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New sanctions continue to weaken Iran’s middle class
According to the New York Times, sanctions and Iran’s economic decline have primarily impacted the middle class, with many in Iran increasingly unable to afford living expenses or maintain businesses that are losing clients.  “We know they want to pressure us so we rise against our government, but we are not in a position to do that,” said Murad, a waiter at a tea shop.  “The rich don’t suffer, they are protected. The truth is, we’d like to have good relations with the West. What is the point of ‘Death to the U.S.A.’? But what can we do about this?”   This ordeal has also affected Iran’s medical sector, whose diminishing supply of medicine and inability to replace aging radiological equipment have left many Iranian cancer patients unable to afford or even have access to treatment.  (NY Times 02/07)
In a piece for the Boston Review, Natasha Bahrami and Trita Parsi discuss the historical ineffectiveness of sanctions to bring about democratic change and how this message is applicable to Iran.  Parsi and Bahrami cite data collected by the Threat and Imposition of Sanctions (TIES) database, which “identifies 365 cases of partial economic embargoes, 138 implemented by the United States. Surprisingly only four of the U.S.-imposed sanctions, less than 3 percent, are designated as having achieved full acquiescence to U.S. demands.” (Boston Review 02/06)
Ahmadinejad to testify before Parliament over economic concerns
Iranian MP’s called upon President Ahmadinejad to testify before Parliament to discuss “irregularities” in his management of Iran’s weakened economy, including a recent $2.6 billion banking scandal.  Opponents of Ahmadinejad have alleged that he retains close ties to those involved in the embezzlement scheme.  This would mark the first time since the 1979 revolution that Parliament successfully forced testimony from an Iranian president.  (NY Times 02/07)
Iranians detained for links to BBC Persian
Several individuals have been detained in Iran for allegedly gathering news and information for BBC’s Persian service, which is banned by Tehran.  The BBC released a statement saying that none of BBC Persian’s staff are currently operating inside Iran.  The statement went on to say that these recent events “should be of deep concern to all those who believe in a free and independent media.”  These detentions as well as last week’s harassment of BBC Persian staff and family members are part of a greater move by Iran’s government to restrict the flow of information ahead of the March parliamentary elections.   (BBC 02/07)
House Intelligence Committee calls against pre-emptive strike on Iran
Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned today that a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran would have vast consequences for U.S. national security, which could be threatened considerably by any form of Iranian retaliation.  “If Israel does a unilateral strike, this could be a real problem for the security interests of the United States,” said Rogers in an interview on CNN.    (ABC 02/07)
Notable Opinion:
 In an op-ed in Foreign Policy, the State Department’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran, John Limbert, outlines new negotiating steps the U.S. can undertake to accomplish a meaningful diplomatic exchange with Iran:

 “A frustrated Iran is one that will lash out in all directions — at Israel, at the United States, at Britain (as in the recent attack on its embassy in Tehran), and at Saudi Arabia (as in the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States with the help of Mexican drug cartels). Nonetheless, U.S. negotiators should be careful not to overreact to every claim, every statement, and every bit of bluster coming from the harried leaders in Tehran. Iran would like Washington to dance to its tune, and it likes to show its power by provoking America into unwise reactions. In such cases, language matters, and U.S. diplomats should be measured, clear, and cautious. Let the other side rant and rave.”

To read the full piece click here.
Additional Notable News:
Iranian purchasers have defaulted on payment for about 200,000 tons of rice from India, which supplies about 70% of Iran’s annual supply.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, announced opposition to any intervention in Syria, proclaiming, “We are absolutely not interfering in the internal affairs of Syria, and we consider that the interference of other countries there to be a danger to the security and stability of Syria.”
According to Mesghal, the unofficial exchange rate for the Iranian Rial vs. the US dollar is now 18650:1, a drop in almost 3% in the Iranian currency’s value today.
The price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose to a six-month high of more than $117 per barrel.

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