Morning Report: April 2, 2006

Rice and Straw visit Iraq to promote unity. AP via Yahoo: 'The top U.S. and British diplomats told Iraqi leaders on Sunday they cannot afford to "leave a political vacuum" and must work quickly to form a new unified government. The surprise visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw highlighted the allies' growing impatience with the Iraqis' failure to set up a governing coalition nearly four months after elections.' Also from AP, via the Jerusalem Post: 'US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw arrived Sunday, American and British officials said. The surprise visits come amid growing pressure on Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to step aside as the Shiite nominee for a second term to break the stalemate in talks on forming a new government. A British official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under embassy rules, refused to discuss the purpose of the visit but said Straw would meet with government officials to discuss progress on forming a new government. A spokesperson from the US Embassy confirmed the visit but provided no other details.' Debka: 'Rice and Straw arrive urge Iraqi politicians to speed up formation of unity government. They arrived in Baghdad Sunday unannounced to try and break the three-month deadlock in coalition talks. Shiite PM Ibrahim Jaabari’s refusal to step down and withdraw his candidacy is the main sticking point in the face of pressure now applied by his own Shiite bloc as well as Kurdish and Sunni leaders.' (various)

FFE: Thugs storm Wafd headquarters. Freedom for Egyptians: 'The Egyptian liberal Al Wafd party headquarters in Dokki was stormed yesterday by the 71 year old disposed leader and last September presidential runner Nomaan Gomaa with 60 armed thugs and gang members. Gomaa who was dethroned last January by the reformists of Al Wafd leaderships on allegations of hidden agenda and conspiring with the current regime of Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak that does not spare a moment to stifle liberal reformers for the best interest of the ruling National Democratic party and the Muslim Brotherhood. The current regime which is continuously containing rising movements calling for freedom of the press, independent judiciary and the formation of liberal parties that can compete with the Islamist movement of the Muslim Brotherhood, gave protection to Nomaan Gomaa. Egypt’s General Attorney ordered his return as a leader to the party following his disposition last January which is considered blatant intervention in independent parties affairs. ...' Read the rest at the link. (FFE)

Iran: unrest, repression, and terror. Iran Focus: 'Tehran, Iran, Apr. 02 – At least three prisoners were injured and three others transferred to unknown locations after a prison riot in the city of Orumieh, north-west Iran, according to families of political prisoners. ... Among those beaten badly by prison guards are Mostafa Sheikhipour, Ali Tappehrash, and Mamesh Farvardin. At least three other prisoners by the names of Latif Mohammadi, Jahangir Baduzadeh, and Karim Mam-Hosseini have been taken from their cells to unknown locations.' Iran Focus: 'Iran’s security forces have arrested several student activists responsible for the publication of campus newspapers in two Iranian universities, government-run Persian-language websites reported on Sunday. Aslan Kamrani, editor of student paper Ael Sesi, was one of the individuals arrested. The paper is distributed in the University of Zahedan in the restive province of Sistan-va-Baluchistan in south-eastern Iran. Asgar Nouri, editor of the student paper Birlik, was arrested in the Iranian capital. Birlik is distributed in Tehran’s Allameh Tabatabi University. Another activist, Jaber Moussavi, has been detained on similar charges. Two other students, Moharram Kamrani and Ibrahim Rashidi, have been arrested for their role in the publication of an Azeri paper. Azeris are Iran’s largest ethnic minority.' Sunday Mirror via MPG: 'Date 02-04-2006. A network of terror camps has been set up in Iran to train insurgents to kill our [British] troops in Iraq. Spy chiefs say al-Qaeda experts are giving three-week courses in planting roadside bombs, sniping and avoiding capture before, during and after attacks against troops. British Special Forces are thought to know where the desert bases are and may be tracking insurgents who come and go. Last night a senior intelligence source said: "The camps have been set up by an al-Qaeda splinter group from Iran's Revolutionary Guards." They are thought to be responsible for at least three recent deaths in Al Amarah in Iraq.' (various)

Iran test-fires torpedo or "underwater missile". AP via Fox: ' Iran announced its second major new missile test within days, saying Sunday it has successfully fired a high-speed torpedo capable of destroying huge warships and submarines. The tests came during war games that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have been holding in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea since Friday at a time of increased tensions with the United States over Tehran's nuclear program. The Iranian-made torpedo — called the "Hoot," or "whale" — has a speed of 223 miles per hour, said Gen. Ali Fadavi, deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards' Navy. That would make it about three or four times faster than a normal torpedo and as fast as the world's known fastest, the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval, developed in 1995. It was not immediately known if the Hoot was based on the Shkval.' Reuters via Khaleej Times: 'Iran said on Sunday it had test fired what it described as the world’s fastest underwater missile during a week of war games in the Gulf, Iranian state television reported. “The world’s fastest underwater missile was successfully test fired on the third day of the ’Holy Prophet war games’,” state television reported in a caption without giving a source or details.' (various)

Iran test-fires stealth missile. The Iranian military also fired a new missile last week, which it claims can evade radar detection. Fox: ' Iran successfully test-fired a missile that can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads, the military said Friday. Gen. Hossein Salami, the air force chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, did not specify the missile's range, saying it depends on the weight of its warheads. But state-run television described the weapon as "ballistic" — suggesting it's of comparable range to Iran's existing ballistic rocket, which can travel 1,250 miles and reach arch-foe Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East. "Today, a remarkable goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran's defense forces was realized with the successful test-firing of a new missile with greater technical and tactical capabilities than those previously produced," Salami said on state-run television. It showed a clip of the launch of what it called the Fajr-3, with "fajr" meaning "victory" in Farsi.' The article does not state whether Iran's claims have been verified, but this post at Debka notes that 'British generals will examine Iran’s successful test of a Fajr-3 multiple warhead missile that can reach Israel, that was carried out undetected by US or Israel radar Friday, March 31. It was launched on the first day of a large-scale Iranian exercise in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman [emphasis added - aa].' (Fox, Debka)

COMMENTARY. Thanks to Homeboy Randy for bringing The Sub Report to our attention. Currently, The Sub Report links to Molten Eagle's post on the Shkval and Shkval-2.
The Peoples Republic of China reportedly bought 40 Shkval rocket torpedoes from Kazakhstan.[71] in 1998. An improved version of the Shkval may be capable of a 300 knots speed (345 mph). [70] France, the U.S., and Germany have also undertaken supercavitating torpedo development.

With a range of at least 3 to 4 miles, Shkval torpedoes reduce reaction times to travel that distance from 3 minutes to perhaps 40 seconds. The swiftest traditional undersea technologies, in contrast, are limited to a maximum of about 80 mph. Scientific American published an article Warp Drive Underwater in 2001: When the Russian submarine K-141 Kursk sank last August, rumors surfaced of mysterious blasts sending the huge sub to the bottom of the Barents Sea and that this was somehow connected to testing an ultrahigh-speed torpedo. "Several months earlier, when American businessman Edmond Pope was arrested in Moscow on charges of espionage, it was said that he had been trying to buy the plans for an ultrahigh-speed torpedo."

Wikipedia's entry on the Shkval-2 (the latest weapon test-fired by Iran) is still more daunting:
The VA-111 Shkval (from Russian: шквал - "squall") torpedo and its descendants are supercavitating torpedoes developed by the Russian Navy. They are capable of speeds in excess of 200 knots (approximately 360 km/h) and are considered far deadlier than any standard torpedo system fielded by NATO.
Design and capabilities

Design began in the 1960s when the NII-24 research institute was ordered to produce a new weapon system capable of combatting nuclear submarines. In 1969, the GSKB-47 would merge with NII-24 to create the Research Institute of Applied Hydromechanics; the Shkval would be a product of this merger.
Deployed in the early 1990s but in fact operational before this, the Shkval is designed as a countermeasure against torpedoes launched by undetected enemy submarines. It may also be used as a counter to incoming torpedoes whereby it is launched at the enemy submarine, forcing it to evade, and hopefully cutting the guidance wire to its torpedo in the process.
With a much greater speed than conventional torpedoes, the VA-111s speed far supersedes that of any standard torpedo currently fielded by NATO. This speed is a result of supercavitation, where the torpedo is actually gliding through a thin air bubble. As the torpedo travels, the water around it is literally vaporized and forms many small bubbles of gas around the body of the projectile; significantly reducing drag and allowing for extremely high speeds. In effect, the Shkval is an underwater missile.
Launched from 533 mm torpedo tubes, the VA-111 exits the tube at 50 knots. Shortly after, its rocket ignites and propells it to speeds of up to 200 knots (some reports indicate speeds of 250+ knots may be achieved). Guidance was non-existent in initial designs, although the Russians are now advocating a new homing model.
Recently, other countries have set to work on their own supercavitating torpedo designs. The U.S. and Germany both have such programs, the latter having produced a prototype as of 2004 named the Barracuda. It is claimed that China has purchased 40 examples of the VA-111 system from Russia, although these claims have yet to be officially verified.

The regime in Tehran has its hands full with domestic unrest. The Baluchis of Sistan-o-Baluchistan province, Sunni Muslims, are led by Abdol-Maalek Rigui in their guerilla campaign against the regime. Meanwhile, the Arabs of Khuzestan, under their spiritual leader Shobeir Khaghani, have repeatedly attacked Iran's vital oil pipelines. Kurds are clashing with regime forces in places like Sanandaj, Baneh, Mahabad, Marivan and Dardasht; the Turcoman minority in Khorasan are increasingly discontented. Finally, some Azeri separatists are clamoring for annexation to Azerbaijan. It would not be surprising if the US and Britain were supplying covert aid to some or all of these groups.

Tehran would probably prefer to wait Washington out, but it is increasingly coming to the realization that it cannot afford to do so. The regime's new weapons are formidable, but the rush to deploy them hints at desperation.

UPDATE: There's some interesting discussion about the Shkval on this LGF comments thread. Several lizards have pointed out that the Shkval has limited guidance but can be very lethal at close range. LoFlyer writes:
This thing is going to be hard to defence if they get within range. 7000 yards is extremely close by modern standards, but modern diesel-electric subs are extremely quiet and hard to detect. A carrier task force is bound to the wind for air operations and a good sub commander can figure out where a task force will be traveling by the wind direction. He can then hide deep and quiet waiting for a task force to come to him making the probability of a successful attack much better than a conventional approach and attack. The Japanese type 21 "Long lance" torpedo was an awful surprise to the US navy in WW II. It combined high speed with a huge warhead of a ton of HE. Radar controlled, long range gunfire was the successful defence to the type 21, but it took a couple of years before the navy could find a successful defence to the type 21. A lot of fine ships and men were lost to the type 21. Its quiet obvious the Iranians have purchased the torpedoes from the Russians, and the Russians are not Americas's friend or allie, and we should not be funding any financial aid to a country that arms our enemies.

Kifaya responds:
it has been about a decade since i played anti-submarine warefare games and i bet there have been many improvements and modernizations to enemy d/e subs...thanksfully we've been "on it" for many years. the threat we were concerned with at that time with the diesels were close shore, shallow water deployments. it is true they are quiet, but only in battery-electric mode. getting to and from their destination is another story, however. while running on those diesel engines they are as quiet as a harley driving in front of your house. very loud and indistinguishable.

Watch this post for further updates.

UPDATE II: Keep an eye on Hundreds of Fathoms for Iran-related and sub-related news.

UPDATE III: Iran Focus, with footage:
Tehran, Iran, Apr. 02 – The following is footage aired on Iranian state television of a new underwater missiles developed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

A senior commander in the IRGC claimed on Sunday that the Islamic Republic had developed the world’s “fastest underwater missile” which could destroy both battleships and submarines.

“The fastest underwater missile in today’s world was successfully tested in the military exercises codenamed Great Prophet”, deputy commander of the IRGC Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi told state television, referring to week-long naval war games in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman which began on Friday by Iran’s armed forces.

“The speed of this missile called ‘Hout’ is 100 metres per second and no ship can escape it”, Fadavi said, adding that the maximum speed of conventional underwater missiles was 25 metres per second. State television aired clips of the missile as it was being fired and moving in the water.

“Currently, only two countries in the world are equipped with such a missile”, he said.

“Ships that can fire the Hout missile are radar-proof and cannot be identified”, he added.

The missiles are also designed to evade sonar detection, Fadavi claimed.

Go to the link for a video clip.

UPDATE IV: The Kurdistani via MPG carries an article on the Iranian Kurdish resistance group PJAK.
The simple, cinderblock and sod-roof, dwellings of the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) don't look much different from those of the surrounding villages in Iraq's Zagros mountains. ...

It's only in conversation that the men and women of the PJAK camp, most of whom hail from Iran, begin to distinguish themselves from Iraqi Kurds, who tend to be subsistence farmers with little education. My first night in the PJAK camp, I was treated to a broken-English crash course in the group's ideology—a variant of democratic socialism combined with a call for the Iranian government to adhere to the European Union's convention on human rights.

The group has been exiled to the mountains of northern Iraq during its struggle to bring democracy to Iran, but the members of PJAK remain surprisingly optimistic. They began organizing underground cells and demonstrating in Iran in the mid-1990s, but after facing persecution by the Tehran government in 1999, many members fled and set up a base in Kandeel. In 2004, the group began carrying out small-arms attacks inside Iran against military targets, in response to Iranian aggression against Kurds in the country's western provinces. BBC Persia reported that PJAK killed 120 Iranian police officers during a six-month period in 2005. It is currently one of the largest—if not the largest—Iranian opposition group, claiming 4,000 members in Kandeel and thousands more inside Iran.

Read the article at the link for full details. Regarding putative assistance from the US:
Both the MEK and the PKK remain on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, but the Iranian government has accused the U.S. of supporting PJAK. Zagros denies this, saying the group has had no contact with the US military or diplomats.

"Our demand is democracy—we accept and welcome [American] support," Zagros says. "But only in accordance with the interests of Kurdish people."

At a PKK base on the other side of the mountain, Abdul Rahman Chaderchi, a member of the PKK's political council, confirms the PKK's support for PJAK and decries the U.S. government's hypocrisy in supporting autonomy for Iraq's Kurds but not for other groups.

"We want the U.S. to see all Kurds with the same eyes," he says.

Kandeel is essentially under PKK control—as one gets deeper into the mountains, checkpoints manned by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party loyal to Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, give way to PKK outposts. The PUK avoids putting pressure the PKK because of both local sympathies for Kurdish national groups and the fact that it wants to avoid sparking armed conflict. PJAK says they have no relationship with the PUK, and Zagros criticized the autocratic nature of Iraq's Kurdish parties.

"This ideology is opposite to ours," he says.

UPDATE V: Randy (via e-mail) offers the following observations. (1) If they can't find you, they can't hit you. Technology and training allow subs and their crews to operate quietly. (2) Good OPSEC is all-important. Movements would be more unpredictable to the enemy if submarine commanders were given the freedom of movement they once had. (3) If the high-speed torpedo is intended for serious use as a weapon, it would probably be more effective if it were kept secret.

UPDATE VI: Spook86 at In from the Cold has more:
By determining the target's bearing, speed and distance, a computer develops a firing solution, which determines the course for the torpedo. But there's only one problem: any changes by the target in speed, course, or distance screws up the firing solution, and greatly increases the probability of a miss, even in salvo launches. And, making matters worse, the SHKVEL-3 (and its Iranian cousin) have fairly short legs; in other words, the launch platform needs to press in close to launch the weapon. Unfortunately for the Iranians, the U.S. Navy has a multi-layered air, ASW and surface screen that extends miles beyond the carrier. Pressing in close for a SHKVEL-3 attack would be a suicide mission for an Iranian P-3, Kilo-class sub, or surface vessel.

The torpedo threat cannot be dismissed, but it's not going to keep the U.S. Navy from operating carrier battle groups inside the Strait of Hormuz, either. On the other hand, Iran's test of a "radar evading" missile may be more cause for concern. Last week, Tehran announced a successful test of a Fajir-3 surface-to-surface missile, which (according to an Iranian spokesman) can evade enemy missile defenses. I believe the Fajir-3 designator is a misnomer, or an effort at deception by Iran.

First of all, the Fajir-3 designator is assigned to an Iranian battlefield rocket that has been in service for several years. Battlefield rockets (such as the Russian FROG-7) are area weapons, not intended for precision targeting. They are often launched in salvoes aimed at enemy troop concentrations, staging areas, port facilities and airfields, and often carry chemical weapons, so accuracy is less important. And, because these weapons are produced on a larger scale than ballistic missiles, it makes little sense to give these weapons a radar evading or stealth capability.

If Iran were interested in deploying that type of technology, they would likely add the technology to one of their SHAHAB series missiles, such as the SHAHAB-2 (their version of the SCUD), or the medium-range SHAHAB-3, which is capable of hitting Israel. With the recent deployment (and successful testing) of Israel's anti-missile shield (the Arrow II system), Tehran would like to have some way to increase its chances of penetrating Israeli defenses, and having some assurance of scoring a hit. There are a variety of ways that Iran could develop that sort of capability for its guided missiles, including decoys (which deploy along with the re-entry vehicle (RV)for the warhead), a stealthier RV design, or some sort of radar-absorbing shroud for the RV assembly. Successful implementation of any of these measures would make it more difficult to detect and engage an incoming Iranian missile.

Read the whole post at the link, and don't forget to bookmark In from the Cold.