Iranian Officials Observed North Korean Rocket Launch - Danielle Demetriou (Telegraph-UK)
The high-profile rocket launch in North Korea was reportedly attended by 12 officials from the Iranian Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHID).
"The Iranians undoubtedly were there to observe the missile launch and receive test data from North Korea," a diplomatic source said.
Jordan Moves to Ban Muslim Brotherhood Party (DPA-Ha'aretz)
Jordan's parliament voted Monday to forbid the establishment of any political party on a "religious basis," which would effectively disqualify the Muslim Brotherhood's political party - the Islamic Action Front.
Islamists claim the move comes as "retaliation" for the Muslim Brotherhood's opposition to a proposed elections law that would ensure the continued dominance of tribal regime loyalists in parliament.
Palestinians Share the Political Culture of the Middle East - Mordechai Kedar (Makor Rishon-Hebrew, 12Apr2012)
A fundamental problem in modern Arab states is one of legitimacy, especially because many states do not reflect a specific ethnic entity and are thus not national states in the European meaning, like France or Holland. Traditionally, there is no Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese or Sudanese people. There is the Arab nation, divided into tribes, extended families, and religious and ethnic groups.
The modern Arab state has failed to win the hearts of the citizenry and to change their traditional allegiance to their tribe, ethnic origin, or religious identity. A man will call himself Iraqi or Syrian only if he's part of the ruling group or he enjoys economic or political benefits. People don't volunteer for the state or want to risk their lives for the government.
In the case of the Palestinians, this is quite obvious in the lack of a volunteer army. Those who work for the PA security services are mercenaries working for pay, who will serve the government only as long as they are paid.
The writer, an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence.
Key DC Police Officials Return from Homeland Security-Based Trip to Israel (AP-Washington Post)
Top police officials from the nation's capital have returned from a homeland security-inspired trip to Israel, where they say they got a first-hand look at how police and the public respond to security threats and disasters.
Diane Groomes, an assistant D.C. police chief, said she was struck by how quickly Israel can respond to a disaster and said the public there seems more accepting of the prevalent security precautions that are in place.
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- U.S. Lawmakers Say Iran Talks Inadequate, Urge More Penalties - Rachelle Younglai and Roberta Rampton
U.S. lawmakers on Monday pushed for more sanctions against Iran after talks between Tehran and global powers in Istanbul. "We have five weeks to convince the Iranians that the sanctions we passed in December were only a first step," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
Many senators support legislation that would force the U.S. to target Iran's main oil and shipping companies and require publicly traded companies to disclose their Iran-related activities. Menendez said it was crucial that Congress pass the legislation quickly to send a message to the Iranian government that the U.S. "won't allow them to use the Baghdad talks to stall for more time to advance their covert nuclear program." (Reuters)
- Iran Ships "Off Radar" as Tehran Conceals Oil Sales - Christopher Johnson and Peg Mackey
Iran is concealing the destination of its oil sales by disabling tracking systems aboard its tanker fleet, making it difficult to assess how much crude Tehran is exporting. Most of Iran's 39-strong fleet of tankers is now "off-radar" after Tehran ordered captains in the National Iranian Tanker Co. (NITC) to switch off the black box transponders used to monitor vessel movements.
In addition, Iran may have countered a reported reduction in its oil sales in March by offering big discounts in the form of free freight, finance and insurance and generous credit terms, sources said.
- Assad Likely to Wriggle Out of Latest UN Peace Plan for Syria
The UN insists a fragile truce it brokered in Syria is holding, even though regime forces have been hammering the city of Homs with artillery for days. Assad has made it brutally clear that he won't step aside, trying to snuff out a 13-month uprising with tank fire and mass arrests. Even though he ostensibly accepted Annan's plan, he's likely to wriggle out of it since he seems largely insulated from pressure.
He does not face a threat of Western military intervention. Poorly armed rebel fighters don't pose a danger to his rule. And Assad has the backing of Russia, China and Iran, along with key groups at home. "If the end game is the fall of the Assad regime, I don't think we are any closer to the end game," said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center. (AP-Washington Post)
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- Netanyahu-Fayyad Meeting: Diplomatic Theater, Not Diplomacy - Herb Keinon
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday for the first time ever, diplomatic theater - rather than true diplomacy - will be on display. Fayyad is to present a letter laying out preconditions that Israel has rejected a thousand times in the past, knowing full well that Israel will reject them again. That is not diplomacy.
Since the PA's gambit for unilateral statehood recognition failed at the UN in September, the Palestinians have fallen off the world's radar screen, replaced by Syria and Iran. With the Fayyad meeting the Palestinians hope to regain some of the world's lost attention.
- U.S. Ambassador: We Will Veto any Palestinian Statehood Bid at UN
The U.S. will continue to act against Palestinian attempts to gain recognition through the UN, and if necessary will use its veto to that end, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said Monday. He said that there are no shortcuts to peace and the Palestinians must return to direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions.
- Benefit of the Doubt - Editorial
If, in fact, Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner, the deputy commander of the IDF's Jordan Valley Brigade, did strike a foreign pro-Palestinian activist with his rifle on Saturday unprovoked and not in self-defense, we condemn such action in the strongest terms. But "evidence" - no matter how incriminating - provided by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) should have been treated with extreme suspicion.
In the Second Lebanon War, Eisner led soldiers in battle and helped extract a tank crew under fire. About a year ago, he helped a Palestinian woman give birth. The ISM, by contrast, has a history of high-intensity confrontations with IDF soldiers.
- Talking with Iran - Editorial
Nothing is ever quick and easy with the Iranians. They are masters at diplomatic sleight of hand and have provided ample reason for mistrust. Resolving concerns about the country's nuclear activities remains a long shot.
The most immediate needs are to get Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20% purity, just a few steps from bomb grade; to move its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20% out of the country; to close the underground production facility at Fordo; and to cooperate more fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran's unsurprising push for an immediate lifting of sanctions must be resisted. The only possible way of achieving a negotiated deal is for the international community to stay united and keep on the economic pressure.
(New York Times)
- Iran Claims U.S. OK on Enrichment - Amir Taheri
"An important reversal of America's position!" is how Tehran's government-mouthpiece daily Kayhan described the outcome of the latest talks on Iran's nuclear program.
The way Tehran sees it, Istanbul showed that the 5+1 group has dropped the UN resolutions' demand for ending uranium enrichment.
"Up to now their position was that uranium enrichment was not allowed in any form," Kayhan said in an editorial Sunday. "Now, it is clear that enrichment between 3.5 and 5% is acceptable." (New York Post)
- The Last Chance for Diplomacy to Stop Iran - Brig. Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog
Strong evidence suggests that Iran's nuclear program is intended to actually construct nuclear weapons, not merely to develop the capability to do so. If it is not stopped soon, Iran will acquire the capacity to build nuclear weapons, shield that capacity from possible attack, and ultimately sprint to construct nuclear weapons when it deems circumstances ripe.
For Israel, Iranian capacity to build nuclear weapons constitutes an unbearable threat, especially given the possible future threat of Iran using nuclear weapons through proxies.
In any diplomatic solution, the P5+1 must insist on terms which will set the Iranians significantly back from their existing threshold capacity.
Iran should be made aware that the diplomatic avenue is time limited, that sanctions begin to relax only when Iran demonstrates real cooperation and that the West is prepared to use force against Iran's nuclear facilities as a last resort.
Failing to stop Iran through sanctions and diplomacy, backed by the credible threat of force, will leave Israel having to decide in the coming months whether to use a unilateral military option. (BICOM)
- The Bitter Truth about Iran - Chuck Freilich
The simple fact is that Iran has rejected all efforts to reach a negotiated solution to date, beginning with Clinton and renewed with greater emphasis by Obama, and has used the passing time to further develop its nuclear capabilities. Let us not delude ourselves. Iran has good strategic reasons for seeking nukes, has turned the issue into a domestic cause celebre, and has so far demonstrated a clear willingness to pay the attendant costs. Hope is important, but is not a substitute for hardheaded policy.
Unless a very unexpected change takes place in Iranian policy, ongoing diplomacy risks becoming a cover for acquiescence to a nuclear Iran.
The writer is a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School.
The Challenge of Containing Iran's Enrichment Activities - Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Officials are discussing possible compromises that might persuade Tehran to give up any ambition of developing nuclear weapons. Apparently, one of the principal components of these proposals is acceptance of Iran's right to enrich uranium to around 3.5%, a level suitable for civilian power reactors. But this could turn out to be a fatal bargain: centrifuge technology is easy to hide, and there are few barriers to continuing enrichment up to 90%, the level needed for an atomic bomb.
- If the aim is to produce 90% enriched uranium, reaching the 3.5% level requires some 75% of the work. By the time 20% enrichment is reached - the level Iran currently achieves - 90% of the work has been done. Therefore, cutting a deal in which Iran gives up enriching to 20% but continues enriching to 3.5% would buy relatively little time.
- A fundamental part of restoring international confidence in the peaceful scope of Iran's nuclear program
is for Tehran to answer existing questions about suspect activities that suggest it has, at least in the past, worked on nuclear weapons designs and breached its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Simon Henderson is director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. Olli Heinonen, a senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, formerly served as deputy director-general and head of the Department of Safeguards at the IAEA.
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