- Brushing off White House pressure, bipartisan calls for new Iran sanctions emerge in both House and Senate
- Hezbollah chief threatens Middle East war if no Iran nuke deal reached, while boasting that deal will embolden terror group
- Turkey asks for extension of NATO Patriot missiles, recommits to Chinese missile deal blasted by NATO
- U.S. Jewish groups shifting resources to new Israeli market index fund
What we’re watching today:
- Journalists today continued to report on the aftermath of Senate briefings conducted yesterday by top Obama administration officials including Secretary of State John Kerry, in which the White House pressured senators to hold off imposing new sanctions on Iran in the lead-up to talks scheduled for next week. The stance has generated consternation among analysts - inasmuch as the administration had in the past placed great emphasis on the argument that the Iranians were being forced to come to the table by financial pressure - and Foreign Policy Magazine's Executive Editor Noah Shachtman today described the Hill briefing as "a shitshow." Foreign Policy's longer write-up on the meeting noted that it succeeded "in solidifying [the] GOP" against the administration's stance. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) had already last night blasted a deal reportedly offered to Iran last weekend by the international community as a "Chamberlain"-style agreement, and revealed Israeli assessments that Iran's nuclear program would be set back "about 24 days." Today Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) piled on, rejecting the White House's stance that sanctions should not be increased. Meanwhile a bipartisan group of House representatives today called on Senate leaders to pass new sanctions. The letter, signed by 63 members, was authored by Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Grace Meng (D-NY). Roskam commented that "pressure brought Iran to the negotiating table, and continued strong pressure is critical to convince Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons."
- Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah yesterday threatened that there would be a Middle East war if there is no deal between "Iran and the countries of the world," while at the same time boasting that such a deal would embolden the Iran-backed terror group and that Hezbollah "will become stronger and with a better presence locally and regionally." Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted sardonically that Nasrallah sounded like he was reading from White House talking points, gesturing toward controversial remarks made by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney implying that U.S. lawmakers calling for new sanctions were maneuvering America into a "march to war." Nasrallah followed up those comments with new ones issued today in which he committed to staying in Syria until Hezbollah has secured victory for the Bashar al-Assad regime. The declaration is difficult to reconcile with recent complaints from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif regarding the presence of foreign fighters in Syria.
- Turkey is looking to finalize its purchase of Chinese anti-missile systems within six months, according to statements made today by Murad Bayar, the head of Ankara's under secretariat for defense industries. The deal would require Turkey to integrate the Chinese assets into its existing defense infrastructure, the result being - per Western defense officials - the equivalent of inserting a "virus" into NATO's command and control system. The controversy over the purchase comes as some nations are already said to be decreasing their intelligence cooperation with Ankara, after it was reported that the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had deliberately burned ten Iranians working with Israel's Mossad to uncover Iran's nuclear program. Last week Washington Institute fellow Soner Cagaptay described how Ankara is more broadly pivoting away and "has started to seek other allies, including Beijing." Nonetheless Turkey today asked NATO to extend the deployment of Patriot missiles along its border with Syria for another year. NATO is likely to accede to the request to maintain the batteries, which were deployed to contain spillover from the crisis in Syria. Egyptian outlet Al-Ahram today, echoing the consensus of analysts stretching back years, noted that Ankara "has been partly responsible for the crisis in Syria," having been one of the Bashar al-Assad regime's most significant international backers during the 2000s and then - after falling out with the regime - backing the relatively more extremist elements of the Syrian opposition.
- Major Jewish organizations are investing heavily in a recently launched index fund that tracks companies with a significant Israeli presence, prompting speculation that literally billions of dollars may - according to Steven Schoenfeld, the founder and CEO of the BlueStar Israel Global Index fund - "be brought into productive investment in Israel." BlueStar launched over the summer with the intention of leveraging the Israeli investment environment, which Schoenfeld described at the time as the "best of both worlds: the superior economic management of a developed market, but with emerging market growth characteristics." Four Jewish federations or affiliated foundations have now committed to the fund, together pledging $15 million. Total endowments held by Jewish federations, affiliated organizations, and Jewish family foundations however total roughly $65 billion, and Schoenfeld described ongoing discussions with "twice that many federations." Meanwhile the Jerusalem Post today published extensive analysis describing how underwater energy reserves off Israel's coast are positioning the Jewish state to "become a player in the big energy league" and significantly alter "the Middle East political kaleidoscope."
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