Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
October 1, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Releases Pictures of U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Taken by Detained Iranian Spy - Alexander Smith (NBC News)
    Israel released pictures on Monday taken by an Iranian spy who was detained after photographing the U.S. Embassy and the airport in Tel Aviv.

Rouhani Tells an Israeli Agent How to Deal with Iran - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
    On August 30, 1986, Amiram Nir, prime minister Shimon Peres' adviser on counterterror who was working undercover as a U.S. envoy, met with Hassan Rouhani, the current president of Iran, to discuss ways to facilitate the release of seven U.S. hostages then being held in Lebanon.
    Rouhani, deputy chairman of the Majlis at the time, gave the Israeli the following advice:
    "First and foremost, you have to be firm with [Iranian leader Ayatollah] Khomeini. Stand strongly before him."
    "If you don't bare sharp teeth before Khomeini, you're going to have troubles all over the world. [But] if you threaten him with military force, he'll kiss your hand and run."
    Nir wore a wire and the conversation was recorded.
    Rouhani added:"If we analyze Khomeini's character, we will see that if someone strong stands opposite him, he will retreat 100 steps; and if he is strong and someone weak faces him, he will advance 100 steps."
    "Unfortunately, you have taken a mistaken approach. You have been soft to him. Had you been tougher, your hand would be on top."

5 Egyptian Policemen Killed in Sinai Attacks (Ma'an News-PA)
    Gunmen killed five Egyptian policemen and injured six others on Monday in targeted attacks in Sinai.

Charmed by Rouhani, But Only to a Point - Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times)
    How long does it take for a charm offensive to wear thin?
    When it came to specifics - what concrete steps Iran is prepared to take to meet the rest of the world's concerns - Rouhani was just as vague as his predecessors.
    Rouhani said Iran wants to enrich enough uranium to provide a reliable fuel supply for at least one nuclear power reactor. But if Iran insists on that, it will be a major sticking point in negotiations.
    "That would require tens of thousands more centrifuges than they have now," warned Gary Samore, a former Obama administration official.
    "That wouldn't provide the assurance we need that they couldn't move toward nuclear weapons....I went in pretty skeptical, and my skepticism was reinforced."

Beware Persian Leaders with Masks - Michael J. Totten (World Affairs)
    Hassan Rouhani is not Iran's leader. Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Iran's leader and the one who makes all sovereign decisions. Rouhani does what he's told.
    So let's not get carried away. Khamenei is still the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu Meet in Washington
    After meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, President Obama said: "It is imperative that Iran not possess a nuclear weapon. That is important for American security; it is important for Israeli security; it's important for world security....And given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past - the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel - it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon."
        "We enter into these negotiations [with Iran] very clear-eyed. They will not be easy. And anything that we do will require the highest standards of verification....We take no options off the table, including military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have nuclear weapons in Iran that would destabilize the region and potentially threaten the United States of America."
        Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "The most important challenge is preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. I appreciate...the statement you made that Iran's conciliatory words have to be matched by real actions - transparent, verifiable, meaningful actions. Iran is committed to Israel's destruction. So for Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military nuclear program."  (White House)
        See also A Carefully Crafted U.S.-Israel Message on Iran - Herb Keinon
    What emerged from the brief joint appearance by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu after Monday's meeting was an obvious effort to publicly play down any differences about Iran. Obama sent a message that the U.S. was well aware of what Netanyahu has been warning, that what was important were actions, not words, and that the U.S. would not be taken in by Rouhani's "charm offensive." Obama also stressed that "all options are still on the table" - alluding to the option of a military strike if Iran does not back down.
        Netanyahu did not come out against a U.S.-Iranian dialogue, and expressed his appreciation for the work that has been done to place the sanctions regime on Iran. The message that Obama and Netanyahu wanted Tehran to hear was that on Iran's nuclear issue, the U.S. and Israel remain on the same page. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Staggers as Sanctions Hit Economy - Thomas Erdbrink
    For years, Iran's leaders have scoffed at Western economic sanctions. Now, as they seek to negotiate a deal on their nuclear program, the leaders are acknowledging that sanctions, particularly those applied in 2010 on international financial transactions, are creating a hard-currency shortage that is bringing the country's economy to its knees. Iran news outlets have reported that the government owes billions of dollars to private contractors, banks and municipalities.
        Because of the sanctions, oil sales, which account for 80% of the government's revenue, have been cut in half. While Iran's foreign exchange reserves had shrunk to $80 billion by mid-2013, 3/4 of that amount is tied up in escrow accounts in countries that buy Iranian oil - the result of an American sanctions law that took effect in February. Under that law, the money can be spent only to buy products from those countries. Even gaining access to the remaining $20 billion is difficult because of Iran's expulsion from the global banking network known as Swift. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iranian Spy Was a Quds Force Professional - Yoav Limor
    The Iranian spy apprehended in Israel on Sept. 11, Ali Mansouri, was a quality asset - an Iranian national with a foreign passport. He was a professional who underwent prolonged training (more than a year) that included various methods of intelligence gathering, with an emphasis on photography. He was very careful to keep his identities and passports separate (using his Belgian passport exclusively to enter Israel and travel in Europe and his Iranian passport for visits to Iran).
        The Iranians sent Mansouri on well-planned missions, leading Israel to believe that he was not the only agent sent by Iran to spy on Israel. He was sent by the Quds Force - the extraterritorial operational arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that operates terror networks and orchestrates attacks in Argentina, Thailand, India and elsewhere. Thus it stands to reason that when the Quds Force sends a spy on a mission, the intelligence gathered will ultimately be used to perpetrate a terror attack. (Israel Hayom)
  • Netanyahu Calls on U.S. Senators to Keep Up Pressure on Iran - Lazar Berman
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday, thanking them for their support for sanctioning Iran and urging them to continue to pressure the Islamic Republic. He said it was the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Don't Be Fooled by Iran's Charming New Leader - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, is a moderate only in comparison to his predecessor, the unhinged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani has been a superior soldier for Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and an anti-American propagandist for much of his professional life. (Rouhani blamed 9/11 on the "wrongs and mistakes of American policies," and argued that the U.S. Air Force shot down Flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania.) There's no reason to think that Rouhani, who is acting on Khamenei's behalf, is ready to shut down his country's nuclear program.
        In 2007, Rouhani said, "We should talk carefully so as not to provoke the enemy, we should not give them any excuses." Who is the enemy? The U.S. is the enemy. Rouhani wrote in 2003: "The fundamental principle in Iran's relations with America - our entire focus - is national strength. Strength in politics, culture, economics, and defense - especially in the field of advanced technology - is the basis for the preservation and overall development of the System, and will force the enemy to surrender."   (Bloomberg)
        See also Who Is Hassan Rouhani? - Steven Ditto (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iran, the UN's New Authority on Nuclear Disarmament - Claudia Rosett
    On Sept. 26, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani addressed the UN's first ever High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament, which showcased Iran not as a terror-sponsoring UN-sanctioned nuclear-proliferating regime, but as an authority on ridding the world of nuclear weapons. The Non-Aligned Movement, which includes 119 of the UN's 193 member states and which initiated the meeting, is currently chaired by Iran. In other words, this UN nuclear conclave, presenting Iran not as a proliferator but as a patron of nuclear disarmament, was choreographed by Iran itself.
        Iran is running for the post of rapporteur for the General Assembly's main committee on Disarmament and International Security. Thanks to UN backroom politics, Iran is the only candidate. That's how it works at the UN. The U.S. pays the bills, Iran plays the system, and the clock ticks toward the Iranian bomb. The writer is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Forbes)
  • Talking to Tehran: Curb Your Enthusiasm
    Given Iran's long history of evasiveness on the nuclear issue, the suspicion is that it is merely buying time for its centrifuges. Looming in the background is the precedent of North Korea, which agreed on a disarmament deal with America in 2005, then reneged on it and has now become a nuclear power.
        Obama's terms therefore should focus on denying Iran the possibility of a swift "breakout" to unveiling a bomb. That means forcing it to stop enriching uranium beyond 20% (and shipping its existing stockpile of material above that level to a third party). Ideally it would suspend all enrichment activity at its Fordo facility, which is buried deep in the bowels of a mountain (and thus hard to attack) and delay commissioning the Arak nuclear reactor, due to come online next year, which could give the regime an alternative plutonium route to a bomb. (Economist-UK)

The Mullahs Aren't Going to Charm Anyone for Very Long - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already expressed serious concern about wily Iranian mullahs bearing gifts. Either there will be a very good deal that will take care of both U.S. and Israeli concerns on the nuclear issue, or there will be no deal at all. Here's why.
  • In his recent address to the UN General Assembly, the president identified two key foreign policy priorities in his second term: Iran and the Palestinians. Israel sits at the nexus of both. Managing, let alone resolving, those issues requires close understandings with Israel. To put it more bluntly, if Obama is to have any hope of avoiding war with Iran on the nuclear issue, he will have to keep Israel close.
  • The mullahs aren't going to charm anyone for very long, let alone transform public attitudes in Israel or America, without significant and tangible deliverables. And that's not going to happen quickly or easily given the withholding nature of the Supreme Leader.
  • The alert level on the Iranian charm offensive is incredibly high, and Obama is likely to be cautious and risk averse when it comes to the nuclear issue. Besides, there's no issue that unites Congress like its mistrust of Iran.

    The writer is vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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