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Campaign has yet to fully test Romney analysis Iran sanctions

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					                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ARAB TIMES, WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012
    ISSUES                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                14

                                                      Former Massachusetts governor’s string of luck and efficiency may have dark lining

Campaign has yet to fully test Romney: analysis
WASHINGTON, Jan 3, (AP): Mitt                 take-free campaign so far. But his string      firm and “the number of times he has         Hampshire or South Carolina, which          that has shaped the campaign for             relating to ordinary Iowans.”
Romney’s surprisingly easy rise to the        of luck and efficiency might have a dark       reinvented his positions,” said Jen Psaki,   votes on Jan 21. But Romney’s consis-       months, Romney didn’t need to wage a            With Romney’s Republican rivals
top of Iowa presidential polls, aided by      lining. He hasn’t been forced to hone          a former Obama White House aide. “But        tent failure to galvanize the Republican    counter-attack on Santorum by himself.       doing little to hit his soft spots, Obama’s
his Republican rivals’ in-fighting, masks     incisive answers to tough questions cer-       regardless of when the field narrows,”       base leaves a door open for the others to   Texas Gov Rick Perry called Santorum a       supporters are stepping up. Democratic
vulnerabilities he will have to confront      tain to rise in debates if he faces only one   she said, “there will be plenty of time to   keep asking conservatives to coalesce       weak candidate who can’t defeat              officials moved into Iowa over the
eventually.                                   or two remaining Republican opponents,         explore his record in more depth.”           around an alternative.                      Obama. On MSNBC, Perry noted that            weekend for a host of events and cam-
   Even if he wins Tuesday’s caucuses         or Obama.                                         Former House Speaker Newt                    If that fails, and Romney becomes the    Santorum badly lost his 2006 Senate re-      paign videos aimed at Romney.
that lead off the state-by-state nominat-        Romney appears testy on the rare            Gingrich has all but conceded that           nominee, then Democrats can hope            election bid in Pennsylvania, proving           Speakers included Randy Johnson,
ing contests, Romney has yet to excite        occasions when pressed about his policy        Romney will out-perform him, and per-        right-wing disenchantment will depress      “he can’t win races when it matters          who worked at an Indiana paper plant
his party’s restless conservative base.       shifts and his Massachusetts program           haps everyone else, in the Iowa caucus-      Republican turnout in November. Many        against a liberal Democrat.”                 bought in 1992 by Bain Capital, a corpo-
And his rivals’ focus on each other has       that required residents to obtain health       es. But Gingrich, the victim of withering    Republicans scoff at the idea. Animosity       The Des Moines Register’s final poll      rate reorganization firm that Romney
let Romney skate along with minimal           insurance. Democrats enjoy replaying a         TV attacks funded by Romney allies,          toward Obama and his economic record        of Iowa Republicans highlights               once headed. Johnson, one of the work-
focus on his contentious health care          Nov 30 Fox News interview of Romney            says Romney will come under hotter fire      will unite conservatives, they say.         Romney’s inability thus far to attract a     ers laid off when the plant closed after
record and his changed positions on           expressing irritation at such questions.       in New Hampshire, whose primary is                        Conservative                   large and enthusiastic plurality of voters   Bain took on heavy debts, said Romney
abortion, gay rights and other issues            But Romney has benefitted from a rel-       Jan 10. “New Hampshire is the perfect                                                    in his party, let alone a majority. One in   seemed more concerned about profits
                                              atively weak field of rivals who, from                                                        Playing off that idea Monday, former
since his days as Massachusetts gover-                                                       state to have a debate over Romneycare       Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum urged       four likely caucus-goers named Romney        than employees.
nor.                                          the start, mostly criticized each other in     and to have a debate about tax-paid abor-                                                as their top pick, essentially tying him        Romney faced similar charges in
                                              hopes of becoming the party’s conserva-                                                     Iowa’s undecided Republicans to nomi-
   Groups friendly to President Barack                                                       tions, which he signed,” Gingrich told       nate a true conservative, himself.          with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.                 1994, when he ran unsuccessfully for the
Obama plan to use the “flip-flopper”          tive alternative to Romney.                    reporters Sunday in Iowa. “And to have                                                      Romney held an overwhelming lead          Senate from Massachusetts against Sen.
                                                                                                                                          Alluding to Romney, Santorum
label against Romney if he’s the nomi-                        Problems                       a debate about appointing liberal judges,    implored voters to “not settle for some-    on one key question: who is most elec-       Edward Kennedy. His campaign says
nee. They hope it will damage him as            Those candidates’ various problems           which he did.”                               one as your nominee who might be able       table next fall. He trailed far behind       Bain Capital had many success stories
much as it did Democrat John Kerry in         have left them “too weak to exploit Mitt          It’s not clear that Gingrich will have    to win the election but it might be a       Gingrich on “who is most knowledge-          and a handful of failures in its efforts to
2004.                                         Romney’s       vulnerabilities,”     which     enough money to wage an effective cam-       pyrrhic victory.”                           able.” And Iowa Republicans ranked           make companies more efficient and
   Romney has run a smart, nearly mis-        include his tenure at a corporate takeover     paign against Romney in New                    In the type of second-tier squabbling     Romney fifth when asked who is “best at      competitive.


  Iran rejects sanctions
                                                                            United States
No ‘impact’
on currency
TEHRAN, Iran, Jan 3, (AP): Iran said
Tuesday that the steep depreciation in
the country’s currency against the US
dollar was not linked to US new sanc-
tions targeting its Central Bank, while
officials geared up for a meeting to
assess possible measures to shore up the
riyal in an already ailing economy.
   Since President Barack Obama on
Saturday signed into law a bill that takes
aim at Iran’s Central Bank, the riyal hit a
new record low, dropping by around 13
percent against the dollar and reaching
18,000 riyals to the dollar on Monday.
On Dec 29, currency traders were offer-
ing 15,900 riyals to the dollar while the
official rate, which few but the govern-
ment pay attention to, is 11,180 riyals to
the dollar.
   The pressure on the currency has
become the latest economic blow to the
country’s economy, which is under sev-
eral rounds of US, United Nations and
European Union sanctions because of its
controversial nuclear program. Critics
have argued that President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad’s stewardship of the econ-
omy has brought few gains.
   The decline in the currency’s value “is
not related to the sanctions,” Foreign
Ministry         spokesman           Ramin
Mehmanparast, arguing that the sanc-
tions had yet to take effect. “For the time
being, it has nothing to do with foreign
policy.”
   The semiofficial Mehr news agency
reported Monday that the Central Bank
was planning on holding a meeting of
experts to discuss the volatility in the
currency markets. The meeting was slat-
ed for Wednesday. On Tuesday, the riyal
had regained some strength and was
trading at about 17,000 riyals to the dol-
lar.
   The latest sanctions signed by Obama
include an amendment barring foreign
financial institutions that do business
with Iran’s Central Bank from opening
or maintaining correspondent operations
in the United States. The Obama admin-
istration, however, is looking to soften
the impact of the measure, fearing they
could lead to a spike in global crude oil
prices or pressure key allies that import
Iranian oil.
                Pressure
   The measures add new pressure to a
hardline government that has already
come under tremendous pressure from
the US and its allies over a nuclear pro-
gram the West maintains is aimed at
developing weapons. Iran says its pro-
gram is purely peaceful.
   The standoff prompted threats last
week by Iran to shutter the Strait of                                                         Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop on Jan 1 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (AFP)
Hormuz, a waterway through which a
sixth of the world’s oil moves to market.
   While few believe that Iran would                                                                        US tries to avoid upsetting friendly governments
actually take the step, the warnings
appear to reflect Iranian officials’
unease with the sanctions regime and
the effect they are having on the coun-
try. Iran relies on oil exports for about
80 percent of its annual foreign rev-
                                              Iran sanctions carefully targeted
enue, and sanctions targeting its oil, or     WASHINGTON, Jan 3, (RTRS):                     for a lot of folks,” said Brian              with Iran’s oil customers.                  for institutions that have forward              Tehran signaled during the week-
even a unilateral move by Tehran to           The United States has armed itself             Katulis, a security expert at the               China, the No. 1 customer for            contracts with Iranian companies —           end that it was ready to resume
withhold its crude from the market
,would deprive government coffers of          with some of the toughest sanctions            Center for American Progress.                Iran’s oil, and Russia have both            blunting the immediate impact of             talks on its nuclear program with
sorely-needed cash.                           yet targeting Iran but must carefully             “They are going to wait to see            resisted additional sanctions on            the new law, while retaining the             the United States, Russia, China,
   Amid the international political tussle,   assess how to avoid catching ener-             how this signal is received before           Tehran and are unlikely to be               threat of full implementation.               Britain, France and Germany that
the economic situation in the country         gy-importing allies such as Japan,             they take any further steps.”                swayed by the new US law, ana-                 The new US sanctions came at a            stalled in January.
grows increasingly less palatable for         South Korea and India in the cross-               The new US measures target both           lysts said.                                 moment of increasing tension with               Western officials have said
Iranians.                                     fire.                                          private and government-controlled               But for countries such as Turkey,        Tehran, which in recent days Iran            repeatedly they still want to talk to
   The official inflation rate remains at        President Barack Obama signed               banks, including central banks, and          which gets about 30 percent of its          has tested long-range missiles and           Tehran but only if it is ready to dis-
more than 19 percent, while analysts          the law on Saturday imposing sanc-             would take hold after a two- to six-         oil from Iran, or India, which gets         staged 10 days of naval exercises in         cuss the core concerns about its
argue it is significantly higher than that    tions on financial institutions that           month warning period depending               11 percent, the prospect of a US            the Gulf. Iran also warned it could          nuclear program.
level. Subsidy cuts on food and energy        deal with Iran’s central bank, the             on the transactions.                         waiver could reduce anxieties over          shut the Strait of Hormuz, through              Tehran says the nuclear program
that were pushed through Parliament last      main clearinghouse through which                                                            the sanctions and consolidate sup-          which 40 percent of world oil is             is purely for peaceful purposes but
year by Ahmadinejad are very unpopu-                                                                        Concerns
                                              Opec’s No. 2 oil exporter deals with                                                        port for Washington’s aggressive            shipped, if sanctions were imposed           the United States and others fear it
lar, and economists warned long before        clients around the world. The new                 US officials acknowledge that                                                                                                      is aimed at producing atomic
they were enacted that they could further                                                                                                 stance on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.         on its crude exports.
                                              US sanctions were pushed through               allies such as Japan have concerns,                                                                                                   weapons.
stoke inflation. Since the cuts were                                                                                                         “There is increased frustration             Oil markets have been closely
                                              Congress despite misgivings among              and have built in several provisions                                                                                                     George Lopez, a sanctions expert
implemented, food and energy prices                                                                                                       from many of these nations when             watching the standoff between
                                              administration officials, who now              designed to make the new law more                                                                                                     at the University of Notre Dame,
have spiked.                                                                                                                              they see that previous rounds of            Tehran and the West, with oil prices
                                              must consider how to implement                 of a scalpel than an axe.                                                                                                             said the new US sanctions could
   While Iranian economists, for now,                                                                                                     sanctions haven’t done what they            finding some support from Iranian
argue that the latest sanctions may not be    the law without roiling global ener-              The law allows Obama to exempt                                                                                                     strengthen Washington’s hand going
                                                                                                                                          were intended to do,” said Trita            threats to cut off the Strait of
directly influencing the currency, the        gy markets or upsetting friendly               institutions in a country that has                                                                                                    into any new talks with Iran after a
                                                                                                                                          Parsi, an Iran expert and head of the       Hormuz last week.
new measures add to already existing          governments that depend in part on             significantly reduced its dealings                                                                                                    year of steadily increasing econom-
                                                                                                                                          National Iranian American Council.             Top global exporter Saudi Arabia
angst in the country.                         Iranian crude oil imports.                     with Iran. He may also grant                                                                                                          ic pressure.
                                                                                                                                             “Part of the administration argu-        has sought to assure markets, pledg-
   Banking analyst Farid Ziaolmaleki, in         Political analysts said Washington          waivers deemed to be in the US                                                                                                           “This is the book-end to a series
comments echoed by others, believes                                                                                                       ment going into an election against         ing to make up for any shortfalls in
                                              hopes the new sanctions will spur              national security interest or other-                                                                                                  of measures that began late last
that more Iranians are turning to the cur-                                                                                                a Republican candidate is that              Iranian crude supplies to Europe.
                                              foreign banks to change their                  wise necessary for energy market                                                                                                      spring in coordination with the
rency speculation, buying up dollars, as                                                                                                  Obama has been able to create a                              Talks
                                              behavior before the United States is           stability. Obama would need to                                                                                                        EU,” Lopez said.
inflation has outpaced the 12 to 15 per-                                                                                                  much stronger international coali-
                                              required to begin freezing them out            notify Congress and waivers would                                                           Tehran already is subject to four            “It sends a strong message to
cent interest rates offered by banks.                                                                                                     tion against Iran. You can’t make
                                              of US financial markets.                       be temporary but they could be                                                           rounds of UN sanctions because of            (Iranian President Mahmoud)
   Compounding the pressure on the                                                                                                        that argument if you end up in a
riyal that such speculation could have,          “The sanctions will force a                 extended.                                                                                its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear        Ahmadinejad and also to domestic
                                                                                                                                          conflict with some of those allies.”
merchants have also taken to calculating      choice between buying Iranian oil                 White House officials declined to                                                     activities and faces more pain if the        constituents that we’re not backing
                                              or engaging in the US financial sys-           say which countries have sought                             Waivers                      European Union follows the United            off. But it is also a strong message
the price of their wares in dollars, hoping
for a steeper depreciation in the Iranian     tem, the largest in the world. That is         waivers or how they expect the                  Waivers also could be selectively        States and bans imports of Iranian           that they should come back to the
currency.                                     going to change the risk calculus              sanctions to impact US relations             granted for humanitarian reasons or         crude oil.                                   table.”

				
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