Iran promises to reveal location of detonators; US blames China for rising tensions in South China Sea; North Korea withdraws invitation for US envoy to visit the country to discuss detained missionary; Russian police kill Islamist militants in North Caucasus; Homs siege overshadows Syria peace talks in Geneva; and more

Top of the Agenda

Iran Pledges New Cooperation With IAEA

Iran has promised to provide information about detonators believed to be part of a nuclear weapons program, one of seven confidence-building steps that Tehran agreed to with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (BBC). The nuclear watchdog said during a weekend meeting in Tehran that progress has been good. The agreement was seen as a positive signal for negotiations on a broad nuclear settlement between Iran and six world powers, scheduled to begin on February 18 in Vienna (Reuters). Meanwhile, the loosening of international sanctions on Iran hasn't spurred new transactions with foreign banks and insurance companies due to confusion about the sanctions and which deals are allowed (FT).

Analysis

"In the following months, Israel will likely channel its strategic energy in two directions. First, it will continue to promote international pressure on Iran and work with other world powers to include in the final agreement the parts missing from the interim deal. An ideal comprehensive agreement will nix any military dimensions of Iran's nuclear project, curtail its plutonium enrichment, and remove a significant number of centrifuges and enriched uranium from Iran. All these will further lengthen the Iranian dash toward a bomb. Second, Israel will promote the military option to signal its resolve," writes Dmitry Adamsky in Foreign Affairs.

"What increases the sense of optimism is another positive development. The day after [Israeli defense minister Moshe] Ya'alon sat on the front row at [Javad] Zarif's session, in an interview with German TV, Iran's foreign minister recognized the Holocaust and called it a 'horrifying tragedy.' He then went on to say that if a peace agreement with the Palestinians was reached, Iran will make the sovereign decision regarding the possible recognition of Israel. Meaning it may or it may not decide to do so. This in itself is a notable sign of change," writes Meir Javedanfar for Al-Monitor.

"Now the administration is pressing for an agreement with Iran based on the conceit that the intelligence community will give policy makers ample warning before the mullahs sprint for a nuclear weapon. That is not true. Iran could surprise the world with a nuclear test at least as easily as India did in 1998, when the intelligence community gave the Clinton administration zero warning that New Delhi was about to set off a bomb—and a South Asian arms race," writes Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal.

 

Pacific Rim

U.S. Blames China for Rising Tensions in South China Sea

The Obama administration has taken a tougher stance on China's maritime claims in the South China Sea, blaming Beijing for tensions in the region and warning that the United States could move more forces to the region to protect its allies (FT).

This CFR InfoGuide explains the maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.

NORTH KOREA: Pyongyang has rescinded for a second time an invitation for a senior U.S. envoy to visit the country to discuss the release of long-detained American missionary Kenneth Bae (AP).

ELSEWHERE:

Russian police kill four Islamist militants in North Caucasus

Homs siege overshadow Syria peace talks in Geneva

 This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org.

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