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  • 11 July 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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Iran News Roundup: July 11, 2012

Pentagon: Iranian Military Capability “Designed to Slow Invasion”

A Pentagon assessment of Iran’s military capabilities delivered to Congress states “Iran’s military doctrine remains designed to slow an invasion; target its adversaries’ economic, political, and military interests; and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests,” (FAS 7/11).

Tehran Warns Against Reports on Effects of Sanctions

Tehran has warned the media against publishing reports regarding the impact of Western sanctions on the regime. The Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mohammad Hosseini said, “Our country is not in a position to allow the media to publish (any) news or analysis which is not compatible with the regime’s and national interests,” (AFP 7/11).

Supreme Leader Says West “Vaccinated” Iran Against Sanctions

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said, “[Westerners] don’t understand that throughout the last 30 years they themselves vaccinated the Iranian nation against sanctions,” adding, “The Iranian nation in the past three decades stood against all the conspiracies and sanctions and made progress and now we are 100 percent stronger than 30 years ago,” (Bloomberg 7/11).

Iraq Overtakes Iran as World’s Second Largest Oil Producer

For the first time since 1988, Iraq’s crude production last month has overtaken Iran’s output. Iraq pumped 2.984 million barrels per day (bpd) in June, whereas Iran produced 2.963 million bpd ahead of the implementation of EU sanctions starting July 1, said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) (Bloomberg 7/11). Iran’s production is at its lowest level since 1990 (WSJ 7/11).

Iranian Foreign Minister Says Iran Unlikely to Close Strait

After the EU began enforcing a ban on the purchase of Iranian oil, Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz to oil if its own exports are halted, adding “but I don’t think such a time will ever come,” (AP 7/10).

  • 10 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 10, 2012

Iran Considers Response to Rial’s Decline

Iran is considering anew system of variable exchange rates for different products in order to stabilize the price of basic goods in the face of a significant slide in the value of Iran’s currency, the Rial. However, the new plan is meeting “heavy resistance from statesmen who have long promoted the private sector,” (Washington Post 7/9).

US Calls on Iran to Release Pastor

The US has called on Iran to release Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a convert to Christianity from Islam, who was jailed in 2009 and sentenced to death for his conversion. In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the pastor, “still faces the threat of execution for simply following his faith, and we repeat our call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately” (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty 7/10).

Iran Reportedly Shuts Off Some Oil Wells

Western and Iranian sources say that Iranian oil production has dropped below 3 million barrels per day (bpd), forcing Iran to shut off some wells in its oil fields for lack of export demand and storage capacity. Peter Wells of geological consultancy Neftex Petroleum commented, “The more production is shut in, the harder and longer it is to bring back production when it is needed,” (Reuters 7/10).

  • 9 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 9, 2012

U.S. Urges MEK to Leave Camp Ashraf Ahead of Iraqi Deadline

The Obama administration has increased pressure on the Mujahadeen-e Khalq (MEK) to leave its paramilitary base in Iraq. On Friday, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s special adviser on Camp Ashraf said, “It is past time for the M.E.K. to recognize that Ashraf is not going to remain an M.E.K. base” (Reuters 7/6).  Benjamin said, “MEK leaders appear to believe that the Secretary has no choice now but to delist them,” but added, “That conclusion is quite

P5+1 Talks with Iran to Resume July 24th

Deputy nuclear negotiators for Iran and the P5+1 will meet again in Istanbul on July 24th announced an EU spokesman. The spokesman said, “The objective for the meeting of [Helga] Schmid and [Ali] Bagheri is to look further at how existing gaps in positions could be narrowed and how the process could be moved forward,” (Al Monitor 7/9).

In the interim, diplomats have indicated that the P5+1 and Iran went into the Moscow talks with “maximalist” proposals (Christian Science Monitor 7/9).

Iran MPs Propose Tariff on Ships Passing Through Strait of Hormuz

  • 6 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 6, 2012

MEK Supporters Face Allegations of Unregistered Lobbying for Terrorist Organization

Under federal law, advocates for foreign organization are required to register as lobbyists and provide details about their clients and income, but supporters of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK), a well-financed designated terrorist organization, have not registered, according to a Washington Post investigation. The MEK supporters have been meeting with senior Obama administration officials to pressure the State Department into removing their organization from the State Department’s terrorist list.

Administration officials told the Post that the inquiry of whether the MEK’s paid supporters are violating the law by advocating for a designated foreign terrorist organization “remains essentially on hold” until a decision is made to keep the group on the terror list (Washington Post 7/5). Meanwhile, columnist Clarence Page was formally reprimanded by the Chicago Tribune for giving a paid speech at a MEK event, though he added his job “is safe for now.” (Talking Points Memo 7/6)

Canadian Bank Freezing Accounts of Canadians with Family in Iran

Canadian bank, TD Bank Group, has begun closing the accounts of customers which “appears to include any use of an account to send or receive money via wire transfer to or from friends and family in Iran,” according to the Ottawa Citizen.  “We are simply following regulations set out by the sanctions,” said TD Bank Group spokesperson Mohammed Nakhooda (Ottawa Citizen 7/6).

Post-Meeting Insight into Moscow Negotiations

Iranian diplomats are indicating that Iran is willing to replace the heavy water reactor it is building in Arak with a light water reactor, according to Jim Walsh, a non-proliferation expert at MIT who was present a presentation by the diplomats. Such a concession would reduce proliferation concerns, since heavy water reactors can produce weapons grade plutonium (The Guardian 7/6).

The Guardian also reports that “European diplomats have said that if Iran had asked for a postponement of the oil embargo at the official talks in return for 20% suspension, the six-nation group would have found itself split and would have difficulty turning it down. As it happened, the Iranians made the country’s guaranteed right to enrich their central demand,” (The Guardian 7/6).

  • 5 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 5, 2012

P5+1 Talks to Continue

Technical-level talks in Istanbul between the P5+1 and Iran ended early Wednesday, saying that talks would resume between the deputies of lead negotiators at an unspecified later date (NYT 7/5).

In a new document, presented to Iran experts by Iran’s mission to the UN, which includes transcriptional excerpts, both parties seem interested in continuing negotiations until after the November 4th election day. The text prioritizes sanctions relief, and an interest in setting the framework for “comprehensive and targeted dialogue for long term cooperation” that goes beyond the nuclear issue, reports Laura Rozen. (Al-Monitor 7/4).

If US Attacks, Iran Claims to Have Contingency Plans to Attack American Bases

Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency quoted the air force commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps claiming he has contingency plans to attack 35 American bases across the Middle East, as well as Israel, within minutes of the start of a conflict (NYT 7/5; Reuters 7/4).

  • 3 July 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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Iran News Roundup: July 3, 2012

US Increases Military Presence in the Persian Gulf

In response to proposed legislation in the Iranian parliament to close the Strait of Hormuz, the United States has “quietly” moved additional fighter jets, minesweepers, stealth warplanes, and other military reinforcements into the region. Navy ships are in place patrolling the Strait of Hormuz, reportedly to ensure that the waterway isn’t mined. “The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it,’” one senior Defense Department official said (NYT 7/3The Guardian 7/3).

The senior Defense Department official added, “This is not only about Iranian nuclear ambitions, but about Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions,” (NYT 7/3).

Second Day of War Games Continues in Iran

Today is the second day of war games in the north-central desert area of Semnan province in Iran by Revolutionary Guards Corps. The efficiency of warheads and missile systems, including the Shahab 3 missile and unmanned drones, are being tested partially in response to the implementation of an EU embargo on Iranian oil. Iran has announced a new ballistic missile called Arm, which allegedly has the capacity to detect and hit radar bases (WSJ 7/2; Reuters 7/3).

Russian Think Tank Suggests Russia Could Sell S-300s to Iran

Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, commented today during an interview of anti-aircraft missile sales that, “The S-300 ban was a political decision and these systems are not actually subject to sanctions.”  He suggested, “If the Syrian regime is changed by force or if Russia doesn’t like the outcome” of a peaceful transition to a new government, “it most likely will respond by selling S-300s to Iran” (Bloomberg 7/3).

NITC and Sinopec Struggle to Resolve Freight Dispute

  • 2 July 2012
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Iran News Roundup: July 2, 2012

Iran Reacts to EU Embargo Implementation

Iran’s governor to OPEC, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, speaking of sanctions implemented on Sunday, warned “the EU would bear ‘the consequences of politicizing the market,’” (Bloomberg 7/1).  Iranian ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, suggested the current sanctions regime “by itself indicates that they are not willing to engage with us in a meaningful dialogue,” (NYT 6/29).

Three Days of Iranian Missile Tests Begin

Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Amir Ali Hajizadeh has announced three days of missile tests starting on Monday, saying the exercises are “a message ‘that the Islamic Republic of Iran is resolute in standing up to … bullying, and will respond to any possible evil decisively and strongly’” (Reuters 7/1CNN 7/2). The war games will include target bases “made to look like airbases of ‘extra-regional powers’” and “long-range, medium-range, and short-range missiles”, (CNN 7/2).  Hajizadeh, who is head of the Revolutionary Guards airborne division added that “If [Israelis] take any action, they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth” (Reuters 7/1).

Bill Would Stop Oil Trade through Hormuz

Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has drafted a bill that would attempt to stop oil tankers from shipping crude through the Strait of Hormuz to countries that support sanctions against Iran. Iranian MP Ibrahim Agha-Mohammadi stated that as of Sunday, 100 of 290 members of the Iranian parliament had signed the measure (Reuters 7/2).

Iranian Domestic Markets Weaken

The imposition of the new measures threaten to “make the distortion in the economy even worse”, according to the New York Times, in a country where the national currency has lost 50 percent of its value in the last year and currency speculation has become a significant factor in the market(NYT 7/1). The dollar was trading at just over 18,500 Rials last Saturday, by Thursday it was above 20,000 for the first time since late January (Washington Post  6/29).

  • 29 June 2012
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Iran News Roundup: June 29, 2012

Shorter Range Missiles in the Persian Gulf

In an apparent escalation in Iran’s  standoff with the West, a Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted as saying Iran expects to equip its ships in the Strait of Hormuz with shorter-range missiles (Reuters 6/29).

Dubai’s ENOC Affected by State Department Clarification

U.S. State Department officials have clarified that financial transactions that facilitate the import of Iranian “condensate”, a production material Dubai’s national oil company depends on, makes the UAE liable under the US sanctions that go into effect on June 28th. As a result, two sources close to the company said Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) had already applied for a waiver to avoid US sanctions (Reuters 6/29).

Iran Offers to Deliver South Korea Oil

Less than a day after Iran threatened “reconsideration of its ties” with South Korea in response to an announcement by the country that it would stop purchases of Iranian oil, Iran has come forward to offer to deliver its oil to South Korea on its own ships (Reuters 6/28; Reuters 6/29).

Continued Signs of Rivalry within OPEC

  • 28 June 2012
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Iran News Roundup: June 28, 2012

Bush Advisor Calls for Naval Blockade of Iran

President Bush’s former National Security Council director of international energy, Robert McNally, advocates for a U.S. naval blockade against Iran in today’s Financial Times.  McNally acknowledges his recommendation would be an act of war under international law (Financial Times 6/27).

China and Singapore Receive Sanctions Waivers

The Obama administration has extended waivers to China and Singapore, allowing them to importing Iranian oil without penalty for the next 180 days. All countries importing Iranian oil have now received cooperating country waivers from the Secretary of State (U.S. State Department 6/28).

Analysts: Oil Prices Set to Top $110 Again

The median estimate of 32 analysts tracked by Bloomberg expect the price of Brent crude to reach an average $114.50 a barrel in the third quarter, as compared to prices last week in London that dipped as low as $88.49 (Bloomberg 6/28).

Iran Experiencing Grain Shortages Due to Sanctions

Iranian attempts to secure grain via barter deals with India and Pakistan are failing, forcing Iran to pay high premiums for the food staple (Reuters 6/28).

UN Experts Condemn Executions of Ahwazi Arab Minority in Iran

After an allegedly unfair trial, four members of the Ahwazi Arab minority group in Iran were sentenced to death by public executions. Independent human rights experts cited by the UN emphasized, “Defendants in death penalty cases should also receive fair trial guarantees stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Iran in 1975.” Despite the technical illegality of public executions in Iran, since January 2008, the practice continues with the UN reporting at least 25 public executions have taken place this year in Iran (UN Human Rights 6/28).

Apple Facing Accusations of Civil Rights Violations

Following multiple recent instances of alleged racial profiling and discrimination at Apple stores, the National Iranian American Council and a coalition of groups Iranian-American and civil rights groups sent a letter to Apple warning that its actions appear to violate civil rights law.  (International Business Times 6/27).

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

Congress Eyes More Sanctions

U.S. lawmakers are seeking to finalize Iran sanctions legislation in July.  Senator Menendez said, “‘We’re trying to see if we can get the House either to largely accept what we put through, or to come to what would be a quick staff conference that would lead us to a final conclusion that we could ratify.’” (Reuters 6/27; Reuters 6/27).

Iran Threatens Retaliatory Embargo on South Korea

In response to South Korea’s announcement that it will suspend all oil imports from Iran, Iran has announced that it may put on an embargo on all goods from South Korea. According to the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy, South Korea’s shipments to Iran amounted to $6 billion last year (CNN 6/27; The Korean Times 6/27).