- Top intel bulletin highlights "consistency in policy statements" across Iran governments, assesses Rouhani "no more tolerant of Israel and the U.S." than Al Qaeda
- Iranian officials underline "red lines" against dismantling nuclear infrastructure, halting ballistic missile development
- Reports: Israel doubles down on Jordan border security requirements
- AP: Renewed Syrian peace talks stumble immediately
- The highly influential NightWatch intelligence bulletin on Monday underlined its assessment that despite rhetorical differences between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, their government's respective stances "about Israel, peace in the Middle East, and the [United States]... do not differ." The bulletin was evaluating the significance of a Friday incident in which Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's parliament, used the podium at a Tunisian celebration marking the country's new constitution to slam the U.S. and brand the Jewish state a "cancerous tumor." NightWatch highlighted what it described as "the consistency in policy statements by [Ahmadinejad] and Rouhani" and emphasized more broadly that "Muslim zealots remain in control in Tehran... [and] their political theology relative to the destruction of Israel matches that of the Sunni jihadists," concluding that "Rouhani is no more tolerant of Israel and the U.S. than is [Al Qaeda leader Ayman] Zawahiri" and calling on Western leaders to "confront the fact that Islamic extremists, both Sunni and Shia, [want] the destruction of Israel." Iranian TV over the weekend broadcast simulated footage of the Islamic republic saturation bombing Israeli military and civilian centers, including - per one Israeli outlet's roundup - "Kikar Hamedina square in Tel Aviv... Ben Gurion Airport and military bases such as The Kirya (the IDF headquarters)... the Azrieli towers, Panorama Towers in Haifa, and the oil refineries in Haifa bay." The film includes footage of "Tel Aviv going up in flames." The clip, which runs more than 11 minutes and includes footage of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei speaking to cadets, was posted by the Iranians to YouTube and can be viewed here.
- Agence France-Presse (AFP) today conveyed statements from various Iranian officials laying out "red lines" in the context of upcoming nuclear negotiations, with top political and military figures ruling out a range of concessions on issues related to ballistic missile development, the status of atomic sites, and uranium enrichment capabilities. Regarding ballistic missiles - which State Department Undersecretary Wendy Sherman had assured the Senate would be addressed in final talks - Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi declared that "defence-related issues are a red line for Iran" that would not "discussed in future talks." Iranian TV meanwhile carried statements from Defense Minister Hussein Dehgan boasting that Iran had successfully tested new advanced projectiles, including ballistic missiles. AFP noted in its coverage that, in contrast to Sherman's statements regarding Iran's plutonium production and uranium enrichment sites, Iranian nuclear negotiator Majid Takhte Ravanchi reemphasized today that Iran had ruled out closure of "any of its nuclear sites." Iranian state media coverage of Ravanchi's statement is here. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had already boasted last week at a Tehran news conference that "America has wishes" involving Iran giving up substantial parts of its nuclear program, but that "those wishes are unlikely to come true." Meanwhile Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi reportedly told Iran's state broadcaster that Iranian scientists had developed a new generation of centrifuges 15 times more efficient than its previous technology, boasting that the achievement had been enabled by Iranian negotiators out-maneuvering Western negotiators in sealing an interim nuclear agreement. U.S. analysts and diplomats have repeatedly insisted that any deal that substantively diminishes Iran's nuclear weapons capability must include the dismantling of tens of thousands of centrifuges, the shuttering of at least some uranium enrichment facilities, and downgrades at Iran's plutonium-production facility at Arak. Obama administration officials have for the last few months assured lawmakers that they're confident they have the leverage to pressure Iran into making substantive concessions.
- Israeli officials this weekend reemphasized Jerusalem's insistence that Israeli security forces remain along the border with Jordan in the context of any final status arrangement with the Palestinians, a counter-terrorism stance that has reportedly been endorsed by among others Jordan, but that has been repeatedly rejected by Palestinian negotiators. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in recent weeks had floated the suggestion that international forces - his specific scenario considered NATO forces - would guard the border and prevent terrorist infiltration as a substitute for Israeli troops. Israeli officials pointed out both publicly and privately that almost every international force deployed over the last several decades to guard Israel's borders in the aftermath of Israeli withdrawals has either fled under pressure (UNEF I in the 1967 Sinai Peninsula and the EU monitors once stationed in the Gaza Strip are the usual examples), or has allowed terrorist groups to gain footholds and even create full-blown statelets (UNIFIL in Lebanon is the most obvious example but jihadists have also made recent gains in the MOF-monitored Sinai), or some combination of both (the near collapse of UNDOF on the Golan Heights is usually cited in this context). Recent polling shows that while a majority of Israelis consistently favor a peace deal with the Palestinians that would have the Jewish state making substantial territorial concessions, nearly three-fourths of Israelis reject withdrawing from the Jordan Valley. The issues of political resistance and political capital aside, it is in any case difficult to imagine any Israeli leader being able to cede control over a potentially unstable border given the precipitous decline in regional security and Arab state cohesion since 2011.
- The Associated Press reported this morning that renewed peace talks between Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime and opposition groups stumbled almost as soon as they began on Monday, with each side blaming the other for a spate of violence that has seen hundreds killed in just the last few days. Both Damascus and extremist rebel elements have been linked to recent massacres. The latest attacks by forces loyal to Assad - which reportedly included shelling Homs even as it was in the midst of a three-day U.N.-brokered ceasefire - came after the U.S. condemned mass casualty regime attacks conducted in and around Aleppo last week. Meanwhile, Sunni jihadists over the weekend overran an Alawite village and reportedly killed at least 40 people, about a week after Secretary of State John Kerry gave journalists statements suggesting that Washington was failing to sufficiently bolster moderate rebels against extremists. France on Monday revealed that it will push the United Nations Security Council to demand that humanitarian corridors are created between Syrian cities, though the move may be viewed in some quarters as a token gesture given recent violence.
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