1. Military affairs
a. Two short range rockets were fired from the Sinai at Eilat. One overshot and landed in the Jordanian city of Aqaba. The other landed in the Red Sea. (stock photo: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
2. Middle East diplomacy
b. Unconfirmed reports indicate that U.S. National Security Council Middle East specialist Daniel Shapiro and David Hale, deputy to U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, held secret talks with Israeli officials.
c. U.S. President Barack Obama stated in a letter to Alan Solow, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations: “Since we have known each other for a long time, I am sure you can distinguish between the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently, and the actual approach of my administration toward the Middle East… All sides should understand that our commitment to Israel is unshakeable and that no wedge will be driven between us… I am deeply committed to fulfilling the important role the United States must play for peace to be realized, but I also recognize that in order for any agreement to endure, peace cannot be imposed from the outside.”
d. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stated with respect to a U.S. ‘imposed settlement,’ “A number of people have advocated that. That time is not now. The time now is to get back to the proximity talks [and] have those conversations that eventually will lead to direct negotiations, start to make the hard decisions to bring a balance between the aspirations of the Israelis for security and make that blend with the aspirations of the Palestinian people for their sovereignty.” He added “Our bond with Israel is unshakable and unbreakable both as it relates to security, as it relates to a common set of values and also as a common strategic vision because the threats to Israel are similar to some of the threats the United States faces.”
e. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated “We have expressed directly to the Syrian government … in the strongest possible terms our concerns about these stories that do suggest there has been some transfer of weapons technology into Syria with the potential purpose of then later transferring it to Hezbollah.” She added “This is not some kind of reward for the Syrians and the actions that they take which are deeply disturbing… It’s a tool that we believe can give us extra leverage, added insight, analysis, information with respect to Syria’s actions and intentions.”
f. U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell held talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Reports indicate that Barak will travel to Washington, D.C. for talks with U.S. officials including National Security Advisor James Jones. (stock photo: Moshe Milner GPO/Flash 90)
b. Reports indicate that Iran has agreed “in principle” to additional International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision of the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. The supervision would include realigning surveillance cameras and more frequent inspections.
c. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is embarking on a world tour to meet all members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) except the U.S. to persuade them to reject additional sanctions on Iran. Mottaki meets Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger this weekend in Vienna.
d. Unconfirmed reports indicate that China has proposed changes to a U.S. backed resolution calling for additional sanctions on Iran. The new sanctions are directed at the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and international banking access for the Iranian energy sector.
e. Department of Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy stated “Military force is an option of last resort. It’s off the table for now.” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell later clarified “We are not taking any options off the table as we pursue the pressure and engagement tracks. …The president always has at his disposal a full array of options, including use of the military … It is clearly not our preferred course of action but it has never been, nor is it now, off the table.”
f. U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden stated “Everyone from the Israeli prime minister straight through to the British prime minister to the president of Russia – everyone agrees the next step we should take is the UN sanction route.” He added “China will agree to sanctions… This is the first time the entire world is unified. Iran is out of bounds.” When asked whether Israel might take military action without consultation with the U.S. Biden stated “They’re not going to do that.” (stock photo: Gili Yaari / Flash 90)