Iran's Nuclear Breakout Time: 7 to 8 Months - Olli Heinonen (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The breakout time for 6,500 centrifuges with 3.5% enriched UF6 will be between seven and eight months - less than the goals set by the U.S. administration.
Iran's nuclear infrastructure is much larger than what it actually needs. Therefore, a monitoring scheme that is merely "good enough" will not guarantee success in preventing Iran from breaking out and achieving a nuclear weapons capability.
The writer is former deputy director-general for safeguards at the IAEA.
What Else Is Iran Hiding? - Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht (Washington Post)
As Olli Heinonen, a former No. 2 at the International Atomic Energy Agency, has warned, outsiders really can have no idea where and how fast the mullahs could build a nuclear weapon unless they know what Iranian engineers have done in the past.
Without "go anywhere, anytime" access for IAEA inspectors and a thorough accounting of Tehran's weaponization research, we will be blind to Iran's nuclear capabilities.
The writers are senior fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Former Defense Intelligence Agency Head: Iran Is "Clearly on the March" - Josh Hicks (Washington Post)
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday" that recent developments in the Middle East are moving in a bad direction for the U.S., with Iran "clearly on the march."
"We have to stop what we're doing and take a hard look at everything going on in the Middle East because it's not going in the right direction."
Arab States Gear Up for War - David Schenker and Gilad Wenig (Wall Street Journal)
Over the weekend, the Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and endorsed the creation of an intervention force to fight terrorism in the Middle East.
The main driver is Egyptian President Sisi, supported by King Abdullah II of Jordan and King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
The willingness of Arab states to finally sacrifice blood and treasure to defend the region from terrorism and Iranian encroachment is a positive development.
But it also represents a growing desperation in the shadow of Washington's shrinking security role in the Middle East.
Mr. Schenker is the director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where Mr. Wenig is a research associate.
See also Why Yemen Matters - Daniel Pipes (Washington Times)
U.S.: Iran's Revolutionary Guards Training, Equipping Yemen's Houthi Rebels - Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball (Reuters)
U.S. intelligence assessments have concluded that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel were training and equipping Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Saudi ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir noted Thursday, "The first thing the Houthis did when they entered and occupied Sanaa was to free Iranian Revolutionary Guards operatives and Hizbullah operatives from the jails."
See also Hizbullah "Operating in Yemen" with Houthis - Sirag Wahab (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Iranian MP: Yemeni Missiles Can Hit Targets 500 Km. Inside Saudi Arabia (Fars-Iran)
"Saudi Arabia is well aware that the Yemeni people and armed forces are capable of targeting the military bases of Saudi Arabia at a distance of 500 km. inside that country," said Mohammad Hassan Asafari, a member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.
Israeli Rescue and Recovery Team to Assist at Germanwings Crash Site (DPA-Ha'aretz)
An eight-member team of Israeli rescue and recovery experts from ZAKA with experience identifying body parts will travel to the French Alps to help with the efforts to gather the remains of the 150 victims of last week's fatal Germanwings crash, the Prime Minister's Office said.
Although the team will help with the overall search, a key focus is tracking down the remains of an Israeli passenger who was on the flight.
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- Iran Backs Away from Key Detail in Nuclear Deal - David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon
Iranian officials on Sunday said they are no longer willing to ship their atomic fuel out of the country under a proposed nuclear agreement. For months, Iran tentatively agreed that it would send a large portion of its stockpile of uranium to Russia, where it would not be accessible for use in any future weapons program. But Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, told the Iranian media, "There is no question of sending the stocks abroad," AFP reported.
Western officials confirmed that Iran was balking at shipping the fuel out, but insisted that there were other ways of dealing with the material, such as blending it into a more diluted form.
Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, "The viability of this agreement as a reliable arms control accord is diminished by this....One of the core administration arguments has been that the uranium would be shipped abroad as a confidence building measure." (New York Times)
- White House May Give Congress Some Oversight over a Nuclear Deal - Carol E. Lee and Jay Solomon
As negotiations with Iran on a nuclear deal come down to the wire, White House officials have begun to express privately a willingness to accept legislation that gives Congress some oversight of the nuclear deal. "There's a recognition that Congress is going to take some sort of vote after negotiations are complete," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.).
White House officials still oppose legislation that would give Congress final approval of a deal with Iran or apply new sanctions. And officials don't want lawmakers to vote on any Iran deal until after the June 30 deadline for a comprehensive agreement. But widespread opposition from lawmakers in both parties has forced the White House to begin considering a potential compromise with Congress. (Wall Street Journal)
- Clinton Wants to Improve Ties with Israel - Maggie Haberman
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, on Sunday that she wanted to put the relationship between the U.S. and Israel back on "constructive footing."
Mrs. Clinton's comments contrasted in tone from recent remarks by members of the Obama administration, who have publicly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
"Secretary Clinton thinks we need to all work together to return the special U.S.-Israel relationship to constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests, including a two-state solution pursued through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," Hoenlein said. "We must ensure that Israel never becomes a partisan issue," he quoted her as saying.
(New York Times)
- Press Aide to Iranian President Defects - Ahmed Vahdat and Richard Spencer
Amir Hossein Motaghi, who managed public relations for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during his 2013 election campaign, has sought political asylum in Switzerland after travelling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West.
Motaghi said he no longer saw any "sense" in his profession as a journalist at the Iran Student Correspondents Association as he could only write what he was told. "My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner anymore."
In a television interview, Motaghi also gave succor to Western critics of the proposed nuclear deal, which has seen the White House pursue a more conciliatory line with Tehran:
"The U.S. negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran's behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal," he said.
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- Israel Releases Withheld Palestinian Tax Funds in Exchange for Halt in Further Anti-Israel Moves at ICC - Herb Keinon
Following Israel's decision on Friday to release frozen tax revenues, the PA is not expected at this time to take steps against Israel in the ICC regarding settlement construction. In addition, while the ICC prosecutor has - at the PA's request - opened a preliminary examination on alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza during last summer's war, the PA is not expected to take additional legal steps in the ICC regarding the Gaza operation. The PA also does not intend to stop its security cooperation with Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu announced Friday that, at the recommendation of the security establishment, some $500 million will be freed up, though the PA's electric, water and hospital bills to Israel will be subtracted from those funds.
- Netanyahu: Iran Is Seeking to Take Over the Middle East
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday:
"The agreement being formulated with Iran in the nuclear talks...confirms all of our concerns and even more so. Even as meetings proceed on this dangerous agreement, Iran's proxies in Yemen are overrunning large sections of that country and are attempting to seize control of the strategic Bab el-Mandeb straits which would affect the naval balance and the global oil supply."
"After the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad axis, Iran is carrying out a pincer movement in the south as well in order to take over and conquer the entire Middle East. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous for humanity and needs to be stopped." (Prime Minister's Office)
- Ya'alon: You Don't Have to Be in Intelligence to Know that Iran Is Lying - Herb Keinon
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that "one does not have to be an intelligence agency member to know that Iran is lying without blinking." The "Iranian appetite to export the revolution through terrorism will only get bigger; and with the seal of approval it receives as a legitimate state that is a touching distance away from being nuclear, the danger to the West and its allies in the Middle East will be enormous."
Former director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry Yossi Kuperwasser noted: "We have said many times that we retain the option of doing whatever we see as necessary in order to slow down the way the Iranians move forward toward a nuclear weapon." "There are ways to keep Iran from nuclear capability," he said, without elaborating.
Kuperwasser said that once an accord is signed, "There will be a reluctance on behalf of many of those signed on the agreement to expose the violations of the Iranians."
Israel's job will be to be a "watchdog" to tell the world what is happening inside Iran. (Jerusalem Post)
- U.S. Votes Against Anti-Israel Resolutions at UN Human Rights Council - Tovah Lazaroff
The U.S. was the only country to stand with Israel at the UN Human Rights Council on Friday and to vote against four resolutions that dealt with the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights. U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper said, "We are disappointed that this council continually singles out Israel for criticism without acknowledging the violent attacks directed at its people, nor the obligations and difficult steps required of both sides. In short, such singling out undermines the credibility of the council." (Jerusalem Post)
- The "Obama Framework" for Israel and the Palestinians - Jackson Diehl
For nearly half a century, the U.S. has taken the position that the terms for a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians must come about as the result of negotiations and not as an imposition by outside parties. Now Obama is contemplating going forward with a UN resolution that was drafted last year by Secretary of State John Kerry and his Mideast negotiations team at the State Department.
The administration's language would probably stipulate that Palestine's territory would be based on Israel's pre-1967 borders with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with territorial swaps to allow Israel's annexation of some Jewish settlements. Most likely it would declare that Jerusalem would be the capital of both nations.
Israeli officials, who are aware of the U.S. draft, say that while these terms, much sought by the Palestinians, would be very specific, some of Israel's biggest priorities would be covered by much vaguer language. A description of security arrangements would glide over the question of exactly how the West Bank and Gaza would be prevented from becoming a launching pad for attacks on Israel, while the question of Palestinian refugees would be dispatched with a call for an "agreed solution."
The U.S. draft probably would stipulate that Israel would remain the homeland of the Jewish people. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' categorical rejection of that principle helped to cause the breakdown of Kerry's diplomacy, and it would almost certainly mean that the Palestinians would join Israelis in rejecting the resolution.
Obama's hope would be that his initiative could win unanimous support from the Security Council and thus set the terms of reference for a future settlement. At a minimum, diplomats who now talk of the "Clinton parameters" from 2000 would henceforth speak of the "Obama framework."
- Yemen Is Part of Iran's Mideast Master Plan - Smadar Perry
During a tour Wednesday of the Saudi-Yemen border, Saudi defense minister Crown Prince Salman warned the Houthi rebels: "We are committed to the security of the Yemeni people. If you continue to undermine the stability and threaten Saudi Arabia, you will get hit hard." A spokesman for the Houthi rebels responded: "Your army is weak. Today we are more skilled. When we decide to invade, we won't stop in the city of Mecca, but will continue on to Riyadh to topple the government institutions."
Yemen President Hadi appealed to the UN Security Council to declare Yemen a no-fly zone and thus put an end to Iran's supply by air of weapons, military equipment and thousands of instructors and fighters to the rebel forces. Without the help of Yemen's neighbors in the Gulf, Iran will continue to make progress towards its ultimate goal - regime change in Saudi Arabia.
"The ayatollahs of Iran seek to take control of the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb so they can determine who can cross the Red Sea to the Suez Canal," says Dr. Yasser bin Hilal, a political science lecturer at the University of Sana'a. "If they are successful, it will also affect the movement of ships sailing with goods from the Far East to the port of Ashdod in Israel. Try to picture the nightmare scenario - fighters in the uniforms of the Revolutionary Guards directing maritime traffic, boarding cargo ships, checking the cargoes and crew, and blocking passage to anything that doesn't serve their interests." (Ynet News)
- Free Fall in the Middle East - Walter Russell Mead
The mainstream media will still do all it can to avoid connecting the dots or drawing attention to the stark isolation in which the White House now finds itself as ally after ally drops away. It still doesn't want to admit that the "smart diplomacy" crowd has been about as effective at making a foreign policy as the famous emperor's smooth-talking tailors were at making a new suit of clothes.
The shocked silence of the foreign policy establishment, the absence of any statements of support from European or Asian allies about our Middle East course, the evidence that the President and the "senior officials" whom he trusts continue to be blindsided by major developments they didn't expect and haven't provided for: all of this tells us that our Middle East policy is in free fall. The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University. (American Interest)
Obama Toys with Cutting Israel Adrift in the Security Council - John R. Bolton (Weekly Standard)
- Immediately after Israel's March 17 election, Obama administration officials threatened to allow (or even encourage) the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state and confine Israel to its pre-1967 borders.
- The administration leaks in effect threatened "collective punishment" as a weapon in U.S.-Israel relations. But more important, exposing Israel to the tender mercies of its Security Council opponents harms not only Israel's interests, but America's in equal measure.
- America's consistent view since UN Security Council Resolution 242 concluded the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, is that only the parties themselves can structure a lasting peace. Deviating from that formula would be a radical departure from a bipartisan Middle East policy nearly half a century old.
- In fact, Israel's "1967 borders" are basically only the 1949 cease-fire lines. Only negotiation could leave the parties content; externally imposed terms could only sow future conflicts.
- Hence, Resolution 242 does not call for a return to the prewar boundaries, but instead affirms the right of "every State in the area" to "secure and recognized boundaries." Ignoring this fundamental reality is fantasy.
- U.S. interests extend beyond personalities and temporary frustrations. The global harm that will be done to common U.S. and Israeli interests through Security Council resolutions if Washington stands aside will extend far beyond the terms of one prime minister and one president.
- A Palestinian statehood resolution would terminate all bilateral Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. What would there be to talk about?
The writer, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, served as U.S. ambassador to the UN.
See also U.S. Raises Pressure on Israel over Palestinians - Joe Lauria, Carol E. Lee, and Joshua Mitnick (Wall Street Journal)
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