Spy vs. Spy: Inside the Fraying U.S.-Israel Ties – By ADAM ENTOUS Oct. 22, 2015 9:01 p.m. ET


President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared at a news conference at the White House on Sept. 10, 2010, a time when both countries began to split over the best means to keep Iran from an atomic bomb.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared at a news conference at the White House on Sept. 10, 2010, a time when both countries began to split over the best means to keep Iran from an atomic bomb. PHOTO: JASON REED/REUTERS

The U.S. closely monitored Israel’s military bases and eavesdropped on secret communications in 2012, fearing its longtime ally might try to carry out a strike on Fordow, Iran’s most heavily fortified nuclear facility.

Nerves frayed at the White House after senior officials learned Israeli aircraft had flown in and out of Iran in what some believed was a dry run for a commando raid on the site. Worried that Israel might ignite a regional war, the White House sent a second aircraft carrier to the region and readied attack aircraft, a senior U.S. official said, “in case all hell broke loose.”

The two countries, nursing a mutual distrust, each had something to hide. U.S. officials hoped to restrain Israel long enough to advance negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran that the U.S. had launched in secret. U.S. officials saw Israel’s strike preparations as an attempt to usurp American foreign policy.

Instead of talking to each other, the allies kept their intentions secret. To figure out what they weren’t being told, they turned to their spy agencies to fill gaps. They employed deception, not only against Iran, but against each other. After working in concert for nearly a decade to keep Iran from an atomic bomb, the U.S. and Israel split over the best means: diplomacy, covert action or military strikes.

Personal strains between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu erupted at their first Oval Office meeting in 2009, and an accumulation of grievances in the years since plunged relations between the two countries into crisis.

This Wall Street Journal account of the souring of U.S.-Israel relations over Iran is based on interviews with nearly two dozen current and former senior U.S. and Israeli officials.

U.S. and Israeli officials say they want to rebuild trust but acknowledge it won’t be easy. Mr. Netanyahu reserves the right to continue covert action against Iran’s nuclear program, said current and former Israeli officials, which could put the spy services of the U.S. and Israel on a collision course.

Article continues:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/spy-vs-spy-inside-the-fraying-u-s-israel-ties-1445562074

Death of a Stone-Thrower: Intifada 3.0 (Dispatch 4) – VICE NEWS Published on Oct 17, 2015


Tension builds in Israel and the West Bank with three new stabbing attacks on Israelis reported on Saturday, and the funeral for a young Palestinian stone-thrower killed by Israeli forces in Nablus. VICE News attends the funeral, where grief turns to rage and calls for revenge.

Watch: Day of Rage (Dispatch 3) – http://bit.ly/1LAvbuy

Clashes in the West Bank: Intifada 3.0 (Dispatch 1) – Vice News Published on Oct 14, 2015


The latest spasm of violence in Israel has left seven Israelis and at least 30 Palestinians dead. On Wednesday, a day when at least two stabbing attacks on Israeli Jews were reported, VICE News correspondent Aris Roussinos traveled to the West Bank to see if the apparently leaderless youth-led revolt has spiraled into the Third Intifada.

Watch: Voices from the West Bank – http://bit.ly/189fFpl

Gas Politics in Gaza – By Tareq Baconi October 15, 2015


At the end of the summer, the Italian energy giant Eni discovered one of the largest gas reserves in the Mediterranean. Just off Egyptian shores sits Zohr, a gas field with a staggering 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As Egypt celebrated the good news, Israel panicked about the implications of the discovery on its much-touted Leviathan gas field, which was discovered in December 2010. It was a “painful wake-up call,” the Israeli energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, said.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at Oct 15, 2015 2.36

Why? Eni’s discovery could possibly return Egypt, which significantly reduced gas exports in 2012, to its role as a regional gas exporter. This threatens Israel’s aspirations to position itself as the region’s energy powerhouse. For one, the rationale underpinning the $15 billion gas deal signed between Jordan and Israellast year now appears weak: Jordan, which sought to substitute for the drop in Egyptian resources, may now decide to turn to Cairo for a less controversial source of gas.

For Palestine, however, which has also been in gas negotiations with Israel, these regional changes have little impact. With nearly total dependency on Israel for its energy needs, Palestine is seeking ways to enhance the quality of life under occupation. Gazans are seeking to import gas from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon to alleviate suffering and reduce power shortages, while the West Bank is discussing with Israel the import of gas to increase local power generation and reduce electricity costs.

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Waking Up the Neighbors – July 23, 2015


How Regional Intervention Is Transforming Hezbollah

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The war in Syria has dramatically changed Hezbollah. Once limited to jockeying for political power in Lebanon and fighting Israel, the group is now a regional player engaged in conflicts far beyond its historical area of operations, often in cooperation with Iran. Underscoring this strategic shift, Hezbollah has transferred key personnel previously stationed near the Israel–Lebanon border to a newly established Syrian command and to outposts even further abroad, in Iraq and Yemen.

Initially, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah resisted dispatching his fighters to Syria to back President Bashar al-Assad, despite repeated requests from Iranian leaders, in particular Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. Like some other Hezbollah leaders, Nasrallah feared that engaging in Syria would undermine the group’s position in Lebanon by associating Hezbollah—Lebanon’s primary Shiite party—with a repressive Iranian-allied government butchering a Sunni-majority population. But Nasrallah reportedly acquiesced after receiving an appeal from the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran, Khamenei made clear, expected Hezbollah to support Assad’s grip on power. As a result, Hezbollah’s operational shift to Syria and beyond has transformed the group from a Lebanese party focused on domestic politics into a regional sectarian force acting at Iran’s behest across the Middle East.

Article continues:

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2015-07-23/waking-neighbors

Iran nuclear deal: US there for Israel, warns Obama – BBC News April 7 2015


US President Barack Obama (3 April 15)

Mr Obama said Israelis “have every right to be concerned about Iran”

President Barack Obama has moved to reassure Israel that the US remains its staunchest supporter, amid Israeli fears over last week’s outline agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.

He said Iran and the rest of the region should know that “if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there”.

But he rejected a call by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that any deal be conditional on Iran recognising Israel.

Mr Obama said such a condition would be “a fundamental misjudgement”.

The president, speaking in an interview with National Public Radio, said that it would be akin to saying the US would not seal a deal unless the Iranian regime completely transformed.

“We want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing. That’s exactly why we don’t want to have nuclear weapons,” he said.

“If suddenly Iran transformed itself to Germany or Sweden or France, then there would be a different set of conversations about their nuclear infrastructure.”

On Monday, President Obama also sought to reassure Oman about the effects of a nuclear deal with Iran.

In a phone call, he told Sultan Qaboos that the US would work “with Oman and other regional partners to address Iran’s destabilising activities in the region”.

‘Right to be concerned’

Critics have accused President Obama of conceding too much ground to Iran and endangering Israel’s security.

But in an interview with the New York Times, Mr Obama firmly denied this.

“I would consider it a failure on my part, a fundamental failure of my presidency, if on my watch, or as a consequence of work that I had done, Israel was rendered more vulnerable,” he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is also Iran's top nuclear negotiator, waves to his well wishers upon arrival at the Mehrabad airport in Tehran, Iran
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, was given a hero’s welcome on his return from the talks

Mr Obama said he recognised the concerns raised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the deal along with the president’s Republican opponents in the US Congress.

He said Israelis “have every right to be concerned about Iran”, a country that had threatened “to destroy Israel, that has denied the Holocaust, that has expressed venomous anti-Semitic ideas”.

But he insisted that the preliminary agreement with Iran – a forerunner of a comprehensive deal, due to be agreed before 30 June – was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Under the terms reached last Thursday, Iran must slash its stockpile of enriched uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon, and cut by more than two-thirds the number of centrifuges that could be used to make more.

In return, UN sanctions and separate measures imposed unilaterally by the US and EU will be gradually suspended as the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirms Iranian compliance.

Speaking on Sunday on CNN, Mr Netanyahu said: “Not a single centrifuge is destroyed. Not a single nuclear facility is shut down, including the underground facilities that they build illicitly. Thousands of centrifuges will keep spinning, enriching uranium. That’s a very bad deal.”

But Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a possible Republican presidential candidate, said it was “probably the best deal that Barack Obama could get with the Iranians” and that he would wait to see how the final agreement looked before passing judgement.

“I don’t mind giving the administration the time between now and June to put this deal together,” he told CBS.

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Graphic

Iran’s key nuclear sites

Analysis: A deal which buys time

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32194275