Posted by Albert Gersh - October 22, 2013
- Security insiders worry U.S. "relaxing position Iran must halt uranium enrichment," "moving to a containment strategy"
- Turkey PM lashes out at NATO after West criticizes China missile deal
- Israel set to release Palestinian prisoners in goodwill gesture, despite upsurge in terrorism
- Reports: Israel strikes convoy of advanced weapons heading toward Hezbollah
What we’re watching today:
The insidery security bulletin NightWatch overnight
assessed that the U.S. appears to be "relaxing its longstanding policy position that Iran must halt uranium enrichment" and is instead "moving to a containment strategy, which it has rejected consistently and as recently as last summer," with the turning point marked by "President [Hassan Rouhani's] election and change of style not substance." The evaluation comes a week after a round of nuclear negotiations between the international community and Iran in Geneva, during which time Iran reportedly presented a proposal that one former official described as "allow[ing] them to keep their whole program and all their enriched uranium." The New York Times subsequently explained that Iran has in the last year installed thousands of new centrifuges, many of them more sophisticated than ones installed in the past, and that the country's "nuclear abilities have advanced so far" that letting Iranian scientists continue to enrich uranium would leave Tehran with the ability to sneak across the nuclear finish line. Nonetheless Iran has publicly signaled that the international community's demands that it halt enrichment, codified in half a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions, is a non-starter. Instead Iranian negotiators reportedly offered to allow more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities. Even that concession, however, may be beyond the willingness or ability of Rouhani to provide. The Iranian foreign ministry declared on Tuesday that approval of the so-called Additional Protocol that would codify such inspections was reserved for the Iranian parliament. Last Saturday, however, Iranian Parliament Member Mansour Haqiqatpour declared that the Iranian parliament would not consider the Additional Protocol unless the U.S. lifted sanctions. It is unlikely that U.S. lawmakers would consent to shattering the sanctions regime on the hope that Iran would reciprocate by making what would in any case be a limited concession. One alternative under consideration, created by Foundation for Defense of Democracies Executive Director Mark Dubowitz and first outlined by Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, would have the U.S. provide limited non-sanctions financial relief, in the form of now-frozen Iranian assets, in exchange for limited Iranian concessions.
- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday lashed out against NATO in response to criticism regarding a $3.4 billion deal for Chinese missiles, the integration of which would according to Western officials functionally introduce a "virus" into NATO's command and control infrastructure. The deal would see Turkey purchase missile assets from the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC), a company that is currently under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had emphasized on Tuesday that Turkey's international and NATO partner commitments require that it conduct arms purchases with an eye toward interoperability. Erdogan brushed aside the criticism, declaring - per Turkish media - that "there was no problem with the deal in terms of Turkey’s national preferences." NATO officials had previously declared themselves "speechless" over the Turkish move, and the State Department had expressed "serious concerns" over the deal. The controversy has deepened worries of Turkish realignment, away from its traditional allies in the West and toward the West's geopolitical rivals. A recent Washington Post expose revealed that Erdogan's government had deliberately burned 10 Iranian operating on behalf of the Israeli Mossad in Iran, an act that experts and former intelligence officials evaluated would badly damage Turkey's intelligence-sharing relationships.
- Israel is set to release more than two dozen Palestinians next week, the latest of a series of goodwill gestures designed to boost U.S.-backed peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Fatah faction that controls Palestinian areas of the West Bank. The releases come at a particularly controversial time, amid a spike in terrorism in the West Bank that has seen three Israelis killed and a young girl shot in front of her parents' home. The upsurge is in part the result of concentrated efforts by Hamas to rebuild its West Bank terror infrastructure, a campaign reportedly being coordinated out of Turkey by top Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri - himself a released prisoner. Palestinian violence has also been linked to renewed anti-Israel incitement by top Fatah officials. The incitement and violence may complicate the upcoming prisoner release, which is being done in the context of negotiations with Fatah.
- Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida is reporting that the Israeli air force on Tuesdaydestroyed a shipment of missiles near the Syrian-Lebanese border and bound for the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah. If confirmed, the interception would not be the first time that Jerusalem has reportedly acted to enforce its long-declared red line against the transfer or capture of advanced Syrian weapons either by the Bashar al-Assad regime's Hezbollah allies or by jihadist groups battling to overthrow the regime. U.S. sources confirmed to The New York Times in July that Israel had launched an air attack against a convoy of advanced antiship cruise missiles that had originally been provided to Syria by Russia. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week described Hezbollah's arsenal as a "matter of grave concern," and called on the group to demilitarize and place its weapons under Beirut's direct control.
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