- NYT: Inability to secure Iran transparency means nuclear agreement will be "shrouded by uncertainty"
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Iranian negotiators have continued to deny the West access to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh - "considered by Western intelligence officials to be the closest thing Iran has to J. Robert Oppenheimer, who guided the Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first nuclear weapon" - even as the P5+1 global powers are trying to hammer out an agreement that would force Iran to put its atomic program beyond use for weaponization. The stakes regarding Western access to Fakhrizadeh are straightforward: Any comprehensive nuclear agreement would have to include robust verification mechanisms to ensure that Iran had ceased among other things clandestine nuclear work, a task that requires an understanding for the scope of such work. Tehran is obligated by among other things United Nations Security resolutions to account for any such "possible military dimensions" (PMDs) of its nuclear program, and Obama administration officials had explicitly and repeatedly assured lawmakers and journalists that Tehran would be forced to meet those obligations. The Times however reported that U.S. negotiators appear to be moving away from those assurances and accepting what skeptics have for months suggested was a fairly transparent Iranian ploy, under which negotiations would proceed on other issues until Tehran would functionally dare P5+1 diplomats to scuttle a deal over what could publicly be written off as past work. The Times was nonetheless blunt in consequences of such a scenario, noting that failure to force Iran to meet its PMD-related obligations "means that any agreement... within the next few weeks will be shrouded by uncertainty about how long it would take for Iran... to make a nuclear weapon." Understanding Fakhrizadeh's role is considered critical to gaining insight into the full range of Iranian activities that would need to be verified under any agreement. Analysis recently published by Washington Institute adjunct fellow Nima Gerami puts the senior IRGC officer at the beginning of Iran's modern weaponization efforts, when in 2003 "alleged [Iranian] weaponization activities were consolidated under the 'AMAD Plan' led by [Fakhrizadeh]." The UN's nuclear watchdog (IAEA) assesses that the AMAD Plan was suspended in the aftermath of the U.S.-led military campaign against Iraq, but by 2012 the Wall Street Journal was able to report that Fakhrizadeh was "back at work." The outlet explained that Fakhrizadeh had a year earlier launched a new institution - the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), made up of six directorates including research labs for metallurgy, chemistry and explosives testing - and had renewed efforts seemingly aimed at the production of nuclear weapons. In February 2013 the Sunday Times reported that Fakhrizadeh had been present for North Korea's third atomic detonation, prompting Israeli officials and analysts to worry that the Iranians were "using North Korea as a backdoor plan for their own nuclear program... [and had] bypassed inspections via North Korea."
The Associated Press reported on a suicide bombing in a Beirut hotel Wednesday, what the outlet called “the latest in a string of attacks and security scares in Lebanon over the past week that have sparked fears of renewed violence in a country that has been deeply affected by the civil war in neighboring Syria,” where Hezbollah has been providing critical support to the Bashar al-Assad regime. Lebanon’s Future bloc had earlier in the day blasted Hezbollah for continued meddling in regional affairs following car bombings in the country last Friday and Monday that appeared to target areas dominated by the terror group. The party slammed Hezbollah for having “immersed itself in the region’s problems,” and demanded the terror group “withdraw from Syria before tomorrow.” The Al Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades had announced that similar attacks would continue until Hezbollah withdrew from the conflict in Syria. The uptick in attacks has renewed concerns that blowback generated by the group’s participation in regional Sunni-Shiite conflicts may end up dragging Lebanon into those conflicts. The blowback Hezbollah has faced in Lebanon – the group’s strongholds have regularly been targeted by opponents – has been devastating to claims that Hezbollah is an indigenous Lebanese organization seeking to preserve Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Reports surfaced Wednesday morning of Syrian airstrikes against targets in western Iraq that killed scores of people and left more than 100 injured, reigniting concerns that spillover from the Syrian conflict is serving as a destabilizing force in the region. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on Wednesday slammed Damascus for allowing ISIS to flourish and expand in Iraq, calling the Bashar al-Assad regime “one of the, if not the, main reason [ISIS] has been allowed to grow in strength.” Last week NOW detailed the close ties between the Assad regime and ISIS, as well as with ISIS’s predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), including efforts by Assad to provide funding and material support to AQI to fight American troops in Iraq. The Telegraph had already in January conveyed analysis from Western intelligence agencies cataloging how Damascus had fueled Sunni extremism both in the region and even specifically inside Syria, where some of those extremists were battling the regime. The piece highlighted accusations that Assad had functionally chosen his enemy in Syria's conflict, empowering both extremist Shiite elements and Al Qaeda-linked groups on the Sunni side to squeeze out moderates. It described tactics ranging from the direct purchase of oil sales - which provided Sunni jihadists with resources - to selective targeting of opposition elements, with extremists being released after battlefield captures even as moderates were kept in prison or worse.
As Israel carries on its search for kidnapped teenagers Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Fraenkel, Israeli doctors of Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) continue to save the lives of Palestinian children at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. Since the beginning of Operation Brother’s Keeper, five Palestinian children have undergone life-saving heart surgery at Wolfson, eight Palestinian children were admitted, including two urgent cases brought by ambulances from the West Bank and from Gaza, and 15 children are expected to arrive this week to the SACH free weekly cardiology clinic for Palestinian children. “Children are children”‘ says Dr. Lior Sasson, SACH chief surgeon, “for us it doesn’t matter where the children come from, every child deserves to receive the best medical treatment and children from both sides, shouldn’t be a part of the conflict.” The Israeli medical team of SACH says they are continuing with their activity without letting the situation around interfere or influence them. “We are continuing with our work, this is what distinguishes us as Israelis, the ability to ignore what is happening around and continue with our sacred work of saving children’s lives,” said Dr. Sasson. (via Israel21c)
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