Iran: What's it up to?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas on Monday.
January 9th, 2012
08:12 PM ET

Iran: What's it up to?

By Jill Dougherty

Just what is Tehran up to?

It sentences an Iranian-American to death for alleged spying.

Announces it's begun enriching uranium at a heavily fortified underground facility.

Threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz, sending shivers down the spine of world oil markets.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad jets off to Latin America, visiting countries that love to take pot shots at the United States.
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January 9th, 2012
05:25 PM ET

Former Army soldier allegedly tried to join terrorist group in Somalia

By CNN's Carol Cratty

A former U.S. Army soldier was charged Monday with attempting to travel to Somalia to join the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, according to the Justice Department.

Craig Benedict Baxam, 24, was arrested Friday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport as he returned from a failed effort to get to Somalia, authorities said.

The Maryland resident had an initial court appearance Monday afternoon on the charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group.

The only time Baxam spoke during the hearing was to respond "Yes" when the judge asked if he understood the charge against him and the possible penalty.

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Filed under: Al-Shabaab • Army • FBI • Somalia • Terrorism
Iran's Underground Uranium Project
Satellite Image of Iran Nuclear Plant at Fordo from 2009
January 9th, 2012
05:10 PM ET

Iran's Underground Uranium Project

by Suzanne Kelly

Iran's announcement that it has begun enriching uranium at an underground facility doesn't come as a surprise to nuclear security experts, but it does worry them that the program moves Tehran one step closer to developing a nuclear weapon.

"They announced last summer that they were going to do this," said David Albright, president of the non-profit Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. "It's part of this gradual process that I think shows Iran is on their way to developing nuclear weapons."

Iran says some 3,000 centrifuges are in operation at Qom, with an additional 8,000 machines capable of enriching uranium at its Natanz facility.
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Filed under: Iran • Nuclear • Stuxnet
Kosovo native plotted Tampa bombings, feds say
Sami Osmakac, charged with plotting to use explosives to attack targets in Florida
January 9th, 2012
04:43 PM ET

Kosovo native plotted Tampa bombings, feds say

By the CNN Wire Staff

A 25-year-old Florida man intended to use explosives and weapons "to create mayhem'" in Tampa - a plot that authorities say was foiled thanks to the local Muslim community and law enforcement - a U.S. attorney said Monday.

"When a person's got an AK-47 which he believes is operable, when he has explosives which he believes are real, and when he has an explosive pack and a car bomb which ... he is going to utilize against Americans, that makes it a crime," Robert O'Neill, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, told reporters. "Was it real? It was very real."

O'Neill spoke Monday in Tampa after an afternoon hearing for Sami Osmakac on one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The 25-year-old naturalized American born in Kosovo planned a car bombing that would be followed by hostage-taking and the explosion of a suicide belt he planned to wear, according to a criminal complaint made public Monday.

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Filed under: FBI • Security Brief • Terrorism
Iran nukes: When to act
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, 270 kms south of Tehran, in 2008.
January 9th, 2012
01:26 PM ET

Iran nukes: When to act

By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

While rhetoric about Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon has been at a fever pitch from some Administration and congressional officials as well as Republican presidential candidates, a senior US official tells CNN there is no agreed upon point at which the US would take military action to stop Iran’s efforts. “The precise step at which action might be taken is not defined, it’s a complex set of variables,” the official said.

That explanation comes one day after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, “our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us,” Panetta made the comments on CBS’s Face the Nation.

But defining that red line involves having critical intelligence in hand before Iran crosses any so called red line. It would mean knowing that Iran has taken any number of steps that would put it on the path to nuclear weapons the official said. For example, expulsion of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency would be considered a potentially critical indicator that Iran has made the decision to move ahead with weapons development, he said. Other indicators include a capability to manufacture highly enriched uranium, and the ability to manufacturer critical miniaturization technology for a nuclear warhead.
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Report: Uranium enrichment begins at new Iranian site
January 9th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

Report: Uranium enrichment begins at new Iranian site

by CNN Wire Staff

Iran started enriching uranium at a new nuclear facility in the north that is "immune to any military attack," according to a fundamentalist newspaper with ties to the nation's supreme leader.

"Based on reports we received yesterday, Iran has begun uranium enrichment at the Fordo facility at the height of the threats by foreign enemies," the semi-official Kayhan newspaper said Sunday.

The Fordo nuclear enrichment plant is in the mountains of Qom province, where Iran says it has 3,000 centrifuges in operation. Another nuclear facility in Natanz is said to have 8,000 of the machines enriching uranium.

Iran says there's a medical purpose behind the nuclear program.

U.S. sanctions hurting Iran's currency "In order to provide medical assistance to 800,000 cancer patients, Iran needs to enrich uranium up to 20% to be able to feed Tehran's (research) reactor that produces the needed radio isotopes," the paper reported.

The Iranian government announced in July that it was installing a new generation of centrifuges in its nuclear facilities.

At the time, the French Foreign Ministry called the development "a new wave of provocation" that flouts United Nations resolutions.

Enriched uranium at low concentrations can be used to fuel power plants, and in extremely high concentrations it can be used to produce a nuclear bomb. Uranium enriched to between 3% and 5% is necessary to make fuel for reactors. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to about 90%.

Iran's development of missile and nuclear fuel technology has led to United Nations sanctions and accusations from Washington that the clerical regime is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Officials in the United States and other Western nations have ratcheted up sanctions against Iran since a November report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said the Iranian government was developing the technology needed to build a nuclear weapon. Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Iran's central bank.

Detainee "too dangerous to release"
January 9th, 2012
09:38 AM ET

Detainee "too dangerous to release"

by CNN's Tim Lister

Mahmoud Abd al Aziz is a balding 34-year-old Yemeni who has spent most of his adult life detained at Guantanamo Bay. He was one of the very first to be taken there, ten years ago this month, after being captured on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Al Aziz is one of 35 detainees who have been held at Guantanamo Bay since January 2002. Most are Yemeni; all are adjudged to represent a continuing threat to the United States. Al Aziz says he only confessed to knowing Osama bin Laden under duress; he’d gone to Kandahar to study the Koran. Prosecutors maintain others saw him at al Qaeda safehouses and a training camp.

Another Yemeni detainee, Allal Ab Aljallil abd al Rahman, said he went to Afghanistan for medical treatment; prosecutors say his name appeared on computer files recovered from al Qaeda safehouses.

He and 30 suspected al Qaeda members were detained on December 15th 2001 after they crossed into Pakistan on foot from the Tora Bora region. Most were young Yemenis who became known as the "Dirty Thirty" – and allegedly included at least several of bin Laden’s bodyguards. Sources cited in military reviews of the detainees’ cases say a "Pakistani warden told the group the best thing they could tell United States forces when interrogated was they were in Afghanistan to teach the Koran." FULL POST


Filed under: Al Qaeda • Cuba • Gitmo
US "budget dust" and Latin America
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greets Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, upon his arrival at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on November 25, 2009
January 9th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

US "budget dust" and Latin America

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tour of Latin America this week comes as questions are being raised about whether the United States is sufficiently focused on the potential for national security threats from Latin America.

The trip comes just days after President Obama unveiled a new security posture that puts more emphasis on the Middle East and Pacific, at the expense of Latin America, critics contend.

But defense officials insist that even with a pared-down U.S. military, Latin America will not be ignored.

"In Latin America, Africa, elsewhere in the world, we will use innovative methods to sustain U.S. presence," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said of the new strategy.

U.S. special forces freshly back from Iraq and Afghanistan will be heading south of the border to maintain the U.S. presence in Latin America, according to Defense Department officials - an example of the "low-cost and small-footprint approaches" Panetta said would be emphasized.
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