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November 18, 2011

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).
Today the IAEA Board of Governors met to discuss the recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program.  According to the Associated Press, a resolution was passed, with the support of both China and Russia, “criticizing Iran for its nuclear defiance,” but that lacked some of the stronger language the U.S. had hoped for (Associated Press 11/18).  In response to the resolution the White House  issued a statement commending the IAEA resolution.
Some, including most recently the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, have called into question how much of the information in this latest report is actually new and deserving of the hype it is receiving (New Yorker 11/18).  For its part, Iran released a letter written to the IAEA, parts of which were released on their English media outlet PressTV, criticizing the IAEA for leaking information, which endangered the lives of their nuclear scientists (PressTV 11/18).
Secretary of Defense Panetta to discuss “consequences” of military action on Iran with Israel’s Barak
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak ahead of a security forum that they are both attending in Canada (Haaretz 11/18).  At the meeting, The NY Times is reporting that Panetta will warn Israel that an attack on Iran could have serious economic and security ramifications, while only setting back Iran’s nuclear program a year or two at most (NY Times 11/18).  Barak himself is currently under fire back in Israel, as MJ Rosenberg discusses in Huffington Post, for acknowledging that if he were the Foreign Minister of Iran he would seek a nuclear deterrent too (Rosenberg Huffington Post 11/18).
Additional Noteworthy News:
Ploughshares’ Joel Rubin writes about the importance of protecting funding for the IAEA, as the U.S. lacks diplomats on the ground in Iran, and as such the IAEA is the sole means for the U.S. to gather information on Iran’s nuclear program.
U.N. Special Rapporteur says in an interview with Omid Memarian that if Iran does not begin to cooperate, their human rights case could still end up at U.N.  Security Council.
Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman statement regarding how war with Iran is inevitable as sanctions won’t work “removes the crucial caveat, which most Iran-hawks embrace, that military action should only be taken if sanctions fail,” says Think Progress’s Eli Clifton.
The Daily Star reported that Switzerland just added 116 names, including Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi, to its blacklist of individuals and institutions with financial sanctions and travel embargos placed on them.

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