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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Outside Pressures Broke Korean Deadlock

February 14, 2007

News Analysis
Outside Pressures Broke Korean Deadlock


WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 — It is hard to imagine that either George W. Bush or Kim Jong-il would have agreed even a year ago to the kind of deal they have now approved. The pact, announced Tuesday, would stop, seal and ultimately disable North Korea’s nuclear facilities, as part of a grand bargain that the administration has previously shunned as overly generous to a repressive country — especially one that has not yet said when or if it will give up its nuclear arsenal.

But in the past few months, the world has changed for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kim, two men who have made clear how deeply they detest each other. Both are beset by huge problems, and both needed some kind of breakthrough.

For Mr. Bush, bogged down in Iraq, his authority undercut by the November elections, any chance to show progress in peacefully disarming a country that detonated a nuclear test just four months ago could no longer be passed up. As one senior administration official said over the weekend, the prospect that Mr. Bush might leave Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea more dangerous places than he found them “can’t be very appealing.”

Still, the accord came under fast criticism from right and left that it was both too little and too late.

For years, Mr. Bush’s administration has been paralyzed by an ideological war, between those who wanted to bring down North Korea and those who thought it was worth one more try to lure the country out of isolation. In embracing this deal, Mr. Bush sided with those who have counseled engagement, notably his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and her chief negotiator, Christopher R. Hill. Mr. Bush took the leap in the hope that in a few months, he will be able to declare that North Korea can no longer produce fuel for new nuclear weapons, even if it has not yet turned over its old ones.

For Mr. Kim, the nuclear explosion — more of a fizzle — that he set off in the mountains not far from the Chinese border in October turned out to be a strategic mistake. The Chinese, who spent six decades protecting the Kim family dynasty, responded by cutting off his military aid, and helping Washington crack down on the banks that financed the Cognac-and-Mercedes lifestyle of the North Korean leadership.

“As a political statement, their test was a red flare for everyone,” said Robert Gallucci, who under President Clinton was the chief negotiator of the 1994 agreement with North Korea, which collapsed four years ago. “It gave President Bush and the Chinese some leverage.”

Mr. Gallucci and other nuclear experts agree that the hardest bargaining with world’s most reclusive, often paranoid, government remains ahead.

Over the next year, under the pact, the North must not only disable its nuclear reactors and reprocessing facilities, it must lead inspectors to its weapons and a suspected second nuclear weapons program. And to get to the next phase of the agreement, the one that gives “disarmament” meaning, North Korea will have to be persuaded to give away the country’s crown jewels: the weapons that make the world pay attention to it.

But before the administration faces off against Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, it will have to confront the many critics of the deal here at home. As the White House took credit on Tuesday for what it called a “first step,” it found itself pilloried by conservatives who attacked the administration for folding in negotiations with a charter member of what Mr. Bush called the “axis of evil,” and for replicating key elements of Mr. Clinton’s agreement with North Korea.

At the same time, Mr. Bush’s advisers were being confronted by barbs from veterans of the Clinton administration, who argued that the same deal struck Tuesday had been within reach several years and a half-dozen weapons ago, had only Mr. Bush chosen to negotiate with the North rather than fixate on upending its government.

In fact, elements of the new decision closely resemble the Clinton deal, called the Agreed Framework. As it did in that accord, the North agrees to “freeze” its operations at Yongbyon, its main nuclear facility, and to allow inspections there. And like that agreement, the new one envisions the North’s ultimately giving up all of its nuclear material.

In two respects, however, the new accord is different: North Korea does not receive the incentives the West has offered — in this case, about a year’s supply of heavy fuel oil and other aid — until it “disables” its equipment at Yongbyon and declares where it has hidden its bombs, nuclear fuel and other nuclear facilities. And the deal is not only with Washington, but with Beijing, Moscow, Seoul and Tokyo.

“We’re building a set of relationships,” Ms. Rice argued Tuesday, saying that the deal would not have been possible if she and President Bush had not been able to swing the Chinese over to their side. Mr. Bush has told colleagues that he believes the turning point came in his own blunt conversations with President Hu Jintao of China, in which, the American president has said, he explained in stark terms that a nuclear North Korea was more China’s problem than America’s.

But the administration was clearly taken aback on Tuesday by the harshness of the critique from the right, led by its recently departed United Nations ambassador, John R. Bolton, who charged that the deal “undercuts the sanctions resolution” against the North that he pushed through the Security Council four months ago.

Democrats, in contrast, were caught between enjoying watching Mr. Bush change course and declaring that the agreement amounted to disarmament-lite. “It gives the illusion of moving more rapidly to disarmament, but it doesn’t really require anything to happen in the second phase,” said Joel Wit, who was the coordinator of the 1994 agreement.

The Bush administration is counting on the lure of future benefits to the North — fuel oil, the peace treaty ending the Korean War it has long craved, an end to other sanctions — to force Mr. Kim to disclose where his nuclear weapons and fuel are stored.

Mr. Bush’s big worry now is that Mr. Kim is playing the administration for time. Many experts think he is betting that by the time the first big deliveries of oil and aid are depleted, America will be distracted by a presidential election.

But Mr. Bush could also end up with a diplomatic triumph, one he needs desperately. To get there, he appears to have changed course. Asked in 2004 about North Korea, he said, “I don’t think you give timelines to dictators and tyrants.”

Now he appears to have concluded that sometimes the United States has to negotiate with dictators and odious rulers, because the other options — military force, sanctions or watching an unpredictable nation gain a nuclear arsenal — seem even worse.

Monday, February 12, 2007

U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites

February 12, 2007

U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites


BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 — After weeks of internal debate, senior United States military officials on Sunday literally put on the table their first public evidence of the contentious assertion that Iran supplies Shiite extremist groups in Iraq with some of the most lethal weapons in the war. They said those weapons had been used to kill more than 170 Americans in the past three years.

Never before displayed in public, the weapons included squat canisters designed to explode and spit out molten balls of copper that cut through armor. The canisters, called explosively formed penetrators or E.F.P.s, are perhaps the most feared weapon faced by American and Iraqi troops here.

In a news briefing held under strict security, the officials spread out on two small tables an E.F.P. and an array of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades with visible serial numbers that the officials said link the weapons directly to Iranian arms factories. The officials also asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans. The officials said such an assertion was an inference based on general intelligence assessments.

That inference, and the anonymity of the officials who made it, seemed likely to generate skepticism among those suspicious that the Bush administration is trying to find a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq, and perhaps even trying to lay the groundwork for war with Iran.

Iran on Monday rejected the American allegations. "Such accusations cannot be relied upon or be presented as evidence. The United States has a long history in fabricating evidence. Such charges are unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.

Mr. Hosseini said Iran’s top leaders were not intervening in Iraq and considered "any intervention in Iraq’s internal affairs as a weakening of the popular Iraqi government, and we are opposed to that."

While the Americans displayed what they said was the physical evidence of their claims about Iran’s role in Iraq, they also left many questions unanswered, including proof that the Iranian government was directing the delivery of weapons.

The officials were repeatedly pressed on why they insisted on anonymity in such an important matter affecting the security of American and Iraqi troops. A senior United States military official gave a partial answer, saying that without anonymity, a senior Defense Department analyst who participated in the briefing could not have contributed.

The officials also were defensive about the timing of disclosing such incriminating evidence, since they had known about it as early as 2004. They said E.F.P. attacks had nearly doubled in 2006 compared with the previous year and a half.

“The reason we’re talking about this right now is the vast increase in the number of E.F.P.s being found,” one official said. American-led forces in Iraq, the official said, “are not trying to hype this up to be more than it is.”

Whatever doubts were created about the timing and circumstances of the weapons disclosures, the direct physical evidence presented on Sunday was extraordinary.

The officials said the E.F.P. weapons arrived in Iraq in the form of what they described as a “kit” containing high-grade metals and highly machined parts — like a shaped, concave lid that folds into a molten ball while hurtling toward its target.

For the first time, American officials provided a specific casualty total from these weapons, saying they had killed more than 170 Americans and wounded 620 since June 2004, when one of the devices first killed a service member.

But then the officials went much further, asserting without specific evidence that the Iranian security apparatus, called the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force controlled delivery of the materials to Iraq. And in a further inference, the officials asserted that the Quds Force, sometimes called the I.R.G.C. - Quds, could be involved only with Iranian government complicity.

“We have been able to determine that this material, especially on the E.F.P. level, is coming from the I.R.G.C. - Quds Force,” said the senior defense analyst. That, the analyst said, meant direction for the operation was “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”

At least one shipment of E.F.P.s was captured as it was smuggled from Iran into southern Iraq in 2005, the officials said. Caches and arrays of E.F.P.s, as well as mortars and other weapons traceable to Iran, have been repeatedly found inside Iraq in areas dominated by militias known to have ties to Iran, the officials said. One cache of antitank rocket-propelled grenades and other items was seized as recently as Jan. 23, the officials said.

The precise machining of E.F.P. components, the officials said, also links the weapons to Iran. “We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq,” the senior military official said.

The officials also gave fresh details on recent American raids in Baghdad and the northern city of Erbil in which Quds Force members were picked up and accused of working with extremist groups to plan attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

Some of the five Iranians still being detained after they were picked up in Erbil on Jan. 11 had been flushing documents down a toilet when they were found, the defense analyst said, and they had recently been engaged in “changing their appearance” — apparently shaving their heads, though for what reason the analyst did not know.

An earlier raid in Baghdad was carried out, the officials said, after American forces received word that the No. 2 Quds Force official, whom they identified as Mohsin Chizari, was unexpectedly in Iraq. When Mr. Chizari was picked up in a raid in December, he was carrying false identification, the officials said.

He was later released to the Iraqi government with another Iranian official who was picked up at the same time. The Iraqis asked both Iranians to leave the country.

The senior defense analyst said there was no direct link between the detained Iranians and the physical evidence presented on Sunday. But the analyst said, “the overall tenor” of the evidence was that Mr. Chizari was implicated in bringing E.F.P.s into Iraq.

The briefing also presented new information on what the Americans call the smuggling routes. There are three main routes, officials said: the Mandelli border crossing, east of Baghdad; the Mehran crossing, in the marshes to the south; and in the southern city of Basra.

Paid Iraqis, rather than Iranians themselves, carry the materials across the border, the officials said.

The senior military official blamed recent press reports for, he said, overstating the importance of the weapons presentation, which had been delayed. Part of the delay reflected a view among officials in Washington that the original presentation was insufficiently strong. Officials here did not address that element of the internal debate.

The senior American military official did make it clear that declassifying the material took place only after weeks of analysis on what information could be useful to hostile forces — information that has mostly been kept out of the public eye since the E.F.P.s began turning up in Iraq. “We publicly have not acknowledged E.F.P.s for the past two years,” the senior military official said.

Laid out on the tables themselves were the tailfins of dozens of apparently used mortar shells, as well as intact mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades, cases for some of the weaponry, the E.F.P., and two identification cards the officials said were taken in the Erbil raid.

The shells had serial numbers in English in order to comply with international standards for arms, the officials said. One grenade, for instance, was marked with the serial number P.G.7-AT-1 followed by LOT:5-31-2006. The officials said that the serial numbers clearly identified the grenade as being of Iranian manufacture and the date showed that it had been made in 2006.

Commanders in Baghdad are acutely aware of the deadly E.F.P.s. Col. Steve Townsend, commander of the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Baghdad, said his unit has encountered about a dozen E.F.P.s in the past two months.

Iran’s role in Iraq has been discussed in recent months in public and private testimony by senior intelligence officials. In testimony last month, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said “there’s a clear line of evidence that points out the Iranians want to punish the United States, hurt the United States in Iraq, tie down the United States in Iraq, so that our other options in the region, against other activities the Iranians might have, would be limited.”

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last month that he believed that Iranian operatives inside Iraq were supporting Shiite militias and working against American troops.

But he also asserted that the White House had a poor understanding of Iranian calculations and added that he was concerned that the Bush administration was building a case for a more confrontational policy toward Tehran.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Michael R. Gordon and Felicity Barringer from Washington.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Michael R. Gordon and Felicity Barringer from Washington.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Putin Says U.S. Is Undermining Global Stability

February 11, 2007

Putin Says U.S. Is Undermining Global Stability

MUNICH, Feb. 10 — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia accused the United States on Saturday of provoking a new nuclear arms race by developing ballistic missile defenses, undermining international institutions and making the Middle East more unstable through its clumsy handling of the Iraq war.

In an address to an international security conference, Mr. Putin dropped all diplomatic gloss to recite a long list of complaints about American domination of global affairs, including many of the themes that have strained relations between the Kremlin and the United States during his seven-year administration.

Among them were the expansion of NATO into the Baltics and the perception in Russia that the West has supported groups that have toppled other governments in Moscow’s former sphere of influence.

“The process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernization of the alliance,” Mr. Putin said. “We have the right to ask, ‘Against whom is this expansion directed?’ ”

He said the United States had turned the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which sends monitors to elections in the former Soviet sphere, “into a vulgar instrument of ensuring the foreign policy interests of one country.”

The comments were the sternest yet from Mr. Putin, who has long bristled over criticism from the United States and its European allies as he and his cadre of former Soviet intelligence officials have consolidated their hold on Russia’s government, energy reserves and arms-manufacturing and trading complexes.

Rubble from the Berlin Wall was “hauled away as souvenirs” to countries that praise openness and personal freedom, he said, but “now there are attempts to impose new dividing lines and rules, maybe virtual, but still dividing our mutual continent.”

The world, he said, is now unipolar: “One single center of power. One single center of force. One single center of decision making. This is the world of one master, one sovereign.”

With the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, and a Congressional delegation sitting stone-faced, Mr. Putin warned that the power amassed by any nation that assumes this ultimate global role “destroys it from within.

“It has nothing in common with democracy, of course,” he added. “Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations — military force.”

“Primarily the United States has overstepped its national borders, and in every area,” said Mr. Putin, who increasingly has tried to re-establish Russia’s once broad Soviet-era influence, using Russia’s natural resources as leverage and defending nations at odds with the United States, including Iran.

American military actions, which he termed “unilateral” and “illegitimate,” also “have not been able to resolve any matters at all,” and, he said, have created only more instability and danger.

“They bring us to the abyss of one conflict after another,” he said. “Political solutions are becoming impossible.”

The comments irritated some European leaders and prompted sharp criticism from the Americans in attendance. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican widely expected to make a bid for the White House, made a rebuttal that began, “In today’s multipolar world, there is no place for needless confrontation.” He said that the United States won the cold war in partnership with powerful nations of Western Europe, and that “there are power centers on every continent today.”

Mr. McCain then hit back at Mr. Putin more directly. “Will Russia’s autocratic turn become more pronounced, its foreign policy more opposed to the principles of the Western democracies and its energy policy used as a tool of intimidation?” he asked. “Moscow must understand that it cannot enjoy a genuine partnership with the West so long as its actions, at home and abroad, conflict fundamentally with the core values of the Euro-Atlantic democracies.”

In Washington, Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said in a statement: “We are surprised and disappointed with President Putin’s comments. His accusations are wrong. We expect to continue cooperation with Russia in areas important to the international community such as counterterrorism and reducing the spread and threat of weapons of mass destruction.”

Russia has also faced criticism from the United States and other Western countries that believe it has used energy reserves and transport pipelines to reward friendly countries and to punish those seeking to distance themselves from Kremlin control. Some analysts saw the tone of the speech as evidence of how much oil and mineral revenues have strengthened Mr. Putin.

The occasion of the speech was the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy — an event begun deep in the cold war, when Germany was divided and hundreds of thousands of American troops were stationed in Western Europe as a bulwark against Warsaw Pact forces.

Mr. Putin began with an apology for the tough talk to come. But during a lively question and answer period full of challenges and rebukes, the Russian president indicated that he relished provoking the international audience of legislators, government leaders, political analysts and human rights advocates.

“I love it,” Mr. Putin said as he reviewed a long list of questions. He has long enjoyed high and durable public approval ratings at home, in part for standing up to the West and for pursuing an assertive foreign policy with former Soviet states.

He did offer at least two significant and conciliatory statements to the United States.

President Bush “is a decent man, and one can do business with him,” he said. From their meetings and discussions, Mr. Putin said, he has heard the American president say, “I assume Russia and the United States will never be enemies, and I agree.”

And while Mr. Putin denied that Russia had assisted the Iranian military with significant arms transfers, he also criticized the government in Tehran for not cooperating more with the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency or responding to questions about its nuclear program.

Other American lawmakers offered measured criticism afterward. “He’s done more to bring Europe and the U.S. together than any single event in the last several years,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, described the speech as “confrontational,” saying, “some of the rhetoric takes us back to the cold war.”

Iran’s top nuclear official, Ali Larijani, listened impassively from the back of the room. His attendance had become a sideshow in itself. After accepting an invitation to speak Sunday, he canceled, citing health reasons, after a tense meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that concluded with a decision to freeze technical cooperation projects.

Mr. Putin joked that he worried the United States was “hiding extra warheads under the pillow” despite its treaties with Moscow to reduce strategic nuclear stockpiles. And he indicated obliquely that the new Russian ballistic missile, known as the Topol-M, was being developed at least in part in response to American efforts to field missile defenses.

He expressed alarm that an effective antimissile shield over the United States would upset a system of mutual fear that kept the nuclear peace throughout the cold war. “That means the balance will be upset, completely upset,” he said.

Addressing tensions between Europe and Russia over energy exports, Mr. Putin said 26 percent of Russian oil was extracted by foreign companies. While Russia is open to outside investment, he said, it has found its businessmen blocked from deals abroad.

The Kremlin has been criticized for attempting to impose registration and taxation laws that could restrict the work of foreign nongovernmental organizations with offices in Russia to aid democratization.

But Mr. Putin said his concerns about the work grew from the fact that they “are used as channels for funding, and those funds are provided by governments of other countries.” That flow of foreign money to assist opposition Russian political organizations, he said, is “hidden from our society.

“What is democratic about this?” he asked. “This is not about democracy. This is about one country influencing another.”

Mrs. Merkel, in her opening speech, struck a far more diplomatic tone than Mr. Putin, though she alluded to the tensions between Europe and Russia over energy shipments and the independence of Kosovo.

Addressing herself to Mr. Putin, who was sitting in the front row, Mrs. Merkel said, “In my talks with you, I have sensed that Russia is going to be a reliable and predictable partner.” But she added, “We need to speak frankly with each other.”

Mrs. Merkel had previously criticized in sharp terms Russia’s recent shutdown of oil shipments to Belarus, which followed a dispute over natural gas prices. She is pressing Russia to sign a charter with the European Union on energy, which Moscow has resisted.

Mrs. Merkel alluded to another potential confrontation between Europe and Russia. The United Nations is weighing a proposal that would put Kosovo on the path to independence from Serbia, which Russia opposes because it fears that such a move could upset its own turbulent relations with ethnic groups in the Caucasus. Russia has crushed one separatist-minded people within its own borders, in Chechnya, but supports two breakaway regions in Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“We’re going to come to the stage where we have to decide: does Serbia, does Kosovo want to move in the European direction?” Mrs. Merkel asked. “If that’s the route they choose, both will have to make compromises.”

C. J. Chivers contributed reporting from Moscow.