- Iranian diplomats issue new round of 'blame game' remarks, even as U.S. negotiators reportedly give way on long-standing verification issues
Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Thursday conveyed statements from Iran's Foreign Ministry blasting the P5+1 global powers for making "excessive demands" in the face of "rational proposals" being put forth by Tehran, which the outlet wrote up alongside previous statements from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declaring that "the world will know who was responsible for the deadlock in the nuclear negotiations." The phrase has become something of a talking point for the Iranians - they used it a few days ago - and the remarks are in line with analysis that sees them as maneuvering ahead of a 'blame game' or 'frame game' that would occur after negotiations fail. Both the Los Angeles Times and Emily Landau - the chief of the arms control program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) - have in recent days contextualized remarks by Iranian officials as designed to convince the international community that their stances were reasonable, and that talks faltered over U.S. demands. Other observers have further suggested that the Iranians may be exaggerating the gaps that remain regarding uranium capacity and plutonium production, and that in fact the parties will be able to bridge those gaps by the Joint Plan of Action's July 20 deadline. Under this scenario, the actual remaining divisions revolve around Iran's obligations to roll back its ballistic missile program and to come clean regarding so-called "possible military dimensions" (PMDs) of its atomic program. Tehran has outright refused to discuss ballistic missiles in the context of ongoing talks, and has sought to delay negotiations over PMDs until the very end of negotiations, a move widely seen as a gambit under which the Iranians would negotiate everything else and then functionally dare Western negotiators to scuttle a deal due to PMD-related intransigence. Loud public declarations that the parties can't agree on uranium and plutonium issues are, under these theories, aimed at setting up eventual terms as bitterly given Iranian concessions, thereby freeing up Western negotiators to fold on ballistic missile and PMD conditions. The New York Times reported yesterday that Obama administration officials - after having for months assured lawmakers and journalists that Iran would be forced to meet its PMD-related obligations - "seem to be steering away from forcing a full historical accounting from the Iranians before any accord is signed, arguing that excavating the past is less important than assuring Iran does not have the raw material to make a weapon." A broad range of analysts have sought to explain that in fact PMD issues are not so much about 'excavating the past' as about establishing the actual scope of the Iranian atomic program, a vital prerequisite to verifying that the Iranians have halted their clandestine activities per any agreement.
In an op-ed published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who was tapped last year by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to head peace talks for Jerusalem, and who during the most recent negotiations with the Palestinians was a key figure in laying the groundwork for Secretary of State John Kerry's initiative, slammed Hamas for “champion[ing]” an ideology that embraces “suicide bombings, raining missiles on Israeli civilian communities, and other gruesome acts of terror.” Livni’s op-ed comes amid a spike in rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip into southern Israel and was published a day after Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar announced that the terror group had reached an agreement with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to “unify the weapons of resistance” against the Jewish state. Livni accused Hamas of attempting, under the “cover of a political agreement, to reconstitute its terrorist capabilities in the West Bank [and] … to abuse the Palestinian elections in order to gain legitimacy for its extremist objectives.” Livni’s assessment will be read alongside recent analysis to the effect that Hamas, which last month entered into a unity agreement with the rival Fatah faction, is attempting to follow the “Hezbollah model” that would see the terror group create a militant state-within-a-state in the midst of a weaker central government. Livni argues that “the welfare of the Palestinian people and the prospects for peace would be dealt a mortal blow” if Hamas is allowed to “leverage[e] its independent terrorist militia” to advance its goals.
Reports emerged Thursday afternoon that President Obama would seek $500 million to, per the Associated Press (AP), “train and arm vetted members of the Syrian opposition” as rebel forces struggle to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime. The aid, should it be approved, would according to the Washington Post “mark the first direct U.S. military participation in the Syrian conflict.” Recent months have seen increased pressure from current and former U.S. officials to provide assistance to moderate rebel groups in Syria, including Secretary of State John Kerry, who last month told representatives from the Syrian opposition that the international community had “wasted a year” by failing to coordinate on efforts to provide assistance to groups fighting Assad. Moderate rebel groups have been squeezed out by what analysts have identified as a regime effort to directly bolster Shiite forces – both Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) assets are known to be on the ground – and to less directly boost Sunni extremists. Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, earlier this year described how Damascus selectively targeted moderate opposition elements, not engaging jihadists and sometimes even freeing the captured ones. The regime has also received and presumably paid for energy resources that emerged from ISIS-controlled areas of Syria.
Itay Eshet’s 10-year-old said she wanted a Facebook account. Nothing doing, said Dad. But everyone’s using it, the little girl complained. At that point, some parents would have caved in and others would have ignored the whining. Eshet did neither. He agreed that children under 13 – the official minimum age for Facebook – need a safe social network of their own, and he created one. In Israel, it’s called Nipagesh (Let’s Meet) and elsewhere it will be NetoKids. Children sign up through their schools. So far, about 150 Israeli schools have registered to use the program for free, with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education. “Since at that age kids’ lives are centered around school, we decided to give them a platform that will enable them to connect with other kids with similar interests, share ideas and chats, and connect to school as well,” Eshet tells ISRAEL21c. Teachers can use Nipagesh to send students assignments and announcements, start and moderate online group discussions, and cooperate in educational projects with other schools using the network. And not just in Israel. Moty Kanias director of the Jewish Agency’s School Twinning Network, tells ISRAEL21c that three Israeli and three South American Jewish schools participated in a Nipagesh pilot program this year. Funded by the Jewish Agency, the L.A. Pincus Fund for Jewish Education in the Diaspora and Beit Hatfutsot-The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, the project is to expand next year to encompass 10 schools in Israel and 10 in South America. “We hope to connect Jewish kids from around the world on a daily basis through Itay’s network,” says Kanias. “We chose Nipagesh after researching all the possibilities. It has the signature of the Education Ministry, and it really serves our needs. The next phase will be connecting US schools to South America and to Israel – a sort of triangle. And we are working with Itay to add more languages.” (via Israel21c)
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