- NYT: "Iran’s nuclear abilities have advanced so far" that partial deal on enrichment insufficient to prevent nuke drive
- Iran announces plan to send second monkey into space, deepening concerns over ICBM development
- Defense experts outline "devastating impact" of Egypt aid freeze on U.S. defense industry
- NATO officials: Turkey purchase of Chinese air defense system would be "virus" in NATO command and control system
What we’re watching today:
- The New York Times this morning piled on increasingly pointed concerns - also leveled in recent days by senators, analysts, and other outlets - regarding any deal between Iran and the West that would leave Tehran with sufficient capacity to follow North Korea's example and sneak across the nuclear finish line. Statements and leaks had indicated that Iran would offer to limit some of its future enrichment capabilities while retaining all of its already-enriched material. The Times noted that such a deal would "would have been a significant concession to the West [a year ago] but Iran’s nuclear abilities have advanced so far since then that experts say it will take far more than that to assure the West that Tehran does not have the capacity to quickly produce a nuclear weapon." The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog, has documented how over the last year Iran has installed more centrifuges, and more advanced centrifuges, significantly shortening the window it would take the regime to go nuclear. The regime's scientists are now able to create weapons-grade nuclear material out of even low-enriched uranium of 3.5% purity along a dramatically shortened timeline. Dr. Gary Samore, a senior NSC aide on nonproliferation during President Obama’s first term and president of United Against Nuclear Iran, bluntly told the Times "ending production of 20 percent enriched uranium is not sufficient to prevent breakout, because Iran can produce nuclear weapons using low-enriched uranium and a large number of centrifuge machines." Iran has asserted its absolute right to enrich uranium - a stance not recognized by the U.S. - and has foreclosed the possibility that it will export its stockpile of enriched uranium.
- The deputy head of Iran’s space program announced Sunday that Tehran was planning to send a second monkey into space, deepening concerns that Iran is making steady progress in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Islamic republic recently announced it was also considering a space launch that would send a Persian cat into orbit. A threat report published earlier this year by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) and the Office of Naval Intelligence concluded that Iran's space launch and ballistic missile programs are used to "increase the range, lethality, and accuracy of its ballistic missile force." The Pentagon had already assessed in April that Tehran could test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015. The Islamic republic last month paraded dozens of advanced missiles through Tehran, with the naval chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps at the time boasting that Iran has the ability to destroy American navel assets.
- Politico this morning outlined what the outlet dryly described as "tight-lipped" and "terse" reactions from the U.S. defense industry in response to the Obama administration's partial freeze on military assistance to Egypt. Loren Thompson, a defense consultant and chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, was quoted worrying that the cuts "could have a devastating impact on the General Dynamics tank plant" in Ohio. Lockheed Martin has stated that it will stop work on six F-16s under production for Egypt, and that it will close its Fort Worth, Texas production line in 2017 in the absence of additional orders.Politico concluded that "if the U.S.-Egyptian relationship is patched up quickly enough, the impacts could be manageable." Last week's announcement by the White House was met with anger by Capitol Hill lawmakers, who described themselves as "blindsided" by the move, and with frustration, by the U.S.'s Middle East allies. Analysts had already begun openly worrying months ago that regional actors, worried by what they perceive as a U.S. withdrawal from the region, may pivot to the U.S.'s geopolitical rivals. Military expert Maj. Gen. Hamdi Bakhit raised the same possibility in recent days, noting that "ties with the United States are severed, there will be no problem regarding military cooperation with Moscow." He also described a range of benefits the U.S. is able to leverage due to its historically close ties to Moscow, including expedited approval for the use of Egyptian airspace and preferential treatment in moving through the Suez Canal.
- Turkey's Hurriyet daily this morning published statements from NATO officials blasting the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan for its recently reaffirmed commitment to go through with a deal that would see Ankara complete a $3.4 billion missile defense deal with China. The deal would see Turkey purchase missile defense assets from the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC), a company that among other things is currently under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act. The systems would require integration with Turkey's existing NATO assets. One official described the Chinese technology as a "virus" that would be let loose inside NATO's own command and control system. A NATO ambassador stationed in Ankara vented that they had " idea why the Turks do not see the simple fact that the alliance’s security threat perception in the next 20 years is based on China." A U.S. defense official emphasized that there was no reason why the National Security Agency "should give a nod to [the] crazy idea" of integrating Chinese and NATO assets. Asked about the concerns over integration, Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said he saw "no problem with this." NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last week that he had expected Turkey to choose a missile defense system compatible with those of other members of the body. Turkish opposition figures have publicly worried that the Erdogan government's moves would bring Turkey-E.U. relations "to the brink of rupture."
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