News from Iran, Somalia and Slovakia

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on November 29, 2011

IRAN – Mystery explosion rocks Iran city

A large explosion has been reported in the Iranian city of Isfahan as the regime issued conflicting reports apparently designed to deny any suggestions of a sabotage attack on its nuclear facilities.

Officials gave varying accounts of a “huge explosion” in the ancient city, which hosts one of Iran’s main facilities for refining uranium in its nuclear program.

While some sources told news agencies there had been a blast on military facilities, others said there had been a fireball at a petrol station.

Residents of the city were independently telling relatives and friends overseas that the city had been shaken by a massive blast in the early afternoon [of Nov. 28].

The reports immediately prompted speculation that Iran had suffered another sabotage attack, just two weeks after a blast at a missile base gave rise to similar suspicions.

Isfahan is home to Iran’s largest facility for research and development of ballistic missiles. Multiple reports said the blast did not emanate from the nuclear facility.

Alireza Zakeri, the provincial governor of Isfahan, was quoted as saying that the blast took place during military exercises at a military airbase.

“An explosion has happened in Isfahan relates to a military exercise in one part of the city and is not particularly any problem,” he said.

“The exercise has been in the 8th Airbase and around the airport in north east of Isfahan but the authorities had not informed us about it in advance so that we could have let the public know about it happening”

Gholamreza Ansari, the head of the judiciary in the province, also confirmed there was a blast.

[Iran’s] Mehr news agency however reported that the blast was at a fuel facility. There were no reports of casualties.

Confusion was compounded by the withdrawal of the original report on Fars [Iranian government radio], a news outfit linked to [Iran’s] Revolutionary Guards, which first reported the blast.

The incident comes just two weeks after the head of Iran’s ballistic missile development program, was killed in a massive blast 25 miles south of Tehran.

In contrast to previously unexplained attacks on key scientists, Iran said that incident was an accident that occurred in routine maneuvers.

Military analysts however said the intensity of the explosion suggested a targeted attempt at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear-related missile development program, most probably carried out by Mossad.

SOMALIA – Al-Shabab militants ban aid groups, U.N. agencies

MOGADISHU — The Somali militant group al-Shabab on Monday banned 16 aid groups – including a half dozen U.N. agencies – from central and southern Somalia, a decision likely to harm Somalis already suffering from drought and famine.

The banning of the aid groups falls in line with the group’s skeptical view of the outside world, but it will worsen the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who have come to depend on aid in the Horn of Africa country’s worst famine since 1991-92.

A year without rain wiped out crops and animal herds in southern Somalia, killing tens of thousands of people in the past six months and forcing tens of thousands more to flee as refugees.

The al Qaeda-linked militant group’s decision seemed to be rooted in the belief that aid groups are serving as spies for outside countries or as vehicles to undermine support for al-Shabab’s harsh and strict interpretation of Islam.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC (SLOVAKIA) – Doctors at 15 hospitals resign because of low pay

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — [On Monday], Slovakia declared a state of emergency in more than a dozen hospitals to ensure that health care is not compromised after thousands of doctors resigned from public hospitals over low pay.

Prime Minister Iveta Radicova, speaking after an emergency government meeting on the crisis, said the measures involve 15 hospitals across the country, including two clinics in the capital, Bratislava.

Around 2,000 doctors in state-run hospitals have handed in their resignations, effective Dec. 1, if their demands for higher pay are not met. More than 7,000 doctors work in Slovak hospitals.

The state of emergency means the doctors must stay at their jobs or face fines or even prison terms.

The government has proposed pay increases of $400 a month, but the doctors’ union wants a $934 increase.

The doctors plan to rally Tuesday in the central city of Banska Bystrica.

Radicova said she agreed the salaries were “inadequate” but said the government could not afford to increase its offer because of the debt crisis in Europe. Slovakia is one of 17 nations that uses the common euro currency.

“The situation is very serious,” Radicova said.

Health Minister Ivan Uhliarik said Monday it was not clear how many doctors would change their minds and accept the government’s offer. He has asked neighboring countries to send doctors to help.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at Telegraph.co.uk on Nov. 28, WashingtonTimes.com on Nov. 28 and yahoonews.com on Nov. 28)

Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) location/the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch] e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

2. For IRAN:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Isfahan is home to Iran’s largest facility for research and development of ballistic missiles. (The Iranians are trying to make nuclear weapons.) Multiple reports said the blast did not emanate from the nuclear facility. The reports immediately prompted speculation that Iran had suffered another sabotage attack, just two weeks after a blast at a missile base gave rise to similar suspicions.  What group is suspected of attacking facilities in Isfahan?
c) Read all of the info for Iran under “Background” below.  If b) is true, do you support or oppose this tactic?  Explain your answer.  Ask a parent the same question.

3. For SOMALIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Al-Shabaab has been named a terrorist group by the U.S. and other countries.  With what terrorist organization has al-Shabaab been linked?
c) What effect will al-Shabaab’s ban have on the people of Somalia (their fellow countrymen)?

4. For SLOVAKIA (The Slovak Republic):
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Approximately what percent of doctors in state-run hospitals are threatening to quit if their pay is not raised by Dec. 1st?
c) The government has proposed pay increases of $400 a month, but the doctors’ union wants a $934 increase.  How has the government responded to the doctors?


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a weekly email with answers.

Background

IRAN:  IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM:

  • Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002. Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs. [NOTE ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT:  Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation (buildup).]
  • Under the United Nations’ NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom).
  • Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
  • The IAEA issued a report on Sept. 15, 2008 that said Iran has repeatedly blocked an investigation into its nuclear program and the probe is now deadlocked.
  • The U.N. Security Council has already imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance. Despite the sanctions, Iran has refused to end its nuclear program.
  • A group of U.S. and Russian scientists said in a report issued in May 2009 that Iran could produce a simple nuclear device in one to three years and a nuclear warhead in another five years after that.
  • The Iranian government has called for the destruction of Israel on numerous occasions. It is believed that once obtained, Iranian President Ahmadinejad would use nuclear weapons against Israel.

 

On Israel’s MOSSAD, from the website:

The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, otherwise known as the Mossad, has been appointed by the State of Israel to collect information, analyze intelligence, and perform special covert operations beyond its borders.”Where no counsel is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety”
Proverbs XI/14.

Over the years, the Mossad has expanded into many fields, the most prominent of which are:

  • Covert intelligence gathering beyond Israel’s borders.
  • Preventing the development and procurement of non-conventional weapons by hostile countries.
  • Preventing terrorist acts against Israeli targets abroad.
  • Developing and maintaining special diplomatic and other covert relations.
  • Bringing Jews home from countries where official Aliya agencies are not allowed to operate.
  • Producing strategic, political and operational intelligence.
  • Planning and carrying out special operations beyond Israel’s borders.

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SOMALIA — Al Shabaab:

  • Al-Shabaab is an Islamist insurgent group fighting to overthrow the government of Somalia.
  • As of summer 2010 the group is said to control most of the southern and central parts of Somalia, including “a large swath” of the capital, Mogadishu, where it is said to have imposed its own “harsh” form of Sharia law.
  • The group describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam” and is engaged in combat against the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
  • It has reportedly “declared war on the U.N. and on Western non-governmental organizations” that distribute food aid in Somalia, killing 42 relief workers in the past two years of 2008 and 2009.
  • It has been designated a terrorist organization by several western governments [including the American, Australian, Canadian and British] and security services [including Norwegian and Swedish], and described as having “ties to Al Qaeda,” which their leaders denied until early 2010.
  • Because of its opinions and methods, Al-Shabaab, has been compared with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (from wikipedia)

Al-Shabaab has used intimidation and violence to undermine the Somali government, forcibly recruit new fighters, and kill activists working to bring about peace through political dialogue and reconciliation. The group has claimed responsibility for several high profile bombings and shootings throughout Somalia targeting African Union troops and TFG officials. It has been responsible for the assassination of numerous civil society figures, government officials, and journalists. Al-Shabaab fighters or those who have claimed allegiance to the group have conducted violent attacks and targeted assassinations against international aid workers and nongovernmental organizations. During 2010, al-Shabaab carried out multiple attacks, including a number in Mogadishu against the TFG and African Union Mission in Somalia. Among the most deadly were a series of attacks in March, which killed at least 60 people and wounded 160 more; and a string of attacks in late August, which killed at least 87 people and wounded 148. Also in August, al-Shabaab suicide bombers entered the Muna Hotel in Mogadishu and killed 31 people, including six members of parliament and four other government officials, when they detonated their explosives on the roof of the hotel. In the organization’s first attack outside of Somalia, al-Shabaab was responsible for the July 11 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda during the World Cup, which killed nearly 80 people, including one American citizen. In total, al-Shabaab is estimated to be responsible the death of over 900 people in 2010. (from the U.S. State Department’s “2010 Country Reports on Terrorism)
state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2010/170264.htm)

Resources

IRAN:  Mossad is Israel’s national intelligence agency.  Visit Israel’s Moussad website at: mossad.gov.il/Eng/AboutUs

SOMALIA:  Read a 2010 article about al-Shabaab’s activities in Somalia at:
studentnewsdaily.com/daily-news-article/somali-soccer-fans-go-underground
.

THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC: Visit Slovakia’s official government website at: slovakia.org/sk-faq.htm.