Turkish energy ministry official said that Turkey would seek a waiver from the U.S. in order to exempt its biggest refiner Tupras from new U.S. sanctions. Turkey gets about 30 percent of its oil from Iran (Reuters 01/04).
Meanwhile, A senior Iranian oil official has said that Iran has alternatives to keep oil exports up if the European Union decides to prohibit imports of Iranian crude oil (Reuters 01/04).
A State department spokesperson welcomed the European Union’s statement that it agrees in principle to an oil embargo on Iranian oil imports (Guardian 01/04). Meanwhile,
China analysts say that, in the event of a European embargo, China crude purchases will remain motivated by commercial, not political, interests and so it is unlikely to make up for lost Iranian exports. (Christian Science Monitor 01/05). China will reduce crude oil imports from Iran for a second straight month as China presses for better payment terms (Reuters 01/05).
Iran’s fuel rod
Former IAEA deputy director general Olli Heinonen assesses that Iran’s production of its first nuclear fuel rod, which he says would be used at the planed Arak heavy water reactor–not the Tehran Research Reactor, may indeed present diplomatic opportunities for the P5+1 to pursue with Iran.
Iran seeks to influence Afghan policy
Afghan officials and analysts say that Iran has launched a campaign to influence policy and anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan (Washington Post 01/04).
Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament has proposed a new law aimed at prohibiting foreign warships from entering the Persian Gulf unless the Iranian navy gives permission (Washington Post 01/04).
Additionally, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi says that Iran plans to hold more military exercises in the Persian Gulf (Rferl 04/01).
Iran’s currency crisis
The Christian Science Monitor reports that Iran’s Central Bank has tried to introduce a cap on the market rate of 14,000 rials to the dollar as Iran faces a currency crisis. The drop in value of the rial threatens to weaken Ahmadinejad’s administration that relies on domestic economic strength for support (Christian Science Monitor 01/04).
The rial rose to 14,000 per dollar after foreign currency was made available to the market by Iran’s Central Bank (Bloomberg 01/05).
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Fareed Zarkaria warns that Western pressure continues to lead to an increasingly weakened and desperate Iran that could be more inclined to cause problems:
In fact, the real story is that Iran is weak and getting weaker. Sanctions have pushed its economy into a nose-dive. The political system is fractured and fragmenting. Abroad, its closest ally and the regime of which it is almost the sole supporter – Syria – is itself crumbling. The Persian Gulf monarchies have banded together against Iran and shored up their relations with Washington. Last week, Saudi Arabia closed its largest-ever purchase of U.S. weaponry. Meanwhile, Europe is close to approving even more intense sanctions against Tehran.
So for now, Washington wants to build the pressure on Iran, in the hopes that it will force the regime into serious negotiations at some point.
This strategy is understandable. But it also risks building up pressures that could take a course of their own — with explosive consequences. The price of oil is rising during a global slump only because of these political risks. Without a carefully considered strategy, these risks will grow. Weak countries whose regimes face pressure can sometimes cause more problems than strong nations.
To read the full piece click here.
Additional Notable News:
The Iranian government has ordered the closing of the independent Iranian House of Cinema, a film promotion institute inside Iran.
The Guardian reports that Iran has introduced major restrictions on Internet cafes.
In an op-ed for IPS, Barbara Slavin says the escalating rhetoric between the U.S. and Iran could lead to war in the Persian Gulf.
In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, Paul Heroux says military threats against Iran are shortsighted and diplomacy should be considered.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has posted a report on secret executions at Vakilabad Prison in Iran.