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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
September 25, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Charm Offensive? Hostile Iranian Messages on the Eve of Rouhani's UN Visit - with Photos (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Iranian President Rouhani attended a military parade in Tehran on Sept. 22, 2013, where he reviewed the forces and spoke.
    Among the messages featured during the parade, in Persian and Arabic the Iranians wrote, "Death to America," while in English they wrote, "Down with America."
    The parade included a line of missile transports carrying Shahab-3 missiles, which have a 1,300-km. range that can reach both Israel and American bases in the Persian Gulf. On the lead vehicle appeared a banner that reads: "Israel Should Cease to Exist."
    Iran's apologists will say that the sentence is in the passive voice, so it is not clear how it ceases to exist. But the very fact that the Iranians attach a sign of this sort to a vehicle carrying Shahab-3 missiles means that Tehran itself is juxtaposing its intention to destroy Israel with the military means to carry it out.
    Reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency last year contained information that Iran was seeking to remove the conventional warhead from a Shahab-3 missile and replace it with a spherical nuclear device.
    See also Rouhani Attended Event Calling for Israelís Destruction before UN Visit - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)

U.S. Poll: 66 Percent Think Iran Unlikely to Slow or Stop Its Nuclear Program (Rasmussen Reports)
    Just 25% of likely U.S. voters think it is at least somewhat likely that Iran will slow or stop its nuclear program in the next year in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, while 66% consider this unlikely.

Syria's Chemical Weapons: Is Disarmament Possible? - Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
    The prospects are doubtful for implementing chemical disarmament in Syria.
    Appreciable portions of the chemical weapons arsenal have been trans-located, in part untraceably.
    Moreover, the timetable announced by the U.S. and Russia seems too condensed.
    Syria possesses a huge chemical warfare alignment, with dozens of multiform facilities and installations.
    The plausible possibility that Iraqi chemical and biological weapons were added to the Syrian CBW inventory significantly complicates the situation.
    Moreover, Syria is likely to further develop biological weapons as a powerful alternative to chemical weapons.
    The writer, an expert on chemical and biological warfare, is a former senior intelligence analyst in the IDF and the Israel Ministry of Defense.

60,000 March in Jerusalem for Sukkot - Stuart Winer (Times of Israel)
    The annual Jerusalem March took place on Tuesday, with 60,000 Israelis and overseas visitors walking through the streets of the city in celebration of the Sukkot holiday.
    Thousands of spectators lined the streets to watch the march.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama to UN: "We Will Not Tolerate the Development or Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction"
    President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday: "There must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments [to place its chemical weapons under international control], and there must be consequences if they fail to do so. If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws." "It's time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad's rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear: an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate."
        "We will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region." "Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly - or through proxies - taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction."
        "America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran's nuclear program peacefully, although we are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon....We insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council resolutions."
        "The United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel's security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state....The children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and where we unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them."  (White House)
        See also Text of Iranian President Rouhani's UN Speech (Times of Israel)
  • Rouhani Declines to Meet Obama at UN - Jennifer Epstein
    President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did not meet at the UN on Tuesday, senior administration officials said. The White House had offered to have "an encounter" between the two leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, but Iranian officials ultimately declined. U.S. and Iranian officials had been discussing the possibility of an Obama-Rouhani meeting for days, an official said. Ultimately, though, "it was clear that it was too complicated for them."  (Politico)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Iran Will Try to Remove Sanctions by Offering Cosmetic Concessions
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday: "I appreciate President Obama's statement that 'Iran's conciliatory words will have to be matched by action that is transparent and verifiable.'...Iran thinks that soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb. Like North Korea before it, Iran will try to remove sanctions by offering cosmetic concessions, while preserving its ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing."
        "Israel would welcome a genuine diplomatic solution that truly dismantles Iran's capacity to develop nuclear weapons. But we will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran's continual pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the world should not be fooled either."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Temple Mount Closed Due to Threats of Palestinian Rioting - Daniel K. Eisenbud
    The Temple Mount was closed to thousands of visitors Tuesday, including Jews making a pilgrimage to the holy site for Sukkot, after police received threats of rioting by Palestinian Muslims at the site. Police determined that closing the site was necessary to protect visitors from possible violence at the hands of Arabs who reject Jewish rights to pray there. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Rioters Attack Israeli Security Forces at Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Testing Iran's Soft-Sell Strategy - Editorial
    Iranian President Rouhani has excited Iran-watchers in the West over the past several weeks with a charm offensive. But there has been no substance - and there is ample reason for skepticism that a reversal of Iran's drive to achieve nuclear weapons capability is in the works.
        Iran has steadily built its capacity to enrich uranium through a decade of negotiations and escalating sanctions. Rouhani, a longtime and fiercely loyal follower of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has yet to offer any indication of what, if any, deviations the regime may be prepared to make from its previous refusal to limit that activity, accept more intrusive international inspections or answer UN inspectors' questions about suspected work on warheads and missiles.
        During his election campaign this year, Rouhani boasted that, as the regime's nuclear negotiator a decade ago, he had managed to head off sanctions even as the program moved forward. His pitch to Iranians was that a different approach might win relief from sanctions while preserving Iran's interests.
        The danger is that, in the fevered atmosphere generated by Rouhani's skillful public diplomacy, the U.S. and its allies will be induced into further, unwarranted concessions - or deluded into believing that a "grand bargain" is possible with Iran. Better to swiftly demand that Rouhani make clear his bottom line - and prick the bubble he has been inflating. (Washington Post)
  • Reasons Not to Trust Iran on Nukes - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Rouhani obviously looks moderate when compared to Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust-denying lunatic. However, Rouhani hasn't indicated that Iran is open to reversing course on its nuclear program. He has actually said that the regime will not even talk about suspending uranium enrichment.
        Former CIA officer and Iran expert Reuel Marc Gerecht said of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "He would disgrace himself before God and his praetorians, the Revolutionary Guards" if he were to give up his nuclear ambitions in exchange for an easing of sanctions. "He has invested everything in the nuclear program. It is the core of the Islamic Republic's defense against America."
        The Obama administration should test Iran immediately. But these negotiations should be time-limited, and sanctions shouldn't be lifted prematurely - the sanctions are what brought the crisis to this point. (Bloomberg)
  • Iran's Charm Offensive - Colum Lynch
    Gary Samore, an expert on nuclear weapons proliferation at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said that while he supports U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran, "nobody is fooled by the charm offense; everybody understands the supreme leader is seeking nuclear weapons....No matter how many times Rouhani smiles doesn't change the basic objective of the program."  (Foreign Policy)
  • Questions for Iranian President Rouhani - Irwin Cotler
    Rouhani's charm offensive, including the release of political prisoners, is belied by ongoing human rights violations as documented by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran. Prior to Rouhani's election, Iran had the highest per-capita execution rate in the world. Since Rouhani's election, executions have actually escalated, with some 100 Iranians executed in the past month. Moreover, a large number of prisoners are killed by the regime in secret, so the number of executions is almost certainly higher.
        At a time when we mark the 25th anniversary of the Iranian regime's 1988 massacre of some 5,000 political prisoners, President Rouhani has appointed Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi as Iran's new Minister of Justice. As the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center has reported, Pour-Mohammadi - the deputy intelligence minister from 1987 until 1999 - was directly involved in the '88 prison massacre - which a recent unanimous Canadian parliamentary resolution characterized as crimes against humanity. He also was involved in the extra-judicial assassination of political opponents and was responsible for the unlawful killing of dissidents within Iran. The writer is a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. (Huffington Post)

Nuclear Talks with Iran: Diplomacy and Diminishing Time - Olli Heinonen and Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • The IAEA's regular reports on Tehran's activities have raised four main concerns:
    1. Iran continues to enrich uranium in quantities far in excess of its present and future requirements for a peaceful nuclear program.
    2. Iran's ability to break out from its international commitments by producing sufficient amounts of weapons-grade uranium can now be measured in a few weeks - perhaps less time than the international community would need to agree on an appropriate diplomatic or military response.
    3. Iran is also making advances toward obtaining plutonium, another nuclear explosive.
    4. Iran has apparently worked on aspects of nuclear weapon designs.
  • If Washington engages Iran via diplomatic contact or further negotiations, it should be mindful of several specific concerns about the nuclear program:
    1. Iran's increasing number of centrifuges and the use of more-advanced IR-2m centrifuges.
    2. Iran's growing stockpile of 20% UF6.
    3. The perhaps-impregnable centrifuge plant at Fordow.
    4. The possibility that Iran has unreported centrifuge plants.
    5. The Arak heavy-water reactor.
    6. Weaponization work.
    7. Massive stocks of uranium.

    Olli Heinonen is a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center and a former deputy director-general for safeguards at the IAEA. Simon Henderson is director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute.

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