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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).

  • 13 December 2011
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Israel, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, UN, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/13

Israel: Iran must choose between the bomb and survival

A senior Israeli cabinet minister said that Iran must to choose between obtaining a nuclear weapon and survival (AFP 12/12). “We believe that in order to stop the Iranian military nuclear project, the regime in Tehran should face a dilemma — whether to have a bomb or to survive,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon.

Speaking to Fareed Zarkaria, GOP presidential hopeful John Huntsman repeats the mantra that Iran has ‘already decided’ that ‘they want’ a nuclear weapon despite U.S. intelligence and the UN’s nuclear watchdog saying otherwise (Think Progress 12/12).

Nader Hashemi writes that the U.S. policy of isolating and sanctioning Iran has only served to strengthen the regime, weaken the middle class, and fuel Iran’s nuclear ambitions (Hashemi National Interest 12/12).

Central bank sanctions modified and to be voted on this week

Both the House and Senate negotiated and agreed on new Iran sanctions that they hope to pass this week. The new sanctions penalize foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank.  Lawmakers from both political parties made slight changes to the legislation that would allow the option of imposing restrictions on such foreign financial institutions, instead of cutting them off entirely from the U.S. financial system. Democratic Senator Carl Levin did note that the bill is probably “96 percent” the same as legislation that passed the Senate last week (Reuters 12/12).

Meanwhile, the House will also vote today on new broad Iran sanctions legislation that includes a provision placing restrictions on contacts between U.S. government employees–including diplomats and members of the armed forces–and Iranian officials (The Hill 12/13).

Drone update

Iranian military experts claim they are extracting data from the U.S. drone (Washington Post 12/12).  Yesterday, President Obama requested the return of the drone (Guardian 12/12). Today Iran rejected the request (NY Times 12/13).

Israel: We don’t support M.E.K. delisting

Yesterday, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel does not support MEK’s campaign to get delisted from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list (Think Progress 12/12).  

Notable opinion: 

In a Huffington Post op-ed, Fariba Amini discusses the increasing war rhetoric against Iran, the dire consequences of a military attack, and the importance of diplomacy.

There is no question that the Iranian people will suffer in the short and long run and will bear the brunt of an attack. Americans will suffer in a different way: Higher gas prices at home which is not even comparable to what ordinary Iranian citizens will pay if and when a war breaks out. The damage will be irreversible.

It is only through diplomatic efforts that Iran’s nuclear program can be contained. Harsh words by the U.S. and its allies, more sanctions, including possible sanctions on oil, will only harden the regime. It is already hurting the people more so than the government.

To read the full piece click here.

  • 6 December 2011
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, UN, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/6

Obama vs. Kirk
Speaking at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute today, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) claimed that the unanimous passage of his amendment to force the Administration to sanction Iran’s central bank demonstrated that support for Obama’s Iran policy has “collapsed” on Capitol Hill (The Hill 12/6).  The Obama Administration pushed back against the amendment, which was attached to the Senate’s defense authorization bill, warning that it could undermine international efforts on Iran, raise energy costs that would threaten a teetering European economy, and enrich Iran.  The Administration is working to change the central bank amendment during negotiations between the House and Senate as lawmakers reconcile a final defense bill to send to the President (Washington Jewish Week 12/6).  The White House has threatened to veto the bill, but for detainee provisions separate from the Iran sanctions .

Fallen U.S. drone

U.S. Military officials acknowledged yesterday that Iran is indeed in possession of an RQ-170 Sentinel drone (Think Progress 12/5).  Iranian military officials claim that the drone was taken down near Iran’s eastern border, yet Defense officials and experts doubt that the drone was shot down or taken down by a cyber-attack (Washington Post 12/5). There has been speculation that Iran could have used a ground based jamming system, Avtobaza, it purchased from Russia 6 weeks ago to take down the drone.  There is concern that Iran could exploit the drone’s technological capabilities (Christian Science Monitor 12/5). 

Escalating tensions

The Financial Times reports that Washington met with UAE representatives “to press for further isolation of Iranian institutions…threaten[ing] to cut off any transgressors from the US financial system” (Financial Times 12/5). Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guard in Iran has raised “operational readiness” in response to increased sanctions and the fear of a military strike (Telegraph 12/5).

  • 21 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, UN, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 11/21

U.K. sanctions Iran’s central bank, U.S. stops just short

The Obama Administration is prepped to announce new sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry and against the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) at 4:30pm today (Reuters 11/18) (Reuters 11/21).  These steps would place greater pressure for countries and companies to divest from Iran but stop short of placing complete CBI sanctions that could cause an oil price spike.  Officials say today’s step can ameliorate the risk of increasing oil prices and threaten the U.S. and global economic recovery.  Meanwhile, the U.K. went full bore and sanctioned the CBI, which cuts all ties between British financial and insurance institutions and Iranian banks (BBC 11/21).  Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said Iran does not want to use oil as a “political tool” but will do so if necessary (Bloomberg 11/20).

Political infighting amongst Conservative forces in Iran continues

In the run up to upcoming parliament elections, Ahmadinejad’s press secretary has been sentenced to a year in jail over “publishing materials contrary to Islamic norms”(Washington Post 11/20).  Babak Dehghanpisheh writes that Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei continues to be groomed by Ahmadinejad as his successor, but that Khamenei won’t let this happen (Daily Beast 11/20).

  • 21 November 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Legislative Agenda, Sanctions, UN

New Iran sanctions coming today

Today the US and UK will announce a new round of sanctions against Iran.  With so many existing sanctions in place, it is helpful to unpack exactly what additional measures are now being enacted.

The UK will implement the “nuclear option” of sanctioning Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi, severing all ties with Iranian banks:

From 1500 GMT on Monday, all UK credit and financial institutions are required to cease all transactions with banks including the Central Bank of Iran.

It is the first time the UK has cut off a country’s banking sector in this way.

The US on the other hand will not issue blanket sanctions against Iran’s central bank just yet, but will instead designate Iran and its central bank as a “primary money laundering concern” which could prepare the ground for central bank sanctions in the future:

US officials said this new action would serve as a warning to governments and businesses in Europe, Asia and Latin America to wind down their ties to Bank Markazi and their purchases of Iranian crude oil, as even tougher actions likely will be coming down the road.

The Obama Administration is hoping to avoid an oil price spike that could result from issuing blanket sanctions on the Central Bank, stopping just short of taking direct  measures to immediately punish any country or company purchasing energy from Iran:

“This allows foreign countries to think about how to protect themselves and wean themselves off Iranian oil in a way that doesn’t disrupt the energy markets,” a senior US official briefed on the new action said. “This says: ‘You should be thinking quite seriously about cutting off your ties to the central bank’.”

Iran News Roundup 11/18

Central Bank sanctions being pushed by Congress
Minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation on behalf of Sen. Mark Kirk that would sanction the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) in an attempt to “collapse” the Iranian economy (The Hill 11/17).  In the House, a letter with bipartisan support, signed by House leadership and Foreign Affairs Committee leaders from both parties, was sent to the president pressing him to take action on the CBI (Read letter here).

Yet, while there may be support for CBI sanctions on the Hill, according to a USA Today piece by Oren Dorell, sanctions do not harm the Iranian government as much as they hurt the Iranian middle class.  As NIAC president Trita Parsi says in the article, sanctions actually benefit the Revolutionary Guard as they increase the profitability of smuggling, which the Revolutionary Guard has a virtual monopoly on (USA Today 11/17).  This message was echoed at a recent IISS event, where “panelists agreed that while sanctions produce social consequences, they will not achieve the political aim of ending the Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions” (Lobelog 11/17).  An Inner Press Service article spotlights economic concerns for Iran sanctions, pointing out that Obama administration officials worry that targeting Iranian oil, which is a primary driver for the world economy, could seriously harm Europe’s struggling economy and the U.S.’s tentative economic recovery (Inner Press Service 11/17).

Iran News Roundup 11/17

Top Story

Action on Iran at the UN: With the IAEA Board of Governors meeting today, the Washington Post is reporting that China and Russia have agreed to sign on to a resolution condemning Iran, over the IAEA’s most recent report that will not include the harsher language that the U.S. had sought (Washington Post 11/17). Additionally, IAEA director Amano is saying he wants a high-level mission to go to Iran to investigate questions raised in the IAEA report(NY Times 11/17). For its part, Iran has announced that it is going to send an “analytical” response to the IAEA over the allegations posed in their report (AFP 11/16).

Meanwhile, the Saudis are pushing the U.N. to adopt a resolution denouncing the alleged Iranian assassination plot against their Ambassador to the U.S  (Washington Post 11/16). In response, Iran has issued a letter to the U.N. calling the resolution “politically motivated” and saying, that if passed, it would undermine the credibility of the body. (Iran Primer USIP 11/17)

Noteworthy Opinion

MJ Rosen writes in the Huffington Post that Rep. Brad Sherman’s “Iranian plane crash provision” in the House sanctions bill explicitly targets ordinary Iranians and is endemic of a sanctions policy that makes little sense.

Death in the Air: House Bill Bans Fixing Iranian Civilian Aircraft:

No doubt Brad Sherman will hold forth about the merits of his legislation that will ensure that Iran’s civilian air fleet is the most dangerous in the world. And he will be cheered. If we are lucky, Howard Berman will respond that one can sanction Iran without crashing its planes, but perhaps not. He rarely, if ever, deviates from the AIPAC line either.

The bottom line is that our Iran policy is nuts, and not just Brad Sherman’s either. Our sanctions policy in general makes little, if any distinction, between targeting the Iranian regime and targeting Iran’s people. Although most supporters of sanctions have not specifically gone after civilians, as Sherman does, few seem to care that it is civilians and not the mullahs or the Revolutionary Guard, who suffer because of them.

Read more at Huffington Post

Additional Notable News:

Mark Fizpatrick of IISS tells Haaretz that Netanyahu is more likely to tell Obama “I’m not asking for a green light, I’m just telling you” that Israel is striking Iran, and that  the Obama Administration would have little recourse in midst of the election season.

Obama is taking a “gradualist” approach on Iran, according to Leon Hadar Huffington Post op-ed, that takes non-military steps to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but that could still lead U.S. to war.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a public appearance in Canada that he is “not very optimistic“ about prospects of U.N. passing strong sanctions against Iran.

Iran’s High Council for Human Rights Mohamad Javad Larijani says in CNN interview that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and regarding reformist leaders, that “no one is currently under house arrest without trial or judicial order.”

  • 16 November 2011
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Let's Talk Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Is Iran Building a Nuke?

What new information has the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report revealed concerning Iran’s nuclear program? What next steps should the Obama Administration and Congress take towards Iran? These questions and more are answered in the 11th episode of Let’s Talk Iran with Ali Vaez, Director of the Iran project at the Federation of American Scientist. Ali’s work focuses on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, researching options for enhanced safeguards on Iran’s nuclear activities and advocating positive sum diplomacy in resolving the standoff between Iran and the U.S.

Play

Iran News Roundup 11/10

Romney attacks Obama on Iran: If you want peace, prepare for war
Ahead of this weekend’s GOP foreign policy debate, Mitt Romney took to the Wall Street Journal to lay out his case against Obama on Iran.  Romney criticizes Obama for saying he would pursue engagement with Iran in the previous election cycle, for not speaking out enough for Iranian dissidents, and for recently rejecting Central Bank sanctions.  Romney says if he were president, the U.S. would escalate military preparations and signaling against Iran and impose further unilateral sanctions if multilateral sanctions are not possible.  (Romney Wall Street Journal 11/10)

Slaughter: Diplomacy is least damaging option with Iran In contrast, former U.S. state Department Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter argues that “continuing with a policy of sanctions and pressure that is not working is worse,” than negotiating a deal that would constrain Iran’s nuclear program.  But domestic politics stand in the way, she says.  If Obama returned to negotiations “he would be hammered by Republican opponents, in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, for negotiating from weakness, affirming US decline, and so on,” she writes.  “But if we are really as worried about an Iranian bomb as we claim to be, results should trump political perceptions.”  (Financial Times 11/10) 

Experts project record oil prices if military action is taken against Iran
Tensions with Iran have put oil prices at their highest levels since July, with the top worry among traders being an Israeli strike against Iran.  Financial Times reports that if war were to break out that oil prices would likely soar to record levels, surpassing the previous high of $175 per-barrel, and go as high as $290. AP says that a teetering global economy means oil sanctions on Iran are likely off the table.  (Financial Times – Iran worries spark fears of $200-a-barrel oil 11/8)(AP – Options for Iran oil sanctions face economic risks 11/9) (Bloomberg – Morgan Stanley Says Disruption in Iran Oil May Raise Prices 11/9)

  • 10 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions, UN, US-Iran War

IAEA report sets off firestorm of comments

The IAEA released its latest report on Iran’s nuclear program, generating a range of responses from arms control groups, government officials, and policymakers in various countries. Here is what some fo them had to say:

Arms control groups respond

Arms Control Association:

The IAEA report and annex reinforce what the nonproliferation community has recognized for some time: that Iran engaged in various nuclear weapons development activities until 2003, then stopped many of them, but continued others. […]  The report suggests that Iran is working to shorten the timeframe to building the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But it is also apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable.

Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation says “New Details on Iran Don’t Change the Game”:

While Iran’s nuclear program continues to make progress, an Iranian nuclear weapon is not imminent and the U.S. intelligence community continues to believe that Iran has yet to make the political decision to build and test a nuclear weapon. […]  The U.S. should be actively engaged in a discussion about how to change Iran’s nuclear calculus, and must continue to reiterate its commitment to further diplomatic engagement with Iran.