S. “His group has taken very big hits from the drone campaign,” he says. “He’s looking for payback. We have to watch the TTP very carefully.”

LeT has the same intent but much greater capabilities. It has larger international networks and access to more sophisticated urban and educated recruits – people like Headley, who can move freely in American society. Its foreign operations tend to be better planned, often in collaboration with other groups, like al-Qaeda and Jaish.

Perhaps LeT’s greatest strength is the patronage it continues to receive from the Pakistani military and intelligence services. And it enjoys genuine popularity in large parts of the country, where it offers social services that the government cannot provide. After the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, LeT volunteers were often the first to arrive on the scene and provide valuable assistance. Like Hizballah in Lebanon, LeT and other Punjabi jihadist groups wield a combination of military and political power that makes them practically untouchable.

How can the Pakistani groups be combatted? Bruce Riedel, a counterterrorism expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, says the Administration’s best bet is to launch a “global takedown” of Pakistani jihadi cells outside Pakistan, especially in Britain, the U.S. and the Middle East. “These external bases are the most threatening to us, much more than their operations in Pakistan,” he says. As British authorities – who have had more experience with this challenge than those in the U.S. – know very well, such a takedown involves long, hard work by a host of law-enforcement agencies. And while the good guys are increasing their capabilities and understanding of the threats facing them, so are the bad guys. The Times Square bomb plot didn’t go as planned. But as Riedel says, “We can’t rely on them to be bad bombmakers forever.”

Source: SGGP

How U.S. weapons technology is finding its way to Iran

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 at 10:27 am

The shadow war between the U.S. and Iran was briefly visible this week at an extradition hearing in a Paris courtroom, where an Iranian engineer was answering U.S. charges that he’d illegally shipped U.S. technology to Iran .

French authorities detained Majid Kakavand , 37, at the request of the U.S., as he stepped off a plane last year. On Wednesday he got a big boost when a French state prosecutor unexpectedly argued that the technology he allegedly shipped through his global procurement network had no military application.

Whether France extradites Kakavand or doesn’t, as now seems more likely, this was the latest round in an escalating contest over what U.S. officials say is Tehran’s voracious appetite for technology to feed its nuclear, missile and other military programs.

While diplomats dither about imposing new U.N. sanctions on Tehran because of its suspected nuclear weapons program, the real struggle over Iran’s capabilities is taking place in courtrooms and intelligence centers, via sting operations, front companies and falsified shipping documents.

In the last year alone, U.S. law enforcement and customs officials have uncovered at least 16 cases in which Iranians or their agents allegedly tried to buy night vision equipment, military aircraft parts, vacuum pumps with nuclear uses, and a lot more.

The U.S. counterattack has gone well beyond U.S. borders, provoking controversy and complications.

Suspects have been arrested and extradited from the country of Georgia and, just three weeks ago, from Hong Kong . A former Iranian ambassador to Jordan , nabbed in a U.S. sting operation, is fighting extradition from the United Kingdom .

Iran is fighting back. In December, state media released a list of 11 Iranians it said were being improperly detained, either in the U.S. or in other countries at U.S. request.

Kakavand was on the list, as was Nasrollah Tajik, the former ambassador to Jordan . Also listed was Shahram Amiri , an Iranian nuclear scientist who disappeared in Saudi Arabia last year and was reported by ABC News to have defected to the U.S.

Manoucher Mottaki, the foreign minister, called Kakavand earlier this month to offer encouragement. The call fueled suspicions that if France releases him, Iran will free Clotilde Reiss , a young Frenchwoman who was detained after Iran’s disputed July 2009 elections.

U.S. officials say Iran has also responded by trying better to cover its tracks.

Proliferation networks “are becoming increasingly more sophisticated — laying out a smoke trail, really,” said special agent Clark Settles , the chief of counter-proliferation investigations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement .

“They’ve added more middlemen” to hide the true destinations of shipments of U.S. technology, and have become more proficient at forging documents and falsifying export licenses, Settles said.

The U.S. effort also has gotten a lot more aggressive, said David Albright , the president of the private Institute for Science and International Security and the author of a new book on illicit nuclear trade.

“I think it’s hurting them. You can see in some cases, they get pretty desperate,” Albright said.

Iran is dependent on foreign technology to expand its uranium enrichment efforts, which U.S. and European intelligence agencies say is aimed at acquiring enough fissile material to make a nuclear weapon.

“They want to get 20,000 centrifuges” for enrichment, Albright said. “They’re constantly needing to go out and buy things. . . . You hurt them on the build-up.”

Iran is using U.S. technology for non-nuclear applications, as well to harm Americans, law enforcement officials and analysts say.

Sophisticated roadside bombs, thought to have been assembled in Iran , have been discovered in Iraq and Afghanistan containing electronics whose serial numbers trace them back to the U.S., they say.

At ISIS’ Washington offices, Albright pointed to a picture of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touring one of Iran’s nuclear sites. Also in the photograph is a pressure transducer, which can be used to measure pressure inside a centrifuge that’s enriching uranium — almost certainly of U.S. origin.

Steven Pelak , a senior Justice Department official said recently that there was a more than 30 percent increase in criminal defendants between late 2006 and late 2007. Most cases are focused on Iran and China , said Pelak, who coordinates an inter-agency export enforcement task force. He said there are more than a dozen open investigations into illegal proliferation networks.

Despite a near-total U.S. ban on trade with Iran and significant restrictions in Europe , a lot apparently gets through.

“Cases lead to other cases. Every time we’ve taken down one of these networks, we literally found hundreds of leads,” said Settles, the ICE special agent.

The U.S. last year acquired an extensive “electronic Rolodex” as part of a plea bargain with the owner of a Dutch aviation services firm, who with his son was charged with transshipping U.S. goods to Iran . Robert Kraaipoel and his son came voluntarily to the U.S., because after charges against them were made public, no Western banks would hold their money, throttling business.

U.S. customs agents also have lured Iranian front men to third countries that have extradition treaties with the U.S., and later brought them to U.S. jails.

Pelak disputed that the U.S. government is trying to enforce its laws overseas. He said suspects are using U.S. financial institutions, buying American technology and often causing U.S. companies to file false export certificates, unwittingly he said.

Kakavand was supposed to be a case in point. Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California charge that he and his associates set up a firm, Evertop Services, in Malaysia , and used it to buy at least 30 shipments of U.S.-made electronics worth more than $1 million . Once in Malaysia , they were shipped to Iran via Iran Air , the state-controlled airline.

E-mails from Evertop show the company’s customers included Iran Electronics Industry and Iran Communications Industries , entities that supply Iran’s military.

Kakavand’s attorney in Paris , Diane Francois , told McClatchy that the Iranian dealt with “no arms or dual-use (items), period.” Because he didn’t break French law, he shouldn’t be extradited, she said.

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing, said the real issue is that the two Iranian entities were designated for their involvement in Iran’s nuclear missile programs by the U.S. and one, IEI, by the European Union .

“These facilities don’t make toys,” he said.

The case helped prompt Malaysia , long seen as transit point for goods to Iran , to adopt an export control law in time for President Barack Obama‘s nuclear security summit this week.

A ruling on Kakavand’s extradition is expected May 5 .

Source: SGGP

Russia may supply Soviet-era engines for U.S. space rockets

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 at 10:54 am

Russia could soon sign a contract with a U.S. space company on the delivery of Soviet-era rocket boosters in support of the development of the Taurus II space launch vehicle, a Russian newspaper said on Wednesday.

US space rocket Ares I-X

A series of NK-33 rocket engine tests were successfully completed in early March by Russia’s United Engine Corporation/SNTK in Samara. The basic NK-33 engine was originally designed and produced in Russia in late 1960s for the Russian N1 lunar launch vehicle.

The Vedomosti newspaper cited SNTK executive director Nikolai Nikitin as saying that details of a future delivery contract are being discussed with its U.S. partners, Aerojet and Orbital. He did not disclose the value of the deal.

“Aerojet bought about 40 NK-33 engines in mid-1990s, paying $1 million for each unit. The U.S. company has 30 engines at present and will need 20 for 10 launches to the International Space Station,” Nikitin said.

“The price for newly delivered engines should be much higher,” he said, adding that comparable RD-180 space engines are sold to the U.S. by Russia’s Energomash company for $6 million.

The Taurus II launch vehicle is still in development by Orbital, but the company already has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA for eight cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2011 through 2015.

Aerojet purchased approximately 40 of the NK-33 engines in the mid-1990s and, under contract with Orbital. The company is currently modifying the engines specifically for the first stage of the Taurus II launcher.

Ron Grabe, Orbital’s executive vice president and general manager of its launch systems group, said after the tests that the success of the NK-33 engine tests in Russia was an important step forward in the development of the Taurus II.

According to estimates, the U.S. companies will need more than 70 NK-33 engines in 2016-2020.

Nikitin said SNTK has about 40 engines in storage but would have to restart production if the U.S. contract is signed.

The resumption of production would cost the company about 4 billion rubles (over $135 million), the official said.

The NK-33 engine has the highest thrust-to-weight ratio of any first-stage rocket engine, and is considered by most characteristics the highest performance rocket engine ever created.

Source: SGGP