Israeli Expert: Iran Already a Nuclear Power, But Can't Deliver a Bomb - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
Prof. Uzi Even, one of the founders of Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona, said in a recent interview that he had no doubt about Iran's intention to create a nuclear arsenal.
Even believes Iran has already, covertly, created the 20-25 kg. of highly-enriched uranium necessary to conduct a successful underground test.
The final stage of enrichment, from 20% to weapons-grade fuel, "can be done underground, in something the size of a storage room, and no one would know," he said.
Yet Iran remains several years shy of being able to deploy a weapon due to the weight of a uranium warhead, as compared with one made of plutonium.
Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Operating in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff (TheTower.org)
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps who are experts in missile production are currently in Gaza to help Hamas and Islamic Jihad develop long-range missiles, high-level Palestinian security sources say.
This isn't the first time delegates from Tehran had entered Gaza.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Seeking to Amend Peace Treaty with Israel (Al-Masry Al-Youm-Egypt)
A figure in Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, said Tuesday that the party's legal committee is working on a new draft law to amend the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
Osama Suleiman, the party's secretary general in Beheira governorate, said the draft law will amend the treaty so the armed forces can gain full control over the Sinai Peninsula.
The 1979 peace treaty allows only Egyptian police with light weapons to guard borders with Israel, except in special cases.
Cairo Court: Egypt-Gaza Tunnels Must Be Destroyed (Reuters)
A Cairo court ruled on Tuesday the government must destroy all tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, removing a route for smuggled weapons for Palestinians.
Many Egyptians fear that Gaza is a security risk for Egypt. President Mohamed Mursi's national security adviser Essam Haddad has said Egypt will not tolerate the two-way flow of smuggled arms through the tunnels that is destabilizing its Sinai peninsula.
"The court ruled to make it obligatory that the government destroys the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza," Judge Farid Tanaghou said.
Six Wounded Syrians, Treated in Israel, Return to Syria - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
Six of the seven wounded Syrians who were taken for treatment in Israel last week have returned to Syria, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said Wednesday.
Another wounded Syrian is still hospitalized in serious condition.
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- Iran and Six Nations Agree to Two More Rounds of Nuclear Talks - Steven Erlanger
Talks between Iran and six world powers over its nuclear program ended on Wednesday with an agreement to convene technical experts in Istanbul on March 18 and return to Almaty, Kazakhstan, for further negotiations among the full delegations on April 5 and 6, a senior Western diplomat said. Tehran was offered step-by-step sanctions relief in return for confidence-building measures from Iran, Western diplomats said.
The ultimate goal of talks with Iran is to get the country to comply with Security Council resolutions demanding that it stop enrichment altogether until it can satisfy the International Atomic Energy Agency that it has no weapons program and no hidden enrichment sites. The six nations talking with Iran have remained united and share an impatience over what they perceive to be its delaying tactics. The Russian envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, said Tuesday that easing sanctions would be possible only if Iran could assure the world that its nuclear program was for exclusively peaceful purposes. (New York Times)
See also World Powers Offer Iran a Small Carrot at Nuclear Talks - Paul Richter
Six world powers floated a modestly improved proposal to Iran on Tuesday as talks on Tehran's disputed nuclear program resumed after an eight-month hiatus, with little expectation of a breakthrough. (Los Angeles Times)
- Plutonium: Iran's "Plan B" for a Nuclear Bomb - James Kirkup
Iran is developing a second path to a nuclear weapons capability by operating a plant that could produce plutonium, satellite images show for the first time. The images, taken earlier this month, show that Iran has activated the Arak heavy-water production plant.
Heavy water is needed to operate a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium, which could then be used to make a bomb.
The striking image of steam over the Arak heavy-water complex is a vivid demonstration that the regime has more than one pathway to a potential nuclear weapon. Iran has told the IAEA that it will begin operating the reactor at Arak in the first three months of 2014.
International inspectors have been barred from the facility since August 2011 and Iran has refused repeated requests for information about the site.
Images of the area around Arak show more anti-aircraft missile and artillery sites protecting the plant than are deployed around any other known nuclear site in the country.
According to the Institute for Science and International Security, a U.S. think tank, if the heavy-water plant reaches full capacity, it would produce about 20 lb. of plutonium a year, enough for two nuclear warheads if the plutonium was reprocessed. Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department official at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said North Korea has successfully developed that technology and could provide it to Iran.
See also Iran Moves a Step Closer to Getting the Bomb - Editorial (Telegraph-UK)
- U.S. Senators Call on European Central Bank to Tighten Sanctions on Iran - Peter Foster
A powerful cross-party group of 36 U.S. senators has written to the European Council to urge the European Central Bank to sharply tighten its sanctions regime and deny Iran access to its euro-denominated foreign exchange reserves.
"We are writing to request your immediate support to close a significant loophole in U.S.-EU sanctions policy," said the letter. They called for the ECB to stop Iran from using the "Target2" clearing system for global euro transactions.
- Kerry: Obama Plans to "Listen," Not Present Mideast Peace Plan - Arshad Mohammed
President Barack Obama will not bring a peace plan to Israel next month, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.
"We're not going to go and sort of plunk a plan down and tell everybody what they have to do," Kerry said. "I want to consult and the president wants to listen."
Referring to rising tensions in the West Bank, Kerry said, "We really hope everybody will step back a little and try to find a way to proceed very calmly and very thoughtfully in these next days (and) leave the opportunities for peaceful resolution open." (Reuters)
- U.S. Moves toward Providing Direct Aid to Syrian Rebels - Karen DeYoung
The Obama administration is moving toward a major policy shift on Syria that could provide rebels there with equipment such as body armor and armored vehicles, and possibly military training, and could send humanitarian assistance directly to Syria's opposition political coalition, according to U.S. and European officials.
The administration has not provided direct aid to the military or political side of the opposition throughout the two-year-old conflict, and U.S. officials remain opposed to providing weapons to the rebels.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: Iran Just Buying Time in Kazakhstan Talks - Herb Keinon
Israeli officials were "skeptical in the extreme" that the current round of talks in Kazakhstan would lead to any progress in halting Iran's nuclear work.
"The Iranian strategy is clear: to draw out diplomacy and continue to engage, but in parallel to continue enriching uranium," one official said. "They are engaged in a consistent strategy to draw out the talks. Their ultimate goal is to keep talking, and one day to surprise the world with nuclear tests." He said diplomacy has so far not been effective, sanctions are not working, and the Iranians are galloping ahead despite diplomatic pressure.
Jerusalem, the official said, believes the pressure has to be dramatically upgraded, coupled with convincing the Iranians that there is a credible military option. He said the international community must also clearly state what the "or else" part of the "stop the bomb or else" equation is.
- IDF: Violence in West Bank Waning, But Far from Over - Gili Cohen
A senior officer in the IDF Central Command said Tuesday that the past week's violence in the West Bank "hasn't ended yet, although its intensity dropped [Tuesday] significantly compared to recent days." (Ha'aretz)
According to the IDF's evaluations, the current wave of violence will continue for some time, but will likely not turn into an all-out intifada. (Jerusalem Post)
- How to Save Syria from Al-Qaeda - Leslie H. Gelb
President Obama is wisely avoiding ever creeping military measures on behalf of rebels, many of whom might well turn out to be even worse than the already viperous President Assad. The real dangers in Syria today come less from Assad and much more from increasingly potent Sunni extremist fighters. If the "rebels" win, jihadis likely would be the real victors. They'd swiftly create a terrorist state to menace Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel.
U.S. strategy must be constructed to blunt that nightmare. Most Syrian Sunnis don't have a history of religious radicalism. They don't want rule by shari'a law any more than the Alawites do. The writer is president emeritus of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.
- Iran's Attempted Rapprochement with Egypt:
Implications for Sunni-Shiite Relations - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
The Arab Spring has reinforced the conflict between the Arab states and Iran. While Iran continues to see the Islamic manifestations of the Arab Spring as an opportunity to promote its Islamic hegemonic aims, upheavals in the Arab world have in fact widened the gaps between Iran and the Arab states. This is mainly due to Iran's unequivocal backing of Syria, where Assad keeps trying to crush the opposition, and Iran's support for the Shiite opposition in Bahrain.
The Sunni Arab camp is undergoing a process of consolidation, with a closing of ranks in the Arab world along Sunni Islamic and less Arab-nationalist lines.
Iran is realizing that, even though Egypt has assumed a more Islamic coloration, it is still under the influence of the "moderate" Arab states - Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states - and is sustaining its relations with both the U.S. and Israel.
Iran's progress in its nuclear program is intensifying fears among the Arab states. In their view, Iran's nuclearization would create greater space for its political subversion, terror, and the export of its radical brand of Shiite revolution. IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall is an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Three Rules to Understanding Iran - Amb. Matthew Gould (Ynet News)
Ten years ago I was living in Iran, as Britain's deputy ambassador. I dealt daily with the Iranian regime, traveled the country, and learned Persian history and culture. Iran is complicated and hard to understand, but I took away three lessons that are important now.
- First, in every decision the regime takes, they are focused on one overarching goal: To stay in power. One key reason they want nuclear capability is that they believe it will guarantee them their continuity in power.
- Second, the regime knows its economy is a huge vulnerability. That is why I believe that sanctions can work. We know that they are having a significant impact. They also know that there is a simple way to bring sanctions to an end.
- Third, some people say that sanctions have failed. But it is more correct to say the sanctions have not yet succeeded. You don't know when they are going to change direction, until it happens. In 2003, when Iran last suspended its nuclear enrichment program, no one saw it coming. The fact that Iran has not changed course in the face of sanctions so far does not mean it will not do so.
- A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to Israel, and a threat to the world, and the UK will work unwaveringly to prevent that from happening.
The writer is Britain's ambassador to Israel.
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