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March 9, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Cruise Missile Could Strike Targets beyond 2,000 Km. (Defense Update-Israel)
    Iran on Sunday unveiled a new, long-range, surface-launched, land attack cruise missile called "Soumar."
    The missile seems to be a variant of the "Meshkat" cruise missile, announced by the director of the Iranian Defense Ministry's Aerospace Organization, Brig.-Gen. Mehdi Farahi in 2012. "The Meshkat cruise missile, which God willing will be unveiled soon, has a range of more than 2,000 km.," Farahi told the Iranian media at the time.
    The Soumar bears close similarity to the Russian Kh55SM cruise missile. Iran acquired 12such missiles fromthe Ukraine in 2001.
    An interesting capability introduced by the Russian missile manufacturer AGAT is a containerized version - Club K, enabling the launching of cruise missiles from "innocent looking" cargo ships, rail cars or trucks, a practice the Iranians, Syrians and Hizbullah have sought to employ.

Iran Leader Appears in Public amid Rumors about His Health (AP-CBS News)
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 75, made a public appearance Sunday amid rumors about his health.

Hamas Focuses on Rebuilding Tunnels as Gazans Suffer - Shlomi Eldar (Al Monitor)
    Hamas has been investing great efforts in rebuilding its system of tunnels in Gaza. The project employs hundreds of Palestinian workers and numerous trucks, tractors, and heavy machinery.
    Gaza residents have noted that the areas near the Israeli border are teeming with trucks moving earth. Hamas has declared the areas off-limits and has posted guards to stand watch.
    The rampant tunnel reconstruction is also indicative of the warped priorities of Hamas. Once again, Hamas is investing its scant resources on preparing for the next war.
    See also After Gaza War Losses, Islamic Jihad Bounces Back - Adel Zaanoun (AFP)
    In a tunnel dug deep underneath Gaza, masked gunmen from Islamic Jihad ferry rockets and mortars back and forth, preparing for the next conflict with Israel.
    Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades lost 123 men in the 2014 war, but fired 3,249 rockets at Israel including Iranian-made Fajr 5 missiles. Its manpower is estimated at 10-15,000 fighters.
    "Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad have openly declared that they are rebuilding tunnels and testing rockets," said IDF spokesman Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner.
    In Khan Yunis, some 200 new recruits are training at a camp, jumping through flaming hoops and shouting "Death to Israel! Death to America!"
    See also In Gaza, Abbas' Fatah Practices Attacking IDF Positions - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
    Fatah's armed wing in Gaza carried out a military exercise Friday simulating the takeover and bombing of IDF positions, the Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen reported Sunday.
    During the 2014 Gaza war, Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Israeli cities.

Prince William Meets Israeli Aid Workers in Japan - Rosa Doherty (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Prince William greeted IsraAID workers in Japan last week as he visited areas hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
    The Israeli aid agency has been providing psychological support to children affected by the disaster.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: Iranian Nuclear Deal "a Matter of Survival" for Israel - Bob Schieffer
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told "Face the Nation" on Sunday: I respect President Obama. I expressed appreciation in my speech in Congress, as I do now, for the many things that he's done for Israel. We share the same goal of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but we disagree on how to do it.
        I do not trust inspections with totalitarian regimes. It didn't work with North Korea. It didn't work with Iran. Under the nose of inspectors, they built two underground bunkers that the inspectors didn't know about for years. What I'm suggesting is that you contract Iran's nuclear programs, so there's less to inspect.
        It's a matter of survival, really, for the State of Israel, for the security of the Middle East, for the security of the world, and also for the United States. The current proposal enables Iran to have a vast nuclear infrastructure, which means a very short breakout time to the bomb. The better deal is to increase the breakout time, to limit Iran's infrastructure, and to condition the lifting of restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to a change in Iran's behavior, to have it stop instigating aggression against its neighbors and stop threatening the annihilation of Israel.
        Schieffer: A Saudi newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported that the U.S. plans to offer some Arab states a so-called nuclear umbrella as protection against Iran.
    Netanyahu: If it's true, it raises two troubling questions. The first is, it means that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Otherwise, why offer Gulf states nuclear protection? And the second is, it signals a shift in U.S. policy from preventing a nuclear Iran to containing one. (CBS News)
  • France: Iran Nuclear Commitments Do Not Go Far Enough - Adrian Croft
    Commitments offered by Iran in talks with six world powers on its nuclear program do not go far enough and more work needs to be done, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday. "There has been progress but as far as the volume, checks and duration of the envisaged commitments are concerned, the situation is still insufficient, so there is more work to be done," he said. (Reuters)
  • The Islamic State Appears to Fray from Within - Liz Sly
    The Islamic State appears to be starting to fray from within, as dissent, defections and setbacks on the battlefield sap the group's strength and erode its aura of invincibility. Reports of rising tensions between foreign and local fighters, increasingly unsuccessful attempts to recruit local citizens for the front lines, and a growing incidence of guerrilla attacks against Islamic State targets suggest the militants are struggling to sustain their carefully cultivated image.
        "We're seeing basically a failure of the central tenet of ISIS ideology, which is to unify people of different origins under the caliphate," said Lina Khatib, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. "This is not working on the ground. It is making them less effective in governing and less effective in military operations."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • EU Diplomats Say PA Not Doing Enough to Reconstruct Gaza - Barak Ravid
    Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain protested to the Palestinian Authority last week that it was not doing enough to rebuild Gaza. Envoys from the five nations met last Thursday with Alon Ushpiz, a senior diplomat in the Israel Foreign Ministry, where they complimented Israel's cooperation with the UN's reconstruction apparatus, Israel's doubling of the water supply to Gaza and its easing of export restrictions from Gaza. One European diplomat said, "The Israelis are removing hurdles and assisting reconstruction. At the same time, reconstruction is still stuck because of the internal fights on the Palestinian side."
        The European diplomats said their consuls general held a meeting with senior PA officials several days earlier, in which they conveyed a sharp protest to the PA leadership over their lack of sufficient cooperation regarding reconstruction in Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • How Real Is the Threat to Cut Palestinian Security Cooperation with Israel? - Yoni Ben Menachem
    On March 5, the PLO Central Committee decided to end security coordination with Israel. Yet Abbas' associates soon explained that this was merely a "recommendation." Abbas knows that ending security coordination with Israel will harm the Palestinians most of all. Just a few months ago, Israel rescued Abbas' rule when the Israel Security Agency apprehended an extensive Hamas network in the West Bank that had planned to destabilize the PA with a series of attacks. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Abbas Orders Arrest of Dozens of Hamas Operatives in West Bank - Noam Amir
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas is behind a security operation in the West Bank that saw PA forces arrest dozens of Hamas operatives early Monday who planned to carry out attacks in the coming week. An Israeli security source emphasized that PA incitement against Israel still exists, but alongside it, one can clearly see efforts to frustrate terror attacks. (Jerusalem Post-Maariv Hashavua)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israeli Intelligence Questions Washington's Claim on Iran Nuclear Breakout Time - Robert Satloff
    Achieving a year's warning about Iran's effort to break out is the centerpiece of the Obama administration's argument in defense of the emerging deal. Yet conversations with two long-time Israeli defense officials confirmed that Israeli intelligence disputes the claim that the proposed deal's collective elements will provide one year of warning. They not only questioned how U.S. analysts can know with certainty that warning time will remain intact in year five or year ten of an agreement, but also suggested that Israel believes warning time could be considerably less than claimed.
        Since Israel's security and intelligence establishment has not been viewed as a cheerleader for the prime minister's overall Iran policy, its analysis of the breakout issue will not be easily dismissed; instead, it is likely to be given substantial credence in U.S. policy and political circles. For the administration, a fight against Israeli intelligence poses a very different set of challenges than a fight against Israeli political leaders. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Blaming Israel for Gaza's Reconstruction Delays is Wilfull Ignorance - Daniel Taub
    Israel has cooperated fully with the Gaza reconstruction mechanism (GRM) established by the UN and has so far facilitated the entry of over 62,000 tons of construction supplies to Gaza. This is corroborated by the PA's own figures, which confirm that stocks of all key materials, including cement, aggregate, and re-bar (steel) remain in surplus.
        Yet donors remain unconvinced that Hamas genuinely wants to rebuild Gaza's homes, and not Gaza's tunnels. Earlier this month, the UN's under-secretary general, Jeffrey Feltman, cited the delay in the disbursement of international aid as a major obstacle to reconstruction.
        Under the GRM, the PA bears primary responsibility for coordinating reconstruction. Yet a power struggle between Hamas and the PA for control of Gaza has degenerated into violence and recriminations, and has taken precedence over the rebuilding effort. This has led the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, to tell Al-Hayat, "The internal differences and the absence of cooperation between the PA and Hamas are behind the delay in reconstructing the Gaza Strip."  The writer is the Israeli ambassador to the UK. (Guardian-UK)
  • Iran's Nuclear Sunset: A Strategically Fatal Deal - Majid Rafizadeh
    The Iranians have obtained an unprecedented level of compromises from the White House, removing crucial restrictions against Iran's nuclear program, ensuring the lifting of sanctions as well as the ultimate legal right and international legitimacy to become a nuclear threshold state. More fundamentally, the objectives of halting Iran's nuclear program permanently have altered into limiting Iran's nuclear ambitions for a period of time while removing the sanctions, and ultimately rewarding Tehran with a sunset period which will ensure that Iran will be a nuclear state after 10 years.
        The primary objective of the nuclear talks was to halt Iran's nuclear program permanently, hence eliminating the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the region, and removing the strategic threat that a nuclear armed Iran might pose in the region through its regional hegemonic ambitions.
        The argument that Iran's political system will change dramatically and fundamentally within 10 years is totally unrealistic. In fact, a nuclear deal with a sunset clause is but a temporary deal thoroughly rewarding Iran, ensuring a nuclear arm race in the region, and further destabilizing the region. The writer is an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar at Harvard University. (Al Arabiya)

What Iran Won't Say about the Bomb - William J. Broad and David E. Sanger (New York Times)

  • With negotiators facing a deadline later this month to cut a basic agreement with Iran on the fate of its nuclear program, they are also discussing whether a final deal should compel Tehran to reveal the depth of its atomic knowledge.
  • That inner debate, said one European official, turns on "whether to force Iran to explain its past" - especially before 2003, when American intelligence officials believe Iran operated a full-scale equivalent of the Manhattan Project.
  • How fully will Iran have to answer questions it has avoided for years from UN inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna?
  • "Iran's most serious verification shortcoming," Olli Heinonen, the former chief inspector, now at Harvard, said recently, "remains its unwillingness to address concerns about the past and possibly ongoing military dimensions of its nuclear program."
  • One solution, analysts suggest, would be the gradual lifting of sanctions in step with the investigators certifying that Tehran was finally answering their longstanding queries.

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