Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another democracy threatens the Mideast

Another democracy threatens the Mideast
Published: May 08, 2008
Print Story
Add Comments
The 60th anniversary of Israel's founding has understandably focused much of the attention of Middle Eastern analysts on this old and familiar problem. But if they think this remains the prime security issue for the region, they may be looking in the wrong direction.

India this week successfully completed the testing program of its nuclear-capable Agni-3 missile, designed and developed by the state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

The third test launch took place May 7, and flew 3,000 kilometers to its targeted impact site in the Indian Ocean south of the equator from the Dhamra base in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. The full range is 3,500 kilometers, which would bring Shanghai most of southern China into its range.

Welcome to the new security landscape of Asia, with China and India now capable of repeating what in the bad old days of the Cold war used to be called "the balance of terror" between nuclear superpowers.

Since India and China are each dependent on Middle Eastern oil exports which pass through the Indian Ocean, good relations between these two Asian giants is of prime importance to all Middle Eastern countries. And having less than comfortable memories of living under a similar state of nuclear deterrence between two superpowers during the Cold War, the Middle East is going to have to get used to it all over again.

Of course, the relationship between India and China is far more open and friendly than that between the United States and the old Soviet Union. And there are further nuclear complications in the region involving Israel and Pakistan and the possible nuclear ambitions of Iran.

India has already brought into operational deployment the 700-kilometer-range Agni-1 missile, which is presumably targeted on Pakistan, and the 2,000-kilometer-range Agni-2 missile, which can reach Iran and much of the Gulf. Even before its expected "stretch" to a 5,000 kilometer range, the new Agni-3 missile is capable of hitting targets across the entire Middle East, as well as deep inside China.

Like the nuclear weapon the Agni-3 is intended to carry, the missile is a product of home-grown Indian technology. By contrast, Pakistan's shorter-range missiles depend on Chinese and North Korean technology. Indeed, the Indians are frustrated at the lack of any progress on the vaunted American promise of technological cooperation on space and rocketry. And the U.S. still bans any country from using an Indian launch vehicle to launch a satellite that contains even a single U.S.-made component.

Despite American foot-dragging, India is a nuclear power with the missile capabilities to exert wide regional influence. It also deploys the most formidable navy in the region, which will be even more capable once the fleet of new French-built Scorpene submarines take to sea. The Middle East is going to have to learn to live with another democratic superpower flexing muscles in its back yard.

Monday, May 5, 2008

South Africa: New Stats Show Millions More HIV Positive
Cape Argus (Cape Town)

Email This Page

Print This Page

Comment on this article

View comments

Cape Argus (Cape Town)

4 May 2008
Posted to the web 4 May 2008

Eleanor Momberg

Shocking new Aids statistics reveal that 2 million more South Africans are infected with HIV than the most recent government estimates show.

According to statistics released by the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), more than 7,6 million South Africans are HIV-positive - 2,2 million more than the department of health's figures for 2007 state.

Of these, about 6,1 million are the economically active people between the ages of 20 and 64, who could contribute to the country's economy.

What makes these statistics more alarming is the fact that the data on which they are based are probably more reliable than the department of health's because they were collected at grassroots level and not based on estimates.

The DBSA's 2007/2008 statistics state that:

* 7,6 million South Africans are HIV-positive;

* more than 27 percent of men and women aged between 20 and 64 are HIV positive;

* more than 92 000 babies have been infected, either perinatally or through mother's milk, in the past year;

* the total number of Aids sick by mid-2007 was 1 287 844;

* nearly 722 000 people have died of Aids-related diseases in the past year, bringing the total number of such deaths since 2003 to more than 3,7 million;

* in 2003, the accumulated total Aids-related deaths stood at just under 1 million; and

* 1,2 million of the country's 1,49 million orphans have lost their parents to Aids and this number is expected to increase by more than 336 000 this year alone.

In contrast, the department of health stated last year that there were 5,4 million HIV-positive people in South Africa in 2006. And the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) estimated in its statistical summary for 2000 to 2015 that there would be 5,6 million HIV-positive people in the country this year.

The ASSA had also estimated that there would be 370 000 Aids deaths in 2008.

UNAids stated in its 2006 Global Report that 18,8 percent of the population of South Africa was infected, and that 320 000 people died of Aids-related deaths in the country during 2005.

The latest DBSA information on one of the biggest killers in South Africa was collected from clinics, local municipalities, development planners, morgues and funeral homes.

Updated annually, the figures are used by the bank to determine funding for municipal projects, such as the upgrading of infrastructure.

Mark Heywood, the director of the Aids Law Project at the University of the Witwatersrand, said the new data, although untested, reflected the fact that the Aids pandemic remained a massive challenge for the country.

"If these figures are accurate, the number of people dying is increasing and the number of people who should be receiving anti-retrovirals, and are not, is increasing," said Heywood.

"The social cost of this is going to be enormous. We are not doing enough as a country and there is a danger that we are becoming complacent because there are now institutions such as the National Aids Council, as well as the fact that the government's approach to HIV and Aids has changed."

The DBSA figures show that South Africa, a country with one of the highest HIV and Aids rates in the world, is reaching the peak of HIV infections and that intervention programmes are beginning to show some success.

Johan Calitz, a senior demographer at the DBSA, attributed the decrease in infections in some regions to the success of nutrition schemes run by NGOs, other non-governmental intervention programmes and the government's roll-out of antiretroviral drugs.

He said the number of infections was expected to "level out" by 2010, but that the death rate would continue to accelerate in the foreseeable future.

"I think it will drop from 2010, and that from 2014 the population will begin to stabilise," he said, adding that this was on the condition that rates of immigration did not increase.

Although the birthrate is declining nationally, and in particular in Gauteng, there is an increase in the total number of HIV-infected babies being born.

Prevalence rates at antenatal clinics have increased to 31,67 percent - up 2 percent from last year.

The good news is that the number of new infections in KwaZulu-Natal - the province worst affected by the pandemic - have dropped dramatically among adults aged between 20 and 59, despite the dramatic increase in the number of its Aids orphans.
Relevant Links
Southern Africa
HIV-Aids and STDs
Health and Medicine
South Africa

Of concern, Calitz said, was the very high percentage of economically active people between the ages of 20 and 64 who were HIV positive - more than 3,5 million women and more than 3,4 million men.

In Gauteng, there has been a marked decline in children under the age of four, down about 21 000 since 2003. Yet, there are about 2 000 more children under the age of four with HIV.

Some of the highest rates of infection now appear to be among men over 50 and women over 40, with the rate among those adults of child-bearing age apparently slowing down due to illness and death.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

How to Conquer Georgia

How to Conquer Georgia
30 April 2008By Yulia Latynina
To Our Readers

The Moscow Times welcomes letters to the editor. Letters for publication should be signed and bear the signatory's address and telephone number.
Letters to the editor should be sent by fax to (7-495) 232-6529, by e-mail to, or by post. The Moscow Times reserves the right to edit letters.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

Over the weekend, Foreign Ministry official Valery Kenyaikin cautioned Georgia against using NATO forces to resolve the territorial conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, saying Moscow would take "all possible measures to protect its citizens if fighting broke out" in these areas. It seems as though Russia is preparing for war with Georgia.

A few days ago I returned from Chechnya, where I observed the swift, bloodless routing of the Vostok regiment by military groups loyal to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Vostok is a local military unit in Khankala, Chechnya, composed of ethnic Chechens that is formally a part of the 42nd Division of the General Staff's Main Intelligence Directorate.

There are several reasons why Vostok was defeated. When Kadyrov cracked down on the unit, Vostok's commander, Sulim Yamadayev, could not come to Chechnya for four days. While Kadyrov's forces were rounding up and bullying Vostok's fighters, Yamadayev was attending a meeting at the Defense Ministry.

In the first Chechen war, then-Brigadier General Yamadayev was probably in the mountains leading his troops, rather than attending meetings in Moscow. How effective can an army be when, during a military flare-up, its commander is attending meetings in Moscow instead of leading its troops on sight, where the conflict is taking place?

Second, while the defeated Vostok soldiers were chastised for "selling out to the Russians," Yamadayev's own division commander told the Vostok troops that their leader, Yamadayev, had been placed on a wanted list for his suspected criminal activity. I don't know who the Vostok soldiers sold out to, but it is clear who Yamadayev's division commander betrayed. Can an army wage war with a division commander like this?

Third, Vostok's commanders did not pay the unit's soldiers their salary in full. Officers simply faked the signatures in the payrolls, and professional soldiers received less than what their contracts stipulated. This is common practice in the Russian armed forces, and you can imagine how this helps increase recruitment into so-called elite, professional military units. Sometimes, officers line conscripts up outside at 6:30 a.m. in temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius and tell them that they cannot return to their barracks until they sign contracts for professional military service. Can this type of army ever be fit for battle?

With these three elements taken into account, the Foreign Ministry's declaration that Russia will wage war if NATO invades Abkhazia is just as plausible as a declaration to protect Abkhazia in the event of a Martian invasion.

If Moscow is truly serious about defending Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it must send troops -- and not just additional peacekeeping forces -- there instead of merely making a lot of noise. Making empty threats like Kenyaikin's is a no-win tactic any way you look at it. By doing so, Moscow is perceived as an irresponsible and irrational state and doesn't gain any territory. In the end, Russia is neither feared nor respected.

There is a simple rule that is well known even to street bandits: If you brandish your gun, be prepared to fire. But when Moscow whips out its gun, it only shouts, "We are offended," and then shoves the pistol back into its holster.

But all is not lost. I have a proposal for our leaders that will help them conquer Georgia -- and it is quite simple. All the Kremlin has to do is to convince Georgian officers to attend a training course at the Defense Ministry. This would be a brilliant military tactic. We will teach the Georgian officers to attend meetings instead of battles.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Russia Will Send More Troops to Abkhazia

Russia Will Send More Troops to Abkhazia
30 April 2008By Matt Siegel / Staff WriterThe Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday that Russia would bolster its peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia in response to Georgian plans to invade the breakaway region.

Tbilisi denied that it had plans to invade the region, which has enjoyed de facto independence from Georgia since a separatist war in the 1990s.

The exchange marked a significant escalation in tensions between the two countries.

The Foreign Ministry said it had intelligence that Georgia had moved more than 1,500 servicemen into the upper Kodor Gorge region and was preparing "a bridgehead" in advance of an invasion.

"According to the information coming in, including from CIS peacekeepers in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, Georgia is sending weapons, fuel and lubricants, food and other technical means, as well as personnel of the Georgian armed forces to Upper Kodor," the ministry said in a statement.

Russia already maintains a sizeable peacekeeping force in Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia. Tbilisi accuses Russia of propping up the rebel governments.

Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia said Interior Ministry servicemen were in Kodor Gorge but denied the presence of Defense Ministry forces.

"What we have there are only police forces to ensure security for the local population," he told Reuters.

"All recent UN monitoring missions confirmed that Georgia is behaving in this region in accordance with previous agreements," he said.

The United Nations monitoring mission in Tbilisi could not be reached to confirm Kutelia's comments on Tuesday. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which also has monitors in the region, was unable to comment on security conditions within the conflict zone.

Russia's Defense Ministry, meanwhile, vowed to use military force if necessary to protect Russian citizens in Abkhazia. Most residents in the region have Russian passports.

The ministry said in a statement that it would deliver "a suitable and tough response" to anyone who attacked Russian citizens, echoing comments made Friday by Valery Kenyaikin, the Foreign Ministry's special envoy for the Commonwealth of Independent States.

UN foreign policy chief Javier Solana planned to urge for calm from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday, said spokeswoman Christina Gallach. The pair was meeting in Luxembourg as part of ongoing EU-Russia talks.

"The basic message [Solana] is going to say is that we're right now in a process of escalation of tension and what we have to do on all sides is to calm down," she said by telephone from Luxembourg.

Relations between the two countries worsened earlier this month after Georgia accused the Russian military of shooting down an unmanned spy plane over Abkhazia, a charge denied by Moscow.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili convened an emergency meeting of his Security Council on Tuesday, the second such meeting in less than two weeks. Afterward, Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze told reporters that "from now on, we will consider any additional soldier or military hardware [in the Abkhaz conflict zone] as illegal, as potential aggressors and a potential source of destabilization." Saakashvili was to address the country on Georgian national television on Tuesday night. The address was to be made specifically to the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Itar-Tass reported.

NATO meets on escalating Georgia-Russian tensions

NATO meets on escalating Georgia-Russian tensions
Published: April 30, 2008
E-Mail Article
Listen to Article
3-Column Format
Share Article

Text Size

BRUSSELS: NATO ambassadors discussed escalating tensions between alliance hopeful Georgia and Russia on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with Moscow's NATO envoy.

The regular meetings come after Russia on Tuesday sent extra peacekeeping troops to Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region to counter what it called Georgian plans for an attack, prompting the European Union to accuse Moscow of stoking tensions.

A NATO spokesman said Georgia would be discussed at both meetings, but declined further comment.

On Monday, NATO ambassadors met Georgian presidential envoy David Bakradze in Brussels. They reiterated support for Georgia and criticized Russian warnings about the possible use of force.

In a further show of support, the 26-nation military alliance also announced plans for the envoys to visit Georgia before the end of the year.
Today in Europe
May 1968 - a watershed in French life
Euro nears milestone, but faces north-south divide
NATO accuses Russia of stirring tensions in rebel Georgia areas

The mounting crisis between the two ex-Soviet neighbors has alarmed Georgia's Western allies, who see Georgia as a future NATO member and a vital energy transit route.

After discussing Georgia with EU ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Moscow would use military force if Georgia attacked Abkhazia or a second Georgian separatist region, South Ossetia.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after the talks that the Russian deployment of extra peacekeepers in Abkhazia was unwise at a time of rising tensions and reiterated EU support for Georgia's territorial integrity.

On Wednesday, Dimitrij Rupel, foreign minister of EU president Slovenia, said the European Union wanted to see the situation resolved in a "tolerant and diplomatic manner."

"After yesterday's talks I believe that this will happen," he told a news conference in Ljubljana.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels and Manca Ulcar in Ljubljana.

U.S. says Iran, Syria destabilizing region

U.S. says Iran, Syria destabilizing region
By CLAUDE SALHANI (Editor, Middle East Times)
Published: April 30, 2008
A U.S. air force F-22 Raptor aircraft refuels 26,000 feet above Alaska. "Terrorists consider information operations a principal part of their effort," the latest country report on terrorism says, adding: "Use of the Internet for propaganda, recruiting, fundraising and, increasingly, training, has made the Internet a 'virtual safe haven.'" (Photo by DoD)
Print Story
Add Comments
The year 2007 was marked by the affiliation of regional insurgent groups with al-Qaida, who along with its associated networks remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2007, according to the 2007 Country Reports on Terrorism released by the U.S. State department Wednesday.

The report states that al-Qaida has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Although Osama bin Laden remained the group's ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as al-Qaida's strategic and operational planner.

The report finds that al-Qaida and its affiliates seek to exploit local grievances for their own local and global purposes. "They pursue their own goals, often at large personal cost to the local population." They have become adaptive, reacting quickly in response to countermeasures. Al-Qaida utilizes terrorism, as well as subversion, propaganda, and open warfare; it seeks weapons of mass destruction in order to inflict the maximum possible damage on anyone who stands in its way, including other Muslims and/or elders, women, and children.

Combined efforts by the security forces of both Afghanistan and Pakistan have failed to quell the rise of al-Qaida. Rather, the group has now greater mobility and ability to conduct training and operational planning, "particularly that targeting Western Europe and the United States."

Proving their ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations al-Qaida has managed to replace "numerous senior operatives who were captured or killed.

Last year was marked by the affiliation of regional insurgent groups with al-Qaida, notably the growing threat in North Africa posed by the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). Following the September 2006 merger with al-Qaida, the GSPC renamed itself al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM is still primarily focused on the Algerian government.

In 2007 AQIM carried out eight suicide attacks that resulted in large numbers of government and civilian casualties. The group recruits suicide bombers from easily exploitable groups, such as the teenagers used in the July 11 and Sept. 8 attacks, or the elderly and terminally ill, as in the Dec. 11 UN attack.

But al-Qaida has also suffered setbacks, as in Iraq. The group's alliance of convenience it enjoyed since the start of the U.S. invasion with Sunni groups came to an abrupt and violence divorce as many of these groups turned to support the U.S. war effort, forcing some fighters from Baghdad and Anbar province into the northern Iraqi provinces of Ninawa, Diyala, and Salah ad Din. Regardless of the progress achieved, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) remains a threat.

And in Africa, the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia in late 2006 and the subsequent deployment of African Union forces there have kept al-Qaida East Africa leadership, and elements of the Council of Islamic Courts that harbored them, on the run.

This did not prevent al-Qaida from launching a new assault using information as its primary weapon. According to the State Department al-Qaida has increased all throughout 2007 its propaganda efforts seeking to inspire support in Muslim populations, undermine Western confidence, and enhance the perception of a powerful worldwide movement.

"Terrorists consider information operations a principal part of their effort. Use of the Internet for propaganda, recruiting, fundraising and, increasingly, training, has made the Internet a 'virtual safe haven,'" states the report. "The international community has yet to muster a coordinated and effectively resourced program to counter extremist propaganda," warns the U.S. government analysis of the state of terrorism around the world.


Despite efforts by the Afghan government to strengthen its national institutions, the Taliban continued to threaten the security of Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents murdered local leaders and attacked Pakistani government outposts in the FATA.


Iran remains "the most significant state sponsor of terrorism," according to the U.S. State Department.

"A critically important element of Iranian national security strategy is its ability to conduct terrorist operations abroad. Iranian leaders believe this capability helps safeguard the regime by deterring United States or Israeli attacks, distracting and weakening the United States, enhancing Iran's regional influence through intimidation, and helping to drive the United States from the Middle East."

Hezbollah, designated a "Foreign Terrorist Organization," the report says, "is key to Iran's terrorism strategy."

The report points to the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah as receiving support from Iran and Syria, and accuses them of continuing to undermine the elected government of Lebanon. "They remain a serious security threat," according to the U.S. State Department.

The Islamic republic is judged in the U.S. State department report of continuing "to threaten its neighbors and destabilize Iraq by providing weapons, training, and funding to select Iraqi Shia militants."

It also accuses what it calls Iran's "proxy groups" of perpetrating violence and killing U.S. troops.

Foreign terrorists continued to transit via Syria en route to and from Iraq; a report to Congress stated that nearly 90 percent of all foreign fighters entering Iraq are transiting from Syria. In addition, the government of Iran has recently begun an effort to expand commercial and diplomatic ties throughout the Western Hemisphere. Iran has, in the past, used diplomatic missions to support the activities of Hezbollah operatives.

Countries that continue to support terrorism undermines efforts to eliminate it, finds the 2007 Country Report on Terrorism.

Russian moves inflame tensions with Georgia

Russian moves inflame tensions with Georgia

01 May 2008 07:18
Cisco Easy Rent - Get the network you need now at 4% below price - Click here!
Nato on Wednesday accused Russia of ramping up tensions with neighbour Georgia and said Moscow's rapid build-up of troops in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia threatened Georgia's territorial integrity.

The alliance called on Russia and Georgia to resolve their differences over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia's two rebel republics, amid ominous signs of a looming military confrontation.

Nato's Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, also derided Russian claims that a Nato jet may have shot down a Georgian drone last week over Abkhazia. Georgia says a Russian MiG-29 shot it down. Russia's Nato envoy had suggested the alliance was responsible.

"The secretary general had said he'd eat his tie if it turned out that a Nato Mig-29 had magically appeared in Abkhazia and shot down a Georgian drone," Nato spokesperson James Appathurai said.

"The steps taken [by Russia] ... and the rhetoric that has been used concerning the threat of force have undermined Georgia's territorial integrity," he declared.

On Tuesday, Russia accused Georgia of plotting to attack Abkhazia, and announced that it was deploying additional troops and military equipment in the region. About 1 000 Russian peacekeepers are already stationed in Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia following a 1992 to 1993 war.

Georgia has denied it has plans to invade Abkhazia, a small and picturesque territory on the sub-tropical eastern coast of the Black Sea. Georgia's special presidential envoy, David Bakradze, has appealed for international solidarity, holding talks on Wednesday with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"Georgia is being pushed to the edge of a precipice. Without credible and concerted reaction, we are confronted by the prospect of a situation similar to that in northern Cyprus or analogous to what occurred in Taiwan," Bakradze said.

He added: "Russia's end goal now appears to be to force Georgia into armed conflict. It would thus strip it of the opportunity to earn Nato membership, while finally annexing Georgia's territories."

Abkhazia's separatist leadership has echoed Russian claims that Georgia is massing forces in the Upper Kodori Valley -- a strategic enclave controlled by Georgian forces but inside rebel-held territory. About 1 500 troops were there, it said.

Recent developments are likely to alarm the United States and the EU. Both have expressed support for Georgia and its territorial integrity.

Russia has lifted economic sanctions against Abkhazia and given passports to most of its citizens. On Tuesday Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that Moscow had a right to defend them if they came under Georgian attack. On Wednesday night, Abkhazia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Shamba, confirmed Russia had boosted its troop contingent from 2 000 to 3 000. -- © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008
Related articles
# Russia, Georgia tensions rise