Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
UPDATE: Oil rose to a nine-month high in New York following Iran’s announcement that it would no longer export crude to Britain and France. Futures rose as much as 2.1 percent, reports Bloomberg. On Monday, Iran’s deputy oil minister warned that oil exports might also be banned to other European Union countries.
Meanwhile, senior U.N. inspectors arrived in Iran for two days of meetings in which the members of the International Atomic Energy Agency will try to get Tehran to answer questions about its nuclear program, reports Reuters.
While there is increasing talk about a possible Israeli air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, a fascinating article in the New York Times makes it clear that it would be no simple task. Some in Washington even question whether Israel has the capacity to carry it out, warning that it may be expecting the United States to finish the job.
Sunday, Feb. 19: Iran has put the brakes on any oil shipments to British and French companies, the country’s Oil Ministry said Sunday. The move is largely pre-emptive since the European Union had already said it would stop importing crude from Iran starting July 1 as part of its sanctions relating to the country’s nuclear program, reports Reuters.
The European Commission had said that any halt in exports from Iran would not have an immediate impact as the bloc has enough oil in stock to cover 120 days of demand. Besides, companies were already decreasing their purchase of Iranian oil amid heightening tensions.
Meanwhile, officials from the U.N. nuclear watchdog are scheduled to hold two days of meetings starting Monday in Tehran. Inspectors had been denied access to certain nuclear sites and scientists last month. IAEA officials aren’t optimistic this visit will go much better.
The Associated Press hears word that Iran is ready to greatly expand its uranium enrichment program at its underground Frodo facility. Diplomats say Tehran looks ready to install “thousands of new-generation centrifuges” that can produce enriched uranium much more quickly.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned in an interview with the BBC that Iran seems to have “increased its willingness to contemplate utterly illegal activities in other parts of the world.” Hague said that recent events, including an alleged attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., illustrate “the danger Iran is currently presenting to the peace of the world.” Despite this acknowledgment though, both Hague and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey warned against an Israeli attack on Iran, reports the Associated Press.
As tensions continue to increase, President Obama’s national security adviser is in Israel for high-level talks about Iran’s nuclear program Sunday. Tom Donilon is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid increasing speculation that Israel is planning to attack Iran. Before Donilon’s visit a senior U.S. official told Haaretz that while it seems “Israel still has not decided whether to attack or not … it is clear to us that it is being considered seriously.”