Posted by Albert Gersh - September 22, 2013
- Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps statement deepens controversy over U.S.-Iran negotiations
- Iran Parades Advanced Missiles, Boasts It Can "Destroy" U.S. Naval Assets
- Palestinian officials blamed for incitement after two Israeli soldiers murdered
- Israel sends personnel to help end Kenya terror crisis
What we’re watching today:
- Top officials from Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned Iranian diplomats over the weekend that they were courting danger by diplomatically engaging the United States. A statement issued by the IRGC stated that "those who favor interaction" must "skeptically monitor the behavior of White House officials so that the righteous demands of our nation are recognized and respected." Newly inaugurated Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is traveling this week to the United States for what is expected to be a diplomatic whirlwind, while analysts are struggling to untangle the degree to which he has the freedom - let alone the intention - of negotiating with the West in a fruitful manner. Iran's foreign policy is set by the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has been very explicit and precise that he will permit Rouhani to negotiate with the West, but not if such negotiations approach making fundamental concessions. Earlier this year Khamenei explicitly forbade the eventual winner of Iran’s June presidential election from making concessions to the West. Ali Akbar Velayati, a top advisor to Khamenei on nuclear issues, told the Associated Press that – because Khamenei is ultimately in charge of Iran’s nuclear policy – Rouhani’s government would follow "the same trend strategically as the former government" and that Iran would "have to talk with a different language" and pursue the "same purposes but a different language." Last week a senior Iranian official ruled out the possibility that Tehran would curb its enrichment program.
- Iran on Sunday paraded through Tehran dozens of advanced missiles with ranges of up to 2,000 km, with Iranian media conveying boasts from Iranian military officials that they "have the necessary equipment to destroy American aircraft carries [sic] and warplanes in the Gulf." The military display, which coincided both with the anniversary of the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war and with what has been touted as an irenic trip to New York by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, involved 30 Ghadr and Sejil missiles, solid-fueled ballistic missiles. Iranian media outlets also carried boasts to the effect that such rockets had transformed Iran into a global power. A Pentagon report released earlier this year estimated that that Tehran could test an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015, especially given assistance it is widely suspected of receiving from rogue regimes.
- Two Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinians in recent days, rattling U.S.-backed peace negotiations and renewing criticism of Palestinian leaders accused of inciting violence and failing to prepare the Palestinian public for co-existence with the Jewish state. A 20-year-old soldier was kidnapped and murdered by a Palestinian co-worker on Friday and a second soldier was killed by a sniper on Sunday while protecting Jewish worshipers celebrating the holiday of Sukkot in the town of Hebron. Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders pointedly declined to condemn the murders, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas's office going so far as to declare itself unaware of any condemnations that may or may not have been issued by Palestinian officials. Another Palestinian official, Fatah central committee member Abbas Zaki, actually blamed Israel for the sniper attack. Observers have, for decades, expressed concerns that the glorification of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish terrorism - which has been conducted at the highest levels of the Palestinian political echelon - would endanger the prospects for a final negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli personnel joined the efforts of Kenyan officials seeking throughout the day to end a bloody three-day jihadist assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Early news reports described everything from active Israeli involvement in the fighting to Israeli assistance in helping the Nigerians formulate a "negotiating strategy," and by the end of the day Kenya's Interior Ministry announced that its forces were "in control" of the mall. Dozens in the mall have already been identified as killed. The attack on the reportedly Israeli-owned mall was widely blamed on Al-Shabaab, an Al Qaeda offshoot, but late-breaking reports describe Kenyan officials as blaming Al Qaeda and not Al-Shabaab proper. The Somalia-based Al-Shabaab has in recent years threatened to directly attack the Jewish state and its interests. For its part Al Qaeda is widely suspected of being involved in several terror attacks against Israeli targets in Kenya, including the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned Mombasa hotel that killed 15 people and was timed to coincide with the failed downing of an Israeli holiday jet carrying 261 passengers. Al-Shabaab condemned Israel for seeking to help Kenyan officials end the crisis.
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