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4 février 2014 2 04 /02 /février /2014 20:30
US Senators Question State of Iranian Nuclear Centrifuge Development


Feb. 4, 2014 - by JOHN T. BENNETT – Defense News


WASHINGTON — US senators questioned Obama administration officials Tuesday for striking an interim pact that allows Tehran to continue developing nuclear arms components.


The influential heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one Democrat and one Republican, took the Obama administration to task for an interim deal they said is bad for US interests.


The panel’s Democratic chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, continued walking a political tightrope of trying to support the Obama administration while striking a tough line on Iran.


Menendez cited comments made recently by Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran nuclear agency chief: “ ‘The iceberg of sanctions are melting, while our centrifuges are also still working. This is our greatest achievement.’ ”


Menendez called those comments “my greatest fear.”


The committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, said the recent interim deal is merely the latest example of a long-standing Iranian tactic.


“If you look at what they are doing and what they’ve done in the past is … they perfect something and then they pause. They perfect something and then they pause,” Corker said. “And so what we have right now is they’ve perfected, no question, the centrifuge capabilities. I think people would say, they want to be a nuclear state, they can be that very quickly.


“And so we have this pause where we have an interim agreement that doesn’t address all the other areas that they have the ability to perfect over this next year,” he said, “which administration officials are already saying this isn’t going to happen in six months, this is probably going to take much longer.”


Menendez, again citing the Iranian official said: “Salehi may be correct — the iceberg of sanctions may melt before we have an agreement in place. That may, in fact, be the Iranian end game. They understand that once the international community ceases banking sanctions that they will have won regardless of whether or not we have a deal.”


Wendy Sherman, the Obama administration’s top negotiator on Iran, countered by telling the committee that an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections team “verified on January 20 that, among other things, Iran stop producing near-20 percent enriched uranium, [and] disabled the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran has been using to produce it.”


What’s more, she said Iran “began diluting its existing stockpile of near-20 percent enriched uranium, continue[s] to convert near-20 percent enriched uranium at a rate consistent with past practices, had not installed additional centrifuges at the Natanz or Fordow facilities, had not installed new components at the Arak facility.”


Lawmakers and administration officials clashed over the true impact of economic sanctions on Iran, and whether those measures have pushed Tehran closer to giving up its pursuit of an atomic arsenal. Lawmakers are skeptical, with many voicing support for new, stricter economic sanctions; administration officials want Congress to hold off until talks with Iran play out.


Corker called the sanctions issue an unhelpful “red herring.”


“It’s sort of been a place where the administration can say, ‘Well, sanctions will end up keeping this deal from happening,’ ” he said. “Congress can keep saying, ‘Oh, we’re trying to do something about it.’ And I think it avoids the topic of you, candidly, clearly laying out to us what the end state is that you’re trying to negotiate [toward].”

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29 octobre 2013 2 29 /10 /octobre /2013 13:50
USA: une puissante commission du Sénat s’oppose à l’espionnage de dirigeants amis

29/10/2013 45eNord.ca (AFP)


La responsable de la puissante commission du Renseignement du Sénat américain a indiqué lundi être farouchement opposée à l’espionnage de dirigeants alliés des États-Unis et va lancer un réexamen majeur des opérations américaines d’espionnage.


«Il m’apparaît clairement que certaines activités de surveillance ont été menées pendant plus de 10 ans sans que la commission sénatoriale sur le Renseignement n’en soit informée de manière satisfaisante», a déclaré la démocrate Dianne Feinstein. «Le Congrès a besoin de savoir exactement ce que notre communauté du renseignement fait», a-t-elle ajouté. «À ce titre, la commission va lancer un réexamen majeur de tous les programmes d’espionnage.»


«En ce qui concerne la collecte de renseignement sur les dirigeants des alliés des États-Unis –dont la France, l’Espagne, le Mexique et l’Allemagne– je le dis sans équivoque: j’y suis farouchement opposée.»


«À moins que les États-Unis ne soient engagés dans un conflit avec un pays ou qu’il y ait un besoin urgent pour ce type de surveillance, je ne pense pas que les États-Unis devraient recueillir des données sur les appels téléphoniques ou les emails de présidents ou de Premiers ministres amis», a poursuivi l’influente sénatrice démocrate.


«D’après les éléments dont je dispose, le président Obama n’était pas informé du fait que les communications de la chancelière Angela Merkel étaient recueillies depuis 2002», «C’est un gros problème», a-t-elle ajouté.


La tempête provoquée par une cascade de révélations sur les écoutes de l’Agence nationale de sécurité (NSA) en Europe n’avait pas faibli lundi en Espagne, où selon le quotidien espagnol El Mundo, plus de 60 millions d’appels téléphoniques ont été espionnés en un mois, mais aussi en Allemagne, où les révélations sur l’espionnage présumé d’un téléphone portable de la chancelière ont créé un choc.


La Maison Blanche, réagissant aux déclarations de Mme Feinstein, a souligné qu’elle était en contact régulier avec elle.


Mais la porte-parole du Conseil de sécurité nationale, Caitlin Hayden, a dit refuser de rentrer dans les détails de discussions privées ou de commenter des affirmations dans le communiqué de la sénatrice sur des activités américaines de renseignement à l’étranger.

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12 septembre 2013 4 12 /09 /septembre /2013 07:20
Senior US Senators: Congress May Never Vote on Syria Strikes

Sep. 11, 2013 - By JOHN T. BENNETT – Defense News


The US Senate is unlikely to vote on a resolution authorizing military force in Syria, even if a Russian plan to take control of Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons falls through, senior senators say.


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee moved at breakneck speed — while still on recess — to last week craft and approve a measure authorizing President Barack Obama to launch a limited military strike.


But with Obama during a primetime Tuesday address announcing he has asked congressional leaders in both chambers to delay a vote, some senators involved in the crafting of Syria force measures said Wednesday they doubt lawmakers will ever vote to approve military action.


“I think it’s going to be very, very quiet. Everyone has been holding their breath. Now there’s nothing for them to be doing,” Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., told Defense News. “All these efforts … are kind of subsiding. Since the president has abandoned this [vote], I think it’s going to settle down and no one is going to be talking about it.”


Would either or both chambers likely vote on a Syria use-of-force measure should a Russian-offered plan to have Assad give up his weapons fall apart, and Obama decides to launch Tomahawk missile strikes?


“No, I don’t think so,” Inhofe said during a brief interview. “I think it goes away.”


SASC member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called the prospect for a vote “unlikely.”


“I think it’s very possible there will be no vote,” Sessions said. “I don’t think [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid is going to ask his people to vote if the president doesn’t want it.”


To that end, House Democrats left a classified Syria briefing earlier Wednesday and told reporters they believe a use-of-force measure would fail in their chamber.


The Senate’s leading proponent of big military mission in Syria, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Defense News it’s too soon to say whether the chamber will vote on a Syria measure.


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who helped craft the panel’s use-of-force measure.


“No,” he said Wednesday when asked by reporters if he expected a vote. “We’re moving on to energy efficiency,” he added sarcastically.


“I’d be very surprised if, over the next couple weeks, anything is voted on,” Corker said. “It may never.


“I think this is on hold for a while,” he said. “I don’t think anything’s going to happen.”


Until the Russia proposal situation plays out, Corker said it is hard for lawmakers to even talk about what resolutions and amendments should say.


“I think when you’ve got a situation like this, where there’s a diplomatic opportunity, I think that kind of stalls things off,” Corker said. “Let me just say, I wish … everyone involved in this God speed.”


McCain said the White House should give Moscow “days” to show its plan is credible.


“If it were to fall apart, I think the president has to explore his options, and see what the votes are,” McCain. “But I am very, very skeptical about the [Russia proposal] succeeding.”


McCain and a bipartisan group of senators have been working on an amendment to the Foreign Relations Committee-approved measure that would tie a congressional authorization to a deadline by which a UN-supported effort to take over Assad’s weapons would have to succeed.

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12 septembre 2013 4 12 /09 /septembre /2013 07:20
Senior US Senator Praises Russia for Syria Initiative

WASHINGTON, September 11 (RIA Novosti)


The head of the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday delivered an impassioned speech backing the use of American military force against Syria if diplomatic efforts fail, but also praising Russia for proposing a plan to have Syria place its chemical weapons under international control.

“I’d like to take a minute to give Russia credit for bringing forward this plan for a negotiated solution to the conflict. … Russia is sincere, wants to see a United Nations resolution and supports the Geneva process, which would accompany a negotiated settlement to Syria’s civil war,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on the Senate floor.

The Democratic senator from California met earlier this week with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, to discuss Moscow’s push to get the Syrian government to relinquish control of its chemical weapons stockpile.

Some US lawmakers backing military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 outside Damascus have questioned Russia’s sincerity, saying Moscow is using its plan as a stalling tactic to delay the use of force against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But Feinstein on Wednesday said Washington and Moscow should work together to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal. “Based on my conversation with Ambassador Kislyak, I believe that Russia’s goal is in fact to eliminate these weapons, and I would point out that that is also our goal,” Feinstein said.

“The ball really is in Russia’s court. Russia is the leader in this. I trust that it is sincere. I trust that Russia and the United States will come together and bring the other parties together and that it will be possible for the United Nations to act so the United States won’t have to,” she added.

But Feinstein also cautioned Moscow against delaying the process.

“Russia’s responsibility to get this done is enormous, and to move with all deliberate speed,” she said. “I think Russia and Syria must understand that the way to forestall a United States strike on Syria is for there to be a good-faith agreement and process underway to put all of Syria’s chemical weapons … under international control for eventual demolition.”

While saying that she hoped military force against Syria would not be necessary, Feinstein told her fellow senators that “the Assad regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons” and laid out some of the intelligence that she claimed shows that the Syrian government was behind the Aug. 21 attack that Washington says killed more than 1,400 people.

She also described in graphic detail the effects of the apparent chemical weapons attack on its victims, urging people to look at videos posted on the Senate Intelligence Committee website. “For me, the videos and watching them shows the abhorrence of chemical weapons. It shows why we must do something,” Feinstein said.

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5 septembre 2013 4 05 /09 /septembre /2013 07:20
US Senate panel approves use of force against Syria

Sep 4, 2013 ASDNews (AFP)


President Barack Obama's plan to conduct military strikes on Syria passed its first congressional hurdle Wednesday, paving the way for a full Senate debate on the use of force.


A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved an amended resolution 10-7, that would authorize US military intervention with a 90-day deadline and bars American boots on the ground for combat purposes.


The Senate's newest member, Democrat Edward Markey, voted present.


Senate leaders have said the full chamber will debate and vote next week on authorization of the use of force in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's apparent use of chemical weapons against his own people.


The House of Representatives, where a tougher vote is expected, will begin consideration next week but its leaders have not announced timing of a vote.


"What we've done today is a step in the right direction," said Senator Dick Durbin.


The chamber's number two Democrat voted against the Iraq war, but he insisted that "this is different."


"I really believe there is a moral component here that's critically important," he said, citing how all members of the committee are horrified by the attacks by Assad.


Senator Robert Menendez, the committee's chairman, said the resolution marks "a good foundation" for passing the Senate.


"This resolution strikes the type of balance that we are hearing from members on both sides of the aisle in both houses as to what their concerns are."


The White House commended the panel for "moving swiftly" to approve the measure.


"We will continue to work with Congress to build on this bipartisan support for a military response that is narrowly tailored to enforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and sufficient to protect (US) national security interests," the White House said.


Obama's administration had offered a draft text, but the committee's leaders re-worked it to set a time limit of 60 days plus a 30-day extension, and banned the use of any US ground troops in Syria to accomplish the mission.


But deep divisions emerged over the scope of the military action, and Republicans and Democrats voted in favor of the measure as well as against it.


Earlier in the day the committee held a three-hour classified session, with Secretary of State John Kerry selling the case to members before testifying at a panel of the House of Representatives, where lawmakers and analysts foresee a tough fight over giving Obama authority to strike.


"We need to send to Syria -- and to the world, to dictators and terrorists, to allies and civilians alike -- the unmistakable message that when we say 'never again,' we actually don't mean sometimes, we don't mean somewhere, we mean never again," Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


The Senate text was modified to include language sought by Republican Senator John McCain, who had threatened a no vote unless the measure was toughened up.


The committee debated and ultimately approved his amendment, which declared it is "the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria," and urges a comprehensive US strategy boost the fighting capabilities of "elements of the Syrian opposition."


McCain voted yes but five fellow Republicans, including potential 2016 presidential candidates Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, voted against.


Paul, who unsuccessfully sought to limit the power of the president to "unilaterally authorize a military attack" where there is no imminent threat, said he was unconvinced that Obama's plan would achieve its goals.


"I frankly think that bombing Syria increases the likelihood of additional gas attacks, may increase attacks on Israel and Turkey, may increase civilian deaths, may increase instability in the Middle East and may draw Russia and Iran further into this civil war," he said.


Senate Democrat Tom Udall, an opponent of military intervention, introduced an amendment that would have narrowed Obama's military options as the lawmaker sought to prevent greater US involvement.


The Udall amendment, which McCain dismissed as "micromanagement," was defeated.

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