Amidst increased sanctions, Asian powers push negotiation
The Foreign Ministry of China has said it would send an Assistant Foreign Minister to Iran to “have a further exchange of views with Iran over its nuclear program,” amidst sanctions that are affecting trade. China has already sought discounts on Iranian oil and cut purchases this year by over half, pushing up India to be the largest buyer of Iranian oil, although India is still working out the details of a barter system (Reuters 02/10). Moreover, Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, has said it would consider proposals from Iran in barter trade. According to Reuters, Tehran is offering gold bullion in overseas vaults and tankerloads of oil in return for food and basic staples (Reuters 02/10). Meanwhile, as a delegation of Indian businessmen head to Tehran for new trade opportunities, Prime Minister Singh said “There are problems with Iran nuclear programme. We sincerely believe that this issue can be and should be resolved by giving maximum scope to diplomacy” (Reuters 02/10).
Japan is trying to gain a waiver from U.S. penalties on companies doing business with Iran while it seeks suppliers to offset a reduction in Iranian oil imports. Japan currently gets about 9% of its oil from Iran and it has already reduced Iranian oil imports by 40% in five years (AP 02/10).
Iranian oil trade flows drop and steel imports collapse
The International Energy Agency has said up to 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of Iran’s 2.6 million bpd of oil exports could be replaced once sanctions go into effect, significantly greater than the 600,000 bpd of Iranian oil the EU bought last year (Reuters 02/10).
Steel exports to Iran, one of the world’s largest importers of steel billet, are collapsing because sanctions are preventing local buyers from using major currencies. Major steel traders are unwilling to accept payment in alternative currencies such as Indian rupees and Russian roubles. Steel billets are semi-finished long steel products used primarily in construction. The reduction in Iranian imports is depressing the prices of international steel billets, which fell by about $50 a tonne in one month (Reuters 02/09).
Opposition to potential Israeli attack
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that an Israeli attack on Iran would be disastrous and should not be an option. He said Turkey does not want a nuclear power in the region, but that a military strike should not be an option and that they will never endorse another military tension in the Middle East (Haaretz 02/10).
According to Amir Oren of Haaretz, Israel will not strike Iran because, in part, the rhetoric is for deterrence. In order to launch an attack, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak need the approval of over half the 14 ministers belonging to the committee on security affairs. However, there are several ways they might not be able to get approval, especially if ministers resign amidst scandal (Haaretz 02/10).
Iran cuts off Internet access
According to CNET, major websites like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo email, and Facebook are no longer available in Iran. The government made no announcement about service interruption but the regime has previously cut off the Internet during protests and anti-government protests may be planned for Saturday (CNET 02/10).
Former Iranian official on how to engage Iran
Writing in Foreign Affairs, Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian official who sat on the secretariat of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, explains how engagement between the United States and Iran has failed in the past. Mousavian also outlines how both countries should be able to reach a peaceful solution to current tensions (Foreign Affairs 02/09).
Poll finds nearly half of Americans willing to bomb Iran nuclear facilities
According to a YouGov poll, 44 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat support bombing Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities while a large, nearly 30-point, gap exists between Democrats and Republicans. A similar gap exists on whether Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, with 64 percent of Americans believing that is Iran’s goal. 70 percent of Europeans believe Iran’s intent is to build a weapon, but significantly fewer support military action (CSM 02/09).
In a post at The National Interest, Paul Pillar, former U.S. national intelligence officer and professor at Georgetown University, argues the United States should distance itself from attacks in Iran reportedly carried out by the MEK with Israeli help:
With or without confirmation of details of this story, the assassinations are terrorism. […] Anyone in Israel, the United States, or anywhere else hoping for a salubrious regime change in Iran would be foolish to have anything to do with the MEK.
Even more important than what is foolish is what is immoral. Terrorism denies the high ground to anyone who uses it, including the use of it in disagreements with Iran. It also hastens the slide through mutually reinforcing hostility into what may be a far more destructive form of violence (i.e., a war). Although the United States has not been involved in the assassinations, the nature of its relationship with Israel, both real and perceived (President Obama commented the other day about staying in “lockstep” with Israel on Iran), means that Israel’s actions suck the United States farther down the slide.
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