Saturday, August 20, 2011

Taiwanese Official: F-16 Buy From U.S. 'Hopeless'

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's bid to buy F-16 fighter jets from the United States has become "hopeless," a top Taiwanese official was quoted as saying in an Aug. 20 report. This follows up a report by Defense News last week that Washington told Taiwan it will not sell the jets.
AN ARMED U.S.-BUILT F-16 fighter takes off during a drill in April. (Sam Yeh / Agence France-Presse)
The comments by parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who said the U.S. had changed its mind about selling the jets, mark the first time an official has stated publicly that the long-awaited deal is expected to fall through.
At that time, both U.S. and Taiwanese officials insisted no decision had been made.
It is now "all but hopeless" for Taipei to get the jets, although Washington will still help it upgrade the F-16A/Bs and provide the island other defensive weapons, Wang said in an Aug. 19 speech, according to the report in the Taipei-based China times newspaper.
However, the Taiwanese defense ministry said it was still seeking to acquire the new jets.
"We will continue to push for our request to buy the F-16C/Ds and we will not give up on that," ministry spokesman David Lo said.
Taiwan applied to the U.S. in 2007 to buy the 66 F-16C/Ds, improved versions of the F-16A/Bs that the island's air force now uses, claiming that the new jets were needed to counter a rising China.
Washington recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei but remains a leading arms supplier to the island.
China reacted furiously in January 2010 when the Obama administration announced a $6.4 billion arms deal with Taiwan. That package included Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan's existing F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter jets.

No Firm Decision on Keeping U.S. Troops: Iraq

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Aug. 19 said the Iraqis want to extend the presence of U.S. troops into 2012 - but the Iraqi government in Baghdad said it has made no final decisions yet.
"My view is that they finally did say yes," Panetta said. "There was unanimous consent among the key leaders of the country to go ahead and request that they negotiate on what a training presence would look like."
In an interview with Defense News, Panetta said he viewed the Iraqis recent decision to begin formal discussions with the U.S. about a possible troop extension beyond December, the current withdrawal deadline, as a sign of Iraqi political support for U.S. forces to stay there in some capacity.
"We have made progress and as a result of that we are going to be engaging with them and trying to negotiate what that presence would look like," Panetta said.
But a spokesman in Baghdad said no deal has been finalized.
"We have not yet agreed on the issue of keeping training forces," Ali Mussawi, media advisor to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, told Agence France-Presse. "The negotiations are ongoing, and these negotiations have not been finalized."
A spokesman for Panetta later clarified the secretary's remarks. "He made clear that the Iraqis have said yes to discussions about the strategic relationship beyond 2011, and what that relationship might look like," said George Little, a Pentagon spokesman.
In July, Panetta went to Baghdad and told the Iraqis publicly to "damn it, make a decision" about whether to request U.S. troops to say there beyond December, when the current U.S.-Iraqi security agreement expires.
"There were obviously a number of us that went to Iraq and delivered the same message and that message was basically three- or four-pronged, which was, you've got to make a decision about whether or not - what kind of presence you want to maintain," Panetta said.
The U.S. is also pushing the Iraqis to forge a new status of forces agreement that will provide legal protection for any U.S. troops who remain beyond December. "There had been some dispute as to whether or not that was needed. I think they now recognize that they have to get that enacted as part of it," Panetta said.
It remains unclear how many of the roughly 44,000 U.S. troops in Iraq today might stay and what their mission would be.
"The issue then will become what is the kind of training and assistance presence that Iraq feels it needs in order to be able to defend itself and secure itself," he said.

Iraq Cleric Warns of War if U.S. Presence Extended

NAJAF, Iraq - A radical anti-U.S. Shiite cleric warned of "war" if U.S. forces stayed in Iraq beyond a year-end deadline for their withdrawal, in a brief statement viewed on Aug. 17.
Asked whether he would negotiate directly or indirectly with U.S. forces over a security training mission to last beyond the end of this year, the cleric replied simply: "No, there will be war."
Moqtada al-Sadr did not give any further details in the written reply to a follower's question, released by his office in the holy Shiite city of Najaf.
The statement was at least the fourth message in the past two weeks from Sadr calling for American forces to leave the country, following an Aug. 3 announcement by Iraqi political leaders that they would open talks with Washington over a training mission.
On Aug. 6, he warned that a post-2011 U.S. presence "should be resisted through military means".
About 47,000 U.S. troops are still stationed in Iraq, all of whom must leave by the end of the year under the terms of a 2008 bilateral security pact, which would remain in force if a training deal is not agreed.
U.S. and Iraqi military officials assess Iraq's security forces capable of maintaining internal security, but say the country is lacking in terms of capacity to defend its borders, airspace and territorial waters.
Sadr's movement has 40 deputies in parliament and five ministers in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national unity government.
Before it was disbanded in 2008, Sadr's Mahdi Army militia numbered some 60,000 fighters with fierce loyalty to the cleric. It fought bloody battles with the U.S. Army in the years following the 2003 invasion which ousted Saddam Hussein. On July 10, Sadr said he would not revive the Mahdi Army, complaining it had been infested with "criminals."

Venezuela's Chavez Thanks Russia for Tanks

CARACAS - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez thanked Russia on Aug. 17 for its sale of 25 tanks and other arms to the South American country, saying they were needed for "defending our sovereignty."
"These arms from Russia, now in Venezuela, will be for defending our sovereignty. Thanks to Russia. A round of applause for Russia," he added, to applause, speaking at a military ceremony to receive the arms.
"I want to thank (Russian) President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister (Vladimir) Putin for these weapons manufactured in the Russian Federation, in sister Russia," Chavez said in a message broadcast by state TV.
The Venezuelan military received 25 tanks and hundreds of other weapons, according to generals present at the ceremony.
Between 2005 and 2007 Venezuela reached deals to buy $4 billion worth of arms from Russia, including Sukhoi fighter jets, combat helicopters and guns.
The Chavez government also secured a $2.2 billion loan in 2010 to purchase Russian T-72 tanks and an undisclosed number of S-300 antiaircraft missiles.
Chavez, a leftist firebrand who often rails against the "imperialist" United States, said Venezuela needed to guard its vast oil and mineral wealth. "We do not seek war with anyone, but we have to defend our country."