NYTimes: Israel doubtful that military strike would result in Iranian retaliation
The New York times reports that Israeli academics and intelligence officials are skeptical of the ferocity of Iranian retaliation tactics in the case of an Israeli strike and believe that possible measures, such as shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, would cause Iran to harm itself.  This belief is based on an analysis of Iran’s interests and previous actions, as well as the many over exaggerated threats presented in the past by Iraq and Hezbollah.  “A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.” (NY Times 01/27)
Oil industry see Iran sanctions benefitting China, hurting West
Despite sanctions, Iran will continue to sell oil at a similar volume, although the majority of exported oil will go to China.  Being one of Iran’s only remaining customers, the Chinese will be able to bargain for a significantly reduced price on oil.  The West is relying heavily on an increased output from Saudi Arabia to avoid a spike in oil prices, which would hurt an already deteriorating global economy.  (Chicago Tribune 01/27)
U.S.-Israel joint missile defense drill now slated for October 2012
The largest-ever joint missile defense drill between the U.S. and Israel has been rescheduled for this Fall after news leaked that it had been suspended.  The drill, in which several thousand U.S. military personnel will be stationed in Israel, has been perceived as a signal to the region of the U.S. and Israel’s unity and resolve regarding Iran.  Auster Challenge’s abrupt cancellation two weeks ago fueled suspicions of a rift between the two countries in their approach to Iran, though U.S. and Israeli officials insisted it was due only to technical issues.  (Business Insider 01/27) 
EU banks end financing of Iran grain shipments
 EU banks will no longer finance the trade of grains, oilseeds, maize, and other products to Iran.  Iran is among the top ten global importers of maize, and Ukraine, one of its main suppliers of maize, have decided to stall further shipments.  “It is now a fact that no EU banks will do trade financing for Iran destination cargoes of grains, oilseeds or whatever,” one European grain trader said.  “The bottom line is it is very difficult to work trading to Iranian destinations through banking systems. Some Iranian buyers are seeking to use other payment methods avoiding letters of credit, basically direct payment, but this is unworkable for large-size shipments.” (Reuters 01/27)
Iran turns to Iraq to diminish effectiveness of sanctions
 Iraq and its long porous border have provided a new smuggling alternative for the Iranian government.  Prior to 2010, Iran used the UAE and Oman to smuggle strategic banned goods, but this became increasingly difficult due to U.S. pressure.  Iran has employed the use of Iraqi Kurdish smuggling routes, private banks, front companies to maintain its black market economy.  (Guardian 01/27)
Iran cracks down on media/opposition ahead of March elections
 Iranian authorities have arrested ten journalists and bloggers since the start of the year.  Human Rights Watch reports that these arrests “appear to be part of the government’s most recent campaign to disrupt the free flow of information ahead of parliamentary elections.”  “All of the detainees have had some sort of association with reformist papers or websites critical of the government.” (CSM 01/27)
Notable opinion: 
In her piece, “What Happens to the Characters of A Separation After Iran Sanctions?”, Iranian-American writer Maryam Zar assesses the impact of sanctions on ordinary Iranians through the context of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar nominated film:

Indulge for a moment, in a little imagination: It is January 2013 and the Western hemisphere’s embargo on Iranian oil has begun to have an impact on the nation’s economy. What happens to Termeh, Simin and Nader from the award-winning movie A Separation, under the sanctions?
Let’s take a peek inside Iran.
Nader, the doting father who works at a bank has lost his job. The banking sector in Iran has taken a huge hit as a result of the sanctions, so his position was eliminated. Their hard-studying, bright-minded daughter can no longer attend the private school she went to during the movie, and is now encumbered beneath a black robe in a segregated public school in Central Tehran where she is often subjected to verbal abuse for not being pious enough or for coming from a liberal family. She has been detained a few times for her involition to conform to the strict regulations of the school and is descending into depression. Simin, the feisty Mom with visions of a life outside of Iran’s borders, has been forced to move back in with her estranged husband and is not only caring for his Alzheimer’s stricken Dad, but has taken a part-time job as a maid for one of the neighbors, as the family struggles to make ends meet. She is bitter and frustrated, and her mental state is taking its toll on the entire family — not least on the 13 year old daughter who needs her mother more than ever.

To read the full piece click here.
 Additional Notable News:
Gold prices in Iran, after their sharp fall on Wednesday amidst the rise in interest rates to 21%, fell again slightly on Thursday to 800,000 Toman (about $470).
Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the head of the Assembly of Experts, said in a lecture, “Clergy should be independent and should not be a political plaything.”
In a threat to China, Nasser Soudani of Parliament’s Energy Committee: “If China enters the phase of sanctions…it will be [removed] from all of its projects in Iran. This will inflict heavy and considerable loss on China’s economy.”
Iranian border guards killed six Pakistanis after they crossed the border near Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province.

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