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May 24, 2013

News Briefs May 24, 2013

Air Force general vows to protect quality of weapons work

The commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., says budget cuts are hitting the Albuquerque installation’s staff and operations but that the safety, security and reliability of the weapons themselves won’t be affected.

Maj. Gen. Sandra Finan says the center has laid off 47 civilian workers and restricted hiring while reducing acquisitions and deferring maintenance on non-emergency equipment and facilities.

However, the Albuquerque Journal reports that Finan told the Albuquerque Economic Forum May 22 that the center remains focused on its weapon work and that she won’t let the quality of that work slip.

The center employs about 3,500 people and is the steward and logistics manager for the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal. AP

Congress clears bill on lying about medals

Lying about receiving a military medal could become a crime, under a bill headed to the president’s desk.

The Stolen Valor Act cleared the Senate May 22 and the House earlier this week. The act makes it a crime to lie about military medals, if the purpose is to benefit from the claim.

The measure revives a law struck down by the Supreme Court. The court said it may be disreputable to lie about receiving a medal, but it’s protected under the First Amendment.

This bill is narrower, making it a crime to lie about being decorated with the intent to profit personally or financially. It’s sponsored by Nevada Republicans Joe Heck in the House and Dean Heller in the Senate. Violators could face up to a year in prison. AP

Iran denies its drone entered Bahrain’s airspace

An Iranian semi-official news agency reports the country is denying that an unmanned drone violated the airspace of Bahrain, the strategic Gulf kingdom that hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The Thursday report by ISNA quotes an unnamed official in Iran’s Foreign Ministry. The statement did not elaborate, instead urging Bahrain’s rulers to pay attention to their people’s demands.

May 22, Bahrain said an Iranian drone has been found in the tiny island kingdom across the Persian Gulf from Iran.

Bahrain has repeatedly accused Shiite Iran of encouraging the more than two-year-long uprising in Bahrain by its majority Shiites. Iran denies it has any direct role.

Iran has recently claimed advances in its technology in unmanned aircraft. AP

France, angry over Syria, turns against Hezbollah

France has joined the push for the European Union to declare the militant group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, switching tack amid frustration with Hezbollah’s support for Syria’s military.

France’s move could prove pivotal, after Germany joined a British effort to name Hezbollah terrorists this week. The U.S. has long pressured Europe add Hezbollah to its terrorist list, which would hamper its operations in Europe.

A diplomat in Paris, who would speak on condition he was not identified, said May 23 Hezbollah’s increased activity in Syria was key to France’s change of heart.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters Wednesday night in Jordan, after talks about Syria, ìWe have decided to ask that the military branch of Hezbollah be considered as a terrorist organization. AP

Democratic lawmaker sets hearing on Arizona Guard misconduct

A Democratic state lawmaker plans to hold a hearing into misconduct at the Arizona National Guard revealed in a newspaper and National Guard investigation.

Rep. Debbie McCune Davis of Phoenix is holding the hearing next week with only Democrats. Republicans who chair Senate and House committees responsible for overseeing the Guard refused her request for hearings.

The hearing will review a report done by the National Guard Bureau and released this month. That report found misconduct uncovered by the Arizona Republic last year was more pervasive than previously known. Allegations included sexual abuses, narcotics trafficking, retaliation against whistle-blowers and abuses of power.

Gov. Jan Brewer asked Guard commander Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar to submit a remediation plan but also said the report showed the state Guard is not broken.î AP

Israeli air force chief warns of Syrian attacks

Israel’s air force chief warned Wednesday that tensions with Syria could escalate into a ìsurprise warî and that Israel needs to be ready.

The remarks by Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel echoed statements by Israel’s military chief of staff a day earlier.

A surprise war could take shape today in many configurations,î Eshel said at a strategy conference in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. Isolated incidents can escalate very quickly and require us to be prepared in a matter of hours to operate throughout the entire spectrum … to utilize all the capabilities of the air force, he said.

He said Russian S-300 air defense systems are ìon their wayî to Syria, though Israel asked Russia not to supply the advanced air defense system to Syria.

Israel has been warily watching the Syrian civil war since it broke out in March 2011, concerned that the conflict could spill across its borders at any time.
Syrian and Israeli forces briefly exchanged fire on the Golan Heights border May 21, prompting Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, to accuse Syrian President Bashar Assad of encouraging and directing operations against Israel and warning he would ìbear the consequencesî of escalation.

Tensions have been rising between Israel and Syria in recent weeks. Israel is believed to have carried out airstrikes said to be aimed at weapons meant for the Lebanese Hezbollah. Israel has not confirmed carrying out the attacks.

Israel has warned it will not tolerate fire from Syria or transfer of advanced weapons to militants. Israel is concerned that Syria’s arsenal, including chemical weapons, anti-aircraft systems and sophisticated missiles, could be transferred to Hezbollah or fall into the hands of rebel groups linked to al Qaeda.

Syria is changing before our eyes. If tomorrow it collapses, we could very quickly find that great arsenal dispersed and directed at us,î Eshel said. AP




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