Obama-McChrystal meeting ends
WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal left his meeting with President Obama unsure of his fate after making flip remarks about officials involved in the Afghan war.
The general, the top ground commander in Afghanistan, left the White House immediately after his 30-minute one-on-one with Obama Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.
McChrystal, 55, met with the president after meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
McChrystal's meeting with Obama preceded a scheduled conference of Obama's national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
McChrystal was summoned to Washington to discuss the Rolling Stone article in which he and members of his staff were quoted making dismissive and derogatory comments about administrative officials involved in Afghanistan policy.
The New York Times reported McChrystal had prepared a letter of resignation.
After the story broke, McChrystal apologized.
Following a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Obama said, "I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed poor judgment. But I also want to make sure I talk to him directly before I make final judgment."
Administration and congressional leaders Tuesday expressed disappointment with McChrystal as well. In the article, McChrystal and his aides were portrayed as backbiters who disparaged people, but who did not speak out against policy, the Times said. The civilian communications adviser who set up the interview, Duncan Boothby, resigned.
A Pentagon official told CNN he did not think it likely McChrystal would survive and is prepared to resign. Others at the Pentagon said they hoped the general would be chastised by his commander-in-chief but sent back to continue the Afghanistan mission.
In deciding what happens to McChrystal, Obama must walk a fine line between asserting authority over the military without alienating it or prompting questions about his fitness as its commander, The Washington Post reported. Among the reasons Obama was elected was his pledge to end American combat involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, terror attacks are increasing and a major assault to drive out the Taliban from a southern stronghold is being finalized.
Even though many advisers expressed concern about changing ground commanders at this stage of the war in Afghanistan, potential replacements already have been discussed at the Pentagon and the White House, the Times said.
The list of successors is thought to include Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of the NATO military corps headquarters in Kabul, which manages the day-to-day fight in Afghanistan; Gen. Martin Dempsey, in charge of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, and Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of the military's Joint Forces Command. Some officials told the Times even Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command and McChrystal's boss, has been floated as a possible leader of the Afghan operation.
Potential bad weather in oil cleanup mix
VENICE, La., June 23 (UPI) -- A tropical wave in the Caribbean could move into the Gulf of Mexico carrying potentially more bad news for oil cleanup efforts, forecasters say.
"We're going to have to evacuate the gulf states," Matt Simmons, founder of investment oil firm Simmons and Co., direly predicted in a Washington Post article published Wednesday. "Can you imagine evacuating 20 million people? ... This story is 80 times worse than I thought."
AccuWeather.com said Wednesday the strength of the system expected to enter the gulf by early next week is questionable, but there is a risk of squalls and rough seas in oil slick and cleanup-containment operation areas.
Also troubling is the extent of the damage to the crippled Transocean Deepwater Horizon well that exploded April 20 and sank, killing 11 workers, the newspaper said. U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, national incident commander, has said there are no indications of additional leaks on the gulf floor, but added the well could be damaged below the mud line.
"We're mitigating risk on the relief well by drilling a second relief well alongside it," he said.
Allen said the possibility of further damage is why the top kill effort last month was stopped. Officials feared that continued pumping of heavy mud into the well could damage the casing and open new channels for leakage into rock.
"I think that one thing that nobody knows is the condition of the well bore from below the blowout preventer down to the actual oil field itself," Allen said during a briefing last week. "We don't know if the well bore has been compromised or not."
Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suspended creating offshore trajectory maps, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. NOAA said it temporarily stopped its offshore forecast because of the lack of recent observations that confirm significant amounts of oil flowing into offshore areas, among other things. Officials said the forecasts would resume if the threat returns.
Report: Israel has new Gaza plan
JERUSALEM, June 23 (UPI) -- Israel's military has drawn up plans to evacuate entire villages and refugee camps in Gaza if a new conflict with Hamas erupts, the Jerusalem Post has learned.
The Post says in an exclusive report Wednesday that the evacuation plan partially draws on a previous Gaza operation, Cast Lead, in which Israeli Defense Forces dropped fliers over areas it planned to invade and made phone calls to residents warning them to leave.
The new plan reportedly draws some lessons from the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead that criticized Israel for the way it operated in urban areas.
The report accused the Israeli military of committing war crimes.
Even though the army is drawing up plans, current military assessments indicate Hamas is not interested in instigating a new conflict with Israel.
Iran produced 37 pounds of 20% uranium
TEHRAN, June 23 (UPI) -- Iran has produced 37 pounds of 20 percent enriched uranium and is capable of producing as much as it needs, the country's nuclear agency leader said.
Ali Akbar Salehi , head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said production would be paced so the country would produce only what it needs, the government-backed Iranian Students News Agency reported Wednesday.
"Iran can enrich uranium to any (percentage) it wishes; it is Iran's legal right," Salehi told the news agency. "The country makes 20 percent enriched fuel as much as it needs … but we do not hurry. We continue our job at an appropriate pace so that fuel plate plant is equipped."
Concerning other nuclear activities, Salehi said construction continued on a heavy water reactor in Arak and officials have begun testing a new generation of centrifuges.
"Testing the third generation of centrifuges is being completed and we are working on the 4th generation of centrifuges," he said.
Concerning Western leaders' efforts to ensure Iran's nuclear activities are for civilian not military purposes, Salehi said, "The U.S. believes in a carrot-and-stick strategy (for) Iran. Iran has taken a smart twin-track strategy … which involves talks and continuous enrichment activities."
Western leaders are concerned that Iran is developing capabilities to produce a nuclear warhead, which Tehran has denied.
Salehi said Iran would abide by "all treaties that we have signed, unless they (Western leaders) want to take an approach against Iran's national interests, such as the U.N. Security Council resolutions" imposing economic sanctions.
Thais probe blast near party headquarters
BANGKOK, June 23 (UPI) -- Thailand's deputy prime minister says an investigation will determine whether an explosion near Bhumjaithai Party headquarters was politically motivated.
Suthep Thaugsuban declined to comment on Tuesday's blast until police have concluded their investigation, the Thai News Agency reported Wednesday.
Suthep said some groups are attempting to stir up disturbances for political gain but warned that the government will prevent any incidents.
He said he has instructed metropolitan police to closely monitor high-risk areas.
"Before that (the incident), we were trying to monitor places at risk but the security operation is difficult to cover a number of targeted areas," he said.
The deputy leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, Boonjong Wongtrairat, said the party has called an urgent meeting to discuss security measures.