Andrea Shalal-Esa / Reuters & – 2007-02-03 08:55:56
Pentagon Stops F-14 Parts Sales Amid Iran Concerns
Andrea Shalal-Esa / Reuters
WASHINGTON (January 30, 2007) — The Pentagon on Tuesday said it had stopped selling surplus parts for the F-14 fighter jet, saying it was the “right thing to do,” given congressional concerns that some parts could land in the hands of Iran.
Iran, which is facing strong Western opposition to its nuclear program, is the only country still flying the F-14, also called the Tomcat, since the U.S. military retired the plane in July.
The Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency said it halted sales of certain sensitive F-14 parts in February 2006, but the ban now covered all F-14 parts until the government completed a comprehensive review of what to do with them.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Dawn Dearden, spokeswoman for the Pentagon agency, citing what she called “the situation in Iran.” The West accuses Iran of seeking to build atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies, saying it only wants to make electricity.
The Pentagon’s move took effect on Friday, and came after congressional criticism of security weaknesses that gave buyers for Iran access to the aircraft parts. The agency did not disclose details of those incidents. It formerly held liquidation sales of surplus parts.
The earlier halt in sales affected what the agency called “unique” F-14 parts and those “deemed critical to F-14 operations” that could be used for other aircraft.
Dearden said about 60 percent of the roughly 76,000 parts for the F-14 were general nuts-and-bolts-type aircraft hardware that can be sold safely to the public without restrictions, but even those sales would be halted for now.
She said the Pentagon planned to destroy some 10,000 components that are unique to the F-14, and was reviewing what to do with 23,000 parts that could be used for other aircraft.
Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate intelligence committee, has written legislation to eliminate all Pentagon sales of F-14 parts saying weaknesses in security allowed buyers for countries including Iran and China to obtain sensitive military equipment, including F-14 parts.
The bill would also ban previous buyers who already had surplus F-14 parts from exporting them to third parties.
The U.S. military in July retired the two-seat, twin-engine F-14 Tomcat, made famous in the 1986 movie, “Top Gun.”
That leaves only Iran, which bought the fighter jet in the 1970s when it was a U.S. ally, still flying the planes.
The Government Accountability Office has issued several reports in recent years raising concerns about the lack of adequate security on the Pentagon’s excess property sales.
For instance, its undercover investigators found that several sensitive excess military items, including 12 digital microcircuits used in F-14s, were improperly sold to the public at liquidation sales.
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Shell Defies US Pressure and Signs £5bn Iranian Gas Deal
Terry Macalister / Guardian Unlimited
(Monday January 29, 2007) — Shell has signed an important deal to help Iran develop a major gas field, ignoring growing pressure from George Bush to isolate the country for being part of what he alleges is an “axis of evil”.
The Anglo-Dutch group, which is struggling to bring more momentum to its business after being forced to hand over vital Russian reserves at Sakhalin island to the Kremlin, confirmed it had finally reached agreement on various aspects of its “Persian LNG” – liquefied natural gas – project centred on the South Pars gas field.
Shell insisted last night it was still a year away from a final decision on whether to proceed with the multi-billion-dollar project to build a liquefied natural gas terminal capable of handling 8m tonnes a year.
“We have signed an upstream service agreement as part of our work to assess the feasibility of the project,” a spokeswoman said, referring to the production deal. “Implementation of the upstream service agreement is subject to taking a final decision to proceed with the midstream LNG project.”
The move is a bold one by Shell because its arch-rival BP has declared itself unwilling to invest in Iran at a time when the international political climate surrounding the country is so forbidding.
The United Nations has imposed limited sanctions on Iran to stop it enriching uranium and Washington is pushing for harsher sanctions against a programme it believes is aimed at building an atom bomb – an accusation Tehran rejects.
Washington has increased pressure on non-US companies in the past year not to invest in Iran and some analysts believe it could be hard for oil companies to maintain operations in both Iran and the United States, where Shell and its Spanish partner Repsol both have fields.
Fadel Gheit, oil analyst with the Oppenheimer & Co brokerage in New York, said Shell was right to proceed in Iran. “This is very positive for the company because those that get in at an early stage will be rewarded. They are clearly willing to ignore Bush because he is coming to the end of his presidency and when he goes everything could change.”
On Sunday, Gholamhossein Nozari, head of the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company, told Iran’s student news agency ISNA that Iran had signed an initial deal worth $10bn (£5bn) with Repsol and Shell to produce liquefied natural gas from the South Pars field.
The Shell spokeswoman said the upstream side of the project would be developed under a buyback agreement. Shell and Repsol would build the production facilities, which would be owned and operated by an Iranian company. Shell and Repsol would be paid back their costs plus a pre-agreed profit.
Separately yesterday, Shell agreed to sell its Los Angeles refinery to Texan oil firm Tesoro in a deal worth nearly $2bn.