Tensions increase in the Persian Gulf
Iran’s naval commander claimed today that Iran “has total control over” the Strait of Hormuz and that it would be “very easy” for Iran to close it. The remarks come just one day after Iranian vice president Mohammad Reza-Rahimi threatened that Iran would close the strait if the West imposes sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.
The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet replied that it would not “tolerate” any disruption of in the vital oil choke-point and that it is “always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.” (NY Times 12/28)
Oil prices rose 2% yesterday due in part to the escalating rhetoric.
Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, noted that the situation is more dangerous than it might otherwise be because ”We are in a situation where there is essentially no communication between the Iranian government and the U.S. government.” (CNN 12/27)
Opposition leader dismisses upcoming elections
Opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi, who is currently under house arrest, dismissed Iran’s upcoming parliamentary election in March, reportedly saying “[Iranian] officials do not believe in the people’s vote and they are preparing themselves for a rubber-stamp election.” (Reuters 12/26)
Human rights watch
Iran’s prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an Iranian American accused of spying. (Guardian 12/27). Iran is denying requests for consular access to Hekmati. (State Department 12/28)
The Iranian Revolutionary Court has sentenced Ibrahim Yazdi to eight years jail. The 80 year-old Iranian former foreign minister suffers from cancer and heart ailments. (AP 12/28)
The daughter of Iranian former president Akbar Rafsanjani is standing trial on charges of making anti-regime propaganda. She was previously arrested for taking part in protests after the 2009 presidential elections. (AFP 12/26)
Iran’s censorship of satellite television
The Wall Street Journal reports on Iran’s systematic jamming of satellite signals in order to control news and information. According to some estimates, 45% to 60% of Iranians watch satellite television, surpassing the numbers who have access to the Internet. (Wall Street Journal 12/27)
Romney attacks Paul over Iran
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney criticized Ron Paul’s stance on Iran, arguing that “the greatest threat that Israel faces and frankly the greatest threat the world faces is a nuclear Iran.” (LA Times 12/28) The intensified attacks come as Paul has taken a lead in Iowa polls before next week’s caucus there. (Fivethirtyeight 12/28)
MEK resettlement to Camp Liberty
The United Nations and the Iraqi government have agreed to relocate Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty. Secretary of Clinton welcomed the agreement and urged the MEK to work with the UN to facilitate the resettlement. The MEK has not indicated whether it will cooperate. (Washington Post 12/26)
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Bennett Ramberg expresses concern that an Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran could result in both countries targeting the others’ nuclear facilities and releasing huge amounts of radiation.
“Anyone who is thinking of attacking Iran should be prepared for powerful blows and iron fists.” So declared Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Nov. 10, speaking in response to reports that Israel may strike Iran’s nuclear plants. But the risk of tit-for-tat attacks raises a specter few seem to recognize: the first radiological war in history.
General Masoud Jazayeri, deputy commander of Iran’s armed forces, indicated what “blows” and “fists” could mean when he warned last month that Dimona — the center of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program — was “the most accessible target.”
Were a military attack [by Israel] to strike [Bushehr] at full power after months of operation, the release of radioactivity could be greater than at Chernobyl. Prevailing north, northwest winds would carry radioactive debris along the Gulf across sparsely populated regions. Given the size of the Bushehr plant, the lessons of Chernobyl and Fukushima tell us that Iran’s cleanup burden, energy loss and medical and population-relocation costs could approach hundreds of billions of dollars over decades.
To read the full piece click here.
Additional Notable News:
The Washington Post reports on the Obama Administration’s rapidly growing drone program, which is blurring long-standing lines between military and intelligence actions. (Washington Post 12/27)