Terms of nuclear talks to be disclosed
The P5+1 released the details of a letter sent to Iran last October demonstrating a willingness to hold talks with Iran amidst tough sanctions and speculation of a military conflict (Reuters 01/20).
Details of U.S. letter to Iran emerge
Laura Rozen reports the Obama administration used three channels of communication to deliver a message to Iran’s Supreme Leader regarding “red lines in the Strait of Hormuz” and conveying that the U.S. and its allies “remain committed to a diplomatic solution,” with Iran. They sent the letter through the Swiss Ambassador to Iran, through the UN, and through Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Rozen also reports that European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton’s office has released her October letter to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, which outlined proposed terms for nuclear talks (Yahoo 01/20).
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that “time is running out” for diplomacy with Iran and called for China and Russia to back increased sanctions on Iran. “We need stronger, more decisive sanctions that stop the purchase of Iranian oil and freeze the assets of the central bank, and those who don’t want that will be responsible for the risks of a military conflict,” Sarkozy stated. (Reuters 01/20).
According to Reuters the Turkish refiner Tupras plans to cut its dependence on Iranian oil imports. Tupras officials are planning to meet with Saudi Arabia authorities this month to discuss alternative oil sources (Reuters 01/19).
The EU states have failed to agree on details of a planned embargo on Iran oil. There was disagreement regarding the length of a planned grace period that would allow states to fulfill existing contracts for a period of time after the embargo (Reuters 01/19).
Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warning him not to weaken a law prohibiting foreign institutions from dealing with Iran’s central bank. “An unevenly applied interpretation would … call into question the seriousness of the sanctions policy and send mixed signals to both Iran and our allies,” both senators said (Reuters 01/19).
Reuters reports the Japan has told U.S. officials that it intends to keep cutting imports of Iranian oil (Reuters 01/20).
Accusation over Iran scientist assassination
Iran’s deputy U.N. ambassador Eshagh Al Habib said there is suspicion that the terrorist circles that carried out the assassination of Iranian scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan used intelligence obtained from UN bodies. Habib said the UN might have played a role in leaking information about Iran’s nuclear facilities and scientist (Reuters 01/19).
On Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei visited the families of two of the five scientists assassinated.
Russia and Iran trade domestic currency
Iranian ambassador to Russia Seyed Sajjadi said that Iran and Russia have started using their domestic currencies in bilateral trade, replacing the U.S. dollar in light of U.S. sanctions (Reuters 01/20).
In an op-ed for CNN, president of the National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi discusses the recent dynamics of US-Israel relations over Iran:
Publicly, the two sides claim to share a common objective with Iran, though they may assess risks differently. In reality, the divisions are much deeper. Israel is firmly committed to the zero-enrichment objective espoused by the George W. Bush administration, i.e. that the only acceptable way to prevent Iranian bomb is by preventing it from having nuclear technology, period. “Enrichment in Iran is certainly unacceptable,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told me in October 2010.
The Obama administration has left this issue vague, neither rejecting nor accepting this red line. Israel fears that in a final agreement, the Obama White House would accept enrichment in Iran, a fear fueled by the administration’s attempt to exchange Iranian low enriched uranium for fuel pads for a research reactor in Tehran earlier in 2009. Both France and Israel argued that the deal would legitimize Iranian enrichment. In Israel’s view, Obama has made America’s red lines flexible and unreliable.
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Additional Notable News:
The Guardian reports that Iranian state broadcaster Press TV has been forced off the air in the UK.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.
On Thursday, the U.S. Navy said that a U.S. navy vessel aided a group of Iranian mariners near the Persian Gulf.
U.S. officials said they have uncovered efforts by Iran to help Syria cover up its oil exports in order to circumvent U.S. and European embargos
A 5.5 earthquake struck the Iranian city of Neyshabur injuring at least 110 people.