John Negroponte has been named by Bush to be the first Director of National Intelligence, a post created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act, recommended by the 9-11 Commission and signed into law in December. If confirmed by the Senate, Negroponte will oversee some 15 agencies, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, Homeland Security Dept., etc. (LAT, Feb. 17)
Two weeks ago, WW4 Report cited a little-noted UPI story that the US Air Force has already started flying misions over Iran, to "grid" the country's military and industrial infrastructure for bombing raids. Today comes a report from Israel's Haaretz that bombing may have already begun—even if by accident. "A powerful explosion was heard this morning on the outskirts of Dailam in the Bushehr province. Witnesses said that the missile was fired from an unknown plane 20 km from the city," Iran's Arabic language Al-Alam said. Ominously, the site of the explosion was just 180 kilometers from the Bushehr nuclear reactor, Iran's first, built with Russian assistance. No immediate accusation of a US attack was made, and a spokesman for Iran's Interior Ministry even raised the possibility of "friendly fire"—that an Iranian plane could have accidentally dropped a fuel tank. US officials were circumspect. "We've seen the reports and we're looking into it," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
In a case being compared to that of Chico Mendes, the Amazon defender killed in 1988, US missionary Sister Dorothy Stang was shot dead by unknown assailants at a remote jungle settlement near Anapu in the Brazilian state of Para Feb. 12. Stang, 74, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, had been a campaigner for human rights and forest protection in the Amazon for three decades, and had reported receiving numerous death threats from land speculators and cattle barons.
Pakistan's restive province of Baluchistan was hit with devastating floods when torrential rains burst the Shadikor Dam near Pasni, sweeping people, homes and livestock into the Arabian Sea. A smaller dam also burst elsewhere in the province, while landslides also claimed casualties in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The confirmed death toll has reached 360, with 1,500 more missing. (The Scotsman, Feb. 14)
The current White House drive for intervention against Iran may actually have more to do with strategic control of oil and gas resources than Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Pakistan's Daily Times reports Feb. 11 that at the Third Asia Gas Buyers' Summit about to commence in New Delhi, India hopes conclude a deal with Iran to build a new pipeline to import natural gas. Tehran and Delhi are said to be waiting for approval from Islamabad for the pipeline to cross Pakistan's territory. Significantly, the article also said that India's Petroleum Ministry is "looking at the feasibility of bringing a pipeline from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan."
The crushing of a rally for the restoration of democracy in Nepal Feb. 10 rated a tiny blurb of wire copy on page 10 of the next day's NY Times. Meanwhile, the crisis in the Himalayan kingdom rapidly deepens. Security forces are hunting down the 150 inmates liberated from a prison in an attack by Maoist rebels, and pledge to break up road blockades the guerillas intend to launch throughout the country to resist the state of emergency. Concerned about reports of detention of political leaders, rights activists and journalists, Amnesty International is sending a special high-level team to Kathmandu, led by the group's secretary general Irene Khan. (Indo-Asian News Service, Feb. 11)
The first public protest for restoration of democracy in Nepal since King Gyanendra suspended civil government Feb. 1 was predictably shut down by police Feb. 10, as 12 members of the Human Rights and Peace Society were arrested upon arriving at the gathering point. As the detainees were hustled into vans, police set up a cordon around the rally site to prevent other activists from gathering.
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel responded angrily to charges by US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roger Noriega that his government's new arms deal with Russia is intended for trafficking to Colombian guerillas. "Venezuela is a sovereign country," Rangel said. "We are only accountable to Venezuelans and the country's institutions," adding that the arms are intended only for "purposes of national defense" and accusing the State Department of "provocations." The State Department expressed concerns about Venezuela's deal to buy 100,000 AK-47 rifles and several military helicopters from Russia. (Venezuelanalysis, Feb. 8)