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January 3, 2012

Iran News Roundup 01/03

Iran proposes new nuclear negotiations

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, has proposed a new round of talks with the P5+1 nations concerning its nuclear program (Guardian 12/31). Salehi said that Iran is prepared to reenter negotiations based upon the “step by step” plan proposed by Russia in July.
A EU foreign policy spokesman said The European Union is open to talks with Iran provided there are no preconditions (Jerusalem Post 12/31).
This comes as Iran announces it has produced its first domestically-made nuclear fuel rod and inserted it into the Tehran Research Reactor, which is used for medical purposes (NY Times 01/01).
President signs new Iran sanctions into law
On Saturday, president Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA), which includes a measure targeting Iran’s central bank and financial sector (AFP 01/01).
In the president’s signing statement, he notes that the [Iran sanctions] section “1245 would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with foreign governments. Like section 1244, should any application of these provisions conflict with my constitutional authorities, I will treat the provisions as non-binding.”
Political analysts said that Washington hopes these sanctions will push foreign banks to change their behavior before the U.S. is required to freeze them from the U.S. financial markets (Reuters 01/02).
Reuters provides a detailed list of sanctions on Iran by the European Union, the United States and the United Nations over the last thirty years(Reuters 01/02).
Greece open to Iran sanctions
A Greek official has stated that if the EU decides to impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, Greece will join and not break ranks with its European Union partners (Reuters 01/03).
Meanwhile, Oil prices jumped to over $101 a barrel amid concerns over crude oil disruptions (Bloomberg 01/03).
Upcoming parliamentary elections a challenge for Iran hardliners
The New York Times reports on how a boycott by reformers and dire economic circumstances may undermine Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections, posing a challenge to Iran’s conservative Islamic establishment (NY Times 01/02).
GOP candidates continue war rhetoric
GOP candidate Rick Santorum said he openly threaten Iran with air strikes in response to its nuclear ambitions (The Hill 01/01). Santorum said if he were elected president, he would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities unless Iran began to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors (Huffington Post 01/01).  Iran’s nuclear facilities are open to IAEA inspectors.
Candidate Michelle Bachmann urged to US to take a “very aggressive posture” towards Iran, calling on the US to put missile systems on “high alert” (Think Progress 01/02).
Iran’s currency falls to record low
Iran’s currency fell 10% on Monday to a record low as the US tightened financial sanctions against Iran (Reuters 01/03).  Iran says the drop is not connected to the latest series of sanctions (Washington Post 01/03).
Iran sentences former president’s daughter
Iran has sentenced former president Rafsanjani’s daughter to prison for six months and banned from political activities for five years on charges of “campaigning against the Islamic establishment” (Reuters 01/03).  Faezeh Rafsanjani had been previously arrested for addressing supporters of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the aftermath of the 2009 elections
Strait of Hormuz tensions continue
Iran test fired two missiles long-range surface-to-surface missiles on the last day of military exercises near the Strait of Hormuz (Christian Science Monitor 01/02).  
Meanwhile, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, backed away from threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, saying, “Discourse about closing the Strait of Hormuz belongs to five years ago” (Washington Post 12/31).  In addition, Iran’s army chief warned an American aircraft carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf (Washington Post 01/03).
Notable opinion: 
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Ambassadors William Luers and Thomas Pickering note the importance of diplomacy in preventing war with Iran and preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon:

The United States must set out on a relentless search for a better way to get at this seemingly unknowable regional power. Without that patient search for different ways to deal with Tehran, Washington will be stuck with a policy that will not change Iran’s practices or its regime and could lead to a catastrophic war.
History teaches that engagement and diplomacy pay dividends that military threats do not. Deployment of military force can bring the immediate illusion of “success” but always results in unforeseen consequences and collateral damage that complicate further the achievement of America’s main objectives. Deploying diplomats with a strategy while maintaining some pressure on Iran will lower Tehran’s urgency to build a bomb and reduce the danger of conflict.

To read the full piece click here.
Additional Notable News:
The UN has called on the release of human rights lawyer and activist Nasrin Sotoudeh.
The trial of the Iranian-American, Amir Mirza Hekmati, accused of being a spy has ended.
U.S. officials said that Iran is seeking to expand its ties with Latin American in an effort to circumvent international economic sanctions
AFP reports that Iran is refusing to refuel some European and Arab airlines in response to major oil companies denying fuel to Iranian planes abroad.

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