Friday, January 08, 2021

From Ian:

As Biden enters White House, did Israel's Mossad win war with Iran?
The Post understands that a main reason that the operation to seize the nuclear archives did not take place until January 2018 was that it took Cohen and his Mossad team a full two years to plan it and carry it out.

Intelligence sources were asked about the view of some (including former Mossad chiefs Tamir Pardo and Shabtai Shavit) that the issue of how to stop Iran from going nuclear after 2025 should have been pushed off until close to 2025, without breaking up the deal in 2018.

The Post learned that the view was that any Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal in the early years would have been replaced by covertly and non-covertly chipping away at the nuclear limitations long before 2025.

Under this view, one key point was who would choose the timing of the next nuclear standoff and whether Israel and the West would have leverage or would still be trapped by fears of upsetting the Iranians.

Each move against Iran was carefully calculated to create leverage for the critical period when there would be a standoff.

Some made light of the nuclear archives because it was records of the nuclear program from the 1990s through 2003.

However, Cohen and Netanyahu believed the archives and Iran’s continued efforts to move them around to different clandestine sites helped them prove to the IAEA and others that Khamenei’s true intentions remain to achieve a nuclear weapon.

Amano may not have kept his word to Cohen, yet the intelligence obtained from the nuclear archives is exactly what empowered Grossi to insist on new inspections at Turquzabad, Mariwan (also known as Abadeh) and another site near Tehran, all of which had illicit nuclear activities.

So Cohen’s Mossad has done far more than just pressure Iran for a few years until Biden came into the picture.

Despite Iran’s recent jump to 20% enrichment, operations from his tenure will limit Iran’s ability to break out to a nuclear weapon at least in the early stages of the Biden administration. New intelligence collected may convince incoming officials to take some harder stances.

And if, at the end of the day, the Biden administration still cuts a deal with Iran that Israel does not like, something beyond even Cohen’s control, he will still have played his heart out to protect Israel, pushing the envelope to use every tool at his disposal.
The Life of Iran’s Most Celebrated Mass Killer
Late in Arash Azizi’s fluent and groundbreaking new biography of the late Qassem Soleimani, The Shadow Commander: Soleimani, the U.S., and Iran’s Global Ambitions, the author tells us that the summer before Soleimani was killed, “Israel’s former prime minister Ehud Olmert spoke of his old adversary Soleimani in a radio interview: ‘There is something that he knows, that he knows I know, that I know he knows, and both of us know what that something is.’ He paused for a moment and added: ‘What that is, that’s another story.’”

Welcome to the shadows. Azizi reads Olmert’s remarks as a threat, and perhaps they were, but amid the apocalyptic and violent threats launched from Tehran over 40 years—mostly directed at Olmert’s country—the former Israeli PM sounds positively neighborly. Soleimani’s hatred of Israel was obsessive. So many things he touched were named Quds (Jerusalem by its Arabic name)—the Quds Training Barracks, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, and a couple of operations in the Iran-Iraq War.

Soleimani endured a Dickensian rural boyhood of shame due to impoverishing family debt and menial jobs. He moved on to steady work, a love for karate, a fondness for Scarface-style men’s fashion outfits, and religious radicalization. With the coming of the revolution and Iran-Iraq War, he sought ever closer engagement at the front, as a member of the nascent IRGC, a militia “which grew to overshadow and dwarf the army … [Soleimani’s] calm and quiet demeanor did little to hide his ambition. He planned to make this war his own.” He was wounded in the grandly titled Operation Path to Jerusalem, which more modestly did liberate the town of Bostan from Iraqi control.

The recapture of Khorramshahr was followed by a string of regional events that might have ended the war: signal Iranian victories, the Palestinian attempt to murder Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Argov in London, and the resulting Israeli push into Lebanon to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization. By now “Saddam had his back against the wall” and so withdrew his forces from Iran and declared a ceasefire, a face-saving tactic accompanied by his invitation to Iran to join him in an “anti-Zionist” front against Israel along with the Palestinians, Lebanon, and Syria. An end to the war in 1982 would have allowed Iran to emerge victorious and saved many thousands of lives, especially since Iranian tactics still involved the use of suicidal waves of young men, adolescents, and children serving as human minesweepers. Yet the IRGC urgently lobbied Ruhollah Khomeini to remain at war, export the revolution, topple Saddam, and destroy Israel. Khomeini followed this catastrophic advice until 1988, when a defeated Iran accepted a ceasefire, leaving both Saddam Hussein and Israel unscathed. Humiliated, Khomeini attempted to restore his menacing reputation by ordering the massacre of thousands of political prisoners, mostly from the Mojahedin-e Khalq opposition group.

JINSA National Security Digest (Podcast): The State of Human Rights in Iran
The current state of human rights in Iran is horrendous and often fails to receive enough attention from the international community. In this episode, Erielle speaks with investigative journalist and founder of The Foreign Desk Lisa Daftari about the struggles various minority groups face in Iran, the state of the current dissident movement in Iran, and the power of social media to bring to light the regime’s abuses.
The Tikvah Podcast: Dore Gold on the Strategic Importance of the Nile River and the Politics of the Red Sea
In the water-scarce Middle East, water that can be used for drinking and agriculture is of premium importance. The entire ancient civilization of imperial Egypt grew up around the Nile River and its basin, and much of the east Africa still depends on it. Although Israel has made amazing advances in hydrotechnology, it too must treat water as a scarce resource, and that makes the politics of the Nile, along with the policing of the Red Sea, a question of real strategic significance to the Jewish state and the regional order of the Middle East.

In this week’s podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver is joined by Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, to discuss the strategic importance of the Nile River, the policing of the Red Sea, and what they mean for Israel and the regional order of the Middle East.

US Capitol riot stains Trump’s Middle East legacy on Iran, Abraham Accords
The last four years for Israel were marked by flourishing relations with the US and incredible diplomatic achievements, Dayan said, but for American democracy “it was a terrible period that I assume the nation will try to forget.”

It is correct to say that “the policies of Donald Trump are now tainted,” and “maybe they will have less lasting repercussions than otherwise,” Dayan said.

Nevertheless, Trump was the president of the US, and as such his statements, actions and peace plans leave a mark, said Dayan.

“Important diplomatic actions do not die, sometimes they disappear for a period and then reappear,” Dayan said. “The Trump administration was a legitimate administration and its diplomatic actions were legitimate” and are not lost.

Polices such as the[Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo Declaration that recognized the legitimacy of the Israeli settlements and the administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights would not automatically disappear on January 20, he said.

With respect to Iran, Biden has long supported the JCPOA, which was put in place by the Obama administration when Biden was vice president. Any Democratic president would try to return to the JCPOA, he said.

Former Israeli ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval, who served from 1990-1993 and from 1998-2000, said the issue was broader than one policy or another.

He was among those who supported Trump’s Middle East policies, and thought Biden would do well to build on them.

The larger issue, he said, is that Wednesday’s shocking events casts a shadow on America’s ability to lead, and “this will lower the prestige of the US. In Beijing, and Moscow, and Tehran, they are now rubbing their hands with a great deal of happiness.”

This, he said, was not good either for Israel or the world.

“A weakened America is not good for any of us,” Shoval added.

Israel is often proud of its ability to stand on its own militarily. But its ability to do so as well as its position in general in the Middle East is also cemented by its strong relationship with the US.

An event such as Wednesday, which threatens to weaken the US and its world standing, is also one that can boomerang back onto Israel if not quickly brought into check.
Netanyahu calls ‘rampage’ in DC ‘disgraceful,’ lauds Trump as Mideast peacemaker
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday condemned the attack on the Capitol Building in Washington the previous day as “disgraceful,” saying it was the “opposite” of American and Israeli values, but went on to praise US President Donald Trump as a regional peacemaker.

The Israeli premier, a key Trump ally, made his remarks alongside US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who was visiting Jerusalem after a trip to Khartoum in which the Sudanese government pledged to normalize ties with the Jewish state.

In his denunciation of the attack on the Capitol, which came several hours after most other world leaders decried the rampage, Netanyahu did not mention Trump by name or the circumstances in which the attack took place. The president has been accused by both Democrats and Republicans of inciting the attack, in which four people died, one by police gunfire and three others under unclear circumstances.

Netanyahu did, however, lavish praise on the US president shortly thereafter for his role in normalizing ties between Israel and several Arab countries.

“I want to thank President Trump and all of you in the administration for all you have done and are doing for peace. You’ve made a real difference, achieving one breakthrough after another, bringing the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan into the circle of peace. I have no doubt that more Arab and Muslim countries will follow,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu’s comments praising Trump were left out of his office’s initial press release on his meeting with Mnuchin, which included only his condemnation of the attack on Washington.
US Israel envoy says Capitol riot shows US ‘resilience,’ doesn’t mention Trump
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman made a statement Friday following the storming of the US Capitol building Wednesday by thousands of supporters of US President Donald Trump, saying the country had proven its “resilience” but not mentioning the president’s involvement in instigating the violence.

“Our Republic was severely tested this week. But we proved our resilience in the face of unprecedented stress. Our Constitution worked, as did our laws and our law enforcement,” Friedman stated.

Law enforcement bodies have faced backlash over their handling of the riot, and several senior Capitol Police officers were forced to subsequently resign, including its chief.

Friedman also said: “Our democracy will emerge stronger and, once again, with an orderly transition of power.”

“I would like to congratulate President-elect Biden and his incoming administration. I humbly offer any assistance that may be requested to aid in transition.”
Majority of Israelis believe Capitol violence could happen in Israel
A large majority of the public, 56%, believes that an incident similar to the storming of Capitol Hill by masses of protesters in Washington could take place in Israel.

A poll conducted by Menahem Lazer from "Panels Politics" for Maariv, The Jerusalem Post's sister publication, found that 23% of respondents are sure that such an incident could take place in Israel as well, and another 33% guess that such an incident, that shook the US two days ago, could happen here as well.

Analysis of the survey shows that 77% of those who believe that such an event could take place here as well identify with the center-left bloc, with 28% identifying as right-wing voters. Despite this, 32% don't believe that such events could happen in Israel, but only 7% believe this with complete surety.

The survey also checked from which side of the political map the incident would come from if it did occur. Some 44% of respondents expected that it would come from the right, while 34% believed that it would come from the left.
What does Biden owe his Jewish supporters?
The election of a new president of the US, Joe Biden, occurred with widespread Jewish support in several swing states. The time has come to ask how the new president can express appreciation to his Jewish constituency.

Biden can launch his presidency with decisive actions against a threat to lives of all Jews. Jewish supporters of Biden can ask him to do what no other US president has done: to demand the repeal of the statute enacted by the Palestinian Authority in 2015, which created the first legislation in history to foster an unprecedented law that formally honors anyone who murders a Jew, anywhere in the world, with a lifelong gratuity.

That unprecedented PA fee for murdering a Jew is granted to the killer and to the family of the assailant for life. Biden’s Jewish constituency can ask him to condition support for a Palestinian entity on a demand that the PA nullify legislation that provides automatic fees for anyone who murders a Jew.

Biden’s Jewish constituency can remind the new president that under the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act of 1995 (commonly known as MEPFA), the US Congress provided authorities, requirements, and restrictions to specific standards and expectations when dealing with the PA.

These constraints – enacted during the administration of a Democratic president, Bill Clinton – determined that the new president and the new Congress must continuously certify that the PLO and its administrative arm, the PA, abide by commitments made in good faith to implement Declaration of Principles of the Oslo Peace process and specifically “the PLO commitments relevant to Presidential certifications have included commitments to renounce and condemn terrorism, to submit to the Palestinian National Council for former approval the necessary changes to those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which call for Israel’s destruction, and to prevent acts of terrorism and hostilities against Israel.”
Progressives Notch Victory in Biden National Security Council
Progressive groups vying for influence in the incoming Biden administration scored a victory on Wednesday when it was reported the new White House will tap Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D., Mass.) foreign policy adviser for a role on the influential National Security Council.

Biden is reportedly set to tap Sasha Baker, a former Defense Department official in the Obama administration, to serve as the NSC’s director for strategic planning. Baker is Warren’s national security adviser and was named late last year to a list of progressive political insiders recommended for administration jobs by a vast network of left-leaning advocacy groups.

Baker's selection is certain to please far-left elements of the Democratic Party who are pressuring the next White House to hire a range of individuals widely seen as out of the mainstream. The Washington Free Beacon reported in December that a coalition of progressive groups—including the Progressive Change Institute, Common Defense, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC)—sent Biden’s transition team a list of more than 100 officials they hope to see in the next administration. The roster included foreign policy hands who have pushed for increased American diplomacy with Iran and a reduced reliance on the traditional U.S.-Israel relationship.

The progressive groups' other selections include Paul Pillar, a former CIA official who has come under fire for accusing Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish American, of having dual loyalty to Israel, and Sarah Leah Whitson, who also has been embroiled in controversy over comments viewed as anti-Semitic.

The groups also want to see NIAC cofounder and Quincy Institute official Trita Parsi oversee Middle Eastern affairs on the NSC, a selection that raised eyebrows in many foreign policy circles. Parsi has faced accusations of acting as a lobbyist for the Iranian regime and has used his perch at the Quincy Institute to push for increased diplomacy with Tehran. The Free Beacon reported in December that Parsi could face problems obtaining security clearance given his status as a non-U.S. citizen.
Israel side-eyes Turkish offers of friendship as Ankara shelters Hamas
Turkey’s recent flurry of overtures to Israel has been ill-conceived, ill-communicated and ill-received by the Jewish State. Be it the now-scotched nomination of an overtly anti-Israeli pundit with close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party as ambassador to Tel Aviv or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's pronouncements that he would like to improve relations but that Israel was “merciless” toward the Palestinians, Ankara’s messaging has been greeted with a mix of bemusement, yawns and contempt.

Israel’s position is crystal clear. As a steady trickle of Gulf and other Muslim states ditch decades of hostility to make peace, Turkey’s name is slipping on Israel’s dance card. Thus, if Turkey is sincere about restoring ties to the ambassadorial level after unceremoniously booting out last Israeli envoy Eitan Na’eh — he’ll be Jerusalem’s first ever man in Abu Dhabi — in May 2018, it now needs to kick out the hundreds of Hamas operatives Israel claims are plotting terror attacks from Istanbul.

But will it? The question resurfaced when pro-government Milli Gazete published a letter dated Dec. 21 from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh that was sent to multiple heads of Islamic states, including Erdogan warning against friendship with Israel, on the same day it appeared in the Palestinian media. Had Ankara leaked the letter in a further clumsy signal to Israel that it might consider ignoring Haniyeh’s request?

Ankara has expelled Hamas operatives in the past under Western pressure. They include Saleh al-Arouri, who led the movement from Turkey until he was shown the door in 2014.

“If Turkey is serious, the ideas will come through serious channels with some sort of a timetable for issues to be discussed, and maybe they do, but I doubt it when I see what’s appearing in the press,” said a well-placed diplomatic source. “It's nuts, with people [on the Turkish side] saying Israel should make the first step. Is their idea about Israel that it’s stupid?” the source asked.
Planners override opposition, approve 5,000 homes on pastoral Jerusalem hill
An appeals committee on Thursday approved plans to build some 5,000 residential units at Reches Lavan, a popular, pastoral site of agricultural terraces and springs just west of Jerusalem.

Reches Lavan (White Ridge) — named for its light, chalky rock — is located near the Jerusalem Zoo and the southwest neighborhoods of Kiryat Hayovel, Givat Masua and Ein Kerem, and Moshav Ora just outside the city.

Home to Mediterranean vegetation and large mammals such as mountain gazelles and hyenas, the whole area, with its natural springs and spring-fed pools, serves as a green backyard for Jerusalemites and a popular weekend meeting place for young people.

An appeal was lodged by several bodies and individuals against the district planning committee’s decision to approve the project in July 2019. They petitioned the appeals subcommittee of the National Planning Council, the highest planning body to which appeals can be submitted.

After the rejection of their appeal, activists are now pledging to take their case to the courts. They fear that the planners will start by building on Reches Lavan before moving on to build on other hills — Mount Harat, Mitzpe Naftoah in Ramot, the slopes of Moshav Ora and a spur near Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, one ridge at a time.
Watchdog: Jordanian NGO aims to ‘liberate Palestine’ with tree-planting campaign
A Jordanian NGO has been planting millions of trees in Judea and Samaria as a means of “green resistance” to “liberate Palestine from the river to the sea,” according to a new report by the Zionist watchdog group Im Tirtzu.

According to the report, the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN), a Jordanian group based in Amman that claims to protect the natural resources of Arab countries, is running a Million Tree Campaign, which aims to plant “trees in the Palestinian lands” as a response to Israel’s “uprooting, burning, and stealing millions of olive and other fruit-bearing trees from Palestinian lands.”

On its website, APN claims to have planted 2,434,452 trees and to have cultivated 126,307 dunams (31,211 acres) of land from 2001 to 2019.

In a speech given in July this year, APN president Razan Zuaiter accused Israel of stealing Palestinian land and described APN’s “green resistance” and the need to “set strategic, short, medium and long-term steps to liberate Palestine from the river to the sea.”

According to APN, it has planted trees in more than 10 cities in Judea and Samaria, including 276,159 trees in Hebron, 271,969 trees in Bethlehem, 240,223 trees in Jenin, 234,547 trees in Tulkarm, 212,661 trees in Jerusalem and 193,281 trees in Nablus.

The NGO, which lists the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture as one of its partners, even received a special letter of appreciation from Jordanian Minister for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh.

INSS: The Joint Military Exercise in the Gaza Strip: Ostensible Strength in a Response to Weakness
On December 28, 2020, a military exercise was held in the Gaza Strip. It was the largest in scope since Hamas took over Gaza, and unprecedented in that it took place with the cooperation among the organizations active in the area. The exercise, which received extensive coverage in the Palestinian and Arab media and social networks, involved the participation of the military units of 13 Palestinian organizations, including groups of former Fatah members and even organizations with very little military force. Hamas and Islamic Jihad boasted the most significant military contributions. Naval forces, air forces, and rocket and other Hamas units took part in the exercise, which Hamas directed from a joint war room with the other organizations. Media reports and commentaries magnified the capabilities demonstrated by the participating organizations and the intensified buildup by the Hamas-led Palestinian resistance.

The exercise took place against the background of a deep internal and external Palestinian crisis. On the one hand, Israel threatens, carries out exercises near Gaza, and warns against increasing the tension in the area. Efforts to reach an arrangement with Israel, mediated by Egypt, have not progressed, and Cairo blames Hamas for their failure. On the other hand, the reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have stalled after the PA chose to renew the security and civil coordination with Israel and accept the tax monies collected by Israel. In the region, the normalization with Israel presents as a significant trend, and the Palestinian issue is declining in importance. Furthermore, the already serious humanitarian situation in Gaza has worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The exercise was preceded by cognitive preparations, which focused on threatening rhetoric toward Israel – although the messages were not very blunt, and some were implicit. Hamas's spokespeople emphasized the inter-organizational cooperation and an improvement in the military strength of the armed resistance, in order to send Israel a deterrent message. The second, parallel message was directed to the Palestinian public regarding the importance of unity and the continuation of the resistance to Israel as the forefront of the national struggle.

Close to the exercise, pictures of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, were distributed throughout Gaza to mark the first anniversary of his killing by American forces. The pictures glorified him and his contribution to the Palestinian resistance. Senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad spokespeople praised the major assistance that Soleimani had extended to the Palestinian resistance organizations. In addition, there were reports that the exercise took place in some form of coordination with Iran – which could indicate, assuming that these reports are credible, a rapprochement between Hamas and the axis of resistance after the ongoing faltering of the intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Therefore, even if Tehran did not work behind the scenes to organize the show of force, it serves the deterrence equation that it is trying to create and consolidate vis-à-vis Israel.

Along with its being understood as an attempt to broadcast strength and deterrence, the exercise can be interpreted as an expression of weakness or an attempt by Hamas to compensate for it – vis-à-vis Israel and the local population, which is groaning under the burden of the humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, without expectations of a significant improvement in its situation in the foreseeable future.
ISIS: Hamas ‘Apostate’ for Calling Soleimani a ‘Martyr’
Islamic State (ISIS) weekly Al Naba ran an editorial on Jan. 1 criticizing fellow Sunni terror group Hamas for calling slain Shi’ite Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani a “martyr,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (MEMRI-JTTM).

The article, titled “When Netanyahu becomes Syria’s martyr,” begins by calling Hamas “apostate” for describing Iran and its allies who “kill Muslims in other countries, rape their women, destroy the homes over their heads and force hundreds of thousands of youths to disappear in prisons” as martyrs and jihadis.

The article asks how Hamas would react if Syrian factions were to declare Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “Syrian martyr,” and accuses the Gaza-based terror group of lauding Iran because it provides them with money and weapons.

It goes on to denounce an official in Ramallah who expressed support for Syria’s President Bashar Assad.

Pakistan Sentences Lakhvi to Five Years for Terrorism Financing
A Pakistan court on Friday sentenced Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, a senior official of militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to five years in jail for terrorism financing.

Lakhvi and the group are accused by India and the United States of being behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks – though the charges or sentence are not related to any specific incident.

He was sentenced to five years concurrently on three counts, with a fine of 100,000 rupees on each count, an order from the court seen by Reuters said.

India has long called on Pakistan to try Lakhvi for the Mumbai attack, in which over 160 people were killed, but Islamabad has said that Delhi has not given it concrete evidence that it can use in a court to try the LeT leader, which it had initially arrested in 2008 but was later released on bail.

He was arrested again on charges of terrorism financing on Saturday.

The United States welcomed his arrest but called for him to be tried for the Mumbai attacks, too.

“We will follow his prosecution & sentencing closely & urge that he be held accountable for his involvement in the Mumbai attacks,” the US State Department said on Twitter.
'Tehran in no rush for US to rejoin 2015 nuclear deal'
"We are not insisting nor in a hurry for the US to return to the deal," Khamenei said in live televised remarks. "But what is logical is our demand, is the lifting of the sanctions. These brutal sanctions must be lifted immediately."

Tensions have grown between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when US President Donald Trump exited the deal between Iran and six world powers – which sought to limit Tehran's nuclear program and prevent it developing atomic weapons – and re-imposed sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.

In retaliation, Tehran started gradually violating the accord.

Potentially complicating efforts by US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal, Iran said on Monday it had resumed 20% uranium enrichment at its Fordo underground nuclear facility.

The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20% purity.
Tehran's 20 Percent Enrichment is Designed to Extort Washington
Two factors helped to dampen Iran's drive to resume 20 percent enrichment. The first was the Trump administration's demonstrated willingness to meet pressure with pressure, and the second was the regime's desire to keep the transatlantic community divided and Europe in Tehran's corner.

Now, with the Trump administration's term in office nearing a close and Europe unable to serve as a foil to American economic pressure, elites in Iran understand that greater nuclear boldness is likely to result in a greater reward. Specifically, given that the incoming U.S. administration seeks a departure from the Trump administration's policies, the recent escalation is perfectly timed to add leverage to the Iranian position if nuclear negotiations commence.

Today, Iran's resumption of 20 percent enrichment at Fordow positions it to quickly and consistently reduce the time it requires to make adequate fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Selling this policy on Twitter, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif framed 20 percent enrichment as a "reversible" move. But in so doing, he inadvertently shined a light on a fact American policymakers failed to heed before, but must now acknowledge if they seek a durable non-proliferation agreement with Iran: any deal that relies on political compromise alone to check the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions is a non-starter.

President-elect Biden would be wise to recognize that staying the course on American pressure is the only hope for reaching a better deal and addressing Iran's nuclear threat once and for all.
Iran's IRGC unveils underground missile base in the Gulf
Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards unveiled an underground missile base at an undisclosed Gulf location on Friday, Iranian state media reported, at a time of heightened tension between Tehran and the United States.

"The base is one of several bases housing the Guards' Navy's strategic missiles," the state media quoted the head of the Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, as saying.

Last year, the Guards said Iran had built underground “missile cities” along the Gulf coastline, warning of a “nightmare for Iran’s enemies”. "These missiles have ranges of hundreds of kilometers, enjoy pinpoint accuracy and huge destructive power, and can overcome the enemy’s electronic warfare equipment," Salami said.

He said the base was "one of several bases housing the Navy’s strategic missiles."

There have been periodic confrontations in the Gulf in recent years between the Guards and the US military, which has accused the Guards’ navy of sending fast attack boats to harass US warships as they pass the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran leader Khamenei bans imports of US, British COVID-19 vaccines
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday banned the government from importing new coronavirus vaccines from the United States and Britain.

"Imports of US and British vaccines into the country are banned. I have told this to officials, and I'm saying it publicly now," Khamenei said in live televised speech.

"I have no confidence in them. Sometimes they want to test vaccines on other nations ... If the Americans were able to produce a vaccine, they would not have such a coronavirus fiasco in their own country."

Iran, the country that has been worst hit by the novel coronavirus in the Middle East, launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate late last month, saying it could help Iran defeat the pandemic despite US sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.

However, Khamenei praised Iran's efforts to develop domestic vaccines but said Iran could obtain vaccines "from other reliable places." He gave no details but China and Russia are both allies of Iran.

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