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December 21, 2011

Iran News Roundup 12/21

Iran’s currency tumbles
On Tuesday, Iran’s currency plummeted in value to its lowest level ever against the dollar (NY Times 12/20).
The Washington Post reports that the sudden drop followed the announcement by Iranian officials that Iran had cut trade ties with the UAE because of “anti-Iranian positions.” After Tuesday’s plunge, Iranian Vice President Rahimi backtracked on these statements, saying that the UAE had simply been “warned” not to go along with sanctions proposed by the U.S (Washington Post 12/20).
DOD walks back Panetta’s recent comments on Iran
 Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that Iran could have a nuclear weapon as soon as next year. Pentagon officials clarified that this assertion is based on a highly aggressive timeline and actions that Iran has not yet taken (NY Times 12/20).
Camp Ashraf closure delayed
Iraqi’s prime minister Malaki said today that he has granted a six-month extension to the December 31st deadline (Salon 12/21).
American officials had expressed fears that MEK leadership may order the massacre of camp residents, rather than allow a peaceful disbandment of Camp Ashraf.  The Christian Science Monitor interviewed recent MEK defectors who say that further dramatic acts may occur as the deadline quickly approaches. Shahram Heydari, who left Camp Ashraf two months ago, said that “It’s clear to me, [MEK leadership] wants people to get killed, and send it to the media,” in order to keep the camp open.  Although several high-ranking U.S. officials have been paid by the MEK to make its case to get the MEK off the US terror list, family members of those inside the camp have held protests asking for the release of their children, whom they say are imprisoned in the camp (Christian Science Monitor 12/20).
U.S. adds 10 companies to sanctions list
The US Treasury Department has expanded sanctions to include 10 “shipping and front companies and one individual based in Malta” affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) (Jerusalem Post 12/20).
State department calls for release of alleged spy
The US state department has called on Iran to release the Iranian-American, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati accused of being a CIA spy. The state department has asked the Swiss embassy in Tehran to obtain access to Hekmati. His family has denied the accusations made against their son (Guardian 12/20).
Human rights watch
Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, in a CNN op-ed, highlights the plight of many religious minorities inside Iran (CNN 12/21).
Notable opinion: 
Leslie Gelb compares U.S. policy towards Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs:

U.S. negotiators have been in private contact with their North Korean counterparts for about six months, after a long interregnum, and the two sides were on the verge of an intriguing deal: The U.S. would provide North Korea with substantial humanitarian food relief. In turn, North Korea would freeze its uranium-enrichment program and allow for international monitoring.
The striking feature of this almost-deal is how modest Washington’s demands were relative to its tough position on nukes with Iran. The Obama team and Pyongyang’s neighbors just want to get things started with Pyongyang. Thus, they’d be satisfied with a freeze on nuclear activities. From Iran, by contrast, Washington demands a commitment not to go nuclear plus strong inspections.
The bottom line is that America and its partners want to be calm, welcoming, firm, and unthreatening to North Korean leaders at this time. They’re eager to pick up the negotiating pieces as soon as possible. With Iran, then, there is increasing talk of war. With North Korea, the palaver is mostly about hoping and waiting.

To read the full piece click here.
Additional Notable News:
Violence in Syria has left nearly 150 dead in the last two days, reports ABC News.
Women held a large rally in Egypt protesting violence used against them by security forces.
Iran says that five Iranian citizens have been kidnapped in Syria, reports Reuters.
The Christian Science Monitor has a comprehensive list of where GOP candidates stand on foreign policy and national security issues.

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