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Stuxnet virus attacks Iran 23, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran.
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The BBC reports that ‘high value’ infrastructure in Iran has been targeted by one of the most sophisticated computer viruses ever created.  ‘Stuxnet’ is designed to infiltrate systems via-USB keys. Then it searches the internal system for preset industrial control software made by Siemens where it can – theoretically – give the system new commands relating to, say, the temperature of a power plant. Siemens, however, maintains that they have had no such involvement in Iran for 30 years.

Though it has been found across the world, the concentration of Stuxnet in Iran along with the staggering complexity of the virus has led some experts to maintain that it must have been made by a nation state.

The inference in the article is clear; that America is waging a technological battle of sorts in Iran. This make a change from the typical storylines of this genre which tell of Chinese hackers repeatedly attacking Western government and private companies to steal secrets. The Chinese threat reached such proportions that Mi5, Britain’s domestic security service, issues stark warnings to the Government and Private Companies about China’s potential capabilities.

Back-channel diplomacy for US & Iran in NY 23, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran.
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Haaretz reports that U.S. and Iranian diplomats met in New York and are seeking to establish covert lines of communication between the antagonistic states. They even suggest that these discussions may be as a prelude to the establishment of unofficial diplomatic relations.

Beck’s book review 20, September 2010

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Do we think that they have this there because they want to highlight the snide snippyness of Stewart? Alas I genuinely think that it’s a lovely mistake.

The US $60 billion Saudi arms deal 15, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Saudi Arabia.
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America is to sell around $60 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the largest deal of its kind in US history. 84 F-15 fighter jets; 70 Apache, 72 Black Hawk and 36 Little Bird helicopters; and upgrading up to 70 existing fighters are just some of the bits and pieces involved in the deal.

Ordinarily, such a deal would arouse significant angst and anger in Congress, fearing that such tech could one day be used against Israel. However, with the Iranian threat looming large – as far as America and in particular Congress and Israel are concerned – selling such high-tech weaponry to Saudi is seen as a good hedge.

Still, there are suggestions that the F-15s will not be fitted with the very latest technology, in deference to Israel. And Tel Aviv will, by the expected delivery times, have the more capable F-35s.

Gay Saudi diplomat seeks aslyum 15, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Saudi Arabia.
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A Saudi diplomat based in Los Angeles has sought asylum in America after it was revealed that he is gay.

If he returned to Saudi Arabia he claimed that he would be persecuted for homosexuality which is “frowned upon” by Wahhabi doctrine. Indeed, were he to return it is wholly feasible that he could be sentenced to death or flogged; it would depend on the whims of the local judge, no doubt coaxed along by religious opprobrium.

The Tea Party DC Guide 24, August 2010

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Blue: You can travel safely in this area without encountering immigrants, Africans, homosexuals, automatic weapons, or homosexuals with automatic weapons. If you avoid the Green and Yellow Metro lines. And buses. And coffee shops. And restaurants. And taxis

Red: You will encounter people in these areas who have never been to an Applebee’s in their lives. USE CAUTION. Especially if they try to talk Mexican at you.

This map is to help those patriotic hicks people off to see Sarah ‘just a Hockey Mom’ Palin and Glenn ‘I just love my country so damn much’ Beck in Washington D.C.

Before you think that this map is just some mean, snide, liberal attempt at mockery, this map is actually based on information given by a Tea Party supporter offering advice to those arriving in the Capital.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:

Safety and Mores

DC’s population includes refugees from every country, as the families of embassy staffs of third world countries tend to stay in DC whenever a revolution in their homeland means that anyone in their family would be in danger if they went back. Most taxi drivers and many waiters/waitresses (especially in local coffee shops like the Bread and Chocolate chain) are immigrants, frequently from east Africa or Arab countries. As a rule, African immigrants do not like for you to assume they are African Americans and especially do not like for you to guess they are from a neighboring country (e.g. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia) with whom they may have political or military tensions. It’s rare to meet anyone who gets really offended, but you can still be aware of the issue.

Many parts of DC are safe beyond the areas I will list here, but why chance it if you don’t know where you are?

If you are on the subway stay on the Red line between Union Station and Shady Grove, Maryland. If you are on the Blue or Orange line do not go past Eastern Market (Capitol Hill) toward the Potomac Avenue stop and beyond; stay in NW DC and points in Virginia. Do not use the Green line or the Yellow line. These rules are even more important at night. There is of course nothing wrong with many other areas; but you don’t know where you are, so you should not explore them.

Wikileaks founder charged with rape and molestation 21, August 2010

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Julian Assange, the founder of the controversial Wikileaks whistle-blowing website, has been charged in Sweden with rape and molestation. He has denied the charges.

Assange seems to be of a rather paranoid frame of mind, spending much of his time travelling from place to place, not wanting to be resident in any one place for too long. Though, given some of his recent revelations, perhaps this is not that bad an idea. CNN reports that he does spend a significant amount of time in Sweden thanks to their robust privacy laws.

His most recent 76,000 page release of secret documents pertaining to the Afghan War further aroused anger in America and elsewhere. Many people, charging that he is too cavalier with secret information that may cause harm, may well be happy to see this turn of events if it leads to the slowing down of such leaks in the future.

Bahrain: ‘US can’t attack Iran from Manama’ 21, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Bahrain.
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The Bahraini Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah, has stated that Bahrain will not allow America to use its military bases in Bahrain to attack Iran. He further stated that Bahrain’s military agreements with America were purely for defense.

The U.S have an enormous and expanding Naval Base south of Manama’s downtown. U.S. Naval Central Command and the 5th fleet is based there. There is also an airfield ran by the Navy at Bahrain’s International Airport.

Bahrain has a complicated history with Iran. Many Iranians believe that Bahrain is technically a province of Iran. Only in 1971 did Iran officially recognise the Al Khalifah as independent rulers of Bahrain in a quid pro quo for ‘understandings’ regarding the Abu Musa and Tunb islands that Iran subsequently took from the Emirates. Yet, sporadic statements emanate from Tehran reiterating their claims to the islands. Such instances terrify Bahrain and other smaller Gulf States. Iran dwarfs the smaller Gulf States in strategic terms. Only with their U.S. umbrella can they retain their independence.

This situation is worse for Bahrain with its Shia majority ruled by the Sunni minority. Insidious notions of Iranian or Shia 5th columnists acting as internal rebels perhaps along a Hezbollah model are of acute concern in Bahrain (and elsewhere in the Gulf). These fears are made worse by the slow but sure ending of Bahrain’s rentier bargain. With oil all but finished, the Manama government can not simply doll out welfare in all its numerous forms to, essentially, buy the acquiescence of groups in society, as the other Gulf States do as a matter of course.

America’s guarantees and the stationing of its forces in Bahrain are, therefore, central to Bahrain’s security. However, Bahrain and not America has to live with Iran but a few hundred kilometers across the Gulf. They can not employ the hard US line towards Iran; they must seek some kind of accommodationist, working relationship. This can also be very clearly seen with Qatar. Only yesterday, a press release emerged of the Qatari Foreign Minister in Tehran uttering the usual platitudes regarding Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme whilst visiting Ahmadinejad.

It is exactly the same for Bahrain here. They are well aware that the American presence in Bahrain antagonizes Iran quite seriously. Though they are not willing to countenance getting rid of this umbrella, they are willing to make such rhetorical concessions. By insisting that American troops are there for ‘defense’ purposes only and by saying that offensive strikes cannot be launched from Manama, they are simply trying to placate Iran; to make their day-to-day life easier.

Also, one must not forget that all politics is local; there are elections in Bahrain soon. Such a statement might resonate well with a significant minority in Bahrain who see Iran in a positive light.

In reality, it would seem to be an empty gesture. The notion that America’s Navy would not be involved were there to be a conflagration with Iran is unrealistic. Moreover, it would seem highly unlikely were there some kind of clause in the basing agreement dictating what America could and could not do with its forces.

Newt Gingrich’s Mussolini moment 19, August 2010

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Gingrich:
There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.

Mussolini:
There will be a mosque in Rome only when a Roman Catholic church is permitted in Mecca.

Hat tip: Comment Central

US combat troops leave Iraq 19, August 2010

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Anyone else reminded of…

(NB. This is not a photo of people being evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, as is commonly mistaken).