- Russia: Deal with Iran would allow regime to keep enriching uranium
- Turkish intelligence sharing, technology transfer agreements endangered after Ankara burned Israeli spies
- WSJ: Saudi Arabia scaling back U.S. ties due to administration's "Syria, Iran and Egypt policies"
- Syrian opposition conditions talks on Assad stepping aside, as Assad doubles down on not stepping aside
What we’re watching today:
- Russian sources are signaling that a potential deal between the international community and Iran over the latter's nuclear program could allow Tehran to continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity. The rumor is consistent with repeated Iranian statements - reiterated this week by the country's Deputy Foreign Minister Araqchi Abbas - declaring that Iran will not agree to halt its enrichment activities as U.S. lawmakers and roughly half a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions have demanded. Iran is known to possess sufficient enrichment technology to dash across the nuclear finish line starting from 3% enrichment, and it is unlikely that a deal allowing the regime to continue enriching up to 5% will be acceptable to members of Congress or to the U.S.'s Israeli and Arab allies. Writing in theWashington Post this week, Washington Institute Managing Director Michael Singh outlined how any such partial deal - which would exchange sanctions relief for a limit but not a ban on enrichment - would fail in the absence of transparency measures that Tehran seems unwilling to take. Foundation for Defense of Democracies Executive Director Mark Dubowitz has offered an alternative framework for financial relief that would be based on nonsanctions relief, and would provide the Obama administration with a mechanism for partially rewarding Iran for partial concessions without endangering the international sanctions regime. The Dubowitz proposal includes measures for imposing additional, harsh sanctions if Tehran remains intransigent.
- Saudi Arabia intends to scale back the degree to which it cooperates with the United States in arming and training Syrian rebels, a decision that comes amid what the Wall Street Journal describes as "a growing dispute between the U.S. and one of its closest Arab allies over Syria, Iran and Egypt policies."Riyadh late last week declined a seat on the United Nations Security Council for similar reasons, with Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud reportedly telling diplomats that the decision "was a message for the U.S., not the U.N." The move was broadly praised by Saudi Arabia's regional allies, including Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. Arab governments have become increasingly public in expressing frustration with the Obama administration, which they fault for withholding aid from Egypt's anti-Muslim Brotherhood interim government and for being overeager to cut a deal with Iran on the country's nuclear program. Privately, Saudi officials in Washington have expressed that they "increasingly feel cut out of U.S. decision-making on Syria and Iran." Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Monday in Paris in an effort to reassure the Saudis that the administration takes seriously the concerns of its long-time allies.
- Turkish media outlets are reporting that Washington canceled the delivery of 10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Turkey after Ankara deliberately burned 10 Iranian spies operating inside Iran on behalf of the Israeli Mossad. The move - which is being described by Israeli observers as "the basest act of betrayal imaginable" and by U.S. intelligence officials as a staggering loss - was first reported by the Washington Post and was reportedly carried out by Turkish spy chief Hakan Fidan with the knowledge and support of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. If confirmed, the UAV cancellation would provide another data point indicating that global intelligence agencies were scaling back cooperation with Turkey in general, and with Turkey's intelligence agency (MIT) in particular. Foundation for Defense of Democracies Senior Fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht explained to USA Today that the incident would be taken as a signal that Ankara could not be trusted with intelligence information. The Post's revelation comes amid another intelligence-based controversy, this one generated by Ankara's decision to purchase Chinese missile assets. The missile batteries would need to be integrated into Turkey's current infrastructure, functionally introducing what one official described as a Chinese "virus" into NATO's command and control systems.
- Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba is signaling that elements of the Syrian opposition will boycott proposed peace talks unless the negotiations' goal is to facilitate the removal from power of the Bashar al-Assad regime, after Assad stated that not only is he not considering stepping down, but that he sees no reason why he shouldn't run for reelection in 2014. The juxtaposition will likely deepen skepticism about the potential for a breakthrough at the talks, which are oriented toward ending almost three years of bloody conflict in Syria. Interviewed by Syria's Al Mayadeen TV, Assad also criticized the opposition for working on behalf of foreign powers to undermine Syria. Meanwhile, two fighters from the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah were reportedly killed in Syria during clashes against rebel forces.
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