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No to backburner, yes to a two-track strategy

No to backburner, yes to a two-track strategy Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

Iran's securing nuclear weapons would destabilise a region already suffering from mass upheaval, in addition to having dire security implications for the rest of the world. Multilateral efforts to deter the sadistic actions of ISIS, a crucial priority, seem to have distracted from international efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program. As identified in the recent post by Andrew Nikolic, a nuclear Iran remains a broader strategic priority and potentially worse threat.

Efforts to stop a Nuclear Iran coming to a bad end?

Efforts to stop a Nuclear Iran coming to a bad end? Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update is devoted to some increasingly pessimistic prognoses that are appearing for the p5+1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) nuclear talks with Iran that are scheduled to be completed by Nov. 25.

First up is Canadian-American author and columnist David Frum, who congratulates Iran's negotiators, arguing they have convincingly won the encounter with their American and allied counterparts, even though, as of last year, the cards seemed to all be in the Americans' hands as sanctions were having significant negative effects on the Iranian economy.

The Biblio File: Rogues States and Diplomatic Dreams Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Security, Middle East    

North Korea. Iran. The Taliban. Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Pakistan. Muammar Gaddafi's Libya. The PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah.

These rogue states, regimes and groups have been the stuff of geopolitical nightmares over the past 40 years. But as Michael Rubin demonstrates in his important new book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, they are also the stuff of diplomatic dreams.

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Iran and the Iraq Crisis

Iran and the Iraq Crisis Categories: International Security, Iran, Iraq, Updates    

The subject of this Update is the Iranian role in the crisis in Iraq - and the suggestions being made that the US and its allies share a common interest with Iran in protecting the Baghdad government from the attacks of the Sunni Islamist groups ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), which has succeeded in overrunning so much of the country.

Why the Brussels shooting came as no surprise to the Belgian Jewish community

Why the Brussels shooting came as no surprise to the Belgian Jewish community Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Antisemitism, Europe, International Security, Updates    

The world was stunned on Saturday, May 24, as news poured in of a deadly attack at The Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. A lone gunman stormed into the museum in the city centre and began shooting. Security camera footage and witness concur that the gunman picked out his victims with calm and focus, aiming specifically for the neck and face. The gunmen used an AK-47 to murder two museum staff members, Alexandre Strens and a French female volunteer whose name has not yet been released, and Israeli tourists Miri and Emanuel Riva. Miri, 53, and Emanuel, 54, have two teenage daughters in Israel.

Israeli strategic experts on the latest nuclear negotiations with Iran

Israeli strategic experts on the latest nuclear negotiations with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Updates offers analysis from three leading Israeli strategic experts on the state of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, its prospects over coming weeks, and especially the significance of reports that progress had been made on some aspects of a nuclear deal, such as the fate of the plutonium-producing Arak heavy-water reactor Iran is building.

Essay: Why does Iran want nuclear weapons?

Essay: Why does Iran want nuclear weapons? Author: Emanuele Ottolenghi Categories: International Security, Iran, Terrorism    

During the past decade, Western diplomats have been engaged in protracted negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program. Though a deal remains elusive, Western policymakers remain adamant that an agreement is possible. Much of their optimism is driven by a willingness to test the proposition, put forward by their Iranian counterparts, that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons on religious grounds.

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The Syrian Conundrum

The Syrian Conundrum Categories: International Security, Syria, Updates    

In the wake of the complete failure of the Geneva 2 talks in late February to make any progress toward an agreement that would end the Syrian civil war, journalists, columnists and academic experts have been exploring what foreign policy options now exist to try and change that ugly situation there. This Update incorporates some of their thoughts and advice. 

The China Syndrome

The China Syndrome Author: Gordon G. Chang Categories: China, International Security, Iran    

In November, immediately after the announcement that Iran had reached a deal with Western negotiators concerning its nuclear program, China's former ambassador to Teheran, Hua Liming, made the case that Beijing - not the American Secretary of State John Kerry or the European Union envoy Catherine Ashton - ultimately deserved credit for brokering the agreement. "When the two parties came across irresolvable problems, they would come to China, which would ‘lubricate' the negotiation and put things back on track," Hua told Chinese state media.

Too many chances for abuse in Iran deal

Too many chances for abuse in Iran deal Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

THE six-month interim nuclear deal reached between Iran and the US-led P5+1 powers - US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany - in Geneva in late November finally came into effect yesterday.

But now the really hard part begins. If the six-month deal does not lead in the end to the kind of agreement that will finally end the years of intense international concern over Iran's nuclear efforts, it will have been worse than useless. Yet there are very good reasons to doubt that it will.

Interim Iranian nuclear deal coming into effect

Interim Iranian nuclear deal coming into effect Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

Last weekend, Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) reportedly reached agreement on technical arrangements to implement the interim "Joint Plan of Action"  agreed on in Geneva in November to limit Iran's nuclear work for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. While the details of the technical arrangements and timetable have not yet been released, and Iran says there is an informal 30-page document that has been agreed to, the actual Joint Plan of Action is now to go into effect from Monday, Jan. 20.

Scribblings: Nuclear Sophistry

Scribblings: Nuclear Sophistry Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel    

When debating policy on Iran's illegal nuclear program, one argument that always gets raised is the supposed "double standard" of forcing Iran to give up its efforts to build nuclear weapons when Israel is believed to have nuclear weapons capabilities.

Morally, the question is not that hard to address. Basically, unlike Iran, Israel is not a revanchist state seeking to control or subvert neighbouring states and spread its "revolution", nor is it the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism, nor does it go around demanding neighbouring states be destroyed. 

Europa Europa: Going Swedish?

Europa Europa: Going Swedish? Author: Douglas Davis Categories: America, Europe, International Security, Iran    

From Israel to Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the myriad Gulf statelets, the perception that Washington has thrown in its lot with the Iranian-led Shia world - Syria and Hezbollah, plus Iraq - is unmistakable. That might not have been Obama's intention, but in such matters, perception trumps intention.

"As we go forward," said Obama shortly after the outline of an interim nuclear deal was agreed with Iran in Geneva, "the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitments to our friends and allies - particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran's intentions."

Few, it seems, were listening.

Geneva: Beyond the Hype

Geneva: Beyond the Hype Author: Robert Satloff Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel    

The blockbuster nuclear deal reached early on the morning of Nov. 24 in Geneva between Iran and the US-led coalition is both less and more consequential than early reports suggested. And there is a good chance that its real value - whether it prevents Iran's nuclear ambitions or inadvertently opens the door to an Iranian bomb - may not be known until US President Barack Obama turns into the home stretch for his second term, after the 2014 midterms.

Implementation issues with interim Iran nuclear deal

Implementation issues with interim Iran nuclear deal Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update deals with some new revelations about potential delays and other problems with implementing the Geneva interim agreement with Iran reached the Sunday before last - with a US spokesperson acknowledging last week that the agreement is not yet in effect for either party and will not be until further negotiations on technical aspects of it are completed. These technical talks are scheduled to begin next week.  Interestingly, Elliot Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations raised this possibility - that the deal was not yet a finalised, binding agreement -  in the aftermath of the Geneva breakthrough.

Flawed pact leaves Iran free to build a nuclear arsenal

Flawed pact leaves Iran free to build a nuclear arsenal Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

US Secretary of State John Kerry has touted the interim agreement over Iran's illegal nuclear program as an achievement that makes the Middle East region safer. If only it were so.

In reality, this dangerously flawed pact normalises relations with a rogue regime, reverses the momentum of years of sanctions and leaves Iran, in six months' time, closer to building nuclear weapons than it is today.

A dangerous deal on Iran

A dangerous deal on Iran Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Op-eds    

The world is overwhelmingly united in agreeing on a number of points about the decades-old Iranian nuclear crisis. One is that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities, in violation of both the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and six legally-binding United Nations Security Council resolutions. Furthermore, it is agreed that a diplomatic deal with Iran is by far the most preferred way to attain this end. And thirdly, everyone agrees, in words used both by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that "a bad deal is worse than no deal."

Nonetheless, the interim deal reached in Geneva on Sunday appears to be likely to turn out to be just such a "bad deal" - or in the words of Netanyahu, a "historic mistake"

AIR
Evaluating the Interim Nuclear Deal with Iran

Evaluating the Interim Nuclear Deal with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Middle East, Updates    

This Update is devoted to analysis of the detail and implications of the interim nuclear deal reached by the P5+1 states (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran in Geneva on Sunday. (The actual agreement text is here, a White House "fact sheet" on the details is here, and some reporting about the agreement's provision is here.) Israeli leaders, meanwhile, have been lining up to make it clear that they are not happy with the deal.

Editorial: Back from the Brink? Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran    

The recent disagreement between Israel and the United States over the parameters of an interim Iranian nuclear deal is significant, but its importance should also not be exaggerated.

The Israeli position on the diplomatic next step - as outlined by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu - and the attitude of the P5+1 - greatly influenced by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry - have been at odds with one another. However, this is a disagreement on tactics, not goals.

Pause for a rethink will help West

Pause for a rethink will help West Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his colleagues among the P5+1 powers who are involved in nuclear negotiations with Iran are in full agreement: striking a bad deal in an attempt to curb Iran's illegal nuclear program would be worse than making no deal at all.

This certainly applies to interim deals reportedly discussed in Geneva last week as much as for a final settlement. The current pause until talks resume next Wednesday offers a golden opportunity for the P5+1 to reassess their latest offer, and it's imperative that they do so, because the interim deal discussed last week appears to have been a bad one.

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Almost a nuclear deal in Geneva?

Almost a nuclear deal in Geneva? Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

As readers are probably aware, in last weeks Geneva talks between the "P5+1" (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran, the parties at one point appeared close to an interim agreement, with Foreign Ministers flying in to join the talks, but then broke up without reaching one. While France publicly objected to elements of the deal initially, and were blamed by Iran for the talks failure, the reasons the talks ended without agreement was because the Iranians walked away from the terms on offer according to the diplomats involved.  Talks are set to resume on Nov. 20, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials making it amply clear that the Israeli government is not at all happy with the terms being discussed (Netanyahu's comments on the subject on US television are here.) This Update deals with analysis of the reported proposed terms of the Geneva "deal" and where the negotiators can go from here.

Editorial: The Iranian charm offensive Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran    

There is a definite international diplomatic buzz over new proposals floated at October's P5+1 talks in Geneva aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program. The Islamic Republic's PR makeover, which began with the election of Hassan Rouhani in June and continued with a charm offensive at the UN General Assembly in September, appears to now be complete.
Whether the transformation is merely cosmetic - as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has emphatically and correctly warned it likely is - or heralds the improbable beginning of a major, genuine policy shift from a sanctions-weary regime is of course not yet entirely conclusive.

Deal or No Deal?

Deal or No Deal? Author: Ron Ben Yishai Categories: International Security, Iran    

Washington and Jerusalem's initial assessments regarding Teheran's intentions were correct. The partial information coming in following the negotiations in Geneva on October 15 and 16 indicates that the current Iranian leadership is in fact proposing a valid deal on its nuclear program... Iran presented a pragmatic and supposedly fair outline for a deal that will be implemented quickly in three stages. The sanctions succeeded where diplomacy failed.

Behind Rouhani's charm offensive

Behind Rouhani's charm offensive Author: Michael Segall Categories: America, International Security, Iran    

In mid-October, a further round of talks began between Iran and the West. Unlike in earlier rounds, this time there have been direct negotiations between the United States and Iran, occurring behind the scenes of the talks between Iran and the P5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). Although the telephone conversation between Obama and Rouhani, which transpired at the end of the Iranian President's visit to the UN General Assembly in late September, is still provoking anger in Iran, it has also aroused hopes that "this time" - ten years after the repeatedly failed negotiations began - there is room for success.

Toward a viable Iran nuclear deal

Toward a viable Iran nuclear deal Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

A round of talks in Geneva about Iran's nuclear program Tuesday and Wednesday ended with the Western powers reporting some progress, and plans made for additional talks early next month  after Iran gave a Powerpoint presentation whose exact content is unknown but which Iran described as a roadmap for resolving the nuclear issue. This Update looks at where the P5+1 powers (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) meeting with Iran should be looking to go from here.

New US-Iran nuclear talks at the UN

New US-Iran nuclear talks at the UN Categories: International Security, Iran, United Nations, Updates    

Reports say that US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Iranian counter-part at the UN this week to discuss a nuclear weapons deal. The Iranians reportedly vetoed a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Obama following their respective speeches to the UN General Assembly (the full text of President Obama's speech is here.) This Update looks at the background to both these talks and the recent Iranian charm offensive under new President Rouhani, what to be wary of in any such talks, and what end result the US should seek to achieve in any nuclear deal.

As Good as it Gets?

As Good as it Gets? Author: Chuck Freilich Categories: International Security, Russia, Syria    

On paper, the Russian proposal to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons looks like the optimal outcome. A military attack to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons was never the objective, but a means to an end, which was to firmly establish the principle that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. If - and this is a very big if - even part of the Syrian chemical arsenal is actually placed under international supervision and ultimately dismantled, the United States will have achieved far more than it set out to do. It is, however, far too early to predict success - indeed, the prospects are limited.

A chemical weapons "deal" on Syria?

A chemical weapons "deal" on Syria? Categories: International Security, Syria, Updates    

This Update deals with the latest surprise development in the Syria debate - with US President Obama delaying the Congressional vote to authorise the use of force against Syria as a punishment for chemical weapons use in the wake of a Russian proposal - based on a seemingly off-hand remark from US Secretary of State John Kerry - for a deal to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control. (The text of Obama's speech on Tuesday, both making a strong case for action against Syria and asking for a delay in voting to pursue the Russian proposal is here.)

A strike on Syria? And if so, what sort and with what consequences?

A strike on Syria? And if so, what sort and with what consequences? Categories: America, International Security, Syria, Updates    

This update deals with the apparent likelihood that the US will soon lead some form of military strikes against the Syrian regime in the wake of what appears to be a large-scale, confirmed chemical weapon attack at East Ghouta and other Damascus suburbs, and increasing reports that intelligence has confirmed that the Syrian regime was responsible (Good reports on the ugly details of that attack come from the New York Times and Der Speigel, while reports on the intelligence are here, here, here and here.) With US President Obama saying he still hasn't made up his mind what to do, it focuses on the form such an attack might or should take, and the consequences of the various options reportedly being considered.

The Face-Off

The Face-Off Categories: Antisemitism, Australasia, Immigration/ Multiculturalism, International Security, Iran, Israel    

In keeping with a long-standing pre-election tradition at the AIR, we sent a series of ten policy questions to the campaigns of both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to help inform our readers as they go to the polls on Sept. 7. The questions - designed to focus on political issues of special concern to the Australian Jewish community - deal with issues including Israel and the peace process, communal education, counter-terrorism and communal security, the Iranian nuclear crisis, multiculturalism, racial hatred laws and the vexed question of asylum seeker policy.

Essay: Winging It

Essay: Winging It Author: Jeni Willenzik Categories: International Security, Lebanon, Terrorism    

During a meeting of the European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs Council on July 22, a consensus was reached among the 28 foreign ministers representing each of the EU's member states. After months of discussion, it was agreed to ban Hezbollah's military wing. In doing so they joined Australia, Canada, the United States and Israel, among other states, in condemning Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

The move is likely considered a significant political achievement by Washington and Jerusalem, both of whom have long urged the EU to act to curtail Hezbollah's history of fundraising, garnering support and perpetrating violence in Europe.

However, like Australia, Europe chose only to implement a partial ban on Hezbollah, despite claims made by both Hezbollah's top leadership and counter-terrorism experts that no distinct factions exist within the greater unified organisation.

No time for nuclear honeymoon as Iran changes guard

No time for nuclear honeymoon as Iran changes guard Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

In his first press conference following his election as President, Rouhani introduced preconditions for direct Iranian talks with the US - including the easing of sanctions and conceding the core of Iran's position on the nuclear issue before negotiations even begin.

Time has run out for such shenanigans and doubletalk. That's just another reason why calls for some sort of a "grace period" for Rouhani over the nuclear issue must be rejected. While Iran's political machine may have paused for an election, there is no suggestion that its centrifuges have taken a holiday.

AIR

Editorial: No Time for Nuclear Honeymoon Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran    

The election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran's next president - the most moderate, or rather, the least extreme of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's hand-picked slate of candidates - certainly appears to signal that the Iranian people want internal reforms, relief from their highly repressive regime and relief from international sanctions over their illegal nuclear program.

What is unclear is whether Teheran's new frontman would be willing to support a nuclear deal that will satisfy the basic requirements for such a settlement, or moreover, whether he would be able to persuade Khamenei - who sets Iranian nuclear policy - to agree.

Iran: Sanctions and the Risk of Breakout

Iran: Sanctions and the Risk of Breakout Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update features two important articles on the state of play regarding the Iranian nuclear standoff - one looking at the effectiveness of current sanctions and another examining Iran's calculations, and especially what considerations might lead Teheran to stage a nuclear breakout. It also contains an important article on the growing and increasingly controversial role being played by the small country of Qatar in various Middle East conflicts and issues.

Another unsuccessful round of Iran talks/ Israel gets gas

Another unsuccessful round of Iran talks/ Israel gets gas Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

The latest round of talks over Iran's nuclear program ended on the weekend with a meeting in Almaty, Kazakhistan, which concluded with little substantive progress and no agreement even about when talks might resume. Moreover, despite Iranian claims to have presented an offer in the latest talks, participants say it was actually, "some interesting, but not fully explained, general comments on our ideas" and an "apparent return to debating modalities for negotiations " rather than any substantive proposal. Iran then followed up the end of the talks by announcing the opening of two new uranium mines and a yellowcake (uranium oxide) factory. This Update deals with the talks and the current state of the Iranian nuclear crisis. 

After the Almaty nuclear talks

After the Almaty nuclear talks Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

In the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran last week, it was agreed to hold two additional meetings - a technical meeting in March and full political talks in early April - after the P5+1 powers softened their demands of Iran and offered greater incentives for agreeing to an interim agreement to ease concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. This Update looks at what can be concluded from the session about the state of efforts to prevent Iran from illegally constructing nuclear weapons.

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Editorial: Compelling Case for a Ban Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, International Security, Terrorism    

The recent announcement by Bulgarian authorities that two Hezbollah agents - including one Australian national - were being sought in connection with the deadly July 2012 Burgas bombing of a bus filled with Israeli tourists should serve as a wake up call for Australia, EU and the wider global community to list all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

The justification for a ban is so compelling, the evidence so overwhelming, that it shouldn't be necessary to argue the case for proscribing the group.

Nothing Personal: The US-Israeli relationship

Nothing Personal: The US-Israeli relationship Author: Andrew Friedman Categories: America, International Security, Israel    

AIR correspondent Andrew Friedman caught up with Professor Eytan Gilboa, Director of the School of Communications at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and an expert on US-Israel relations, for an exclusive briefing about the presidential visit, the state of US-Israel ties and how these relate to general US policy in the Middle East.

Preparing for the Next Round of Iran Talks

Preparing for the Next Round of Iran Talks Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

A new round of P5+1 (meaning the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) nuclear talks with Iran, the first since July of last year, is scheduled for next Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Kazakhstan. There are reports that Iran will be presented with a "substantial and serious offer" from the P5+1 to halt the more worrying enrichment activity - but expectations seems generally modest. Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran this week began installing much quicker second generation centrifuges. This Update offers some background to the talks and explores some of the reasons few expect a significant breakthrough.

Obama trip to focus on Iran/Syria

Obama trip to focus on Iran/Syria Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Op-eds, Syria    

North Korea's latest nuclear test has again brought into focus the growing urgency of stopping the nuclear weapons program of another country on the road to nuclear weapons capability - Iran. The rapidly closing window of opportunity to either persuade Iran to change course or, if all else fails, disable its nuclear facilities by force, is the backdrop for US President Barack Obama's visit to Israel next month.

North Korea and Iran/ The PA's democracy deficit

North Korea and Iran/ The PA's democracy deficit Categories: Asia, International Security, Iran, Palestinians, Updates    

Following the North Korean nuclear bomb test earlier this week, and the failure of the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting with Iran, this Update discusses the potential implications for the ongoing problems of preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capabilities.

First up is an editorial on the subject from the Jerusalem Post, which notes that at the very least, the North Korean test was a morale-booster for Teheran.

Ban Hezbollah in all its guises or forever be victim to its terror

Ban Hezbollah in all its guises or forever be victim to its terror Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, International Security, Lebanon, Op-eds, Terrorism    

FOLLOWING revelations that an Australian passport holder is a terror suspect in the July 18, 2012, Burgas bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed six people, it is high time all countries, including Australia, banned Hezbollah in its entirety.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said in an update on the investigation into the bombing, "There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects . . . What can be established as a well-grounded assumption is that the two persons whose real identity has been determined belonged to the military wing of Hezbollah."

An Australian Hezbollah terrorist? No great surprise

An Australian Hezbollah terrorist? No great surprise Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Europe, International Security, Islamic Extremism, Terrorism, Updates    

Revelations by Bulgarian investigators that one of the suspects in last July's terrorist bombing of a bus carrying an Israeli tour group near the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria last July was both a Hezbollah operative and an Australian national should unfortunately not come as any great surprise.

Those who have closely followed the operations of Iran's terror proxy in southeast Asia and Australasia in recent years know that its presence in the region is substantial, and that Australia is regularly listed as one of the countries in which Hezbollah operates.

Can we force Iran to abandon its nuclear plans?

Can we force Iran to abandon its nuclear plans? Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

Where must we draw the line on Iran's dangerous and illegal nuclear weapons program? At what point should the strongest measures, including military strikes, be implemented in order to derail it?

This is the question at the heart of a subtle yet significant disparity in diplomatic language regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, as the possibility increases that ongoing economic sanctions may be insufficient to cause Iran to abandon its goal of nuclear arms capability.

The latest IAEA report and Iran as a "threshold" state

The latest IAEA report and Iran as a "threshold" state Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update looks at the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran's nuclear program, as well as other important aspects of the debate about what to do about Iran's nuclear program.

First up, noted American strategic analyst Anthony Cordesman summarises the key elements of the IAEA report, quoting from the report extensively to do so. He notes that Iran has refused to cooperate with the IAEA on the Parchin site suspected of being used for explosives testing for the nuclear program, has strongly increased its stockpile of both low enriched uranium and uranium enriched to 20% (well on the way to weapons grade) plus the UN has seen signs of even higher levels of enrichment...

Sanctions and Nuclear Negotiations with Iran

Sanctions and Nuclear Negotiations with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

Today's Update features some new, valuable pieces on various aspects of the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

First up, Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal of the Bipartisan Policy Institute, a US thinktank, strongly argue against meeting Iran's demand in the negotiations that its "right to enrich uranium" should be acknowledged. Looking at the text of the Nuclear Non-Proiliferation Treaty, they document that the treaty grants no such right, and moreover, Iran has violate  the conditions the treaty sets out in order to receive "the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy".

Iran nuclear talks go nowhere/ Iran and Syria

Iran nuclear talks go nowhere/ Iran and Syria Categories: International Security, Iran, Syria, Updates    

As readers are probably aware, the third round of "P5+1" talks with Iran over its nuclear program took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week in Moscow and ended not only with no sign of an agreement, but without any clear plans for further high-level talks. This Update deals with what happened in Moscow and the implications of the talks' failure.

First up, Barak Ravid of Haaretz receives some insights into the exact nature of  the discussions from an anonyomous participating diplomat. He says that the Western states attempted to correct an Iranian belief that they were interested in a deal at any cost, while the Iranians were vague and unhelpful in discussing plans to limit their enrichment of uranium to 20% - which is, in terms of technical difficulty, almost bomb grade - and refused to discuss the fate of the secretly-built underground Fordo enrichment complex at all.

AIR
Oil prices worsen Iran’s Sanctions woes

Oil prices worsen Iran’s Sanctions woes Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: International Security, Iran, Middle East, Updates    

The impact of international sanctions on Iran's ability to do business with its neighbours as it pursues its controversial nuclear program is an issue that AIJAC has followed closely.

What is clear now is that the Iranian economy is in a state of sharp decline as sanctions cripple Iran's ability to do business with its neighbours.

This decline is today being exacerbated by the fact that oil prices are falling worldwide, and are expected to continue to do so.

Moreover, there is new evidence these dynamics, combined with governmental mismanagement are combining to significantly affect the lifestyle of the average Iranian - especially in terms of prices for basic food staples.

Israeli defence relationships in Asia... and Australia

Israeli defence relationships in Asia... and Australia Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Asia, Australasia, India, International Security, Israel, Updates    

The influential trade publication Defence Review Asia has reported strong growth for Israeli weapons system sales to a number of Asian and Australasian countries, including right here in Australia.

The story, which was published on Sunday, focused on burgeoning trade between Israel and India, but also looked at deals with Singapore and South Korea, among others.

Europa Europa: Catherine the Not-so-Great

Europa Europa: Catherine the Not-so-Great Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, International Security, Iran    

When Catherine Ashton arrived in Israel last month she was carrying an outsized bundle of political baggage. The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, who is leading the international talks with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, had ostensibly made the journey to assuage Israeli doubts about the effectiveness of the talks (and to avoid public ridicule).

After a bout of negotiations in April between Iranian officials and the P5+1 group - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany - she spoke enthusiastically about creating a "constructive dialogue". In fact, the only tangible progress was an agreement to set the date (May 23) for their next meeting. Ashton's mission to persuade the Israelis that the Iranians were not making monkeys of her negotiators, as they had with earlier European interlocutors, was not crowned with success.

Iran negotiations that matter

Iran negotiations that matter Author: Reuel Marc Gerecht Categories: International Security, Iran    

Since we don't know what Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, said at the recent late April confab in Istanbul, we can't be sure that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was right to dismiss that pow-wow as a "freebie" for Teheran. Also, the Islamic Republic is a theocracy: The most senior officials need to report face-to-face to their master. Jalili, an ill-tempered, narrow-minded, one-legged veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, lost face after a disastrous meeting in Geneva in October 2009, when he tentatively agreed to a nuclear-fuel swap, only to see the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, bat the deal down from Teheran. And so another get-together is scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.

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The Baghdad Negotiations with Iran

The Baghdad Negotiations with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

As readers may be aware, the long-anticipated P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran in Baghdad ended overnight without a breakthrough. Indeed, little seems to have been achieved except for an agreement to meet again in Moscow on June 17.

As discussed in this Update's first piece from the New York Times, an offer was apparently made to the Iranians by the P5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) and rejected. The P5+1 offers seems to have focussed mainly on getting Iran to, at a minimum, stop uranium enrichment to 20% (which is, technically, only a short distance from bomb grade) and agree to remove its stock of 20% enriched uranium from the country to be processed into reactor fuel, in exchange for a limited lifting of some sanctions and other cooperation.

Is any deal better than no deal on Iran's nukes?

Is any deal better than no deal on Iran's nukes? Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

This Update features three pieces on the nuclear talks with Iran, scheduled to resume next week after a five week hiaitus - two of them focusing on the dangers of any agreement which does not adequately block Iran's ability to quickly build nuclear weapons whenever a decision to do so is reached.

First up is Iran scholar and recent visitor to Australia Emanuele Ottolenghi, who looks at some history related to the Iranian nuclear program to make the case that an agreement that does not take account of Iran's past weaponisation achievements will leave Iran able to build nuclear weapons.

Editorial: Last Chance Diplomacy Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel    

Following a period of increased international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, the P5+1 nudged Iran back to the negotiating table on April 13. The two-day talks, held in Istanbul, yielded little but an agreement to resume talks in five weeks time, on May 23 in Baghdad.

Whether you agree with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's assessment that Iran had been given a "freebie", or US President Barack Obama's description of the latest talks as an "opportunity for us to negotiate and see if Iran comes to the table in good faith," the fact remains that despite the sanctions and these negotiations, Iran's nuclear enrichment and development continues apace in defiance of the unequivocal Western and UN policy to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Nukes on the Table

Nukes on the Table Author: Dore Gold Categories: International Security, Iran    

The clock is ticking on the Iranian nuclear program. Last December, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appeared on the CBS news program, "60 Minutes", and declared that Iran could have a bomb within twelve months. He added that the time frame might be shorter if the Iranians have "a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel." If Panetta's assessments are correct, then Iran's best diplomatic strategy for 2012 is just to let the clock run out. The West will have to carefully develop a counter-strategy to neutralise Iran's likely course of action.

First Iran meeting/ Netanyahu and Fayyad meet to exchange letters

First Iran meeting/ Netanyahu and Fayyad meet to exchange letters Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with the "P5+1" talks with Iran that occurred on Saturday - with reports suggesting little diplomatic progress accomplished beyond agreement to another meeting in five weeks in Baghdad. On a separate issue, it also contains a look a the significance of the planned meeting tonight between Israeli PM Netanyahu and Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad to present a letter outlining the Palestinian position.

Another failed peace plan for Syria?/ Negotiating with Iran

Another failed peace plan for Syria?/ Negotiating with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Syria, Updates    

This Update deals primarily with the apparent failure of the peace plan for Syria negotiated by UN envoy Kofi Annan, which appears to have failed after a promised pullout of  Syrian forces from major towns by Tuesday appears to have largely not occurred (though relative quiet is reportedly currently in place across the country.)

First up is Syrian opposition figure and analyst Radwan Ziadeh who argues it was absurd to have expected Syrian President Assad to have complied with the Annan peace plan given his track record. He points particularly to repeated promises by Assad to both Turkey and the Arab League which were not kept, and seemed to be simply a diversion.

New Leadership and Old Tricks from Pyongyang

New Leadership and Old Tricks from Pyongyang Author: Nir Reichental Categories: Asia, International Security    

Imagine the following terrifying scenario for the international community - a rogue, impoverished country armed to the teeth with doomsday weaponry, a regime infamous for its belligerence, yet one whose perceptions of reality and decision-making processes are a mystery. Let us further imagine such a ‘hermit kingdom' with the capacity to inflict the gravest catastrophe on the world yet ruled by an unknown and inexperienced young leader in his twenties.

The SMH’s quest to downplay the Iranian nuclear program

The SMH’s quest to downplay the Iranian nuclear program Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Australasia, International Security, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Seldom has there been such a brazen attempt to pass off pantomime as intelligent debate.

Saturday's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald's (SMH) weekly "The Question" section - which canvasses the opinions of four experts with presumed standing on a specific issue - addressed the topic of "Is the West destined for war with Iran? Deepening distrust is fuelling a new round of sabre-rattling."

A fair enough subject for discussion, however, the range of views left a lot to be desired...

The psychology of Iran's rulers and their nuclear plans

The psychology of Iran's rulers and their nuclear plans Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

This Update includes two new pieces by experts attempting to explain how Teheran views the current nuclear standoff - a vital piece of the puzzle if policies are to be implemented to influence the behaviour of Iran's leaders.

First up is Ray Takeyh of the US Council on Foreign Relations, who points out that the primary reason the leaders of the Iranian regime believe they need nuclear weapons is because, for historical reasons, they both see themselves as the "natural hegemons" of the region, and are a revolutionary regime, whose purpose is to export their revolution to other countries...

Iran's nuclear program: covert action, Fordow, policy options

Iran's nuclear program: covert action, Fordow, policy options Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update offers threes pieces related to recent news on the ongoing crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

First up, former security adviser to the British government Andrew Cummings explains the rationale behind the campaign of covert action against Iran, as epitomised by the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist last week. Cummings argues that those who assert that such moves are dangerous fail to understand that the alternatives are even more risky and fraught.

AIJAC welcomes Australian support for further sanctions on Iran

AIJAC welcomes Australian support for further sanctions on Iran Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, International Security, Iran, Media Releases    

AIJAC welcomes the announcement by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd that Australia will be pursuing additional sanctions against Iran, including measures that will "further restrict business with Iran's petroleum and financial sectors."

Hopefully, these measures will, when enacted, bring Australia into line with the international consensus developing, which includes the US, EU and Canada, that, in the wake of the latest IAEA report on Iran's illegal nuclear program, the time has come to bring the maximum diplomatic/economic pressures on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

Editorial: What Needs to be Done Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel    

Speaking to CNN recently, Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak posed a terrifying scenario:

"Who would have come to rescue Kuwait when it was taken by Saddam Hussein 20 years ago, if Saddam could have said credibly enough that he has three or four crude nuclear devices?"

The answer of course, is that no one would have acted. In all likelihood, Iraq would still be in control of Kuwait and all its oil wealth today and Saddam would still likely be in power.

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Warning Bell

Warning Bell Author: Ephraim Asculai Categories: International Security, Iran    

The long awaited and much overdue Annex of the November 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report was presented to the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council on November 8, 2011. Although the Annex contains much interesting and fresh information, its basic message that Iran is actively engaged in the development of nuclear weapons should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the developments reported in the IAEA periodic reports.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon should broaden its focus

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon should broaden its focus Author: Michael Immerman Categories: International Security, Iran, Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Terrorism, United Nations, Updates    

In the latest development from the ongoing saga surrounding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the UN will be holding off on the prosecution of the suspected assassins for the time being.

As reported, legal proceedings against Mustafa Badreddine, Salam Ayyash, Hussein Anaissi and Assad Sabra, Hezbollah members considered responsible for the assassination of Hariri, will not proceed in absentia.

Rather, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the UN-backed body tasked with prosecuting and resolving this matter, will wait for Lebanese authorities to arrest the four suspects.

Are new sanctions on Iran enough?

Are new sanctions on Iran enough? Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update features three pieces commenting on the international debate about a new round of sanctions on Iran - with the US, Britain and Canada announcing new measures on Monday, and Europe agreeing "in principle" to expand sanctions a couple of days later

First up is an editorial from the Washington Post, in which the paper argues that the new sanctions announced by the US Administration amount to "half-measures". Instead, the paper argues, the sorts of tough sanctions proposed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy early this week should be adopted - including a freeze on the assets of Iran's central bank, and a complete embargo on all petroleum purchases from Iran being adopted by a coalition of Western states.

Iran responds to IAEA by threatening to destroy Israel... again + Australia feels the fallout

Iran responds to IAEA by threatening to destroy Israel... again + Australia feels the fallout Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, United Nations, Updates    

As outlined in yesterday's update, the UN's atomic energy watchdog has just released a report that just falls short of definitively stating that Iran has a nuclear weapons program - seemingly the closest that the UN ever comes to an unequivocal condemnation of a country that is not Israel. The report has emerged amid rumours that Israel is gearing-up for an attack on Iran and is busy soliciting support from allies in the UK and the US.

Predictably, Iran did not respond with steps to assure the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful, but instead blamed an American conspiracy and then threatened to destroy Israel.

Iran denies the allegations and says the evidence used by the U.N. nuclear watchdog was fabricated by the United States and its allies. It has insisted that its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity and ensuring an independent fuel supply for its nuclear power plants.

... "If smoke columns rise from our nuclear facilities, then this scenario could happen in other areas," said Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces. "The Dimona station in Israel is the easiest...

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IAEA: Iran "continuing" work on a bomb

IAEA: Iran "continuing" work on a bomb Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

As readers may be aware, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday released a report into Iran's nuclear program which is being described by diplomats as "the most damning report ever published by the IAEA." The report itself is available in full here - the key extracts are collected here and here.

We lead with a summary of the report's key findings from Washington Institute for Near East Policy expert Simon Henderson. He pays particular attention to the report's revelations concerning where Iran obtained its nuclear technology - from Pakistan mainly, but also  possibly from Russia.

 How do you solve a problem like Pakistan?

How do you solve a problem like Pakistan? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Updates    

Pakistan is a foreign policy conundrum for the West. While Pakistan has publicly been an ‘ally' to the West in fighting al-Qaeda and supporting the war in Afghanistan, privately its intelligence agencies work with the Taliban and support terrorist organisations. In addition, Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is considered by many to be unstable, and therefore poses a very real threat to international security should it end up in the wrong hands.

An important article by Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic, entitled "The Ally from Hell' provide some interesting new insights and information relevant to the significant dangers posed by Pakistan's complex dual game:

"Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the US will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With friends like this, who needs enemies?"

Has Iran run down the nuclear clock?

Has Iran run down the nuclear clock? Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Updates    

A new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report due to be released tomorrow is believed to contain compelling evidence that Iran is now at the end stage of its nuclear research program and is actively working on weaponisation technologies.

Ahead of the report's scheduled release we present a range of reading that predicts what the report will likely detail, where the effort to contain Iran's nuclear weapons program is at and whether the time has come to move from economic sanctions to military options.

US President Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly

US President Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly Categories: America, International Security, Middle East, Speeches, United Nations    

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: I would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations - the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.

War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilization. But in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to death on a staggering scale. It was this killing that compelled the founders of this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war, but on averting others; a union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent conflict, while also addressing its causes.

 

WikiLeaks - Over as a “cause celebre”

WikiLeaks - Over as a “cause celebre” Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Antisemitism, International Security, Israel, Turkey, Updates    

There is little doubt that the phenomenon of WikiLeaks has lost the excitement and positive glow it once sparked among journalists, pundits and activists. Infighting in the organisation, the lack of anything terribly surprising in most of the more recent releases of information and the loss of novelty partly explain this change. But the recent "accidental" release of the entire unredacted database of US diplomatic cables not only led to widespread condemnation, but helped put the final nails in the coffin of WikiLeaks as the global "cause celebre" it once was among many, including in Australia.

Now Nick Cohen of the Guardian has written a piece suggesting the possibility that the unredacted cable leak could well have been an intentional act by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange...

A nuclear Iran - Is it too late? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

With the world focussed on other issues, Iran is continuing to both illegally enrich uranium and rapidly building up the infrastructure to do so even more quickly and efficiently.

It is clear that Iran is already well along on its course towards developing nuclear weapons for military purposes - and it is appearing inceasingly unlikely that anyone will stop it.

A nuclear Iran is also an immense danger to the Middle East. As former British PM Tony Blair, Peace Envoy for the Middle East, recently stated: 'If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability it would destabilise the region very, very badly."

Blair said that while Al Qaeda poses a significant threat to people across the world, he believes the bigger evil is Iran, which "support groups that are engaged with terrorism and the forces of reaction".

Blair said that he believes regime change in Iran is necessary and there needs to be military intervention if it acquires nuclear weapons capability.

The Twilight Zone at the UN

The Twilight Zone at the UN Author: Allon Lee Categories: Asia, International Security, Iran, United Nations, Updates    

"There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man" may have kicked off each new episode of the Twilight Zone but it can equally be applied to the alternate reality that is the United Nations.

Bizarrely, this week, North Korea assumed the presidency of the UN's Conference on Disarmament despite being under a sanctions regime for its nuclear weapons program.

 

Iran Bans Waterfights and Steps Closer to Nuclear War

Iran Bans Waterfights and Steps Closer to Nuclear War Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

As reported by MEMRI, Iranian summers just became a little less enjoyable when the Iranian Parliament moved to ban watergun fights, after  pictures of a waterfight in a Teheran park were posted online. Unfortunately, this was not the most absurd statement made by an Iranian official this week (in fact, with Iran's "moral police" patrolling the country, it is all too believable).

The cake in fact goes to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made yet another claim that Iran's clandestine nuclear program, while off-limits to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, is in fact for peaceful purposes. As reported by Reuters:

"When we say we don't want to build an atomic bomb it means we really do not want to build an atomic bomb"...

The Iranian Regime’s Summer of Discontent

The Iranian Regime’s Summer of Discontent Author: Allon Lee Categories: International Security, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Russia, Terrorism, Updates    

Not far away from the headline-grabbing Arab Spring, a power struggle is playing out under the Iranian summer sun as fissures in the one-time partnership between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shatter into an unbridgeable abyss.

Veteran Iranian analyst Dr. Abbas Milani of Stanford University has written a follow-up to his June piece when it seemed Ahmadinejad would be impeached for sedition.

 

Weakened Hezbollah Shifts Blame Towards Israel

Weakened Hezbollah Shifts Blame Towards Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: International Security, Lebanon, NGOs, Syria, Updates    

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the Second Lebanon war, fought between Israel and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. Since the conflict concluded, Hezbollah has been systematically consolidating power in Lebanon and amassing arms for the next round of violence. However, there has not been a shot fired from Southern Lebanon into Israel for which Hezbollah has taken credit. This is in stark contrast to the situation before the incursion, when Hezbollah would periodically fire rockets and mortars into Israeli territory in order to raise tensions.

To mark the anniversary, Israeli academics Abraham Bell and Gerald Steinberg have written a piece in Ynet about a study that they are conducting on different NGO responses to the 2006 conflict, which has some rather disconcerting findings...

On the Oslo attacks: Neo-Nazis and Islamist extremists share a worldview

On the Oslo attacks: Neo-Nazis and Islamist extremists share a worldview Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Europe, Far Right, International Security, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Israel's leaders certainly know where Israel sits with regard to the horrific massacre that took place in Oslo over the weekend. Both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have expressed their sorrow over the tragic events and expressed Israel's empathy with the Norwegian people, given the terrorist attacks that Israel is all too used to facing. As The Jerusalem Post reports:

After sending a message of condolence to King Harald V of Norway on Saturday, President Shimon Peres on Sunday followed up with a phone call to the King to personally voice his own and the nation's condolences...

Darshan-Leitner takes on Gaza flotillas

Darshan-Leitner takes on Gaza flotillas Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Anti-Zionism, International Security, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Israeli civil rights organisation director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner has written a good primer in the Jerusalem Post on why the blockade of Gaza is legal and how flotilla activists are likely breaking US law.

Pursuant to the Oslo Accords ... the Palestinians agreed that the Gaza coastline would be placed under Israeli control and that no foreign ships would be allowed closer than 12 nautical miles from the shore.

Israel demanded this out of concern over widespread import of conventional and unconventional weapons into Gaza.

 

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Is Iran really not at war with the West?

Is Iran really not at war with the West? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

Since the bulk of US forces in Iraq have been withdrawn, the country has been seeing an increasingly worrying spike in violence. What is especially concerning is the alleged source of this renewed upsurge in the conflict. As reported in The Washington Post last week:

BAGHDAD - Three U.S. soldiers were killed this week in a rocket attack at a U.S. base near the Iranian border, the military said Thursday, bringing June's death toll to 15 and marking the bloodiest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years....

A Trial for Gaddafi?

A Trial for Gaddafi? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Security, Libya, Updates    

Earlier this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for embattled Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and two close associates.

A number of commentators have noted that this could potentially be counterproductive to the goal of ending the war in Libya quickly...

I wrote something along similar lines in a column in the April edition of the Australia/Israel Review when Gaddafi was first referred to the ICC. In it, I also offered some thoughts on why potentially counter-productive actions like this one are taken...

 

Saudi proliferation fears as Iran tests missiles

Saudi proliferation fears as Iran tests missiles Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: International Security, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

One of the strongest arguments in favour of preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons at all costs is the fear that, were Iran to develop a neclear arsenal, the balance of power in the Middle East would be severely undermined and as a result, other countries in that region would quickly start working on their own programs. This would lead to a far more dangerous world - where unstable regimes are in possession of the most devestating weapons known to humanity.

At a recent meeting in the UK, a Saudi diplomat has confirmed that...

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Editorial: The Perils of Unilateralism Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Israel, Palestinians    

This September, the Palestinian Authority (PA) intends to go to the United Nations to seek support for a unilateral declaration of a sovereign Palestinian state - a move that will intensify rather than end the conflict, setting the entire peace process back by years if not decades.

Having shunned repeated Israeli attempts to negotiate a two-state solution without preconditions over the past two and a half years - including during Israel's historic settlement freeze in 2009-10 - the Palestinians' goal in approaching the UN is, as noted historian Benny Morris put it, "to establish a Palestinian Arab state encompassing the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, but without recognising Israel or making peace with it."

Bin Laden's death and its implications

Bin Laden's death and its implications Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

There is so much material being published on the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on Sunday by US forces that this Update will not attempt to duplicate the widely reported news. Instead, it will focus on pieces providing an unusual perspective or analysing some under-reported elements and implications of this event.

First up is Barry Rubin who, in his usual insightful fashion, tries to place this event in some sort of historical context of the larger Islamist movement. Importantly, he argues that the Islamist movement extends way beyond the fate of al-Qaeda, and that other Islamist groups which are seeking to exploit state power - including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - may be even more important and more dangerous in the long run.

Goldstone's Regrets Author: Tal Becker Categories: International Security, Palestinians    

In significant contrast to his initial report, Goldstone now asserts that civilians were not intentionally targeted by Israel as a matter of policy during the Gaza campaign and that estimates of Palestinian civilian casualties may have been exaggerated.

International Intervention in Libya? Categories: International Security, Libya, Updates    

Today's Update deals with the international debate over whether outside parties can or should intervene in the conflict in Libya between long-serving eccentric dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the rebels seeking his overthrow.

First up, reviewing the strategic realities of the current conflict is Michael Knights, a military expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He reviews the course of the fighting so far, and the relative success the Gaddafi forces have had in using their greater mobility to squeeze rebel pockets in Western Libya (though they remain unable to dent the rebel-held towns of the East.)

From Pyongyang with love

From Pyongyang with love Author: Allon Lee Categories: Asia, International Security, Iran, Middle East, Syria    

North Korean cooperation is a linchpin in Iran's development of ballistic missiles, without which progress would be retarded a very great deal. On Iran's nuclear push, the evidence is less conclusive, but North Korean assistance seems likely to be very significant to Iran’s nuclear progress to date.

"The Point of No Return" on Iran?/Bushehr Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

Today's Update leads with a lengthy and controversial article that is generating much comment in the US. Top journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic has written an extended feature piece dealing with the possibility that Israel may launch an airstrike on the Iranian nuclear program - possibly as soon as early next year according to Goldberg. Goldberg has spoken to over 40 Israeli military and political leaders, including PM Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres for his story.

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AIJAC welcomes further Australian sanctions on Iran Categories: Australasia, International Security, Iran, Media Releases    

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) today welcomed the Australian Government's announcement that further sanctions are to be placed on Iran. AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler AC said, "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is a destabilising factor in an already unstable region. We congratulate the Australian government on imposing these additional sanctions on Iran to help force it to comply with international opinion and UN Security Council resolutions, to stop its enrichment program and open up all nuclear sites to unfettered access for international inspectors."

Iran "vulnerable" to sanctions Categories: International Security, Iran, Middle East    

IRAN is much more vulnerable to pressure than the West realises, and ratcheting up the pressure with sanctions may halt its nuclear weapons program, according to an Israeli specialist on Iran. The European Union's history with Iran taught it that it could mock the West, but sanctions passed on Monday had real teeth, Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies said in Melbourne yesterday.

Election Face-off Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Australasia, Immigration/ Multiculturalism, International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Terrorism    

Despite the obvious concern that accompanies any change of government - particularly one that had ruled for 11 years - by and large the changeover to the Australian Labor Party saw a continuity of bipartisanship on a raft of Israel and Jewish communal issues. The sudden change of the prime ministership from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard in late-June does not dramatically change this calculus and may even strengthen it, with the latter's long standing commitment to the Jewish State and the Australian Jewish community not in question. Indeed, Gillard reaffirmed her support for Israel upon assuming the leadership...

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The Reset Button Author: Ehud Ya’ari Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians    

All of a sudden we have seen a different type of meeting between Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Obama. And a major effort on the part of the President, for the first time since his election, to be nice to the Israeli people by giving an interview to an Israeli journalist. They have reached the conclusion that keeping a distance from Israel, picking unnecessary fights with Israel, was not going to advance the peace process. They have reached the conclusion that by distancing themselves from Bibi, from Israel, they are not getting anything in return from the Arab world. And therefore, the change.

Lebanon, Hezbollah and UNIFIL Categories: International Security, Lebanon, Updates    

Following the revelation earlier this month by Israel security forces of specific details about Hezbollah military infrastructure in Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has initiated some confrontations between its supporters and the UN's UNIFIL peacekeepers in southern Lebanon. These seemed to be designed to limit UNIFIL's ability to uncover Hezbollah violations of UN resolutions. This Update looks at what appears to be happening in southern Lebanon.

Essay: Rational Action Author: Amitai Etzioni Categories: International Security, Iran, Middle East    

One of the few points on which there is wide agreement is that for deterrence to work, the leaders of the nations that command nuclear arms must be rational. The same holds for terrorists who may acquire nuclear arms one way or another. In effect, a small cottage industry has developed of popular authors and researchers who argue that both heads of states and terrorists do act rationally, and thus – fearing retaliation from other nuclear powers – they will not employ their nukes.

Additional Autonomous Sanctions on Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update features analysis of the increasing trend of announcements of additional autonomous sanctions directed against Iran's nuclear program in the wake of the passage of the UN Security Council's new sanctions resolution, earlier this month. As noted in previous Updates, this trend incorporates the US, the EU, and Australia as well, with an announcement last week by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith of additional autonomous sanctions against two financial entities and an individual (This comes on top of autonomous sanctions Australia imposed in 2008).

The Wider Context of the Flotilla Tragedy/ The NPT Conference outcome Author: AIJAC staff Categories: International Security, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians    

Today's Update continues our coverage of the Gaza flotilla tragedy, with articles that attempt to put this specific event into the wider regional and strategic context. It also has some new expert comment on the controversial outcome of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference, which concluded on the weekend.

Are they enough? Author: BICOM Categories: International Security, Iran    

Israeli officials privately noted that the draft resolution lacked the tough provisions that Jerusalem believes are necessary to force Iran to rethink its policy. In this regard, the absence of sanctions targeting the energy sector is seen as of particular importance.

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Iran ups the stakes at UN Author: AIJAC staff Categories: International Security, Iran, United Nations, Updates    

Today's Update looks at the shameless spectacle of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations this week, which saw the delegations from the US, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand and others walk out.

Editorial: Nuclear Elephant in the Room Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran    

Yet Obama's Nuclear Security Summit largely ignored the Iranian nuclear elephant in the room. His sanctions efforts against Iran are likewise taking much too long, as the Iranians continually announce the achievement of new nuclear milestones while deadline after deadline is postponed.

Nuclear Fallout Author: Michael Crowley Categories: International Security, Iran    

Critics may complain that the nuclear summit was a glorified photo-op. But even merely gathering world leaders to discuss nuclear terrorism is an achievement.

Iran and the Nuclear Security Summit Author: AIJAC staff Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

As readers will be aware, US President Obama earlier this week hosted a 47-nation summit on the subject of potential nuclear terrorism, designed to create additional safeguards against that threat. This Update is devoted to analysis looking at how the achievements of the Summit relate to the ongoing efforts to halt Iran's illegal nuclear program.

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Deconstruction Zone: A job well done Author: Bren Carlill Categories: International Security, Israel, Terrorism    

These attacks, while morally justified, tend to contravene the laws of the countries in which the operations are carried out. Those who criticise Israel's apparent disregard for legal niceties in these matters would have Israel sit on its hands while its citizens die left, right and centre. Any Israeli government that did so would be deservedly thrown out of office.

Time's Up for Iran Sanctions Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

If anyone still had any doubts about Iran's nuclear intentions, these should have been dispelled by last week's revelations in The Times of documents showing Iran experimented with neutron trigger technology. Such technology can only be used in nuclear weaponry.

Editorial: Time's Up Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran    

If the US and European Union want to avoid the associated horrors of an Iranian nuclear bomb and the costs of a military attack to pre-empt it, either the UN Security Council must impose meaningful, enforceable and targeted sanctions against Iran or the US, with like-minded allies including the EU and Australia, will have to do it themselves.

IAEA: End of an era Author: Efraim Asculai Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Syria    

On December 1 Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the three-term International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general passed the keys to his office to his successor... He will probably be remembered as the director-general who politicised his position more than any of his predecessors.

An Iranian nuclear "smoking gun"? Author: AIJAC staff Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

As has been widely reported, the Times (UK) has revealed what appears to be a "smoking gun" on the Iranian nuclear program - documents which appear to reveal work on a neutron initiator, a nuclear component which has no other use than triggering a nuclear weapon.

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Proliferation, North Korea and Iran/The Haaretz allegations revisited Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Asia, International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

Israeli commentators have watched with interest the reaction to North Korea's illegal ballistic missile launch - under cover of a "civilian satellite" launch - on Sunday. They see the reaction of the US administration and international community as important signposts for their treatment of the Iranian nuclear and missile proliferation threat.

Scribblings: Inventing International Law Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Security, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Terrorism    

In terms of the legal argument, the Geneva Conventions are not a suicide pact. They do set forth the fundamental ideal that both sides of a conflict should distinguish both their own and enemy combatants from civilians, but are also very clear that when civilian facilities are used for military purposes they become legitimate military targets.

Durban Renewal Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, International Security, NGOs    

The United Nations' Review Conference for the 2001 "World Conference Against Racism" is shaping up to be as unworthy of its name as was its predecessor. The 2001 conference (Durban I) was hosted by South Africa in Durban and its legacy as a hate fest of antisemitism and anti-Israel thuggery has blighted the city's reputation.

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Essay: The Iranian Nuclear Challenge Author: Bipartisan Policy Center Categories: America, International Security, Iran    

A nuclear weapons-capable Islamic Republic of Iran is strategically untenable. This report is about preventing the untenable. While a peaceful, civilian nuclear program in Iran might be acceptable under certain conditions... it is the decided judgment of this group that continued Iranian enrichment of uranium... threatens US and global security, regional stability, and the international nonproliferation regime.

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Iran's response to the latest nuclear offer Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Updates    

Today's Update offers analysis of the ostensibly ambiguous, but actually very negative, Iranian response to the latest international offer of incentives (called the "P5+1" proposal, because it is signed by the 5 permanent UN Security Council members, plus Germany) to halt its nuclear enrichment efforts - which have been repeatedly declared illegal by the UN Security Council.

Don't downplay the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

THERE is international consensus that Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions pose a real and significant threat. Since 2003, the UN Security Council has passed three legally binding resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, while Britain, France and Germany have led negotiations with Iran to bring a halt to its nuclear program.

Nuclear Revelations about Syria/ Israel-Syria negotiations? Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Israel, Multimedia, Syria, Updates    

This Update focuses on two recent developments vis a vis Syria. Firstly, according to the US CIA Director, what Israel destroyed in a mysterious airstrike in Syria last September was a plutonium producing nuclear reactor, capable of producing enough plutonium for one to two nuclear bombs per year, built with North Korean assistance.

UN-reformed Author: Adam Frey Categories: Australasia, International Security, Israel, Palestinians    

The General Assembly routinely promotes and passes blatantly one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions; the UN Human Rights Council ...has so far been no better than its predecessor; and there are four distinct bodies within the UN bureaucracy that are devoted solely to advancing the Palestinian narrative of the conflict while demonising Israel.

The NIE and the Iranian Bomb Author: Patrick Clawson Categories: International Security, Iran    

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released at the beginning of December, "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities", is about weaponisation, not the enrichment and fuel cycle issues that have been the focus of multiple UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board resolutions regarding Iran?s nuclear program.

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Dealing with Iran after the NIE Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Iran, Updates    

Iranian President Ahmadinejad is claiming that the controversial US National Intelligence Estimate earlier this month, which asserted that Iran had stopped its nuclear weaponisation efforts in 2003, was a US "declaration of surrender." Iran is also hailing the Russian delivery of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor a "great achievement".

Iran, the IAEA and the Bomb Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update is devoted to the Iranian nuclear issue, and the debate sparked in recent weeks by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed elBaradei, who has been making statements opposing both sanctions and force as a response to the Iranian nuclear stand-off, saying there is no evidence Iran is planning to make weapons, and anyway, it would take them three to eight years.

Russian Roulette on Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Russia    

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been the most important barrier to stronger UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, visited Iran this week and made some statements that seem likely to reinforce Iranian intransigence and also promised to finish the Bushehr nuclear reactor.

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Editorial: Mention the War Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, International Security, Terrorism    

A few weeks ago, former High Court Chief Justice Sir Gerard Brennan told a Law Council of Australia conference that some incursions on individual freedom and the values of the common law as part of counter-terrorism laws may be essential to combat the risk of terror.

Head to Head Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Australasia, Immigration/ Multiculturalism, International Jewry, International Security, Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism, United Nations    

As has become traditional in the lead-up to a federal election, the Australia/Israel Review posed a series of questions to Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd focusing on international security, the Middle East, and domestic polices of special interest to the Australian Jewish community.

Reaching Critical Mass Author: Ephraim Asculai Categories: International Security, Iran    

The facts concerning the status of Iran's nuclear project are quite clear. Their implications are unequivocal. Yet there are those in the corridors of power who would lead us to believe that business is still as usual ...

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Going Ballistic Author: External author Categories: International Security, Iraq, Israel, Middle East    

Although there have been limited missile sales by Russia and the Ukraine (to Iran), Pakistan (to Saudi Arabia) and China (to Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia), by far, the biggest supplier of missile technology to the Middle East is North Korea.

A good resolution, but can it be put into lasting effect? Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Op-eds, Syria    

THE principles enunciated in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 on Lebanon, passed on Friday, are a positive step towards a sustainable end to the bloody conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. The overarching problem, unfortunately, is that this resolution appears to lack adequate mechanisms to implement those principles.

Force-ful Action Author: External author Categories: International Security, Lebanon, Syria    

As diplomacy to halt the violence in Lebanon slowly gathers momentum, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has endorsed the idea of an international "stabilisation force" to keep the peace, seconding proposals previously put forward by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

A NGO Zone Author: Anne Bayefsky Categories: International Security, Israel, NGOs    

On Sunday, June 11, a boycott of Israeli academics, which had been adopted a few weeks earlier by the UK University and College Lecturers Union (NATFHE), was lifted after the move threatened to derail a merger plan with the larger UK Association of University Teachers.

Brewing calamity Author: Ted Lapkin Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Op-eds    

"The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence." Sound familiar? But these are not the genocidal rantings of crisis-present uttered by Iran's Jew-hater in chief, President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad.

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Missed chance to right wrongs Author: Ted Lapkin Categories: International Security, Middle East, Op-eds    

IT was a typical UN decision: a triumph of style over substance that aggravates the problem rather than improves it. Last week, the UN voted to abolish its scandal-scarred Commission on Human Rights. But the Human Rights Council created as an alternative constitutes a cure that is worse than the original disease.

Unhidden Agenda Author: External author Categories: International Security, Iran    

One wonders what will it take for the international community to understand that Iran seriously intends to use its nuclear power to attack the "infidels."

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A Tale of Two Agencies Author: External author Categories: International Security, Palestinians, Terrorism    

The plight of the Palestinian refugees is, at first glance, fairly surprising. Whereas the rest of the world?s refugees are the concern of the UNHCR, the Palestinians are the sole group of refugees with a UN agency dedicated exclusively to their care: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which operates independently of the Convention on refugees.

Scribblings: UNreformable Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Security    

The UN, which celebrated its 60th anniversary with a major international Summit in mid-September, embodies many of humanity's highest aspirations, particularly the peaceful resolution of conflict, universal human rights, and humanitarian intervention.

Editorial: Much Ado About Nothing Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Iraq, Middle East    

The presidential elections in Iran have been about as fairly played as a crooked hand of blackjack. The deck was stacked through an edict of the unelected Council of Guardians that disqualified the candidacy of anyone who did not toe the line of the ruling Islamic theocracy in Teheran. And bottom dealing appeared in the form of ballot stuffing and graveyard voting incidents that were rampant throughout the country.

Dead Parrot Author: External author Categories: International Security, Iraq, Middle East    

The negotiations attempting to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons are on the verge of collapse. Unless some new pretended arrangement is developed to conceal the fact, it should soon be clear that nothing stands between Teheran and the possession of atomic bombs except the final stages of technical development.

Media Microscope: Poll-er Opposites Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: America, Australasia, International Security, Media/ Academia    

The term "gigo" (garbage in, garbage out) was invented by computer scientists in the 1950s. Back then, the term was another addition to the growing vocabulary of the computer industry. Yet, according to critics, this unusual acronym could just as easily be applied to the findings of the heavily-publicised Lowy Institute poll, which was published on March 28.

Bomb Threat Author: Douglas Davis Categories: International Security, Iran, Iraq, Middle East    

The Middle East is on the brink of going nuclear, and the rest of the world is fiddling or looking the other way. The United States is draining its energies in Iraq, the Europeans are fussing over "soft power" diplomacy, and the UN monitoring agencies are dithering.