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Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated
An Iranian nuclear scientist and a department supervisor of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was assassinated after an assailant on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to his car. Iranian officials claim that Israel is responsible for the assassination (New York Times 01/11).
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “The United States strongly condemns this act of violence and categorically denies any involvement in the killing” (Washington Post 01/11).  Israeli officials have declined to comment. (Reuters 01/11).
The Guardian provides a timeline of similar attacks on Iran’s nuclear program and scientists.
Sanctions watch
Rebuffing pressure from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs repeated China’s opposition to sanctions on Iran’s oil export.  “We oppose pressuring or international sanctions because these pressures and sanctions are not helpful. They have not solved any issues,” he said. “We believe these problems should be solved by dialogue.”  (NY Times 01/11).
While India’s foreign minister insisted Iran is “crucial” to India’s energy security, companies such state-owned refining company Hindustan Petroleum Corporation are working to diversify their oil supplies away from Iran and are increasing imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia. (Financial Times 01/10).
Reaction to Fordo site
Russia expressed concern over Iran’s announcement of uranium enrichment at its underground Fordo site near Qom, and urged all parties to resume talks through the P5+1.
Secretary of State Clinton condemned the announcement, saying “there is no plausible justification” to enrich uranium to a 20 percent level. She said the step brings Iran closer to nuclear weapons capacity (AP 01/10).
Meanwhile, GOP candidate Rick Santorum said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is ignoring the facts when he says that Iran has not yet decided to build a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 01/10).
U.S. intelligence official discuss the effects of U.S. sanctions
A senior U.S. intelligence official tells the Washington Post that sanctions may “create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”  However, the intelligence official also acknowledged that the sanctions “could have the opposite effect from what’s intended and impel the Iranian leader to decide, ‘We’re going to build that nuclear weapon.’”  The official argued further that obtaining a nuclear weapon “actually might temper [Iran’s] behavior.” (Washington Post 01/10).
Iran blocks MPs from running for reelection
Iran’s interior ministry has barred at least 33 Iranian members of parliament from running in March’s parliamentary election. Most reformist candidates are refusing to participate in the election. (The Guardian 01/10).
IPS reports that, less than two months before the parliamentary elections, the Iranian government has instituted a new round of arrests and prison sentences for Iranian activists and journalists (IPS 01/10).  Meanwhile, Iran’s police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam discussed the launch of Iran’s national Internet service.
Notable opinion: 
In an op-ed for Foreign Affairs, writer Hooman Majd, returning from a 11 month visit to Iran, discusses the political climate, the effects of sanctions, and the state of the opposition movement:

So sanctioning Iran’s central bank and embargoing Iranian oil, tactics the White House may be using as a way to avoid having to make a decision for war, will neither change minds in Tehran nor do much of anything besides bring more pain to ordinary Iranians. And making life difficult for them has not, so far, resulted in their rising up to overthrow the autocratic regime, as some might have hoped in Washington or London.
Predicting the future in Iran is a fool’s game, as the country and its people have defied expectations for years. But with continuing political turmoil among conservatives, pressure from the West, parliamentary elections in March, and the almost complete crushing of the reformists, it seems that this year promises to be another annus horribilis for both the leadership and the people.

To read the full piece click here.
Additional Notable News:
A Washington Post editorial argues “every effort must be made” to stop “Iranian sales of oil everywhere in the world,” and that the Obama administration should not engage Iran at this point.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has published a list of a 110 secret executions in Iran’s Vakilabad Prison.
The New York Times reports that on Tuesday, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet near the Persian Gulf saved a group of distressed Iranian mariners.

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