Fareed Zakaria says Iran sanctions are enriching IRGC, Obama’s policy is same as Bush’s, and it’s time for talks
Zakaria notes that the Obama of 2008 held that we needed to break away from the pressure-only strategy of the Bush administration and increase diplomatic engagement with Iran.  Now two years into the Obama administration, the U.S.’s policy on Iran has begun to resemble the pressure only strategy of the Bush years.  Fresh from his recent trip to Tehran, Zakaria says the result has been the strengthening of the state and the weakening of the private sector and civil society.  Zakaria calls for Obama to return to the principles he set in 2008 to break with the failed policies of the Bush Administration and find a diplomatic route to break the impasse. (Washington Post 10/26)
Yasaman Baji – Iran experiencing increase in nationalism, anti-U.S. sentiment, and criticism of its politicians in wake of alleged Iranian assassination plot
According to Baji, the recent revelation about an alleged plot by the Iranians to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and the related uptick in tensions, has been met with skepticism by Iranians.  She says they are troubled by what they interpret as the U.S.’s intention to weaken Iran with increased sanctions and laying the ground work for a future military attack.  This has led to a strengthening of Iranian nationalism and has increased criticism of the U.S., according to Baji, but she also notes Iranians fault the hardline approach of the Iranian government and the Ahmadinejad administration. (Yasaman Baji –Inter Press Service 10/24)
Iran says interested in returning to negotiations with world powers
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast announced that Iran was ready to restart negotiations with the international community over its nuclear program.  He said that Iran is “ready for useful dialogue and negotiation…which can be based on talks regarding cooperation on common ground.”  The impetus behind this latest public statement by Iran is believed to be EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s recent letter to Iran, where she offered a resumption of negotiations.  The Iranian deputy foreign minister in charge of European and American affairs, Ali Ahani, claimed that the forthcoming official Iranian response to Ashton’s overture was going to be “softer in tone” than it had been in the past. (Daily Star 10/26)
Changes by Google’s may obstruct Iranian citizen’s ability to get around government online censorship
Iranian internet users’ ability to skirt government censorship might be jeopardized by an upcoming move by Google to make changes to its RSS reader, Google Reader.  Iranians, who live in a country with some of the most intense internet censorship in the world, depend on Google Reader to get around government censorship. While these changes are likely to have only a limited effect on Google Reader users in the U.S., they are expected to have a large impact on the average Iranian’s ability to avoid governmental censorship. (TechCrunch 10/26)
Supreme Leader hints at future move to abolish Presidency
Recently, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei publically suggested that in the future the Iranian presidency may no longer be necessary.  In place of the publically elected president Khamenei indicated that a parliamentary chosen Prime Minister could be created.  These comments by Khamenei may be only a threat to current President Ahmadinejad or they could be evidence that a plan to remove the presidency is being seriously looked into.  Ahmadinejad’s recent challenges to Khamenei and the unrest following the 2009 presidential elections may have demonstrated to Khamenei that the existence of a publically elected president poses a significant threat to his power and can lead to public mobilization that is hard to control. (Reuters 10/25) (New York Times 10/26)
Joint Subcommittee Hearing on Iran
On Wednesday the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management held a joint hearing entitled “Iranian Terror Operations on American Soil.”  The panel of speakers included Gen. Jack Keane, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Dr. Matt Levitt, Dr. Lawrence Korb, and Col. Timothy Geraghty.
Commentary on the event discussed the level of rhetoric that occurred when “House Republicans gave the stage Wednesday to hardliners who called for everything from cyber attacks to political assassinations.” (Huffington Post 10/26)(LA Times 10/26)
Al Gharib pointed out that General Keane’s claim during the hearing that Iran has been America’s “number one strategic enemy” since 1980 neglected to recall that in the 80’s the U.S. was in the middle of the Cold War and saw the U.S.S.R. as the largest strategic threat. (Think Progress 10/26)
In his opening remarks, Committee chairman Peter King claimed that Iranian diplomats inside the U.S. are acting as spies and should be kicked out of the country.  Additionally, he expressed his belief that the recent alleged assassination plot was an “act of war” by Iran. (Huffington Post 10/27)
Statements and video of the hearing can be found on the Homeland Security Committee’s website.
Chinese tech firm Huawei assisting Iranian government to crackdown on reformists
The Chinese tech firm Huawei is today Iran’s second largest mobile phone service provider.  In addition to normal cell phone services, it has been reported that the company is also assisting the Iranian government and IRGC in its crackdown on dissidents.  As a cell phone service provider Huawei has access to both their users’ locations and communications.  By passing this information to the Iranian authorities it is allegedly helping Iran arrest and quiet dissent in the country. (Wall Street Journal 10/27)
Clinton gives interview with Voice of America Persian and Parazit on U.S.-Iran relations
Giving two interviews in the same day directed at the Iranian people, Secretary of State Clinton discussed both the U.S.’s relationship with the Iranian government and its relationship with the Iranian citizenry.   While she did express her concern that Iran was moving from a dictatorship to a military dictatorship, she also stated that she hoped to see the U.S. reengage with Tehran to find a peaceful solution to their problems.  Addressing the Iranian public, she explained that she desired to see the U.S. forge a stronger relationship with the Iranian people.  To assist in this process, she announced the launching of a “virtual embassy” before the end of the year.  The role of the online embassy would be to help facilitate Iranian study and travel to the U.S. (EA World View 11/26)

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