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  • 31 July 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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Iran News Roundup: July 31, 2012

Obama Authorizes New Iran Sanctions

President Obama authorized new sanctions against banks that facilitate the sale of petrochemical products by the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Naftiran Intertrade Company (NIC). Additionally, the President imposed sanctions on the Bank of Kunlun in China and Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq for processing transactions for sanctioned Iranian banks (Reuters 7/31; The White House 7/31).

US Lawmakers Push for More Sanctions on Iran

US lawmakers in favor of new sanctions have reached an agreement, and the new legislation is expected to be voted on in the House as early as Wednesday. As explained by the Senate Banking Committee, “The bill aims to prevent Iran from repatriating any of the revenue it receives from the sale of its crude oil, depriving Iran of hard currency earnings and funds to run its state budget.” (AP 7/30; Senate Banking 7/30).

Iraq Says It Will Force MEK Out of Paramilitary Base

Iraq has told the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK), a US-designated terrorist organization, that they must move out of Camp Ashraf, or be forced to leave. Iraqi National Security Advisor Falih al-Fayadh said at a conference that, “Now we are free to implement the mechanisms required to transfer those who live in (Camp Ashraf) to where we find appropriate.” Iraq said it will observe a grace period of “a few days” to allow for a solution to the impasse, which arose when the MEK stopped cooperating with efforts to relocate the group’s members (Reuters 7/31).

Persian Gulf States Expand Arms Purchases

  • 30 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 30, 2012

Aide Says Romney Would Endorse Israeli Strike

Speaking in Jerusalem, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capability is America’s “solemn duty and a moral imperative”. Romney’s aide, Dan Senor, previewed the speech for reporters, saying that “if Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision.” However, Romney apparently stepping back from his aide’s comment, saying only “We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself,” (Huffington Post 7/29).

Senor, the aide, also endorsed a lower threshold for attacking Iran, saying:

It is not enough just to stop Iran from developing a nuclear program. The capability, even if that capability is short of weaponization, is a pathway to weaponization, and the capability gives Iran the power it needs to wreak havoc in the region and around the world.

(Think Progress 7/29)

Israeli Official Denies Obama Advisor Briefed Netanyahu on Iran Contingency Plans

On Sunday, Haaretz reported National Security Advisor Tom Donilon briefed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on US contingency plans for an attack on Iran during a three-hour dinner, sharing information on US weaponry and military capabilities. A senior Israeli official denied the report saying, “Nothing in the article is correct,” (Reuters 7/30; Haaretz 7/29).

  • 27 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 27, 2012

Iranian Increases Defense Capabilities in the Persian Gulf, Adds Anti-Ship Missiles

Analysts say Iran has developed an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles in the Persian Gulf, and it has expanded its fleet of submarines and fast-attack boats to increase its defense capabilities (Washington Post 7/26).

P5+1 Talks with Iran to Resume “Soon”

EU foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said a meeting between top EU and Iranian representatives to discuss the nuclear issue “will happen soon, but we don’t yet have the date,” (AP 7/26).

Khamenei Advisor Says Talks Will Continue Until  “Positive Conclusions” are Reached

  • 26 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 26, 2012

Chairman of U.S. Intelligence Committee Blames Iran for Burgas Bombing

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers (R-MI), said he believes Iran was behind the recent suicide attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, making him the highest US official to place blame on Iran. He said, “I believe there were certainly elements of Hezbollah [involved] and I believe it was under the direction of their masters in Iran,” (The Hill 7/26).

Iranian UN Ambassador Accuses Israel of Plotting Burgas Bombing

Iran’s UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee accused Israel of plotting and exacting the suicide attack on a bus in Bulgas, Bulgaria last week, during a UN Security Council debate. Israel has accused Hezbollah and Iran for the attack. Khazaee said , “Such terrorist operation could only be planned and carried out by the same regime whose short history is full of state terrorism operations and assassinations aimed implicating others for narrow political gains,” (Reuters 7/25).

Iranian Support for Syria “Unchangeable” Says Iranian VP

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi has pledged “unchangeable” support for Syria, saying, “The Iranian people have an unchangeable stance on Syrians and will always stand by them,” reports Iranian news sources (Reuters 7/26).

Latest Round of P5+1 Talks with Iran “Positive”

  • 25 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 25, 2012

Romney Takes Hard Line on Iranian Enrichment

At the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Mitt Romney took a hardline on Iran’s nuclear program. “There must be a full suspension of any enrichment, whatsoever, period,” Romney said (Fox News 7/24). In a separate interview, Romney advisor Rich Williamson asserted that, “after the election… [President Obama] is going to cut a deal allowing [Iran] to have enrichment,” (PBS 7/24).

Iranian Supreme Leader Urges Unity On Sanctions

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged his nation’s politicians to show more unity under pressure from Western sanctions. In a meeting with officials, he is quoted as saying, “You should avoid useless disputes and airing these disputes to help preserve the nation’s unity … and officials should know these actions will not bring them any honor or prestige among the people,” (Reuters 7/25).

Irano Hind Shipping Co. Folds Under Sanctions Pressure

  • 24 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 24, 2012

Investigation into Burgas Bomber Continues

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, speaking alongside White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan in Sofia, said the suicide bomber, who carried out an attack in Burgas last week, was part of a “sophisticated” group of conspirators, who arrived in Bulgaria one month before the attack. He declined to back Israeli claims that Iran or Hezollah played a role, but did say they knew “”when [the attacker] arrived, the presumed flight, and where it came from” (BBC 7/24).

Israeli President Says Israel in “Open War” with Iran

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview with CNN that Israel is in an “open war” with Iran, following last week’s bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israelis. Peres insisted Israeli had “enough” intelligence to link Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah to the attacks. He added, “self-defense is the right and the must of every people,” (Al Arabiya 7/23).

Thousands of Iranians Take to the Street to Protest Food Prices

Iranian news sources report that several thousand Iranians in the northeastern city of Neishapour protested rising prices on food staples in the city’s main square today. The protest was the first instance of unrest sparked by recent economic woes. Protesters allegedly chanted “Death to Inflation” and “Shame on you government, you must resign” (Wall Street Journal 7/23).

Iranian Reformists May Field Presidential Candidate in 2013

After being purged from the political scene in 2009, statements by Iranian reformists politicians suggest they may field a presidential candidate in 2013. Spokesman for the reformist National Trust Party, Esmail Gerami-Moghaddam, told Reuters, “If we enter the elections with a strong candidate, the government will be forced to respect people’s votes,” but he conceded that, “It’s true that even if we get the presidency we will not be able to do much,” (Reuters 7/23).

P5+1 Deputy Talks Conclude in Istanbul

Today in Istanbul Deputy Head of the EU’s foreign relations arm Helga Schmid and Iran’s deputy negotiator on the nuclear issue met today to discuss the nuclear standoff with Iran and the future of P5+1 talks with Iran. After the meeting, the EU’s spokesperson said “the next stage will be a contact between” chief negotiator for the P5+1, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili (Al-Monitor 7/24).

Sanctions Negatively Effecting Afghan Economy

  • 20 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 20, 2012

U.S. Officials Blame Hezbollah for Terror Attack

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that American officials identified the man as a member of a Hezbollah cell “acting under broad guidance” to hit Israeli targets. A U.S. official said it was a “tit for tat” attack done to retaliate for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists by Israel (NYT 7/19).

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov cautioned against speculating over who carried out the terrorist attack in Burgas, saying it would be “wrong and a mistake to point fingers at this stage of the investigation at any country or organization” (Haaretz 7/20).

U.S. Says Iran Developed Plans to Disrupt Oil Trade

U.S. officials have said that new intelligence indicates that Iran has developed plans to attack oil platforms and tankers to disrupt international oil trade “both inside and outside the Persian Gulf.” One U.S. official commented, “This doesn’t mean they would do something, as there are significant costs the Iranians would have to consider, but this is something to keep an eye on,” (WSJ 7/19).

Israeli Poll Shows Little Support for Unilateral Strike on Iran

In a poll by Israeli daily, Maariv, only 19 percent of Israelis said they support a unilateral strike against Iran. 26 percent said Israel should only strike with U.S. backing, and 29 percent said Israel should take no action. 26 percent were undecided (Reuters 7/20).

  • 19 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 19, 2012

Confusion Surrounds Identity of Suicide Bomber in Bulgaria

Swedish and Israeli officials are denying Bulgarian reports that the suicide bomber who carried out an attack on a bus full of Israeli tourists Thursday, killing five Israelis, was Swedish citizen connected to al Qaeda (The Atlantic 7/19).

In an interview with MSNBC, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren insisted, “our sources confirm that Hezbollah was behind this. Hezbollah takes its marching orders directly from Tehran,” (NBCNews 7/19).

President Barack Obama said the U.S. would “stand with our allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators.” President Obama called Mr. Netanyahu to extend his condolences (WSJ 7/18).

State Department Official Calls Congressional Letter “Pandering” to Terrorist Group

State Department official Dan Fried called a Congressional letter supporting the MEK’s refusal of the to abandon its paramilitary base in Iraq “pandering of the worst sort and completely undermines U.S. policy.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) are spearheading the letter to Secretary Clinton.   (Foreign Policy 7/18).

State Department Calls for Release of Iranian Activists

The State Department voiced “concern” in a press release yesterday for Kurdish activist Mohammed Seddigh Kaboudvand and human rights activist Nargess Mohammadi, who are serving prison sentences in Iran. Kaboudvand has been on hunger strike since May 26, after authorities precluded him from seeing his ill son, and Mohammadi has been denied proper medical attention. The press release says both “are suffering from rapidly deteriorating health” (State Department 7/18).

Yemen Warns Iran Against Meddling

  • 18 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 18, 2012

Netanyahu Blames Iran for Fatal Terrorist Attack in Bulgaria; Vows Retaliation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for a fatal terror attack in Bulgaria, saying “Iran is responsible for the terror attack in Bulgaria, we will have a strong response against Iranian terror.”

Panetta: U.S. Would Hold Iran “Directly Responsible” for any Hormuz Disruption

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday of a potential Iranian obstruction to the Strait of Hormuz, “The Iranians need to understand that the United States and the international community are going to hold them directly responsible for any disruption of shipping in that region, by Iran or for that matter by its surrogate.” He added, “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that the Iranian attempt to close down shipping in the Gulf is something that we are going to be able to defeat, if they make a decision to do that” (Reuters 7/18).

IRGC Official: Sanctions Aimed at Fomenting Regime Change

A senior official of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Ali Ashraf Nouri, has said the U.S. sanctions strategy is designed to “break people’s tolerance threshold and force them [to take to the streets] like during the 2009 sedition” (Radio Free Liberty Radio Europe 7/17).

Iran Condemns Assassination of Syrian Defense Minister

  • 17 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 17, 2012

New Cyber Attack Detected in Iran

Israeli security company, Seculert, and Russia’s Kaspersky Lab have uncovered another cyber espionage campaign primarily aimed at Iran that they are calling the Mahdi Trojan. While primarily targeting Iran, the trojan, which is capable of stealing files and monitoring email, was also found in other Middle Eastern countries. The campaign which has effected more than 800 victims, targets infrastructure companies, engineering students, financial services, and government embassies (Reuters 7/17).

Pentagon Reportedly Building Missile Defense Radar in Qatar

U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that the Pentagon is building an “X-band” missile-defense radar station at a secret site in Qatar, which is capable of detecting missile launches in cooperation with radar systems in Israel and Turkey. Additionally, the U.S. is preparing its largest ever minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf starting in September (WSJ 6/17).

Clinton Calls Iranian P5+1 Proposals “Non-Starters” in Israel

At a news conference in Jerusalem yesterday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said, “”I made very clear that the proposals that we have seen from Iran thus far within the P5+1 negotiations are non-starters.” Clinton spoke following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She added, “Our own choice is clear: we will use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” (CNN 7/16).