Defected Syrian General: Assad Will Never Give Up Chemical Stockpile - Mick Krever (CNN)
Defected Syrian Brig.-Gen. Zaher al-Sakat told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that Bashar al-Assad will never give up his chemical stockpile.
"The locations of most of the scientific research centers in Syria and the storage facilities are known and under surveillance, thus, he will give up those centers and facilities for sure without lying. That said however, Bashar al-Assad will not give up the chemical stockpile."
He said that in addition to four secret locations within Syria, the regime is currently transferring chemical weapons to Iraq and Lebanon.
Obama: Iran More Serious about Nuclear Diplomacy - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
In his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama on Monday presented the American assessment that Iran is more serious than before about finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, and is not just playing for time, a senior U.S. official told Ha'aretz.
"We didn't feel the Iranians were serious in the past, and now it is clear to us that they are serious about examining whether we can reach an agreement," said the official. "The Iranians are the ones who are now saying we cannot waste time."
The White House believes the main reason for the change in the Iranian approach is the collapse of the country's economy, stemming from international sanctions.
"Netanyahu did not object to the holding of direct negotiations between the United States and Iran, during his talk with Obama, but asked in general that the Western powers not ease up the pressure on Iran before the regime in Tehran takes significant actions to halt its nuclear program," said the official.
Iran Tries to Reframe the Nuclear Issue - Emily B. Landau (National Interest)
For all the talk of getting to a deal in a matter of months, Iran has shown no indication that it intends to change course in the nuclear realm.
Rouhani has rejected any suspension of uranium enrichment, and the August IAEA report on Iran has shown that it is moving forward toward its goal of a military nuclear capability.
Moreover, in a Sept. 12, 2013, letter to the IAEA, Iran reiterated that the evidence of suspected military activity in the nuclear realm contained in the IAEA Director-General's periodic reports is fabricated and false.
The writer is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Egyptian Physician Named Righteous Gentile - Omri Efraim (Ynet News)
Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, has honored Dr. Mohamed Helmy, an Egyptian physician living in Berlin during World War II, as Righteous Among the Nations.
Helmy sheltered Anna Boros Gutman, 21, a friend of Helmy's family, in a cabin he owned in Berlin's Buch Quarter, where she safely hid until the war ended. Helmy also hid Georg and Julie Wehr, Anna's mother.
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- Netanyahu, at UN, Urges Wariness of Iran - Colum Lynch and Scott Wilson
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly Tuesday to view Iran's latest diplomatic charm offensive with distrust and warned that Israel would act alone, if necessary, to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon. He said Tehran has repeatedly employed diplomatic outreach in the past to disguise its plans to build a nuclear bomb.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said after Netanyahu's speech: "The important measuring stick when it comes to pursuing this diplomatic opening with Iran is action - what actions are being taken by Iran that demonstrate that they are interested in fulfilling their obligations to the international community." (Washington Post)
See also below Observations - Netanyahu to UN: A Nuclear-Armed Iran Would Be Like 50 North Koreas (Prime Minister's Office)
- Russia Seeks to Fill Vacuum in the Middle East - Liz Sly
Two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union affirmed the U.S. as the dominant power in the Middle East, a resurgent Russia is seeking ways to fill the vacuum left by the departure of American troops from the region and the toppling of U.S. allies in the Arab Spring revolts. The recent diplomacy that averted a U.S. strike on Syria underscored the extent to which Russian President Vladimir Putin has emerged as the world leader with the single biggest influence over the outcome of the Syrian war.
Less conspicuously, Russia has been nurturing new alliances and reaching out to traditional Arab heavyweights such as Egypt and Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made two trips to Moscow in the past year and none to Washington. His talks were focused on a $4 billion defense deal including fighter jets, which are expected to be delivered soon. Meanwhile, strains between Egypt's new military-backed rulers and Washington have led Egyptian leaders to encourage Russian advances.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Economic Sanctions on Iran Will Not Be Lifted Prematurely - Dan Margalit
Israel does not need to re-examine Iran's words to know that the ayatollahs still seek its destruction, while the U.S. and Europe are ready to give Iranian President Hassan Rouhani another chance. Despite their divergent outlooks, Obama and Netanyahu were able to formulate a common position on two issues.
First, the siege of economic sanctions on Iran will not be lifted prematurely. The sanctions effort is key to increasing the chances that Iran will agree to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Second, Obama reiterated that the military option exists. Israel has the capability to independently strike Iran's nuclear program, even without a green light from the U.S., but would need American support in the years following a strike. The chances of getting this support would depend on whether Obama felt Israel had no choice but to act. This is why Israel must accept America's current diplomatic effort with Iran.
- Netanyahu Meets with Top U.S. Officials on Iran - Michael Wilner
Prime Minister Netanyahu spent over four hours in meetings with top Obama administration officials on Monday, including Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry. President Obama participated in Netanyahu's meeting with Biden. The meetings focused on coordinating Israeli and U.S. policy aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, as well as on the ongoing crisis in Syria and negotiations with the Palestinians. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry conveyed that on Iran's nuclear program, "no deal is better than a bad deal, and that's what our bar will be." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Ya'alon: Prime Minister's Task Is to Present Accurate Picture of Iranian Threat to the World
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the UN General Assembly,
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Israel's Channel 2 TV on Wednesday:
"The prime minister illustrated to the UN an accurate picture of the Iranian threat....We have to warn [the world] to not be easily duped to relieve sanctions before it is clear the Iranian regime has given up its unconventional capabilities." (Jerusalem Post)
- Big Challenges Remain on Iran - David E. Sanger
Is Iran's leadership really willing to dismantle vast parts of the multibillion-dollar atomic infrastructure it has amassed over the past decade as part of the price for ridding the country of the sanctions that have crippled daily life? On the list is dismantling a multibillion-dollar heavy-water reactor nearing completion at Arak - a potential source of plutonium - and halting production at a deep underground site called Fordo.
"Transparency is not enough," said Robert Einhorn, formerly one of the State Department's top Iran nuclear strategists and now at the Brookings Institution. "The monitoring can be terminated suddenly. And once you have a robust program, breakout is relatively quick." (New York Times)
- Rouhani Won't Decide on Nuclear Iran - Con Coughlin
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, is the final arbiter of all decisions relating to Iran's nuclear development.
In yet another example of the double standards that dominate Tehran's political culture, at the same time that the ayatollah was backing his president's diplomatic initiative, he also appointed Ali Shamkhani, one of the founders of Iran's nuclear program, as the new head of Iran's National Security Council.
Shamkhani, a former Revolutionary Guards officer, has long voiced his opposition to any form of compromise. So long as Shamkhani and Ayatollah Khamenei continue to dominate Iran's national-security establishment, Rouhani's room for maneuver in future negotiations with the West will be very limited indeed.
The writer is defense editor of London's Daily Telegraph.
(Wall Street Journal Europe)
- Iran's Messenger Has Changed; Its Message Has Not - Robert Menendez and Lindsey O. Graham
We remain skeptical about Tehran's intentions. Iranian leaders are skilled negotiators with expertise in delay tactics and obfuscation. As Rouhani returns home, diplomacy remains our hope and goal. But our resolve to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability remains unchanged.
We believe that four strategic elements are necessary to achieve a resolution of this issue: an explicit and continuing message that the U.S. will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations by Iran, the maintenance and toughening of sanctions and a convincing threat of the use of force. There can be a deal only when Iran's actions align with its rhetoric.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.
- What Netanyahu Said, and Didn't - Jennifer Rubin
What is so refreshing about Netanyahu is that he leaves no wiggle room, no equivocation. He will not, he is saying, be the prime minister on whose watch the Jewish state let down its guard. As he said, "The last century has taught us that when a radical regime with global ambitions gets awesome power, sooner or later its appetite for aggression knows no bounds. That's the central lesson of the 20th century. And we cannot forget it. The world may have forgotten this lesson. The Jewish people have not." (Washington Post)
- Trust, But Clarify - Dennis Ross and David Makovsky
Economic pressures have given Tehran an incentive to resolve the international impasse over its nuclear program. But it cannot gain the economic relief it seeks unless it is willing to take meaningful steps. Soothing words and smiles will not provide such reassurance; only tangible steps that remove Iran's break-out capability - a verifiable method that guarantees early detection of any effort to move from reactor-grade to weapons-grade enriched uranium - can do so. Rouhani's speech at the UN gave little indication that Iran is prepared to alter its nuclear program. Dennis Ross is counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former special assistant to President Obama. David Makovsky is director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Institute.
Netanyahu to UN: A Nuclear-Armed Iran Would Be Like 50 North Koreas (Prime Minister's Office)
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday:
- Today, our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction. But that wasn't always the case. Some 2500 years ago, the great Persian King Cyrus ended the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. He issued a famous edict in which he proclaimed the right of the Jews to return to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Thus began an historic friendship between the Jews and the Persians that lasted until modern times.
- President Rouhani headed Iran's Supreme National Security Council from 1989 through 2003. During that time, Iran's henchmen murdered 85 people at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. They killed 19 American soldiers by blowing up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.
Are we to believe that Rouhani, the National Security Advisor of Iran at the time, knew nothing about these attacks?
Like everyone else, I wish we could believe Rouhani's words. But we must focus on Iran's actions.
- Rouhani assured us that in pursuit of its nuclear program, Iran has "never chosen deceit...and secrecy." In 2002, Iran was caught red-handed secretly building an underground centrifuge facility at Natanz. Then in 2009, Iran was again caught red-handed secretly building a huge underground nuclear facility for uranium enrichment in a mountain near Qom. Why would a country with vast natural energy reserves invest billions in developing nuclear energy? Why would a country with a peaceful nuclear program develop intercontinental ballistic missiles whose sole purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads?
- Like Iran, North Korea also said its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes. Like Iran, North Korea also offered meaningless concessions and empty promises in return for sanctions relief. In 2006, North Korea exploded its first nuclear weapons device. A nuclear-armed Iran in the Middle East wouldn't be another North Korea. It would be another 50 North Koreas!
- A diplomatic solution would require Iran to do four things. First, cease all uranium enrichment. Second, remove from its territory the stockpiles of enriched uranium. Third, dismantle the infrastructure for a nuclear breakout capability, including the underground facility near Qom and the advanced centrifuges in Natanz. Four, stop all work at the heavy water reactor in Arak aimed at the production of plutonium.
- The international community has Iran on the ropes. If you want to knock out Iran's nuclear weapons program peacefully, don't let up the pressure. Keep it up.
- Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map. Against such a threat, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself. Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. Yet in standing alone, Israel will know that we will be defending many, many others.
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