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April 19, 2021
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
A new understanding is emerging at talks aimed at salvaging Iran's nuclear deal with global powers, Tehran's chief negotiator Abbas Araghchi said on Saturday. The Iranian delegation has submitted proposed texts on nuclear issues and the lifting of sanctions, and Araghchi said "a new understanding appears to be emerging."
China's envoy Wang Qun said, "All parties have agreed to further pick up their pace in subsequent days by engaging (in) more extensive, substantive work on sanctions-lifting." (Reuters)
See also Report: U.S. Has Accepted in Principle Iran's Demand for Compensation for Economic Damage - Ariel Kahana
Israeli diplomats have unofficially expressed disappointment over what they called "complete American capitulation" in nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna. The Biden administration is keeping Israel abreast of developments.
According to information received by Israel, the six world powers and Iran are indeed close to signing an agreement stipulating that the sides are returning to the original nuclear deal from 2015. However, Iran will not be required to destroy the new advanced centrifuges it has built, rather just disconnect them. The world powers are also expected to ignore other violations that are difficult to reverse from a technical standpoint.
The Americans have also accepted in principle Iran's demand for compensation over the economic damage caused by the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the deal.
One Israeli official said, "Maybe the Americans want to believe they will get a better deal down the road, but the moment they return to the original agreement they lose all leverage with Iran, which has no interest whatsoever in altering it."
In Vienna, Iran's negotiator Abbas Araghchi said, "It seems that a new understanding is taking shape, and now there is agreement over final goals." (Israel Hayom)
See also Israel Sees U.S. Racing to Revive Iran Nuclear Deal - Itamar Eichner
Israel is worried the U.S. is racing to revive the Iran nuclear deal at all costs, officials said Sunday after a Security Cabinet meeting. "It is not a situation in which the Americans want to stand their ground. They're giving up more than the Iranians are asking for," senior officials said. "The Iranians know that the deal will be signed no matter what, so they are doing the most to maximize their gains. The Americans hear our concerns, but the question is whether they are even listening." (Ynet News)
The governments of France, Germany and the UK noted Wednesday that Iran has announced it will start uranium enrichment up to 60%. "This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon. Iran has no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level."
"Iran's announcements are particularly regrettable given they come at a time when all JCPoA participants and the United States have started substantive discussions...to revitalize and restore the JCPoA." (French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The Israel Health Ministry said Monday that there were 141 new cases of coronavirus in Israel on Sunday. Serious cases have fallen to 193, including 114 people on ventilators, out of 2,270 active cases. (Ynet News-Israel Ministry of Health-Hebrew)
See also 81 Percent of Israelis over 16 Have Received 2 Vaccine Doses - Dan Williams (Reuters)
See also Israelis Are Now Allowed to Be Outside without a Mask - Sarah Tuttle-Singer
I, like millions of other Israelis, am waking up from a very long, grey nightmare into a technicolor world. I saw more people smiling in 15 minutes than I saw in an entire year. (Times of Israel)
See also Hadassah Medical Center in Jeriusalem Closes Its Last Covid Ward - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem admitted 4,500 coronavirus patients last year, more than any other Israeli hospital. The hospital has now closed its last Covid ward and has only 6 patients left. There were days when the hospital managed 150 Covid-19 patients. (Jerusalem Post)
The U.S. would not object to a Palestinian Authority decision to postpone the legislative elections set for May 22, the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper reported Friday, citing an "informed" U.S. source. The source said he believed the Biden administration "will look with understanding at the possibility of postponing the elections for some time."
Referring to Hamas, the source warned that "the rise of Palestinian forces that reject the two-state solution, reject abandoning violence, and refuse to stop the anti-Israel and U.S. rhetoric, or abandon incitement - the rise of such forces to a decision-making position will complicate, or even completely dispel, prospects for the two-state solution."
"All signs indicate that the multiple divisions within Fatah, and the quasi-tribal conflict between the various factions of Fatah, will reduce its ability to mobilize the Palestinians in a way that enables them to defeat Hamas." (Times of Israel)
See also Fatah Prisoners Call on Abbas to Delay Elections - Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinian security prisoners who belong to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah faction on Friday called to postpone the election for the Palestinian parliament. The prisoners warned Abbas that Fatah could lose "tens of thousands of votes" because at least 15 Fatah-affiliated lists have registered for the parliamentary election.
They also suggested that Abbas run for president while nominating imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti as his vice president. Barghouti is serving five life sentences in Israeli prison for his role in terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada (2000-2005). (Jerusalem Post)
See also Palestinian Elections Could Jeopardize Fatah's Rule in the West Bank - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
During the coronavirus pandemic, the economy in the European Union declined by 6.6% last year; by 3.5% in the U.S.; and by 5.5% on average in OECD countries, while Israel's GDP contracted by 2.6%. (Times of Israel)
Among OECD countries, Israel ranks 4th in healthcare. While the average happiness index score among OECD countries is 6.5 out of 10, Israel's score is 8.5. Israel's Gini index - a measure of income inequality - reached a 20-year low in 2018. Israel is ranked fifth in the world in intergenerational mobility - meaning that an individual's wellbeing is less dependent on the socioeconomic status of his or her parents.
Israelis tend to emigrate much less than those in other OECD countries and emigration has declined. In 1990, the rate of those leaving Israel was 5.3 per 1,000. After about a decade, it dropped to 4.2 and by 2017 it had fallen to 1.6. (Ynet News)
9th-grader Noga Friedman won a gold medal and 10th-grader Ya'ara Shulman won a silver medal at the European Girls Mathematical Olympiad, which was held remotely last week with 213 competitors from 54 countries. (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Tohar Butbul won a silver medal, while Gefen Primo and Sagi Muki won bronze medals at the European Judo Championships in Lisbon on Friday and Saturday. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
Olli Heinonen, a former chief inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran in theory might go from 60% to 90% enrichment (weapons-grade) in a week, compared with a month in moving up from 20%. "It's not a huge difference. At this point, this is a demonstration. They want to show that they can do it."
Heinonen said it is far more difficult to turn 90%-enriched uranium into the core of an atomic bomb, which could take months. And such an estimate does not include the technology, testing and time needed to fit the weapon onto a missile warhead, which could take far longer. (New York Times)
Can the U.S. live with a nuclear Iran? The answer is probably yes. Despite its unequivocal commitment not to allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, not much is being done, or will likely be done, by the present U.S. administration.
Can Israel live with a nuclear Iran, given its continuous threats against it? Israel, viewing a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, would have to go it alone. The writer, a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, worked at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for over 40 years. (Times of Israel)
See also Israel Will Do "Whatever It Takes" to Thwart Iran's Nuclear Threat
Israel will do "whatever it takes...to prevent this [Iranian] regime from having nuclear weapons," Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Friday in Cyprus. (i24News)
The New York Times editorial "Maximum Pressure on Iran Has Failed" (April 10) argues that the sanctions targeting terrorist entities and their funding streams should be lifted, and Iran should go unpunished for its slaughter and terrorism. On the contrary: more pressure is needed, not less.
The architects of the Iran nuclear deal made a serious mistake in 2015 when they pushed through an agreement without the support of members of both parties in Congress, Arab states and Israel. A result - providing upfront sanctions relief while establishing a clear pathway for an Iranian nuclear weapon - harmed our national security, fueled regional conflict, emboldened the regime's dangerous adventurism, and sowed doubt about U.S. reliability among our allies.
President Biden can use the leverage resulting from economic sanctions in conjunction with a broad and united coalition of members of Congress and allies to push for a comprehensive and durable agreement with Iran that accounts for our allies' concerns and elicits meaningful concessions from the regime. Now is not the time to change course, until Iran does.
Former U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman is chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran, where former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Mark D. Wallace is UANI's CEO. (New York Times)
The explosion at Iran's uranium enrichment site in Natanz was intended as a warning, signaling that the Iranians are crossing someone's red line, said Dr. Yoel Guzansky, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former member of Israel's National Security Council. It also "shows that Iran is completely transparent and open to infiltration operationally, and intelligence-wise."
Guzansky said that if the explosion inflicted serious damage on the Iranians' nuclear program, the attack will weaken the Islamic Republic's position at the negotiation table. "Iran wants to arrive at the negotiations or the agreement as a country on the verge of acquiring nuclear capabilities," he says. Therefore, the attack serves U.S. interests because it has secured more time to negotiate before Iran has passed the "point of no return." (Media Line-Ynet News)
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the Holocaust memorial ceremony earlier this month: "The nuclear deal with Iran is once again on the table. Such deals with extreme regimes are worthless. A deal with Iran that threatens us with annihilation will not obligate us." The war between Israel and the Islamic Republic is real and fundamental. A good new nuclear deal won't end it.
A great majority of Israelis - including most opposition party leaders - share Netanyahu's view of the Iranian regime and its intentions. Even if he were to leave office tomorrow, his policy of resistance to a nuclear Iran would remain baked into the strategic doctrine and national psyche.
Netanyahu is open to a different Iran deal. He insists that any new deal come with no expiration date, permits invasive international inspection of military as well as civilian nuclear sites, restricts Iran's missile and warhead capability and imposes sanctions on violators. Israel's demands also include a bilateral agreement with the U.S. for support against Iranian aggression and terrorism launched from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the Red Sea.
For Israel, a retreat to the old, flawed deal, as Iran is demanding, would portend something much worse. As much as Biden would like to stay neutral, sooner or later he will have to pick a side. The writer served for five years as director of the Israel Government Press Office. (Bloomberg)
Tehran's latest breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal involve potential nuclear weapons technologies. These activities provide Iran gains in knowledge that are irreversible. The IAEA reported that Iran had "dissolved six unirradiated scrap fuel plates" containing near-20% enriched uranium. Under the JCPOA, Iran is prohibited from recovering this uranium from these components. Another breach, in February 2021, involves the production of uranium metal, used for making cores of atomic weapons.
In March, the IAEA was prepared to issue a report detailing Iran's non-compliance with the IAEA's investigation into undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, but the Biden administration halted its release. It is time for the Biden administration to recognize that the JCPOA did not deal with Iran's ability to dial up its nuclear provocations at will, and that underpinning Iran's nuclear program is an ongoing readiness to make nuclear weapons.
Andrea Stricker is a research fellow at FDD, where former head of Israel's National Security Council Jacob Nagel is a senior fellow. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
Jason Brodsky, a senior analyst at Iran International, said the Natanz explosion was "a message from Israel to the United States and the EU-3 that: 'We have a vote on the nuclear deal as well and we're not going to sit idly by while an agreement is negotiated in a European capital that directly affects our security.'" "The second message is of course to the Iranians: 'We're watching you and we're not bound by the nuclear deal.'"
The Biden administration says its first priority is to restore the existing deal before following-on with additional negotiations to make it "stronger and longer." But "once they have sanctions relief, why would they negotiate further?" Brodsky asked.
"I think the obsession with this deal among Europeans, and among some in the United States, has really been a detriment to a broader conversation on the Iran challenge," Brodsky explained. (The Dispatch)
Why Should the U.S. Bother to Stop the Mullahs? - Amir Taheri (Gatestone Institute)
The writer was executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979.