December 20, 2011

Iran News Roundup 12/20

Panetta: U.S. will not allow Iran to have a bomb
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has come under fire from neoconservatives for warning against the unintended consequences of Israeli military action against Iran, told CBS on Monday “the United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon” and shares Israel’s common concern. “There are no options off the table.”
“If they proceed and we get intelligence that they [Iran] are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.” When asked whether Iran will have a nuclear weapon in 2012, Panetta answered by saying that “it will probably be about a year before they [Iran]’ would be able to startdeveloping a nuclear weapon.
Scott Pelley of CBS clarified at the end of the report,”Panetta also told CBS News that while Iran needs a year or less to assemble a weapon, he has no indication yet that the Iranians have made the decision to go ahead” (CBS 12/29).
Former Mossad Chief: Military attack will embolden Iran
Former Mossad chief Mier Dagan has stated that “the immediate alternative of an attack [on Iran] may lead the Iranians into a reality in which they are [pushed over the edge] and try to obtain nuclear capabilities as quickly as possible instead of trading rather carefully while taking the international community’s demands into consideration” (Think Progress 12/19).
MEK sends mixed signals 
In a statement, MEK leadership said Camp Ashraf residents “in principle” agree to a United Nations plan to move residents from Camp Ashraf on “condition that the United Nations, United States and European Union support and endorse the proposal and that the Iraqi government guarantee the residents’ security and well-being” (Reuters 12/20).
IPS reports that, although the MEK seems willing to agree to conditions, U.S. officials are still hearing disturbing “talk about martyrdom and dying” from MEK leaders in negotiations. “Experts on the MEK accuse its leaders of holding its own members hostage to efforts to get the organization removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (IPS 12/19).
Meanwhile, according to a Washington Post report, the MEK peddled the story of Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri’s visit to the White House in an attempt to undermine the Iraqi government as it battles the potential closure of Camp Ashraf (Washinton Post 12/20)
Japan warns U.S. of “danger” of central bank sanctions
Japan’s Foreign Minister met with Secretary Clinton and discussed central bank sanctions mandated by Congress, saying, “During our frank discussion on Iran, specifically in relation to the National Defense Authorization Act, which targets the Central Bank of Iran, I conveyed my view that there is a danger of causing damage to the entire global economy if the imports of Iranian crude oil stop” (State Department 12/19).
Meanwhile, oil rose for a second day amidst declining U.S. crude stockpiles and speculation over further sanctions against Iran (Business Week 12/20)Francisco Blanch, Bank of America Corp.’s head, said that further sanctions on Iran may surge oil prices by $40 a barrel.
Iran reportedly cuts ties with UAE as concerns mount over national currency 
Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post Thomas Erdbrink says Iran is cutting all ties with UAE in anticipation of sanctions by the Persian Gulf kingdoms.
In a statement, Iranian president Ahmadinejad said his administration is doing everything it can to save the Iranian national currency from plunging further out of control (Taiwan News 12/20).
Iranian-American spy allegations disputed
The father of the Iranian-American, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, who confessed to being a spy for the CIA on Iranian state television, called the allegations of espionage “a bunch of lies” (ABC 12/19).
Notable opinon: Iran is too rational to attack Israel
Tel Aviv University’s Reuven Pedatzur writes in Haaretz that a recent study found that two-thirds of researchers “believe that a nuclear Iran would behave as a rational state and thus be susceptible to deterrence aimed at stopping it from using nuclear weapons”:

An analysis of the evidence reveals that the optimists defend their position much more convincingly. Iran, they contend, is developing nuclear weapons as a result of its bitter experience in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, not because of a plan to use such weapons against its neighbors or Israel. The development of nuclear weapons is a rational Iranian choice; it’s the logical response of a non-Western state to Western powers and their allies. (It’s no accident that Defense Minister Ehud Barak quipped that if he were an Iranian, he would take part in the development of nuclear weapons. )
History teaches that the Iranian leadership behaves in a completely rational way when it might pay a very steep price for using military force. Thus, even the Ayatollah Khomeini, perceived as the quintessentially irrational leader, acted in a completely rational way when the Iraqis fired ballistic missiles at Tehran, claiming the lives of thousands of Iranians.
We should therefore note Israel’s error when it magnifies the Iranian threat and depicts it as an existential threat. Israel’s deterrent capability suffices to prevent any Iranian leader from entertaining thoughts about firing a nuclear warhead at it. The time has come to stop complaining about the boogeyman of existential threat and desist from jingoistic declarations that sometimes create a dangerous dynamic of escalation.”

Read the full article here.
Additional Notable News:
Bill O’Reilley tells Mitt Romney “If you bomb Iran that starts World War III, you know that” (at the 4:40 mark here).
On Monday, Syria accepted an Arab League plan to allow international monitors into the country to observe the crackdown on protestors.

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