South Korean sources claim that Pyongyang has moved and hidden two medium-range missile launchers along its coastline. The missiles, believed to be a "Musudan" model, have a range of 1,800 miles. Japan and South Korea are within its range, but the United States is not, Fox News reports. The Japanese Asahi Shinbum claims that the missile transported to the coast could have been a longer-range KN-08 with a 6,200 mile range. Images of a train carrying the missile were apparently provided by a U.S. intelligence satellite, the paper claimed. Fox News provided this expert's assessment on the likelihood of conflict:
"I don't believe North Korea has to capacity to attack the United States with nuclear weapons mounted on missiles, and won't for many years. Its ability to target and strike South Korea is also very limited," nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.
Iranian and Western negotiators met on Friday in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to resume negotiations on Iran's nuclear program. The two sides are seeking an agreement on limiting Iranian uranium enrichment in return for an easing of crippling Western sanctions on Iran's economy. Before the talks, a senior U.S. administration official warned of more punitive sanctions if “Iran does not begin to take concrete steps and concrete actions to meet international concerns,” the Associated Press reported.
In addition to 1.2 million estimated Syrian refugees now in countries neighboring Syria, another four million Syrians have been displaced by the civil war and are trapped within Syria, according to an official at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Water systems, schools, health services, and bakeries are "teetering or have shut down," leaving a population in distress, according to Agence France Presse. The UNHCR registered more than 400,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, though many more are believed to be in the country.
Following publication this week that Jordan was training Syrian rebels and facilitating weapons shipments, Syria unleashed a verbal attack on the Hashemite Kingdom, warning that it was "playing with fire." On Thursday, a Jordanian security official told Al Jazeera that the army was doubling the number of soldiers along the Syrian border. The trainees in Jordan are "mainly secular tribesmen from central and southern Syria who once served in the army and police," the paper reported.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cannot run for reelection in June because of Iran's two-term limitation laws, but he's not going out quietly. To boost his handpicked successor Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei's prospects, Ahmadinejad is campaigning as if he were an opposition reformist. His target: the hard-line traditionalists and clerics, as well as leaders of the Revolutionary Guards who have assumed control over large segments of Iran's economy, The New York Times' Thomas Erdbrink reports.
For the third straight day Palestinian gunners in Hamas-controlled Gaza fired rockets and mortars at Israeli towns. No casualties were reported. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Norwegian Foreign Minister on Wednesday, "If the quiet is violated, we will respond strongly. The security of Israel’s citizens is my chief concern, and we will know how to defend the security of our people,” The Jerusalem Post reported.
A new Egyptian battlefront has apparently opened as a violent clash between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents broke out in Cairo two weeks ago. Associated Press details the results of a March 22 riot which "revealed a new readiness of some in the anti-Brotherhood opposition to turn to violence... The fight featured an unusual vengefulness." Islamists are demanding the government crack down on the opponents of President Mohammed Mursi and arrest anti-Brotherhood members of the media.
North Korea ratcheted up its rhetoric on Thursday when it threatened to unleash "cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear strikes. "The moment of explosion is approaching fast," the Korean Central News Agency announced. "No one can say a war will break out in Korea or not and whether it will break out today or tomorrow," NBC News reported. Meanwhile, Pyongyang moved a large nuclear-capable mid-range Musudan missile to its east coast.
The largest gas-producer in the world, Gazprom produces 75 percent of Russia's gas and maintains a monopoly on exports to western and eastern Europe. Effectively controlled by President Vladimir Putin and his allies, Gazprom was a cash cow and a tool for Russian foreign policy. Today, the company is facing serious problems, The Economist warns. "On March 4th its shares hit a four-year low.
The natural gas from offshore Mediterranean wells began to flow into Israel this week, but already the development can be seen as a resource game-changer in the Middle East. The Tamar gas field is a partnership of Israeli and American firms, but lining up for coproduction on nearby fields are entrepreneurs from Australia, Greece, the Russian Gazprom, Cyprus and Turkey. Jen Alic of Oil Price focuses on the latest developments between Israel and Turkey, particularly after the apparent political rapprochement between Turkey and Israel.