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IAEA Visits Iran As US Arms Arab Gulf States

On Tuesday, newly-arrived IAEA inspectors visited Iran's Arak heavy water nuclear facility, invited by Iran in a limited but concerted attempt to allay international fears of its developing nuclear weapons program. Heavy water reactors are used to process spent uranium fuel into plutonium which can then be used to make much smaller and lighter nuclear warheads more easily delivered by missiles. The IAEA visit comes as families of detained student editors and activists describe their abuse in Iranian prison, accusing the regime of domestic torture in order to extract coerced false confessions.

Nearly coinciding with the IAEA visit is a round of new military arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab Persian Gulf states that is openly intended, as Secretary fo State Rice described, "to counter the negative influences of al-Qaeda, Hizballah, Syria and Iran," chief among them being Iran. In order to calm Israeli fears of any growing Arab military capability which might in turn be turned eventually on them, the United States also boosted its annual military aid to Israel by 25% over the next ten years. Israel's Arab weapons fears are not based on threats posed by current Gulf States leadership, but rather the additional threat the new high-tech weaponry could pose if any of the current regimes were toppled by al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist forces.

Hizballah: 'Ready To Attack Israel At Any Time'

Ahead of Condoleezza Rice's visit to the region to meet with Israeli and Arab leaders, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared that the Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist group is 'ready to strike Israel at any time.' Delivering a speech via video feed at a rally in Bint Jbail, Lebanon, Nasrallah said that the terrorist group will never be at peace with Israel. He said, "It is impossible to live with a back-stabbing enemy on our border, who has been assaulting us ever since it was born," and stated that Hizballah still possesses rockets and missiles that "can hit any area in occupied Palestine if Israel attacks Lebanon." The video showed Nasrallah speaking before a professionally printed backdrop which read in English for a targeted Western audience, "The Divine Victory."

In Egypt, new Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said that Palestinian 'resistance' is legitimate, seeking to reassure those angry that the Fatah-run Palestinian government in the West Bank had stricken the term 'resistance' from its platform. He attempted to explain that it was excluded because it is too often associated with 'armed struggle.' Fayad said, "What is the essence of resistance, especially in light of the current occupation? Does it not begin with all possible efforts to strengthen the permanence of the Palestinian citizens on their land? That is precisely the government's agenda."

At the same time, a deployment of Jordanian forces into the West Bank is again being seriously considered by the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Jordan. Israel appears to prefer a Jordanian Arab force rather than a UN or NATO force. Jordan's potential absorption of the West Bank as a new autonomous Jordanian territory has been also considered recently.

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