Iran Foreign Minister Says Nuclear Deal "Very Close" - Doug G. Ware (UPI)
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday that his government is very close to securing an agreement with the U.S. that would curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Poll: 84 Percent of Americans Say Allowing Iran to Get Nuclear Weapons in 10 Years Is a Bad Idea (Fox News)
84% of Americans say allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons 10 years
from now is a bad idea,
according to a Fox News poll conducted on March 1-3 under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and
Shaw & Company Research (R).
55% said that if Iran gets the capability to use a nuclear weapon, it would be a disaster, while 40% think it is a problem that can be managed.
57% think the U.S. has not been aggressive enough in trying to get Iran to stop building a nuclear weapons program, while 7% said the U.S. was too aggressive and 27% said its policy was about right.
65% favored the U.S. taking military action against Iran if that were
the only way to keep it from getting nuclear weapons, while 28% were opposed.
56% said the invitation to Israeli Prime Minister
Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress was a good thing, while 27% said it was a bad thing.
14% said the Obama administration was too supportive of Israel, 41%said it was not supportive enough, and 35% said its policies were about right.
Suspects Identified in Deadly 1982 Paris Jewish Deli Attack - Sandrine Amiel and Laura Smith-Spark (CNN)
International arrest warrants have been issued for three men suspected of having carried out a 1982 attack on the Jo Goldenberg kosher restaurant in Paris which killed 6 people and injured 22, the spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor said Wednesday.
The three suspects live in Ramallah, West Bank; Jordan; and Norway, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre told CNN.
A live grenade was thrown into the restaurant, and then the attackers opened fire with guns.
Moses in the U.S. House of Representatives - Anav Silverman (Tazpit-Ynet News)
Near the end of his address to Congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed to the image of Moses overlooking the lawmakers in the House of Representatives chamber.
The portrait, designed by artist Jean de Marco, is one of 23 marble reliefs that depict historical figures noted for establishing the principles that underlie American law, according to the Architect of the Capitol.
On either side of Moses are 11 profiles that face left and eleven which face right, so that all look toward Moses in the center.
UK Bans Israeli Tourism Ad for Showing Jerusalem's Old City as Part of Israel - Ishaan Tharoor (Washington Post)
British authorities have banned an Israeli government tourism ad because it suggests that Jerusalem's Old City is a part of Israel.
A brochure was inserted in British newspapers showing a panorama of the walled Old City with the text "Israel has it all."
The Israeli government said it did not intend to make a political statement and that places such as the Old City of Jerusalem could be visited by traveling to Israel.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Like Israel, U.S. Arab Allies Fear Obama's Iran Nuclear Deal - Yaroslav Trofimov
America's other key allies across the Middle East - such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE - are just as distraught as Israel over the U.S. administration's pursuit of a nuclear bargain with Iran.
These allies fret that America is about to ditch its long-standing friends to win love from their common foe, at the very moment that this foe is on the offensive across the region.
Trying to assuage such concerns, Secretary of State John Kerry flew Wednesday to Saudi Arabia to discuss with King Salman and foreign ministers of other Gulf nations their worries that the nuclear deal may enable Iran to dominate the region.
(Wall Street Journal)
- What Netanyahu Chose Not to Say in Speech Signals a Slight Shift - Peter Baker
In Prime Minister Netanyahu's high-profile address to Congress on Tuesday, rather than insist that Iran be left with no centrifuges and that it be barred from any enrichment of uranium, as he has in the past, he signaled that he could live with a modest capability, just not one as robust as Obama would permit.
Netanyahu said that Iran should not be left with a "vast" body of nuclear equipment, without explaining what counts as vast.
The prime minister's team privately suggested that meant that Israel would not object strenuously to letting Iran keep several hundred centrifuges, still significantly fewer than the U.S. would accept. "The prime minister showed both a pragmatic approach and, contrary to some claims, an alternative path to the very bad one that was proposed," said an Israeli official.
Another senior Israeli official said that Netanyahu's proposal to link the removal of nuclear restrictions to Iran's behavior at the time of the agreement's expiration "is new" and would test the premise put forth by the world powers that Tehran would improve over time. (New York Times)
- Iranian Quds Force Leader, Commanding Iraqi Forces Against ISIS, Alarms Washington - James Rosen
Maj.-Gen. Qasem Suleimani, the leader of Iran's Quds Force - the special operations wing of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) - was twice designated a terrorist by the U.S. government and is considered responsible for up to 20% of American casualties in the Iraq war. Suleimani is today operating alongside senior Iraqi officials in the effort to reclaim Tikrit from ISIS control, underscoring both the expanding influence of Iran on the central Iraqi government and the increasingly critical role of Shi'ite militiamen, thought to be operating under Quds command. Of the forces advancing on Tikrit, two-thirds are believed to be Shi'ite militiamen loyal to Iran.
Ali Alfoneh, an Iranian-born scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, cast the involvement of the Quds Force in the ISIS conflict as reflecting a larger trend in Iranian society: its slow transformation from a radical Islamic theocracy to a military dictatorship, with the IRGC assuming ever greater powers. (Fox News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: We Presented a Practical Alternative to Iran Deal - Herb Keinon
Returning to Israel from the U.S. on Wednesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he did indeed present a practical alternative that would extend Iran's breakout time by adding new restrictions.
On Tuesday, President Obama had told reporters, "The prime minister didn't offer any viable alternatives."
Netanyahu also said he presented a case for not lifting sanctions until the Iranians stop their hostile actions against neighboring countries and stop threatening to annihilate Israel.
- Israel to Double Amount of Water Supplied to Gaza - Jack Khoury
Israel will double the amount of water it supplies to Gaza from 5 million cubic meters per year to 10 million, the IDF Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
- Number of Palestinians Working in Israel Doubles in Four Years - Tovah Lazaroff
The number of Palestinians working for Israelis doubled in the last four years to 92,000 and "is expected to continue to grow in the foreseeable future," the Bank of Israel said Tuesday.
- Obama Needs to Answer Netanyahu - Dennis Ross
The administration needs to explain why the deal it is trying to conclude actually will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons for the lifetime of the agreement and afterwards. It needs to explain why the combination of the number and quality of centrifuges, their output, and the ship-out from Iran of enriched uranium will, in fact, ensure that the break-out time for the Iranians will not be less than one year.
Similarly, there should be an answer on how the verification regime is going to work to ensure that we can detect, even in a larger nuclear program, any Iranian violation of the agreement. The issue of verification is critical not just because Iran's past clandestine nuclear efforts prove it cannot be trusted, but also because the administration has made a one-year break-out time the key measure of success of the agreement.
Netanyahu fears that, as with past arms control agreements, we will seek to discuss violations and not respond to them until it is too late. The administration should address this fear by spelling out different categories of violations and the consequences for each - and then seek congressional authorization to empower this president and his successors to act on these consequences. The writer, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was a White House adviser to President Obama on Iran from 2009 to 2011 and Mideast peace envoy for two previous administrations.
- Iran's Provocative Naval Exercise: Motives and Implications - Farzin Nadimi
On Feb. 25, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched a naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz by attacking a mockup of an American aircraft carrier. The Iranians have made no secret of their desire to be recognized as the "policeman of the Persian Gulf" since the 1970s. The IRGC had been itching for a chance to remind the West who is in charge in the Gulf.
The drop in crude prices has halved Iran's oil exports compared to last year.
Blowing up a mock ship can be seen as a move ordered by Supreme Leader Khamenei to stimulate markets and push the crude price up. Yet while such measures have triggered spot market price hikes in the past, the effects have been temporary.
Khamenei may also have timed the exercise based on the status of the nuclear negotiations, which are approaching their final phase. Such actions show that Iran's dominant hardline elements still retain their win-lose mentality and revolutionary ideology, which is centered on defeating the "Great Satan" and convincing America's allies that Washington is incapable of ensuring their security.
Photos and videos from the drill show that when the Khalij-e Fars "carrier-buster" ballistic missile was fired at the mock carrier, it failed to score a direct hit by as much as 50 meters. Several other rockets and anti-ship missiles also failed to score hits, and those that did still could not sink the vessel. IRGC naval commander Adm. Ali Fadavi had previously boasted that his forces could sink a U.S. carrier in less than fifty seconds.
The regime has amassed what looks like a formidable arsenal of modern weapons suited to its asymmetric way of warfare, and it might be capable of severely disrupting - or temporarily blocking - navigation through the Strait of Hormuz. Yet doing so would risk a wider and longer confrontation with the U.S., as well as cutting off Iran's own much-needed access to oil markets. Thus while the Islamic Republic is increasingly confident of its ability to inflict a severe blow on the enemy, Western powers would likely be quick to dislocate a major part of Iran's conventional military and oil export infrastructures if the situation escalates into open conflict.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood - Mshari Al-Zaydi
The U.S. is fighting the Islamic State (ISIS). However, few people know that the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a disciple of the Muslim Brotherhood. In a recording recently posted on YouTube, the Brotherhood's ideologue and cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi praises Baghdadi for being a well-known member of the group in his youth.
Before Baghdadi, Osama Bin Laden was the most evil man in the eyes of the U.S. Washington took pride in sending in a team of commandos in 2011 to kill him in Pakistan. But Bin Laden was also once an obedient son of the Brotherhood and a faithful adherent of its ideology.
In a recording released by al-Qaeda's Al-Sahab Foundation in January, al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri said that Bin Laden was indeed a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In short, all countries, excluding the U.S. and Iran, are beginning to see the true face of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Dealing with a Bad Iranian Nuclear Agreement - James F. Jeffrey (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The U.S. will likely agree soon on a limited-duration agreement with Iran that aims to provide around one year of warning time before any breakout to nuclear weapons capability - a deal that Israel and many other regional states would view as a victory for the Islamic Republic and an eventual danger to all.
- If the administration signs an agreement with Iran, Congress or regional allies can do little to force it to back down. Active congressional support would not be required to sign and implement a nuclear agreement, at least during the Obama administration.
- Although keeping all options on the table is the White House's stated policy, it has little credibility because the administration constantly describes any U.S. military action as "war," deliberately conjuring up fears of a new Iraq-like quagmire. But any attack on Iran almost certainly would not involve U.S. ground troops, the prime generator of casualties.
- While the administration tends to emphasize Iran's formidable asymmetrical capabilities, including terrorism and missile attacks on Israel, this ignores America's significant "escalation dominance" and consequent ability to retaliate against the very sinews of Iran's command and infrastructure.
- Also open to question is the argument that attacking Iran's nuclear facilities is all but useless because the regime would supposedly rebuild quickly and then be even more motivated to achieve nuclear weapons status. The U.S. military "stick" has thus far been deterring the U.S. instead of Iran.
- A great deal of circumstantial evidence has emerged indicating that the administration hopes to use a nuclear agreement as leverage for "flipping" Iran into a "status quo" state or even a partner in promoting stability. Such an approach would dramatically shift the regional security architecture: for the better if Iran supports international order, and dramatically for the worse if an unleashed Iran pursues hegemony without a U.S. counter. Smart betting should be on the latter.
The writer, a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, served as U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor and Ambassador to Iraq, Turkey, and Albania.
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