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Israel, Saudi Arabia, Gulf States Coordinating Policies to Counter US Détente with Iran

By DEBKAfile & The Times of Israel

Associates of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday leaked word to the media that high-ranking Gulf emirate officials had recently visited Israel, signaling a further widening in the rift between Israel and President Barack Obama over his outreach to Tehran. These visits were in line with the ongoing exchanges Israel was holding with Saudi and Gulf representatives to align their actions for offsetting any potential American easing-up on Iran's nuclear program.

DEBKAfile reports that this is the first time Israel official sources have publicly aired diplomatic contacts of this kind in the region. They also reveal that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates have agreed to synchronize their lobbying efforts in the US Congress to vote down the Obama administration's moves on Iran.

It is feared in European capitals that the US is running too fast and too far in his bid for reconciliation with the Islamic Republic, to the detriment by association of their own standing I the Persian Gulf. They are moreover miffed by the way Washington used Europe as a tool in the long nuclear negotiations between the Six World Powers with Iran and is now dumping them in favor of direct dealings with Iranian leaders.

Netanyahu decided not to accede to either request. Instead he laid out his credo: Iran must discontinue nuclear development and dismantle its program or face up to the risk of a lone Israeli military attack. Netanyahu must now revive Israel's deterrence and convince Iran that his challenge at the UN had ended an era of military passivity and should be taken seriously.

In the coming weeks, therefore, the Iranians will react with steps to upset US-Israeli relations, possibly by raising military tensions in the region directly or through their proxies. Until now Tehran operated from outside Washington and its inner councils. Now, smart Iranian diplomats will be sitting down with the US president close to his ear for friendly discussions on ways to further their rapprochement.

According to an Israel Channel 2 report, Netanyahu has been supervising a series of "intensive meetings" with representatives of these other countries. The report came a day after Netanyahu, in an overlooked passage of his UN speech, noted that shared concerns over Iran's nuclear program "have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize… that Israel is not their enemy" and created an opportunity to "build new relationships."

The Arab and Gulf states involved in the new talks have no diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, the report noted. What they share with Israel, it said, is the concern that President Hasan Rouhani's new diplomatic outreach will fool the US and lead to a US-Iran diplomatic agreement which provides for "less than the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program."

"There is a deep sense of anxiety concerning what's happening in Iran," Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor told Channel 2 Wednesday. While he avoided comment on any direct contact between Israel and the Gulf states, he said there were messages "from all over the region" being transmitted to the highest ranks of the US government.

Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who is close to Netanyahu, indicated to the Times of Israel after the prime minister's speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday that Israel was no longer certain that the Obama administration would use force against Iran even in a last resort to stop[ it attaining nuclear weapons.

In the past, Israel maintained an interest office in Doha, Qatar, but it was closed in 2009. It is widely believed that Jerusalem still maintains some sort of engagement with various states in the Persian Gulf region, with whom it has many joined interests. The government is extremely careful not to publicly acknowledge such ties — in order not to jeopardize them.

On Tuesday Netanyahu made it clear that "Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons" and could take military action to stop it from doing so. "If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. Yet, in standing alone, Israel will know that we will be defending many, many others," he stated.

He immediately added: "The dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy. And this affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes." He went on: "Israel welcomes engagement with the wider Arab world. We hope that our common interests and common challenges will help us forge a more peaceful future."

A number of Sunni countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have been vocally opposed to Iran's nuclear program, placing them and Israel on the same side of the debate.

A carelessly edited version of the 2013 Israeli state budget revealed that Israel opened a diplomatic office somewhere in the Persian Gulf between 2010 and 2012. Foreign Ministry sources asked the Finance Ministry to remove the sensitive clause from the budget — and from the public's eye.


Iran's Cyber Warfare Commander Found Dead

By IsraelNationalNews.com

The head of Iran's cyber warfare program has been shot dead, triggering further accusations that outside powers are carrying out targeted assassinations of key figures in the country's security apparatus, reports the UK Telegraph.

Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of Iran's Cyber War Headquarters, was found dead in a wooded area near the town of Karaj, northwest of the capital Tehran.

Five Iranian nuclear scientists and the head of the country's ballistic missile program have been killed since 2007. The regime has accused Israel's external intelligence agency, the Mossad, of carrying out these assassinations.

Ahmadi was last seen leaving his home for work on Saturday. He was later found with two bullets in the heart, according to the Telegraph, which cited a report on a website linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. "I could see two bullet wounds on his body and the extent of his injuries indicated that he had been assassinated from a close range with a pistol," an eyewitness told the website.

The commander of the local police said that two people on a motorbike had been involved in the assassination. The Facebook page of the officers of the Cyber War Headquarters confirmed that Ahmadi had been one of their commander and posted messages of condolence.

Subsequently, a statement from the Imam Hassan Mojtaba division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps said that Ahmadi's death was being investigated. It warned against speculating "prematurely about the identity of those responsible for the killing".

Western officials said the information was still being assessed, but previous deaths have been serious blows to Iran's security forces. Tighter security measures around leading commanders and nuclear scientists have instilled a culture of fear in some of the most sensitive parts of the security establishment.

The last victim of a known assassination was Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemist who worked in the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, who died when an explosive device blew up on his car in January last year.

Besides Israel, Iran has also blamed the U.S. and Britain for killing its scientists. Both countries have denied involvement in killing Iranian nuclear experts. Israel has not officially commented, but after Roshan's death, the IDF spokesman Brigadier General wrote on his Facebook page, "I do not know who brought the Iranian scientist to account, but I certainly won't shed a tear for him."

The death of Ahmadi, a leading specialist in cyber defenses, could be an extension of this campaign of subterfuge. Iran has been accused of carrying out a number of cyber attacks detected in the West. The killing of Ahmadi coincides with a new diplomatic effort by President Hassan Rouhani, Iran's newly elected leader. He has voiced the hope that Iran's confrontation with America and the leading Western powers over its nuclear ambitions can be settled within months.


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