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Today’s Top Stories
1. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani launched a charm offensive in the US which culminated in a phone call with President Obama. Tweets sharing details of the conversation were posted, then deleted, by Rouhani’s official Twitter account. The Lede rounded up links, screengrabs etc. Also on the sidelines of the UN powwow, John Kerry met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. According to Haaretz, Israel was briefed before and after both developments.
Rouhani’s PR blitz included, among other things, agreeing to nuclear talks with the West, addressing the UN, a Washington Post op-ed, and interviews with Charlie Rose and Christiane Amanpour. Rouhani’s comments about the Holocaust caused a stink in Iran. The Lede rounded up all the relevant links, translations, and who said what. As for whether Rouhani’s comments on the Holocaust went far enough, judge for yourself.
See below for more on the developments and their implications for Israel.
2. Israel arrested an Iranian spy who is believed to be a member of the Revolutionary Guards. Ali Mansouri, a Belgian national of Iranian descent, was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport with photos of the US embassy in Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem Post writes:
According to the Shin Bet, the Revolutionary Guard sent Mansouri to Israel to set up companies, which could serve as fronts for secret Iranian activity against Israeli and Western interests.
3. International chemical weapons troubleshooters — if any can be found — arrive in Syria on Tuesday. AFP explains why the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) having a tough time recruiting people for the mission:
With more than 1,000 tons of sarin, mustard gas and other banned horror chemicals stocked across the country, the United Nations and the global chemical weapons watchdog have launched an urgent appeal for scarce experts to join the mission.
Applicants must be ready to face mortal risks and an impossible deadline . . .
Experts say the OPCW will need up to 200 inspectors for the Syria force. It currently has less than half that number who already have a heavy regular workload. The watchdog has had to appeal to the major powers to send scientists.
Those who go will become a new target in the 30-month-old conflict and the strife means the noxious potions will have to be moved out of Syria to be destroyed.
4. The 6 Questions About Paywalls You Were Afraid to Ask: How to make sense of the pesky paywalls papers are putting up.
Iranian Atomic Urgency
• The Times of Israel assesses what Iran’s charm offensive means for Israel’s public diplomacy:
Israel’s hugely skeptical response to Rouhani’s slick PR may be entirely justified. But showing the new friendly face of Tehran to be disingenuous requires more than a recycling of the same-old bleak sound bites. Cartoon bombs — as unveiled by Netanyahu at last year’s UN General Assembly — aren’t going to work anymore. This year’s show is going to have to be more serious and nuanced.
As Ambassador Michael Oren told CNN, there was nothing peaceful about Rouhani’s speech, and “it’s a pretty low bar when Iranians stop denying the Holocaust and people get excited about it.”
• For what it’s worth, the NY Times notes that the Saudis are skeptical of the Obama/Rouhani overtures too.
• Linkage, anyone?
However, Iran is galloping toward nuclear capabilities irrespective of Israel’s existence or the Palestinian issue, which is a sideshow for Iran and the Arab countries. Iran’s nuclearization aims to advance its 1,400-year-old goal to dominate the Persian Gulf, where Israel plays no role.
• Reuters assesses how Iran will test “Obama’s often rocky ties with Netanyahu. Is Rouhani driving a wedge between Washington and Jerusalem? And, as Boaz Bismuth points out, Bibi is stuck with the unenviable job of spoiling the happy mood Rouhani created even though nobody will want to believe him.
• For more commentary, see David Horovitz, Michael Herzog, Dore Gold, Meir Javedanfar, Martin Kramer, Doyle McManus, Tom Friedman, The Economist, and Charles Krauthammer, plus a staff-ed in The Independent.
- Hamas uses Chinese bank for money laundering.
- Syrian rebels form Islamic alliance.
- French diplomat who assaulted Israeli soldier expelled.