Posted by Albert Gersh - August 28, 2013
- Iran installs over 1,000 next-generation centrifuges regime positioned for undetectable breakout by mid-2014
- Iran: "Flames of outrage" will engulf Israel if West strikes Syria
- In regional deja vu, Sinai instability threatens international peacekeeping force
- Organisation of Islamic Cooperation calls for "decisive action" against Syria
What we’re watching today:
- Iran has made progress in locking in the nuclear infrastructure needed to rush across the nuclear finish line undetected, installing over 1,000 IR-2m centrifuges at its Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, according to a report [PDF] released today by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The quarterly report from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog also notes that Tehran has installed another 1,861 less-advanced IR-1 centrifuges at Natanz, which the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) notes puts the regime on track to achieve a "'critical capability' as of mid-2014, or perhaps sooner." At stake are the evaluations of some analysts that the West would be able to detect a political decision by Tehran to go nuclear and intervene to block it. Iran's enhanced uranium enrichment capabilities strain those assumptions. Instead, Iran is set to achieve a pace and scope of enrichment that would allow it to enrich a sufficient amount of weapons-grade nuclear material "before inspectors could detect the breakout." ISIS does note "positive aspects" in the report, describing an IAEA assessment that Iran has made only 10 fuel assemblies for its Arak heavy water reactor, falling short of its goal of having 55 assemblies. The reactor is part of a larger Arak complex, which includes a reactor that - if brought online - would enable Iran to produce plutonium sufficient for two nuclear bombs every year.
- Iranian officials reemphasized Tuesday that Israel would be targeted in the aftermath of Western strikes against Syria, echoing threats made by both Iran and Syria throughout the weekend and into Monday. Mansur Haqiqatpur, who The New York Times describes as 'an influential member of Parliament', announced that a U.S. strike against Damascus would engender "flames of outrage" toward the Jewish state. His comments echo those made earlier in the week by Hossein Sheikholeslam, the director of Parliament's International Affairs Committee, threatening that that Israel would be the "first victim" of such a strike. They also align with rhetoric being issued from Damascus, including declarations that Israel will "burn with the fire of war." In April, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, threatened the Jewish state with annihilation if Syria was attacked. The eliminationist rhetoric - to say nothing of the explicit, repeated, and consistent threats against a close American ally - is unlikely to boost the cases of analysts who suggest that moderates in Iran may prevail in shifting the Islamic republic's foreign policy posture.
- Deepening instability in the Sinai Peninsula is straining peacekeeping forces in the territory, generating fears that the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) may soon find itself endangered by the same dynamics that have imperiled peacekeeping forces across the Middle East. The MFO, which serves as the guarantor of the 1979 peace treaty between Cario and Jerusalem, has recently had to up security around its northern base in response to an uptick in violence across the Peninsula. Last week at least 25 Egyptian police officers were killed in "execution-style" slayings by suspected jihadists. The MFO is not the only international peacekeeping force in the Middle East being buffeted by regional uncertainty and violence. The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been pointedly threatened by Hezbollah, and Turkey is in the process of withdrawing parts of its contribution from the mission. The peacekeeping force patrolling the Israeli-Syrian border (UNDOF), meanwhile, has seen several countries withdraw their contributions in recent months.
- The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a 57-member state bloc described as "the collective voice of the Muslim world," on Wednesday called for "decisive action" against Syria in response to what is widely suspected to be the use of chemical weapons by the regime against rebel-controlled suburbs of Damascus. An OIC statement described the assault as "a blatant affront to all religious and moral values and a deliberate disregard of international laws and norms," and called on the United Nations Security Council to take "a unified position against this monstrous crime and its perpetrators." The stance echoes even more definitive declarations from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a consortium of Gulf states regionally aligned against Iran and Iranian-backed elements - including the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon - which earlier condemned the attack and called on the international community to take action. Divisions along sectarian lines, driven by the Syrian conflict, have been generating steadily increasing tensions. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal last June accused Damascus of conducting "genocide" against largely Sunni rebel forces.
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