- Top Israeli negotiator: Restarting negotiations "can recreate hope" for lasting peace
- Analysts: Israel may be "forced to react to a spectacular attack" if Sinai Peninsula chaos deepens
- House Foreign Affairs Committee chair slams National Iranian American Council representative over Iran regime "propaganda"
- New analysis: Iran to reach "critical capability" by 2014, will be able to go nuclear undetected
What we’re watching today:
- Israeli officials this week expressed broad hopes that relaunching negotiations will enable a final status agreement that would see the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Jewish state.Tzipi Livni, Jerusalem's chief negotiator, acknowledged that "there is a lot of cynicism and skepticism and pessimism" about talks, but emphasized that "by relaunching the negotiations we can recreate hope for Israelis and Palestinians." Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday described preliminary talks that had taken place in Washington, D.C. as "very positive." Michael Ratney, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, told reporters today that while Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will now seek to close a peace deal in nine months, the date is a target rather than a deadline.
- Unknown gunmen have killed at least 30 people and injured over 150 in the Sinai Peninsula since June 30, amid an army campaign to disrupt jihadists in the Egyptian-controlled territory. Attacks on Egyptian soldiers and civilians are now occurring daily, and the Washington Post this week raised fears that "the roots of a violent insurgency are burrowing fast into the sands" of the Sinai. Analysts have begun to pivot to analyzing the potential regional consequences of continued destabilization in the territory. The National Journal recently noted that extremists are overrunning the area, including "Hamas militants from neighboring Gaza." Washington Institute scholar Aaron Zelin described a sharp uptick in jihadist chatter about training camps in the Sinai, while Retired Maj. Aviv Oreg, former chief of the Israeli military intelligence’s global jihad desk, called the terrain "the Tora Bora of the Sinai Peninsula." The National Journal concluded that Israel may be "forced to react to a spectacular attack" if the anarchy widens and jihadists increase the tempo and accuracy of their attacks against Israel.
- Rep. Ed Royce yesterday rebuked a woman identifying herself as representing the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) for disseminating what the California Republican, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, described as Iranian "propaganda." At a Capitol Hill briefing yesterday hosted by The Israel Project, NIAC intern Samira Damavandi confronted the panelists - who also included Rep. Ted Deutch and Rep. Eliot Engel - with claims that Royce characterized as "propaganda put out by the Iranian regime." Damavandi asserted that U.S. sanctions were preventing the Iranian people from receiving "medicine and food," and Royce responded that in fact Iran has more access to medicine now than it has had at any other time in the recent past. Royce went on to say that "it is concerning that propaganda is circulating here in the U.S. by some who speak in favor of the policies taken by the regime." NIAC chief Trita Parsi has been accused of being what the Weekly Standard described as "an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Parsi had filed a defamation suit against U.S.-based Iranian journalist Hassan Daioleslam for describing NIAC and Parsi as "key players in the lobby enterprise of Tehran’s ayatollahs in the United States." The court found that interpretations presented by Daioleslam in support of his claims didn't distort the underlying meaning of Parsi’s writings.
- An analysis posted online earlier this week by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) concludes that Iran is "expected to achieve a critical [nuclear] capability in mid-2014," which the organization defines "as the technical capability to produce sufficient weapon-grade uranium from its safeguarded stocks of low enriched uranium for a nuclear explosive, without being detected." The technical question at stake involves the amount of time it would take Iran to dash across the nuclear finish line, once a political decision is made to do so. The political question at stake is over whether that time window would be sufficiently wide enough to allow the West to detect and intervene after Tehran has made a decision to break out but before it has succeeded. Analysts David Albright and Christina Walrond found - given the number and type of centrifuges at Natanz, Fordow, and any other centrifuge site Iran may now be constructing - that by 2014 Iran's "breakout times at critical capability would be so short that there simply would not be enough time to organize an international diplomatic or military response."
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