Posted by Albert Gersh - October 20, 2013
- Experts: Partial deal on Iranian enrichment "more likely to increase... tensions than to defuse them," risks nuclear arms race
- Turkey blasted as U.S. officials confirm Erdogan government burned Israeli spies working in Iran
- Two young girls among four dead in attack on Egypt Christians
- Observers: Assad regime waging "terror-famine" against Syrian civilians
What we’re watching today:
- Washington Institute Managing Director Michael Singh late last week sought to outline what a nuclear deal with Iran would look like if the Obama administration and its allies pursue a strategy that holds out on sanctions relief until Iran takes long-understood steps to meet roughly a half-dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions calling on it to dismantle its nuclear program. Singh emphasizes that a partial deal on uranium enrichment would, to be meaningful, require Iran to undertake a variety of transparency measures that Tehran seems unwilling to consider. In recent days Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani has in fact warned that Iran could step up work at its nuclear facilities if the West presses too hard for concessions related to the country’s atomic program. In the absence of a "strategic shift by Iran" to open up its program, Singh describes how the U.S.'s regional allies "would distrust Iranian intentions" even as Iran "would bristle at the intrusiveness of inspections" necessary to assure the deal. Under those conditions "a deal on limited enrichment" structured around sanctions relief would be "more likely to increase... tensions than to defuse them," and would risk a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Singh instead outlines "a second, more straightforward path to an agreement," under which Iran would have to fully dismantle its program. Singh's description comes as U.S. lawmakers are said to be increasingly warming to a proposal under which Iran would be provided with financial non-sanctions relief in exchange for confidence-building measures related to its nuclear program. The framework was first proposed by Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and described by Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg.
- U.S. officials have confirmed to The Daily Beast the details of a Washington Postreport revealing that Turkey last year deliberately burned roughly 10 spies who were working for Israel in Iran on the country's nuclear program. The Daily Beast quotes former Israeli Mossad chief Danny Yatom describing the move as "an act that brings the Turkish intelligence organization to a position where I assume no one will ever trust it again," while a CIA officer compared the incident to the betrayal of the Cambridge Five, the network of Soviet moles who provided highly sensitive intelligence to Moscow at the dawn of the Cold War. Ankara has categorically denied that it shopped the Iranians to Tehran, but over the weekend Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lashed out at critics and declared that - if the story is true - then Turkey's intelligence chief Hakan Fidan would have been just "doing his job" by "not letting other intelligence agencies operate in Turkey." It is unlikely that Turkish allies will gladly greet the announcement that Turkish soil is closed to friendly intelligence operations targeting rogue regimes. Meanwhile Turkish diplomatic correspondent Cumali Onal slammed the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for economic and geopolitical missteps that have resulted in Ankara's prestige and influence sliding precipitously. Onal warned that Erdogan's Islamist government was risking diplomatic isolation, and specifically cited Erdogan's continuing hostility toward Israel.
- Two young girls were among the four people killed outside a church Sunday in the Egyptian city of Giza, the latest in what the Associated Press described in early August as a "stepped-up hate campaign" against the country’s Coptic Christian community. Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, subsequently described the wave of anti-Christian attacks as the worst organized violence that Egyptian Copts have faced in 700 years. Islamist supporters of Egypt's former president Mohammed Morsi had within weeks of his early July overthrow begun targeting Christians across the country, blaming them in part for the overthrow of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood-linked government. Scores of Christian churches, homes, businesses, and community centers have been destroyed, and roughly 10 Christians have been murdered in the violence. The concentrated, continuing violence is likely to deepen skepticism that the Muslim Brotherhood is willing to form a pluralistic government guaranteeing equal rights and protections to Egypt's religious minorities.
- The Bashar al-Assad regime is engaged in what journalists are describing as a "terror-famine," with half a dozen people already confirmed dead from starvation and the situation likely to worsen as winter takes hold. Regime forces have been strangling rebel-held towns of all humanitarian supplies for almost a year, and a group of Syrian clerics recently had to issue a fatwa allowing war victims to eat cats, dogs, and donkeys for sustenance. Violence has complicated efforts by regime opponents and humanitarian workers to deliver aid to besieged Syrians. Over the weekend, more than 30 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a military checkpoint in central Syria. The attack was linked to the Al Nusra front, an Al Qaeda offshoot, and came just a day after another suicide bombing in Damascus killed more than a dozen people. Seven Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers were recently kidnapped in northwestern Syria, and the fighting has prevented medical personnel from conducting immunization campaigns. The World Health Organization reports that it is receiving reports of a polio outbreak, the first in more than a decade, inside Syria.
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