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Iran News Roundup 12/22

Iran’s currency troubles

The Financial Times reports that Iran’s currency has dropped almost 10 percent in recent days, a record low against the U.S. dollar.  While sanctions and economic mismanagement are likely culprits, some Iranian media have accused Ahamdinejad’s government of “engineering a deliberate devaluation to boost the rial value of its oil income in the final months of the fiscal year” to attempt to reduce the budget deficit, which some say could be as high as 7% of GDP (Financial Times 12/21).

Do GOP voters prefer diplomacy over war?

In an op-ed, Scott Clement writes that, although Republican voters see Iran as a threat, more than six in 10 pick “economic and diplomatic efforts” as the best Iran policy rather than military options (Washington Post 12/21).

Ambassador Rice discusses Iran’s nuclear program and diplomacy 

U.S. Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program during a U.N. Security Council briefing, specifically about the possibility of secret underground enrichment facilities in Iran. In her assessment, the Security Council “must redouble its efforts to implement the sanctions already imposed,” barring weapons and nuclear-related business with Iran in order to buy “more time to resolve this crisis through diplomatic means” (Think Progress 12/21).

Rice also noted, “[S]anctions are only a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Iran enters into full compliance with all its international nuclear obligations and takes the steps necessary to resolve outstanding questions” (State Department 12/21).

Iran News Roundup 12/21

Iran’s currency tumbles

On Tuesday, Iran’s currency plummeted in value to its lowest level ever against the dollar (NY Times 12/20).

The Washington Post reports that the sudden drop followed the announcement by Iranian officials that Iran had cut trade ties with the UAE because of “anti-Iranian positions.” After Tuesday’s plunge, Iranian Vice President Rahimi backtracked on these statements, saying that the UAE had simply been “warned” not to go along with sanctions proposed by the U.S (Washington Post 12/20).

DOD walks back Panetta’s recent comments on Iran

 Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that Iran could have a nuclear weapon as soon as next year. Pentagon officials clarified that this assertion is based on a highly aggressive timeline and actions that Iran has not yet taken (NY Times 12/20).

Camp Ashraf closure delayed

Iraqi’s prime minister Malaki said today that he has granted a six-month extension to the December 31st deadline (Salon 12/21).

American officials had expressed fears that MEK leadership may order the massacre of camp residents, rather than allow a peaceful disbandment of Camp Ashraf.  The Christian Science Monitor interviewed recent MEK defectors who say that further dramatic acts may occur as the deadline quickly approaches. Shahram Heydari, who left Camp Ashraf two months ago, said that “It’s clear to me, [MEK leadership] wants people to get killed, and send it to the media,” in order to keep the camp open.  Although several high-ranking U.S. officials have been paid by the MEK to make its case to get the MEK off the US terror list, family members of those inside the camp have held protests asking for the release of their children, whom they say are imprisoned in the camp (Christian Science Monitor 12/20).

Iran News Roundup 12/20

Panetta: U.S. will not allow Iran to have a bomb

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has come under fire from neoconservatives for warning against the unintended consequences of Israeli military action against Iran, told CBS on Monday “the United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon” and shares Israel’s common concern. “There are no options off the table.”

“If they proceed and we get intelligence that they [Iran] are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.” When asked whether Iran will have a nuclear weapon in 2012, Panetta answered by saying that “it will probably be about a year before they [Iran]’ would be able to startdeveloping a nuclear weapon.

Scott Pelley of CBS clarified at the end of the report,”Panetta also told CBS News that while Iran needs a year or less to assemble a weapon, he has no indication yet that the Iranians have made the decision to go ahead” (CBS 12/29).

Former Mossad Chief: Military attack will embolden Iran

Former Mossad chief Mier Dagan has stated that “the immediate alternative of an attack [on Iran] may lead the Iranians into a reality in which they are [pushed over the edge] and try to obtain nuclear capabilities as quickly as possible instead of trading rather carefully while taking the international community’s demands into consideration” (Think Progress 12/19).

MEK sends mixed signals 

In a statement, MEK leadership said Camp Ashraf residents “in principle” agree to a United Nations plan to move residents from Camp Ashraf on “condition that the United Nations, United States and European Union support and endorse the proposal and that the Iraqi government guarantee the residents’ security and well-being” (Reuters 12/20).

IPS reports that, although the MEK seems willing to agree to conditions, U.S. officials are still hearing disturbing “talk about martyrdom and dying” from MEK leaders in negotiations. “Experts on the MEK accuse its leaders of holding its own members hostage to efforts to get the organization removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (IPS 12/19).

Meanwhile, according to a Washington Post report, the MEK peddled the story of Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri’s visit to the White House in an attempt to undermine the Iraqi government as it battles the potential closure of Camp Ashraf (Washinton Post 12/20)

Japan warns U.S. of “danger” of central bank sanctions

Japan’s Foreign Minister met with Secretary Clinton and discussed central bank sanctions mandated by Congress, saying, “During our frank discussion on Iran, specifically in relation to the National Defense Authorization Act, which targets the Central Bank of Iran, I conveyed my view that there is a danger of causing damage to the entire global economy if the imports of Iranian crude oil stop” (State Department 12/19).

Meanwhile, oil rose for a second day amidst declining U.S. crude stockpiles and speculation over further sanctions against Iran (Business Week 12/20)Francisco Blanch, Bank of America Corp.’s head, said that further sanctions on Iran may surge oil prices by $40 a barrel.

Iran reportedly cuts ties with UAE as concerns mount over national currency 

Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post Thomas Erdbrink says Iran is cutting all ties with UAE in anticipation of sanctions by the Persian Gulf kingdoms.

In a statement, Iranian president Ahmadinejad said his administration is doing everything it can to save the Iranian national currency from plunging further out of control (Taiwan News 12/20).

Iran News Roundup 12/19

Talks accelerate on a potential embargo on Iran

In what could be a precursor to an embargo on Iran, a “coalition of like-minded countries” including U.S., EU, Arab, and Asian states will meet in Rome tomorrow for talks on how to maintain stable global energy markets in the midst of increased Iran sanctions (Wall Street Journal 12/19).

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran has prepared for “the worst case scenario” and has a “road map” circumvent Western sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and oil exports(AFP 12/16).

U.S. drone saga continues

U.S. cyber-warfare experts have questioned Iran’s ability to hijack the spy drone by overwhelming the drone’s GPS signal (Christian Science Monitor 12/16).  Additionally, U.S. officials say the drone actually crashed, further refuting Iran’s claims (Wall Street Journal 12/16).  On Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister said that Iran deliberately delayed its announcement that it had captured the American surveillance drone to test U.S. reaction (Huffington Post 12/17).

Iran News Roundup 12/16

GOP candidates get fact checked for Iran claims at debate

Michelle Bachmann made the claim that the IAEA report proves that “Iran is within just months of being able to obtain that [nuclear] weapon.”  Fact checks from CNNThe Washington Post, and the New York Times said Bachmann got it wrong.

Mitt Romney accused President Obama of having said “pretty please” in order to have the American recently fallen drone returned and Rick Perry said the Obama should have used military  destroy of retrieve the drone.  But the New York Times says:

In fact, American military officials considered an operation to retrieve the drone but rejected it as too dangerous, since it would require a sizeable force traveling more than 200 miles into the country and likely facing a large Iranian protection force.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum repeated his very un-covert calls for “covert activities” against Iran. “We need to plan a strike against their facilities and say to them that if you do not open up those facilities and close them down, we will close them down for you.” (New American 12/16).

  • 15 December 2011
  • Posted By Sheyda Monshizadeh-Azar
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Iranian labor movement warns against potential war

The Network of Iranian Labor Associations (NILA) has sent a sobering message to the international community, warning that an attack on Iran would have devastating consequences and would inevitably strengthen the regime to an unprecedented extent.

NILA, who are the leading advocates of Iran’s growing labor movement sent a letter to Amnesty International ahead of their International Human Rights in Iran event in Chicago this coming Saturday.

The letter, which heavily criticizes human rights abuses in Iran whilst congratulating human rights advocates for their continuing efforts, gives a frank assessment of the potential impact that an attack on Iran could have:

“They (Iranian Regime) are preparing themselves for war. The bloodier, the better, from their perspective. It would be their savior, a lifeline to the regime. Under the circumstances, it would be sheer folly for either Israel or the United States to go to war with Iran. Why give the Islamic Republic’s leaders a fresh lease on life when every visible sign points to a terminal state of being?”

The letter aims to warn hawkish factions of the international community that the growing threats of war only “consolidate the regime for many years to come and it would radicalize the Arab Spring into a radical Islamic fundamentalist nightmare.”

Iran News Roundup 12/15

Broad Iran sanctions approved by the House

The House of Representatives approved central bank sanctions on Iran as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be sent to the President by the end of the week (Newsweek 12/15).

The House also approved two standalone Iran sanctions bills, H.R. 1905 and H.R.2105.  H.R.1905 eliminates the President’s humanitarian waiver to allow for parts and repairs of Iranian civilian airplanes, puts legal restrictions on contacts between U.S. and Iranian officials, and places sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. The bill must now go to the Senate for consideration, which is not expected until after the New Year (The Hill 12/14).

Reuters reports that Asian countries China, India, South Korea, and Japan are increasingly worried about oil in light of new Iran sanctions. (Reuters 12/15). China is looking to obtain discounted Iranian oil as the U.S. increases pressure on Iran. “Any restriction on oil supplies from Iran, the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter, could drive up already high oil prices and threaten economies already facing the impact of the euro zone debt crisis.”

“This is an issue that could have a big impact on the global economy in terms of crude prices, so our nation will pay close attention to this with grave concern,” said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

Growing concern over the number of executions in iran

Amnesty International warned of “a new wave of drug offence executions”  in a report published yesterday. Public and secret hangings have increased in what has been called “a killing spree of staggering proportions” (Guardian 12/14).

War watch

On Tuesday former Vice-president Cheney advised the Obama administration to launch a “quick air strike” against Iran after it had captured the U.S. drone.  NIAC’s Trita Parsi says, “the Obama administration’s decision not to risk war by going in and destroying the drone reflects its desire to avoid catastrophic escalation” (Salon 12/12).

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman, speaking to CNN, said he’d commit to a ground invasion to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 12/14).

Revolutionary Guards commander Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali said Iran would move the uranium enrichment centers to safer locations if Iran were attacked (Reuters 12/14).

Additional Notable News:

State department official Frederick Hof toldCongress that Syrian president Assad’s hold on power will be short-lived despite the repression of protestors.

  • 12 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/12

Iraqi PM to discuss Iranian influence after U.S. pullout
Obama is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and according to a CBS report, Iran will be one of the major topics of their discussions (CBS 12/12).  The Wall Street Journal reports that Maliki has vowed to prevent Iranian interference in his country.  He added that “If [Iran’s] excuse was that the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil posed a threat to their national security, then this danger is over now” (Wall Street Journal 12/12).

Asian states pulling out of Iran
The NY Times is reporting that Chinese firm, Huawei Technologies, a leading supplier of telecommunications equipment to Iran, has announced that it would voluntarily restrict business in Iran considering the “increasingly complex situation” there.  Huawei is the same company over which concerns have been raised in the past regarding its having provided Iran with equipment that assisted the regime in its crackdown on opposition members (NY Times 12/9).   Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reported, while Japan was resisting new energy sanctions against Iran, that they would be imposing new targeted sanctions, freezing the assets of an additional 106 organizations, one individual and three banks (Wall Street Journal 12/8).

Notable opinion
Tony Karon writes in his op-ed in Time that the current push for crippling sanctions, rather than being an alternative to war, are actually a step towards war.

“Behind the Administration’s hesitation over putting Iran’s economy in a chokehold at this point: it could prove to be a not easily reversible step on the path to confrontation. If such sanctions are adopted as the only alternative to war, as the current debate frames them, their (likely) failure to bring Iran to heel renders armed conflict inevitable — at least as long as the logic that “the only thing worse than bombing Iran is Iran getting the bomb” prevails in the Washington conversation.
Escalation could even happen relatively quickly. Most states would treat an effective economic blockade that imposed “crippling, unendurable pain” as an act of war, and if Iran responds militarily, directly or via proxy forces or terror attacks, the two sides could find themselves quickly locked into potentially disastrous war. Yet, the domestic political dynamic in both Washington and Tehran raises the cost for leaders in both capitals of restraining the momentum towards confrontation.”

To read the full piece click here.

  • 2 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/2

Senate passes sanctions on Iran’s central bank
The Senate voted 100-0 yesterday to include the Kirk-Menendez amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would force the President to sanction Iran’s central bank, with some limited exceptions (NIAC 12/1).  The broader bill was passed by the Senate, but the President has threatened to veto it due to concerns about provisions regarding detention of American citizens linked to terrorism (Washington Post 12/1).

Before the vote,  the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hosted Administration officials at a hearing in which they strongly warned against the proposed Iran amendment.  Josh Rogin wrote in Foreign Policy’s The Cable, after being told by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen that the Kirk-Menendez amendment was going to be counterproductive to U.S. policy objectives, that Sen. Robert Menendez was “livid” (Foreign Policy 12/2).

The National Iranian American Council released a press release yesterday criticizing the passing of the Kirk Menendez amendment, stating “The Senate ignored warnings of dire economic consequences for America and its allies, and of disastrous humanitarian consequences for the people of Iran.  On all sides, there appears to only be the political will to escalate, with utter disregard for the ramifications.” (NIAC 12/1).

Iran war watch
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who recently said that Israel is not currently planning to attack Iran, posited that a military strike may become the only option for dealing with Iran (Huffington Post 12/1).  Meanwhile, Yossi Melman says that the sabotage, mysterious explosions and assassinations of nuclear scientists signify that “war with Iran has already begun” (Haaretz 12/2).  Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan says that an “Israeli attack on Iran must be stopped to avert catastrophe” (Haaretz 12/1).

David Miliband and Nader Mousavizadeh argued in an op-ed that a war with Iran would be exceedingly destructive, and as such the international community needs to make a serious push for diplomacy to prevent “sleepwalking into war” (Financial Times 12/2).  In contrast, Iraq War advocate Max Boot writes in the LA Times that the only way to prevent a nuclear armed Iran is through military strikes, even though he acknowledges that such strikes would only temporarily delay Iran’s nuclear program (LA Times 12/1).

EU sanctions update
The Financial Times reports that “Italy, Spain and Greece – the biggest buyers of Iranian oil in Europe–had dropped their opposition to an [oil] embargo but had asked for time to find alternative supplies” (Financial Times 12/2).  Energy market analysts meanwhile are concerned that Iran could preempt such a move by implementing an oil embargo against Europe now–when energy use is at its peak–before Europe imposes its own embargo early next year when they can better mitigate the loss of Iranian supplies.  The article explains that this could be problematic for Europe because they would not have the time they need to find replacement sources for the Iranian oil it currently imports (Financial Times 12/2).

  • 1 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, NIAC round-up, Sanctions

Iran News Roundup 12/1

European ambassadors called back from Iran
In the wake of Tuesday’s attack on the UK embassy in Iran, several EU countries have voiced their disapproval.  The UK has not only pulled all of its diplomats from the country, but has closed the Iranian embassy in London, though this is not yet permanent.  The NY Times is reporting that Netherlands, Germany, and France have recalled their ambassadors, with Italy considering a similar move, and Norway closing its embassy “as a precaution” (NY Times 12/1).  The same article warns that such steps are likely to complicate any future attempts to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program, as such diplomatic lines have served in the past as a means of contact especially for the U.S., which hasn’t had an embassy in Iran for over 30 years (despite what Michelle Bachmann may think).  Barbara Slavin writes that, while the downgrading of diplomatic relations with Iran might help further isolate Iran, this comes at the cost of increasing tensions that could spiral out of control (Slavin IPS 12/1).

Joint Chiefs Chairman: Israel may not notify U.S. if it strikes Iran
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Haaretz that the U.S. would be alerted by Israel if it attacks Iran.  Dempsey says that the U.S. believes sanctions and diplomatic pressure are the best way forward right now, but that he is “not sure the Israelis share our assessment of that” and may move without the U.S. (even if this forces the U.S. into war) (Haaretz 11/30).  This came the same day that President Obama told donors at a campaign event that Israel is the United States’ “most important ally” and we would not compromise when it comes to Israel’s security (Reuters 11/30).  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and raised American concerns about the unintended consequences of military strikes against Iran.  According to a report by AFP, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says that Israel is holding off an military strikes “for the moment” but that all options remain on the table for the future.

EU imposes new sanctions but oil embargo questionable
Today the EU decided to increase existing sanctions on Iran by placing travel bans on and freezing the assets of an additional 180 Iranian individuals and companies (Radio Free Europe 12/1).   Reuters is reporting that the UK has decided to support an oil embargo against Iran, whether it is “unilaterally or with France and Germany” (Reuters 11/30).  The Wall Street Journal writes that for the EU’s part, it has not yet decided on whether to implement an oil embargo against Iran, and that Greece is leading opposition to the measure, as they fear it could damage their struggling economy (Wall Street Journal 11/30).   With this increased talk of an oil embargo against Iran, Bloomberg reported today that crude oil is trading at a two week high, and concern over an embargo in the EU is a major driver for this (Bloomberg 12/1).

Additional Notable News:

The U.S.’s economic sanctions on Iran has created confusing conditions for Iranian Americans trying to send money to their families in Iran, reports NPR.

US News is reporting that Iranian sanctions could actually do more harm to the West than to their intended targets in Iran.

The Financial Times reports that the recent increase in tensions with the West are pushing Iranian politicians to ratchet up their rhetoric against the West.

Expanding international trade in surveillance technologies is a growing concern because, as a Washington Post article reports, once such technologies are getting into the hands of the Iranian regime and assisting in their suppression of dissenters.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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