Britain Tells UN Monitors of Active Iran Nuclear Procurement - Louis Charbonneau (Reuters)
Britain informed a UN sanctions panel on April 20 of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to two blacklisted firms, Iran's Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalay Electric Company (KEC).
Iran has a long history of illicit nuclear procurement. The existence of such a network could add to Western concerns over whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal.
In addition, the panel said an unnamed member state reported that an Iranian entity had recently attempted to acquire compressors, a key component in the uranium enrichment process, using false end-user certificates in an attempt to evade controls.
U.S. Poll: 63 Percent See Iran's Nuclear Program as Major Threat (Quinnipiac University)
A Quinnipiac University national poll released Monday asked:
Do you think the President of the U.S. should be a strong supporter of Israel or not?
Yes/Should 67%, No/Should not 20, Don't know/No answer 13.
Do you think President Obama is a strong supporter of Israel or not?
Yes/Strong 38%, No 48, DK/NA 15.
Do you think that Iran's nuclear program is a major threat, a minor threat, or not a threat to the well-being of the U.S.?
Major threat 63%, Minor threat 26, Not a threat 7, DK/NA 4.
How confident are you that the agreement with Iran would prevent it from developing nuclear weapons; very confident, somewhat confident, not so confident, or not confident at all? Very or somewhat confident 35%, Not so confident or not confident at all 62,
Would you support or oppose legislation that would make any Iran agreement subject to congressional approval?
Support 65%, Oppose 24, DK/NA 10.
West Bank Universities Call Off Elections after Hamas Victory (AP)
The Fatah-controlled al-Najah and Hebron universities in the West Bank on Tuesday called off upcoming student elections after President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party was trounced by Hamas in a vote at Bir Zeit University last week.
Islamic State Has Murdered over 2,000 in Syria since June (Reuters)
Islamic State insurgents have killed at least 2,154 people off the battlefield in Syria since the end of June, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.
The killings of mostly Syrians included deaths by beheading, stoning or gunshots in non-combat situations.
These figures include 126 Islamic State fighters who had tried to flee the group or were accused of being spies.
Apple to Expand New Israel Research Center - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
Just months after its opening, Apple is set to expand its R&D center in Herzliya, Israel, a company source said Wednesday. Apple now has about 700 employees in Israel.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Senate Rejects Tying Terrorism Support to Iran Sanctions Relief - Patricia Zengerle
The U.S. Senate rejected by a 54-45 vote an effort on Wednesday to tie sanctions relief for Iran under an international nuclear agreement to a requirement that President Obama certify that Tehran is not supporting acts of terrorism against Americans.
See also Pro-Israel Lobby Urges Support for Corker Bill in Senate on Iran Nuclear Deal - Kristina Peterson
AIPAC is urging senators to support a bill giving Congress a role in reviewing a nuclear deal with Iran.
"We know that senators will offer amendments on a wide range of initiatives, many of which AIPAC would ordinarily support," the group wrote in a letter sent to all senators on Tuesday. "However, our paramount objective during Senate consideration of this bill is to ensure speedy enactment of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act by preserving its broad, bipartisan support - so that Congress assures itself a seat at the table in deliberations on any nuclear agreement with Iran." (Wall Street Journal)
- Iran Denies Report that Seized Ship Was Released
"The vessel Maersk Tigris is still in custody," Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization
Deputy Chief Hadi Haqshenas said Wednesday, rejecting Al-Jazeera news reports alleging that the ship had been freed by Iran. (Fars-Iran)
- U.S. Allies Ramping Up Support for Rebel Forces in Syria - Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly
U.S. allies have ramped up their support for rebels fighting against Syrian forces in recent months, having grown impatient with the administration's slow march toward training and equipping a viable Syrian opposition force, and its insistence that those fighters focus on the Islamic State.
To facilitate their primary goal of removing President Assad from power, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have helped support recent advances against government forces in northwest Syria by the Army of Conquest, a newly formed umbrella of diverse rebel groups. (Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Iran Nuclear Deal "Repeats Mistakes" Made with North Korea
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting South Korean Deputy Prime Minister Hwang Woo-yea on Wednesday:
We heed the example of the nuclear negotiations with North Korea. It was said then that the inspections would prevent proliferation. It was said then that they would moderate North Korea's aggressive behavior. It was said that it would integrate North Korea into the family of nations - and unfortunately that didn't happen.
I am very concerned that the Lausanne framework is repeating these mistakes. I think that freeze and inspect is not an adequate substitute for dismantle and remove. And in fact, there's not even a real freeze because, under the Lausanne framework, Iran is left with the ability to develop advanced centrifuges that advance its nuclear program. And I don't think there's any effective inspection. So I think the repetition of these mistakes is a great historic blunder. (Prime Minister's Office)
- IDF Field Hospital in Nepal Treats Wounded
Israel's field hospital in Nepal began operating Wednesday, with staff treating nearly 100 patients and delivering a baby.
(Times of Israel)
See also Video: IDF Sets Up Field Hospital in Nepal (IDF-Jerusalem Post)
- Hamas Police Beat Protesters at Gaza Rally
Hamas police in Gaza beat and arrested protesters on Wednesday after more than 400 demonstrators gathered in the Shejaiya neighborhood to urge reconstruction and call for an end to intra-Palestinian divisions.
See also Hamas Security Forces Break Up Gaza Demonstration - Khaled Abu Toameh
Shortly after the rally began, Hamas security officers took over the podium, chanting slogans in support of their movement and denouncing PA President Mahmoud Abbas, witnesses said. When participants tried to move the rally to a different location, they were chased by club-wielding Hamas policemen.
- Video Shows Arab Driver Hitting Israelis at Bus Stop - Roi Yanovsky
A video has been released showing how Khaled Kutina veered sharply from the lane he had been driving in and rammed his car into a Jerusalem bus stop on April 15, killing Yohai Cherki and severely injuring Shira Klein.
- Iran Must Pay a Price for Detaining Washington Post Reporter - Editorial
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, 39, who was born and raised in California but is an Iranian and U.S. citizen, has been held in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison since July 22, apparently at the instigation of intelligence and judicial authorities. As President Obama has said, Rezaian is guilty of doing nothing more than "writing about the hopes and fears of the Iranian people."
This blatantly unjust treatment is showing Iran to be a country where foreign visitors, including potential Western investors, are vulnerable to being seized as hostages. It shows that the judiciary does not observe minimal standards of fairness or even adhere to Iran's own laws. It suggests that the government of President Rouhani cannot be counted on to deliver on its international commitments - including the prospective nuclear accord - because of its inability to control the intelligence services, Revolutionary Guard and other reactionaries. As long as the journalist is held, Iran should pay a price.
- New Saudi Monarch Seen Moving in Conservative Direction at Home - Yaroslav Trofimov
Saudi King Salman, 79, who assumed the throne after his older brother, King Abdullah, died on Jan. 23, has ended his predecessor's campaign to stamp out the Muslim Brotherhood. He also moved to appease Saudi religious conservatives, replacing the head of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice who was criticized by conservatives for attempting to defang the feared religious police. The Committee's enforcers have already become more active, resuming patrols in shopping malls and raiding beach-front compounds used by foreigners.
On Wednesday the king removed from her post the most senior female official in the kingdom, the deputy education minister, whose appointment in 2009 was hailed by the West as an encouraging sign of progress on women's rights. He has also made conciliatory moves toward Islamist dissenters, relaxing or ending travel bans and other measures against some. (Wall Street Journal)
- Resentment of Hizbullah Seen in Syria - Anne Barnard
The erosion of the Syrian army is forcing the government to rely more heavily on Hizbullah, which now leads or even directs the fight in many places, angering some Syrian officers. "Every area where there is Hizbullah, the command is in their hands," said a Syrian with security connections. "You do something, you have to ask their permission."
There is also simple jealousy. Hizbullah fighters are paid in dollars, while Syrian soldiers get depreciating Syrian pounds. Hizbullah fighters get new cars and meat with rice, while Syrian soldiers make do with dented Russian trucks and stale bread, said one Syrian soldier. Hizbullah now has about 5,000 fighters and advisers in Syria, American intelligence officials said. (New York Times)
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif's Bluster - Max Boot (Commentary)
- On Tuesday, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats seized the Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-registered container ship that was transiting through the Straits of Hormuz.
- On Wednesday, speaking in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif made it seem as if a nuclear agreement is a done deal - on Iran's terms.
- Zarif made clear that the lifting of sanctions would occur within weeks of the agreement being signed (contrary to White House claims that sanctions relief would be phased), while also mocking Obama's claims that sanctions could "snap back" in the event of Iranian violations: "If people are worrying about snapback, they should be worrying about the U.S. violating its obligations and us snapping back," he said.
- Both are evidence of Iranian arrogance: by hijacking a ship registered to an American protectorate and then lecturing American leaders that they will have to abide by Iran's terms for a nuclear deal - or else. This is not the way Iran would talk or act if it feared the U.S., but plainly it doesn't.
It is indicative of where we stand that there has been nary a peep of protest about the hijacking of the Maersk Tigris.
- The very reason why Iran was able to hijack the negotiations to legitimate its illegal nuclear program is precisely because the U.S. has spent years turning the other cheek at Iranian aggression. That's why Iran's foreign minister feels free to come to New York and act like a haughty master of the universe.
The writer is a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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