CIA memos uncover Mossad “false flag” operations
A series of CIA memos, written during the George W. Bush’s administration, describes how Mossad agents, pretending to be American agents and carrying US passports, reportedly recruited the terrorist group Jundallah to carry out a covert war against Iran (Foreign Policy  01/13).
U.S. sends warning to Iran’s Supreme Leader 
According to government officials, the U.S. has warned Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, via a secret channel of communication, that closing the Strait of Hormuz would constitute a “red-line” which would provoke a U.S. response. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also stated on Thursday that the closure of the Strait would not be tolerated (NY Times 01/12).
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei responded to Wednesday’s assassination of an Iranian scientist by saying that those behind the killing would be punished. “We will continue our path with strong will … and certainly we will not neglect punishing those responsible for this act and those behind it,” said Khamenei (Reuters 01/12). The Iranian scientist, Mostafa Roshan, was buried yesterday in Tehran (BBC 01/13).
U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta echoed strong denials by other top U.S. officials of American involvement in the assassination (The Guardian 01/13).
Russia considers Iran war a threat to security
Russia’s departing ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told reporters that Russia considers Iranian involvement in any military action as a direct threat to Russia’s security. He also said that Israel is pushing the U.S. towards a war with Iran (Reuters 01/13).
U.N. to discuss nuclear program in Tehran
A senior U.N. nuclear agency team will be visiting Tehran on Jan. 28 to discuss allegations over Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian officials have suggested that they are ready to talk about the issue, according to two diplomats (Reuters 01/12). Some in the West have expressed skepticism over Iran’s readiness to discuss its nuclear program (Reuters 01/13).
Obama and Netanyahu discuss Iran
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Thursday regarding “the international community’s efforts to hold Iran accountable for its failures to meet its international obligations.” No further details were given (The Hill 01/12).
Oil sanctions watch 
Oil producers have assured China, Japan and South Korea, that if they decide to cut back on the purchase of Iranian oil, Persian Gulf oil producers will fill any gap in energy supplies. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE would be able to replace up to two-thirds of daily Iran oil exports, but only for a limited amount of time (NY Times 01/12).
Reuters reports that Italian, Spanish and Greek companies have extended their oil supply deals or have not cancelled existing term supply contacts with Iran for 2012, exempting Iran’s supplies from sanctions for at least 6 months. (Reuters 01/12).
Japan has distanced itself from a pledge to reduce oil imports, according to comments by Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (Reuters 01/13).
Additionally, Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz said that Turkey does not bound by U.S. oil sanctions against Iran. Turkey is bound by U.N. sanctions but “Other decisions are not . . . At the moment our imports continue and as of today there is no change in our road map,” said Yildiz (Financial Times 01/13).
Notable opinion: 
In a Washington Post op-ed, David Ignatius argues that the U.S. and Iran ought to establish an intelligence channel of communication in order to avoid a military conflict:

As the United States and Iran move closer toward open confrontation, it’s important that both take quiet steps to avoid the miscalculations and misunderstandings that can lead to an inadvertent military conflict.
So here’s a proposal in this period of deepening crisis: The United States and Iran should explore the possibility of direct contact through the sort of back channel that nations use to communicate urgent messages — namely, their intelligence services.
My nominees for this back-channel contact would be two people who have been circling each other warily for the past half-dozen years: Gen. David Petraeus, director of the CIA, and Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. These two are said to have communicated indirectly in the past about red lines in the Iraq conflict, when Petraeus was commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Suleimani was de facto chief of Iranian activities in the country.

To read the full piece click here.
Additional Notable News:
In an op-ed for CNN, Gary Sick discusses the unintended consequences of a war with Iran and proposes a starting point for a diplomatic solution.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced prominent reformist Mohsen Armin to six years in prison.
Iran has denied that four trucks confiscated in Turkey were carrying military equipment from Iran to Syria, reports Reuters.
The Economist asks the question of whether the Obama administration gave up on diplomacy with Iran too soon.
Reuters reports that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ended his tour of Latin America.

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