Injured Iranian held responsible for Thailand bombings
A man believed to be Iranian had both legs blown off after attempting to throw a bomb at Thai police in Bangkok. Two other nearby explosions, which resulted in several people being injured, accompanied this attack. These explosions occurred a day after bombing attacks against Israeli diplomatic staff in India and Georgia. Although the bombing targets remain unclear, Israeli officials have accused Iran’s complicity in these attacks and believe that this is part of a greater campaign being perpetrated by Iran and Hezbollah amidst rising tensions. Responding to this incident, Israeli defense minster Ehud Barak released a statement, saying that this “proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror.” (BBC 02/14)
In addition, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole notes that Indian investigators do not believe Iran was involved in the embassy bombing, instead assuming culpability on “Indian Mujahidin,” a pro-Palestinian Sunni group responsible for staging a very similar attack against Taiwanese tourists in 2010. Cole says that this sort of operation is unlikely to have been undertaken by Iran, since India is a crucial trading partner and one of the few remaining nations that continue Iranian oil purchases. (Juan Cole 02/14)
Meanwhile, former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel warns that the “spy versus spy” game played by Israel against Iran and Hezbollah has the potential to cause disaster if it is not contained. Riedel cites the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the 1982 IDF invasion of Lebanon as examples of crisis brought about by terrorist attacks and efforts of retaliation. (Al-Monitor 02/13)
Iran to install domestically produced fuel rods in nuclear reactor
Iranian officials have announced that tomorrow they will insert their first-domestically produced fuel rods into a nuclear research reactor in Tehran, marking significant advances in Iran’s nuclear program. President Ahmadinejad, who previously indicated an “important” announcement would be made regarding Iran’s nuclear program, is expected to be in attendance at this event. “Because Western countries were unwilling to help us, we began enriching uranium to 20% to make nuclear fuel rods,” stated Ali Bagheri, deputy chief of Iran’s national security council. (RIA Novosti 02/14)
U.S. groups call upon China to support Iran sanctions
Various American advocacy groups aiming to further isolate Iran are planning to use Vice President Xi Jinping’s upcoming U.S. trip to criticize China’s continued purchases of Iranian oil as well as call upon the next Chinese leader to work more closely with Obama on the prevention of Iranian enrichment. One such group, the Partnership for a Secure America, submitted a letter to Jinping, urging him “to make clear that China will significantly reduce its imports of oil from Iran, uphold the applicable resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and use its economic influence with Tehran, coupled with robust diplomacy, to help resolve this issue peacefully.” China is currently the largest single importer of Iranian oil. (NY Times 02/13)
Tensions emerging between Iran and Azerbaijan
Azeri officials have contested Iranian claims that Azerbaijan has been assisting Israeli Mossad’s activities against Iran by allowing MEK members to travel through Azerbaijan and onto Israel to receive training related to the recent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. An Azeri foreign ministry spokesman said the Iranian complaint was likely in response to Azeri diplomatic protests over last month’s alleged Iranian plot to kill Israelis in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan maintains friendly ties with the U.S. and Israel, while it long has had shaky relations with Iran over the ethnic Azeri minority in northern Iran. (BBC 02/13)
Turkey to continue import of Iranian oil
Turkey has announced that it will not reduce imports of Iranian oil despite the U.S. and the EU’s robust sanctions, which have made financial transactions with Iran increasingly difficult. Recently Turkish delegates met with Saudi officials in Riyadh to discuss the possibility of importing additional Saudi oil as a substitute for Iranian oil, but ended up ruling against the decision. Many industry analysts believed the Riyadh talks were simply a ploy to attempt to negotiate lower prices for Iranian oil. Turkey imports about 200,000 barrels per day of oil from Iran, consisting of 30% of daily domestic consumption. (Reuters 02/14)
U.S. Navy: Iran prepares suicide bomb boats in Gulf
Amidst escalating tensions, Iran has built up its naval forces in the Gulf, including small submarines and fast-attack craft intended to swarm and overwhelm superior U.S. naval forces. According to Vice Admiral Mark Fox, “some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used a suicide explosive device.” This tactic is of particular concern to Washington, and is reminiscent of Al-Qaeda’s suicide boat attack in 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen that resulted in the death of 17 sailors. (Reuters 02/13)
Authorities crackdown as Iranians protest detention of opposition
Supporters of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi organized several protests throughout Tehran to mark the anniversary of the two former politician’s arrest and call for their immediate release. Mousavi and Karoubi were arrested following an event showing support for the “Arab Spring” protests. (BBC 02/14)
Among those advocating for their release is Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate, who released a statement saying, “I support the call [of political prisoners] and invite all freedom-loving people across the globe to do all they can for the release of prisoners of conscience in Iran.” (ICHRI 01/ 26)
EA Worldview has reported that security forces have turned out in great numbers, and have already arrested several protestors. Also, Iranian security forces turned off virtual private networks (VPNs), making Twitter and other social networking sites impossible to access using typical methods. (EA Worldview 02/14)
In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, Harvard professor Stephen M. Walt reviews the tensions between U.S./Israel and Iran from an outsider’s perspective, and questions American and Israeli fears over Iran’s intentions and capabilities:
“If a sensible Martian came down to Earth and looked at the saber rattling about Iran, I suspect he/she/it would be completely flummoxed. For our Martian visitor would observe two very capable states — the United States and Israel — threatening to attack a country that hardly seems worth the effort. The U.S. and Israel together spend more than $700 billion each year on their national security establishments; Iran spends about $10 billion. The U.S. and Israel have the most advanced military hardware in the world; Iran’s weapons are mostly outdated and lack spare parts. The U.S. and Israeli militaries are well-educated and very well trained; not true of Iran. The United States has thousands of nuclear weapons and Israel has several hundred, while Iran has a vast arsenal of … zero. Iran does have a nuclear enrichment program (which is the reason for all the war talk), but the most recent National Intelligence Estimates have concluded that Iran does not presently have an active nuclear weapons program. The United States has several dozen military bases in Iran’s immediate vicinity; Iran has exactly none in the Western hemisphere. The United States has powerful allies in every corner of the world; Iran’s friends include a handful of minor non-state actors like Hezbollah or minor-league potentates like Bashar al Assad (who’s not looking like an asset these days) or Hugo Chávez.”
To read the full article click here.
Additional Notable News:
China has sent an assistant foreign minister, Ma Zhaoxu, to Iran to attend two days of talks related to Iran’s nuclear program.
Khabar Online reports that a Special Currency Control Committee has decided to replace the US dollar with the Turkish lira, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, South Korean won, Indian rupee, Russian ruble, and Euro for importers.
Iranian media are reporting that the President’s media advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, will receive a six-month prison sentence for “insulting the Supreme Leader” on his personal blog.
Today, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued guidance concerning the implementation of sanctions relating to Iran’s Central Bank and other Iran-affiliated institutions.