Morning Report: December 2, 2004

NCRI: Iran working on missiles that could hit Europe. A breaking story from CNN states that 'The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which has in the past given accurate information on some of Iran's nuclear facilities, said Tehran was working on missiles with a range of 1,600 to 1,900 miles, capable of hitting cities such as Berlin.' In a related development, NCRI has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to 'set aside political and economic considerations and refer the clerical regime's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council. It should not allow the religious dictatorship ruling Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and threaten peace and security in the region and the world.' (CNN via Netscape, NCRI)

Najaf security handed over to Iraqi forces. Col. Anthony Haslem, the commander of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit has handed over responsibility for the security of Najaf province to Iraqi forces. The likely goal of the move is to free up US forces for missions elsewhere; its success will depend on the loyalty of the Iraqi forces now taking over. Details available from Stratfor. Meanwhile, MSNBC reports that 'The United States is expanding its military force in Iraq to 150,000, the highest level of the war, to bolster security in advance of national elections in January', an increase of 12,000 troops. Much of the manpower will come from extensions of duty for about 10,000 troops now serving in Iraq. (Strategic Forecasting, MSNBC)

Israel's Labor Party supports Sharon on disengagement. Labor Party Chief Shimon Peres expects an overture next week from Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's Likud government, seeking Labor's support on a plan to pull out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank. ' think the year must be devoted not for politics but for policies, mainly to implement the disengagement, the withdrawal from Gaza, and the dismantling of the settlements in Gaza and in the northern part of Samaria [the northern West Bank],' Peres was quoted as saying in this CNN story. The prospect of a national-unity coalition will be considered in the coming week. Debka reports that 'Labor leader Peres is agreeable but faces opposition in his party' and predicts that 'bringing opposition Labor aboard is Sharon's only chance of fending off dissolution and an early election'. Debka has traditionally opposed Sharon's disengagement plan. For an earlier Dreams Into Lightning post on the topic, see Disengagement: The Messy Divorce, which provides a number of relevant links. (CNN, Debka)

Sharon agrees in principle to meeting with Assad. Israel's Prime Minister also said he would consider a meeting with Syrian president Bashar Assad "in certain circumstances". 'Talking to newspaper editors in Tel Aviv, he noted that talks demand much secret preparation like the work that led up to Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem. If Syria is serious, it will find Israel is serious too,' Debka reported, adding that Sharon had stressed (again) the importance of disengagement. (Debka)

Hugo Chavez wins an award. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuala was in Libya last week to receive the coveted "Qaddafi Award for Human Rights", according to a recent bulletin at MEMRI. The prize carries an honorarium of $250,000. Readers should follow Michael J. Totten for impressions of Michael's recent visit to Libya. (MEMRI, Michael J. Totten)

Annan urged to resign. Senator Norm Coleman (R - Minnesota), the US Senator leading the inquiry into the United Nations oil-for-fraud scam, has called for the resignation of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to reports like this UPI wire. Roger L. Simon says it's about time. (UPI via Washington Times, Roger L. Simon)