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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
April 10, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Iran May Have Continued Weapons Research After 2003, IAEA Chief Says - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said Monday that his agency cannot rule out the possibility that Iran was actively seeking nuclear weapons technology, citing intelligence on suspicious research by Iranian scientists that occurred as recently as a few years ago.
    Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it is crucial that Iran come clean on its nuclear past, granting full access to Iranian facilities and documents as well as key scientists believed involved in the work.
    "Iran's activities could be continuing up until now.... I have asked Iran to clarify," Amano said during a conference on nuclear nonproliferation in Washington.

Bahrain Wants Hizbullah Listed as Terrorist Group - Abeed Al-Suhaimy (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    On Sunday, the Kingdom of Bahrain took a new step towards classifying Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, with the Bahraini government discussing a proposal submitted by the council of representatives to place the Lebanese party on its list of terrorist groups.
    Samira Rajab, minister of state for media affairs, confirmed that the meeting, headed by Prime Minister Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, discussed the proposal on Hizbullah.
    Bahraini MPs said the move came as a result of "Iranian-backed Hizbullah’s increased activities, flagrantly interfering in the internal affairs of the countries of the region, becoming Tehran’s arm to export its revolution."

Erdogan to Delay Gaza Trip until after Meeting with Obama (Jerusalem Post)
    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that he will likely delay a trip to the Gaza Strip planned for April to sometime after his May 16 meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.  The U.S. has in the past urged Erdogan to refrain from making the trip, arguing it would undercut Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and strengthen Hamas.

Iraqi Al-Qaeda and Syrian Group 'Merge'(Aljazeera)
    Al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq says it has merged with Syria's armed opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra, a move that shows the rising confidence of hardliners within the Syrian rebel movement and is likely to stoke renewed fears among its international backers.
   A website linked to Jabhat al-Nusra confirmed on Tuesday the merger with the Islamic State of Iraq, whose leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, first made the announcement in a 21-minute audio message posted on websites late on Monday.
   See also Al Qaeda's Syria Play - Jamie Dettmer (The Daily Beast)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry Pursuing "Quiet" Mideast Peace Strategy - Jo Biddle
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said he was pursuing a "quiet strategy" for breaking the years-long impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, warning the process could not be rushed. Kerry said he was "intensely focused" on advancing the peace process and that it "would be irresponsible...not to explore thoroughly the possibilities for moving forward."
        "I understand it is a complicated, well-trod path of disappointments and/or moments of hope followed by breach of agreement or process, and that mistrust is very high," Kerry said. "I am convinced that we can break that down, but I'm not going to do it under guidelines or time limits....This process should not be rushed."  (AFP)
  • UN Panel: Libyan Weapons are Spreading at an Alarming Rate to New Areas and Fueling Conflicts
    UNITED NATIONS — Libyan weapons are spreading at “an alarming rate” to new territory in west Africa and the eastern Mediterranean including Syria and the Gaza Strip where they are fueling conflicts and increasing the arsenals of armed groups and terrorists, a U.N. panel said.
        In a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Tuesday, the panel said cases of illicit transfers from Libya in violation of a U.N. arms embargo that have been proven and are still under investigation involve more than 12 countries and include heavy and light weapons such as portable air defense systems, explosives, mines, and small arms and ammunition. (AP, Washington Post)
  • 'Devastating' Quake Strikes Near Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Plant, Kills Dozens - Alastair Jamieson and John Newland
    A magnitude-6.3 earthquake struck near Iran's only nuclear power station Tuesday, killing at least 37 people and injuring hundreds, according to one report, and generating tremors that were felt on the other side of the Persian Gulf.
        The quake struck about 60 miles southeast of the city of Bushehr on Iran's south coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said. "No damage was done to Bushehr power plant," Bushehr provincial governor Fereidoun Hasanvand told state TV according to The Associated Press. He said 850 people were injured, including 100 who were hospitalized.
        Government news agency IRNA described the quake as "devastating" and reported that the dead were in the villages of Shanbe and Tasouj. One hundred ambulances were being sent to the area from the capital Tehran, it said. (NBC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Security Agency Arrests Israeli Arab who Joined Syrian Rebels - Yaakov Lappin
    Security forces arrested an Israeli Arab resident of Taiba on suspicion of fighting with rebels in Syria, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Wednesday. The suspect, named as 19-year-old Nasser Masarwa, was arrested on March 19 after suspicions emerged that he joined global jihadi elements in Syria, and to try and locate his brother who traveled to Syria in recent months to also fight with the rebels. "In Syria, Masarwa underwent military training with rebel forces...including weapons training. He was offered the possibility of carrying a suicide bombing against the army of the Assad regime, but says he refused this," the Shin bet added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran's 'Axis of Resistance' Loses its Palestinian Arm to Syrian War - Nicholas Blanford
    Before the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011, Hamas was a key ally of Damascus and a component of the Iran-led "axis of resistance" that challenged Israel and the West in the Middle East. But after two years of bloodshed in Syria, Hamas has abandoned Damascus and distanced itself from Iran, a major supporter of the Assad regime. Instead the Palestinian militant group is courting potential new suitors, particularly the small but influential Gulf state of Qatar, and Egypt, which controls the crucial southern border of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and is ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological parent of Hamas. (Gulf News – UAE)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Arab Quarter Century - Thomas Friedman
    I guess it's official now: The term “Arab Spring” has to be retired. There is nothing springlike going on. Strategist Anthony Cordesman is probably right when he argues: It's best we now speak of the “Arab Decade” or the “Arab Quarter Century” — a long period of intrastate and intraregional instability.
       Two things surprise me. The first is how incompetent the Muslim Brotherhood has been. In Egypt, the Brotherhood has presided over an economic death spiral.  The second surprise? How weak the democratic opposition has been.
       The old sources of stability that held this region together are gone. No iron-fisted outside powers want to occupy these countries anymore, because all you win today is a bill. No iron-fisted dictators can control these countries anymore, because their people have lost their fear. (New York Times)
  • The Art of Turning Neighbors into Enemies - Amir Taheri
    By all accounts Azerbaijan should be Iran's closest ally. The republic on the Caspian Sea is home to nine million people with strong ethnic, historic, and religious ties to the Iranian people. In Iran, 12 million people in five provinces speak a version of Azeri. The areas that form Azerbaijan were part of the Iranian heartland for more than 25 centuries. Iran lost them in two disastrous wars with Tsarist Russia in 1824 and 1830. With Shi'ite Muslims representing 85% of the population, Azerbaijan also shares strong religious ties with Iran.
        Last week, Iran recalled its ambassador from Baku, the capital, and closed border passages after Azerbaijan arrested 41 people on charges of espionage for Iran. In addition, Tehran's anger rose when Baku hosted a conference on "The Future of Southern Azerbaijan," a gathering of militants, mostly U.S. citizens of Iranian origin, who regard all the peoples who speak versions of the Azeri language as Turks. Tehran sees the move as a plot hatched by the U.S., Israel, and Turkey against Iran.
        On Wednesday the daily Kayhan, reflecting the views of Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei, called for the "return" of Azerbaijan to Iran. Tehran's mishandling of relations with Azerbaijan is a classic example of how ideological blindness could turn a nation's potentially closest neighbor into an enemy. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also Iran's Forgotten Ethnic Minorities - Alireza Nader and Robert Stewart (Foreign Policy)

U.S.-Israel Military Relations: An Israeli Perspective - Oded Eran

  • The United States defense establishment is a major partner in Israel's strategic balance and a pillar of its defensive shield. Israel has contributed to American tactics and weapons systems. At the same time, no American soldier has ever fought in a battle in which Israel was fighting with its Arab neighbors.
  • The U.S. and Israel use the same hardware and their armies and soldiers are continually involved in battle. The level of research and development both in the area of hardware and training, as well as in drawing lessons-learned from active combat, allows the two armies to mutually benefit.    
  • Joint military cooperation in the area of missile defense serves as the most recent example. The U.S. stands to benefit immensely from Israel's rocket defense R&D efforts. Both the Iron Dome (operational) and David's Sling (soon to become operational) systems offer capabilities that no other country in the world has. The Arrow III exo-atmospheric interceptor, to be fielded in 2015, will provide Washington with key insights into a system that, according to senior U.S. Missile Defense Agency officials, "will be more capable than anything the United States has on the drawing board."    
  • The location of Israel in the Middle East, the ongoing confrontation with regional terror groups with links to terror organizations from outside the region, together with the importation of weapons systems from sources hostile to both Israel and the U.S., makes U.S.-Israel intelligence sharing essential.    
  • Furthermore, the thousands of Israeli and American soldiers who come together at military schools, training facilities, joint exercises, and military industrial plants, create a human bridge. The writer, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, served twice at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. (inFocus Quarterly)

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