Hours before the deadline elapsed on Monday, Iran and six world powers agreed to extend their negotiations on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program until the end of June, 2015. Israel reacted with extreme relief. “The deal that Iran was pushing for was terrible,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
No deal is better than a bad deal, officials in Jerusalem repeat tirelessly. If the international community keeps up the pressure on Iran, they assert, and ideally even increases the sanctions on the regime, there is a decent chance that Tehran will eventually cave and agree to fully dismantle its rogue nuclear program.
Except the P5+1 aren’t even pushing for Iran to dismantle the program. And a terrible deal is not off the table. The negotiations the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany have been conducting with Iran will continue and probably lead to an agreement. If not by July, then after that. This time the gaps couldn’t be bridged, but the idea that a future deal will satisfy Netanyahu’s declared requirements — the dismantling of Iran’s entire set of military nuclear capabilities — is beyond improbable.
In other words: Iran currently a nuclear threshold state, three to six months away from having enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb, according to former IDF Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin. After a deal is cut, Iran will be a threshold state, perhaps one or two years away from the bomb, but with an international stamp of approval — and without the sanctions regime that has been crippling its economy.
American armored vehicles sent to Poland and the Baltic States for military drills are to remain for the constant training of local troops and rotation of US forces. More fighting vehicles will be “pre-positioned” at US military bases in Germany.
The US Department of Defense intends to boost the number of its armored vehicles on the territory of the NATO member states in Eastern Europe.
Next year the number of M1 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles will reach 150 vehicles.
“The troops will come over and train, and they’ll go back. The equipment will stay behind,” the newly-appointed head of US Army forces in Europe, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, told AFP in a phone interview from Estonia.
Deployment of additional hardware to Baltic States and Poland goes on within the framework of the US ‘Operation Atlantic Resolve’ effort, established to reassure American allies in Eastern Europe anxious about a “resurgent Russia.”
After the reunification of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia and the civil war in Ukraine, waged between the coup-imposed government in Kiev and rebels in the eastern regions of the country, NATO members say they no longer feel secure.
The US currently has nearly 50 Abrams tanks and Bradley IFVs, taken to Latvia and Poland this autumn.
Out of about 600 US Army troops of the 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, some 150 soldiers along with five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles were deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital, Riga. The rest of hardware and personnel went to Poland.
The 100 fighting vehicles supposed to be brought to Europe next year will be “pre-positioned” in Germany - or elsewhere for the US troops conducting drills with NATO partners, Hodges said.
“I’m going to look at options that would include distributing this equipment in smaller sets, company-size or battalion-size, perhaps in the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, places like that,” he said.
“This is going to go on,” confirmed the general, noting that presence of American armored vehicles will continue through 2015 and well into 2016.
The fact that NATO 28-nation military bloc is concentrating forces closer to Russian borders has brought repeated and strident objections from Moscow.
“We shall provide an adequate and well-measured response to NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders, and we shall take note of [the West] setting up a global missile defense architecture and building up its arsenals of precision-guided weapons,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the emergency Security Council meeting in Moscow on July 22.
“No matter what our Western counterparts tell us, we can see what’s going on. As it stands, NATO is blatantly building up its forces in Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas. Its operational and combat training activities are gaining in scale,” Putin said.
Ankasina is a poor and overcrowded slum on the northern edge of Madagascar's capital city Antananarivo. Waste water flows through open gutters; dirt and garbage collects in heaps on the streets. The area is infested with rats, local residents say. Many blame the state for neglecting the neighborhood.
And now, the rats have brought in an even bigger problem: the plague. For the first time in ten years, the disease has started to spread in Madagascar's capital. A young woman from Ankasina died from the bubonic plague; she most likely contracted it after being bitten by a flea, which had contracted the bacteria from the rodents. She is one of 47 people who have died in the current outbreak on the island.
Madagascar's Prime Minister Kolo Roger admits that the plague has now also entered the capital city. He speaks of an epidemic on the island. "For each case, all the necessary measures have been taken to stop the spreading," he announced. "All cases, whether far away or in the capital of Antananarivo are being dealt with seriously."
Though the health ministry has announced that 200 households have been disinfected in a pest control campaign in slum areas around the city, the World Health Organization (WHO) is alarmed.
"We have never have seen so many cases in such a short time like now in Madagascar," the organization's spokesman Christian Lindmeier told DW. The organization has dispatched an expert to Antananarivo to assist local authorities contain the situation.