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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 16, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Resolved to Keep Arak Reactor, Fordo Enrichment Plant in Any Final Deal with Powers (Fars-Iran)
    The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, said Saturday that in any nuclear deal, "the function and nature of the Arak heavy-water reactor...will remain unchanged as a heavy water facility."
    He also referred to the Fordo uranium enrichment plant and said, "We are determined to make use of this site according to the guidelines of Iran's Supreme Leader and AEOI's technical needs."
    Referring to his recent talks with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Salehi said, "We defended our national interests and nuclear industry."

Report: Tehran Received Nuclear Know-How from Argentina in Exchange for Kirchner's Election Funds (JTA)
    Iran financed the 2007 campaign of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in exchange for nuclear know-how and impunity for Iranians in the AMIA bombing, the Brazilian magazine Veja reported on Saturday.
    "I need you to broker with Argentina for aid to my country's nuclear program," Iran's then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on Jan. 13, 2007, according to three former Chavez Cabinet members who now live in the U.S.
    "We need Argentinians to share their knowledge on nuclear technology; without this collaboration it is impossible to advance our program."
    "I have another issue," Ahmadinejad added. "I need you to discourage the Argentinians from insisting that Interpol capture the authorities of my country," referring to six Iranians on the Interpol most wanted list in connection with the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85.
    Iran was interested in the Argentine experience with its heavy-water nuclear reactor at Atucha because it wanted to produce plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

    See also Iran Had Military Presence in Uranium-Rich Area of Venezuela, Former General Says - Ninoska Marcano (Fox News Latino)
    The Venezuelan government's close ties to Iran pose a real threat to the security of the hemisphere, retired Brig. Gen. Antonio Rivero, a former insider in the government of Hugo Chavez, told Fox News Latino during a visit to Washington.
    Now in exile, Rivero said that about a decade ago, as the commander of a post in Bolivar state, Rivero saw Iranian troops in the area. He believes they were involved with the extraction of uranium.
    "Tractor and automobile plants were built in areas that had easy access to uranium extraction," Rivero said. "I found clues that indicated the plants probably served as a commercial smokescreen to hide the extraction of uranium."

In Israeli Race, Winning First Place Is No Guarantee of Becoming Premier - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
    Under Israel's multiparty system, the leader of the party that garners the most votes in Tuesday's election is not guaranteed to become the next prime minister.
    Instead, victory belongs to the party leader who has the best chance of cobbling together a government coalition with smaller parties in order to control at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Negotiators Face Late Obstacles to a Deal - David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon
    The U.S. and Iran are confronting serious last-minute obstacles in the nuclear talks, including when UN sanctions would be lifted and how inspections would be conducted, American and European officials said. Tehran demands that all UN sanctions be suspended as soon as there is a deal, while Washington insists that international inspectors be able to promptly visit any nuclear site, even those on Iranian military bases. There are also disagreements over Iran's research and development of advanced centrifuges, as well as over how many years an agreement would last. (New York Times)
        See also West Hopes for Iran Concessions in Nuclear Talks - Louis Charbonneau and Parisa Hafezi
    Reuters reported last week that the U.S. and Iran have begun talking about a possible draft UN resolution to endorse any future deal and address the lifting of UN sanctions. Officials close to the talks said this was a major new concession on the part of the U.S., which had long insisted that UN sanctions would remain in place for years to come after a nuclear deal was signed, while unilateral U.S. and European measures might be lifted more swiftly.
        "This was quite a shift in the U.S. position and we hope the Iranians will follow with concessions on their end," a Western official said. "So far the concessions have been mostly one-sided, though there has been some limited progress recently."  (Reuters)
  • Saudi Arabia: Iran Deal Could Start Nuclear Fuel Race - Barbara Plett Usher
    Prince Turki al-Faisal, a senior member of the Saudi royal family, told the BBC that a deal on Iran's nuclear program could prompt Saudi Arabia and other regional states to develop atomic fuel. "I've always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same," said the prince, Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief. "So if Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it's not just Saudi Arabia that's going to ask for that. The whole world will be an open door to go that route without any inhibition, and that's my main objection to this P5+1 process."  (BBC News)
  • Democrats Prepared to Buck White House on Iran Nuclear Deal - Burgess Everett
    The president's challenge in Congress on Iran isn't limited to the 47 Republican senators who signed last week's missive arguing that a nuclear agreement could be revoked by the next U.S. president. The bill by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that would give Congress 60 days to reject or approve any deal has nearly a dozen Democratic supporters. Indeed, a day after the controversy over Sen. Cotton's letter erupted, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado co-sponsored Corker's congressional review bill, the 11th Democrat to signal support.
        "The administration is focused on achieving a deal that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," a senior administration official said. "If a deal is reached, we will make the case to the Congress and the American people as to why the deal we are negotiating is in the national security interests of the United States and our international partners."  (Politico)
  • Kerry Says Syrian Transition Would Have to Be Negotiated with Assad - Lesley Wroughton
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the U.S. would have to negotiate with Syrian President Assad for a political transition in Syria. (Reuters)
        See also Report: Nearly 13,000 Syrians Tortured to Death by Assad Regime
    Some 12,751 Syrians, including 108 children, have been tortured to death in regime prisons since the uprising began in March 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday. Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the toll did not include more than 20,000 detainees who have "disappeared" in government prisons and whose fate remains unknown. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • New U.S. Intelligence Assessment Removes Iran and Hizbullah from List of Terrorism Threats
    The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Communities, an annual report delivered on Feb. 26, 2015, to the Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, removed Iran and Hizbullah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports. The report noted Iran's efforts to combat Sunni extremists.
        At the same time, both Iran and Hizbullah were listed as terrorism threats in the assessment of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas Rebuilds Its Naval Commando Force - Alex Fishman
    Hamas has completed the reconstruction of its naval commando force, consisting of dozens of trained divers, in order to hit Israeli strategic sites in the Mediterranean Sea. Hamas seeks to target power plants, coal terminals, and gas rigs along the entire Israeli coast, as well as training its commandos for the mass murder of civilians and soldiers. (Ynet News)
        See also Searching for Hamas Divers in Gaza - Ami Rojkes Dombe
    The Israel Navy's Snapir unit was established in 2005 to defend Israel's ports. (Israel Defense)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Risks in Negotiating with Syria's Assad - Aaron David Miller
    Secretary of State John Kerry's comments that the Obama administration is considering negotiating with the Assad regime to achieve a political settlement in Syria will feed the perception that Washington recognizes that Iran - Syria's key patron - is the region's preeminent power. "Assad must go" was a never a serious U.S. policy.
        The rise of Islamic State forced the administration to prioritize. ISIS's anti-American agenda, with its savage beheadings, led the administration to see Assad as the lesser of two evils. But Kerry's comments will further demoralize the U.S.-backed Syrian opposition; anger Gulf Arabs, who believe that Washington is appeasing Tehran in an effort to conclude a nuclear agreement; and delight Iranians. The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Way Forward on Iran - Walter Russell Mead
    While the Senators' letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran should have been addressed either to President Obama or to Secretary Kerry as a matter of protocol, as a matter of law the Senators are right. Any deal negotiated between President Obama and Iran will not be legally binding - either on the U.S. or Iran. The President has the authority to bind himself through an agreement with a foreign power; he does not have the authority to bind the Congress, the courts, or his successors.
        The President's defenders are right that in many ways America's Iran diplomacy has been handled with deftness and skill. Keeping Russia, China, Britain, Germany, and France all on the same page while the U.S. both tightens sanctions against Iran and works to hammer out a nuclear deal is a rare feat of cat-herding.
        But President Obama has only herded some of the cats who need to be corralled; he appears to assume that Israel, Congress, and Saudi Arabia have no choice but to fall in line. Yet Netanyahu's speech to Congress and the Cotton letter were very public statements that they are unhappy and don't intend to go along. Moreover, news that the Saudis are stepping up their own nuclear program suggests that President Obama can't end the nuclear arms race in the Middle East without their support.
        The administration's failure to contain Iran's ambitions on the ground in the region undermines the objective of getting to some kind of reasonable accommodation between Washington and Tehran. Lifting sanctions at a moment when Iran is running rampant across the Middle East threatens to shift the balance of power even further in its favor, a prospect that contributes significantly to the spread of radicalism and chaos - and makes the Saudis much more likely to go nuclear themselves.
        What's needed here is an internal American negotiation to get an overall approach to the Middle East that commands enough support to be sustainable from one administration to the next. In the same way, our Iran policy shouldn't be dividing us from our closest Middle East allies. The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University. (American Interest)

The Required Professional Negotiation with Iran - Ariel (Eli) Levite (Ha'aretz-Hebrew-9March2015)

  • Iran aims at reaching an accord that would be in effect for a minimal amount of time, after which Iran would regain its status as a regular player in the international community. Once the basis for special demands on the country has expired, Iran will have the right to develop its nuclear capabilities nearly undisturbed, with only modest oversight arrangements.
  • Considering that there already is an agreement between the two sides that during the period of the accord Iran keeps and operates thousands of first-generation centrifuges alongside research and development of more advanced centrifuges, the exact number to be agreed on and the accompanying arrangements for stockpiling enriched uranium are of secondary importance.
  • The effect this number would have on the time period required for producing enough material for a weaponized nuclear device would be no more than several months. Therefore, the importance of supervision and transparency arrangements required from Iran is greater than the actual number of centrifuges.
  • Only strict supervision arrangements have the power of deterring Iran from violating the accord, or at the very least exposing such violations should they occur. For the accord to be trustworthy, the American administration, Congress, the UN Security Council, and the IAEA Board of Governors will have to act decisively to anchor the accord with a strict supervision mechanism that has the ability to locate and warn against violations of the accord.
  • There is also a need to construct a formal and practical structure for swift and efficient action in the case that violations are detected - public or secret diplomatic moves, sanctions, and even military action if necessary. Only serious action in all these venues has the ability to turn a problematic nuclear accord with Iran into one that provides a higher chance of success.

    The writer, a nonresident senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment, was the principal deputy director general for policy at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission from 2002 to 2007. He also served as deputy national security adviser for defense policy and was head of the Bureau of International Security and Arms Control in the Israel Ministry of Defense.

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