Iran has test-fired nine long- and medium-range missiles, including one it says could reach Israel and US military bases in the Middle East. The test comes amidst ongoing tensions over a possible US or Israeli attack on Iran. Last month, the New York Times reported Israel carried out a major military exercise that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iranian state television said the tests are intended to show “(Iran’s) will and authority to the enemies that have threatened Iran with harsh language in recent weeks.” On Tuesday, Iranian officials said Iran would hit Israeli and US targets if it were attacked.
Iran’s missile test came hours after the United States and Czech Republic signed a long-awaited agreement to station part of a planned US missile system on Czech soil. The Bush administration says the missile system would protect Europe from Iranian missiles, but it’s widely seen as a first-strike threat against Iran. The Czech Republic will host a radar site to go along with ten ballistic missiles based in Poland. In Prague, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined Czech officials for a champagne toast to the missile agreement. Rice said the missile system should proceed regardless of who wins the November elections.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “We face, with the Iranians, and so do our allies and friends, a growing missile threat that is getting ever longer and ever deeper and where the Iranian appetite for nuclear technology, as to this point, is still unchecked. And it’s hard for me to believe, that an American president is not going to want to have the capability to defend our territory, the territory of
our allies, whether they are in Europe or whether they are in the Middle East.”
The missile plans await approval in Poland, where lawmakers have rejected US incentives as insufficient. The deal would come against a majority of public opposition in both Poland and the Czech Republic. In Prague, more than a thousand protesters crowded a downtown square after the deal was announced.
Protester: “This is not good for our republic, nor for Europe, nor for peace and security all around the world. People are against the radar for different reasons. Radar and missiles have no security nor defensive reasoning.”
Russia has also fiercely opposed the missile system plans. At the UN, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the missile system would increase proliferation and the threat of military conflict.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin: “Every military action causes a military response. This is the fundamental rule. This is what military people are about. If there is a military action, if there is a change in strategic posture, there is a counter-change of strategic posture. You can read it in every military textbook. So there is nothing surprising. There are not even questions to be asked about.”
The Iraqi government continues to insist on a timetable for the departure of US troops from Iraq. On Tuesday, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said his government would not sign any agreement keeping US troops in Iraq without a timetable for their withdrawal.
Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie: “We can’t have a memorandum of understanding with foreign forces unless it has dates and clear horizons determining the departure of foreign forces. We’re unambiguously talking about their departure. We are waiting impatiently for the day when the last foreign soldier leaves Iraq.”
Al-Rubaie’s comments were the strongest to date by an Iraqi official in calling for a timetable for withdrawal. On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki apparently surprised the White House when he also called for a timetable. The White House has dismissed the remarks as attempts to appease Iraqi and regional audiences. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said the ongoing talks do not address specific dates for a US departure from Iraq. Fratto added, “We have great confidence that the political leadership in Iraq would not take an action that would destabilize the country.”
In Turkey, six people are dead following an attack in front of the US consulate in Istanbul. Three Turkish police officers were killed, along with three assailants.
Here in the United States, Vice President Dick Cheney is being accused of censoring testimony on health threats posed by global warming. Former government climate expert turned whistleblower Jason Burnett says Cheney’s office intervened to omit any mention of the human toll of global warming in prepared testimony by the US Centers for Disease Control. The testimony was cut down to six pages from an original fourteen. Burnett resigned from the Environmental Protection Agency last month in protest of a decision to block California’s emission limits. His accusations came as President Bush was in Japan announcing US support for the Group of Eight plan to work towards halving carbon emissions by 2050. Critics say the plan is too vague and lacks enforcement mechanisms.
On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama is denying accusations he’s switched his political positions to attract more voters. Obama has drawn criticism for recent stances including support for telecom immunity in the Bush administration’s spy program; backing a Supreme Court decision to overturn a Washington, D.C. handgun ban; and saying he’d be open to revise his pledge to withdraw US troops from Iraq. On Tuesday, Obama was asked about allegations of “flip-flopping” at a campaign stop in Georgia.
Sen. Barack Obama: “Let me, first of all, talk about the broader issue, this whole notion that I am shifting to the center or that I’m flip-flopping or this or that or the other. You know, the people who say this apparently haven’t been listening to me… I’ve been organizing with churches for years in the community. And so, the notion that somehow that’s me trying to look like I’m, you know, more centered, more centrist, is just not true… Don’t assume that if I don’t agree with you on something, that it must be because I’m doing that politically. I may just disagree with you.”
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Senator John McCain is again drawing criticism for comments about Iran. On Tuesday, McCain was asked about a recent survey showing US exports to Iran have increased under the Bush administration, mostly from cigarettes. McCain responded, “Maybe that’s a way of killing them.” McCain quickly said he meant that as a joke. Last year, McCain drew controversy for singing the tune of the song “Barbara Ann” with the words changed to “Bomb Iran.”
In congressional news, the polling firm Rasmussen Reports says public approval of the US Congress has fallen to single digits for the first time ever. According to the latest survey, just nine percent of Americans think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. 52 percent of voters say Congress is doing a poor job, tying a record high.
The Bush administration is blocking the American Civil Liberties Union from paying attorneys representing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The ACLU says the White House is carrying out “obstruction of justice” by delaying Treasury Department licenses needed to pay the attorneys. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said, “The government is stonewalling again by not allowing Americans’ private dollars to be paid to American lawyers to defend civil liberties.’’
A coalition of human rights groups is calling on China to release eight political prisoners in advance of next month’s Olympic Games in Beijing. On Tuesday, one month to the day before the games begin, the groups said the eight’s release would be a symbolic gesture in showing improvement on human rights. Former Chinese prisoner Yang Jiaali said the Olympics should bring scrutiny on China’s policies.
Yang Jiaali: “The Chinese government is using the opportunity of hosting Olympics to showcase the China that the Chinese government wants the world to see and cover up the China that the Chinese government does not want the
outside to see. So we came here to reveal this China to the other side of the world, and more than that, we have to send a message to the international community.”
And a bipartisan panel is calling for new law that would make it more difficult for the White House to wage war. The panel, headed by former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher, says the President should be obligated to consult with Congress before launching an attack. At a news conference, Baker called for repealing the 1973 War Powers Act.
James Baker: “After fourteen months of study, including seven meetings around the country and interviews with more than forty experts on this matter, our commission has unanimously concluded that the central law governing this critical decision, that is the War Powers Resolution of 1973, is ineffective, and it should be repealed, and it should be replaced, however, with a better law.”
The Bush administration has claimed congressional approval for the ongoing US occupation of Iraq by citing the October 2002 authorization of an attack on Saddam Hussein. Critics say the White House has exceeded the initial approval.