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August 24, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Only 1/3 of Americans Approve President's Handling of Iran - Justin McCarthy (Gallup)
    Only one in three Americans approve of President Obama's handling of the situation in Iran - his lowest rating of eight issues measured in a Gallup survey conducted Aug. 5-9.
    See also Poll: Most Americans Would Reject Iran Nuclear Deal (Fox News)
    A poll conducted on Aug. 11-13 asked: If you were in Congress and had to vote on the recent deal with Iran, would you approve or reject the deal?
    31% would vote to approve the deal, while 58% would reject the deal.
    Asked if Iran can be trusted to honor the agreement, 18% said yes, while 75% said no. The Fox News Poll was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R).

Islamic State Accused of Using Mustard Gas in Syria - Louisa Loveluck (Telegraph-UK)
    Militants from Islamic State have been accused of using mustard gas in the battle around Aleppo in Syria. Doctors in Marea, 25 km. north of the city, said they had treated more than 30 patients with suppurating blisters in the wake of IS shelling.
    "If they are real, the injury photos look straight out of a textbook," said Colonel Hamish de Bretton Gordon, a chemical weapons expert who advises the British government.
    The attack follows a similar one two weeks ago in which Kurdish troops in northern Iraq complained of symptoms similar to those used in mustard gas attacks.

Islamic State Blows Up Palmyra's Ancient Temple of Baalshamin (BBC News)
    Islamic State militants have destroyed Palmyra's ancient temple of Baalshamin, Syrian officials say.
    The temple, built nearly 2,000 years ago and dedicated to the Phoenician god of storms and rains, had been almost totally intact.

Iraqi Kurdistan Selling Oil to Israel, Italy, Turkey and Greece - David Sheppard, John Reed and Anjli Raval (Financial Times-UK)
    Oil from Iraqi Kurdistan is reaching world markets, with Israel, Italy, Turkey and Greece emerging as big buyers.
    It is a trade conducted through secretive pre-pay deals brokered by some of the world's largest oil trading companies, including Vitol and Trafigura.
    Israeli refineries and oil companies imported more than 19m barrels of Kurdish oil between May 1 and Aug. 11, according to shipping data, trading sources and satellite tanker tracking.
    More than a third of all of the northern Iraqi exports, which are shipped from Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, went to Israel over the period.
    Analysts have suggested that Israeli purchases of Kurdish oil may be a way for Israel to funnel financial support to the Kurds.
    A senior Kurdish government adviser in Erbil said, "Our priority is getting the cash to fund our Peshmerga forces against Daesh [ISIS]."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Hopes for a "Resounding Moral Majority" on Iran Vote - Arad Nir
    A senior official in Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said they are hoping for a "resounding moral majority" in the Congressional vote on the nuclear agreement with Iran, even if it's not a "veto overruling majority." Netanyahu stresses in conversations that opposition to the deal is growing. He believes that Americans are concerned that the agreement increases the Iranian threat to the U.S. itself.
        Netanyahu believes that, in the long run, the greater the majority in Congress against the agreement, the greater the legitimacy Israel will enjoy when it points to Iranian violations of the agreement, which he has absolutely no doubt will be revealed. (Al-Monitor)
  • Prospect of Self-Inspections by Iran Feeds Opposition to Nuclear Deal - David E. Sanger
    The Parchin military base probably was a significant site for nuclear weapons research and experimentation a decade ago. The Parchin site has been bulldozed and rebuilt to the point that evidence of past work likely has vanished. But it has taken on a new, political importance in recent weeks, as a symbol of whether the IAEA is interested in conducting a real inspection or just checking the box to show that it asked questions, took samples and has taken the issue off the books.
        At the core of the dispute is a bargain Secretary of State Kerry made to get the Iran deal: He gave Tehran a pass on admitting its past work on nuclear weapons designs in return for a far stricter regime going forward. His negotiating team said it was clear that Iran would never confess to everything it may have done. (New York Times)
  • ISIS No. 2 Killed in U.S. Drone Strike in Iraq - Barbara Starr and Jim Acosta
    The no. 2 figure in ISIS, Haji Mutazz, was killed in an Aug. 18 drone strike on a car near Mosul, Iraq, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price announced Friday. Mutazz was in charge of ISIS operations in Iraq and was a key military planner. (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Quick Response to Rockets from Syria a Warning to Tehran - Yossi Melman
    The swift Israeli reaction on Thursday and Friday to the launching of four rockets from Syria at the Galilee and Golan shows how Israeli intelligence was prepared for such an attack. First, Syrian Army positions were attacked with artillery and missiles. Later, a senior Israeli officer named Saad Ezadi, in charge of the Israeli desk in the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, as responsible for ordering the rocket attacks. Revealing his name was a signal to the Iranians that we know a great deal about them.
        It was also good intelligence that enabled the Israel Air Force on Friday to strike the car carrying the Islamic Jihad operatives who fired the rockets, hitting them 15 km. inside Syria. Israel's response was aimed at warning Iran: Don't mess with us. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Netanyahu: Countries Rushing to Embrace Iran as It Directs Attacks on Israel
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday: "The countries that are rushing to embrace Iran should know that it was an Iranian commander who directed and supported the cell that fired at Israel."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel to UN: Denounce Iran for Perpetrating Missile Attacks from Syria
    Israeli Amb. Ron Prosor told the UN on Friday: On Thursday, four rockets were fired from Syrian territory and struck in Israel. This was an indiscriminate and premeditated terrorist attack against Israeli territory without any provocation from the Israeli side. The launching of these rockets is not a spillover from the ongoing war in Syria, but a deliberate attack on Israel.
        We have credible information that the attack was directed by Iran. The ink has not yet dried on the nuclear agreement, and Iran has already provided a clear indication that it will continue to act to destabilize the region. These acts offer a clear indication that Iran cannot be trusted to meet its commitments under the deal.
        I call on the Security Council to publicly condemn these attacks and to denounce Iran for its active and direct role in perpetrating acts of terror throughout the region. Just as this attack is not business as usual, your response to it cannot be the usual call for both sides to show restraint. This deliberate and unprovoked attack is the act of one side, and one side only. (Israel Mission to the UN)
  • Iran's Fingerprints Are Everywhere - Dan Margalit
    The rockets fired on Thursday were launched from an area ostensibly held by Syrian President Assad, not anti-regime insurgents. But Iran has been operating freely in that area. The rockets were just a taste of the new era heralded by the nuclear agreement, which will be defined by an increase in "Made in Iran" terrorism. The hefty sums to be raked in by the Islamic Republic will bolster it to increase the terrorist threat not just against Israel, but also against Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the entire West. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Future Risks of an Iran Nuclear Deal - David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon
    President Obama has been pressing the case that the sharp limits on how much nuclear fuel Iran can hold, how many centrifuges it can spin and what kind of technology it can acquire would make it extraordinarily difficult for Iran to race for the bomb over the next 15 years. His problem is that most of the significant constraints on Tehran's program lapse after 15 years - and, after that, Iran is free to produce uranium on an industrial scale.
        Even some of the most enthusiastic backers of the agreement say they fear Mr. Obama has oversold some of the accord's virtues as he asserts that it would "block" all pathways to a nuclear weapon. A more accurate description is that the agreement is likely to delay Iran's program. The administration's case essentially is that the benefits over the next 15 years overwhelmingly justify the longer-term risks of what comes after. (New York Times)
  • Pushback on the Israel-Bashers - Editorial
    In Spain, Jewish-American reggae singer Matisyahu performed Saturday at the Rototom Sunsplash festival. The organizers re-invited him after they'd canceled because of the BDS crew.
        Oprah Winfrey stood up to the thugs, too. A BDS "delegation" showed up at her magazine's New York offices this month, carrying a letter urging Oprah to publicly reject Israeli jeweler Lev Leviev's products. Neither Oprah nor her executives would even meet with the agitators. They even refused to accept the letter.
        In Paris this month, Mayor Anne Hidalgo dedicated an artificial beach to Tel Aviv - despite intense opposition from the BDS movement and its sympathizers in the French media. (New York Post)
  • Iran's Ayatollahs Will Never Be Friends of the UK - Con Coughlin
    British foreign secretary Philip Hammond is in Tehran to officiate at the re-opening of the British Embassy. After an Iranian mob stormed and then trashed the embassy compound in 2011, the Government insisted there would be no restoration of relations until the Iranians paid full compensation for the damage caused. But Britain has paid the full cost of the repairs.
        Make no mistake, so long as the ayatollahs remain in power, Iran will never be Britain's friend. Britain would be committing suicide if it abandoned its traditional Arab allies in the Gulf in favor of the Islamic fanatics who currently hold sway in Tehran. (Telegraph-UK)

U.S. Administration Played Catch-22 on Iran Deal - Eric Cortellessa interviews Emily Landau (Times of Israel)

Emily Landau, head of the arms control and regional security program at the Institute for National Security Studies based at Tel Aviv University, said in an interview:

  • People have short memories. Since the beginning of the negotiations, the Obama administration said to Congress, "Hold your fire." They actually used that term. The argument being, "You can't criticize the deal until you see what's in it." Then, once the deal is finalized, you can't criticize it, because then we will lose everything and the consequences will be catastrophic. It's a Catch-22.
  • The U.S. Congress is the only responsible body in the world that is really doing a very serious review of the deal. In European capitals, nobody is conducting any kind of review.
  • It's convenient for proponents of the deal to say that if only U.S. sanctions are in place, that won't mean anything without the coalition. But at the end of the day, U.S. financial sanctions are the most important. It would be better if the rest of the sanctions stayed in place, but the U.S. sanctions were what really made the changes. That's what started causing hardships.
  • Another option is that, because of this review in Congress, because of all the serious and dangerous flaws that do exist in this deal that were exposed, there might be internal pressure to close those holes and improve the deal.
  • Maybe Congress will be motivated to legislate new laws or mechanisms to deal with the problems that there are with verifications, and the sanctions, which it's pretty clear will not snap back.
  • The loopholes are a result of miscalculations and the way these negotiations unfolded. We saw how this played out. The administration made it very clear that it wanted a deal. It effectively let Iran know that the military option was off the table. All Iran had to do was not budge and the other side would continue to make concessions. That's how we got all these loopholes.

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