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Israeli Assessment of the Nuclear Deal with Iran

Nuclear deal’s aftermath || Obama’s problem, Saudi Arabia’s concerns and Israel’s new goals

The bad news: The struggle over the Iran deal has poisoned Israel’s relationship with the U.S. The good news: Tehran will be forced to reduce its involvement in terror activities.




By Amos Harel |

1. Iran

Almost a week after the signing in Geneva of the interim agreement between the P5+1 − the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany − and Iran concerning Tehran’s nuclear project, many unknowns remain. Not only are the arguments about the quality of the agreement continuing; the meaning of the accord’s actual details remains steeped in controversy. On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said, in response to journalists’ questions, that some “technical details” have yet to be finalized. The statement followed Iran’s accusation that Washington was putting out misleading information about the full text of the agreement. In other words, negotiations over what was supposed to have been agreed upon in the negotiations are likely to continue.

The interim accord is meant to be in force for a six-month period, during which the sides will formulate the final agreement, but the countdown has yet to begin. In the meantime, then, Iran is apparently not hemmed in by the concessions it took upon itself undertook in the interim agreement.

The American admission about the technical details did not surprise Israelis who followed earlier rounds of talks between Iran and the powers, dating back to the talks with the European troika a decade or so ago. In this case, the cultural cliche looks to be accurate: This is classic Iran. The Iranians are indeed skilled at conducting long and wearying negotiations. Many times, the agreements reached serve them only as a point of departure for renewed bargaining.

Contrary to the hopes of the Israeli leadership, Tehran did not come crawling to Geneva, and Tehran also apparently did not forgo the basic principles with which it came to the negotiations. The nuclear project has been slowed, but the Iranians can view the agreement as de facto recognition by the international community of their right to enrich uranium. They have already made significant advances in many areas, even if the pace of development was not as rapid as predicted in the pessimistic forecasts of Western intelligence in the past two decades. The uranium stocks already in Iran’s possession would allow it to make a “leap forward” and complete the enrichment to a high − military − level within a few short months, if the decision is made to do that.

Iran’s missiles continue to threaten a large number of countries, including Israel, and many experts now think that the time needed by Iran to produce a nuclear warhead for those missiles has was considerably shortened in recent years. At present, given that global opposition to the further continuation of the nuclear project had put the survival of the regime in immediate danger − and this is always the regime’s primary consideration − Tehran has decided to compromise. The economic damage, and even moreso, the growing frustration of the Iranian public, dictated the compromise in Geneva, but it looks like one the ayatollahs can live with.

None of this would have been accomplished with a somewhat loopy lightning rod like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad out front. But with the moderate Hassan Rohani elected president, and with Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif, a graduate of academic studies in the United States, as Tehran’s delegate to the talks, the result was very different. The way the Iranian delegation in Geneva comported itself, including its behavior with the foreign media, reflected a self-confident return to the fold of the international community. At times, it seemed as though the West was longing for a hug from Iran; it was Israeli sourness and suspicion about the agreement that were greeted with hostility.

The Iranian leadership is now apparently following a sagacious and relatively cautious path. The interim agreement is not likely to prevent Tehran from charging ahead with the manufacturing of a nuclear weapon, if a convenient opportunity should arise while the West’s attention is directed elsewhere. At the moment, Iran sees itself as a nuclear threshold state, which has stopped on that threshold for reasons of its own. The world’s powers − and the neighboring states − will have to acknowledge that fact.

Iran can chalk up another strategic accomplishment, namely, that its intervention in the Syrian civil war (especially the decision to dispatch Hezbollah forces from Lebanon to the campaign) has helped save President Bashar Assad’s regime, at least for now. This is the approach of a country that views itself as a regional power possessing all-embracing interests across the Middle East. The nuclear accord has already spawned an invitation to Tehran to take part in shaping Syria’s future in another conference planned for Geneva, this time in an effort to end the civil war. On the other hand, the renewed honeymoon with the West might compel Tehran to reduce somewhat its involvement in terrorist activity, particularly its cooperation with Hezbollah in attacking Israeli targets abroad.

Do the successes recorded by Tehran in the past few weeks guarantee the regime’s long-term survival? That is far from certain. If there is one thing the upheavals in the Arab world over the past three years have shown us, it is never to say never in this part of the world.

2. United States

A large disparity exists between the perception of the interim accord in Washington and the reactions in the Middle East. Though the hawkish wing of the Republican Party (at least among those in it who bother themselves about foreign policy) and Israel’s friends in Congress were critical of the way the Obama administration handled itself, the White House and the State Department view the agreement as an achievement. It follows hard on the last-minute agreement reached in August with Russia, which forestalled an American attack in Syria when the Assad regime agreed to dismantle its chemical weapons stocks.

The Geneva agreement, like the Syrian compromise before it, after President Barack Obama threatened to attack Syria in reaction to the regime’s killing of 1,500 civilians in a chemical weapons attack, reinforces the administration’s preference for diplomacy and agreements over the use of massive military force. In the past decade, the United States brought advanced technology and vast destructive might into play in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, yet concluded them with disappointing strategic results. Now it is looking for new methods: from the use of soft power − diplomatic and economic − to cyber warfare and under-the-radar sabotage.

This approach dovetails with two other aspects of administration policy. The first, about which much has been written, involves a shift of the strategic emphasis in terms of economic interests, toward the rising economies of East Asia. America’s diminishing dependence on Middle Eastern oil, together with growing disgust at the chaos in the Arab world (as well as with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) add another incentive.

The second element concerns Washington’s efforts to find a point of equilibrium between the rival blocs in the Muslim world. In the past few years, Israel expected Washington to strengthen the moderate Sunni bloc, which includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states, against the Iranian-led Shiite bloc. However, the Americans are probably no longer dividing the region in black-and-white terms of bad guys and good guys. The hand that was proffered cautiously to Iran reflects a desire to at least leave channels of communication open with the countries of what Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, termed the “axis of evil.” Related to this is the fact that, as reported in the media, Washington and Tehran held secret talks for the past year, mediated by Oman.

Two and a half years ago, President Obama’s advisers explained that the president had adopted a policy of “leading from behind” (in connection with the toppling of the Gadhafi regime in Libya). That coinage continues to haunt Obama. The Saudis and the Egyptians, like the Israelis, were appalled at the idea of “leading from behind.” They interpreted the term as referring to preparation for a gradual American withdrawal from the Middle East, and as an expression of the administration’s disinclination to continue to bring military might to bear in the region.

Obama’s principal problem after the Geneva agreement, as analysts at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy observed perceptively in a series of publications issued this week, is the lack of trust emanating from friendly states about his ability to implement his declarations. The Sunni capitals recall Washington’s ignominiously quick abandonment of the Mubarak regime in January 2011, the hemming and hawing about whether to recognize the generals who seized power in Cairo last July and the pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan.

3. Saudi Arabia

The Sunni states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, are worried not only by the American pullout from the region but also by the rise of Iranian hegemony. Concerns about Tehran are not confined to its nuclear aspirations. The Gulf states are observing with trepidation the extensive terrorist activity being conducted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds (Jerusalem) Force and Tehran’s increasing involvement in blood-drenched conflicts between Sunnis and Shi’ites across the region, epitomized by its activity in the Syrian civil war.

The statement issued by Riyadh welcoming the signing of the Geneva agreement sounded skeptical and constrained. Notable was the comment that the agreement stirs hope, “if there are good intentions.” Senior Saudi officials, briefing journalists and think-tank analysts in the West, made it clear that if their country was not convinced that the agreement would put a stop to Iran’s project, it would consider acquiring nuclear weapons for itself as a counterweight to the Iranians’ might. Those sentiments support the surprising alliance of interests that has recently been tightened between Israel and the Gulf states − though this should not be taken for more that it is. The alliance will dissolve the moment Saudi Arabia actually moves to acquire nuclear weapons of its own − which Israel will view as a potential threat. The closest ties Israel can aspire to are with the moderate regimes in the two countries with which it already has peace treaties, Jordan and Egypt, and even then on condition that the current regimes remain in place.

4. Israel

The view from Jerusalem is that the Geneva agreement constitutes another sharp turn in the kaleidoscopic whirl of events over the past three years. It follows a wave of previous upheavals, from the fall of Mubarak to the agreement to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stock. But what the Israeli leadership finds most difficult to digest is that Jerusalem is no longer at the center of the target, for better or for worse. Just as Israel was never the only target of the Iranian nuclear project, so too it has only a secondary role in the world effort to scuttle the project. The agreement is neither a gift from heaven nor the end of the world. It is what it is. A vital pause has been achieved, which appears to make possible more intensive handling of the problem and offer a prospect of achieving a permanent settlement that will reduce the scale of the threat to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has good reason to be angry at President Obama. He was furious when he discovered, many months ago, the secret channel that the Americans had opened with Tehran. Political coordination between the United States and Israel on the Iranian question has been wobbly since Thomas Donilon resigned as head of the National Security Council in Washington this past June. It’s also true that the Americans, after masterminding the international sanctions, screwed up at the very end and returned from Geneva with a flawed agreement. The view of Israeli observers was that at the last minute, the United States took fright at itself, and became fearful of a war that the Iranians should have feared. Nevertheless, this is the right moment for Israel to disabuse itself of its grand illusions. Israel is working against its own interests by squabbling publicly with the Americans. Substantive criticism is something different from the present toxic atmosphere.

The Iranian campaign is not yet done with. The decisive stage will be that of the negotiations on the final agreement, which are supposed to get underway now. This is not a zero-sum situation. Israel needs to calibrate its desired goal in the final agreement and do its best to achieve what it wants, in coordination with the Americans and the Europeans. Critical issues exist on which a good result can be achieved further down the line, such as ensuring tighter supervision of the nuclear facilities, developing intelligence gathering and analysis capability that is coordinated with the Western states, and attempting to “roll back” as far as possible the final level Iranian capability will be allowed to reach in the final agreement. It is also very important to prepare a coordinated move with the United States on the rapid imposition of new sanctions, should it turn out that the Iranians are deceiving the international community, bringing about the agreement’s collapse. All this will be possible only if Israel stops its public blasting of the United States. Netanyahu’s repeated assertion that the agreement is bad, bad, bad could leave him in the position of the man of yesterday. The prime minister has remained in the consciousness of Israelis − going back to his stint as UN ambassador almost 30 years ago − as one who warns against anticipated threats. Back then, in the 1980s, his favorite themes were the danger of international terrorism and the Soviet Union’s abuse of the Jews there. Over the years, a large number of Israeli voters became convinced that Netanyahu is the right person to protect them from the multiple range of threats that exist in this very unfriendly neighborhood. In the meantime, though, the dangers have changed. In this round, in the face of a sophisticated and determined adversary like Iran, the winning blend of brilliant speeches, Holocaust evocations and brandishing the long-range prowess of the air force will not be enough.


Read more here


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#India – A farce in Koodankulam during PM’s visit to Russia

A farce of connecting the reactors to the grid was played out in Koodankulam this week to make the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Russia less embarrassing. But the reactor tripped within hours, highlighting the dangers of such hasty exercises which undermine procedures and concerns
P K Sundaram

October 23, 2013

At the unearthly hour of 2:45 am, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) decided to connect  reactor-I to the grid. Was the timing decided by some vaastu experts, as happens often in supposedly high-tech projects in this country, or to coincide with ’s visit to Russia? While one can keep guessing, the whole exercise has exposed the nuclear establishment’s lies, inefficiency and dangerous misadventures.

Even before the jubilation in the media could settle, we learnt that that the  reactor tripped and had to be stopped. The NPCIL claimed that it was ‘routine’ and that the process would be restarted after tests, following which electricity production in  would be gradually increased to the full capacity of 1000 MW. However, the Southern Regional Load Despatch Centre (SRLDC), in its official report, said that there was a secondary system failure after the plant was synchronised for the first time at 2:45 am and that the power plant “tripped due to reverse power.”

Evidently, there is something more to the story than the normal start-up troubles. As recently as on 16 October, the NPCIL said that two condensers got stuck as they had valve problems and that the KKNPP-I would be synchronised in November after attaining 400 MW production capacity. On 22 October, they synchronised the reactor to the electricity grid after attaining just 160 MW production capacity. Some media sources have even reported the output to be just 75 MW. What made the NPCIL hurriedly sync the reactor then?

The Indian PM was on a trip to Russia and the government possibly felt that announcing the synchronisation of KKNPP-I would help finalise the agreement on  3 and 5. Like the US and French nuclear corporations, the  firm Atomsroyexport is not ready to abide by India’s Nuclear Liability Act of 2010 which mandates the operator’s “right of recourse” against the supplier. The liability issue and the high cost of  reactors seems to have prevented any final agreement between the two countries.

On 22 October, the  President announced with fanfare that  would be connected to the grid “within a few hours”. He was reported saying that the reactor would start producing 300 MW of electricity – double the amount announced by the NPCIL at home. The Indian PM heaved a sigh of relief as he had promised Putin, way back on his December 2012 trip to India, that -I would be started “within 2 weeks.” The starting of operations at  has been an unending saga of such 15 days’ promises by the NPCIL, Narayansamy and the PM himself.

However, the tripping of -I suggests much more more than just a hurried attempt to provide a symbolic moment for the PM’s visit. It exposes the hollowness of the claims of NPCIL experts that the repeated delays were a result of their “quest for perfection” regarding safety. Components like valves have been repeatedly found defective and trouble-prone in  and have delayed the commissioning of the plant. The  nuclear supplier Zio-Podolsk‘s Director, Sergei Shutov is in jail for a huge scam involving the supply of sub-standard equipment in the batches that were supplied to India,  and other countries over several years. This gives credence to the fears that have been brushed aside in India’s anachronistic nuclear pursuit.

The petitioners in the  case in the Supreme Court did raise this issue, but the court reposed faith in the NPCIL to judge on such technical issues. The NPCIL and the secretive nature of the nuclear industry have not allowed much of independent nuclclear expertise to flourish in India. As a result, the NPCIL misled the court even on basic issues: it has no expertise on Pressurised Water Reactors (PWR) in and it passed off the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) safety manuals related to a totally different design – Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) – as a proof of its diligence and sincerity. Similarly, several other very crucial questions were overlooked: the non-adherence of recommendations of the post-Fukushima safety review, the non-availability of adequate water supply in , the exemption of nuclear liability for -I, and the non-adherence to Environment Impact Assessments and Coastal Regulatory Zone stipulations on the flimsy ground that these stipulations came into existence after the reactor project was started!

Far from being the product of a holistic policy for the country’s energy needs, India’s nuclear pursuit is based on international agreements animated by the pursuit of legitimacy for its nuclear weapons and ensuring a seat on the high table in exchange for nuclear deals. There is an unmissable pattern –  environmental clearance for Jaitapur was given in 2010 when the then French President Nicholas Sarkozy was visiting India, Nuclear Liability Act was hastily finalised during Hilary Clinton’s visit, liability exemption for Mithi Virdi project in Gujarat was given during ’s visit to US last month and a shoddily done synchronisation of -I was done during the PM’s visit to Kremlin.

The livelihoods and lives of its own people have become international bargaining chips for the government. Much like the country’s other resources – mines, rivers, forests, food, health and education – that the Indian ruling elite is happily offering at the altar of its own brand of ‘development’.

We must not forget that the Fukushima nuclear accident has taken a much worse turn in Japan in the last few months. It has been forced to shut again two of the 54 reactors that were restarted after a complete shutdown following the accident in March 2011. The lesson we can draw is that nuclear plants simply cannot be run in a transparent and safe manner. The stress-tests following Fukushima have forced full or partial reversal of nuclear projects in many countries and international surveys have reported widespread popular disapproval of the nuclear industry.

Despite the backlash against the  plant, India sent psychologists to ‘counsel’ the protesters and slapped sedition charges of colonial vintage when that didn’t work. Thousands of activists and villagers in Tamil Nadu continue to face fictitious criminal charges, which the Supreme Court ordered to be removed. Meanwhile, India’s democracy and safety are threatened by an ill-conceived, unsafe, expensive, non-transparent and unaccountable nuclear expansion plan.

The author is Research Consultant with the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) and can be contacted at[email protected]

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="" target="_blank"> #India – Koodankulam: To Think, Live And Act Non-Violently #mustread


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Syria: Accidental Diplomacy in the Devils’ Playground #mustread

Posted: 09/16/2013 5:46 pm

Iara Lee

Activist and filmmaker, huffingtonpost

It’s unfortunate that diplomacy has now become an accident of U.S. foreign policy. After John Kerry’s slip-of-the-tongue in London last week, warmongers in and outside the beltway are sulking at the idea that a peaceful solution might prevent them from going to war in another Middle Eastern country.

Washington politicians’ chagrin at the prospect of a peaceful resolution makes one thing very clear: they do not care about chemical weapons, they do not care about dead children, and they do not care about Syrians, period. If they did, they might have themselves put forth the fairly unimaginative proposal that Syria give up its stockpile of chemical weapons. They might have not helped to nurture the Islamist insurgency that has hijacked what was once a national struggle for democratic reforms. And they might have put their weight behind a peace plan before the death toll topped 100,000, with a third of the country now refugees from their own land.

Let’s also not forget that the U.S. has always had a love/hate relationship with chemical weapons, looking the other way when its former client, Saddam Hussein, gassed tens of thousands during the Iraq-Iran war (including 10,000 innocent Iraqi Kurds in Halabja); White House officials similarly ignored the use of white-phosphorous, an incendiary chemical weapon, by Israel in Gaza in 2008; and then of course there is their own use of depleted uranium during the Iraq invasion.

So what is motivating this policy of “If you don’t stop gassing civilians, we will bomb your civilians”? We keep hearing on cable news that if the U.S. doesn’t attack Syria, the Iranians may continue to work on their dramatically overhyped nuclear weapons program. But this is a rhetorical feint, meant to obscure a much more grim reality: that Syria is only an appetizer for a much more destructive campaign against Iran, initiated by Israel and destined to be executed by their praetorian American backers.

After all, most of the jihadist forces fighting the Syrian government are not better than the current, odious regime of Bashar Al-Assad, and the U.S. and Israel know it. And so what they strive for is not the downfall of Assad, but a state of perpetual chaos in Syria. This is perhaps why Alon Pinkas, former Israeli consul general in New York, was quoted by the New York Times as saying: “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.”

Humanitarian motives indeed. But threat to whom? Prior to the uprising, the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel, were rather quiet for some time. So perhaps the better question is, threat to what? Some may argue that what is “threatened” by a stable Syria is the plan to attack and destabilize the Assad regime’s Shia patrons in Iran, a nation which lives in the crosshairs of the United States and Israel, and whose leaders use the threat of foreign attack as justification for a militarist fundamentalism of their own.

Much like Obama, Vladimir Putin is not concerned with the loss of Syrian lives. His interests lie in the billions in arms agreements that his government has with Assad. The Gulf monarchies — Saudi Arabia and Qatar — along with Israel and the United States, are interested in alienating Iran. Each of these players continues to make a terrible situation worse by throwing more bombs and guns into the mix, splashing fuel onto a fire with one hand while shaking their sanctimonious fists with the other.

And so the geo-political power games continue, with indisputably bad people on every side surrounding average, innocent Syrians who live under constant threat of death from all parties involved. Back in 2012 I made a film to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees caught in the middle of what one little girl I spoke to referred to as a “soccer match,” with Syria as the ball. The title of that film, The Suffering Grasses, was taken from the following proverb: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” With over 100,000 dead and counting, and the entrance of the biggest elephant of all into the fray, this phrase couldn’t be more apt.

Given that ethical concerns are a low priority for the U.S., one would hope that rational self-interest might play some role in their decision-making when it comes to Syria. But the primary financial beneficiary of a U.S. strike on Syria (aside from the jihadists fighting Assad and the hemorrhage-happy Israelis next door) will be Russia. As oil prices invariably rise with a U.S. strike, Russia — the world’s largest exporter, along with Saudi Arabia — will be the first to profit from skyrocketing oil prices.

Then of course there are the direct costs of war. A single Tomahawk missile costs roughly $1.4 million. Experts have predicted that, putting together the costs of munitions, refueling, and keeping naval vessels within striking distance, even a “limited” cruise missile strike would end up costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Given the slow recovery from the 2008 financial meltdown, and another one likely on the horizon, one would think that American leaders would think twice about spending taxpayer money to assist an opposition that includes al Qaeda in its ranks.

The American people, scarred by lies and fatigued from wars that have profited them nothing, came out in massive opposition to Obama’s “punitive” bombing of Syria. It seems they are coming around to the idea that there is no such thing as a humanitarian bombing, and that such conditions for war bring only more war. They are beginning to recognize that, like the slaughtered innocents of Syria, they too are grass suffering under the weight of elephants.

In the end, accidental diplomacy is better than no diplomacy at all. So we must continue to put pressure on our elected officials to move in this direction and to use negotiations over chemical weapons as an opportunity to bring all the major stakeholders — the Assad regime, the opposition, the United States, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran — into further diplomacy that could end the civil war in Syria. Such intervention does not involve more weapons or bombings, but rather brings a framework for ending the violence and moving towards the peaceful democracy that the Syrian people rightly deserve.

To watch the trailer for The Suffering Grasses: When Elephants Fight, It Is the Grass That Suffers, click here.

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Tarapur Atomic Power Project Real TRUTH Revealed by Villagers

Tarapur Atomic Power Project Real TRUTH Revealed by  Palghar Villager Villagers

India’s Arabian Sea coast is home to the 1400 MW Tarapur Power Station near Mumbai, India’s largest operational nuclear plant that in 2011 was also identified by a government expert panel as the least prepared of the country’s atomic power complexes to handle a scenario like the one at Fukushima in Japan in 2011.

 The country is also in the process of setting up a 10,000 MW nuclear power complex at Jaitapur that has faced local opposition.

But though the subduction zone – where tectonic plates meet – to India’s west, near Makran along the Pakistan-Iran border is closer to India than the one to the east that was the epicentre of the 2004 tremors, the Arabian Sea has long been considered less vulnerable to large earthquakes and tsunamis.

India’s Arabian Sea coast is home to the 1400 MW Tarapur Power Station near Mumbai, India’s largest operational nuclear plant that in 2011 was also identified by a government expert panel as the least prepared of the country’s atomic power complexes to handle a scenario like the one at Fukushima in Japan in 2011.

The country is also in the process of setting up a 10,000 MW nuclear power complex at Jaitapur that has faced local opposition.

But though the subduction zone – where tectonic plates meet – to India’s west, near Makran along the Pakistan-Iran border is closer to India than the one to the east that was the epicentre of the 2004 tremors, the Arabian Sea has long been considered less vulnerable to large earthquakes and tsunamis.


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Zio-Podolsk Scandal – Save Our Souls Part – 3 #nuclear

Rosatom-owned company accused of selling shoddy equipment to reactors at home and abroad, pocketing profits

CharlesDigges, 28-02-2012

Russian Federal Prosecutors have accused a company owned by the country’s nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, with massive corruption and manufacturing substandard equipment for nuclear reactors under construction both at home and abroad.

The ZiO-Podolsk machine building plant’s procurement director, Sergei Shutov, has been arrested for buying low quality raw materials on the cheap and pocketing the difference as the result of an investigation by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor organization to the KGB.

It is not clear how many reactors have been impacted by the alleged crime, but reactors built by Russia in India, Bulgaria, Iran, China as well as several reactor construction and repair projects in Russia itself may have been affected by cheap equipment, given the time frame of works completed at the stations and the scope of the investigation as it has been revealed by authorities.

“The scope of this scandal could reach every reactor in Russian and every reactor built by Russia over the past several years and demands immediate investigation,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge. “Were is the political leadership in the Russian government to deal with such a crime?”

Hauge expressed outrage that an alleged crime of such a massive scale was not leading to immediate action to check each reactor that may have been affected by the profit pocketing scheme, and he was frustrated that the FSB and prosecutors were not naming specific reactors that may be involved.

“As long as the Russian government is not investigating this case correctly, we will have to ask international society to do it,” he said.  “Bellona will be taking further action in this case.” Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of Russia’s Ecodefense agreed.

“Stopping and conducting full-scale checks of reactors where equipment from ZiO-Podolsk has been installed is absolutely necessary,” said Slivyak. “Otherwise [there is] the risk of a serious accident at a nuclear power plant with cleanup bills stretching into the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars [that] will have to be footed by taxpayers.”

The criminal case was opened against ZiO-Poldolsk in December, but information about the investigation was released in the Russia media via the official Rosbalt agency only last week –  a common circumstance in FSB-associated investigations.

The charges leveled against ZiO-Podolsk, which is Russia’s only manufacturer of steam generators for nuclear plants built by Rosatom domestically and by its international reactor construction subsidiary Atomstroiproyekt are a staggering blow to Rosatom’s credibility.

ZiO-Podolsk is a subsidiary organization of Atomenergomash, founded in 2006. Atomenergomash was acquired by Atomenergoprom, which is 100-percent state-owned, in 2007. Atomenergoprom is a part of Rosatom.

But the paperwork is rather a technicality for a machine works that has been involved with the nuclear industry since its inception. Founded in 1919, ZiO-Podolsk produced the boiler for the first electricity-producing nuclear reactor at Obninsk in 1952, and has produced the boilers for every Russian reactor built ever since.

A shudder in the environmental community

According to prosecutors, ZiO-Podolsk began shipping shoddy equipment in 2007 or perhaps even earlier. This has implications for the safety of nuclear power plants built by, or that bought equipment from, Rosatom in Bulgaria, China, India and Iran – as well as Russia – striking a chord of outrage and distress among environmental groups.

ZiO-Podolsk is also making critical parts for the reactor pressure vessel and other main equipment for the BN-800 fast reactor at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals, a source told Bellona on the condition of anonymity.

The machine works giant is also making steam generators for Russia’s Novovoronezh, Kalinin, and Leningrad Nuclear Power Plants, and Belene in Bulgaria, according to the London-based World Nuclear Association.

The case assembled against ZiO-Podolsk involves embezzlement of state funding intended for purchases of raw material that are compatible with contemporary safety standards for nuclear reactors, Rosbalt reported.

The FSB investigation

According to the FSB investigation – which was described in unusual detail by the news wire – procurement director Shutov allegedly purchased low-grade steel for equipment in collusion with ZiO-Podolsk’s supplier AТОМ-Industriya. That company’s general director, Dmitry Golubev, is currently at large after embezzlement charges were filed against him by the same Moscow court that ordered Shutov’s arrest, Rosbalt quoted FSB sources as saying.

The scheme between Shutov and Golubev allegedly involved Shutov turning a blind eye to inferior quality steel in return for a large portion of the profits reaped by ATOM-Industriya, the FSB told Rosbalt, citing transactions that were accounted for in bookkeeping documents the security service said it confiscated from the financial director of ATOM-Industriya.

“This company purchased cheap steel in Ukraine and then passed it off as [a] more expensive [grade]; the revenues were shared by the scam’s organizers,” an FSB source was quoted by Rosbalt as saying.

FSB agents said that ATOM-Industriya produced some 100 million roubles’ (€2.5 million) worth of pipe sheets, reactor pit bottoms, and reservoirs for ZiO-Podolsk – equipment that was delivered to Russian and foreign reactors – including an order of so-called tube plates for high-pressure heaters at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy NPP. High-pressure heaters, while having no relation to the safe operation of reactors, are used to improve efficiency of power output.

Bulgarian plant expressing concern

When Rosbalt ran its detailed story last week, the management of Kozloduy NPP was quick to respond by releasing an early statement saying its two heaters had been “functioning flawlessly”  since their installation dates in 2010 and 2011.

A statement released 10 hours later that day carried by a different news agency, however, reported that Kozloduy NPP CEO Alexander Nikolov had sent off a letter to ZiO-Podolsk and Atomstroiexport demanding that they certify the quality of the metal in the heaters.

The FSB alleged to Rosbalt that the use of shoddy steel in the case of the heaters manufactured for Kozloduy NPP alone netted a black profit of 39 million roubles (€1 million) for ATOM-Industriya.

Detailed report likely true

Ecodefense’s Slivyak said he believed the Rosbalt report and its copious quotations from the typically secretive FSB to be on the level.

Aside from the suspicions raised by Kozloduy NPP, Slivyak also said that the Russian built Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in China had previously complained to Rosatom with over 3,000 grievances regarding the low quality of materials delivered to construct the plant, lending credence to the FSB’s version of events.

Slivyak further noted the FSB, which functions as an attack dog for the government of Vladimir Putin, has nothing politically to gain by giving Rosatom – a pet corporation in Putin’s  “power vertical” – a black eye.

The week following Robalt’s article, Rosatom, which had previously refused comment, and Atomenergomash, released a bristling denial as interesting for what it does say as for what it leaves unsaid.

“Rosatom and Atomenergomash deny information related to substandard equipment at nuclear power station that was delivered by ZiO-Podolsk,” read the joint statement. The companies say that “all possible announcements about unsuitable production quality at ZiO-Podolsk are knowingly incorrect and mistaken.”

The statement continued, saying: “A stringent multi-layered system of quality control is in place at ZiO-Podolsk, encompassing all level of production: from expert evaluations of received materials and ores to final inspection of products. Evaluations of the compliance of equipment’s quality delivered to foreign nuclear power stations is carried out by the authorized organization OAO Zarubezhatomenergostroi.”

But the joint statement failed to contradict information supplied to Rosbalt by prosecutors concerning the arrests of upper-management officials at ZiO-Podolsk and ATOM-Industriya.

Two spokesmen for the FSB contacted by Bellona confirmed the version of events their colleagues described to Rosbalt, but refused to discuss “an ongoing investigation” further. They also refused to comment on what other nuclear power plants besides Kozloduy may have been affected by defective materials from ZiO-Podolsk.


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‘My arrest was psychological warfare’- Urdu Journalist

On 6 March last year, the Urdu journalist Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi was arrested for his alleged role in the car bomb attack in New Delhi that injured the wife and driver of an Israeli diplomat on 13 February 2012. Out on bail after international outrage and seven months in custody, he is now set to launch his Urdu daily Qaumi Salamati (National Security). He tells Aradhna Wal what it feels like to be persecuted
Aradhna Wal

Aradhna Wal

2013-04-20 , , Issue 16 Volume 10

Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi | 51 | Journalist
Photo: Dijeshwar Singh


What led you to start Qaumi Salamati in Urdu?
Considering my experience with the judicial process, the police mentality, people I’ve met in and out of custody, I’ve realised there is very little awareness among speakers of Urdu and other languages. What we see is not the reality. The real issues are never discussed because people in the corridors of power, in India and elsewhere, don’t want the public to talk about those issues. Terrorism has become an industry for certain countries, and certain people. From what I know, most incidents are staged. Can you conceive of a series of bomb blasts [in Pune] that kill no one? After that, many people are arrested. Do you think the blasts were real? This is a flourishing industry. You set off a firecracker in a marketplace and sell thousands of CCTV cameras, security gadgets and equipment.

Do you think the government will keep a close eye on the content of your paper, considering your pending case?
Let them. The government and the citizens are bound by the law and the Constitution. Let the law take its course.

Will you use your newspaper to fight the politics of counter terrorism?
Through Qaumi Salamati, we will try to set things right. I see my arrest as psychological warfare. You catch one person and create a sense of insecurity among thousands. But many people came out on the streets to support a so called terrorist. Not just in India, but internationally too. Around 5,000 people turned out in London, demonstrating in front of the Indian Embassy. This is the beginning of the reversal of manufactured terrorism. I met people in jail who have been facing illegal detention for months, years. They’ve been praying for a chance to be produced in court, but there are more chances of an encounter happening before that. I was told that before 15 August, 26 January, Holi or Diwali, the police produce these people before TV cameras saying they’ve caught terrorists and foiled their plot.

Why do you think they came after you?
I have almost 30 years of experience writing for different media houses in Iran. I have friends working in Tehran. If someone approaches them for a contact in Delhi, they can give my number. If that person calls me, that can be used as evidence against me. The day of the blast, I was part of a protest in the Congress office. My close relations with Iranian media were used to justify Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement, which he made within hours, calling it an Iranian attack.

How do law and policy need to change to ensure that ‘sedition’ and ‘terrorism’ are not misused to target a particular community?
My lawyer Mahmood Pracha has shown that the police have been misinterpreting the law and implementing it wrongly for years. When I was taken to the Tis Hazari court on the first day, the sub-inspector gave me a folded document to sign. I could only read the last line, which said that I was part of a conspiracy. If they had a case against me, why did they want my signature at that point? The sub-inspector later asked me to sign another copy. This time I read the whole document, which turned out to be a confession. He said in police custody they always asked people to sign like this.

What is your view of the current state of journalism in India?
The media, both in India and other countries, is full of non issues to keep people from thinking. In India, we sit in front of TV new channels for hours without having heard any news. At least a Doordarshan or an AIR bulletin gives out information. There is a set of journalists I call ‘poultry eggs’. They do stories the way editors tell them to. Reading newspapers in custody, though, I still have hope for the print media. It is more responsible.

[email protected]


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Nuclear weapons must be eradicated for all our sakes- Desmond Tutu

No nation should own nuclear arms – not Iran, not North Korea, and not their critics who take the moral high ground

(FILES) This file picture taken by North

As an Oslo conference on nuclear weapons starts, we should not accept that a ‘select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.’ Photograph: Kns/AFP/Getty Images

We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea for its nuclear tests and sounding alarm bells over Iran’s pursuit of enriched uranium. According to their logic, a select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.


Until we overcome this double standard – until we accept that nuclear weapons are abhorrent and a grave danger no matter who possesses them, that threatening a city with radioactive incineration is intolerable no matter the nationality or religion of its inhabitants – we are unlikely to make meaningful progress in halting the spread of these monstrous devices, let alone banishing them from national arsenals.


Why, for instance, would a proliferating state pay heed to the exhortations of the US and Russia, which retain thousands of their nuclear warheads on high alert? How can Britain, France and China expect a hearing on non-proliferation while they squander billions modernising their nuclear forces? What standing has Israel to urge Iran not to acquire the bomb when it harbours its own atomic arsenal?


Nuclear weapons do not discriminate; nor should our leaders. The nuclear powers must apply the same standard to themselves as to others: zero nuclear weapons. Whereas the international community has imposed blanket bans on other weapons with horrendous effects – from biological and chemical agents to landmines and cluster munitions – it has not yet done so for the very worst weapons of all. Nuclear weapons are still seen as legitimate in the hands of some. This must change.


Around 130 governments, various UN agencies, the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons are gathering in Oslo this week to examine the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons and the inability of relief agencies to provide an effective response in the event of a nuclear attack. For too long, debates about nuclear arms have been divorced from such realities, focusing instead on geopolitics and narrow concepts of national security.


With enough public pressure, I believe that governments can move beyond the hypocrisy that has stymied multilateral disarmament discussions for decades, and be inspired and persuaded to embark on negotiations for a treaty to outlaw and eradicate these ultimate weapons of terror. Achieving such a ban would require somewhat of a revolution in our thinking, but it is not out of the question. Entrenched systems can be turned on their head almost overnight if there’s the will.


Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago when those who spoke about green energy and climate change were considered peculiar. Now it is widely accepted that an environmental disaster is upon us. There was once a time when people bought and sold other human beings as if they were mere chattels, things. But people eventually came to their senses. So it will be the case for nuclear arms, sooner or later.


Indeed, 184 nations have already made a legal undertaking never to obtain nuclear weapons, and three in four support a universal ban. In the early 1990s, with the collapse of apartheid nigh, South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear stockpile, becoming the first nation to do so. This was an essential part of its transition from a pariah state to an accepted member of the family of nations. Around the same time, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine also relinquished their Soviet-era atomic arsenals.


But today nine nations still consider it their prerogative to possess these ghastly bombs, each capable of obliterating many thousands of innocent civilians, including children, in a flash. They appear to think that nuclear weapons afford them prestige in the international arena. But nothing could be further from the truth. Any nuclear-armed state, big or small, whatever its stripes, ought to be condemned in the strongest terms for possessing these indiscriminate, immoral weapons.


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‘First’ Afghan female rapper seeks reason with rhymes #Womenrights #Vaw

Published: January 3, 2013

Soosan Feroz practicing with Afghan pop musician Farid Rastagar at a recording studio in Kabul. PHOTO: AFP

Soosan Feroz  practicing with Afghan pop musician Farid Rastagar at a recording studio in Kabul. PHOTO: AFPSinger raps of rape, abuse and atrocities that Afghan women have endured during decades of war. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

KABUL: Sporting a long leather coat and western jeans under a headscarf, Soosan Feroz looks like many modern women in Kabul.

But she is a surprising new phenomenon in this conservative country – the nation’s first female rapper.

Her lyrics though are not unfamiliar for many of her fellow countrywomen – she raps of rape, abuse and atrocities that Afghan women have endured during decades of war in a country gripped by poverty.

“My raps are about the sufferings of women in my country, the pains of the war that we have endured and the atrocities of the war,” Feroz told AFP in an interview in the office of a local company that is helping her record her first album, between local performances including at the US embassy in Kabul.

Like most fellow Afghans, the 23-year-old says her life is filled with bitterness – memories of war, bombing and a life at refugee camps in neighboring Iran and Pakistan.

She was taken to Pakistan as a child by her parents and later to Iran, escaping a bloody civil war at home in 1990s.

Two years after the 2001 US-led invasion of her war-scarred nation that toppled the Taliban, the then-teenager returned home with her family.

She worked as a carpet weaver with her other siblings for a living until she discovered her new talent.

Told that rap and hip hop had become a way for many artists around the world to express daily hardships in their lives, Feroz says: “If rap singing is a way to tell your miseries, Afghans have a lot to say.

“That’s why I chose to be a rapper.”

She recalls her woes at Iranian refugee camps in her first recorded piece of music, “Our neighbours”, which has been posted on Youtube and viewed nearly 100,000 times:

“What happened to us in the neighbouring country?

“We became ‘the dirty Afghan’

“At their bakeries we were pushed at the back of the queue.”

The lyrics are borne from personal experience, Feroz said. “As a child when I was going to bring bread from our neighbourhood bakery, the Iranians would tell me, ‘go back, you dirty Afghan’.

“I would be the last one in the line to get my bread,” she said.

Millions of Afghans still live in Iran and Pakistan, which together hosted about seven million refugees after the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Feroz was too young to remember the bloody battles of the 1980s between the Russian soldiers and freedom fighters known as mujahedin but her first song is full of war tales, with one line proclaiming: “We went to Europe for a better life (but) in refugee camps we rotted.”

Thousands of Afghans put their lives on the line every year to reach Europe through dangerous and illegal routes on land and sea. Those who make it often spend years in isolated refugee camps.

Afghan pop star Farid Rastagar has offered to help the young artist release an album, the first song of which will be released in January.

One of the songs is called “Naqisul Aql” which can be translated as “deficient-in-mind” – a common belief about women among Afghan men.

“In this rap, she sings about the miseries of the women in Afghanistan, about abuses and wrong beliefs that still exists about women,” Rastagar told AFP.

Afghan women have made some progress since the fall of the Taliban but many still suffer horrific abuse including so-called ‘honour killings” for percieved sexual disobedience.

Feroz, the daughter of a former civil servant and an illiterate housewife who remarkably let their daughter sing, has already made scores of enemies not only among conservatives but within her own family.

After releasing her first song on the internet, Feroz’s uncles and their families have shunned her, accusing her of bringing shame on them.

Others, mostly anonymous callers, have threatened to kill her.

“What’s my fault?” she asks. “I always receive phone calls from unknown men who say I’m a bad girl and they will kill me,” she says, her dark eyes welling with tears.

Sitting next to her is her father, Abdul Ghafaar Feroz, who says he prides himself on being her “personal secretary”.

“I’m not deterred,” Feroz said, her father nodding his head in agreement. “Somebody had to start this, I did and I don’t regret it and I will continue. I want to be the voice of women in my country.”


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#Censorship kills cinema, says filmmaker Makhmalbaf

M. P. Praveen, The Hindu

Kochi, Dec16.2012

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the acclaimed Iranian director who has left an indelible stamp in global cinema, has a very simple philosophy towards filmmaking – change the world.

Never known to mince words or being diplomatic either in films or in real life, Makhmalbaf, clad in his trademark black shirt and black trousers and accompanied by his wife Marziyeh Meshkini, a filmmaker of repute in her own right, spoke about his films, the Iranian society, democracy and the need for a change in civilization. He was in the city on Saturday as part of the Kochi International Film Festival set to get underway here on Sunday.

“When I see so much poverty around me how can I make films about poetry,” Mr. Makhmalbaf quipped with innate honesty when asked about the extreme realism in his movie sometimes at the cost of the aesthetics of the medium of cinema. That is why he felt compelled to make his much celebrated film ‘Kandahar’ that told the horrors of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Calling himself a “little entertainer”, he said that the emphasis is on giving a valid message for the audience to ponder over when they come out of the movie house.

Thrown behind the bars at the age of 17 for opposing the repressive regime of the Shah, he said that the courage to stand up to dictatorship and injustice evolved during the five years he spent in prison during which he read about 2,000 books of all hues.

Mr. Makhmalbaf, however, was quick to add that he is not a one dimensional filmmaker. “I draw my concept from reality. Besides, the situations and the people I encounter, the places I see and my own mood dictate my decision on the next film,” he said. His next project is based on European refugees. He had strong words against Hollywood castigating it as responsible for the death of regional films in many countries. Mr. Makhmalbaf said that the censorship prevailing in Iran should not be mistaken as contributing to the wider global acceptance of Iranian movies. Rather, he attributed it to simplicity, social concepts based on which they are being made, realistic treatment, its root in poetry, the constant search to find something new. One could find the same reasons in the Indian movie ‘Pather Panchali,’ he felt. “Censorship kills cinema. Sometimes a little pressure gives filmmakers more energy to fight it. But strangulate them and they will die. That’s why many Iranian filmmakers are not able to make films there now,” he said. Mr. Makhmalbaf was not much euphoric about the popular uprisings in West Asian countries like Egypt. Egypt’s case is similar to Iran in the years after Islamic Revolution. “At that time, we thought that all our problems will be solved if the king goes. But he was replaced by a religious dictator. In our quest for democracy, we lost everything including liberalism and secularism,” he said.

He feels that democracy without morality is futile. Democracy is about vote of the majority but without morality the minority will be alienated.


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UN Resolution Calls for Israel to Disclose Nuclear Arsenal

Regional outlier asked to join NPT and back vision of a ‘Nuclear-Free Middle East

– Common Dreams staff

The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Monday to approve a resolution calling on Israel to open up its nuclear weapons program to international inspectors and to end its refusal to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treary, or NPT.

 A vote by the United Nations general assembly has called on Israel to open its nuclear programme to weapons inspectors. (Photograph: Chip East/Reuters) The resolution passed with a 174-6 vote, and included 6 abstentions. Israel, the U.S., Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau were the “no” votes.

Also included in the UN measure was a call to reschedule a recently cancelled conference that would push for a ‘nuclear-free Middle East,’ something that all countries across the region, including Iran, have supported. A meeting on the issue was planned for this month in Helsinki, FInland, but was  cancelled, or at least postponed, by the U.S. at the end of November.

Though the Israeli nuclear weapons arsenal is widely known to exist, neither the nation’s government or its key ally, the U.S., will publicly acknowledge the program.

This refusal has long helped Israel avoid acknowledging the hypocrisy of its repeated threats against Iran for its nascent nuclear technology program.

As the Associated Press reports:

Resolutions adopted by the 193-member General Assembly are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight.

Israel refuses to confirm or deny it has nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal. It has refused to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, along with three nuclear weapon states — India, Pakistan and North Korea.

And John Glaser, writing at Antiwar.comadds:

If Israel agreed to dismantling its vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons and to a deal enforcing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East – a deal Iran and Israel’s Arab neighbors have repeatedly proposed – the supposed threats Israel faces in the region would virtually disappear.

But Israel refuses to give up its nuclear monopoly, insistent on maintaining its excuse to build up its military and distract from the Palestinian issue.

As former CIA Middle East analyst Paul Pillar has written, “the Iran issue” provides a “distraction” from international “attention to the Palestinians’ lack of popular sovereignty.”



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