Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Daily Tip

  • Hamas political bureau chief: Unity deal "does not mean an end" to efforts to eradicate Israel
  • Top Iranian nuclear figure lashes out at proposal for robust inspections regime
  • NOW Media: U.S. think tanks hail congressional legislation targeting illicit Hezbollah funding network
  • Gulf states announce new Saudi-UAE "supreme committee" aimed at confronting "regional challenges"

  • Reuters on Wednesday conveyed statements from Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas's political bureau, doubling down on his organization's commitment to the eradication of Israel, especially and specifically in the context of an anticipated agreed government between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Fatah organization. Speaking in Doha, Meshaal declared that Hamas had made a range of compromises to secure reconciliation - the exact language was that the group had "already made sacrifices and this was necessary to be closer with our brothers" - but emphasized that "with the invader [Israel] we will not make any compromises." He went on to state that "the reconciliation does not mean an end to our resistance against the invaders [and] resistance will continue." The stance is not new.
    Palestinian officials began leaking immediately after last month's unity announcement that Hamas would get to keep its arsenal of tens of thousands of projectiles pointed at Israel, and last week analysis hardened to the effect that the terror group was pursuing a "Hezbollah model" under which it would be allowed to maintain an armed presence independent of any central Palestinian government. The arrangement is bound to elicit negative reactions from U.S. lawmakers, who have already been moving to cut assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) since the unity deal was announced. Congressional conditions on the distribution of aid to the PA are straightforward, and prohibit assistance from going "to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence."
    An Iranian news site dedicated to promoting the country's nuclear program published an essay on Tuesday by Ali Asghar Soltanieh - the country's former ambassador to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog (IAEA) - pushing back against a recent op-ed by Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Kenneth Pollack, in which Pollack had urged that any deal between the P5+1 global powers and Iran must include a provision under which "international inspectors [were] a constant presence at Iran’s nuclear sites... able to go anywhere and see anything." The Soltanieh piece opened by declaring that "there is serious doubt about the intention behind the article," characterizing it as "an attempt to mislead the P5+1, and specifically the United States, to move towards a path which leads to deadlock and possibly a dangerous confrontation." It continued by running through relevant provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) applicable to normal nuclear states, which among other things describes regimes of controlled inspections. Links to the piece were tweeted and retweeted by social media accounts linked to the regime - including by an account linked to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani - but it is not clear that it responds to Pollack's proposal. Pollack acknowledged that the inspection regime he envisioned was not routine but noted that Iran had already accepted that it would not "be treated as a normal nuclear power" until the expiration of whatever comprehensive deal is worked out, a dynamic that was at least partially the result of "Iran’s history of lying about its nuclear program." Trita Parsi - the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, a lobby that was slammed last summer by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee for promoting "propaganda put out by the Iranian regime" - had described Pollack's suggestions as "unwise" and a "recipe for failure with Iran."
    NOW Lebanon senior journalist Ana Maria Luca on Wednesday rounded up assessments from top analysts regarding congressional progress in advancing the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2014, which was introduced last week in the Senate after parallel legislation had begun making its way through the House of Representatives. Observers had already unpacked several potential implications of the legislation, which congressional sources declared was designed to "snuff out" the Iran-backed Shiite terror group. Hezbollah has for decades insisted that it is an indigenous Lebanese organization promoting Lebanese interests - a stance that found supporters in pockets of the Western foreign policy community - opposite critics who had long insisted that its willingness to use Lebanese banks for illicit activities, and therefore to expose those banks to the risk of international censure, was difficult to align with such branding. Luca's Wednesday piece quoted sources from the Lebanese banking world worrying over multiple potential impacts on Lebanese banks. It also quoted Washington Institute Senior Fellow Matt Levitt explaining that "the bills are meant to curb Hezbollah's use of the international financial system," and not to damage the Lebanese banking system as such, as well as Mark Dubowitz - the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) - hailing the new bipartisan legislation as "critical to disrupting Hezbollah's global networks and limiting its ability to finance terror attacks, spread its extremist message, and recruit new members."
    Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday conveyed a statement from a joint committee established by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates committing to confronting "regional challenges," the latest in what increasingly appear to be systematic moves by Riyadh to bolster its regional position opposite Iran. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had already in late April formally invited Jordan and Morocco to integrate themselves into a conventional military alliance under which the Gulf states would trade aid and the new members would potentially provide 300,000 troops to collective efforts. Meanwhile Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal - a top figure in the country’s royal family and its former intelligence chief - went further, speculating that Gulf states would have to acquire "nuclear know-how" to offset Iran. AFP also read a new Saudi-UAE "supreme committee" against the backdrop of tensions between most Arab states, on the one hand, and Qatar, on the other. The wire bluntly assessed that "Qatar is accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies have long been hostile." Tensions have recently been dampened by Qatari moves to return to the GCC fold, but many analysts take it as a given that the region remains divided between three overarching blocs: the Iranian camp that includes Syria and Hezbollah, the camp of America's traditional Arab allies plus Israel, and an axis composed of Turkey, Qatar, and various country-by-country Brotherhood groups. The Obama administration has faced sustained criticism for being insufficiently supportive of its traditional allies.

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