Chief U.S. Negotiator in Iran Nuclear Talks to Resign - David E. Sanger (New York Times)
The chief U.S. negotiator with Iran, Wendy Sherman, said on Wednesday that she planned to resign as undersecretary of state for policy, shortly after the June 30 deadline for the Iran nuclear talks.
With her departure, all the top officials who have negotiated with Iran over the past two years will have left the administration, leaving questions about who will coordinate the complex process of carrying out a deal.
Tony Blair Resigns as Middle East Peace Envoy - David Barrett (Telegraph-UK)
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has resigned from his position as the Quartet's peace envoy to the Middle East after seven years.
See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Thanks Middle East Quartet Envoy Tony Blair (Prime Minister's Office)
Report: Syrian Regime Prepares Evacuation of
Key Military Base (NOW-Lebanon)
The Syrian regime is preparing the evacuation of a key military base in Deir Ezzor after ISIS' victory in Palmyra cut ground routes to the besieged city, Al-Araby al-Jadeed reported Monday.
Israel Weighs Allowing 1,500 Jordanians to Work in Eilat - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)
Ayoub Kara, the acting Minister of Regional Cooperation, will visit Jordan soon to finalize a deal that would allow 1,500 Jordanians to work in Israel as day laborers.
The workers would mainly be employed in the Eilat area and would return home to Jordan every day.
2,000-Year-Old Jerusalem Aqueduct Uncovered (Times of Israel)
A section of Jerusalem's Lower Aqueduct, which brought water to Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago, was uncovered in the neighborhood of Umm Tuba during the construction of a new sewer line, it was announced last week.
The Israel Antiquities Authority excavated the area. Ya'akov Billig, director of the excavation, said: "The Lower Aqueduct to Jerusalem, which the Hasmonean kings constructed more than 2,000 years ago in order to provide water to Jerusalem, operated intermittently until about one hundred years ago."
The aqueduct begins at the Ein Eitam spring near Solomon's Pools south of Bethlehem and stretches 21 km. to Jerusalem.
Israel's First Jordanian PhD Wants to Bring Peace through Water - Renee Ghert-Zand (Times of Israel)
Amer Sweity, 34, an expert in desalination who conducts research at Ben-Gurion University's Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, in March became the first Jordanian citizen to earn a doctoral degree from an Israeli university.
Sweity's home country suffers from a severe water shortage.
In the Jordanian capital Amman, water flows to taps at home only once a week. "And it's been like that for around 20 years," he said.
"Five desalination plants were built in Israel and that shifted everything for Israel in terms of water."
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- Report: Iran, North Korea Forging Ballistic, Nuclear Ties - John Irish
A seven-person North Korean Defense Ministry delegation visited a military site near Tehran in April, the dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said Thursday. "The delegates included nuclear experts, nuclear warhead experts, and experts in various elements of ballistic missiles including guidance systems," NCRI said. Another North Korean delegation was due to visit Iran in June.
- U.S. Intelligence: Iran Sending More Fighters to Yemen - Bill Gertz
The Iranian leadership earlier this month ordered militants from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force, along with Lebanese Hizbullah fighters, to Yemen to aid pro-Tehran rebels, according to recent U.S. intelligence reports.
Estimates put the number of both Iranian and Iraqi Shi'ite forces helping the Houthis in Yemen at around 5,000 people. On Sunday, Quds Force Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghani confirmed that the IRGC is training the Houthis in Yemen. "The defenders of Yemen have been trained under the banner of the Islamic Republic."
Middle East specialists said the influx of Iranian and Hizbullah fighters is a troubling indicator of a growing Iranian threat to the region.
"It would effectively put the Quds force on the Saudi border and potentially give Iran a naval and air presence near the Bab-el-Mandeb, and the exit from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean - a key trade route for petroleum and all trade and U.S. naval movements through the Suez Canal," said Anthony Cordesman, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin Organization of Iran, said 50 tons of Iranian weapons was sent from Mehrabad airport in Tehran to the Houthis in Sanaa last March in four shipments disguised as humanitarian aid from the Iranian Red Crescent.
(Washington Free Beacon)
- France Opposes Iran Nuclear Deal Without Military Site Checks
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that France would oppose a nuclear deal with Iran if it did not allow inspections of military sites.
An agreement "will not be accepted by France if it is not clear that verifications can be made at all Iranian facilities, including military sites," Fabius told parliament.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S. Peace Negotiator Dennis Ross: What about Palestinian Responsibilities to Achieve Peace? - Gil Hoffman
Former U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross said Tuesday that President Obama deserves credit for advancing Israel's security, but criticized his approach on the issue of settlements in an interview with
the radio network VoiceofIsrael.com. "Insisting on a complete freeze, including natural growth, established an objective that no Israeli government had carried out," Ross said. "Creating a standard that couldn't be achieved gave the Palestinians an excuse to sit back and do nothing....I think it was a mistake, and it made it very difficult to do very much on the peace process."
"If one is going to raise questions on why we don't have peace at this point, the criticism has to be directed toward both sides. It can't be directed only toward the Israelis. There can't be questions only about Israeli responsibilities when there's no reference to Palestinian responsibilities." Ross noted that Israel had made three significant efforts to pursue peace since 2000, and in each case the Palestinians rejected or didn't respond to them.
- Netanyahu to EU: Don't Condemn Israeli Construction in Settlement Blocs - Shlomo Cesana and Daniel Siryoti
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed resuming peace talks with the Palestinians but with the initial focus on defining areas where Israel could build housing without fear of condemnation, an official said Tuesday following a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
- IDF Deploys Mortar Shell Alert System along Gaza Border - Lilach Shoval
The IDF announced Tuesday the deployment of a tactical radar system designed to warn residents of southern Israel of incoming mortar attacks from Gaza. Last summer's Gaza war saw 2,580 mortar shells fired at Israeli border communities. The Iron Dome defense system is not effective against short-range mortar shells. The military hopes the new system will afford local residents 15 seconds to get to safety.
In the future, the military will consider whether to deploy the same system in communities along Israel's northern border. The IDF is also developing a transportable mortar alert system to warn soldiers gathering in staging areas near the border.
- Worrying Signals from Europe - Zalman Shoval
European dignitaries have begun arriving at an increased rate with warnings that Israel must soon launch a "diplomatic initiative" to renew negotiations with the Palestinian Authority or expect growing pressure. A French proposal
treats the establishment of a Palestinian state as a foregone conclusion and does not allow Israel any say over security limitations to be placed on the Palestinians. It is difficult not to notice the EU's undertone that it has decided to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, even without any real negotiations and regardless of Israel's positions on the matter.
In a fairer and more ethical world, it would be possible to expect Europe, of all places, with all its history concerning the Jewish people, to unite in an unwavering effort to combat anti-Semitism in its new anti-Zionist and anti-Israel disguise, and to try curbing academic and economic boycotts. In reality, it is actually considering measures that would leave Israel alone in the face of its enemies' machinations. The EU desires to unilaterally dictate formulas that do not take Israel's most basic interests into consideration, all while adhering to the Palestinians' most extreme demands.
The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
- Hizbullah's War in Syria - Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Hizbullah is fighting in Syria alongside the Assad regime based on promises made by Iran to Assad that they will use any means to defend him. Hizbullah has thus become like mercenaries who are brought from Iraq and Afghanistan to fight far away from home upon an Iranian arrangement. As time passed and as more of Hizbullah's fighters died, the group began to run out of excuses, the first of which being that it is fighting in Syria to "defend sacred shrines."
It was later revealed that most of its fighters were meeting their ends in areas far away from these shrines.
Hizbullah's war in Syria is an Iranian war, and a lost cause too.
Hizbullah's participation alongside the Iranians in this war will bring about two disasters: the group will suffer untold human losses, more numerous than the combined losses it suffered during its wars with Israel throughout the past 30 years; moreover, this participation alongside Iran will attract extremist groups to Lebanon and ignite a war on its territory. The writer is general manager of Al-Arabiya television.
- The Disgraceful Drive to Kick Israel Out of FIFA - Editorial
Soccer brings people around the globe together more than any other cultural force. But the Palestine Football Association is pushing to kick Israel out of FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association. Any FIFA vote to bar Israel would be a statement of power and prejudice, not justice - and would leave the sport open to endless "grudge" resolutions.
(New York Post)
As Showdown Time with Iran Draws Near, What Are the Real Choices? - Ephraim Asculai and Emily B. Landau (Jerusalem Post)
- Knowledge of the military aspects of Iran's nuclear program is essential for assessing Iran's potential to produce nuclear explosive devices, and is therefore crucial for good and effective verification. The Iranian leadership - which continues to harbor military nuclear ambitions - is well aware of the importance of this issue, and has therefore been emphatic in its rejection of inspections of secret military facilities.
- Unfortunately, the P5+1 gave up the option of including ballistic missiles in the final deal, seemingly acquiescing to Iran's claim that these delivery systems are "non-nuclear."
- In the current dynamic, the pressure of sanctions began to be eased before the final agreement was reached, which has only weakened the hand of the P5+1.
Rather than calling Iran's bluff at the table, secure in the knowledge that Iran would not leave because it seeks sanctions relief, the powers began offering concessions. For Iran this attempt at "fair play" by the U.S. only spelled weakness, and this was Iran's cue to harden its red lines and demands.
- As we move into the final stretch, there are two choices: either giving in further to Iran's demands, or not reaching a deal. But no matter what the nature of the remaining sticking points,
the closer the P5+1 feels they are to a deal, the more committed they are to not pronouncing whatever they achieve to be a bad deal. Unfortunately, this will amount to a well-orchestrated face-saving farce.
- Iran will practically retain the option to invest in a clandestine operation to produce the necessary fissile material for the core of a nuclear explosive device, with the explosive part of this device already achieved in military facilities that will not be prone to inspection.
Dr. Ephraim Asculai is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Dr.
Emily B. Landau is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security program at INSS.
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