NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: May 4

Pakistan nuclear projects raise US fears

Pakistan is continuing to expand its nuclear bomb-making facilities despite growing international concern that advancing Islamist extremists could overrun one or more of its atomic weapons plants or seize sufficient radioactive material to make a dirty bomb, US nuclear experts and former officials say.

David Albright, previously a senior weapons inspector for the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Iraq, said commercial satellite photos showed two plutonium-producing reactors were nearing completion at Khushab, about 160 miles south-west of the capital, Islamabad.

“In the current climate, with Pakistan’s leadership under duress from daily acts of violence by insurgent Taliban forces and organised political opposition, the security of any nuclear material produced in these reactors is in question,” Albright said in a report issued by the independent Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. [continued…]

Pakistan strife raises U.S. doubts on nuclear arms

The Obama administration inherited from President Bush a multiyear, $100 million secret American program to help Pakistan build stronger physical protections around some of those facilities, and to train Pakistanis in nuclear security.

But much of that effort has now petered out, and American officials have never been permitted to see how much of the money was spent, the facilities where the weapons are kept or even a tally of how many Pakistan has produced. The facility Pakistan was supposed to build to conduct its own training exercises is running years behind schedule.

Administration officials would not say if the subject would be raised during Mr. Zardari’s first meeting with Mr. Obama. But even if Mr. Obama raises the subject, it is not clear how fruitful the conversation might be. [continued…]

Spain okays Gaza war crimes probe against Israelis

Spanish National Court judge Fernando Andreu announced Monday that he will pursue his investigation into a 2002 Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip, despite contrary advice by prosecutors at the court.

Andreu said the 2002 bombing in densely populated Gaza City might constitute a crime against humanity. That attack, using a one-ton bomb dropped from an Israeli F-16, targeted and killed alleged Hamas member Salah Shehadeh along with 14 other people. [continued…]

Gaza costs Israel its reputation for press freedom

Israeli restrictions on journalists during its Gaza offensive have seen the state downgraded in a survey of press freedom, removing the Middle East’s lone example of a “free” media environment.

A study made public by Freedom House on Friday saw Israel move from the “free” category to “partly free” after officials curtailed reporters and sought to influence coverage of the three-week invasion of the Gaza Strip, which ended on Jan 18.

The global report describes the region as having “the world’s lowest level of press freedom” with only Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt ranking as “partly free” and all other countries as “not free”. [continued…]

If Israel acquiesces on Iran, world will follow suit

Israel’s strategy against Iran’s nuclear program has failed. If there were any clandestine elements that could have bought some time, their effectiveness is waning. At the obvious, external level – the level of politics – the world was urged to rally behind the effort to block Iran from acquiring military nuclear capabilities using distinctly un-Israeli arguments, concerning the dangers of expanding the nuclear “club” to the breaking point; of escalating competition for control over the Persian Gulf; and of bringing Europe within the range of nuclear armed missiles. However, in its pretentiousness, this is a typical Israeli approach: to educate the “other” about what is good and important for him, so he will realize what he must do, which also happens to be what Israel wants. A great idea if only there were buyers.

Other countries, who seem to be terribly selfish, insist on deciding for themselves what constitutes a threat to them and how much they are willing to invest in dealing with it. An Iran with nukes troubles them a great deal, but not to the point of going to war to prevent Tehran from having them. [continued…]

ADL poll: 66 percent of Israeli Jews back attack on Iran

A large majority of Israeli Jews support military action aimed at destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to a survey sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.

According to the poll, co-sponsored by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, a large majority of those who support a move by the army said they would maintain their support even if the Obama administration opposed it. [continued…]

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