Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama used a secret channel of communication (NYT) to warn Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, against closing the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, government officials reportedly said. Iran threatened to close the strait–a vital shipping lane for transporting the world's oil–as the United States and Europe moved to sanction Iran over its nuclear program, which the West says is intended for manufacturing a nuclear weapon.
At the same time, Iran shifted course and said it would allow inspectors (WSJ) from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the country later this month. The move came on the heels of the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran on Wednesday, for which Iran has blamed the United States and Israel.
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"Pro-democracy forces in Iran, which have been under extreme pressure since the disputed 2009 presidential election, say the assassinations are likely to backfire against the West–enhancing the military state by legitimizing the nuclear program in the eyes of the Iranian people," writes Omid Memarian on the DailyBeast.com.
"While Washington leads the global effort to press economic sanctions on Tehran, Israeli leaders frequently make thinly veiled suggestions that it may not be able to restrain itself from launching military action on Iran; they also never bother to deny a leading role in covert efforts to slow the nuclear program," write TIME's Karl Vick and Aaron J. Klein.
"Like every other government, Iran's ruling elite are interested in self-preservation and those that are bellicose are always looking for reasons to justify their hostility toward the U.S. and its allies. The only thing that's almost certain now is that Iran's hardliners will feel emboldened by more punitive U.S. measures and rhetoric," writes Jasmin Ramsey for al-Jazeera.
Syria Blocks Aid Convoy; Activists Call for Nationwide Rallies
Syrian border guards blocked a convoy of 150 expatriates from crossing the Turkish border to deliver food and medical aid to anti-government protesters (al-Jazeera) who have been under assault by Syrian security forces.
Meanwhile, Syrian activists called for nationwide anti-government rallies in support of the Free Syrian Army (VOA), an armed rebel group comprised of army defectors.
Syria's regime appears increasingly isolated and erratic in response to civil unrest, posing a challenge to the Arab League to prevent a spread of conflict, says CFR's Robert M. Danin in this interview.
Myanmar Frees Political Prisoners
Myanmar's military-backed civilian government released hundreds of political prisoners today–including prominent activists that led the country's 1988 pro-democracy uprising–as part of an ongoing effort to institute political reforms (NYT) and engage with the international community.
In this Policy Innovation Memorandum, CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick argues that the United States should play a much larger role in shaping Myanmar's reforms by launching a new strategy of engagement, including a sizable aid package, upgraded diplomatic relations, and an end to U.S. sanctions.
CHINA: In a shift of tactics, Chinese authorities allowed dissident author Yu Jie to seek asylum (WSJ) in the United States. Yu Jie said he had been repeatedly denied permission to leave China after being beaten by security agents in late 2010.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Marines Identified in Afghanistan Urination Video
The Pentagon identified two of four U.S. marines who appeared in an online video that apparently showed themurinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters (Guardian). The incident comes ahead of planned peace talks between the United States and the Taliban.
PAKISTAN: Amid mounting tensions between the civilian government and the military (ExpressTribune), U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged Pakistan to resolve the situation according to the country's democratic laws and constitution.
Nigerian Unions Suspend Protests
Nigerian trade unions announced a two-day suspension of a nationwide strike (BBC) protesting a government decision to eliminate a fuel subsidy. The suspension will allow for continued negotiations with President Goodluck Jonathan.
If Nigeria's oil production is cut off, it could affect the United States, which is an importer of Nigerian oil, writes CFR's John Campbell on his blog Africa in Transition.
KENYA: Somalia's al-Shabaab Islamist rebels (al-Jazeera) killed six people and kidnapped three others in a cross-border raid into Kenya's northeastern Wajir district. The move appears to be a response to Kenya's deployment of troops to southern Somalia last year.
U.S. Officer Recommends Court Martial in WikiLeaks Case
Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the U.S. military officer who conducted an evidentiary hearing (NYT) over charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning, recommended the private face a court martial. Manning is accused of leaking thousands of government documents to the whistle blowing website WikiLeaks.
ECB Holds Interest Rate at 1 Percent
The European Central Bank left its main interest rate at 1 percent, noting "tentative signs of stabilization" (WSJ)in the eurozone following a move by the bank to provide European financial institutions with $635 billion in new loans.
GREECE: Athens is negotiating with private sector creditors (DeutscheWelle) over an approximately $128 billion debt write down–part of a second EU-IMF bailout negotiated last year–in advance of the country's next bond redemption in March.
The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed.
Deficit $47 Billion Less in Q1 of 2012
The U.S. federal deficit is $47 billion less in the first quarter of 2012 than 2011 (AP). Government revenues totaled $555 billion in the first quarter, a 4 percent increase from 2011.
The U.S. Congressional Budget Office released its Final Sequestration Report for Fiscal Year 2012. These reports must provide estimates on discretionary budget authority caps for the coming year and each year through 2021.
INFRASTRUCTURE: Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Bill Shuster praised the efforts of both Democrats and Republicans in passing the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (The Hill).
Renewing America is a special CFR project focused on the domestic underpinnings of U.S. global competitiveness, including the debt and deficit, infrastructure, education, innovation, trade, and corporate regulation and taxes.
I dont understand why Obama so silent....8000 people already killed by bashar al kalb in syria, many more killed in iran prison, and hizboallah are killing the oppositions in lebanon ,iraq and syria.......Qadhafi killed few hundreds and he was gone...is that because suria have not much oil!? how about IRAN THEY are helping syria and hizboallah and they have oil , evil helping evil, terrorist helping terrorist why USA is silent!? attack now before it is too late. IRAN WITH A NUCK IS LIKE A DEVIL IN CONTROL OF THE UNIVERSE. If obama want to win this election he must attack iran now. get red of the snake head and the rest will be dead slowley.....
And let the soldiers go on vacation for the rest of their life :).
Iranians couldn't close their own mouths. Hahahahahahaahahahahahah
The problem here is that the right-wing thugs in Washington don't want this situaton to be diffused. What scares me the most is that we'll have another war and another "glorious victory" for these people! Does anybody here have any notion of just how much pain and suffering such a conflict will bring? I guess not and that I find to be quite sickening!!!
I find it even more sickening that all those whining about "another war" offer NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE to convince Iran not to pursue nukes. Do YOU have any notion of just how much pain and suffering a conflict with NUCLEAR ARMED IRAN will bring?
Thank you, George. I couldn't agree more! We need to rid ourselves of all these warmongering politicians in Washington since they're the very root of the problem!!!
Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani said during a visit in Turkey that he had accepted Ankara's offer to try to restart the six-party-talks on his country's controversial nuclear program.
These talks should be very short: Dismantle Iranian nuclear weapons program or else...
The fear costs more--–than the actual ••••••••
The longer the World is waiting for-–, since the last several Years, Iran bought/spent more times ....................
Let them close it.
Shoot and kill those shiia Muslims thugs, why USA are cowered toward Iran, that's why we must elect the republican again, those dark evil empire of Iran must end they must be destroyed.
UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy and all the NATO force must start attacking now before it is too late, we must attack 24 hours round the clock, all target , command and control, radars, soft targets, all boats and ships, all submarines, all the reactors, all the government building, dams, QUM, ayatollah house and compound, destroy those evil
you are an idiot!!!!!!
we must elect republican... I agree , Ron Paul!
So he can pull all those troops (poor kids) back home so we can build our economy and not wage wars on poor innocent people of Iran so few "fat cats" can get richer on their oil.
Come on ...wake up.
Can you explain how will President Ron Paul (in your opinion, of course) solve the problem in case Iran will succeed in developing a nuclear bomb and will decide to use it against Israel and if Israel will respond by turning Iran and, possibly, some other oil producing countries into a radioactive wasteland? Hint: this will result it a world-wide crisis of epic proportions ending our civilization as we know it...
Foreign policy was the one and only bright spot for current U.S administration but that's getting messy now. Health care was handled badly by current administration from the begining. So, that's already a mess. Stimulus was a success but that's just printing money to keep the doors open for police workers, teachers and many essential tasks that's absolutely necessary for a government to do its job. Foreign olicy was executed better because this current administration had better people to execute foreign policy and domestic policy was bad because they did not have people who could execute domestic policy more effectively. That's hard fact.
STOP PROVOKING IRAN.
Media is playing its role in building the invasion case. Stop!
Haven't we learned anything from "weapons of mass distraction" case and invading Iraq under false evidence?
Haven't we learned anything from "Golf of Tonkin Incident" and provoking Vietnam war?
BRING ALL TROOPS BACK HOME. Stop policing the world. Stop invading the war. Leave those people alone. Stop fighting for oil. Focus on developing "alternative" energy technologies, to oil technologies, such as solar, wind etc.
This imperialistic foreign policies seem to be for the benefit of few at the expense of many.
Can you please convince Iranian leaders to STOP PROVOKING Israel and the US? Thank you.
Pakistan is in a political turmoil. The schism between the civilian government and the military wouldn't lead to a coup. This current adminstration, though weak has survived longer than any other in Pakistan's history.
IRAN IS HELPING THE TERRORIST ORGANIZATION HEZBOLLAH WHICH 100 TIME WORSE THAN AL QAEDA, IRAN THUGS ARE HELPING SYRIA MINORITY GOVERNMENT WITH MONEY AND WEAPONS M IRAN PAY RUSSIA THE MONEY AND RUSSIAN EVIL EMPIRE BRINGING THE WEAPONS TO SYRIAN SEA PORT,,,,IRAN HELPING IRAQI SHIIA THUGS TO KILL CHRISTEAN'S AND OTHERS, THEY ALSO DESTROYING LEBANON BAHRAIN YEMEN AND HAMAS.....THEY ARE EVIL CULT
, WORSE THAN HITLER..WE MUST ACT NOW, RON PAUL IS THE VILLAGE IDIOT IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY NO BETTER THAN THIS HALF MUSLIM PRESIDENT ( OBAMA), IRAN DO HAVE WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND WHEN THEY HAVE WORSE THEY WILL USE IT THEY ALREADY MENTIONED THAT ON TV AND IN THE UN GO READ AHMEDI NEJAD SPEECH IN THE UN..... NOW IRAN HELPING CHINA AND THE COMMUNIST VENEZUELA REGIMES...AND EVEN EXPANDING TO AFRICA OPENING SAFE HOUSES UNDER PRAYERS PLACES CALLED HUSAYNIA..!!!THOSE EVIL WILL NEVER STOP UNTIL THEY DESTROY EVERY GOOD IN THIS EARTH......EVIL CAN SMILE AND LIE EVIL CAN SHOW YOU HE IS GOOD...DONT BE FOOL. WORLD PEACE , IRAN DONT HAVE PEACE IN THEIR DICTIONARY.
FU,,,,,,,,,,C ALL IRANIANS , MOT2A PEOPLE, FANATICS SHIIA THUGS THEY LIES AND CALLED IT TAQEYA. THEY HAVE SSE........X AND CALL IT MOT3A HALAL..THOSE PEACE OF SHI....T SHOULD BE TAKEN OUT FROM THE FACE OF THIS EARTH , SEND THEM TO THE 72 VERGINS AND TO THE ALMAHDI THAT THEY WAITING FOR ...HE IS HIDING IN THE SERDAB, mmmmmmmmmmm what he is doing in serdab hiding like a chicken or cowered little mulla....
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