UN Gaza War Probe to Investigate Palestinian Human Rights Violations - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
Mary McGowan Davis, the new chairwoman of the UN Human Rights Council's probe into the Gaza war, said Monday in Geneva: "The commission has interpreted its mandate as including investigation of the activities of Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, including attacks on Israel."
See also Text: Oral Update by the Chairperson of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)
U.S. Aids Iran-Backed Fight to Retake Tikrit - Dion Nissenbaum and Julian E. Barnes (Wall Street Journal)
The U.S. has started providing Iraq with aerial intelligence in the stalled battle to oust Islamic State from Tikrit, drawing the American military into closer coordination with some 20,000 Iranian-backed Shiite militia fighters who make up the bulk of the force that has been struggling for weeks to retake the strategic city.
"I think the Iraqi government is finally realizing that Iranian assistance is not going to get it done in Tikrit," said one U.S. defense official.
The Coming Iranian Bomb - George H. Wittman (Washington Times)
It has been known in the nuclear arms community for the last six years that the Iranians had secured enough enriched U-235 for the creation of a first-generation implosion bomb.
The construction of an actual bomb small enough to be dropped from a transport plane, or carried by a fishing trawler or small freighter, has been judged to be available since 2010.
Figures from the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control point to Iran's ability to create seven bombs if the enrichment of uranium was brought to 90%.
Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin of the Wisconsin Project wrote on Feb. 24 that only 1.7 months would be necessary "to produce enough enriched uranium for one bomb."
The Middle East Nuclear Race Is Already Underway - Karl Vick (TIME)
While the U.S. and other world powers work to constrain Iran's nuclear program, Tehran's regional rivals have already begun quietly acting on their own atomic ambitions.
The list now includes Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
What's changed in recent years is the nuclear capabilities of Iran - a Shi'ite Muslim country Sunni leaders have come to regard as a major threat.
The Saudis have made it clear that they will acquire a nuclear weapon should Iran get one.
If the nuclear talks end with a final agreement that looks like a win for the Islamic Republic, diplomats say its neighbors will fast track their own plans.
Iran Expands Regional "Empire" Ahead of Nuclear Deal - Samia Nakhoul (Reuters)
With Iran moving closer to a deal with world powers, Arab analysts are focused more on how Tehran is working unconstrained to create a new Persian and Shi'ite "empire" on Arab land.
Sultan al-Qassemi, a commentator in the United Arab Emirates, says: "This deal is the grand bargain Kerry is denying it is. It is giving Iran carte blanche in exchange for empty promises. Iran is on the ascendant. Iran has the winning hand in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen."
Riad Kahwaji, head of the Dubai-based INEGMA think tank, warned: "The events in Iraq, Syria and Yemen indicate that Iran is on a massive offensive...that has extended its areas of control all the way to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean."
Meanwhile, Tehran MP Ali Reza Zakani, who is close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, boasted, "The Yemeni revolution will not be confined to Yemen alone." It would extend into Saudi territories - a reference to the kingdom's Shi'ite Eastern Province where Saudi Arabia's richest oil deposits lie.
"The Americans are not looking at the deal with Iran in terms of its regional impact," says Fawaz Gerges, Middle East expert at the London School of Economics.
EU Set to Re-impose Sanctions on Iranian Shipping Companies - Jonathan Saul (Reuters)
The EU is set to put 40 Iranian shipping firms back on a list of sanctioned groups.
The move is part of the EU's response to a series of court victories by Iranian companies that have overturned EU sanctions against them. In January, the bloc's second highest court annulled the EU sanctions on the 40 shipping companies and an Iranian bank.
In March 12 letters sent by the European Council to the shipping firms' lawyer, the Council said
it intended to re-list the companies.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Congress Totally Cool with Reports of Israel Spying on Iran Negotiations - Tim Mak
Israel is spying on the U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks? No problem, key Democrats and Republicans in Congress say. "I don't look at Israel or any nation directly affected by the Iranian program wanting deeply to know what's going on in the negotiations - I just don't look at that as spying," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). "Their deep existential interest in such a deal, that they would try to figure out anything that they could, that they would have an opinion on it....I don't find any of that that controversial."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday joked that he was more concerned that Israeli intelligence hadn't shared what they learned with him. "One of my reactions was, why haven't they been coming up here sharing information with me? I mean Israel. I haven't had any of them coming up and talking with me about where the deal is, so I was kind of wondering who it was they were meeting with. I kind of feel left out."
If anything, lawmakers said they were perturbed that the Israelis were being accused of spying. Learning the details of the nuclear talk, lawmakers argued, was more like information gathering. "To use the word 'spying,' that is a pejorative accusation. That's not the phrase I would use to describe what I read," Kaine said. Several lawmakers interviewed said that the Israeli government had not told them anything they weren't already aware of in broad strokes. "No one from Israel has told me anything that I haven't already known," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
A senior congressional staffer called administration allegations of Israeli spying "deeply irresponsible innuendo and destructive hearsay," adding that "these unsubstantiated allegations are all the more galling in light of the fact that this administration has leaked, consistently and aggressively, details of Iran proposals to the front page of the New York Times and other news outlets, as well as to sympathetic think-tankers and pro-Iranian groups outside of government." (Daily Beast)
- Iran's Hard-Liners Keep Low Profile on Nuclear Talks - Thomas Erdbrink
As nuclear talks restart this week, Iran's hard-liners have been keeping a low profile. Analysts say their silence reflects a general satisfaction with the direction of the talks and the successes Iran is enjoying, extending and deepening its influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
Hamid Reza Taraghi, a political strategist with close ties to Ayatollah Khamenei, said, "Fact of the matter is that we are seeing positive changes in the U.S. position in the nuclear talks....We are steadfast and the U.S. is compromising. We are not complaining." (New York Times)
See also In Nuclear Talks, Iran Seeks to Avoid Specifics - David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon
Over the past few weeks, Iran has increasingly resisted any kind of formal "framework" agreement to limit its nuclear capability at this stage in the negotiations, preferring a more general statement of "understanding" followed by a final accord in June, according to Western diplomats involved in the talks.
Should that position hold, U.S. officials may find themselves describing the accord as they understand it while the Iranians go home to offer their own version.
One European diplomat involved in the talks said, "The politics in America demand specificity, and an Iranian commitment. And the politics in Iran demand vagueness....All of us are in agreement that you don't make oral deals with Iran."
Many in Congress took the March deadline for a political agreement announced by Secretary of State Kerry on Nov. 24 as a critical milestone for any accord. If the Iranians could not provide specifics by then, it was a sign that Iran was deliberately dragging out the process and needed to be further pressured by new sanctions. (New York Times)
See also U.S. Senate Will Vote on Bill to Toughen Sanctions If There Is No Iran Deal by March Deadline (Reuters)
- Obama: We Can't Premise Our Diplomacy on the Peace Process on "Something that Everybody Knows Is Not Going to Happen for Years"
President Obama said during a news conference Tuesday:
"With respect to Israel's relations with the Palestinians, I think it's important to understand that the issue here is not what I believe, but it's what the Palestinians and the parties in the negotiations and the Israeli people believe is possible....There still does not appear to be a prospect of a meaningful framework established that would lead to a Palestinian state."
"When I said that we have to now do an evaluation of where we are, it's not in reference to our commitment to Israel's military edge in the region, Israel's security, our intelligence cooperation, our military cooperation. That continues unabated."
"The evaluation that's taking place is specific to what happens between the Israelis and Palestinians going forward....What we can't do is pretend that there's a possibility of something that's not there. And we can't continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows is not going to happen at least in the next several years."
"I have a very business-like relationship with the prime minister. I've met with him more than any other world leader. I talk to him all the time. He is representing his country's interests the way he thinks he needs to, and I'm doing the same....So this can't be reduced to a matter of somehow let's all hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' This is a matter of figuring out how do we get through a real knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and for the region." (U.S. Department of State)
See also below Observations: No Prospect for Genuine Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Defense Minister Ya'alon: False Claims that Israel Spied on U.S. Were Aimed at Damaging Ties - Barak Ravid
Responding to reports that Israel had spied on the U.S. during the Iranian negotiations, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday, "There is no way, and there was no way, that Israel spied on the Americans. That is seriously forbidden among every level of Israel's policy leaders....Someone is just trying to stir conflict....It's a shame that such winds are blowing into the clandestine channels in which we conduct this relationship." (Ha'aretz)
See also Foreign Minister Lieberman: Israel Does Not Spy on the United States - Stuart Winer and Lazar Berman
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday, "We got our intelligence from other sources, not from the United States. The instruction has been clear for decades now: you don't spy on the United States, directly or indirectly." Israel had not "intercepted" briefings, and the report was "inaccurate, to say the least." (Times of Israel)
- U.S. Jewish Establishment Sounds Alarm as White House Rhetoric Intensifies - Michael Wilner
Criticism of Israel from the Obama administration has intensified to such a degree that leading figures in Washington's pro-Israel community are calling on the administration to turn down the temperature. Jewish leaders are sounding the alarm after years of defending their support for President Obama and his White House.
"The fact that the outcome of a democratic election in Israel seems to be of great concern is cause for deep anxiety and puzzlement,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. "The way this is unfolding runs completely contrary to the spirit of U.S.-Israel relations," Harris said. "The U.S. appears to have a reasoned interest in prolonging the crisis."
"What we are hearing from the Obama administration raises deeper questions about their intentions and perspectives," said Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, adding that "from the beginning of the Obama years, there was a disturbing indifference to the mind-set of the Israeli public."
Rabbi William Gershon, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, said, "the prime minister has quickly made significant steps to repair the tensions that developed in the heat of Israel's election. The time is due, if not overdue, for the U.S. administration to do the same."
Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union's executive director for public policy, said the president "clearly [preferred] ongoing political confrontation over trying to work with a democratically elected Israeli leader on the critical issues facing our two nations." (Jerusalem Post)
- Claims of Spying: American "Chutzpah" - Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror
The claims of Israeli spying are part of an intentional American campaign to undermine Israel's standing among the American public and their elected officials, with the aim of limiting Israel's ability to argue against the bad agreement that the West, led by the U.S., is poised to sign with Iran.
For Israel, this is a vital struggle focused on a highly sensitive matter of national security. The Americans know this and are still sparing no effort to undermine Israel's determination and abilities.
The ugly accusation alleging Israel was spying on the U.S. is part of this American campaign. Israel does not spy on the U.S. and they know it. Everything else is manipulation meant to undermine Israel's credibility in American public opinion.
It is a shame things had to come to this, but the determination of the Americans to reach an agreement - any agreement - with the Iranians is leading to an unavoidable conflict.
The writer, former Israeli National Security Advisor and head of the National Security Council, served 36 years in senior IDF posts.
- U.S. Accusations of Israeli Espionage - Why Now? - Ron Ben-Yishai
The accusations from the U.S. over Israeli espionage, published Monday in the Wall Street Journal, are unfair and even a little ridiculous. The American administration and the government official who leaked the information are well aware that Israel is capable of obtaining this information in a completely legitimate manner from those who are party to the negotiations with Iran.
What is unacceptable for Israel should also be unacceptable for the U.S. The article specifically states that the U.S. intercepted Israeli transmissions. Is it acceptable for the Americans to spy on a Middle Eastern ally? The reports are part of a calculated campaign waged by the U.S., with a clear political purpose.
- Obama's Israel Tantrum: The Leader of the Free World Takes Revenge on an Ally - Editorial
The leader of the free world is still having difficulty accepting that the Israeli people get to choose their own prime minister, never mind his preferences. In a day when the President's chief of staff invokes the lexicon of Palestinian terrorists to describe Israel's democracy, Americans and the world are left to wonder whose side the leader of the free world is on.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Rebukes from White House Risk Buoying Netanyahu - Jodi Rudoren
Israeli analysts are now suggesting that Obama and his aides might be overplaying their hand, inviting a backlash of sympathy for Netanyahu, and that they may not have clearly defined what they expected to gain diplomatically by continuing to pressure the Israeli leader.
The president's harsh words have been deemed by some to be patronizing and disrespectful to the voters who rewarded Netanyahu with a resounding mandate for a fourth term.
"Sometimes you have these unfortunate patterns that occur when you have tensions in the relationship," said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN. "Stories based on anonymous sources pop up, and their purpose seems to be to undermine the alliance between the two countries."
In contrast with the White House, leading Israeli voices seem to have accepted Netanyahu's post-election clarification that current circumstances make it impossible to imagine meeting his longstanding conditions for supporting a Palestinian state.
(New York Times)
- Obama Risks Capitol Hill Backlash in Pursuit of Iran Nuclear Deal - Mike Lillis
Congress is growing hostile to the emerging nuclear deal with Iran. On Friday, 367 House lawmakers - including 129 Democrats - wrote to President Obama warning that a deal must "foreclose any pathway to a bomb."
At a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) confronted Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, accusing him of "misleading" the panel with claims that, under the potential deal, international inspectors could keep Iran's nuclear program in check.
"You've said...that, well, they can't develop a nuclear weapon because that would be illegal," Sherman said. "That's a preposterous argument. Obviously, they're willing to break the law." (The Hill)
No Prospect for Genuine Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Ha'aretz)
- While many people believe that the conflict with the Palestinians centers around the question of continued Israeli control over territories captured in 1967, from the standpoint of the vast majority of Palestinians, the conflict is over the existence of a nation-state for the Jewish people.
- PA leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected the formula developed by the Americans a year ago as the basis for continued negotiations, since in practice it included recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
- The Palestinians continue to prefer not to establish a state if it involves recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
- If that is so, why do many people continue to adhere to the illusion that the conflict is over territory conquered in 1967? Why does it appear to them that, with additional concessions, Israel is capable of creating the conditions that will permit progress toward peace?
- We may be the stronger party to the conflict, but that doesn't mean that we aren't also the party with right on our side, and that includes our aspirations to achieve genuine peace.
- In the new Middle East, there is room for cooperation between Israel and pragmatic elements in the region, but that doesn't require surrender to demands for an illusory peace that would endanger the security of our country.
The writer was head of the research division of IDF Intelligence and director general of the Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Ministry.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert.