- The Hill: Obama scores "crucial diplomatic win" in mobilizing majority support for Syria action at G-20
- IAEA to meet next week, will discuss Iranian efforts to lock in capacity for undetectable breakout
- Obama supporters and critics express concerns over U.S. credibility should Congress reject Syria strike authorization
- WSJ blasts "ecstatic" Western journalists for incorrectly reporting Rouhani Jewish outreach
What we’re watching today:
- President Barack Obama scored what The Hill describes as a "crucial diplomatic win" at the G-20 today, with 10 countries plus the United States supporting "efforts undertaken by the U.S. and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons" even in the absence of an international consensus backing retaliation against the Bashar al-Assad regime over its use of chemical weapons. The Hill emphasized that the eleven signatories constituted "more than half the countries attending" the summit, and noted that the international support will be "crucial for the administration to win over recalcitrant House members" on the fence over a request by the President to authorize unilateral military action. Meanwhile the Associated Press reports on France's efforts to hasten the European Union's decision-making regarding the August 21st chemical weapons attack on rebel-controlled suburbs of Damascus. Obama expressed appreciation for Paris's support at the G-20 summit.
- An overview published this morning by the Washington Institute (WINEP) provides context for next week's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governors. Discussion will revolve around a recent IAEA report documenting how Iran is steadily locking in uranium enrichment technology that will permit Tehran to rush across the nuclear finish line without the West being able to detect or stop the dash. The article co-authors - Olli Heinonen, a former IAEA deputy director-general, and Simon Henderson, the director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at WINEP - also point out that journalism about the IAEA report has proven difficult for non-experts. They contrast a New York Times headline focusing on the amount of nuclear material Iran has ("Iran Slows Its Gathering of Uranium, Report Says") with a Financial Times headline highlighting the regime's technological capacity to enrich the material it already has ("Iran Boosts Advanced Uranium Enrichment Capacity, UN Report Shows"). Experts and analysts have sought to bring particular attention to the latter dynamic. At stake is how quickly Iran could enrich a sufficient amount of its uranium stockpile to create a nuclear warhead, once it makes a decision to do so. The recent IAEA report revealed that Iran has installed 18,000 IR-1 centrifuges and over 1,000 of its advanced IR-2m centrifuges, which can enrich uranium at a pace orders of magnitude faster than the IR-1s. Given the report, and without a change in the regime's behavior, it will have locked in enough sophisticated technology by mid-2014 to conduct an undetectable breakout. The IAEA is also expected to discuss other elements of the report, including progress that Iran is making toward a plutonium bomb and ongoing Iranian efforts to literally pave over evidence of experiments geared toward "development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
- Analysts and lawmakers are heavily emphasizing the potential costs to American credibility should Congress decline to grant President Barack Obama authority to respond militarily to what is widely considered to have been a mass chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had already on Tuesday stated bluntly that "a refusal to act would undermine the credibility of America's other security commitments," and the President yesterday starkly described the stakes as involving "America and Congress' credibility." Even critics of the President's policies have described action as necessary "to repair the damage done to U.S. credibility among friend and foe alike." The Chicago Sun Times was more explicit, insisting that inaction on Syria would be viewed by Iran as "a green light to go ahead with developing nuclear weapons." The point echoes one made by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who declared this week that U.S. credibility on weapons of mass destruction would be eroded with both Iran and North Korea.
- The Wall Street Journal covers the controversy over a Jewish New Year greeting that - according to Iranian state media - was incorrectly linked to recently inaugurated Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. An unverified account under Rouhani's name posted wishes for a "blessed Rosh Hashanah" to "all Jews, especially Iranian Jews." Iranian state-run media quickly published a denial quoting a Rouhani advisor, who clarified that the account and the greeting were not sanctioned by the president. Nonetheless the Journal describes how "Western journalists eager for signs of moderation in the Tehran regime [became] ecstatic," celebrating the single Twitter post as among other things the "most significant public [diplomatic] outreach since [the 1979 Islamic] revolution." The Journal blasts the reporters and analysts for neglecting "reportorial duties like follow-up and verification," and notes that the official repudiation demonstrates that "Tehran remains hard-wired for resistance and extremism." The reporting errors regarding Rouhani came amid another Twitter-driven controversy, driven by a post of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claiming that Iran never denied the Holocaust. It is unclear whether Zarif is familiar with the speeches and publications of Iranian Supreme Leader Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who in 2006 told Iranian air force servicemen that the Holocaust was a "myth" and then had the transcript posted to his personal webpage.
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