Iran to Achieve Critical Nuclear Capability in Mid-2014 - David Albright and Christina Walrond (Institute for Science and International Security)
Iran is expected to achieve a critical capability in mid-2014, which is defined as the technical capability to produce sufficient weapon-grade uranium from its safeguarded stocks of low-enriched uranium for a nuclear explosive, without being detected.
Iran's capability could be achieved a few months earlier if it successfully deploys and operates several thousand IR-2m centrifuges and continues installing thousands of IR-1 centrifuges.
See also Iran's Unexplained Laser Enrichment Capabilities - David Albright and Serena Kelleher Vergantin
(Institute for Science and International Security)
Iran has taken many actions that have compounded suspicions that it has not stopped its uranium laser
They include Iran's development of advanced lasers suitable for uranium enrichment, its
past secret laser enrichment program, the extensive construction at the site of its original undeclared uranium
laser enrichment program (Lashkar Ab'ad), and a 2010 high-profile Iranian announcement about having a
uranium laser enrichment capability.
Turnout Low for Islamists' March in Egypt - Alice Fordham (The National-UAE)
The Muslim Brotherhood had called for a million people to rally on Tuesday to restore Mohamed Morsi as president, but the turnout in Cairo was perhaps tens of thousands and no large demonstrations were reported elsewhere.
Jerusalem Is a City in a Real Country - Editorial (Jewish Weekly of Northern California)
The Washington, D.C.–based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has barred Jerusalem-born Americans from claiming on their passports that Israel is their birthplace.
The ruling singles out Israel, yet again, for special treatment. People born in any other country have the right to indicate that on their passports - why not those U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem, if they so choose?
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations puts it succinctly:
"We hope that the Supreme Court will reverse this policy that discriminates singularly against Israel, and will afford those born in Jerusalem the same right accorded to those born elsewhere." We agree.
Damascus Lookout Point Becomes Base to Shell Rebels - Sam Dagher
(Wall Street Journal)
Going up to Mount Qassioun to picnic or soak in spectacular views of Damascus is a favorite outing of many Syrians, particularly during the hot summer months.
But today Qassioun is a restricted military area off limits to most Syrians.
Artillery used by the Syrian army to hit rebel positions in Damascus and surrounding areas is stationed on parts of the mountain.
Liberal Website Founder Given 7 Years and 600 Lashes in Saudi Arabia - (AP-The Age-Australia)
Raif Badawi, founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes after angering Islamic authorities by urging Saudis to share opinions about the role of religion in the country.
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- Kerry: Objective Is a Final Status Agreement in Nine Months
After two meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday: "The parties have agreed to remain engaged in sustained, continuous, and substantive negotiations on the core issues, and they will meet within the next two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian territories in order to begin the process of formal negotiation....Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months." (State Department)
See also Obama Meets Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators at White House - David Nakamura
President Obama met at the White House on Tuesday with negotiators from Israel and the West Bank who are in Washington for renewed peace talks brokered by the U.S. The negotiators also met with the new U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.
See also below Observations: Negotiating Lessons from the New U.S. Peace Coordinator - Stephan Miller (Times of Israel)
- Are Israeli-Palestinian Talks Based on 1967 Lines? - Ben Lynfield
Israelis and Palestinians are sparring over the central question of whether the talks are based on Israel's 1967 lines or not. Abdullah Abdullah, deputy commissioner for international relations of Abbas' Fatah movement, insists that the U.S. invitation to the talks spells out clearly that the negotiations are to be based upon the line between Israel and the West Bank that existed before the 1967 war. But a senior Israeli official said, ''We did not agree to that. Israel rejected the Palestinian demand for this as a precondition for talks."
Ghassan Khatib, a former PA minister, says that the negotiations will in practice continue for some time, albeit without a peace deal.
"Endless negotiation is good for the Americans. They can point to success in bringing the sides to the table and keeping them there. Netanyahu can avoid U.S. pressure and shows he's engaged in the peace process. Abbas can continue to be fed with money, prisoner releases and other things and maintain the survival of the PA.''
"They have zero chances of reaching an end of conflict, end of claims agreement," says Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. ''The positions are too far apart on narrative issues like the future of holy places and the right of return'' for Palestinians.
(Christian Science Monitor)
See also Peace Process: Interim Solution a More Likely Outcome - Yossi Alpher
Maximalists might only qualify as a success a full-fledged two-state solution that ends all claims by both sides. Sadly, that is the least likely outcome.
More likely, "success" will be measured, if at all, in incremental gains, such as an interim solution. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
- Gaza Rocket Hits Israel as Talks Resume
"A rocket was fired from Gaza and exploded in a field in Israeli territory without causing any damage or casualties" on Tuesday, said Israel Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, as a first full day of resumed Middle East peace talks was to open. Israel holds Hamas, as the de facto authority in Gaza, responsible for all rocket fire, regardless of who launches it.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S. Gave Israel, Palestinians Letters of Assurance in Order to Renew Talks - Barak Ravid
The U.S. administration gave the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams on Tuesday letters of assurance which outlined the U.S. position vis-a-vis the peace talks, a senior Israeli official said. The content of the letters remains classified. (Ha'aretz)
See also U.S. Pushed Peace Talks to Avoid Israeli-Palestinian "Train Wreck" at UN, Says White House Official - Barak Ravid
"The Palestinians throughout the course of this year have been making clear that if they couldn't see progress on the peace front, that their intention would be to seek other elevations of their status, whether at the UN or other international organizations," a senior White House official said Wednesday.
"So it's no secret that one of the motivating factors, I think for everybody, was to avoid that sort of train wreck....With this process moving forward, the risk of a clash at the UN or elsewhere is reduced or eliminated."
According to American officials, the U.S. has decided not to let the issue of a settlement freeze impede the negotiations this time around, as that has been viewed as an obstacle to renewed negotiations over the past four years. "It would be fair to say that you are likely to see Israeli settlement continue," said one State Department official.
- In Ramallah, Little Enthusiasm as Talks Restart - Elhanan Miller
Coverage of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington was minimal in the West Bank as the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, noted, "it seems as though people in Israel and the Palestinian territories do not have high hopes regarding the renewal of peace efforts."
"Abbas wants to do something in the field of peace, because domestically he is incapable of anything. Reconciliation with Hamas is dead and his legitimacy as president is constantly questioned," said Basem Ezbidi, who teaches at Ramallah's Bir Zeit University.
"People say that negotiations are harmless because they ensure financial support [from the U.S.]....People are hoping for their salaries, not for independence." (Times of Israel)
See also Chances for a Permanent Israeli-Palestinian Peace Deal - Avi Issacharoff
Both the Israeli and the Palestinian public are treating this round of peace talks with a combination of disdain and apathy.
It appears that both sides were dragged by Kerry to Washington against their will. Simply put, Netanyahu believes Abbas is unable to make peace. Both leaders are sending out pessimistic vibes, giving those around them the feeling that nothing much will come of all this. (Times of Israel)
- "Palestine" without Jews - Herb Keinon
Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian journalists in Cairo this week that the state he wants Israel to give him must be judenrein: "In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli - civilian or soldier - on our lands." Abbas' words do not exactly enhance a mood of reconciliation. If the Israeli public is to back a deal, it will need some sense of goodwill from the other side.
There is a substantial Arab minority in Israel. If there is to be peace, why is it a given that there can be no Jewish minority in "Palestine." (Jerusalem Post)
- Lessons Learned from Iran - Andre Le Gallo
Washington shouldn't be deluded into believing Rowhani's election changed Iran's DNA, which it largely shares with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Rowhani was a member of the Iran National Security Council when it approved the bombing of the Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires and the bombing of the Kobhar towers in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
Just as Ayatollah Khomeini said he didn't bring revolution to Iran in order to lower the price of melons, Morsi's agenda in Egypt didn't include the economic well being of the population.
That the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi has turned out to be a totalitarian, anti-Christian, misogynistic and inept administrator shouldn't have come as a surprise; his election campaign explicitly promised to bring Shariah law to Egypt.
Radical Islam will not go away by itself. It is in the interest of the West, and the U.S. in particular, to help the populations of the Middle East to build alternative solutions. Passive observation of events in the hope that everything will turn out all right is likely to create other theocratic republics and, if Iran is allowed to go nuclear, so will they.
The writer is a former CIA officer and National Intelligence Officer for Counter-terrorism.
- Iran Responds to Europe's Blacklisting of Hizbullah - Shimon Shapira and Michael Segall
The EU decision to include Hizbullah's military wing on its blacklist of terror groups ignores the basic fact that Hizbullah is a unitary, hierarchical organization. As Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem said in October 2012: "We don't have a military wing and a political one."
The EU Ambassador to Lebanon, Angelina Eichhorst, immediately reassured Hizbullah officials in Lebanon that the decision will not affect relations with the group's "civilian wing." She said after meeting with a Hizbullah minister in the Lebanese government that EU "financial assistance will continue," and that Hizbullah has the right to challenge the EU decision before European courts - adding: "We will reevaluate our decision every six months."
Iran's reaction shows that it views the Syrian-Lebanese front as an important part of its national-security strategy and regional aspirations. In Iran's view, it is in this arena that the key battle over the new Middle Eastern order is being waged.
IDF Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center, where Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall is a senior analyst.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Negotiating Lessons from the New U.S. Peace Coordinator - Stephan Miller (Times of Israel)
Martin Indyk, named Monday as U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, in 2009 published an account of his personal experiences as a U.S. diplomat at the heart of the Middle East peace process, entitled Innocent Abroad. Here are some of his conclusions:
See also What Does Martin Indyk Believe? - Noah Pollak
- "Most Israelis view the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza as mistakes because violent attacks continued."
- "Israelis will support far-reaching concessions provided they know that there will be no further claims on Israel."
- "Only when an Arab leader concludes that time is not on his side, that the risks of clinging to the status quo are more dangerous than the consequences of change, is he likely to move."
- When Arab leaders "decide to make peace...it is because they believe their own survival is on the line, not because the U.S. President demands it."
- "Most Palestinian refugees by now understand that they are not going to be returning to their forefathers' homes in Israel."
In an interview last year on Israeli radio, the new special envoy to the peace process, Martin Indyk, was asked whether peace was possible. "I'm not particularly optimistic because I think that the heart of the matter is that the maximum concessions that this government of Israel would be prepared to make fall far short of the minimum requirements that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] will insist on....So it may be possible to keep the talks going, which is a good thing, but I find it very hard to believe that they will reach an agreement." (Weekly Standard)
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