The BBC is reporting the U.S. military has drawn up contingency plans for massive airstrikes against Iran. The plans call for attacks on Iran’s nuclear sites, air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centers. As part of the plan, long-range B2 stealth bombers would drop so-called “bunker-busting” bombs to penetrate Iran’s underground uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.
The BBC’s report comes at a time of heightened tension between the United States and Iran. Earlier today, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Stennis arrived in Middle Eastern waters. The U.S. will soon have two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf for the first time since the start of the Iraq War. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has admitted the Stennis was deployed to the Gulf to send a message to Iran.
Iran has announced it will not agree to suspend uranium enrichment by tomorrow’s deadline set by the U.N. Security Council.
In Iraq, the Pentagon has announced the deaths of nine more U.S. servicemembers. This brings the U.S. death toll in Iraq to 3,144. At least two soldiers died when assailants raided a U.S. military outpost in Tarmiyah in what has been described as one of the biggest assaults in months on a U.S. military base. Suicide bombers began the attack by driving cars laden with explosives into the base. Gunmen then opened fire.
In Baghdad, two members of the Shiite-led police force have been accused of raping a Sunni woman during the massive security crackdown in the capital. The woman appeared on Al Jazeera on Monday and said she was raped after being detained over the weekend. Soon after the report aired, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised a full investigation. But four hours later he dismissed the rape allegations and commended the police officers. He accused the woman of spreading propaganda to undermine the security forces. Sunni leaders accused the Shiite-led government of covering up the rape. One Sunni group said, “This is evidence of the failure of the security plan which was supposed to secure our women before our men.”
Analysts in the Middle East say Monday’s peace talks in Jerusalem have accomplished little. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Rice briefly spoke to reporters after the summit.
Condoleezza Rice: “The president and the prime minister discussed their views of the diplomatic and political horizon and how it might unfold towards the vision of the two-state vision of President Bush. The president and prime minister agreed that they would meet together again soon. They reiterated their desire for American participation and leadership in facilitating efforts to overcome obstacles, rally regional and international support and move forward towards peace. In that vein, I expect to return to the region soon.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly rejected the new Palestinian coalition government.
Ehud Olmert: “We will not recognize any government that does not carry out these obligations, and we will not cooperate with it or any of its ministers. I decided … we have to maintain a channel of communications with the Palestinian, and the sole possible channel is the president of the Palestinian Authority who was elected directly by the public.”
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum criticized the stance of Israel and the United States.
Fawzi Barhoum: “Until now they are dealing negatively with this situation and force all of their pressure against Abbas in order to break this unity and this solidarity with all Palestinian parties and with all the Palestinian people towards this political situation to form this unity government. Until now America supports only Israeli occupation towards all these decisions and sanctions and aggressions and commissions against our Palestinian people.”
In news from Capitol Hill, Congress is coming under criticism for approving a little-noticed provision last year that makes it easier for President Bush to declare martial law and to send U.S. troops into American cities. At the administration’s request, Congress approved the changes to a law known as the Insurrection Act without ever holding a public hearing. Under the new law, the president now has the authority to use both active-duty armed forces and the National Guard on American soil — not just during a rebellion, but also a natural disaster, terrorist attack, pandemic or other chaotic situation. All 50 of the nation’s governors have opposed the rule changes. Earlier this month, Senators Patrick Leahy, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Republican Christopher Bond introduced legislation to repeal the changes Congress approved last year.
Vice President Dick Cheney has arrived in Japan on the first stop of a trip that will also take him to Australia. U.S. officials have said Cheney is expected to urge both countries to send more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Cheney is scheduled to meet with Japan’s emperor and prime minister. But one official Cheney won’t be meeting is Japan’s defense minister, Fumio Kyuma. He recently said the U.S. invasion of Iraq was “a mistake.”
Cheney’s visit to Japan comes a week after two small bombs exploded outside the U.S. military base Camp Zuma south of Tokyo. No one was injured in the blasts. A group called the Revolutionary Army claimed responsibility, saying it was meant to disrupt the vice president’s visit and to protest the presence of U.S. troops in Japan. The United States has about 50,000 troops based in Japan.
On Saturday, Cheney will meet with Australia’s prime minister, John Howard, who is expected to urge Cheney to expedite the trial of Australian citizen David Hicks, who is being held at Guantanamo.
Colombia’s foreign minister, Maria Consuelo Araujo, has resigned just days after her brother was arrested for alleged ties to illegal right-wing paramilitary groups involve in cocaine trafficking. Last week, Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered her brother, Senator Alvaro Araujo, and five other lawmakers to be arrested for ties to paramilitary groups. All of the arrested lawmakers are supporters of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Maria Consuelo Araujo announced her resignation as foreign minister on Monday.
Maria Consuelo Araujo: “I’m leaving because I am not tied to any charge. I see clearly that the judicial process must be free of any interference. The certainty of my father’s and my brother’s innocence obligates me to leave in order to have the freedom to be at their side to support them as a daughter and a sister. I appreciate your support, Mr. President.”
Colombian President Uribe has named Fernando Araujo Perdomo as the country’s new foreign minister. Araujo Perdomo spent almost all of the past six years held hostage by FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He escaped in December.
In media news, the nation’s two satellite radio networks plan to merge. On Monday, Sirius Satellite Radio announced plans to buy its rival XM for $4.6 billion in stock. The merger will require the approval of the Federal Communications Commission. Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy criticized the proposed deal. He said, “Such a merger would mean a reduction in the quantity and quality of programming available to the public.”
Two of the world’s largest record companies could also soon merge. The U.S.-based Warner Music has approached the British company EMI over a possible deal.
In Washington, jurors will hear closing arguments today in the trial of Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff. Both sides will be given three hours to make their final arguments.
And Monday marked the 65th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066. The order forced 120,000 Japanese-American citizens and legal residents into internment camps during World War II solely because they were of Japanese descent.