Report: Tehran Will Start Using Fastest Centrifuges When Deal Takes Effect (Times of Israel)
Iran will begin using its latest generation IR-8 centrifuges as soon as its nuclear deal with the world powers goes into effect, Iran's foreign minister told members of parliament on Tuesday, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported.
The report makes a mockery of the world powers' much-hailed framework agreement with Iran, since such a move would dramatically accelerate Iran's progress to the bomb.
Iran said its IR-8 centrifuges enrich uranium 20 times faster than the IR-1 centrifuges it currently uses.
Iran and Hizbullah Trained Houthis to "Harm Yemenis" (Al Arabiya)
Saudi Brig.-Gen. Ahmed Asiri said Tuesday that Iran and Hizbullah have trained Houthi militias to "harm Yemenis."
"We have evidence that Iran trained Houthi militias on operating fighter jets."
8 Iranian Guards Killed near Pakistan Border - Mitra Mobasherat and Jethro Mullen (CNN)
8 Iranian border guards were killed in clashes with militants from Pakistan, Iranian state media reported.
Southeastern Iran borders the Pakistani province of Balochistan, where a number of Sunni terrorist groups are active.
Sudan's Foreign Policy Shift Away from Iran (Sudan Tribune)
Sudan's foreign relations have witnessed a remarkable shift since last fall, particularly in its rapprochement with the Arab Gulf states.
Sudan has regularly allowed Iranian warships to dock in Port Sudan. However, Sudan, driven by its economic woes, has recently chosen to adopt a pragmatic approach by moving away from Iran and forging an unwritten alliance with the Gulf.
Sudan shut down Iranian cultural centers in the country in September 2014.
Sudan formally announced its participation in the coalition against the Houthis in Yemen and has put four aircraft under Saudi command, pledging to deploy 6,000 troops as well.
Pentagon Upgraded Biggest Bunker Buster Bomb as Iran Talks Unfolded - Julian E. Barnes and Adam Entous (Wall Street Journal)
The Pentagon has upgraded and tested the largest bunker-buster bomb in the U.S. arsenal, senior U.S. officials said, readying a weapon that could destroy or disable Iran's most heavily fortified nuclear facilities should a nuclear deal fall apart and the White House decide to take military action.
"We have not taken our eyes off the ball," a senior U.S. official said.
The most recent testing took place mid-January, when the upgraded bunker buster was dropped at a testing site by a B-2 bomber.
Improvements include electronic countermeasures to prevent jamming its guidance systems.
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- With Details of Iran Deal Still in Flux, White House Opens Sales Effort - Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger
As the White House opens its campaign to sell the nuclear deal, the unexplained elements of the agreement are about such basics as the kind of research and development Iran would be able to conduct on new types of centrifuges and how fast it could produce the nuclear material for a bomb after the 10-year agreement period expired. (New York Times)
- Iraq Empties Mass Graves in Search for Cadets Killed by ISIS - Rod Nordland
Mass graves believed to contain some of the remains of Iraqi air force cadets massacred by the Islamic State in June were discovered on Monday outside Tikrit. So far the remains of 57 bodies have been identified, a fraction of the 1,686 air force cadets who went missing in June. Islamic State posted videos showing hundreds of cadets being executed, and boasted that it had killed 1,700. Many of the victims' bodies were thrown into the Tigris River, and the remains of 35 cadets washed up at the nearest dam downstream, in Samarra, in June.
(New York Times)
- In Syria's War, Alawites Pay Heavy Price for Loyalty to Assad - Ruth Sherlock
As their sons die in droves on the front lines, and economic privileges - subsidies and patronage - cease, Alawites increasingly feel they are tools and not the beneficiaries of the regime. Alawites from the coastal province of Latakia, the sect's heartland, have told the Telegraph of how they are now trapped between jihadists who consider them apostates, and a remote and corrupt regime.
With a population of two million, a tenth of Syria's population, the Alawites have 250,000 men of fighting age. Today as many as one third are dead, local residents and Western diplomats say. "Every day there [in Latakia province] at least 30 men returned from the front lines in coffins," said a businessman in Latakia. Pro-government fighting groups had over 22,000 soldiers and militiamen killed in 2014 alone. There are reports that mothers set up roadblocks at the entrances to some mountain villages to prevent the army from forcibly taking their sons to the military draft.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Soldier Stabbed by Palestinian in West Bank
An IDF soldier was stabbed in the neck and seriously injured near Shilo in the West Bank on Wednesday, and a second was stabbed and lightly injured.
The Palestinian attacker was shot dead.
(Times of Israel)
- An Agreement that Does Not Include Dismantlement Is a Recipe for Failure - Emily B. Landau
The deal would enable Iran to keep its breakout capability intact, and in a manner that would enable a quick move to nuclear weapons when it decides.
This is Iran's goal in the negotiations - to get sanctions relief while holding on to its ability to break to nuclear weapons in a manner that will leave the international community powerless to stop it.
What if Iran simply decides to exit the deal, after accusing the West of not upholding its end of the bargain? This is precisely what happened in 2004 - Iran reneged on the deal it had concluded with the EU-3 while accusing the EU-3 of bad behavior.
Enabling Iran to maintain its nuclear breakout capability - with the illusion of being able to stop it in time - is a recipe for failure.
The writer is head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
(Times of Israel)
- Tens of Thousands of Muslim and Arab Tourists Visit Jerusalem - Nir Hasson
"There are more and more people who want to come to Jerusalem," says Ra'ad Atiya, owner of HLA Tours in Bethlehem, which specializes in bringing groups of Muslim tourists to Israel. Last year, Israel welcomed 26,700 tourists from Indonesia; 23,000 from Turkey; 17,700 from Jordan; 9,000 from Malaysia and 3,300 from Morocco. In the first two months of this year, at least 10,000 tourists from Muslim countries entered Israel.
- Not Convinced about Iran Deal - Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Even Obama admirers, such as myself, will not be cheering this particular
agreement with Iran. Part of the reason is that it is not a very good deal. Iran's nuclear infrastructure remains in place, the Iranians have walked away from long-standing commitments, and the Americans have compromised on long-standing demands.
But in the final analysis, it is not the specific terms that will most bother U.S. Jews. After years of Iran watching, they know that Iran is an Israel-hating, Holocaust-denying theocracy, and the patron of Hizbullah and other radical groups that are in the business of killing Jews. When in doubt about whether to trust virulently anti-Semitic nations and leaders, the general rule is: Don't.
The president argues that the deal offers the best possible means to assure Israel's security. The problem is that he is not convincing.
His explanation of what will happen if Iran cheats is convoluted and even embarrassing; even the non-expert knows that what he is proposing, at this stage at least, cannot be counted on to work.
With a weak deal on the table, American Jews want Obama to use the months ahead to forge a much tougher and more effective agreement.
The writer served as President of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1996 to 2012.
- The Growing Iranian Threat to the Gulf - Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Washington is not being asked to adopt a hostile stance against anyone, but allowing Iran to become a nuclear country in ten years' time or allowing it to be a dominant power in the region will lead to a long struggle that will increase the price of oil and will prepare the ground for the growth of extremist groups.
- The Delicate Path Ahead on Iran - David Ignatius
There are many details left to clarify, and U.S. officials aren't yet sure they actually have clinched the deal that they appeared to have won. There are big holes in the framework. Its unfinished nature is a sign that the administration wants the final pact so much that it will offer compromises that allow the Iranians to save face, even at modest cost to U.S. interests.
- Iran Deal Certainly Isn't an Historic Transformation - Aaron David Miller
On Sept. 13, 1993, I watched Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat shake hands at the White House. I believed that act would transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It was perhaps the worst analytical judgment I'd make in an extended State Department career.
My faith in fixing things was rooted in the nature of diplomacy itself - the talking cure, a profession often driven by a legitimate desire to avoid war and conflict if possible, as well as by the belief in the capacity of nations to solve their mutual problems by meeting somewhere in the more enlightened middle. And in its uniquely American manifestation, diplomacy is also driven by the conviction that if only Washington would lead, most challenges in the world could be overcome.
Enter the recently rolled out "historic understanding with Iran." What I've learned - the hard way - is that really good deals are few and far between, that real transformations are rarer still, and that most diplomacy rarely offers up comprehensive solutions. The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The Iran Deal and Its Consequences - Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz (Wall Street Journal)
- For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests - and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran.
- The one-year window concept for a presumed Iranian breakout, emerging at a relatively late stage in the negotiation, replaced the previous baseline - that Iran might be permitted a technical capacity compatible with a plausible civilian nuclear program. The new approach complicates verification because of the vagueness of the criteria.
- Some of the chief actors in the Middle East are likely to view the U.S. as willing to concede a nuclear military capability to the country they consider their principal threat. Saudi Arabia has signaled that it will insist on at least an equivalent capability. A "proliferated" Middle East could become host to a plethora of nuclear-threshold states, several in mortal rivalry with each other.
- Among the original nuclear powers, geographic distances and the relatively large size of programs combined with moral revulsion to make surprise attack all but inconceivable. How will these doctrines translate into a region where sponsorship of nonstate proxies is common and death on behalf of jihad is a kind of fulfillment?
- Having both served in government during a period of American-Iranian strategic alignment, we would greatly welcome such an outcome. But there exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding. Iran's representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means.
- The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran's intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East's strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran's hegemonic efforts.
The writers are former U.S. secretaries of state.
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