After a statement last week from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad that officials would soon announce "great" nuclear developments, Iranian state television said the country will unveil new uranium centrifuges on Wednesday. The report, which cited Iran's Atomic Energy Organization claimed: "The fourth generation of domestically made centrifuges have a higher speed and production capacity." Additionally, Iran said that for the first time it will load homegrown nuclear fuel rods into the centrifuge of the Tehran Research Reactor. The announcement has come as increasing sanctions have been imposed on Iran, and has been seen as a move by Iranian officials to prove that sanctions and U.N. resolutions have not stifled their nuclear progress. Meanwhile, both Israel's ambassador and Thai authorities reported there might be a link between multiple bombings and attempts in India, Thailand, and Georgia targeting Israeli diplomats. According to Thai investigators the materials used to build the bombs in both locations included the same "magnetic sheets." Israel has blamed Iran for the attacks, which Iran strongly denies, however Thai police have detained two Iranian suspects.
- Armored vehicles are patrolling Bahrain's capital, Manama, in part of a continued crackdown on protests which saw 30 demonstrators arrested, including activist Nabeel Rajab and six Americans.
- Egypt's military council reported that presidential elections would be advanced to the end of May as protesters demand for a transition to civilian rule.
- Bashar al-Assad scheduled a referendum on a draft constitution for Feb. 26 that will reportedly set up a multi-party democratic system in Syria. Meanwhile, violence continues ahead of the U.N. vote.
- As the one-year anniversary for Libya's revolution approaches, the National Transitional Council faces serious challenges including rival militias.
Arguments & Analysis
'The Arab state system is more resilient than it appears' (Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, The Daily Star)
"Within a few years, most leaders of Arab states and societies will be from a generation whose active life started in the 1980s. The way they view their countries, region and the world is quite different from that of the generation now in power. This could bring about surprising results. While these social changes are likely to put considerable pressure on the Arab state system, the latter has proven resilient to comparable changes in the past. For more than half a century the structures of this system, with its balances, rivalries and hatreds, have remained fundamentally unchanged. This is a sign of rigidity, but it also reflects the strength of underlying political realities."
'What Assad wants in Syria' (Salman Shaikh, The Daily Beast)
"International military action outside an international legal mandate is exactly what Assad wants. It will split the international community further and deepen the mistrust between the great powers, particularly the West and Russia, China, and the other BRICs. Unlike Libya or even Iraq, though, the differences will be along one of the region's primary axis points: the Syria fault line. It also would seriously threaten to unravel the consensus that RtoP achieved in 2005. Assad and his regime surely would also seek to present a future Iraq-like situation in Syria, in which a "coalition of the willing" chose to act to oust an Arab leader but ended up killing civilians and fueling a bloody civil war."
'Iraq on the brink' (Morton Abramowitz & Jessica Sims, The National Interest)
"The United States will continue to pressure Maliki to find some better basis for sectarian political cooperation. The Kurds are crucial to this difficult effort. Of course many Kurds would be tempted to leave Iraq if the present situation were to worsen, but that would meet all sorts of resistance within Iraq and from the United States and Turkey-not to mention Iran. The Kurds need to help tie up the loose ends of the Hashimi matter, which has dragged on for many weeks. Then they should move on to being something of an honest broker between Shia and Sunnis. The Kurds are more likely to play this role if they feel properly supported: the United States and Turkey must publicly endorse Kurdish efforts at dialogue and compromise while privately reassuring them of the U.S. and Turkish commitment to their security."
--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey