U.S.-Israel missile defense drill cancelled as concerns grow over Israeli attack against Iran
Senior military officials announced that the largest joint US-Israel missile defense drill has been postponed (Reuters 01/15).  Israel officially claimed this was due to budget cuts, but some U.S. and Israeli officials said the exercise was mutually postponed to not inflame tensions with Iran (Yahoo 01/16).  Still other U.S. officials expressed concerns privately that Israel had postponed the Spring exercise to clear the way for a strike on Iran, while others speculated that the exercise was cancelled by the U.S. to send a signal to Israel and Iran (IPS 01/16).
U.S. defense leaders have become increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing an attack against Iran, stepping up plans to protect U.S. facilities in the region in case. U.S. officials have been sending Israel private messages warning about the disastrous consequences of a conflict with Iran (WSJ 01/14) Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff will be visiting Israel on Thursday amidst the United States’ increasing concerns of a possible Israeli military strike on Iran (Haaretz 01/15). Additionally, Sen. George Mitchell said a case has not been made for attacking Iran (Think Progress 01/13).
UK foreign minister William Hague said that all options remain on the table regarding Iran, but said, “we are clearly not calling for or advocating military action. We are advocating meaningful negotiations, if Iran will enter into them, and the increasing pressure of sanctions to try to get some flexibility from Iran” (The Guardian 01/15).
John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman downplayed reports that the U.S. is increasing military presence in the Middle East is solely because of Iran (Reuters 01/13).
U.N. Secretary-General condemns assassination of Iranian scientists
On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying that “Any terrorist action or assassination of any people, whether scientist or civilian, is to be condemned. It is not acceptable. Human rights must be protected” (Reuters 01/13).
Iran’s foreign minister sent a letter to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests, saying Iran has evidence of U.S. involvement in the assassination of Iranian scientist Mostafa Roshan.  “We have reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA,” the letter stated (Reuters 01/14).
Meanwhile, nearly a 100 scholars, academicians, and journalists have signed a petition condemning the murder of Iranian scientists.
Sanctions watch
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that sanctions against Iran are beginning to have an effect (Reuters 01/13).  He also said that further sanctions on Iran’s central bank and oil industry must be implemented in order to affect Iran’s nuclear program (Haaretz 01/17).  Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon described the Obama administration’s approach to Iran sanctions as cautious and expressed disappointment (Haaretz 01/15).
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that, during his trip overseas, key U.S. allies in the Middle East expressed doubt that sanctions and embargoes would be successful in curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions  (The Hill 01/13).
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin criticized the U.S. sanctions imposed on China’s state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, allegedly Iran’s largest supplier of refined petroleum products. “Imposing sanctions on a Chinese company based on a domestic (U.S.) law is totally unreasonable, and does not conform to the spirit or content of U.N. Security Council resolutions about the Iran nuclear issue,” said Weimin (Reuters 01/14). Meanwhile, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao discussed enhancing cooperation and trade in crude oil and natural gas between China and Saudi Arabia, reflecting concerns over disruptions in crude oil exports to China because of Iran sanctions (Reuters 01/14).
Iranian oil official Pirouz Mousavi claims that Iran has not stored oil in the Gulf and that crude oil exports have not been disrupted as a result of sanctions (Reuters 01/14).  Additionally, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that embargoes and sanctions against Iran have had no affect on the country (Haaretz 01/14). Meanwhile, Iran warned Arab states against increasing oil production in order to offset any potential drop in Iran’s oil exports (Financial Times 01/15). Reuters reports that oil futures have gone up amidst tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia (Reuters 01/16).
On Monday, Iran’s head of international affairs at the National Iranian Oil Co. told reporters that Iran has renewed some of its contracts with Asian oil customers (Reuters 01/16).
Notable opinion: 
In a Washington Post op-ed, president of the National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi outlines an approach for successful negotiations with Iran:

Rather than resolving the nuclear issue, Iran and the United States are inching closer to a military confrontation. But war is not inevitable. Diplomacy, which the Obama administration prematurely abandoned, can still succeed.
“Our Iran diplomacy was a gamble on a single roll of the dice,” a senior State Department official told me in 2010. In short, it either had to work right away or not at all. In fact, six months after the U.S. talks collapsed, Turkey and Brazil secured a version of the fuel swap that Obama had sought.
Instead of continuing toward a war the U.S. military doesn’t want, we should double down on diplomacy, in part by emulating Turkey and Brazil’s efforts. In light of news reports this past week that Iran would be open to talks later this month with the P5+1 negotiating group — China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States — here are five ways we can learn from Turkey and Brazil’s interactions with Iran.

To read the full piece click here.
Additional Notable News:
The critically acclaimed Iranian film “A Separation” has won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Roger Cohen warns against and discusses the devastating consequences of an Israeli attack against Iran.
Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Qods force, visited the Syrian capitol of Damascus.
Reuters reports that Iran has received the U.S. letter saying that it would not tolerate any closure of the Strait of Hormuz.
Top media advisor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, has been sentenced to one year in prison.

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