U.S. Officials Blame Hezbollah for Terror Attack
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that American officials identified the man as a member of a Hezbollah cell “acting under broad guidance” to hit Israeli targets. A U.S. official said it was a “tit for tat” attack done to retaliate for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists by Israel (NYT 7/19).
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov cautioned against speculating over who carried out the terrorist attack in Burgas, saying it would be “wrong and a mistake to point fingers at this stage of the investigation at any country or organization” (Haaretz 7/20).
U.S. Says Iran Developed Plans to Disrupt Oil Trade
U.S. officials have said that new intelligence indicates that Iran has developed plans to attack oil platforms and tankers to disrupt international oil trade “both inside and outside the Persian Gulf.” One U.S. official commented, “This doesn’t mean they would do something, as there are significant costs the Iranians would have to consider, but this is something to keep an eye on,” (WSJ 7/19).
Israeli Poll Shows Little Support for Unilateral Strike on Iran
In a poll by Israeli daily, Maariv, only 19 percent of Israelis said they support a unilateral strike against Iran. 26 percent said Israel should only strike with U.S. backing, and 29 percent said Israel should take no action. 26 percent were undecided (Reuters 7/20).
Letter Encourages President Obama to Blacklist 65 Iranian Officials
A letter sent to President Obama yesterday, signed by Senator Kirk, Senator Kyl, and Senator Lieberman, encourages a the President to blacklist 65 Iranian officials for human rights abuses. The letter encourages the President to harden his stance on Iran (Reuters 7/19).
Iranian MPs Support Closing Strait of Hormuz
Iranian news sources report that legislation proposed by Iranian lawmaker Javad Karimi Qodoosi to close the Strait of Hormuz gained the support of over half of the Iranian parliament (AP 7/20).
Hezbollah Leader Offers Insight into Group’s Dependence on Assad, Iran
In a televised address, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah emphasized the importance of the Syrian government’s support for Hezbollah (NYT 7/19).
Investigators Examining U.N. Sanctions Violations Ask for “Unfettered Access”
In response to an investigation by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee requesting “unfettered access” to U.N. documents regarding equipment provided to sanctioned countries, the head of the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization says it has asked U.N. sanctions officials to review computer equipment it provided Iran and North Korea (AP 7/19).
“Crackdown” on Ahwazi Arabs in Iran Escalates
Iran has reportedly stepped up its “crackdown” on Ahwazi Arab Iranians, according to The Guardian. At least five Arab prisoners at Karoun prison in Ahwaz are to be imminently executed for links to terrorist organization and shootings. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The judiciary has put forth no public evidence suggesting that these men should spend one more day in prison, let alone hang from the gallows,” (The Guardian 7/19).
Retired Israeli Air Force Pilot Calls an Israeli Attack on Iran an Existential “Gamble”
In an interview with Haaretz, retired Israeli Air Force pilot of more than 20 years and high-tech investor, Kobi Richter, described an attack on Iran by Israel as, “A gamble on our very survival.” He elaborated saying, “What disturbs me in particular about this kind of distorted outlook is its potential connection to operational considerations and operational plans,” (Haaretz 7/20).
NYPD Release Report on Revolutionary Guard Activity
The New York Police Department (NYPD) said in a report that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their proxies have been involved in nine terror plot against Jews and Israelis this year. The report suggested Iran had “sharply increased its operational tempo and its willingness to conduct terrorist attacks targeting Israeli interests and the International Jewish community worldwide,” (Reuters 7/20).
U.S. Treasury: Iranian Ships Might Use “Deceptive Practices”
The U.S. Treasury has issued an advisory to the maritime industry, warning that Iranian ships may be operating without registration to evade sanctions “through deceptive practices.” “Therefore, maritime authorities should be alert to the presentation by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines of potentially fabricated vessel registration and flag credentials at ports of call and canal entrances,” said the advisory (WSJ 7/19).
European Traders Contacted “Daily” with Offers on Cheap Iranian Crude
Oil traders for European refineries are reporting that obscure private firms are contacting them on a daily basis, offering for Iranian crude at discounted prices. Some offers also allegedly include fake paperwork to disguise the origins of the oil. (Reuters 7/20).
Notable Opinion: “Sliding Toward War With Iran”
Paul Pillar comments on escalations in US-Iranian tensions:
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Although the chance of war with Iran gets attention among policy cognoscenti in Washington, the danger is underappreciated among the American public. The presidential election campaign isn’t helping and instead is making things worse. President Obama apparently has opted to try to keep a lid on the Iranian nuclear issue through election day rather than resolving it. Mitt Romney, in trying to score points against the president, only tells us that we ought to be more afraid of an Iranian nuclear weapon than a new war in the Middle East. This raises the question of how such fear, of a still nonexistent weapon in the hands of a second-rate power on the other side of the globe, is consistent with the vision of a proud and powerful America that one hears in the rest of his message.
The danger of a war needs to be taken seriously. That means using those sanctions we have piled on Iran as leverage, which is not how we have used them so far, to make possible a nuclear agreement with Tehran. It means emphasizing communications and procedures in the Persian Gulf that will minimize the chance of an escalation-prone incident, rather than merely bringing in more sabers and rattling them more loudly. And it means distancing and dissociating the United States as much as possible from destructive and destabilizing actions by Israel.