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November 11, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

IDF Sends Assessment Team to Typhoon-Struck Philippines (Times of Israel)
    The IDF Home Front Command on Sunday sent a preliminary assessment team of five officers, "experts in the fields of search, rescue, and medicine," to the disaster-struck Philippines where a typhoon may have killed 10,000 people on Friday.
    See also IsraAID Sends Medical Team to Philippines - Hayley Munguia (Jerusalem Post)
    The IsraAID humanitarian organization sent a team of seven medical professionals to Tacloban City in the Philippines on Saturday night.

Syrian Opposition Agrees to Participate in Geneva Peace Talks - Dasha Afanasieva (Reuters)
    The Western-backed Syrian opposition agreed to participate in international peace talks in Geneva, the Syrian National Coalition said Monday.
    Major Islamist rebel brigades have declared their opposition to the Geneva process if the conference does not result in Assad's removal.

Obama Calls Netanyahu to Discuss Iran Nuclear Talks (Reuters)
    U.S. President Obama telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Friday to discuss international talks on Iran's nuclear program, the White House said.
    "The President provided the Prime Minister with an update on negotiations in Geneva and underscored his strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which is the aim of the ongoing negotiations." 
    See also U.S. Top Iran Negotiator in Israel for Talks - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Washington's top negotiator with Iran, Wendy Sherman, arrived in Israel Sunday to brief Israeli officials on the P5+1 negotiations with Iran.

British Expert Says It's "Highly Unlikely" Arafat Was Poisoned - Paul Martin (Independent-UK)
    Professor Nicholas Priest, who formerly headed the biomedical research unit of the Atomic Energy Authority in Britain, says it is "highly unlikely" that former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in 2004 from a lethal dose of radioactive polonium.
    Prof. Priest, a specialist in radiation toxicology, is one the few British scientists to have worked with polonium-210 and was involved in the research over the death of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 in the only known case of fatal poisoning by the substance.
    "Key indicators it was not polonium [that killed Arafat] were lack of hair loss in the face, and no damage to his bone marrow, both of which were found extensively in Litvinenko," he said.
    He pointed out that polonium would be naturally produced in the bones of anyone buried as a by-product of the bones absorbing lead from the soil.

    See also Russian Report: Evidence Does Not Prove Arafat Poisoning - Noah Browning (Reuters)
    A Russian report quoted by Palestinian investigators on Friday said there was insufficient evidence to support the theory that Yasser Arafat died in 2004 by polonium poisoning.
    "The outcome of the comprehensive report on the levels of Polonium-210 and the development of his illness does not give sufficient evidence to support the decision that Polonium-210 caused acute radiation syndrome leading to death," said Dr. Abdullah Bashir, quoting the conclusions of the Russian report.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Nuclear Talks End without Deal - Laurence Norman and Jay Solomon
    Iran and six world powers failed Saturday to seal a deal to freeze Tehran's nuclear program, but both sides agreed they had made enough progress during the three days of talks to hold another round. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the two sides were closer now than they were before the meetings began. A Western diplomat said the talks would resume on Nov. 20 and involve senior officials but not ministers.
        French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there were points in a draft text that France couldn't support, including concerns about what Iran would do with its stockpile of enriched uranium and a French demand that Iran suspend all work on its nuclear reactor at Arak. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also What Is in the Initial Draft Agreement with Iran? - Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
    The draft plan called for Iran to temporarily freeze key parts of its nuclear program that would enable it to quickly make nuclear weapons in the future if it chose to do so. But the plan reportedly did not require Iran to halt all uranium enrichment. (Washington Post)
  • Kerry: Major Powers Agreed on Iran Nuclear Deal But Tehran Did Not Accept It
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Monday that the major powers were unified on an Iran nuclear deal during talks in Geneva but the Iranians were unable to accept it. Kerry said: "The French signed off on it, we signed off on it." But Iran wasn't able to accept the deal "at that particular moment."  (AP-Fox News)
        See also Iran Balked at Language of Nuclear Deal, Diplomats Say - Michael R. Gordon, Mark Landler and Jodi Rudoren
    The Iranian government's insistence on formal recognition of its "right" to enrich uranium emerged as a major obstacle to an interim agreement to constrain Iran's nuclear program, diplomats said Sunday.
        The Obama administration's two-part strategy calls for an interim agreement to temporarily freeze Iran's nuclear efforts for six months so that diplomats have time to try to negotiate a more comprehensive accord. (New York Times)
  • Sen. Menendez: U.S. Should Move Forward with New Iran Sanctions - Isobel Markham
    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Sunday the U.S. should move forward with new sanctions on Iran. "I think that the possibility of moving ahead with new sanctions, including wording it in such a way that if there is a deal that is acceptable that those sanctions could cease upon such a deal, is possible."
        Menendez argued that increased sanctions would offer "an insurance for the United States to make sure that Iran actually complies with an agreement that we would want to see. At the same time it's also an incentive to the Iranians to know what's coming if you don't strike a deal."
        Menendez urged negotiators to stick to the deal put forward by the UN Security Council, which calls for Iran to cease all enrichment and accept stricter protocols on inspection and oversight of its nuclear facilities. A move away from this position, Menendez said, suggests "we seem to want the deal almost more than the Iranians. And you can't want the deal more than the Iranians, especially when the Iranians are on the ropes."  (ABC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel to Oppose Any Deal that Leaves Iran with Enrichment Capabilities - Herb Keinon
    Israel will campaign unrelentingly against a deal with Iran that allows it to retain uranium enrichment rights and does not end its development of a plutonium track toward nuclear arms, a senior Israeli official said on Saturday night.
        Prime Minister Netanyahu said after his Friday meeting with Secretary of State Kerry: "The proposal being discussed now is a bad deal, a very bad deal. Iran is not asked to dismantle even one centrifuge, but the international community is easing sanctions on Iran for the first time in many years." According to Netanyahu, Iran was getting everything it wanted at this stage and not giving anything in return.
        On Saturday, a senior Israeli official said that "the more the details accumulate" regarding the Geneva talks, "the greater the puzzlement at the haste to sign an agreement that is so bad for the world." The official said the proposed deal would leave a military nuclear capability in Iran's hands that would enable it to "break out" and build a nuclear bomb within a matter of weeks.
        The official said Israel supported a diplomatic solution that would bring an end to Iran's nuclear weapons program, meaning it must dismantle its centrifuges, transfer its enriched uranium out of the country, and stop all work on its heavy water reactor at Arak. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Believes U.S. Making Too Many Concessions to Iran - Barak Ravid
    Senior officials in Jerusalem say that Prime Minister Netanyahu feels the U.S. did not present Israel with a precise picture of what concessions will be granted to the Iranians and what sanctions will be eased, although Israel and the U.S. have been holding consultations in recent weeks ahead of the talks in Geneva. A senior Israeli official said Israel was under the impression that Iran would receive adjustments that would not threaten the viability of the entire sanctions regime. Last Wednesday, however, a senior American official said Iran would be offered a more substantial set of reductions in sanctions.
        A senior Israeli official said: "Economically speaking, now all the large multinational companies will see that sanctions are being lifted and will surge toward Tehran to sign deals that will bring the Iranian economy out of its slump. In terms of the nuclear program, the Iranians are receiving an approval to continue enriching uranium and to continue building the Arak reactor. The pace of their progress might be slowed, but their progress won't be halted. Consequently, from our perspective it's an awful deal."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israeli Official: U.S. Wants to Sign Iran Deal to Avoid Strike - Attila Somfalvi
    A senior Israeli official on Sunday addressed the nuclear talks between Iran and the West, saying "The Americans are anxious to sign a bad deal because they fear the only alternative left - sans deal - is a strike." "There's no doubt that if they sign now, Iran will turn into a threshold state and there won't be any deal that could stop Iran from developing its nuclear plan."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Case for Stronger Sanctions on Iran - Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht
    The U.S. will likely never again have as much economic leverage over Tehran as it does right now. The efficacy of sanctions depends on the threat of escalation. The sanctions game with Iran has been as much psychological as legal. When the Obama administration sends a signal that it is willing to reduce economic sanctions for little in return, the general impression abroad is that the White House's resolve is waning.
        Reports out of Geneva indicate that the Obama administration was ready to unfreeze Iranian assets and ease sanctions on exports which would have brought tens of billions of dollars to the regime. Any concession on sanctions that releases hard currency to Tehran provides cash that it could spend on its nuclear program - or to aid the Assad regime or any of Iran's other unsavory friends.
        The Geneva negotiations indicate that Rouhani's bosses are willing only to make concessions that are easily revoked or not much of a nuclear impediment to start with. The U.S. and its allies seem much more likely to get the attention of the supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guards if the pain from sanctions is so intense that a choice has to be made between economic collapse and the nuclear program. Mark Dubowitz is the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Iran-targets officer in the CIA's clandestine service, is a senior fellow. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Tell Iran Tougher Sanctions Will Be Imposed If Final Nuclear Deal Falls Through - Dennis Ross
    The Israelis fear that an agreement could let the Iranians off the hook without altering their nuclear program. They believe that once there is a limited easing of sanctions, perhaps including Iranian access to some of their assets in foreign banks, the entire sanctions regime will inevitably erode - and the Iranians will know they can simply play for time, and need not make further concessions as the economic and political squeeze on them dissipates.
        The Israelis fear even limited sanctions relief would take the pressure off Iran and ensure that the first step would become a permanent one. That would leave the nuclear program intact with over 19,000 centrifuges and enough enriched uranium to make six nuclear bombs. The Israelis see no roll back of Iran's nuclear capabilities; instead they envision Tehran being able to "break out" and make nuclear weapons at a time of its choosing. These concerns are, in all likelihood, shared by Saudi Arabia and other Arab powers in the Middle East.
        These worries could be addressed. The key is to show that the pressure on Iran will not be eased. It should be made clear that vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions will continue, regardless of any interim deal - and if there is no final agreement at the end of the process, new restrictions will be added. The writer is Counselor to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former Special Assistant to President Barack Obama (2009-2011). (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Dennis Ross: U.S. Must Be Ready to Step Up Iran Sanctions - Steve Linde (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Proposed Deal Allows Iran to Become a Threshold Nuclear Nation - Norah O'Donnell (CBS News)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told "Face the Nation" on Sunday:

  • "Secretary Kerry said the right thing when he said that no deal is better than a bad deal. The deal...described to us by American sources...means that Iran maintains its capability to enrich material for nuclear bomb. It also maintains another route, the plutonium heavy water route, to make nuclear bombs. All Iran gives is a minor concession of taking 20%-enriched uranium and bringing it down to a lower enrichment but that they could cover with a few weeks, given the capabilities that they keep for enrichment."
  • "So Iran effectively becomes a threshold nuclear power nation, makes a minor concession and in exchange for that the P5+1, the international community, reverses the direction of sanctions, gives Iran several billion dollars worth in direct assistance, opens up petrochemicals, opens up gold, diamond, the automotive industries and other things. This is a huge change from the pressure that was applied on Iran through the effective sanctions regime, which brought them to the table in the first place."
  • "How many centrifuges are dismantled in this agreement? Not one. Zero. In other words, Iran maintains all capabilities. It built itself up in the face of international decisions and resolutions, it defied them, went right up to very close to the top and now it stays there. It doesn't bring down, dismantle one centrifuge, it continues to have the mountains of material which they can take in to the centrifuge to make atomic bombs."
  • "This is a country that has tens of thousands of people in the street chanting "death to America" the other day. This is a country that is participating as we speak in the mass slaughter of men, women, children, tens of thousands of them in Syria. This is a country that is fomenting terror on five continents. This is a country that pledges to destroy the State of Israel and subvert so many of the other countries."
  • "It's not only my concern that this is a bad deal, there are many, many Arab leaders in the region who are saying, this is a very bad deal for the region and for the world. And you know, when you have the Arabs and Israelis speaking in one voice, it doesn't happen very often; I think it's worth paying attention to us."

        See also Netanyahu Tells Five World Leaders: Iran "Deal Is Bad and Dangerous"
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "Over the weekend I spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. I told them that according to the information reaching Israel, the apparent deal is bad and dangerous. It is dangerous not just for us; it is also dangerous for them."
        "It is dangerous for world peace because it lowers the pressure of sanctions that took years to build while, on the other hand, Iran, in practice, retains its nuclear enrichment capability as well as the ability to advance along the plutonium track."
        "A good agreement means an agreement that reduces or completely dismantles Iran's ability to arm itself with nuclear weapons or to prepare and produce material for nuclear weapons. A bad agreement leaves this ability intact and lets the air out of the sanctions....We will do our utmost to convince the major powers and the leaders to avoid a bad agreement."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Addresses the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Jerusalem (Prime Minister's Office)

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