January 6th, 2012
06:29 PM ET

Iran+pirates+US rescue=PR bonanza

By Larry Shaughnessy

The Pentagon's public affairs apparatus put on a full-court press Friday after the U.S. Navy rescued 13 Iranian fishermen from a group of suspect pirates. But for all the back-patting of U.S. efforts to save sailors even from an "axis of evil" country, it turns out the true hero in the whole incident was the quick-thinking Iranian captain.

Not always known for being forthcoming, the Pentagon press office nearly went into a shock-and-awe operation with the story, in likely recognition of the goodwill it hoped to demonstrate to the Iranian people.

Rear Adm. Craig Faller, commander of the USS John Stennis Strike Group, and Cmdr. Jennifer Ellinger, commanding officer of the USS Kidd, held a conference call with reporters that went past midnight in their time zone to discuss the incident.
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Filed under: Iran • Navy • Pentagon
Maryland man gets 3 years for sales to Pakistan
January 6th, 2012
02:17 PM ET

Maryland man gets 3 years for sales to Pakistan

By CNN's Carol Cratty

A Pakistani national was sentenced to more than three years in prison Friday for defrauding the U.S. government and conspiring to export materials to Pakistan which could be used in nuclear reactors, federal officials said.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz also ordered that Nadeem Akhtar, 46, of Silver Spring, Maryland, be subject to two years of supervised release after his 37-month prison term is completed.

According to a statement from U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod Rosenstein, Akhtar pleaded guilty in September to using his business to obtain and export - or attempt to obtain and export - more than $400,000 in materials such as radiation detection devices, resins for coolant water purification, calibration and switching equipment, cranes and scissor lifts. Akhtar owns a business in Maryland called Computer Communications USA.

"Nadeem Akhtar conspired to violate export regulations by selling controlled items while misrepresenting what they were and to whom they would be sold," Rosenstein said in the statement.

Prosecutors said the owner of a trading company in Karachi, Pakistan, gave Akhtar directions about what to purchase in the United States and how to disguise what the items were and who would be receiving them. The materials were intended for such entities as the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, several nuclear power plants in that country and Pakistan's Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, the statement said.

The owner of the Karachi business paid Akhtar a commission of between 5-7.5% the cost of each item he got for export to Pakistan, the statement said.

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Filed under: Nuclear • Pakistan • Security Brief
When a dog isn't a dog
A U.S. Army soldier and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a Chinook helicopter during water training over the Gulf of Mexico
January 6th, 2012
01:55 PM ET

When a dog isn't a dog

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

When an insurgent rocket attack badly injured Cpl. Dustin Lee while he was on patrol in Iraq, his shrapnel-impaled partner, Lex, picked himself up to lie over Lee - an effort to protect him.

"He knew Dustin was injured," said Lee's mom, Rachel. Lex was his bomb-sniffing dog.

Lee didn't survive his injuries, but Lex did - and became a part of the Lee family when Rachel adopted him.

"When Dustin was killed, one of the first things I asked about was Lex, because of their camaraderie. They depended on each other"

Lex, a German shepherd, served in the Marines as a military working dog.
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Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq • Middle East • Military
US Navy rescues Iranians
A Sailor aboard a safety boat observes a boarding team from the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd as it rescues the crew of an Iranian-flagged fishing dhow. Kidd's crew detained 15 suspected pirates, who were holding a 13-member Iranian crew hostage for the last two months, according to the members of the Iranian crew. (US Navy Photo)
January 6th, 2012
11:28 AM ET

US Navy rescues Iranians

By Larry Shaughnessy

U.S. sailors from a carrier strike group whose recent presence in the Persian Gulf drew the ire of Iranian military officials have rescued 13 of the Middle Eastern country's sailors from a hijacked fishing boat, a military spokesman said Friday.

The destroyer USS Kidd came to the aid of the ship Thursday in the North Arabian sea, near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, according to the Navy, which made a concerted effort Friday to let the world know of the help it gave the Iranians.

The rescue prompted the captain of the freed ship to offer his "sincere gratitude," according to Josh Schminky, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent aboard the Kidd.

"He was afraid that without our help, they could have been there for months," said Schminky

The rescue Thursday came two days after Iran said the United States should not send any more warships into the Persian Gulf. FULL POST

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Filed under: Iran • Navy • Piracy
Danger ahead with untested leader?
Kim Jong Un is shown inspecting the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su 105 Guards Tank Division of the Korean People's Army on New Years Day in this photo taken by North Korea's official news agency.
January 6th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Danger ahead with untested leader?

By Jamie Crawford

As a late twenty-something with no formal military experience of his own takes the reins of power over a cadre of octogenarian generals and a one-million man plus military, North Korea watchers are somewhat divided over the direction Kim Jong Un will ultimately take the hermetic country.

The North's propoganda machine is already in full rallying mode. A New Year's Day message released by the official Korean Central News Agency vowed to stand behind the new leader and defend him "unto death."

For its part, the United States is waiting for the new regime to make the next move. Any decision on moving forward with discussions over issues such as food aid and their nuclear program will have to wait.

"I don't think there's any substantive change from where we were just before the new year," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said recently, "which is that we're waiting to hear from the North Korean side."

With governments and experts alike reading the tea leaves of what the future on the Korean peninsula may hold, there are some early signs and questions to keep an eye on as to how things may bear out.
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Filed under: China • Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • Nuclear • Six-Party Talks • South Korea