Investigation into Burgas Bomber Continues
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, speaking alongside White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan in Sofia, said the suicide bomber, who carried out an attack in Burgas last week, was part of a “sophisticated” group of conspirators, who arrived in Bulgaria one month before the attack. He declined to back Israeli claims that Iran or Hezollah played a role, but did say they knew “”when [the attacker] arrived, the presumed flight, and where it came from” (BBC 7/24).
Israeli President Says Israel in “Open War” with Iran
Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview with CNN that Israel is in an “open war” with Iran, following last week’s bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israelis. Peres insisted Israeli had “enough” intelligence to link Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah to the attacks. He added, “self-defense is the right and the must of every people,” (Al Arabiya 7/23).
Thousands of Iranians Take to the Street to Protest Food Prices
Iranian news sources report that several thousand Iranians in the northeastern city of Neishapour protested rising prices on food staples in the city’s main square today. The protest was the first instance of unrest sparked by recent economic woes. Protesters allegedly chanted “Death to Inflation” and “Shame on you government, you must resign” (Wall Street Journal 7/23).
Iranian Reformists May Field Presidential Candidate in 2013
After being purged from the political scene in 2009, statements by Iranian reformists politicians suggest they may field a presidential candidate in 2013. Spokesman for the reformist National Trust Party, Esmail Gerami-Moghaddam, told Reuters, “If we enter the elections with a strong candidate, the government will be forced to respect people’s votes,” but he conceded that, “It’s true that even if we get the presidency we will not be able to do much,” (Reuters 7/23).
P5+1 Deputy Talks Conclude in Istanbul
Today in Istanbul Deputy Head of the EU’s foreign relations arm Helga Schmid and Iran’s deputy negotiator on the nuclear issue met today to discuss the nuclear standoff with Iran and the future of P5+1 talks with Iran. After the meeting, the EU’s spokesperson said “the next stage will be a contact between” chief negotiator for the P5+1, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili (Al-Monitor 7/24).
Sanctions Negatively Effecting Afghan Economy
Sanctions on Iran are unintentionally hurting Afghanistan, which “relies on remittances from millions of migrants living in the country to its West. Afghani deputy minister of trade and commerce, Muzammil Shinwari, said, “We are hugely concerned over the rial’s drop…Many Afghans are living and working there and will likely be the first to lose their jobs,” (WSJ 7/22).
China’s Oil Imports from Iran Rebound Sharply
China’s imports of Iranian oil in June were 17 percent higher than in June of 2011. The head of regional energy research at Mirae Asset Securities explained, ““Many Chinese refineries are designed to process only Iranian crudes and not other grades.” This is the fourth month in which Iran’s share of Chinese imports rose (Bloomberg 7/23).
Iranian media sources report that Iran has launched its first domestically-produced aframax oil tanker, capable of carrying up to 700,000 barrels of oil. Fars news agency reports the oil tanker was ordered by Venezuela (Reuters 7/24).
IRGC Threatens Retaliation for Arab Intervention in Syria
Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander and spokesman for Iran’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Masoud Jazayeri was reported by Fars new agency to have said Arab intervention in Syria would trigger retaliation (AP 7/24).
New Cyber Hacker Tool Plays AC/DC in Iran
Finnish cyber security expert Mikko Hypponen was reportedly contacted on Sunday by an Iranian scientist at Iran’s atomic energy organization, who claimed another cyber attack had hit Iranian nuclear systems. Allegedly the hacker tool Metasploit was used to force computers to play AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” at full volume in the middle of the night, according to a computer researcher (International Business Times 7/24).
Canadian Group Says TD Bank’s Implementation of Sanctions Violate Civil Rights
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has warned TD Bank that its decision to suddenly close a number of Iranian Canadian accounts may have violated the Canadian Charter of Rights. CCLA national security director said, “We are concerned that by implementing collective measures against individuals in Canada based on place of origin, we may be impairing Charter rights,” (The Star 7/20).
Iranian Naval Commander Downplays Prospect of Closing Hormuz
Alireza Tangsiri, deputy naval commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was quoted downplaying the prospect of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz. He said, “The enemies constantly state that the Islamic Republic of Iran intends to close the Strait of Hormuz but we say that common sense does not dictate that Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz as long as it makes use of it,” (Reuters 7/23).
Iran Announces Three-Tiered Exchange Rate System
Iran has announced it will introduce a three-tiered exchange rate system, suggesting that government stocks of Iranian rials have come under pressure from Western sanctions. The new system will mean that basic good will be imported at the official rate (currently 12,260 rials to the dollar), but luxury goods, including cars and dolls, will be imported at the free market rate, increasing their price dramatically for Iranians. Intermediary goods will be imported at 15,000 rials to the dollar (Reuters 7/21).
Kadima’s Mofaz Appears to Oppose Iran Strikes
“Kadima will not embark on any operational adventures that will risk the future of our sons and daughters, and the future of Israel’s citizens,” the leader of Israel’s Kadima party, Shaul Mofaz said in comments that many experts interpreted as warning against military strikes against Iran (Reuters 7/23).
Iranian Lawmakers Seek to Impeach Minister over Inflation
Iranian news sources report that about 20 lawmakers have come to together to attempt to impeach Industry, Mines, and Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari for, “Rising prices in our society and problems this has caused,” said Iranian Parliament member, Fathollah Hosseini (Bloomberg 7/22).
Iran Announces Arrests in Connection to Nuclear Scientist’s Assassination
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi was cited by the Iranian press as saying Iran has arrested suspects in connection with the July 2011 killing of a nuclear scientist, saying “two groups in charge of training terrorists were arrested inside and outside Iran. No further details were provided (CNN 7/23).
Oil Futures Up 18 Percent in 3 Weeks on Iran Tensions
In the last three weeks, oil futures have risen more than 18 percent primarily on concerns surrounding Iran, including a 3.1 percent increase after a bombing in Bulgaria last week. As the risk premium rises, senior market analyst at the Price Futures Group in Chicago, Phil Flynn, commented, “the overriding concern is that there will be a war in Iran that will disrupt the Strait of Hormuz,” (Wall Street Journal 7/22).
Legislation Demonstrates Iranian Parliament in Support for Closing Hormuz
On Friday, a majority of the Iranian parliament backed a bill to close the Strait of Hormuz. Ultimately, any such decision would be made by the Supreme leader, but the move lends political support to such a decision. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Reuters earlier in the month of a possible closing of Hormuz, “Iran will probably react appropriately … But I don’t think such a time will ever come,” (Reuters 7/20).
Notable Opinion: “The U.S. and Iran’s Mistaken Path to War”
Trita Parsi discusses the assumptions and misunderstanding leading to war with Iran:
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A far more plausible explanation for the current deadlock is not that the two sides have a glorious grand strategy, but that they actually don’t have a strategy at all.
European officials I interviewed for my book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran admitted as much, insisting that their coordination meetings focused on the next tactical steps rather than on a broader strategy. Rather than working according to a premeditated design, the two sides have reacted to each other based on worst-case assumptions and the unquestioned belief that the other side invariably is acting with hostility. Opportunties have been missed and hostilities have drawn far beyond what either side actually originally intended. Neither side wanted to or planned to go as far as they have in their grandstanding.
The two countries are on the brink of war due to this vicious cycle of unending escalation and counter-escalation, born from their unquestioned assumptions and conclusions about each other.