Iran and West may resume nuclear talks
Turkey’s foreign minister said that on his trip to Iran he delivered a western offer to resume nuclear talks and Iran has accepted (Reuters 01/05). A European official says that Iran has not formally responded in writing to the proposal for a new meeting (Yahoo 01/05).
Countries react to U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports
China is criticizing unilateral U.S. sanctions against companies that conduct transactions with Iran’s central bank. China’s foreign ministry spokesman said, “China opposes placing one’s domestic law above international law and imposing unilateral sanctions against other countries” (AFP 01/05).
India’s MRPL, that country’s biggest purchaser of Iranian crude oil, says it hasn’t cut purchases despite U.S. sanctions. However, Reuters also reports “Indian companies have begun talks with alternative suppliers to slowly replace Iranian oil, fearing their current mechanism for payments to Tehran for some 350,000 barrels a day (bpd) via Turkey could soon succumb to sanctions.” (Reuters 01/06).
Japan and South Korea are looking for new suppliers of crude oil to gradually lessen their dependence on Iran in response to U.S. pressure. (Financial Times 01/05). However, a Japanese government official also told the Wall Street Journal that “There is no change to our position that the 10% oil supply from Iran remains vital to Japan, and that we will continue to make efforts to protect this supply” (WSJ 01/06).
Iran’s economic minister said the proposed embargo on Iran’s oil exports are “an economic war” (NY Times 01/05).
Politico reports that rising gas prices caused by growing tensions between Iran and the U.S. are increasingly factoring into election politics (Politico 01/06).
New war games as tensions rise; U.S. Navy rescues Iranians from pirates
Iran announced it will conduct a new round of naval drills in February, while Israel announced that it is preparing for a major joint missile defense exercise with the United States that will involve thousands of troups (The Guardian 01/06).
Britain’s defense secretary warned Iran that an attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz would be unsuccessful and illegal (Huffington Post 01/06).
Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy destroyer rescued 13 Iranian fishermen from pirates in the Gulf of Oman. The rescued Iranian captain offered his “sincere gratitude,” according to the Navy (CNN 01/06).
Human rights watch
Iran is imposing increased surveillance on Internet cafes and is reportedly preparing to strengthen internet censorship by replacing the Internet with a “halal” intranet system, potentially within the next few weeks (WSJ 01/06).
The Mothers of Laleh Park, a group of women whose children were killed or detained during Iran’s 2009 post-election crackdown, have issued the names of seven members or supporters who have been sentenced to prison (Rferl 01/05).
In an article for Foreign Affairs, Brooking’s Suzanne Maloney argues that the Obama Administration’s Iran policy “is sliding toward regime change.”
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The Obama administration’s new sanctions signal the demise of the paradigm that had guided U.S. Iran policymaking since the 1979 revolution: the combination of pressure and persuasion. Moreover, the decision to outlaw contact with Iran’s central bank puts the United States’ tactics and its long-standing objective — a negotiated end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions — fundamentally at odds. Indeed, the United States cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy. As severe sanctions devastate Iran’s economy, Tehran will surely be encouraged to double down on its quest for the ultimate deterrent. So, the White House’s embrace of open-ended pressure means that it has backed itself into a policy of regime change, something Washington has little ability to influence.