Iranian Scientists Sought Nuclear Weapon with Triple the Force of Hiroshima Bomb - George Jahn (AP)
Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a diagram leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last year that it had obtained diagrams indicating that Iran was calculating the "nuclear explosive yield" of potential weapons.
The diagram seen by AP models a 50-kiloton weapon. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons. Modern nuclear weapons have yields hundreds of times higher.
The models were created in 2008 and 2009 - well after 2003, the year that the U.S. said Tehran had suspended such work in any meaningful way.
An intelligence summary provided with the drawing linked it to other nuclear weapons work - indicating that Iran is working not on isolated experiments, but rather on a single program aimed at mastering all aspects of nuclear arms development.
Syrian Rebels Take Two Military Bases in Heavy Fighting - Babak Dehghanpisheh (Washington Post)
Rebel fighters took over two Syrian air force bases after heavy fighting Tuesday.
In the past week rebels have taken control of a half-dozen military bases as well as the Tishreen hydroelectric dam near the Turkish border.
Two government helicopters were shot down in Aleppo province Tuesday, according to activists.
Egypt Seizes Arms Shipment from Libya to Gaza - Mel Frykberg
Egyptian security forces arrested three people Tuesday after intercepting a large shipment of weapons smuggled into the Sinai Peninsula from Libya.
Egyptian media reports said the weapons included 185 crates filled with 5,000 rounds of bullets, anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, rocket-propelled grenades, landmines and explosives valued at $3.3 million.
Last week, a convoy of pickup trucks was stopped near the Egyptian town of Marsa Matrouh, not far from the Libyan border, carrying 108 Grad rocket warheads.
Video: 10 Facts about Hamas (standwithus)
Hamas' Victory Claims Fizzle - Steve Huntley (Chicago Sun-Times)
Hamas claims to have emerged from the latest Gaza battle as the strongest voice of Palestinian aspirations, however debased those ambitions are by their genocidal roots.
But any such political gain is offset by the stunning technological and military prowess demonstrated by Israel.
The Jewish state deployed a missile-defense system that proved amazingly effective, and Israel's pinpoint air attacks based on accurate intelligence wreaked punishing destruction on the terrorist command in Gaza with minimum civilian casualties.
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- U.S.: Palestinian UN Bid Is a "Mistake," Negotiations Are Only Way Forward
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, asked about Palestinian recognition at the UN, said Tuesday: "We do not think that any move in the General Assembly is helpful or any text in the UN General Assembly is helpful. We think it's going to be...a mistake....There are times when governments should take principled stands. We are doing that in this case."
"We're focused on a policy objective on the ground for the Palestinian people, for the people of Israel, which is to end up with two states that can live peacefully next to each other. Nothing in this action at the UN is going to take the Palestinians any closer to that. So yes, we're going to oppose it because we think it is the wrong move. We think it makes other steps that might improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis harder....If there is a vote, we will vote no."
- Window for Nuclear Diplomacy on Iran Is Now Open But Not for Long - Julian Borger
Having delivered its latest quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program to its board, the nuclear safeguards department of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gave a technical briefing on Wednesday to an audience of ambassadors in Vienna. The main message Western ambassadors came away with was that Iran appears to be just days away from starting feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into four new cascades of centrifuges at its underground enrichment site at Fordow. Those cascades, of 174 centrifuges each, are being vacuum tested which is usually the last step before piping in the uranium gas. The impression was that these new cascades would almost certainly be producing 20%-enriched uranium.
For the past six months Iran has been producing 20% uranium at the rate of 14 to 15 kg. a month. It now has a stockpile of about 135 kg., while Israel has declared that 240 kg., enough to make a single warhead if further enriched, is its red line, implying it would take military action to stop Iran reaching that point. If the four new cascades work properly and start spinning uranium, the production rate would go up to 25 kg. a month, so the red line would be breached in about four months, rather than seven.
The bottom line is that the window for diplomacy that opened with the U.S. election is now closing again at an accelerating rate.
- Gazans Say "Thank You Iran" - Nidal al-Mughrabi
Gazans offered very public thanks to Iran on Tuesday for helping them in this month's fight against Israel, when Iranian-made missiles were fired towards Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
"Thank you Iran," said large billboards on three major road junctions in Gaza in Arabic, English, Hebrew and Farsi. The posters depicted Iranian Fajr 5 rockets.
"Iranian rockets struck at Tel Aviv. They reached out to Jerusalem. Therefore it was our duty to thank those who helped our people," said Khader Habib, a senior Islamic Jihad official.
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- U.S., Israel Fail to Soften Wording of Palestinian UN Bid - Barak Ravid
American-Israeli efforts to soften the wording of the proposed UN General Assembly resolution regarding the recognition of a Palestinian state has failed, an Israeli official said on Tuesday. The Palestinians refused to add a clause that would prevent them from filing criminal charges against Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Senior Obama administration officials contacted the chief of the Palestinian negotiating team Saeb Erekat on Wednesday and asked him to come to Washington urgently in order to negotiate the wording of the resolution, but Erekat refused.
"Erekat told the Americans that he didn't have any time and that he would speak with them after the vote," said the senior Israeli official. The Palestinians made it clear to the U.S. that they are only prepared to provide an oral guarantee regarding the ICC for a temporary period of half a year.
- Israel Weighs Reaction to PA UN Move - Herb Keinon
A senior diplomatic source said Tuesday that the Palestinian resolution at the UN seeking observer state status is a clear violation of the underlying principle of the peace process, which requires all outstanding issues to be resolved by negotiations.
The official said that as a result of the Palestinian move, Israel would stick to the letter of the agreements it has signed, including the 1994 Paris Protocol mandating economic relations between Israel and the PA. Under that protocol, Israel can withhold tax money it collects for the PA to pay for goods and services Israel provides it.
The PA owes more than NIS 800 million to the Israel Electric Corporation, a debt that Jerusalem will now most likely withhold from the two upcoming monthly tax payments to the PA.
According to the source, the recent events in Gaza have shown PA President Mahmoud Abbas to be irrelevant and he is looking for ways to demonstrate his significance.
"This move is not about the Palestinian people or a Palestinian state, but only his survival," said the source, adding that the move will not change anything on the ground. (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinian Farmers Allowed to Come Closer to Border Fence - Gili Cohen
After the Gaza operation, the Israel Defense Forces is allowing Palestinians greater access to areas near the border with Israel.
They can now approach to within 100 meters of the border fence instead of 300 meters. Under new rules of engagement, soldiers may try to arrest any Palestinian who encroaches within 100 meters of the fence, and if he tries to harm the fence they may open fire - but only at his legs.
The army has been surprised by the almost total cessation of fire since the cease-fire was declared, except for three rockets fired into Israel from Gaza in the hour following the cease-fire. Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, head of the IDF Southern Command, said that presently "there is complete quiet in the field." (Ha'aretz)
- The EU Should Not Be Complicit in Abbas' Mistake - Daniel Schwammenthal
Having been marginalized by the Gaza conflict, PA President Mahmoud Abbas remains determined to ask the UN General Assembly for non-member observer state status on Thursday. Abbas failed to embrace the offer by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a comprehensive peace in 2008, and he has largely refused to even speak to Olmert's successor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Abbas then has the chutzpah to cite the absence of peace talks, which he is himself boycotting, as justification for going to the UN.
The creation of a state can only come through direct negotiations and any UN endorsement based on Palestinian terms will only make it harder to find a mutually acceptable compromise in the future. By supporting the unilateral UN bid, EU member states would not only assist the Palestinians in violating their contractual obligations under the 1995 Oslo Accords, they would also undermine the EU's own standing, which after all signed the accords as a witness.
How will violating past agreements encourage Israelis to trust Palestinians to abide by future agreements? And why is Abbas going to New York instead of Jerusalem to negotiate peace? The writer is Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.
- The Gaza War and Its Fallout - Elliott Abrams
Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood (MB) president, Mohamed Morsi, consistently separated Egypt's interests from those of Hamas. He did not go to Gaza during the war, did not break relations with Israel, and did not threaten to cancel the peace treaty. It was clear that he did not want the tail to wag the dog - did not want the leaders of 1.5 million Gazans to harm the interests of 85 million Egyptians. He did not want a ground war that might have forced his hand on relations with Israel, and he does not want to see acts of terrorism against Israel launched from Egyptian territory.
Significantly, Morsi's position appears to be that of the MB as an institution. During the war, Khairat al-Shater, perhaps the single strongest leader in the Brotherhood (and its initial candidate for president), sharply criticized Hamas in a meeting of the MB leadership reported in Al-Ahram. Al-Shater denounced Hamas for entangling Egypt in a potential conflict with Israel, and said the army must do a better job of stopping the smuggling of arms into Gaza. People who create crises between Egypt and the West and threaten the vital foreign aid Egypt needs are working against Egypt's interests, he said.
Getting Egypt to close the smuggling tunnels and police the border should be a main goal of U.S. diplomacy. The supply of Fajr missiles by Iran to Hamas may remind European leaders and our own - as does the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah soldiers in Syria - that Iran lies at the heart of the region's troubles. The writer is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Abbas' UN Gambit Will Not Bring Peace - Gilead Sher and Amos Yadlin (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- On November 29, the PLO
under PA President Mahmoud Abbas is likely to request a UN vote on international recognition of Palestine as a "non-member state," and is expected to win a majority.
- However, the likelihood that the Palestinian move may even slightly promote a resolution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is slim to none. Peace and security are achieved through
negotiations, hard work, painful compromises, and constructive measures - not via UN
the PA's UN status may pave the way for its
participation in international tribunals, the most problematic of which is the International
Criminal Court (ICC). However, Palestinian acceptance at the ICC
would make it possible for Abbas and the PA to be held legally accountable at The Hague
for the war crimes of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
law does not generally recognize a state's' "right" to represent minority groups that do not
reside within its sovereign territory. The PA's current status as a UN "entity" allows for
its representation of the Palestinian diaspora. Elevating the PLO's status to a nonmember state will considerably hamper the
PA's ability to portray itself as the legitimate representative of millions
of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who are neither citizens nor permanent
- Moreover, UN recognition of a Palestinian state may obviate the need for the
existence of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and lead to the demand to cancel its mandate.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin is Director of INSS, where Gilead Sher is a
Senior Research Fellow.
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