Iran Nuclear Talks Resume with No Progress on Lifting of Sanctions, Verification
Despite the apparent agreement between Iran and the Western nations of a framework deal on April 2, significant sticking-points remain to be resolved if there is to be a final pact. As the current round of talks got under way on Wednesday it quickly became clear that the deadline of June 30 the parties imposed upon themselves was unlikely at best. Holding up the deal are the issues of at what speed to remove economic sanctions on the Iranians and how to verify Tehran is sticking to the agreement and not working clandestinely to create nuclear weapons under the cover of the pact. The Iranians have been adamant and unified in declaring that all sanctions must be lifted the moment the deal is signed while the West, led by the US, is calling for a gradual lifting on merit basis. Adding to the skepticism of many, lran’s Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei averred last week that military sites will remain off-limits to international inspectors, reinforcing the suggestion by many that Tehran is setting up an elaborate shell game under the guise of the nuclear talks. The present round of talks raps up on Friday.
French Hit ‘Fast Forward’ on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Track
Not willing to accept the status-quo of stagnation and America’s perceived “dead-end” in brokering the Israeli-Palestinian peace track, Europe, led by France, is picking up the mantle and moving forward with a new initiative. The French have spawned some uneasiness in Israeli circles by announcing that they will present a new resolution to the United Nations Security Council that acknowledges key preconditions of the Palestinians including a return to pre-1967 borders and the creation of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem. France has also warned that if a peace agreement is not forthcoming within a specific time frame of 18 to 24 months it will recognize the state of Palestine outside of the efforts of the international peace makers. The French have held-off their efforts pending resolution of the deal being brokered regarding the Iranian nuclear program. On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he’s planning a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in order to jumpstart the process.
Al-Qa’ida-linked Rebel Group Predicts Al-Assad’s Downfall
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The fall of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is imminent according to the Al-Nusra Front, the Al-Qa’ida Syrian franchise that has been battling the regime alongside rebel forces. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, the group’s leader, Abu Mohamad Al-Golani, suggested that those supporting Assad should renounce their support before he falls. He said, “We will continue our focus on Damascus and on toppling this regime. I assure you, Assad’s fall won’t take a long time.” Regarding those who are members of Assad’s Shiite Alawite sect, Al-Golani said, “If they drop weapons, disavow Assad, do not send their men to fight for him and return to Islam then they are our brothers.”
Hamas arrested those who Launched Rocket against Israel
The Gaza-based Hamas terrorist organization said on Wednesday that it had arrested three men it alleges were responsible for firing a Grad missile into Israeli territory on Tuesday night, claiming they were members of the Islamic Jihad organization. The charge is in agreement with speculation expressed by Israeli security officials in the aftermath of the incident which caused no injuries or damage. Nevertheless, Israel sent its air force into action against Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in keeping with its policy of holding Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, responsible for any and all acts of terror emanating from Gaza. To underscore its insistence that the firing of the rocket was carried out by rogue players, Islamic Jihad security personnel participated in the arrest. Breaking with a long-standing if less-than-accurate mantra, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Wednesday that he is not opposed to negotiating with Hamas. Most government officials across the political spectrum articulate an absolute refusal to negotiate with terrorist organizations.