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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
April 1, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Militia Chief: Destroying Israel Is "Non-negotiable" - Lazar Berman (Times of Israel)
    Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij militia of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, said that "erasing Israel off the map" is "non-negotiable," Israel Radio reported Tuesday.

5,000 Yemini Shias Have Been Brought to Iran for Indoctrination - Dore Gold (Facebook)
    According to well-connected Yemeni sources, Iran has hosted 5,000 Yemini Shias in religious seminaries in Qom and subsidized their indoctrination in Iran's radical ideology.

UK University Event Questioning Israel's Right to Exist Is Cancelled - Haroon Siddique (Guardian-UK)
    A conference at the University of Southampton discussing the right of Israel to exist has been cancelled.
    The conference had been condemned by the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Zionist Federation UK, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Caroline Noakes, MP for Romsey and Southampton.

The Battle for Idlib, Syria: Military Implications - Jeffrey White (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    The Syrian regime suffered an important defeat over the past few days, losing the long-held capital of Idlib province to a coalition of rebel forces dominated by Islamist fighters. Jabhat al-Nusra was a significant participant but not the only one.
    This was a fight by Syrian regime personnel - not Hizbullah, not Iranians - and they were not up to the task. This raises doubts about their ability to hold other places that are not bolstered by allied forces.
    The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute and a former senior defense intelligence officer.
    See also Nusra Front Quietly Rises in Syria as Islamic State Targeted - Bassem Mroue (AP-Washington Post)
    The Nusra Front, Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate, is consolidating power in territory stretching from the Turkish border to central and southern Syria, crushing moderate opponents.
    Its membership, largely composed of Syrian nationals, refuse any negotiations with the government of President Assad.
    "The Nusra Front will most likely outlast ISIS in Syria," said Fawaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.
    The Nusra Front has carried out public lashings, crucifixions and kidnappings - though it has not publicized the atrocities like the Islamic State.
    Among the group's most worrisome action so far is forcing several hundred members of the minority Druze sect living in Idlib's Jabal al-Summaq region to convert to Sunni Islam.

Iran vs. the Rest of the World - Salman Aldossary (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The Saudi-led operation in Yemen is not targeting just the Houthi rebels, but also Iran's expansionist ambitions in the region, and its local allies and agents in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain.
    Everybody in the world is facing a clear choice: You are either with Iran or with the entire rest of the world.
    The writer is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obstacles Persist as Talks on Iran's Nuclear Program Move into Overtime - Carol Morello
    Negotiators scrambling to chart Iran's nuclear future said Wednesday that several "key issues" remain unresolved. The Obama administration had committed itself to reach a broad political agreement by March 31, with three additional months to nail down many complex details. However, the negotiations blew past the Tuesday deadline as Secretary of State Kerry announced that he would be staying at least one more day.
        White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama's patience with the negotiations is not limitless. "If we're not able to reach a political agreement, then we're not going to wait all the way until June 30th to walk away."  (Washington Post)
        See also As Nuclear Talks Drag On, U.S. and Iran Find It Harder to Hear Each Other - David E. Sanger
    At the nuclear negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Americans talk, in a wonderfully American way, about numbers and limits, while Iranian officials talk almost entirely about their rights and preserving respect for Iran's sense of sovereignty. Iranian negotiators are reluctant to sign any paper that lays out too many specifics about what they would give up or put in storage, or how much nuclear fuel they would either hand over to the Russians or dilute. "They are all about symbolism, about avoiding the optics of backing down," one senior American official at the center of the negotiations said. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Resumes Military Aid to Egypt Suspended Since 2013 - Missy Ryan
    The U.S. will resume suspended military aid to Egypt, enabling the transfer of a dozen F-16 fighter jets, 20 Harpoon missiles and up to 125 U.S. Abrams M1A1 tank kits, the White House said Tuesday. But the U.S. will no longer allow Egypt to purchase military equipment on credit and will earmark future aid for specific activities related to U.S. counterterrorism goals.
        The announcement reverses a decision announced in October 2013, several months after a military coup that deposed elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi. "We are not walking away from the promotion of human rights and political reform in Egypt," a senior administration official said. "We're just trying to make sure Egypt is well equipped to deal with genuine threats to its security, and ours."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: "Iran's Breakout Time Has Been Reduced to Less than a Year, Probably Much Less"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset on Tuesday: "The greatest threat to our security and to our future was and remains Iran's effort to arm itself with nuclear weapons. The agreement being formulated in Lausanne paves the way to this outcome. It seems that it will leave in Iran's possession underground installations, the nuclear reactor at Arak and advanced centrifuges, the same things that only a few months ago we were told - and rightly so - were not essential to a nuclear program designed for peaceful purposes."
        "Iran's breakout time for achieving fissile material for nuclear bombs will not be measured in years, as was said at the outset; in our assessment the time has been reduced to less than a year, probably much less. And all of this is before taking into account the ballistic missiles that Iran is continuing to manufacture, the ongoing development of advanced centrifuges, Iran's obdurate refusal to reveal to the IAEA its activities to develop nuclear weapons and, I add, Iran's campaign of conquest and terrorism - which is open to all, everyone sees it, before our very eyes - from the Golan Heights to Yemen, from Iraq to Gaza and so many other places."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Ex-Intelligence Chief: If Iran's Uranium Isn't Exported, U.S. Will Have Failed with Deal - Lazar Berman
    Former head of IDF Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said Tuesday that the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran would be a "bad deal" if it is finalized around the terms that have been made public. He told Israel Radio that three "core technical issues" are still not agreed upon - research and development, the military aspects of Iran's nuclear program, and the shipping out of fissile material to a third country.
        "Without the export of the 7-8 tons of low-enriched uranium, the Americans do not have the goal they set" of keeping Iran a year away from enough fuel for a nuclear weapon, said Yadlin. He added that there were "many alternatives between a bad deal and military action," such as new, harsher sanctions and covert action. (Times of Israel)
        See also Be "Very Worried" about Iran Deal, Says Ex-Israel Security Agency Head - Lazar Berman
    Former Israel Security Agency head and public security minister Avi Dichter said Tuesday that Israel has "good reasons to be worried, even very worried" about a potential nuclear deal with Iran. He emphasized that Iran has "moved from a position of isolation, of losing its northern axis - Iraq, Syria and Lebanon," and "suddenly becomes the favorite son of the West in general, and the U.S. in particular."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The UN's War on Israel - Ron Prosor
    The once great global body - the United Nations - has been overrun by repressive regimes that violate human rights and undermine international security. Since 2012, the 120-member-strong bloc known as the Non-Aligned Movement has been chaired by Iran, which has used its position to bolster its allies and marginalize Israel. Later this year, chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement will transfer to Venezuela, Iran's ally.
        In 2013, Iran was elected to the committee responsible for disarmament - even as it continued its nuclear expansion, support for terrorism and the destruction of Israel. In the 2014-15 session alone, the General Assembly adopted about 20 resolutions critical of Israel, while the human rights situations in Iran, Syria and North Korea merited just one condemnation apiece. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the UN. (New York Times)
  • Behind the Saudi Military Intervention in Yemen - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
    The Saudis are exasperated by the Obama administration's courtship of Iran - the same Iran that supports their enemies in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq, and claims control of four Arab capitals (Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana'a). With its military intervention in Yemen, Saudi Arabia decided it was time to draw the line between the two main camps fighting over hegemony in the Middle East - the Iran-led axis versus the moderate-Arab camp led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia - and demanded that the U.S. choose sides.
        Even Turkey provided logistical support, verbally attacked Iran and called on Iran and the militant groups to withdraw from Yemen.
        Moderate Arab countries are hoping to create a pan-Arab intervention force to back regimes under attack by Sunni jihadists. Egyptians have pointed to Libya as being the next target for an Arab military intervention. The writer was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Arab Liberals Have Been Betrayed - Hanin Ghaddar
    For years, we've been preached to by visiting American diplomats and think-tankers and journalists about the virtues of democracy. We've been told that if we speak out to defend our rights, we will be supported by America. And now we've been betrayed.
        For many liberal Arab citizens like me, it looks like the U.S. is siding with the Shiites against the Sunnis. It is helping Assad, Hizbullah, and other allies of Iran stay in power. The U.S. has picked the Resistance axis over helping potential democracies to grow. In Lebanon, where I live, Hizbullah - an organization sponsored and directed by America's new Iranian partner - has repeatedly used force to block every effort toward democracy or reform.
        Why is Iran, which has one of the worst human rights records in the region, and which has and still is using violence all over the region, a potential ally to the U.S.? The writer is managing editor of NOW-Lebanon and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council. (Tablet)

Deal or No, Iran Will Remain a Nuclear Threat - Dennis Ross (Politico)

  • The tentative framework understanding that the P5+1 is now finalizing with Iran represents progress toward constraining the Iranian nuclear program. However, the claim of the Obama administration that any eventual agreement will block all pathways toward an Iranian nuclear weapon is surely an overstatement. At best, a deal will create impediments for the life of the agreement but offer little afterward.
  • The agreement does not reflect the objective we had hoped to achieve for much of President Obama's first term. At that point, when I was in the administration, our aim was to transform the character of the Iranian nuclear program so that the peaceful intent of its capabilities would be demonstrated unmistakably to the international community. That meant that Iran could not have a large nuclear infrastructure.
  • At some point, the Obama administration changed its objective, reflecting a judgment that we were not able to alter Iranian intentions, so instead we needed to focus on constraining their capabilities. But by definition, when we speak about a one-year breakout time, we are accepting that Iran will have the means and infrastructure to produce nuclear weapons.
  • If the measure of the negotiations is now about breakout time, then the administration needs to show convincingly that the verification regime will be far-reaching and capable of detecting whatever the Iranians are doing and whenever they do it.
  • Moreover, for those who say that one year is not enough time because even discovery of a violation does not ensure a response, the administration will need to explain why this agreement will not function like other arms control agreements, where questions related to noncompliance have historically bogged down in endless discussions.

    Amb. Dennis Ross is a long-time U.S. Mideast negotiator.

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