Posted by Albert Gersh - February 04, 2014
- Iran's former top nuclear negotiator: Tehran will never dismantle any centrifuges
- Observers: Iraqi sectarian violence risks downward spiral, potential state failure
- Reports: Iran "flagrantly violating international law" with surge in executions
- Shin Bet chief: No, failed peace negotiations won't trigger Palestinian terror wave
- Former Iranian top nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian told Iranian media in a recent interview that the Islamic republic will never agree to dismantle portions of its nuclear infrastructure, threatening to bring renewed focus to what has already become a contentious political debate over the degree to which the Obama administration has accurately conveyed the current interim agreement with Iran and the prospects for a comprehensive deal that would verifiably put the country’s nuclear program beyond use for weaponization. Mousavian’s statements echo those of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who told CNN in January that Iran had not committed to dismantling any centrifuges under the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA), and of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who told CNN in a separate interview that Tehran would not agree to dismantle any centrifuges under a final deal. The interviews were described as a "diplomatic trainwreck" by CNN host Fareed Zakaria and deepened analyst fears that Rouhani is either unable or unwilling to deliver a robust comprehensive deal. White House efforts at dismissing the significance of the boasts were met with borderline derision by journalists. An extended analysis published last month by the U.S.-based Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) calculated that any deal purporting to realistically put off Iranian weaponization would minimally require the country to remove 15,000 centrifuges, shut down its uranium-enriching underground military bunker at Fordow, downgrade the reactor at its plutonium-production facility at Arak, and agree to a 20-year inspection regime.
- Sectarian violence in and around Bahgdad killed seven people on Tuesday, extending bloodshed that in January had claimed more than 1,000 lives - the worst monthly figure in nearly six years - and deepening fears that Iraq may be entering into a cycle of instability that risks outright state failure. Monday had seen violence in the area that killed at least 16 people, with suspected Al Qaeda-linked terrorists detonating a series of car bombs. The Iraqi army has been pressing a counter-insurgency campaign in the Anbar province, attempting to uproot the extensive jihadist infrastructure in the region. The violence threatens to strain the central government's ability to quite literally hold the country together, and Kurdish media in Iraq has taken to openly speculating that northern Kurdish areas will formally seek independence in the coming years. Meanwhile it is unclear whether growing divisions inside the Sunni extremist camp - Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri this week formally disassociated the organization from its former Iraqi affiliate - will weaken the insurgency or generate further splintering.
- The Washington Times on Monday conveyed reports indicating that a surge in executions has taken place inside Iran since the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani - now reaching "about 66 people per month, 19 more per month than during the 2-year period before... [he] took office" – with the result being that the country is now "flagrantly violating international law." Last October, Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, assessed that there had been no fundamental improvements in Iran’s human rights situation under the administration of the revolutionary-era cleric. In late January, The New York Times conveyed further statements by Shaheed reiterating that 'the more moderate tone adopted on human rights since... Rouhani’s election last year has yet to yield any moderation in the country’s punitive practices.' The more recent Times report quoted an anonymous U.S. intelligence official suggesting that Rouhani is not responsible for among other things the increased tempo of hangings, but rather that Rouhani's domestic opponents are attempting to smear his image as a moderate. The explanation may prove difficult to sustain when read against Rouhani's cabinet appointments, the timeline of executions since he was inaugurated, and other data points relevant to his government’s human rights stance. Rouhani's justice minister, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, is notorious for having overseen the executions of literally tens of thousands of jailed dissidents in the years after the country's Islamic revolution, and had decades ago been dubbed by Human Rights Watch a "minister of murder." The current execution spike began almost immediately after Rouhani took over - and has continued apace - prompting Amnesty International to recently declare that the Rouhani government's attempts to boost Iran's "international image" are "meaningless if at the same time executions continue to increase."
- The chief of Israel's Shin Bet security agency on Tuesday downplayed predictions that stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would lead to an escalation of terrorism against Israeli civilians, reportedly telling the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that "the amount of terror attacks is also a result of internal problems in the Palestinian street." Yoram Cohen’s statements came amid an uptick in Palestinian violence, and some diplomats and analysts have suggested that a third Intifada may break out should negotiations completely collapse. His testimony rejecting such assessments aligns with Israeli analysis linking the surge in attacks to internal Palestinian political dynamics. Palestinian negotiators have repeatedly rejected security concerns raised by Jerusalem - most prominently Israel's demand, backed by Jordan, that it maintain forces along the Jordanian border to prevent terrorist infiltrations - and talks over securing a final peace agreement have concomitantly slowed despite a series of Israel confidence building measures.
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