March - April 2007

P.O. Box 190, Mount Holly, Virginia 2252
Volume 37, Number 2, Jerry Strope, Editor

“I had the impression that that statement was prepared before [the talks.]” 

                                     Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, April 23, 2007


 Russia Objects to Missile Defense
Welcome to the New FEMA
Iran: Yet More Talk
Another Deadline Missed 

Russia Objects to Missile Defense

    For months now the Russians have been growling about US plans to spot a few missile interceptors in Europe to protect against a possible Iranian threat. First it was just the military. For example, in February, General Solovtsov, head of Russian missile forces, warned that Poland and the Czech Republic risk being targeted by Russian missiles if they agree to host US missile defense bases. This warning was labeled “a stark threat” by the mainstream media.

  Actually, it was an empty threat because who and what the Russians target is not known. Would Poland believe a promise not to target them if they refused to host missile defense? Of course not. Similarly, a speech the same week by President Vladimir Putin in which he warned of a “new Cold War” was reported to have shocked Western governments. If it did, it was because either they understood that Russia was in a poor position to start a new Cold War or, more likely, they were astonished that Putin would consider ten missile interceptors to be a threat to its thousands of deployed nuclear-tipped missiles.                

  After more empty threats in March,  President Bush sent SecDef Robert Gates to Moscow explain things. It was Secretary Gates first trip to the Kremlin since 1992 when he was head of the CIA. “I think there are some misunderstandings” about the operational capabilities of the missile defense system, Gates said. After an all-day meeting, Gates was optimistic. “I felt like we made some headway,” he told reporters. But Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said “We do believe that deploying all the strategic elements of the ballistic missile defenses is a destabilizing factor that may have a great impact upon global and regional security.” The response of Secretary Gates to this statement is this month’s “quotable quote.” We shall see.

Welcome to the New FEMA

  As we reported in the last issue of the newsletter, President Bush has signed into law Public Law 109-295, which among other things restructured FEMA and changed the agency’s status both within DHS and with respect to the President. Under the new law, FEMA remains within DHS but with more autonomy. Additionally, the legislation increased the status and role of the FEMA Administrator, giving him the power to advise the president directly concerning disasters. The responsibilities for disaster preparations as well as recovery operations were returned to the agency. All of this became effective on March 31. 

  The day before, David Paulison, who continues as FEMA Administrator, issued an ebullient memorandum to all FEMA employees to celebrate “a new chapter for our agency.” “I am excited to work with you  and with senior leader-ship as we continue improving and moving FEMA forward,” he said. The memorandum included a new organization chart laying out the new structure. It is shown on page 4.

  Paulison emphasized the role of the regional staffs. “We have prioritized building strong regions. The regional leadership and staff have been directly involved in this effort, including developing regional structures, defining mission and functions, and developing and prioritizing performance measures and metrics that support core FEMA competencies.” Note that the region ad-ministrators are all named in the organization chart.  The Post-Katrina Act specifies the roles of the ten regional administrators as well as other high-level leaders. For example, the Act establishes not more than four deputy administrator positions to assist the Administrator without specified responsibilities. One of these is shown on the chart for the National Preparedness Directorate. All the other heads of bottom-line organizations, including the head of the National Fire Academy, are Assistant Administrators. Thus, there are currently two Deputy Administrators on the organization chart. Presumably, Administrator Paulison or Secretary Chertoff can propose up to two more deputies if the need arises. 

  With preparedness responsibilities and grant money back, Paulison was right to celebrate. “Phased implementation,” he cautioned, “and decisions relating to the transition will continue.” Yet, “whether you’ve been working at FEMA for years, or are just joining the agency, it is important to remember that we have a critical mission.”

  There was reportedly a question in DHS over who should lead the new FEMA: George Foresman, undersec-retary for the Preparedness Directorate, or David Paulison. Paulison got the nod. Two days before the end of March, Foresman resigned from the DHS since he had been left to lead the vestiges of the Preparedness Directorate, which was renamed the National Protection and Programs Directorate. Secretary Chertoff has some transition decisions to make. 

Iran: Yet More Talk

  Back in December, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions on Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs. The Council said it would consider  further nonmilitary sanctions if Iran continued to pursue enrichment. 

  Iran’s response was to accelerate enrichment. On March 15, the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany announced agreement on a new set of sanctions a-gainst Iran. The package included an embargo on arms exports and financial restrictions on more individuals and companies associated with Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs, many linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

  On March 23, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seized 15 British sailors from the frigate HMS Cornwall in Iraqan waters. A full-scale crisis developed as the Brits were trotted out on Iranian TV to “confess” that they were spying in Iranian waters. After several days of this, the crisis ended as unexpectedly as it began. President Ahmadinejad declared he was “pardoning” and freeing the crew as a “gift” to the British people and in honor of the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday as well as Easter. Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted he made “no deal” or “side agreement.” 

   Several days after this mini-crisis, Iran announced a dramatic expansion of uranium enrichment. In defiance of UN demands that they halt enrichment, Tehran said it was now operating 3,000 centrifuges, nearly 10 times the previously known number. 3,000 centrifuges are in theory enough to produce in about a year enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb. On April 12, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of IAEA, said that Iran was operating only several hundred centrifuges. “Iran is still just at the beginning stages in setting up its Natanz enrichment facility,” he added. In the US, Michael Levi, a nonproliferation expert at the Council for Foreign Relations, said, “From a political perspective, it’s more important to have 3,000 centrifuges in place than to have them run properly. We have an unfortunate habit to take Iran at its word when they make scary announcements.” 

  But wait! Just in! Top Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani, and Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, are reported to be ready to talk about how to sidestep the deadlock over enrichment by agreeing on a new definition of the term. Stay tuned.

Another Deadline Missed 

  North Korea missed the April 14 deadline to close their Yongbyon reactor as Bush administration officials kept trying to untangle a thicket of legal and logistical issues blocking the transfer of $25 million stuck in about 50 accounts in a Macao bank. Without the transfer, Kim is refusing to resume negotiations or close down Yongbyon. US negotiator Chris Hill has consistently warned against slippage in meeting the agreement’s deadlines. “You don’t want the whole thing to have a rubbery quality,” explained a State Dept. official to US News and World Report. John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN, says, “The Feb. 13 agreement let North Korea out of the corner it had put itself into. I think this deal will inevitably fail.” Is Chris Hill still optimistic?