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Audit: U.S. Defense Department can't account for billions for Iraq

© Getty

The U.S. Defense Department cannot account for about $2 billion it was given to cover Iraq-related expenses and is not providing Iraq with a complete list of U.S.-funded reconstruction projects, according to two new government audits.

The reports come from the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The Iraqi government in 2004 gave the Department of Defense access to about $3 billion to pay bills for certain contracts, and the department can only show what happened to about a third of that, the inspector general says in an audit published Friday.

Although the Department of Defense (DoD) had "internal processes and controls" to track payments, the "bulk of the records are missing," the report says, adding that the department is searching for them.

Other documents are missing as well, including monthly reports documenting expenses, the audit says.

"From July 2004 through December 2007, DoD should have provided 42 monthly reports. However, it can locate only the first four reports."


Iraqi officials outraged by use of US drones: report

Iraqi officials have expressed outrage at the United States' use of a small fleet of surveillance drones to help protect the US embassy, consulates and American personnel in Iraq, The New York Times reported.
© Unknown

The newspaper said the State Department began operating some drones in Iraq last year on a trial basis and stepped up their use after the last US troops left the country in December.

The US government plans to take bids for the management of drone operations in Iraq over the next five years, the report said.

The State Department drones carry no weapons and are meant to provide data and images of possible hazards, like public protests or roadblocks, to security forces on the ground, the paper noted. They are much smaller than armed drones.

But the US government needs formal approval from Iraq to use such aircraft there, the paper noted, citing unnamed Iraqi officials.

Such approval may be hard to get given the political tensions between the two countries, The Times said.

A senior American official said negotiations were under way to obtain authorization for the drone operations, but Ali al-Mosawi, a top adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; Iraq's national security adviser, Falih al-Fayadh; and the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, all said in interviews that they had not been consulted by the Americans, the report said.

"Our sky is our sky, not the USA's sky," Asadi is quoted by the paper as saying.


Secrets of the Zionist Billionaire Backing Gingrich's Shot at the White House

© Matt Rourke/AP
The billionaire Sheldon Adelson is backing Newt Gingrich.
Sheldon Adelson is not running for office - but his cash could swing Tuesday's Florida primary

Abraham Foxman, the amiably chatty director of the Jewish civil rights group, the Anti-Defamation League, has a story to tell about his friend, the 78-year-old multi-billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson, who is America's eighth richest man and has given millions of dollars in support of Newt Gingrich's presidential bid, was having dinner with Foxman in Las Vegas several years ago. Foxman let slip that he was having to miss an invitation to the White House from the then president, George W. Bush. Foxman explained it was impossible to get a commercial flight. Adelson replied: "If the president of the United States asks you to go, you go." Then he gave Foxman the use of his private plane.

Foxman asked Adelson if any condition was attached to the spontaneous act of generosity. "The condition is that you tell President Bush that is how you got there," said Adelson. Foxman made it in time to meet the president.

It is a classic vignette to describe the power and style of Adelson, a man who has given scores of millions of dollars to Republican and Jewish causes over the years but who only now - by backing Gingrich - is becoming known to the wider public. It shows the reach of great wealth and how it mixes with the most powerful people on earth. It also shows Adelson's willingness to use that wealth for causes and people he believes in.

Bad Guys

Americans Oppose War: But Does Government Care?

With harsh US rhetoric and tensions around Iran's nuclear program snowballing by the hour, American polls nonetheless show that most Americans think a war with Tehran would be a grave mistake. But do the leaders care?

­Despite Iran's recent consent to return to negotiations over its atomic work, the Obama administration says war with Tehran is still on the table. Even harsher statements come from some of Washington's hawks like Newt Gingrich, who spoke of breaking the Iranian regime within a year.

The calls however appear to find little support with the ordinary people. Online and telephone surveys by one of the country's online companion polls show the majority of Americans do not back the government's talk of war against Iran.

The residents of one American city went even further and took the matter to their City Council. The legislative body of Charlottesville in Virginia passed a resolution, believed to be a first in the country, opposing the launching of a war on Iran, as well as calling for an end to current ground and drone wars engaged in by the US.

Star of David

Israel Warns Time is Running out Before it Launches Strike on Iran

Ehud Barak
© Getty Images
Ehud Barak
Growing body of opinion suggests that Iranian response to an attack would be muted

Economic sanctions by the European Union and the United States can only be allowed a limited time period to prevent Iran from attempting to acquire a nuclear arsenal before a military strike must be contemplated, Israeli leaders have declared.

The tough public stance from Tel Aviv comes amid conflicting reports on the readiness of the Israeli military establishment to carry out an attack on Iran.

One account claims that Israel's security agencies have concluded that the turmoil predicted from a strike, and the likely response from Tehran, has been widely exaggerated. However, a senior British official told The Independent that the hierarchy of the intelligence service, Mossad, and the armed forces continued to have deep trepidation about conflict in the region.

Speaking at the Davos economic summit yesterday, the Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, yesterday warned that a situation could be rapidly reached when even "surgical" military action could not block the Tehran regime from getting the bomb. "We will know early enough whether the Iranians are ready to give up their nuclear weapons," following measures such as the recently announced EU oil embargo, he said.


Asia Challenges US, Europe Over Iran

China, India and Turkey have warned that they won't support a ban on Iranian oil imports and will try and prevent the US from blocking Iranian oil supplies. Japan and South Korea are planning to follow suit. Europe introduced an embargo on Iran oil imports this week. The Voice of Russia's Konstantin Garibov reports.

The new package of sanctions against Tehran which was approved by EU foreign ministers on Monday provides for a gradual ban on the import of Iranian oil and oil products. The EU plans to stop purchasing oil from Iran by July 1st . Until recently, the main buyers of Iranian oil in Europe were Greece, Italy and Spain, who bought 600,000 barrels a day.

Europe decided to buy itself some time so that it could find alternatives to Iranian oil imports. Yevgeny Satanovsky of the Institute of the Middle East says:

"Europe will have no problems replacing Iranian oil with oil from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or Kuwait. The Gulf Cooperation Council has already made it clear that it will recoup the losses."


Iran Finalizes Bill to Ban EU Oil Exports

© unknown
Iranian lawmakers aim to ban all oil exports to European countries in response to the oil ban against Iran.
An Iranian lawmaker says the Majlis (parliament) Energy Committee has finalized a draft bill to stop the country's oil exports to EU member states in reaction to the bloc's recent decision to ban oil imports from Iran.

Nasser Soudani, deputy chairman of the committee, said on Saturday that the double-urgency bill for halting Iran oil exports to Europe had been finalized in four clauses.

"According to one of the main clauses, the Islamic Republic of Iran will halt all oil exports to European countries as long as they continue to ban oil imports from Iran," he added.

The lawmaker said the bill may undergo further modifications as some Iranian parliamentarians believe that oil exports to EU should be stopped for five years.

"Another clause obliges the government to forbid imports of all goods from countries which have imposed sanctions on our country," he added.


Iran Says It Could Terminate European Oil Sales Next Week

Escalating retaliatory threats over the West's nuclear sanctions, Iran warned on Friday that it could terminate oil sales to Europe as early as next week, and it bluntly advised Arab oil producers that any attempt by them to replace Iranian exports would be considered unfriendly.

The threats came as Iranian officials repeated their willingness to re-engage in negotiations with the Western powers over Iran's uranium enrichment program, although the prospects for such a resumption appeared to grow more uncertain. Iran also was preparing to play host this weekend to a team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear monitor, which issued an incriminating report about Iran's uranium enrichment program two months ago.

That report elevated Western suspicions that Iran was laying the groundwork to build an atomic weapon despite Iran's repeated assertions that its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful ends.


US Plans for Perpetual War

Obama, Panetta
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Defense Secretary Panetta and President Obama
As an attack on Iran remains temporarily on the backburner and Syria, home to "US-identified" terrorist group Hamas, moves up the queue as the next target for military intervention, both are part of a larger strategy proposed to newly-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.

The "Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" suggested a "new approach to peace' premised on a 'clean break' from the Oslo peace process of the 1990's. Oslo would have withdrawn Israeli troops from the occupied territories while affirming Palestine's right of self-determination. Rather than pursuing a 'comprehensive peace' with the Arab world, Clean Break advocated an aggressive pre-emptive military strategy to destabilize Iraq and eliminate Saddam Hussein. In addition, Clean Break retained the 'right of hot pursuit' anywhere within the occupied territories and encouraged 'seizing the initiative' by "engaging" Hezbollah, Syria and Iran to trigger ultimate regime change.

The key authors of that document, American neo-cons Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Douglas Feith (who Gen. Tommy Franks called the 'f... stupidest guy on the face of the earth" ie Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, pg 281), soon found themselves influential national security positions within a receptive Bush Administration from which to proselytize their recommendations.


Is Sarkozy About to Throw in the Towel?

© Getty Images
President Nicolas Sarkozy will be fighting for his political life when he makes a live appearance on French TV tonight. Some senior figures within his own party fear that he has already lost all chance of winning the two-round presidential election in April and May. There is speculation - possibly rooted in wishful thinking - that Mr Sarkozy may soon be tempted to throw in the towel and allow another senior centre-right politician to run in his place.

Sources within his centre-right party insist that the President will make no dramatic statements tonight. He will not say that he is pulling out of the race. Nor will he declare - yet - that he is a candidate for another five-year presidential term. His TV address to the nation will be purely presidential, they insist: announcing a programme of "urgent" and "revolutionary" reforms to make the struggling French economy more competitive. This will include a controversial plan to shift part of the high pay-roll tax burden on French employers to a higher rate of VAT.

But the tone and contents of Mr Sarkozy's address will be closely watched by supporters, and rivals, within his centre-right party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). The President upset some of his supporters last week with off-the-record comments in which he said that he would give up politics if he lost the election.