Iran's Hard-Liners Resist Nuclear Deal - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
Hossein Shariatmadari is the "Supreme Leader's Representative" at Kayhan, Iran's leading conservative newspaper.
Listening to his unwavering advocacy of Iran's revolutionary politics, you realize just how hard it will be to reach a nuclear agreement.
Shariatmadari says frankly that he doesn't believe in compromise with the West.
He says bluntly that he doesn't think Iran should have signed the six-month freeze negotiated last month in Geneva, and he argues that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif misled President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei when he said the deal guaranteed Iran's right to enrichment of uranium.
Iran to Resume Nuclear Talks in Vienna within Days (AFP)
Tehran will resume negotiations with world powers over its nuclear program in the coming days, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told the Belgian daily Soir on Tuesday.
He said that the EU's Catherine Ashton had assured him that world powers remained committed to implementing the interim deal.
"On the basis of these explanations, we have decided to resume technical negotiations in Vienna," said Araqchi.
Up to 11,000 Foreign Fighters in Syria; Steep Rise Among Western Europeans - Aaron Y. Zelin (International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation-King's College-UK)
Based on more than 1,500 sources, we estimate that up to 11,000 individuals from 74 nations have become opposition fighters in Syria - nearly double our previous estimate in April.
Among Western Europeans, the number has more than tripled from (up to) 600 in April to 1,900 now.
This does not mean that the fight against Assad is led or dominated by "foreign forces." The "foreign contingent" still doesn't represent more than 10% of the militant opposition.
The writer is a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Understanding Islamist Iran - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
The Iranian call for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth, originally issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, had been carefully painted by the regime on the side of the Jewish elementary school in northern Tehran attended by Major M., an Iranian-born IDF Military Intelligence officer.
"It's the reason I'm sitting here," he said in an interview.
Israelis from Minority Communities Speak Out for Israel - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)
Individuals from the Muslim, Druse, Bedouin, and Christian Arab communities spoke about Israel's role in defending human rights at the Zionist Conference for Human Rights in Tel Aviv on Monday.
Anet Haskia, an Arab-Israeli Muslim from Acre, declared, "I am a proud Zionist.... There are a lot like me." She added that her daughter is the first Muslim to be enlisted in the Golani infantry brigade of the IDF.
Atta Farhat, the head of the Druse Zionist Council for Israel, said, "Look at the countries around us, they are in chaos. Only in Israel do minorities have human rights."
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Iran Nuke Deal Quietly Collapses - Amir Taheri
Less than a month after it was hailed as "a great diplomatic coup," the Geneva accord to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions seems to have come unstuck.
The official narrative in Tehran is that Iran signed nothing. "There is no treaty and no pact," says Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, "only a statement of intent." Originally, Iran's official media had presented the accord as a treaty (qarardad), but it now refers to a "letter of agreement" (tavafoq nameh).
On Sunday, an editorial in the daily Kayhan, published by the office of Supreme Guide Ali Khameini, claimed that the six-month period of the accord was meaningless and that a final agreement might "even take 20 years to negotiate."
The new Iranian narrative is that talks about implementing an accord that is not legally binding have collapsed and that there is no change in the rhythm and tempo of Iran's nuclear project. "Our centrifuges are working full capacity," the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Akbar Salehi, said last Thursday. If unable to impose its will on others, the Iranian regime will try to buy time through endless negotiations. (New York Post)
- West Signals to Syrian Opposition Assad May Stay - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Western nations have indicated to the Syrian opposition that peace talks in Switzerland on Jan. 22 may not lead to the removal of President Assad and that his Alawite minority will remain key in any transitional administration, opposition sources said. The message was prompted by rise of al-Qaeda and other militant groups, and their takeover of a border crossing and arms depots near Turkey belonging to the moderate Free Syrian Army. A shift in Western priorities is seen, particularly in the U.S. and Britain, from removing Assad towards combating Islamist militants.
Signaling differences with Washington, Turkey has let a weapons consignment cross into Syria to the Islamic Front, the rebel group that overran the Bab al-Hawa border crossing last week, seizing arms and Western equipment supplied to non-Islamists.
A member of the Syrian opposition said Washington and Russia appeared to be working in tandem on a transitional framework in which Alawites would retain their dominant role in the army and security apparatus to assure their community against retribution and to rally a unified fight against al-Qaeda with moderate rebel brigades.
See also Some in U.S. See an Assad Victory as the Least of Evils - Zvi Bar'el
New voices are rising in Washington that Syrian President Bashar Assad could find quite comforting. Former CIA head Michael Hayden said he sees three possible outcomes for the Syrian struggle, none involving a victory for the rebels.
"Option three is Assad wins," Hayden said at the Jamestown Foundation conference of terror experts. "As ugly as it sounds, I'm kind of trending toward option three as the best out of three very, very ugly possible outcomes." The other two are an escalating war between Sunni and Shi'ite extremists and Syria's dissolution into battling cantons.
Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Syria, told the New York Times that "bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence." (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Report: U.S. Agrees Palestinians Must Recognize Israel as Jewish State - Jack Khoury
The U.S. has accepted Israel's position that any peace agreement with the Palestinians must include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Al-Hayat reported Tuesday, quoting senior Palestinian officials. The Americans are pressuring the Palestinians to agree to its inclusion in the framework agreement U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is formulating.
- U.S. Security Plan Included IDF Troops on Jordan Valley Highway - Adiv Sterman
The Palestinians rejected an American peace plan that would involve an Israeli military presence along Route 90, the Jordan Valley highway, located 5 km. from the Jordanian border. The proposed arrangement would see IDF control of a broad corridor in the Jordan Valley - not just a minimal stationing of Israeli soldiers along the border - for the first 10 years after the signing of a peace deal, Israel Channel 10 News reported Tuesday.
(Times of Israel)
- The Changing of the Tide in the Syrian Civil War - Itamar Rabinovich
The tide is changing in the Syrian civil war, with Bashar al-Assad and his regime gaining momentum.
A massive effort by Iran and its proxy, Hizbullah, in al-Qusayr in June 2013 secured control of a strategic location and was followed by slow, gradual advances in other areas. Overall, the regime is moving ahead in its effort to obtain control of Syria's central axis from Damascus to Aleppo, with extensions westward towards the Alawite region and the coast and southward in the direction of Daraa.
Ironically, the use of chemical weapons against its own population in August ended with an achievement of sorts for the regime that used them. It was given a new lease on life as it became an indispensable partner for the implementation of the American-Russian agreement.
On the ground, the Syrian National Council (SNC) is weak, divided, and devoid of influence. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) under General Salim Idris has not been able to become the dominant military organization. Jihadi groups, most notably al-Nusra Front and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), seem to be the most effective component of the opposition, but their vision, program, and conduct in the areas they control are abhorrent to the Syrians and to the international community.
The Saudis seem to be the major force behind the new "Islamic Front," an umbrella organization composed of several Islamist groups that are neither jihadi nor close to the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition, which in 2012 and early 2013 seemed to be able to defeat the regime, now seems unable to achieve this. The regime has momentum on its side, but its prospect of reestablishing itself effectively throughout Syria is dim.
The writer was Israel's Chief Negotiator with Syria (1992-1995) and Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (1993-1996).
(Institute for National Security Studies)
- Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone - Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
We believe that many of the West's policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East. This is a dangerous gamble, about which we cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by. While international efforts have been taken to remove the weapons of mass destruction used by the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, surely the West must see that the regime itself remains the greatest weapon of mass destruction of all.
The Assad regime is bolstered by the presence of Iranian forces in Syria. They are there to support an evil regime that is harming the Syrian people. It is a familiar pattern for Iran, which has financed and trained militias in Iraq, Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon and militants in Yemen and Bahrain.
Moreover, the West has allowed the Iranian government to continue its program for uranium enrichment, with all the consequent dangers of weaponization.
This year, for all their talk of "red lines," when it counted, our partners have seemed all too ready to concede our safety and risk our region's stability.
The writer is Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain.
(New York Times)
- The Long Shadow of Iran's Revolutionary Guards - Christian Emery
Since Iranian President Rouhani's election, the Revolutionary Guards have pushed back against his attempt to steer Iranian foreign policy towards a more conciliatory path. Relations between Rouhani and the Guards are now at their lowest point. Revolutionary Guards commander Maj.-Gen. Mohammad-Ali Jaafari issued a strong warning that the government must stand strong against the "enemy's excessive demands." He also accused Rouhani of being under the influence of Western ideas.
The real significance of the Geneva deal lies in how U.S. and Iranian diplomats seem to have finally persuaded each other of their good intentions. Yet from Jaafari's perspective, the West, and particularly America, is the enemy; it can only be relied on to undermine Iran and its revolutionary identity.
Jaafari holds to the "resistance" narrative that Rouhani explicitly campaigned against. While Rouhani sees concessions as a tactical necessity, Jaafari believes they are neither warranted nor necessary. The writer is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of Plymouth.
Israel, Palestine, and Democracy - Eugene Kontorovich (Commentary)
- Israelis are a fundamentally liberal, democratic people who desperately do not wish to be put in the role of overlords. But the reality is that Israel does not rule the Palestinians.
- It is true that the Palestinians are not represented in the Knesset. But Israeli residents of the West Bank are similarly not represented in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Simply put, both the Palestinians and Israelis vote for the legislature that regulates them. That is democracy.
- The Palestinians have developed an independent, self-regulating government that controls their lives as well as their foreign policy. They have been recognized as an independent state by the UN and have diplomatic relations with almost as many nations as Israel does. They have their own security forces, central bank, top-level Internet domain name, and a foreign policy entirely uncontrolled by Israel.
- The Palestinians govern themselves. To anticipate the inevitable comparison, this is not an Israeli-puppet "Bantustan." From their educational curriculum to their television content to their terrorist pensions, they implement their own policies without any subservience to Israel.
- The Palestinians now demand to increase the geographic scope of their legislative powers to "Area C," where 100% of the Jewish settlers live, some 400,000 people, and only 50-75,000 Arabs.
- The Palestinians rejected full independence and statehood on three separate occasions in the past twenty years. As part of their strategy, they perpetuate their semi-independence to maximize their diplomatic leverage. But that is not Israeli domination; that is Palestinian tactics. Imagine if Israel in 1948 refused to declare independence until all its territorial claims were satisfied.
The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert