Satellite imagery reveals new Iran ballistics test site
Analysis: Rouhani cabinet stacked with regime security insiders
Associated Press: Morsi supporters waging "stepped-up hate campaign" against Egyptian Christians
Top Israel military official: Hezbollah preparing for war with Israel, has "become proficient in the use of advanced weapons"
What we’re watching today:
- Iran has built a rocket launch site that experts say "is most likely used for testing ballistic missiles," according to reports originating with an expose published by Jane's Defense Weekly. The location of the base, which lies about 25 miles from the northern city of Shahrud, was cited as one indicator that the facility was designed for long-range missile tests. The Jane’s report comes weeks after the publication of a Pentagon report assessing that Tehran may develop missiles capable of striking the United States by 2015. The Iranian regime is also widely suspected, including by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog group, of having used its Parchin facility to conduct research into developing nuclear warheads. Iran's progress in bolstering its missile program has been met regionally by similar advances within Sunni states.
- A policy brief published this week by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) describes the proposed cabinet of recently inaugurated Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as having an "unprecedented" number of Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) veterans. Rouhani himself spent decades in top posts within Iran's security establishment and is considered to be a consummate regime insider who spent decades in top posts within Iran's security establishment. FDD Senior Fellow Ali Alfoneh suggests that the cabinet's composition can be read as part of a power struggle between MOIS and the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps. Iran observers are scrutinizing Rouhani's cabinet picks for signals as to what policies a Rouhani administration is likely to pursue. Concerns have been raised over several candidates. Rouhani's proposed foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has been blasted for minimizing the Holocaust. His proposed justice minister, Mullah Pour-Mohammadi, is accused by opposition groups of playing a central role in campaigns of mass murder. His proposed intelligence minister, Seyed Mahmoud Alavi, was previously appointed to a top post by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Alavi last fall gave a speech in which he celebrated Iran's "culture of martyrdom" and declared that Tehran would "never back down against the arrogance." Wall Street Journal Assistant Books Editor Sohrab Ahmari, a Farsi speaker and Iran expert, notes that the latter phrase is regime shorthand for the United States and its allies. Ahmari also describes a TV appearance by Alavi in which he described the terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas as Iran's "pupils" and boasted that "Americans can't even take on" the groups.
- The Associated Press describes a "stepped-up hate campaign" being waged by Egyptian Islamists against the country's minority Christian population. Massive intimidation marches, death threats, and a string of attacks have all increased in recent weeks, amid Islamist conspiracy theories that blame Christians for the removal from power of former President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-linked government. Earlier this month, a Coptic Christian man was found beheaded in the Sinai Peninsula and scores of homes have been burned. The widespread attacks by Morsi supporters have triggered calls within Egypt for public unity in response to the violence.
- Hezbollah is preparing for war with Israel, monitoring IDF activity along the Israeli-Lebanese border and targeting Israeli assets, according to statements made by the IDF's Northern Command Chief Artillery Officer Colonel Yaron Formosa. The war in Syria - in which Hezbollah has proved critical to recent, successful campaigns waged by the regime - has helped the group's fighters "become proficient in the use of advanced weapons," according to Formosa. Earlier this week, four Israeli troops were injured in an explosion along the border. Analysts increasingly fear that, as with the Israeli-Syrian border, spillover from the Syrian conflict may destabilize Israel's border with Lebanon.