The Envoy
  • russianscientistRussia's state atomic energy corporation has announced that five of the 45 passengers killed aboard a flight that crashed in northwestern Russia Monday worked for its subsidiaries. Israeli newspapers have further identified those scientists as contractors who had worked on Iran's Bushehr nuclear energy facility.

    "The State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM and our subsidiaries had suffered a great loss," the Russian agency said on its website Wedneesday. "Five senior staff from three of our subsidiary enterprises were among the 45 people who died in a plane crash in Russia's north-western republic of Karelia on 20 June.

    The RusAir Tupelev-134 passenger jet, which took off from Moscow's Domodedova airport, crashed on approach to the Petrozavodsk airport late Monday, killing 45 of the 53 passengers and crew members aboard.

    Among the dead were the following scientists employed at Rosatom subsidiaries: Sergey Ryzhov, director and general designer of OKB Gidropress; Banyuk Gennady Fedorovich, deputy director and chief designer of OKB Gidropress; Nikolai Trunov, head of department and chief designer of OKB Gidropress; Andrei Trofimov, chief technologist of OKBM Afrikantov;  and Valery Lyalin, head of the technology department of AtomEnergoMash.

    "The five nuclear experts killed in a plane crash in northern Russia earlier this week had assisted in the design of an Iranian atomic facility," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Thursday, citing security sources in Russia.

    Read More »from Russian nuclear scientists working on Iran’s Bushehr reactor among plane crash victims
  • President Barack Obama won strong support for his plan to withdraw 33,000 of the 100,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan by next summer from one key figure today: Hamid Karzai.

    It was a rare nod from the Afghan president, with whom the U.S. has often had tense relations.

    "The number of troops that he has announced to be withdrawn is a sign that Afghanistan is taking over its own security and is trying to defend it territory by its own means," Karzai told CNN's Fareed Zakaria today in response to the plan Obama laid out in a televised speech last night (the full interview airs Sunday). "So we are happy about the announcement."

    Karzai's endorsement came as Obama's national security team headed to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on what the surge withdrawal timetable would mean for achieving U.S. goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    The top U.S. military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, acknowledged to lawmakers that in recent days he'd judged the aggressive surge withdrawal option, as announced by Obama last night, too risky. But Mullen said he has since become more comfortable with the plan.

    Read More »from Karzai embraces Obama surge withdrawal plan as Obama aides hit Capitol Hill
  • President Barack Obama, in a widely anticipated speech tonight, announced a brisk drawdown of 33,000 U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of next summer, and called more broadly for the U.S. to assume a more pragmatic approach to international interventions in order to focus on economic recovery and nation-building at home.

    "We are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens at home," Obama said in the brief twelve minute speech from the White House East Room. "Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America's greatest resource — our people."

    "America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home," he said.

    The United States had achieved significant progress in the counterterrorism goals Obama outlined when he ordered the surge of U.S. forces to Afghanistan in a speech at West Point in December 2009, he said. Among those goals: reversing Taliban gains in Afghanistan, degrading Al Qaeda's capabilities and eliminating several of its commanders in Pakistan, and building up the Afghan security forces to eventually be able to secure their own country.

    But responding to growing American public impatience with the almost ten year old war and the continued economic crisis in the United States, Obama said the United States has to be strategic about pursuing national security engagements abroad.

    Read More »from Obama, ordering drawdown of surged U.S. forces in Afghanistan, urges nationbuilding at home


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