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December 2, 2011

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).
Notable Opinion
In the Huffington Post, NIAC president Trita Parsi writes that the storming of the UK Embassy was not a spontaneously act by students, but was a planned attacked by the regime for reasons that relate to domestic political struggles:

“While the actions of the Basij government militia takes place in a foreign policy context and has clear implications for Iran’s relations with the West, there are also some significant domestic political roots to this crisis[…]
“The attack on the British embassy was not only illegal and disgraceful, it was also a sign of how statecraft in Iran has deteriorated over the past years as a result of internal bickering within the political elite. Key actors within the regime are willing to be take excessive risks on the international stage through reckless actions in order to score points in their petty domestic rivalries.”

To read the full piece click here
Additional News
A recent poll by the Saban Center showed that 65% of Jewish-Israelis would be willing to see their country get rid of its nuclear weapons in order to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and having the Middle East be a nuclear free zone.
On trip to Middle East, Huffington post reports that Vice President Joe Biden is pushing Turkey to implement additional sanctions against Iran.
In response, to the storming of the UK embassy, the Guardian is reporting that two Iranian opposition student groups have condemned the attack saying, “the attackers were not true representative of the Iranian students, they were affiliated with the authorities in power.”
Syrian opposition leaders have said that they would cut military ties with the Iran if they were to gain control of the country, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

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