WHITE HOUSE TAKES AIM AT TEHRAN’S CENTRAL BANK
Washington — The White House announced tightened sanctions against Iran on Monday because of its suspect nuclear program, freezing all property of the central bank of Iran, other Iranian financial institutions and the Iranian government in this country.
The tightening also raised the warning to financial institutions in other nations that they could face big penalties in the United States if they do business with the Iran’s central bank.
The actions, which are allowed under a new sanctions measure that became law this year, were ordered by President Barack Obama in an executive order he signed Sunday, the White House said.
In a statement, the White House said the executive order “re-emphasizes this administration’s message to the government of Iran – it will face ever-increasing economic and diplomatic pressure until it addresses the international community’s well-founded and well-documented concerns regarding the nature of its nuclear program.”
The timing, a Treasury Department official said, was driven by the need for the administration to reach out to allies and other countries to explain how the sanctions will work. Many of these countries buy oil from Iran through its central bank and face potential sanctions in the United States if they continue to do. New York Times
DIPLOMATS ALLEGE NUCLEAR UPGRADE
Vienna — Iran is believed to be expanding uranium enrichment activity deep inside a mountain, diplomatic sources said on Monday, a move likely to add to tension with Western powers that suspect Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons capability.
The move to increase sensitive nuclear work at the Fordow underground site near the Shia Muslim holy city of Qom, even if expected, underlines the Islamic state’s defiance in the face of intensifying Western pressure to curb such activity.
Iran last month confirmed it had begun refining uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 per cent at Fordow, shifting its highest-grade enrichment from an above-ground location to better protect it against any strikes by Israel or the United States.
Washington, which has not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to resolve the long-running nuclear dispute, on Jan. 9 denounced the start-up of the Fordow plant as a further escalation of Iran’s “ongoing violations” of U.N. resolutions. Reuters
IRAN ARRESTS SEVERAL ON ALLEGED LINKS TO BBC FARSI-LANGUAGE SERVICE
Tehran — Iranian authorities have arrested several people over alleged links to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Farsi-language service, Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported Monday.
The report said they produced content and reported to the BBC. It said they facilitated training and hiring of some Iranian journalists and arranged trips abroad for them.
It quoted an unnamed official as saying they were active since 2009. It did not name them or say how many were arrested.
In London, the BBC said in a statement that the report “should be of deep concern to all those who believe in a free and independent media.” The British broadcaster said it has “no BBC Persian staff members or stringers working inside Iran.”
Tehran has accused the BBC of operating as a cover for British intelligence and of hosting Iranian dissidents.
Last week the BBC accused Iran of intimidating staff members of its Persian service by slandering them and arresting relatives. AP
BART SIMPSON JOINS BARBIE IN BAN
Tehran — The Simpsons are corroding the morals of Iranian youth, an official said on Monday, as dolls based on Bart, Homer and the rest of the American cartoon family joined the shapely Barbie among Western toys targeted by a new crackdown in Tehran.
“The Simpsons dolls are merchandise from an animated series, of which some episodes are even banned in Europe and America,” Mohammad Hossein Farjoo, whose agency oversees what Iranian children can play with, told the Sharq newspaper. He did not elaborate on what episodes might have been censored elsewhere.
“We do not want to promote this cartoon by importing the toys,” added Mr. Farjoo, whose full title is Secretary for Policy-making at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in Tehran.
The Islamic Republic’s morality police, fighting “Western intoxication” as the dispute over nuclear technology has raised fears of war, last month went on a drive against Barbie.
The American doll’s full figure and revealing wardrobe particularly offend Iran’s leaders, who decree that women must be fully swathed in loose-fitting clothes in public. “Imports of all kinds of dolls that display full adult figures are banned because they promote Western culture,” Mr. Farjoo said.
However, Mr. Farjoo said that all-American superheroes like Superman and Spiderman were still welcome in Iran: They do battle for the oppressed.
The values of the Simpsons, a famously self-centered and irreligious bunch, were not. Reuters