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Natasha Trethewey

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Natasha Trethewey
NPR couldn’t spell the name of the new US poet laureate consistently correctly when it reported:

The United States named its 19th poet laureate today: Natasha Trethewey, a professor of English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta. She is the nation’s first poet laureate to hail from the South since the initial laureate — Robert Penn Warren — was named by the Library of Congress in 1986.

Tretheway, 46, is a southerner through and through. She was born in Gulfport, Miss., which was also her mother’s hometown. Her mother, Gwendolyn Ann Turnbough, was a social worker, a black woman who’d fallen in love with a Canadian emigre and poet, Eric Trethewey, while at college in Kentucky.

Tretheway’s parents had to cross into Ohio to get married in 1965. In her poem “Miscegenation,” she wrote about her parents’ journey to Ohio for a marriage that was illegal at home in Mississippi:

They crossed the river into Cincinnati, a city whose name
begins with a sound like sin, the sound of wrong — mis in Mississippi.

They divorced when Natasha was 6. Trethewey attended college at the University of Georgia and while there, her mother was murdered by her estranged second husband.

“I started writing poems as a response to that great loss, much the way that people responded, for example, after 9/11,” Trethewey told The Associated Press. “People who never had written poems or turned much to poetry turned to it at that moment because it seems like the only thing that can speak the unspeakable.”

Trethewey’s work explores issues of mixed race, history and memory. She’s published four books, including a meditation on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast called Beyond Katrina. In 2007, Trethewey won the Pulitzer Prize for her third book of poetry, Native Guard, a collection that explored a black Civil War regiment assigned to guard white Confederate soldiers held on Ship Island off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The poems focused partly on history that was erased because it was never recorded.

Librarian of Congress James Billington, who chose Trethewey after hearing her read at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., said her work explores forgotten history and the many human tragedies of the Civil War.

Here is a poem by her, called History Lesson:

I am four in this photograph, standing
on a wide strip of Mississippi beach,
my hands on the flowered hips

of a bright bikini. My toes dig in,
curl around wet sand. The sun cuts
the rippling Gulf in flashes with each

tidal rush. Minnows dart at my feet
glinting like switchblades. I am alone
except for my grandmother, other side

of the camera, telling me how to pose.
It is 1970, two years after they opened
the rest of this beach to us,

forty years since the photograph
where she stood on a narrow plot
of sand marked colored, smiling,

her hands on the flowered hips
of a cotton meal-sack dress.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

June 11, 2012 at 8:34 am

India with US and Iran: a fine balancing act?

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IE reports on Hillary Clinton’s visit to India:

Pressing India to further reduce oil imports from sanctions-hit Iran tops the agenda of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who flew into Kolkata today at the start of a three-day visit to India.

The US has been urging India and other countries to slash oil imports from Iran aimed at stepping up pressure on Tehran to comply with international demands over its nuclear programme.

India, which imports 80% of its crude oil and relies on Tehran for 12% of those imports, has said it needed to continue to buy Iranian oil to meet its domestic requirements.

Though India has publicly not said it was aiming to cut back on oil imports from Iran, the country’s top oil importers have been pushed to reduce Iranian oil imports by 15-20 per cent.

Crude imports from Iran fell to 18.5 million tons in 2010-11 from 21.2 million tons in 2009-10. Last fiscal (2011-12), Iranian oil imports dropped to less than 16 million tons. This year they may further come down to 14 million tons.

The US holds out a threat of sanctions against India and China if they continue to buy Iranian crude. Now India needs the US as a friendly trading partner, just as the US needs India as an ally next to China’s borders. Is this the reason for the timing of a visit by a Iranian trade delegation?

Z News reports:

An Iranian mission will start a six- day trip to India on Sunday for talks to promote trade ties with the South Asian country, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The delegation”s trip, covering New Delhi and Mumbai, is aimed at expanding trade relations and exploring “new avenues of mutual cooperation” with India, said the report.

During the visit, Tehran Chamber of Commerce is due to sign several memorandums of understanding with the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India as well as Indian export organizations.

According to the report, India buys around 11 billion US dollars worth of oil from Iran every year, making Iran its second largest crude oil supplier after Saudi Arabia. However, India only sells Iran 2.7 billion US dollars in goods every year.

Iran and India have worked out a deal, under which New Delhi pays for almost half of its Iranian oil imports in rupees, and the rupee payments will be used by Iran to buy Indian goods. By this means, both countries hope to achieve the bilateral trade target of 25 billion US dollars over the next four years.

Is the elephant learning to dance?

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

May 7, 2012 at 5:00 am

Does India face sanctions?

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A statement by Hilary Clinton from the US Department of State

I am pleased to announce that an initial group of eleven countries has significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran — Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. As a result, I will report to the Congress that sanctions pursuant to Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA) will not apply to the financial institutions based in these countries, for a renewable period of 180 days.

The Hindu reports of a direct consequence of this statement for India:

In its most direct message that India, along with other nations importing oil from Iran, could face sanctions by July if it did not “significantly” reduce such imports, the U.S. State Department warned in a conference call this week that if such countries, “in addition to having imported petroleum products, may have had other kinds of sanctionable activities, it could actually become liable to sanctions even before [June 28]”.

The remarks raised brows here as sanctions against countries such as India, China, and South Korea appeared more imminent following the White House’s push for upping the ante against Iran through its 2012 National Defence Authorisation Act (Section 1245).

A senior State Department official said on Tuesday the NDAA provisions gave nations 180 days from the start of this year to attain levels of oil import cuts similar to those of Japan, which was said to have decreased its imports of Iranian crude by between 15 and 22 per cent.

Starting February 29, the U.S. has put sanctions in place against any entity engaging in financial transactions with the Central Bank of Iran that were related to non-petroleum products “except in the circumstance of a country sending refined petroleum products to Iran.” Such entities have essentially been excluded from access to the U.S. banking system from the time this NDAA provision came into law.

Moneycontrol reports:

Indian oil buyers are asking Iran to bear the insurance risk for transporting its crude as tighter Western sanctions make it more difficult to buy Tehran’s principal export, industry sources said on Wednesday.

The number of maritime firms willing to transport Iranian crude has dwindled significantly since the European Union announced in January it would proceed with an oil embargo, leaving Asian oil buyers to rely more on Iranian-owned tankers.

With Indian shipping firms uncertain whether they can continue transporting Iranian oil, state-run Indian Oil Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp have written to the National Iran Oil Corp (NIOC) asking the company to take on the insurance risk for their crude shipments, two industry sources said.

NIOC has indicated it may consider the request on a case-by-case basis, the sources said.

Reuters breaks interesting news:

India, publicly disdainful of sanctions to pressure Iran, has been left off a list of nations given a U.S. waiver from the measures, but is privately pushing its refiners for substantial cuts in imports from the Middle Eastern country.

However, the 15 percent cut sources say India is privately demanding from state-run refiners could help it qualify for such an exemption. Reuters’ calculations show the overall cuts refiners are planning to make could be deeper at around 20 percent.

“It’s a sensitive matter,” said a government official who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “You won’t get to know. To keep it secret we are sharing information and minutes of the key meetings over the phone instead of exchanging or sending letters.”

Written communication that was sent has been tightly guarded.

“The letters were being sent like those in the British Raj,” another government official said.

“Properly sealed with melted wax and in double envelopes as this is a very sensitive issue. Marked as ‘To be opened by addressee only.'”

Indian state refiners planning to cut the size of their term deals with Iran have sought additional supplies from the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, and fellow OPEC member Iraq.

MRPL, India’s largest Iranian oil buyer, plans to cut its imports by as much as 44 percent to 80,000 barrels per day (bpd) for the fiscal year starting on April 1.

The Chinese newspaper People’s Daily wrote:

China legally imports oil from Iran through normal channels in a reasonable and fair manner, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Hong Lei said China imports oil based on its economic development needs without violating relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and undermining the third party’s and international community’s interests.

“China opposes any country implementing unilateral sanctions on the other country according to its domestic law,” the spokesman said, adding that China will not accept the practice of saddling unilateral sanctions on the third country.

Nevertheless Oilprice.com suggests that China is playing it safe by stockpiling reserves:

One benefit of the six-month delay the West put on the ban has been giving the world time to adjust to a market with constrained Iranian supply. Reuters’ Clyde Russell calculated in a recent column that China’s oil inventories may be growing by 670,000 barrels per day. Similarly, OPEC’s own monthly oil market report suggested Chinese stock building may be as high as 800,000 bpd, explaining why Chinese oil imports have been soaring while the economy has been slowing and all pointers are suggesting oil imports should slow, if not fall.

A significant part of the largest trade deficit China has ever seen in January was due to a rising oil import bill; if China is indeed importing as much as 800,000 bpd for stock, one can understand Iran may be reading that as robust demand.

Meanwhile, US commercial oil stocks have hit record levels of 42 million barrels at Cushing, Ohio as falling demand (due to rising pump prices) and rising domestic production from less conventional sources combine to create something of a glut in the domestic market. Even this is dwarfed by America’s 700 million barrels of strategic reserve, some of which the president has apparently been discussing releasing with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron in talks this week designed to lower the oil price, although what effect this would have in the already well-supplied US market is less significant than if the extra supply was released in Europe or Asia.

The same article reported Iran’s belief that Saudi Arabia, touted by many as ready to ramp up production to meet any Iranian shortfall, is in fact already running close to capacity and unable to pump much more without damaging its long-term production efficiency. But a report in the FT states that although Saudi Arabia has been producing 9.8-10 million bpd, the highest level in 30 years, its domestic consumption plus exports are only 9.4-9.6 million bpd — the rest is said to be going into stock.

Apparently the Saudis own massive tank farms in the main European trading hub of Rotterdam, near its biggest Asian customers in Japan’s Okinawa, and in the Egyptian oil export port of Sidi Kerir. In total, Riyadh has permanent access to about 12 million barrels of storage, split among the three locations with further storage leased as required.

Turkey has to make a choice soon, a blog on FT says:

First, and perhaps most important, is a list that Turkey didn’t make it onto – the countries granted a temporary exemption from new unilateral US sanctions on imports of Iranian oil.

That’s significant, because Tehran supplied about half of all the crude Turkey imported in the first six months of last year and sanctions could spell big problems for Halkbank, the state-controlled bank that handles payments to Iran. (The US legislation targets financial institutions that facilitate such sales rather than the companies that do the buying.)

This is not to say that Turkey or Halkbank are the sanctions’ inevitable target. Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, pointedly remarked that 10 European Union countries and Japan, all of which she praised for reducing imports of crude from Iran, represented an “initial group” to be exempted from the measure.

But such a scenario just highlights that Turkey, like almost every other country in the world, sometimes has to yield under US pressure, even if such a course costs money. Iranian oil is not only relatively cheap but paid for with Turkish lira, rather than dollars or euros. So a switch to more expensive Saudi crude could do some damage to the national accounts.

Just like Turkey, India faces an economic crunch in the near future if it is forced to stop buying Iranian crude. Not only is Saudi crude going to be more expensive, with oil prices having turned inelastic, there is almost certainly going to be a rise in the price of crude (contrary to the claim in the article by Oilprice.com). With elections coming up and the manufacturing sector in the country already in deep trouble, the government will be forced to subsidize domestic oil prices, thereby raising deficits.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

March 22, 2012 at 4:03 am

How unequal is India?

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The planning commission continues to make news. The Hindu reports on inequal wealth distribution in India:

Under the Gini Coefficient used, there was a marginal increase in inequality in rural areas from 0.27 per cent during 2004-05 to 0.28 per cent during 2009-10. This meant money was concentrated in a fewer hands. In urban areas, where money had already been with fewer people, the situation deteriorated more sharply, from 0.35 to 0.37.

As per the index ranged on a scale from zero to 1, the ideal situation is zero, indicating perfect equality. But 1 means maximal inequality (all wealth cornered by one person).

Inequality rose sharply in rural areas of even a well-off State like Punjab (0.26 to 0.29), Kerala (0.29 to 0.35), Bihar (0.19 to 0.22) and Madhya Pradesh (0.24 to 0.28) and Assam (0.18 to 0.22). There was no change in Odisha, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

Inequality came down in the rural areas of Goa, Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Haryana and Chhattisgarh.

Unlike the mixed trend in rural areas, the picture in the urban areas was more horrific. Except in Chhattisgarh, Goa and Tamil Nadu, inequality rose in all other States: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Inequality rose rather sharply in urban Kerala (0.35 to 0.40), Uttar Pradesh (0.34 to 0.40), Himachal Pradesh (0.26 to 0.35), Odisha (0.33 to 0.38), Punjab (0.32 to 0.36), Delhi (0.32 to 0.35) and Jammu and Kashmir (0.24 to 0.31).

One may want to understand the methods by which the wealth distribution in India is measured. Tax returns may give some information on incomes, but wealth is notoriously harder to measure. In the absence of this information, one is forced to take the numbers at face value. However, one should not forget the large question mark over the numbers so obtained.

Given all these caveats, how bad is India in comparison with other countries? Bloomberg has the following to say of China:

China’s wealth gap has exceeded the point that triggers social unrest, according to figures revealed by Politburo member Bo Xilai, in a rare disclosure of the country’s income disparity.

China’s Gini coefficient, an index of the income gap, has exceeded 0.46, Bo, the Communist Party Secretary for Chongqing Municipality, told reporters in Beijing today, without giving specifics. The index ranges from 0 to 1 and the 0.4 mark is used as a predictor by analysts for social disturbances.

China’s wealth gap has exceeded the point that triggers social unrest, according to figures revealed by Politburo member Bo Xilai, in a rare disclosure of the country’s income disparity.

The meeting where Bo spoke, held during the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing, highlighted Chongqing’s efforts to reduce the urban-rural income gap during the past five years, encompassing Bo’s tenure. Bo, 62, has reintroduced slogans and songs from the late Chairman Mao Zedong in a bid to re-instill a Communist spirit in a country that still officially adheres to the principles espoused by Karl Marx.

The World Bank’s data for China’s Gini coefficient goes up to 2005 and the country doesn’t regularly publish a nationwide figure. The country hasn’t disclosed an urban coefficient because it had too much trouble getting accurate information from high-income urban families, according to Ma Jiantang, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics.

The US is astoundingly inequitious. Bloomberg reported:

The [Gini] index ranged from 0.207 in Loving County to 0.645 in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana.

Nationwide, the Gini index in 2010 was 0.467. The median Gini for U.S. counties was 0.43. New York County, home to the nation’s largest city, had a Gini of 0.601, slightly less than that of Nicaragua.

The nation’s three most-populous counties — Los Angeles County, Cook County, Illinois, and Harris County, Texas — were also among the highest urban areas in income inequality.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

March 21, 2012 at 3:14 am

A different education

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There are lessons for India here. Finland sits consistently at the top of the PISA rankings whereas India is at the rank bottom. Here are important highlights from NYRB:

First, Finland has one of the highest-performing school systems in the world, as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses reading, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy of fifteen-year-old students in all thirty-four nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including the United States. Unlike our domestic tests, there are no consequences attached to the tests administered by the PISA. No individual or school learns its score. No one is rewarded or punished because of these tests. No one can prepare for them, nor is there any incentive to cheat.

Second, from an American perspective, Finland is an alternative universe. It rejects all of the “reforms” currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.

Third, among the OECD nations, Finnish schools have the least variation in quality, meaning that they come closest to achieving equality of educational opportunity—an American ideal.

Fourth, Finland borrowed many of its most valued ideas from the United States, such as equality of educational opportunity, individualized instruction, portfolio assessment, and cooperative learning. Most of its borrowing derives from the work of the philosopher John Dewey.

US policymakers have turned to market-based solutions such as “tougher competition, more data, abolishing teacher unions, opening more charter schools, or employing corporate-world management models.” By contrast, Finland has spent the past forty years developing a different education system, one that is focused on improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability, and handing over school- and district-level leadership to education professionals.

To an American observer, the most remarkable fact about Finnish education is that students do not take any standardized tests until the end of high school. They do take tests, but the tests are drawn up by their own teachers, not by a multinational testing corporation. The Finnish nine-year comprehensive school is a “standardized testing-free zone,” where children are encouraged “to know, to create, and to sustain natural curiosity.”

Sahlberg recognizes that Finland stands outside what he refers to as the “Global Education Reform Movement,” to which he appends the apt acronym “GERM.” GERM, he notes, is a virus that has infected not only the United States, but the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other nations. President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program are examples of the global education reform movement. Both promote standardized testing as the most reliable measure of success for students, teachers, and schools; privatization in the form of schools being transferred to private management; standardization of curriculum; and test-based accountability such as merit pay for high scores, closing schools with low scores, and firing educators for low scores.

In contrast, the central aim of Finnish education is the development of each child as a thinking, active, creative person, not the attainment of higher test scores, and the primary strategy of Finnish education is cooperation, not competition.

Language magazine reports:

The second International Summit on the Teaching Profession opened today in New York. The summit is a two-day conference with representatives from 23 countries and regions who have high performing education systems. The summit will address issues such as teaching training, professional development, and 21st century skills.

The summit is hosted by the OECD, the U.S. Department of Education, and Education International (EI). A number of delegations are confirmed to attend, including representatives from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, opened the summit with a set of opening remarks.

“High performing countries have more collaboration, more high quality professional development for teachers, and do a better job of recruiting teachers and retaining them,” said Duncan. “Other nations not only out educate us, but also out prepare and out respect us.”

Care reports:

Above all else, the Finnish educational model reminds us that the greatest asset for learning outcomes is teachers. Until and unless the U.S. populates its schools with teachers who we can claim are our best and brightest, and who are well trained in content areas, and until and unless we give these valued professionals the responsibility and trust they deserve to carry out their noble profession and assess their students based not on national, standardized bubble tests, but rather on the teachers’ own meaningful assessments of their students’ skills, knowledge and critical thinking capacities, we should not expect to see our standing among the world’s schools increase very much.

Finding such teachers won’t be easy if we continue to demand twice the time Finnish teachers put in for the same pay; if we continue to undermine teachers’ intelligence and professionalism by dumbing down their curricula and forcing them to teach to standardized bubble tests, leaving them little autonomy in their teaching; if we persist in denigrating their profession and reducing the benefits that supplement their modest salaries; and if we fail to educate them well enough so that they, in turn, can educate the next generation in a changing, complex world.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

March 19, 2012 at 2:29 am

Posted in education

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An interesting highlight from the economic survey of 2012

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BS writes about the Economic Survey of India (2012):

The Survey is not a mere scorecard for the economy. Under the lead authorship of Prof Kaushik Basu it is has become an excellent sourcebook not just of data, but of research as well – nicely summarised in capsule form, strewn in boxes throughout the book. Last year, we had the debut of a chapter called ‘Microfoundations’. This year there is one more on the international economy, in tune with India’s newfound global standing. India’s share in global GDP measured in PPP [purchasing power parity] terms, has gone up from 2.5 per cent in 1980 to 5.5 per cent, now on par with Japan and ahead of Germany.

Together, India and China contribute half as much as US and EU put together, to the global pie. This is impressive, as is the fact that India’s growth of sub-7 is still among the highest in the world. The Survey does well in providing this international outside-in perspective. There is new chapter on Sustainable Development (SD) and the green agenda. Interestingly, the metric of SD includes life expectancy, forest cover and female literacy. No money income.

The Economic Survey acknowledges that the current slowdown is entirely due to slippage in industrial growth. As a consequence, despite highest-ever foodgrain production, the annual GDP growth for the current financial year will be one of the lowest in the last eight years. The industry will barely clock four per cent. And there’s no external Lehman episode to blame.

Manufacturing has been slowing down successively for 10 quarters, all the way down to zero last quarter. It comprises about 15 per cent of GDP, whereas the national goal is to increase its share to 25 per cent.

The 12th Plan is counting on this sector to grow at 11 per cent to achieve overall high and inclusive growth. Chapter 9 of the Survey deals with the industry sector. In describing challenges to industrial growth in the short term, it merely advocates the need to “shore up business sentiment, and spur investment”.

ET sifts through the pre-budget economic survey to spot this nugget of information:

International trade now accounts for nearly 53% of the gross domestic product (GDP), pointing to increased integration with the global economy, which is not limited to the stock market and the banking system alone.

The country has come a long way from the days when export-import was looked down upon. In 2004-05 , global trade accounted for 37% of the GDP. It is the rapid growth in shipments in and out of the country, driven by lower customs duty, which has spurred this sharp growth.

India’s share in global trade is now near the 2% mark, compared to a mere 0.7% in 2000.

The recent thrust towards Latin America, for instance, has helped [to soften the impact of the global slowdown]. So have the free trade agreements with blocs such as the Association of South East Asian Nations whose share in total trade increased from 33.3% in 2000-01 to 57.3% in the first half of 2011-12 , while that of Europe and America fell from 26.8% to 19%. “This has helped India weather the global crisis emanating from Europe and America,” the survey said.

The rise of other trading partners has pushed the US to the third slot. US has been displaced by UAE as India’s largest trading partner, followed by China, since 2008-09. In the first six months of the current financial year, however, China overtook the UAE to be the top trading partner. There has been a gradual shift in India’s manufactures exports from labour-intensive sectors like textiles, leather and manufactures, handicrafts, and carpets to capital and skill-intensive sectors.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

March 16, 2012 at 4:50 am

Iran captures US spy plane

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US drone captured in Iran

Iranian news is showing a video of an US RQ-170 Sentinel UAV (drone) which it has captured.

Taiwan News reported:

Several US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the drone program is classified, said the greatest concern is that access to the aircraft could give Russian or Chinese scientists insight into its flight controls, communications gear, video equipment and any self-destruct or return-to-base mechanisms.

In addition, they said, the remains of the RQ-170 could help a technologically sophisticated military or science establishment develop Infrared Surveillance and Targeting (IRST) technology that under some conditions are capable of detecting stealth aircraft such as drones and the new Lockheed Martin F-35s.

The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on whether the aircraft Iran displayed is real. A US defense official, however, said the plane appears to be an actual RQ-170, though he said US experts were still examining the video.

The aircraft shown on Iranian TV appeared to be in good condition for a high-altitude plane that the Iranians initially said they had shot down.

The most frightening prospect raised by what appears to be a largely intact Sentinel is that the Iranians’ second claim about how they brought it down ― by hacking into its controls and landing it themselves ― might be true, said a US intelligence official, who spoke only on the basis of anonymity because the RQ-170 is part of a Secret Compartmented Intelligence (SCI) program, a classification higher than Top Secret.

NYT reported:

American officials viewing the video declined to confirm or deny that the aircraft shown was the one that they have said was lost several days ago by controllers in neighboring Afghanistan.

The two-and-a-half-minute video clip of the remote-controlled surveillance aircraft was presented by Iran as the first visual evidence that it had had possession of the drone since Sunday, when Iran asserted that its military downed the aircraft 140 miles inside Iranian territory. American officials have said the drone was lost because of a malfunction.

The aircraft shown on Iranian television appeared to be in good condition, which would seem to be inconsistent with an uncontrolled landing, although a close inspection of the images appeared to show a fracture on part of the wing that had been taped.

13 December, 2011

After the US formally asked for its spy plane back, Xinhua reported:

The Pentagon had earlier just officially acknowledged that an unmanned aircraft of an unspecified type was “missing” over western Afghanistan.

Still, U.S. president Obama made a statement on Dec.12, first confirming that the stealthy high-altitude spy plane had been captured by Iran.

“We’ve asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” Obama said during a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

In a tit-for-tat response, Iranian officials stated that they will not return the aircraft and promised to reverse-engineer the jet’s technology.

Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, remarked on state television that the violation of Iran’s airspace by the U.S. drone was a “hostile act” and warned of a “bigger” response.

“No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country,” Salami said Sunday.

It is unclear whether Iran could technologically glean from what it seized as it vowed, but the capture of the unarmed surveillance drone intact would give access to a treasure trove of classified information including the designs of the aircraft and its payload of sensors.

Experts also made the assumption that Iran could deal a significant blow to the U.S. military, as the event “allowing Tehran to counter or copy the highly classified technology.”

The RQ-170 Sentinel, made by Lockheed Martin, has been used in Afghanistan for years. It gained notoriety earlier this year when officials disclosed that one was used to keep watch Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan as the raid that killed him was taking place.

On top of the fearsome prospect that Iranian engineers could potentially find ways to defeat the U.S. stealth technology and disillusion the Pentagon’s ambition to take advantage of these less costly unmanned hi-tech jets to make a global network of surveillance, it is also most likely that the jet has come under external attack via cyber or electronic means.

Although it is highly dubious that it could currently hacker into the operating system of UAVs, Iran would still pose a severe threat to the future unmanned drones and fighters which extensively employ data link, once it proves that RQ-170 Sentinel fell into Iran’s hands by means of cyber attacks.

Also, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta may well recompose his polyphony of Air-sea battle concept, as the UAV plays an inalienable part in the U.S. global strategy.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

December 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

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