- Condoleezza Rice on Iran overtures: "you absolutely cannot trust them"
- Israeli media praises Netanyahu speech for frankness, accuracy, tactical sophistication
- Amnesty International: Turkey protester crackdown included "gross human rights" violations, including live fire use
- Western-aligned Lebanon faction: Hezbollah's arsenal driving refugees abroad
What we’re watching today:
- CBS News describes moves inside Congress to couple outreach to Iran with deepened economic pressure, as officials from both parties lined up to explain why overtures from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani are being met with skepticism by lawmakers. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to CBS This Morning on Wednesday and outlined how Iranian officials "have done everything to make certain that you can't trust them," going on to say "They hid their nuclear program for decades. They have given the international Atomic Energy Agency the runaround." She concluded that "you absolutely cannot trust them." The piece quotes Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) backing engagement but emphasizing that it "cannot be used to buy time, avoid sanctions and continue the march toward nuclear weapons capability" and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) calling for new economic measures "until Iran stops its nuclear drive." The Wall Street Journal yesterday published an opinion by British journalist and author Con Coughlin worrying over intensifying Iranian efforts to avoid sanctions, many of them undertaken in recent months, and pointing to a gap between Rouhani's rhetoric and recent appointments made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Speaking on Sunday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi heaped skepticism on suggestions that recent moves made by Rouhani have bridged the gaps between the U.S. and Iran.
- Domestic Israeli coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the United Nations General Assembly was broadly positive, with multiple articles and editorials in Israel's largest dailies praising the speech for frankness, accuracy, and tactical sophistication. The editorial Yedioth Aharonot, the traditional market-leading newspaper in Israel, argued that Netanyahu was "convincing in every word... [and] trustworthy," and that the speech itself was "good because it was well based." The editorial in Israel HaYom, which has traded off with Yedioth for the top slot in Israel's market, struck a similar note, concluding that Netanyahu's speech had "loudly renewed the military option" as a potential last-ditch resort to halt what is widely believed to be Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons. Boaz Bismuth, Israel HaYom’s Foreign News Editor, hailed the address as "the speech the world needed to hear." Veteran Israeli journalist Dan Margalit, writing in the same paper, noted a “hidden sophistication” in Netanyahu’s Iranian demands. The left-leaning Israeli paper Ha'aretz printed an opinion piece by American legal scholar Alan Dershowitz describing Netanyahu's speech as "rational and compelling." Another piece in the paper, by senior correspondent and editorial board member Ari Shavit, concluded that Netanyahu had made it clear that Israel was all-in on stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu's speech came less than a week after polling revealed that 78 percent of Israelis distrust recent Iranian overtures to the West. Analysis of Israeli reactions to Netanyahu's speech has been tangled. The BBC, for instance, asserted that "Israeli media [was] unconvinced by PM Netanyahu's UN speech" and then linked to an article in which Israeli media outlets were quoted expressing doubts that the international community would be convinced by Netanyahu's speech. The BBC may have ran out of space before it could draw the distinction between the praise that Israeli media expressed for the content of Netanyahu's speech, and its doubts about the resoluteness of the international community.
- The Turkish government committed "gross human rights" violations last June in violently putting down anti-government protests against the Islamist administration of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a report published today by Amnesty International. A Turkey expert from the human rights organization described a "wholesale denial of the right to peaceful assembly" and blasted Ankara for violating protections against torture. Turkish security forces met demonstrators with heavy-handed responses, including according to coverage of the Amnesty report, "live ammunition, tear gas, water cannon, plastic bullets and beatings." Ankara has also been criticized for fumbling the aftermath of the protests, which saw broad criticism from traditional Turkish allies including the U.S. and Ankara's European NATO partners. Erodgan responded by lashing against critics in general and against Germany in particular. The crisis has in retrospect emerged as an inflection point in a percipitous geo-strategic decline that has left Turkey and its leaders, according to Reuters, "sidelined" and "increasingly lonely."
- Lebanon's Future bloc - the largest faction of the country's Western-aligned March 14 Alliance - is blasting Hezbollah for maintaining a vast weapons arsenal that is destabilizing the country and driving asylum seekers to flee. The group's statement comes after a boat carrying Lebanese asylum seekers capsized en route to Australia, leaving at least 29 people missing. Hezbollah has long been criticized for creating inside Lebanon what is effectively a state-within-a-state, where the Iran-backed terror group's power and weaponry functionally eclipse Beirut's sovereignty. Hezbollah has also been critical in allowing the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria to extend that country's two-and-a-half year conflict, violence from which has spilled over into Lebanon and generated calls for Hezbollah to untangle itself from the war. The two dynamics are among several that have led some analysts to openly ridicule the suggestion - aired in corners of the foreign policy community - that Hezbollah is a stabilizing force inside Lebanon, let alone that sanctioning the group and undermining its global activities would introduce instability.
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