- WSJ: "Difficult, if not impossible" to implement Syria chemical weapons inspections
- Analysts: Claims that Iran significantly slashed 20 percent-enriched uranium at odds with UN report, physical capabilities
- Egyptian army seizes Islamist-controlled town after Christians appeal for protection
- Iran president: Middle East and North Africa unrest part of Western conspiracy to boost Israel
What we’re watching today:
- The Wall Street Journal unpacks four scenarios under which the Syrian chemical weapons deal struck by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov may fall apart. The article puts particular emphasis on the difficulties presented by the country's two and a half year civil war, which "will make it difficult, if not impossible, for international inspectors to do their work." Analysts are not confident that international monitors could safely transport what weapons they are able to reach, and Foreign Policy had already explained last week that "completing the job" of destroying the Syrian regime's chemical arsenal would require putting U.S. boots on the ground. USA Today quoted Gregory Koblentz, a professor at George Mason University, bluntly stating that "there has never been an effort to disarm an entire country of its chemical weapons during a civil war."
- Analysts from the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) are pushing back against statements made last week by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, to the effect that Iran has reduced its stock of 20 percent-enriched uranium from 240 kilograms to 140 kg by converting it into fuel. Journalistic accounts of Salehi's statements flatly described Iran as making "deep cuts" and as having "significantly reduced" its stock. ISIS analysts David Albright and Christina Walrond published a report [PDF] last Friday noting that the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog had as recently as August 2013 estimated that only around 30 kg of Iran's near 20 percent-enriched uranium has been converted into fuel assemblies. They also noted that the reactor which would use and irradiate the fuel rods, making it difficult for Iranian scientists to reconvert the material to uranium hexafluoride suitable for further enrichment, is simply not big enough to irradiate the amount of fuel that Salehi implied had been rendered useless.
- The Egyptian army today seized an Islamist-held town in central Egypt, deploying helicopter-backed military and police forces to dislodge loyalists of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. Supporters of the Islamist official had rampaged through the town of Dalga - looting and torching Christian buildings - after Morsi was removed from power amid mass protests demanding his resignation. The riots were part of a wave of anti-Christian attacks that observers described as the worst organized violence against Copts in 700 years. Christian leaders in Dalga had recently appealed to the army-backed interim government for protection from Islamist "thugs" who they said were still harassing them and preventing them from praying safely.
- Iran's recently-inaugurated president Hassan Rouhani asserted today that Western moves to act against Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime are part of a larger globe-spanning conspiracy to solidify Zionist power, according to Iranian and Western media sources. Iran's state-controlled Fars news agency quoted the revolutionary-era cleric, who has been characterized as a relative pragmatist within the Iranian establishment, describing events in "Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Syria" as part of a plot to strengthen Israel. AFP quoted him as describing unrest in all of those countries as "chains of a single plot with one goal." Rouhani has reportedly and explicitly vowed to support Assad and Iran's Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, which has provided critical support for the Syrian regime. President Obama acknowledged this weekend that he has exchanged letters with Rouhani.
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