Inside the Ring

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Fourteen House Republicans wrote to President Bush last week to tell him to withdraw the proposed civilian nuclear cooperation accord over concerns the administration can’t certify that Moscow has stopped supplying missile and other weaponry to Iran.

The lawmakers are opposing the so-called “123 Agreement” on peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia, which the Bush administration is touting as a positive step in gaining Russian nonproliferation cooperation.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, based their opposition on a recent presidential waiver request to allow U.S. space cooperation with Russia. The need for a waiver indicated Russia is not in compliance with the terms of a U.S. nonproliferation law aimed at blocking Iranian, North Korean and Syrian weapons programs.

On the Democratic side, Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both of Michigan, wrote earlier to the president asking about continued Russian nuclear assistance to Iran. Mr. Dingell and Mr. Stupak stated that any civilian nuclear agreement should include a prohibition on Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran, including apparent ongoing transfers of nuclear technology and training of Iranian nuclear scientists.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on the accord, which goes into effect automatically unless Congress acts to modify the agreement, which will permit transfers of nuclear materials and reactors.

Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said he opposes the nuclear agreement unless conditions are added that would seek to halt Russian support to Iran’s nuclear program, in light of international efforts to pressure Tehran. “In the politically charged environment of presidential politics, some might call this appeasement,” he said of approving the accord in its current form.

Air Force message

The Air Force is trying to put the best face on the forced resignations last week of its two top leaders, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne.

“It’s a difficult time for the Air Force,” stated an Air Force memorandum sent out last week as “Talking Points for Air Force Leaders.”

The note stated it is important for all airmen to understand why the two leaders were dismissed, namely that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates “saw systemic problems in the way the Air Force was handling a critical mission area for many years and [he] held our leaders responsible.”

Gen. Moseley and Mr. Wynne “took responsibility and held themselves accountable for actions which occurred within the Air Force,” the memo said. “They stood up and did the honorable thing that we hope any airman would. We should admire and respect them for that.”

The note cited “lapses in discipline, compliance, focus, and attention to detail in critical mission areas” for Mr. Gates’ action. “We are a nation at war, and we have a mission to perform for this great nation. Let’s do it with pride and our heads held high,” the memo said.

Defense officials said the firings followed a year-long rift between the defense secretary and the two Air Force leaders beyond the two incidents of lax controls on nuclear weapons and related equipment, the public reason for the dismissals.

Other issues included disagreements over the budget and weapons use and development issues on such topics as unmanned aerial vehicles in Iraq, development of a new bomber and a new manned reconnaissance aircraft, and the Air Force leaders’ insistence on buying twice the number of F-22 fighters that Mr. Gates’ sought.

c@washingtontimes.com.

About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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