The Obama administration is attempting to reassure the United States’ Gulf Arab allies, who fear a bad potential nuclear deal with Iran. The New York Times reported Friday that the White House, State Department, and Pentagon have been “scrambling” to find a way to allay the Arab countries’ anxieties in a Camp David summit later this month. According to the Times, the discussions include “everything from joint training missions for American and Arab militaries…to additional weapons sales to a loose defense pact that could signal that the United States would back those allies if they come under attack from Iran.” In the words of a Middle East expert who had dinner with Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter two weeks ago, Carter wanted advice from regional specialists, asking them “how do you make clear to the G.C.C. [Gulf Cooperation Council] that America isn't going to hand the house keys of the Persian Gulf over to Iran and then pivot to Asia?”
On April 20, the visiting crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, urged President Obama to enter into a defense pact with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The administration is reportedly discussing making Saudi Arabia and the UAE major non-NATO allies, which would provide for the easier facilitation of weapons to those countries, but fall short of a formal defense agreement. Kuwait and Bahrain already have this status. According to Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Gulf countries would prefer a formal security pact, as lobbied for by Crown Prince al-Nahyan; however, the Times suggests this would be difficult to achieve due to the need for congressional approval and opposition from Israel.
The Gulf countries have sought assistance from other nations as well. The French, who have been reported to be the toughest negotiators with Iran, agreed on Thursday to sell Rafale fighter jets to Qatar in a deal worth $7 billion. French President Francois Hollande will travel to Doha to ink the deal this coming Monday and then travel to Riyadh to attend a summit of the GCC heads of state. His visit to the summit will be the first such visit by a Western leader. A senior French diplomat was quoted as saying, “It’s important for us because it shows the appreciation of Gulf countries in our strategic choices with regard to Iran, Syria and the fight against Islamic State. We’ve shown we’re a reliable partner that doesn’t shirk its responsibilities in the region.”
Calling the prosecution of reporter Jason Rezaian an indication of “Iran’s ruthless internal power struggles and the politicization of its judicial system,” an editorial in The Washington Post Thursday warned that “well-meaning foreign visitors … are vulnerable to being seized as hostage.”
The Rezaian case has become a showcase for Iran’s ruthless internal power struggles and the politicization of its judicial system. The 39-year-old reporter, who was born and raised in California but is an Iranian and U.S. citizen, has been described by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as “a good reporter” and a “friend.” Yet he has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since July 22, apparently at the instigation of intelligence and judicial authorities. …
Both Post Executive Editor Martin Baron and the White House quickly pointed out that the accusations are absurd. As Mr. Obama said, Mr. Rezaian is guilty of doing nothing more than “writing about the hopes and fears of the Iranian people.” His attorney’s statement said the case file she read offered no evidence to back up the charges. But she also told Mr. Rezaian’s family that she does not expect to be allowed to meet with him again before his trial, making it difficult to prepare a defense.
This blatantly unjust treatment is showing Iran to be a country where well-meaning foreign visitors, including potential Western investors, are vulnerable to being seized as hostages or used as pawns in power struggles they have nothing to do with. It shows that the judiciary does not observe minimal standards of fairness or even adhere to Iran’s own laws. It suggests that the government of President Hassan Rouhani cannot be counted on to deliver on its international commitments — including the prospective nuclear accord — because of its inability to control the intelligence services, Revolutionary Guard and other reactionaries. Read the whole post at The Tower.
Combining a drone-mounted sensor with analytic software, the Israeli company Sensilize is launching what it calls the future of precision agriculture. The emerging field of precision agriculture is based on observing, measuring and responding to crops with smart technology. Drones — also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) – are giving farmers new possibilities, such as crop-dusting without a plane, but can also be integrated with smart technology. Sensilize uses a micro-UAS platform to map fields with an integrated application-driven sensor called Robin-Eye, whose eight-band calibrated sensor provides ultra-high-resolution multispectral images of vegetation in almost all light conditions. Sensilize’s cloud-based Robin-Mind software automatically analyzes these images and then – within 24 hours — provides the farmer with a true color image of the area as well as interpreted maps to enable optimal decisions to enhance efficiency, maximize yield and minimize resources. Sensilize was founded at the beginning of 2013 by Yoav Zur and Robi Stark, who have doctorates and nearly 20 years of experience in environmental remote sensing and mapping of vegetation, soil and water quality. Their previous remote sensing-based company was acquired by Elbit Systems in 2008. After leaving Elbit, they spent a year meeting with agronomists in Israel and other countries to pinpoint market needs before founding Sensilize. “Our background is in remote sensing, not agronomy or aviation,” Stark explains to ISRAEL21c. “We are bridging the gap between engineers and users.” The first generation of the Robin system (the sensor and the analysis software) is now in pilot trials through partnerships with big farming and research operations. These trials will provide Sensilize with valuable feedback from actual users before the final version of the system is introduced to the global market in June, says Stark, who was at Israel’s annual AgriVest ag-tech conference on April 27. (via Israel21c)