- Senate source tells Reuters Iran deal will "neither freeze nor set back" Iran nuke program, predicts new Congressional sanctions
- Analysts: Iranian nuclearization risks Saudi Arabia purchasing nuclear weapons from Pakistan
- Hezbollah lashes out at Kerry over calls for independent Lebanese government
- Arafat polonium conspiracy theories draw eye-rolls
What we’re watching today:
- Details continued to emerge throughout the day regarding the likely terms of an interim agreement between the international community and Iran over the latter's nuclear program, amid increasing skepticism from U.S. policymakers that the deal being worked out would substantially check the Islamic republic's ability to sneak across the nuclear finish line. Reports were published late in the day outlining a potential Geneva meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, which if it took place would almost certainly be in the context of an agreement. The Guardian today reported on statements from Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi indicating that such an agreement would, per the P5+1, be done based on "the framework of Iran's proposal." Meanwhile NBC News described Zarif as having 'reiterated... that Iran would never agree to completely suspend its nuclear program,' a gesture toward the Islamic republic's oft-repeated claim that the Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees Tehran the right to enrich uranium. That claim is, as a legal matter, straightforwardly false, and several countries have built nuclear programs using imported uranium not enriched domestically. Analysts have more over emphasized that permitting Tehran to continue spinning centrifuges would provide the regime with the necessary ambiguity to go nuclear once a political decision to do so has been made. Last night Reuters quoted a senior U.S. Senate aid describing the Obama administration's likely offer to Iran, and explaining that the concessions being requested of Iran 'would "neither freeze nor set back" Iran's nuclear program.' The aid further predicted, per Reuters, that 'Senate would have to act immediately to impose further sanctions on Iran.'
- Analysts and diplomats are increasingly concerned that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations, responding to what they perceive as Western willingness to leave Iran's nuclear program largely intact, may turn to Pakistan in order to purchase nuclear weapons off the shelf. Top global figures including President Barack Obama have been unequivocal that Iranian nuclear weapons acquisition would trigger a cascade of regional proliferation that would among other things shred global nonproliferation norms. The BBC reported yesterday that Saudi Arabia may be moving to counter Iran's progress toward building nuclear weapons by building its own arsenal with Pakistani help and assets. The piece cited a NATO official describing how "nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia [were] now sitting ready for delivery" and quoted Dr. Gary Samore, who until January 2013 was President Barack Obama's point man on counter-proliferation, to the effect that "the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan." On a conference call hosted today by The Israel Project, David Albright, president of the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), described the possibility that Pakistan may transfer nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia as a "legitimate concern."
- Hezbollah today lashed out against Secretary of State John Kerry, days after Kerry used a speech in Saudi Arabia to call for the formation of a Lebanese government that would be free to work "without Hezbollah intimidation." The Iran-backed terror group - which has drawn increasing domestic criticism for maintaining a state-within-a-state in Lebanon and for importing Syria's nearly three-year-old conflict into the country - rejected Kerry's comments as "blatant" foreign interference, which the group "rejected and condemned." Hezbollah's ideology, charter, and leadership are grounded in an absolute fidelity to Iran's supreme leader.
- Several media outlets today gave prominent coverage to the release of a 108-page report by the University Centre of Legal Medicine evaluating claims that former Palestinian Authority (PA) President Yasser Arafat had been poisoned by polonium. The report was described by some Western outlets as concluding that Arafat was "probably poisoned with polonium." Many observers expressed skepticism, inasmuch as there are scientifically zero plausible scenarios under which forensic specialists analyzing Arafat's remains last year could have detected polonium poisoning from 2004, when the Palestinian leader died. Dan Kaszeta - a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) veteran analyst - described the report as having "many caveats" and leaving "much room for doubt." Responding to critics who didn't seem to understand why the half-life of radioactive polonium made it impossible to detect abnormal levels which may have existed in 2004, Kaszeta reminded Twitter readers that the laws of physics applied just the same in the compound where Arafat was then holed up. Nature.com, which publishes the renowned international journal of science that goes by the same name, headlined its coverage of the report with the line "no firm proof Arafat was poisoned." The outlet noted that "the evidence offers no firm conclusions" and cited University of Surrey nuclear physicist Patrick Regan assessing that 'there is certainly no smoking gun in the report.' The Swiss medical report been pursued and published by Al Jazeera, which on Twitter punctuated its posts on the topic with the hashtag "#KillingArafat."
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