UN Nuclear Watchdog: Iran Withholding Key Information - Shadia Nasralla (Reuters)
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said Monday that Iran was being slow to cooperate with his agency's investigation into the Iranian atomic program.
Iran has yet to address two outstanding issues relating to alleged explosives tests and other measures that might have been used for nuclear bomb research.
Saudi Columnist: Netanyahu Is Right to Insist on Addressing Congress about Iran Deal (MEMRI)
In a March 2, 2015, article in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, columnist Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj supported Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to speak at the U.S. Congress against the upcoming deal with Iran.
Al-Faraj said that Obama is working to sign a deal with Iran at the expense of America's longtime allies in the Gulf, and therefore Netanyahu's campaign against the deal is justified and serves the interests of the Gulf states.
The Cry Being Heard around Washington: "I Need a Netanyahu Ticket" - Ashley Parker (New York Times)
The White House's "desire to undercut" Mr. Netanyahu's visit simply made it more appealing, said Jeff Forbes, a founding partner at Forbes-Tate, a public policy consulting firm.
"They have made it the most talked about thing in Washington, and I think it blew up in their face."
"Everything he says, people want to hear, and people want to be in that room to listen, they want to be in person. It's become a historic speech."
Netanyahu Following Rabin's Strategic Agenda on Iran - Gerald M. Steinberg (Jerusalem Post)
In 1992, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin considered the Iranian nuclear threat the top priority on his strategic agenda.
For over two decades, Rabin's policies on Iran were adopted, extended and adjusted by every successive Israeli leader.
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau addresses the U.S. Congress, he will be reflecting this continuity.
There is broad unity in Israel over the substance of Netanyhau's message regarding the need to confront the reality of the Iranian threat.
Listening to Netanyahu - Editorial (Boston Herald)
The Obama administration should just shut up about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled Tuesday speech to Congress.
Israel's very existence, not America's, would be threatened by an Iranian nuclear bomb.
Only amateurs let personal grievances and lapses in protocol distract them from pursuit of the national interest.
Clearly Netanyahu has not forgotten threats from Iranian leaders pledging to wipe Israel off the map.
Administration officials resent a foreign leader's lobbying against their policy, but did not shrink from deploying Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, to lobby for it during Cameron's January visit. Such inconsistency makes it harder to take the administration seriously.
Congress, Show Respect for Our Closest Ally - Editorial (San Francisco Jewish Weekly)
Yes, it veers from protocol. Nevertheless, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's March 3 address about the threat of a nuclear Iran before a joint session of Congress a go, it's time to put partisan snits aside.
Some D.C. insiders continue to dwell on the effrontery of it all.
But we're not talking here about North Korea, Yemen or some other medieval dictatorship. We're talking about America's closest ally in the Middle East, the region's only democracy.
This country's elected officials should get their priorities straight, drop the partisanship and show at least basic respect for one of our closest allies.
Netanyahu's Speech to Congress and Purim - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress on Tuesday, he will likely make reference to Purim, the holiday that will begin Wednesday night commemorating the Jews' salvation from the hands of the Persians thousands of years ago.
Then the Persians wanted to destroy the Jews; today the Persians want to destroy the state of the Jews.
Recovering U.S. Veterans Meet IDF Counterparts - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
13 American veterans dealing with PTSD and wounds inflicted in battle are in Israel for a 10-day visit, meeting with Israeli veterans.
The visit was organized by the Heroes to Heroes Foundation, an American veteran support organization. The group visited the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization - Beit Halochem rehabilitation center in Tel Aviv on Monday.
Moti Elmaliach, who served in Israel's Border Police, said, "When I hear them talk about what happened to them, I feel like they are telling my story."
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- Netanyahu Tells AIPAC He Intends No Disrespect to Obama - Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that he was grateful to President Obama and the United States for their support over the years and never meant to inject partisan politics into the relationship. "My speech [to Congress] is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds," Netanyahu said. "I have great respect for both....The last thing anyone who cares about Israel, the last thing that I would want, is for Israel to become a partisan issue, and I regret that some people have misperceived my visit here this week as doing that."
Netanyahu said he would not remain silent over what he saw as the perils of a negotiated agreement with Iran that does not adequately cripple its nuclear program. Displaying a map showing Iranian ties to terrorism, he said, "This is what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons. Imagine what Iran would do with nuclear weapons." (New York Times)
See also Text: Prime Minister Netanyahu's Speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference (Prime Minister's Office)
- Obama Says Iran Must Halt Key Nuclear Work for At Least a Decade - Jeff Mason
Iran must commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years on sensitive nuclear activity for an atomic deal to be reached, but the odds are still against sealing a final agreement, U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview on Monday. Obama moved to dial back tensions over Prime Minister Netanyahu's planned speech to Congress on Tuesday opposing the Iran deal, saying it was a distraction that would not be "permanently destructive" to U.S.-Israeli ties. But he stressed there was a "substantial disagreement" between them over how to achieve their shared goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
See also Text of Obama Interview (Reuters)
- Sen. Menendez to Oppose Iran Deal that Doesn't Roll Back Nuclear Program - Jonathan D. Salant
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told AIPAC on Monday that he would only support a negotiated agreement that dismantles Iran's nuclear program, not one that gives Tehran a "pathway" to a bomb. "As long as I have a vote and a say and a chance to protect the interests of Israel, the region, and the national security interests of the United States, Iran will never have a pathway to a weapon," Menendez said.
He said any deal that leaves Iran's nuclear program in place and provides just a year's warning is not a good one. "It's not enough time for us to do anything other than exercise a military option," Menendez said. "Let us do all we can now to get an agreement that dismantles Iran's illicit program and ensures that it will not have to be a military response." (NJ.com)
- Bipartisan Letter in House Raises Concerns over Iran Talks - Martin Matishak
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.)
are circulating a letter stating that should the administration reach an agreement with Tehran, "permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation."
Lawmakers "must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief."
The letter highlights concerns about the size of Iran's illicit nuclear effort, Tehran's lack of cooperation with the UN's atomic watchdog and the need for a tough inspection regime.
It also calls out Iran for its "destabilizing role in the region," saying Tehran is aligned with the Syrian regime, supports the terrorist group Hizbullah and backs militias that have created the security situation in Yemen. (The Hill)
- Kerry Defends Israel Against UN "Bias" - Carol Morello
Secretary of State John Kerry came to Israel's defense Monday at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
"No one in this room can deny the bias against Israel in the UN Human Rights Council," said Kerry. "The HRC's obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization."
"The United States will oppose arbitrary efforts to delegitimize Israel," he said. "Not just in the UN Human Rights Council, but wherever it occurs." (Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Defense Minister: Israel Willing to Cooperate with Gulf States Against Iran Nuclear Threat - Adiv Sterman
In an interview with the U.S. television channel al-Hura, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Monday that Israel is prepared to cooperate with any Arab Gulf state that feels threatened by the Iranian regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Israel will only take military action against Iran if all other options to stall the Islamic Republic's nuclear program fail, Ya'alon added. (Times of Israel)
- Senior Fatah Official Calls for Using "Force" Against Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
Tawfik Tirawi, member of the Fatah Central Committee who previously served as head of the PA General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, said Saturday, "There is no solution with Israel without force." He said there was no need to "run after the mirage of negotiations and peace with criminals," adding, "There is no Israeli partner who can give the minimum of Palestinian rights." (Jerusalem Post)
- U.S. and Israel: The Manufactured Crisis - Elliott Abrams
Building a crisis up or down between the U.S. and Israel is well within the administration's power, and it has chosen to build it up.
Clearly more is behind the conduct of the Obama administration than mere pique over the speech.
The administration is desperately seeking a deal with Iran on terms that until recently were unacceptable to a broad swath of Democrats as well as Republicans. One after another, American demands or "red lines" have been abandoned. Clearly the administration worries that Israeli (not just Netanyahu, but Israeli) criticisms of the possible Iran nuclear deal might begin to reverberate. So it has adopted the tactic of personalizing the Israeli critique.
Arguments that are shared across the Israeli political spectrum - that the likely Iran deal says nothing about Iranian ballistic missile development, says nothing about Iranian warhead development, does not require that Iran meet IAEA demands that it account for past warhead work, allows Iran thousands of centrifuges, will allow Iran to escape all monitoring and limitations after perhaps ten years - are attributed solely to Netanyahu. Clever, in a way, but of course completely misleading. And irresponsible when it comes to the deadly issue of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
- Why We Need to Hear Netanyahu - Mike Rogers and Michael Doran
Netanyahu's speech is the act of a true and courageous friend. All of America's traditional allies in the Middle East are deeply distrustful of Obama's outreach to Iran. When allied leaders see the White House treating Netanyahu to a level of hostility usually reserved for adversaries, their trepidation only increases.
Evidence mounts by the day that Obama sees Iran as an attractive partner in defeating the Islamic State and stabilizing the Middle East more broadly and that he sees the nuclear deal as the key step to realizing that partnership. These apparent intentions are deeply troubling to the Israeli government, which is watching today as Iran leads Syria and Hizbullah in a combined offensive on the Golan Heights against the rebels. If Iran wins, Israel and Jordan will find Iranian troops ensconced on their border.
If the president follows through with such a plan without first subjecting its terms to a rigorous debate in Congress, he will be concluding an agreement that is entirely personal in nature. The legitimacy of such a deal would be hotly contested, rendering it inherently unstable. By helping to force a more thorough examination of the matter, Netanyahu is performing a service to us all. Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (2011-15) and is a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute, where Michael Doran is a senior fellow. (Politico)
- Danger Ahead for Obama on Iran - Jeffrey Goldberg
Netanyahu has a credible case to make. Any nuclear agreement that allows Iran to maintain a native uranium-enrichment capability is a dicey proposition; in fact, any agreement at all with an empire-building, Assad-sponsoring, Yemen-conquering, Israel-loathing, theocratic terror regime is a dicey proposition.
The deal that seems to be taking shape right now does not fill me - or many others who support a diplomatic solution to this crisis - with confidence.
If Obama sets Iran on the path to the nuclear threshold, he will be forever remembered as the president who sparked a nuclear-arms race in the world's most volatile region, and for breaking a decades-old promise to Israel that the U.S. would defend its existence.
- In What Way Is Iran a Reliable Negotiating Partner? - Chris Stewart
For an international agreement to hold, both parties must be viewed as reliable partners who want the agreement to succeed. Any nation can and will cheat on an agreement if it determines that doing so is in its national interest.
Iran is a state sponsor of terror and has been officially listed as such for more than 30 years. It has developed an extensive military-industrial complex and has become the primary supplier of weapons to two other state sponsors of terror, Sudan and Syria, as well as the primary sponsor of other foreign terrorist organizations, including Hizbullah, Hamas and numerous Shiite militias in Iraq.
Tehran's regime is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. military personnel in Iraq through improvised explosive devices supplied to Shiite militias in the past decade. Iran counts as close allies Russia, China and North Korea, which team with the regime in developing ballistic missiles and nuclear capabilities. In South and Central America it has engaged in money laundering, drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, promoting jihad, and plotting terrorist attacks. When considering the above facts, not to mention Iran's recent backing of the coup in Yemen, how can we believe Iran is a trusted and reliable partner?
Even with the most rigorous verification agreement, if one party wants to circumvent inspections or international treaties, it is always possible. We have to look no further than North Korea, Pakistan and India, all of which secretly developed nuclear weapons despite international agreements.
Iranian leaders have covertly waged war on the West for many years. They certainly consider us their enemies. Rep. Chris Stewart (R., Utah) sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
(Wall Street Journal)
- White House-Netanyahu Rift Isn't Over the Speech, But the Deal - Gerald F. Seib
The administration believes the deal it's negotiating will reduce Iran's capacity to enrich uranium so much that Tehran's leaders would need a year to break out of the agreement and produce enough fissile material to build a bomb - sufficient time to allow the U.S. and its allies to stop any such breakout. Netanyahu thinks that the residual enrichment capability granted Iran would still leave it as a threshold nuclear state, and would in any case be too large to adequately monitor and inspect with any certainty.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Why Netanyahu Is Confronting the White House - Elise Labott
Obama has famously said that he's "got Israel's back" when it comes to Iran. Yet Israeli officials say they have watched over the past several years as the Obama administration has backtracked from its firm stance on Iran's nuclear program to a position that could potentially allow Iran to maintain a significant uranium enrichment program.
"What started with zero (centrifuges), then went to a symbolic enrichment capacity of a few hundred. Now it is well known we are speaking about several thousands," Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz said in an interview with CNN. "We think that the overall goal of the negotiation should be to get rid of the Iranian nuclear threat and not just hold it or restrain it or freeze it."
"The sense in Israel, and it goes way beyond Netanyahu, is that the president underestimates Iran's duplicity, underestimates Iran's ruthlessness, the religious imperative behind its ideology," said David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel.
- Nobel Laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann: "The World Will Appreciate Our Determination" - Nadav Shragai
Nobel laureate Prof. Robert (Yisrael) Aumann, 84, who in 2005 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his contributions to the field of game theory, believes Prime Minister Netanyahu should hold his ground on Iran. "Capitulation, sycophancy, and cowardice will only undermine us," he says. "Sometimes, you have to courageously follow your own path and not try to curry favor with anyone."
Israel's actions during the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1976 Entebbe hostage crisis, as well as its decision to bomb the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, "garnered worldwide sympathy. Eventually, this will be the case here, as well. The world will learn to appreciate Israel's determination against the Iranian threat, and something good will come of this adamant stance."
Aumann dismissed suggestions Netanyahu's address to Congress might do more harm than good, and might even jeopardize Israel-U.S. relations. "I don't accept that," he said. "This is a matter of life and death for Israel....The Iranians not only withstand U.S. [pressure], they scoff at it. They are able to endure economic pressure and sanctions, and they are able to make more headway than someone capitulating and showing weakness. In that respect we can learn a lesson from them on how to withstand pressure." (Israel Hayom)
A Problem of Nuclear Proportions - Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- Almost every intelligence agency interprets the Iranians' unrelenting efforts in the same way: to obtain nuclear arms. There is no other way to explain the herculean efforts they have been engaged in for so many years. We must not allow Iran to receive legitimacy for its preparations to possess nuclear arms, in exchange for buying an insignificant amount of time. The price is too high. There is no chance to restore pressure on Iran once it is stopped. The sanctions will not be applied once more if Iran should renege on the agreement. Therefore, the chances that Iran will renege on the agreement are great.
- Even without using nuclear arms against Israel, a nuclear Iran will make the Middle East a much more dangerous place.
One way is the significance of Iran's "nuclear umbrella" over the leadership of terrorist groups and hostile countries. It is obvious that Hizbullah would thrive in such a situation, while Israel would not be able to respond or prevent it from acting even when it felt threatened. Under this umbrella the terrorist groups could grow far more dangerous and act against Israel around its borders and throughout the world. The Iranians and their allies have planned dozens of acts of global terrorism in recent years.
- Iran would become the leading regional superpower and grow extremely strong once it succeeded in getting U.S. permission to become a nuclear threshold state. The stronger Iran becomes, the more anyone who dreams of seeing the Middle East moving away from totalitarianism and toward democracy can forget about it.
- But beyond that, the important Sunni states in the Middle East will act to protect themselves. They will lose all trust in the U.S., which surrendered to Iran's trickery in the talks, and will act to obtain nuclear arms for themselves. These countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, and perhaps others, will never agree to go on without nuclear capability when the leading Shiite state possesses it.
- The Iranians realized that even though the American president said all options were on the table and even built a credible military option, the U.S. had no desire to use that option, no matter what. The absence of a stick in the negotiating room lifted a great deal of pressure off the Iranians.
- The second Iranian realization came after a statement from a White House spokesperson that an agreement with Iran would be the president's greatest success during his term.
Together with the superpowers' acceptance of Iran's main demands regarding the continued existence of their enrichment capability, that statement led the Iranians to conclude that the U.S. wanted an agreement more than Iran and contributed to Iran's near-uncompromising stance.
- At the end of the day, Israel must make it clear it has not signed the agreement and is not bound by it. In the future, Israel must formulate its policy on the basis that "a bad agreement is worse than no agreement," "all options are on the table" and "Israel must protect itself on its own."
The writer, former Israeli National Security Advisor and head of the National Security Council, served 36 years in senior IDF posts.
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