Thursday, November 29, 2012

Eye on Iran: Senate Works on New Package of Iran Sanctions

For continuing coverage follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook group.
Top Stories

"New sanctions aimed at reducing global trade with Iran in the energy, shipping and metals sectors may soon be considered by the U.S. Senate as part of an annual defense policy bill, senators and aides said on Tuesday. The sanctions legislation, which has not yet been unveiled, comes during a crowded calendar as the Senate races to deal with deficit reduction, the defense bill and other pressing issues by the end of the year. The package would build on current U.S. sanctions, passed almost a year ago, that have slashed Iran's oil revenues. The goal is to pressure Tehran to stop efforts to enrich uranium to levels that could be used in weapons... Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and Republican Mark Kirk have crafted new sanctions that would punish foreign banks that handle transactions for a broad sector of industries, including shipping, ports, ship building and more types of energy. 'Our significant effort right now is in pursuing areas of the economy that can lead to proliferation - energy, shipping, to mention a few,' Menendez said in a brief hallway interview. U.S. persons and companies have long been barred from doing business with Iranian entities. These new sanctions apply to foreign banks, threatening to ban them from the U.S. financial system unless they cut their dealings with Iran. Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he was reviewing a draft version of the sanctions and was amenable to the measures being added to the defense bill... The sanctions would end 'Turkey's game of gold for natural gas,' a senior Senate aide said, referring to reports that Turkey has been paying for natural gas with gold due to sanctions rules. The legislation 'would bring economic sanctions on Iran near de facto trade embargo levels with the hope of speeding up the date by which Iran's economy will collapse,' the aide said. The legislation will also impose new bans on insurance and re-insurance for shipments of a broader range of goods, aides said."

AP: "Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a diagram obtained by The Associated Press. The diagram was leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran's nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon. The officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named. The International Atomic Energy Agency - the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog - reported last year that it had obtained diagrams indicating that Iran was calculating the 'nuclear explosive yield' of potential weapons. A senior diplomat who is considered neutral on the issue confirmed that the graph obtained by the AP was indeed one of those cited by the IAEA in that report. He spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue."

Reuters: "Gazans offered very public thanks to Iran on Tuesday for helping them in this month's fight against Israel, when Iranian-made missiles were fired out of the Palestinian enclave towards Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. 'Thank you Iran', said large billboards on three major road junctions in the Gaza Strip - the first time there has been such public acknowledgement of Iran's role in the arming of Islamic militants in the tiny territory. The message was written in Arabic, English, Hebrew and Farsi. The posters also depicted the Iranian Fajr 5 rockets that were used for the first time to target Israel's two largest population centers. No one was injured in the attacks. The billboards were not signed, but a senior official with the militant group Islamic Jihad, Khader Habib, said it was only natural to show gratitude for Iran's role in the conflict. 'Iranian rockets struck at Tel Aviv. They reached out to Jerusalem. Therefore it was our duty to thank those who helped our people,' he told Reuters."
MTN Banner 
Nuclear Program   

Reuters: "An increase in Iran's higher-grade uranium stockpile is worrying but may arise from a bottleneck in making reactor fuel rather than a bid to quickly accumulate material that could be used for nuclear weapons, diplomats and experts say... Tehran's move this year to use a big part of its most sensitive material - which could otherwise be turned into bomb-grade uranium - for civilian fuel purposes helped ease intense speculation of an imminent attack by the Jewish state. But tension may soon flare again if Iran's holding were to rapidly approach an amount that would be enough for a weapon, either by stepping up output of higher-enriched uranium or by no longer using the material to produce reactor fuel, or both. 'The question is, at what point do they cross the critical point ... when we enter the danger zone?' one senior diplomatic source said. 'Will they decide to voluntarily decide to stay clear of that point?' A U.N. nuclear watchdog report issued this month showed that Iran in late September suddenly stopped converting uranium gas enriched to a fissile concentration of 20 percent into oxide powder to make fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Because Iran's enrichment work at the same time continued unabated, the halt meant that its stockpile of the higher-grade uranium rose by nearly 50 percent to 135 kg in November compared with the level in the previous quarterly report in August."

Reuters: "Iran will go on enriching uranium 'with intensity' and the number of enrichment centrifuges it has operating will rise substantially in the current year, the country's nuclear energy chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday. The comments by Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, signaled continued defiance in the face of international demands that Tehran halt enrichment to the higher 20 percent fissile purity level, close down its Fordow enrichment plant, and ship out its stockpile of the material. But Abbasi-Davani also said Iran would continue and possibly raise its output of reactor fuel using 20 percent enriched uranium, which could allay concerns that a growing stockpile of the higher-grade material could be put to making atom bombs."

RFE/RL: "A rare expression of concern about Iran's nuclear sites and their impact on human health has been expressed by the head of the country's accident and medical emergency center. 'We believe all of our emergency services should be trained and ready to face nuclear accidents,' Gholamreza Massoumi was quoted as saying by Mehr, the country's semiofficial news agency. Massoumi referred to 'accidents' at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), where yellowcake is converted into highly toxic uranium hexafluoride, saying: 'People who have been in the region, for example -- Isfahan's UCF -- have had some accidents for which they have been treated.' Massoumi said that some employees at the Isfahan site had suffered from health issues and warned of 'problems [that] civilians living close to nuclear sites could face.'"

AP: "The International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged Tuesday that one of its servers had been hacked after a previously unknown group critical of Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons program posted contact details for more than 100 experts working for the U.N. nuclear watchdog. A group called 'Parastoo' - Farsi for the swallow bird and a common Iranian girl's name - claimed responsibility for posting the names on its website two days ago."


Bloomberg: "Sekavin SA, a Greek fuel supplier, said it's investigating the origin of a cargo aboard an Iranian tanker off the Mediterranean island of Syros amid a European Union ban on purchases from the Middle East nation. The Baikal arrived at the Greek island yesterday and has the capacity to carry about 1 million barrels of oil or refined products, ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. The cargo of ship fuel hasn't been unloaded, Sekavin Operation Manager Yannis Spyridakis said by phone today. The vessel is flying the Tanzanian flag, he said. NITC, a Tehran-based tanker operator, controls the ship and says the company is owned by Iranian pension funds, data compiled by Bloomberg show... Tanzania-Zanzibar said last month 14 Iranian tankers that were previously registered in Tuvalu were mistakenly signaling the east African territory as their flag state."

Reuters: "Iran's food distribution system is in crisis even though Western sanctions do not directly target the market, badly hurting the poor and turning some staples into luxuries. Private importers are shrinking away from deals made risky by turmoil in the rial currency, and many foreign banks are reluctant to finance even trade exempt from the sanctions for fear of drawing fire simply for doing business with Iran. The result is that the Iranian state is under growing pressure to import and allocate more goods as it tries to avoid any social unrest due to shortages and soaring prices. An increasingly shaky state apparatus will struggle to fill the gap often left by private companies, analysts say. 'If you are talking about the number of deals needed for a country of 75 million ... you do not have an organized overall strategy for finance, purchase and distribution. I do not think they can cope with the challenge,' said Scott Lucas, a specialist in Iranian affairs at Birmingham University. 'Even if the sanctions were lifted, which is a huge if, the problems in the system are now so endemic I think they face real serious structural problems.'"

AFP: "A former Iranian ambassador on Tuesday won his court battle against extradition from Britain to the United States for allegedly conspiring to smuggle arms to Iran. Nosratollah Tajik, Iran's former ambassador to Jordan, is wanted by Washington over claims that he conspired to export US night-vision equipment to Iran without a licence. The 59-year-old was arrested in 2006 after agents from the US Department of Homeland Security pretended to be co-conspirators in a sting operation. The extradition process has been held up over fears that sending Tajik to the US could exacerbate diplomatic British-Iranian relations and create a 'real threat' to staff at the British embassy in Tehran."

Human Rights

Reuters: "A U.N. General Assembly committee on Tuesday condemned Syria and Iran for widespread human rights abuses, but both Damascus and Tehran dismissed the separate votes as politically motivated. The draft resolution on Syria, which was co-sponsored by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Britain, France and other Arab and Western states, received 132 votes in favor - 10 more than a similar resolution last year received - along with 12 against and 35 abstentions. The resolution on Iran, which was drafted by Canada and co-sponsored by other Western countries, received 83 votes in favor, 31 against and 68 abstentions... The resolution on Iran voiced 'deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran relating to, inter alia, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations.' It also criticized the 'continuing alarming high frequency of the carrying-out of the death penalty (in Iran) in the absence of internationally recognized safeguards, including an increase in the number of public executions.'"

The National: "Now entering her seventh week on hunger strike in Tehran's infamous Evin prison, Nasrin Sotoudeh is alarmingly weak in body but steely as ever in spirit. When her distraught husband, Reza Khandan, was allowed a rare visit recently, he asked how long she would continue to refuse food. She replied: 'My hunger strike is unlimited.' Slight and dark-haired, soft-spoken and modest, the 49-year-old mother-of-two from a religious middle-class family is one of Iran's most prominent human-rights lawyers, garlanded abroad for her courageous defence of dissidents. The European Parliament last month awarded her its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, previously won by former South African president Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy figure. Tehran is under increasing international pressure over her plight and that of many like Ms Sotoudeh who have received draconian sentences for championing democratic reform in Iran."

Foreign Affairs

NYT: "For years, the United States and its Middle East allies were challenged by the rising might of the so-called Shiite crescent, a political and ideological alliance backed by Iran that linked regional actors deeply hostile to Israel and the West. But uprising, wars and economics have altered the landscape of the region, paving the way for a new axis to emerge, one led by a Sunni Muslim alliance of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey. That triumvirate played a leading role in helping end the eight-day conflict between Israel and Gaza, in large part by embracing Hamas and luring it further away from the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah fold, offering diplomatic clout and promises of hefty aid. For the United States and Israel, the shifting dynamics offer a chance to isolate a resurgent Iran, limit its access to the Arab world and make it harder for Tehran to arm its agents on Israel's border."

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

No comments:

Post a Comment