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Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani arrested: Judiciary
Experts say Babak Zanjani's estimated net worth is around USD 13.8 billion. The corporate mogul, aged nearly 40, owns and operates many holdings and companies, including the UAE-based Sorinet group, Qeshm Airlines and Rah Ahan Football Club in Iran. - 12/31/13

An important issue in the Caspian region: Internationalization of Volga-Don Waterway
The Russians believe that the Volga-Don channel is completely an internal waterway, while the new condition of the Caspian Sea requires some kind of reconsideration in this regard and possibly making the Volga-Don channel an international waterway or a waterway under a special regime. -Bahman Aghai Diba - 12/31/13

Iranian tourism lingering under shadow of government control
In view of efforts to improve diplomatic relations with the West, Iran's tourism industry is anticipating improvements after years of stagnation. However, the government's lack of support and certain shortages are challenging travel agencies, tour organizers and the hospitality sector. - 12/31/13

Iran's Top Nuclear Negotiator Cites 'Good Progress' At Talks
Iranian state television aired an interview with negotiator Abbas Araqchi on December 31 in which he said the previous day's meeting with representatives from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany -- the so-called P5+1 group -- stretched until 4:30 a.m. - 12/31/13

Iran: Hunger strike turns critical for Kurdish prisoners
Six Iranian Kurdish prisoners are facing serious health complications after 56 days on a hunger strike. The Human Rights Organization of Iran reports that the six prisoners, who have been on hunger strike since November 4, are "in serious danger of death." - 12/31/13

Omani Sultan Enabled Fruitful US Diplomacy with Iran
The Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said's history of serving as an interlocutor between the US and Iran has mostly been told in whispers and pieces, but now we have a straight-talking Wall Street Journal chronicle of his role -Jasmin Ramsey - 12/31/13

Understanding the Geneva II Conference
On Jan. 22, 2014, the long-promised Geneva II conference will begin, with close to 30 countries sending delegations in a last-ditch bid to end the violence in Syria. - Tyler Cullis, LobeLog - 12/31/13

The Iranian stars who were purged from history
History is written by the victors. This adage is glaringly true in Iran, where press and TV archives were shut down after the revolution in 1979, as the country's new leaders sought to suppress anyone who didn't fit in with their ideal of an Islamic state. Actors, models, or athletes who were big stars just a few decades ago have been all but forgotten - except by a few people, like our Observer, who painstakingly track down the little information they can find. -France24 - 12/31/13

US and Iran's First Joint Military Venture: Fighting al Qaeda in Iraq
With the Geneva Nuclear Accord still far from implementation a month after it was signed in Geneva, the United States and Iran are moving into stage two of their rapprochement: They are now fighting together to crush Al Qaeda terror in Iraq, DEBKAfile's exclusive military sources report. -Debka - 12/31/13

Photos: The People Of Bam, 10 Years After Quake
On December 26, 2003, the city of Bam in southern Iran was hit with a devastating quake. About 32,000 people lost their lives as the quake flattened 70% of Bam's buildings and equally devastated the nearby town of Baravat and 260 area villages. Tens of thousands more lost their livelihoods. Ten years later, the shadow of the quake still hangs over the city of Bam. - 12/30/13

Photos: Rescue of an Iranian Leopard
A leopard that had been trapped in the crevices of the rocks by the river of Sezar in Sepiddasht region of the city of Khorramabad in western Iran was rescued by the environmental protection officials in an operation that lasted several hours. The injured leopard was treated and cared for before being released back to the wild. - 12/30/13

Iran lawmakers accuse billionaire Zanjani of corruption
Twelve Iranian parliamentarians have accused Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani of corruption, calling for an inquiry into his financial activities, Press TV reports. The Iranian parliamentarians made the request through a letter to the heads of the three branches of the Iranian government. - 12/30/13

Iranian Judiciary maintains hard line about 2009 election protesters
A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary says people convicted of taking part in the 2009 election protests cannot be "forgiven" and the sentences they have received are already the least they deserve. - 12/30/13

Book: A Guide to Survive in Tehran
Bamdad Ghaffari, an Iranian man who returned home in 2012 years after living in Canada, has satirized the lifestyle in the capital in his book "A Guide to Survive in Tehran". The book, which has recently been published by the Bamdad-e No Company, contains twelve articles about the problems of living in the capital - 12/30/13

Iran: Drying wetlands in 40 regions contributing to air pollution
The head of biodiversity for the Department of the Environment reports that 40 wetland areas in Iran have partially or completely dried out. IRNA reports that in 40 regions, the wetlands have dried out anywhere from 20 to 100 percent, and the main cause is the lack of effective management of water resources. - 12/30/13

Member states want EU embassy in Iran, MEP says
Tarja Cronberg, a Finnish Green MEP who chairs the parliament's Iran delegation, said member states' ambassadors in Tehran backed the idea when she met them in the Iranian capital on an official trip earlier this month. - 12/30/13

UK parliamentary team to visit Iran on January 7: MP
A British parliamentary delegation led by former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is scheduled to visit Iran on January 7, a senior Iranian lawmaker says. The visit comes at the invitation of the Iran-Britain Parliamentary Friendship Group. - 12/30/13

Iran's Idani wins gold at World Youth Chess Championship
Pouya Idani of Iran won the World Youth Chess Championship 2013 held in Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates on Saturday. It's the first time an Iranian chess player wins a gold medal at the Under-18 category. - 12/30/13

Iran: President Rohani Targets Profiteers Exploiting Sanctions
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has called for a task force to combat those who are driving up their profits by taking advantage of the sanctions. Iranian media reported on Saturday December 28 that deputy president Eshagh Jahangiri has been appointed as the head of this task force, and the government has announced that "healthy economic activity is a priority of the government." - 12/29/13

Iran, major powers to resume nuclear talks Monday
Iran and world powers will resume technical talks in Geneva on Monday on how to implement an interim nuclear deal, according to Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi. - 12/29/13

Dozens of Iran's historic buildings quietly lost protection
The Mehr News Agency reports that 58 historic buildings have been removed from the National Heritage list in the past eight years by orders from the Court of Administrative Justice. The report accuses the former administration of remaining silent in the face of these losses. - 12/29/13

'The Past' Director Asghar Farhadi on Finding Art in Life's Dilemmas
Each new film that Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi releases somehow manages to collect even more awards and accolades than the previous. It will be hard, though, for his new film, The Past, to outdo A Separation's (2011) impressive run, which culminated at the 2012 Oscars with a surprising nomination for original screenplay and taking home the award for best foreign language film. -Chris O'Falt, Hollywood Reporter - 12/29/13

Zoroastrians confront threat to their existence
MUMBAI - The world's tiny but hugely successful Zoroastrian community will confront a demographic crisis which threatens its very existence when it gathers en masse in its spiritual home of Mumbai this week. -The National, UAE - 12/29/13

U.S. State Department Sends Condolences To Iranian FM Via Social Media
The U.S. State Department has turned to social media to express its condolences over the passing of the mother of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. State Department Farsi spokesman Alan Eyre expressed his condolences over the death of Efat Kashani on his Facebook page, which has over 70,000 likes. He also shared the Internet link to his message via Twitter. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 12/28/13

Davari voted best Eintracht Braunschweig player in Bundesliga first half
Daniel Davari was voted the best player of the Eintracht Braunschweig during the first half of the Bundesliga season. The Iranian kept clean sheets against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg and Hanover. - 12/28/13

Khamenei Adviser Calls For Direct U.S. Talks
A top foreign policy adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called for direct talks with the United States over Iran's nuclear program. Ali Akbar Velayati, a defeated presidential candidate, said in an interview on Iran's state-controlled television that the country would benefit from one-on-one talks with members of the so called P5+1. - 12/28/13

Artists urge Iranians to donate benefits to fight pollution
A group of Iranian artists is urging compatriots to begin donating their monthly government benefits to find solutions for the country's worsening environmental problems. - 12/28/13

Iran: Notorious former prosecutor sues officials
Saeed Mortazavi, the notorious former Tehran prosecutor and head of the Social Security Fund, who has been recently accused of corruption by the minister of labour and other officials, announced today, December 27, that he is filing a suit against Labour Minister Ali Rabii as well as Alireza Mahjoub, the head of the committee investigating the Social Security Fund. - 12/28/13

Iran's 'Unforgivable' Opposition
In what appears to be an attempt to strengthen their version of antigovernment protests in June 2009 Iranian hard-liners have published an "Encyclopedia of Sedition," featuring opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karrubi, and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami on the cover. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 12/28/13

Iran building new generation of centrifuges: Salehi
Iran is building a new generation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran director announced in Isfahan on Thursday. "The new generation of centrifuges is being built. But all tests should be carried on it before mass production," Ali Akbar Salehi said, without elaborating. - 12/28/13

Dubai and Iran gain as trade revives
Trade in foodstuffs between Dubai and Iran is picking up, spurred by a more stable exchange rate and hopes for an Iranian re-engagement in the global economy. Related ■ Iran MPs want higher uranium enrichment in case of new sanctions ■ Iran 'committed to nuclear deal' despite US blacklisting ■ Sheikh Khalifa accepts invitation to visit Iran The gradual recovery in the flow of some goods across the Strait of Hormuz reflects a more buoyant Iranian economy, led by a stronger currency and gains in the stock market -The National, UAE - 12/28/13

Photos: Bam Citadel, 10 Years After Quake
Arg-e Bam (Bam citadel) was the largest adobe building in the world, located in Bam, a city in the Kerman Province of southeastern Iran. It is listed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Site "Bam and its Cultural Landscape." - 12/27/13

Christmas in Tehran
The highly sought gift of international inclusion has now been bestowed under Iran's Christmas tree after decades of expectancy. It has been meticulously wrapped with fragile trust, tantalizingly eye-catching potential partnerships to be forged and topped with an attractive bow of complete sanctions reprieve. -Omid Irani - 12/27/13

Photos: Arbaeen 2013
Arbaeen is a Shia Muslim religious observance that occurs 40 days after the Day of Ashura. It commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad which falls on the 20th day of the month of Safar. - 12/27/13

Burn victims' families take grievance to Iranian President's office
The families of 12 burn victims from the Sheenabad school fire disaster staged a sit-in together with students in front of the president's office to protest the lack of financial support for their children's medical bills. - 12/27/13

Turkish Corruption Scandal Fallout Could Spread Across Region
A corruption scandal rocking Turkey forced sudden turnover in the cabinet of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As uncertainty spreads, there's a chance the impact could extend beyond Turkey's borders. -Jeff Seldin, VOA - 12/27/13

Outreach Projects: Advocating for a Culture of Human Rights & Responsibilities
The focus objective of producing human rights advocacy projects has been to amplify that essential to the concept of a culture of human rights is the knowledge of "rights and responsibilities" to be defined, conveyed, and recognized primarily in culture rather than in law. - 12/27/13

Iranian-made gasoline seen as pollution factor
Iran's Department of the Environment says air pollution in the country and particularly in Tehran has reached critical levels and it called for "standard gasoline" to be imported. - 12/27/13

Iranian journalist slams Rohani government for continued press chill
Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin has criticized the new administration for failing to take any effective steps toward freedom of the press. Shamsolvaezin says: "In the media field, there has been no change with the arrival of the new government." - 12/27/13

Hamas on Defensive as it Loses Regional Support, Allies
From Egypt to Tunisia to Turkey, Islamist political movements which seemed on the ascendancy following the 2011 Arab Spring were put on the defensive in 2013. That was also the case for Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled the Gaza Strip since it seized power in a violent conflict with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007. -Mohamed Elshinnawi, VOA - 12/27/13

Concert in Tehran: Iran from Viewpoint of a Japanese Pianist
Noriko Ogawa, the Japanese pianist traveled to Iran last month on an invitation extended to her by the Japanese Embassy in Tehran. During her stay, she performed piano pieces in Iranian cities of Tehran and Shiraz. What follows is a part of her account of the Iran trip which she has sent to the BBC. - 12/26/13

Omid Foundation USA holds fundraising events in DC, Los Angeles and Boston
The Omid Foundations (Empowering disadvantaged young women in Iran ) consist of three registered charities, which were established by Marjaneh Halati, a London-based social psychologist and psychotherapist. Following is some of the recent fundraising activities by Omid Foundation USA. - 12/26/13

Iranian MPs vote to move capital despite reservations
Iranian Parliament has approved the plan to move the political capital out of Tehran. Khaneh Mellat reports that the despite the speaker's recognition that the project comes with "a heavy financial burden", the bill was passed with 110 in favour and 67 opposed with 10 abstaining. - 12/26/13

Iranian journalists group says it's cleared to reopen
The head of the Association of Iranian Journalist has announced that the association will soon reopen. The Association of Iranian Journalist was founded in September of 1997. In July of 2009, in the midst of election protests, the infamous Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi shut it down. - 12/26/13

Contribute to the making of documentary "We the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran"
WTPIRI, a feature length documentary, will tell the story of Iran today and show some pretty amazing people and places. We are looking to start shooting WTPIRI in 2014, and are scheduled tp travel to the Fajr Film Festival in Feb. to meet with some of the people we will feature in the documentary, and enjoy some great films! - 12/26/13

Iran should enrich to 60% to fuel ships if nuclear talks fail: MPs propose
A group of Iranian MPs has prepared a draft bill that would oblige the government to enrich uranium up to a purity of 60 percent if negotiations with the major powers over Tehran's nuclear program fail, a report says. - 12/26/13

Turkey's Cabinet Reshuffled Over Corruption Probe
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reshuffled his Cabinet after three ministers resigned over a high-level graft inquiry. The case is one of the largest-ever judicial probes into government corruption in Turkey. The investigation has centered on the alleged laundering of money from Iran to circumvent international sanctions on Tehran. - 12/26/13

Two European FMs to visit Iran
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt are scheduled to visit Iran within the next two months, Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Wednesday. - 12/26/13

Iranian poets arrested by Revolutionary Guards
An opposition website reports that two poets, Mehdi Mousavi and Fatemeh Ekhtesari, have been arrested by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Kaleme website reports that the two have been under arrest since early December. - 12/25/13

World Against Violence and Extremism
The United Nations General Assembly recently adopted through consensus a resolution based on proposals offered by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who called for a World Against Violence and Extremism. -Gholamali Khoshroo - 12/25/13

Pollution forces school closures, class cancellations in Tehran
The Tehran Air Pollution Committee announced on Monday night that all elementary schools, kindergartens and daycares in Tehran and Shar-e Rey will be closed due to the extreme decline in air quality. - 12/25/13

Iran Sanctions Bill Big Test of Israel Lobby Power
This week's introduction by a bipartisan group of 26 senators of a new sanctions bill against Iran could result in the biggest test of the political clout of the Israel lobby here in decades. -Jim Lobe, IPS - 12/25/13

Iran diplomatic overtures, opportunity: Italy PM
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has hailed Iran's diplomatic overtures as "an opportunity" that should not be missed, saying Tehran could help resolve the conflict in Syria. - 12/25/13

Iran aims for renewed ties with U.S., Europe
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on Monday December 23 that Iran intends to improve its relations with the U.S. and the countries of Europe. Reuters reports that in a note attributed to the Iranian president in Zud Deustche Welle, Rohani stressed that he will do everything in his power to resolve the nuclear disputes with the West. - 12/24/13

In 2013, Iran Got A New President And Maybe A New Direction
For years, it seemed Iran was going deeper into isolation in its standoff with world powers over its controversial nuclear program. In 2013, that suddenly changed. In June, Iran elected a new president who campaigned on promises to take a more moderate approach, including in foreign policy. -Charles Recknagel, RFE - 12/24/13

Blocking Iran's involvement in efforts on Syria not helpful: Zarif
The countries which are seeking to prevent Iran from playing a positive role in resolving the crisis in Syria are out of touch with the realities on the ground, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Tehran on Sunday. - 12/24/13

Aria Jasuru Hasegawa leaves Iran door open
Aria Jasuru Hasegawa could be a member of the Iranian football team at the 2014 Brazil FIFA World Cup, according to Iran coach Omid Namazi. Hasegawa is a Japanese football player of Iranian descent who plays for F.C. Tokyo. - 12/24/13

U.S. oil giants keep from lobbying over Iran
Reuters reports that big U.S. oil companies are refraining from lobbying for expanding relations with Iran. According to Reuters, oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. stand to gain huge profits from gaining access to Iranian oil through the easing of U.S. sanctions, as Iran has some of the world's largest and most cost-effective oil resources. - 12/24/13

Local dealers whet Iran's appetite for U.S. muscle cars
Snow falls heavily on the busy street. A fresh white blanket blurs the sleek lines of a Dodge Challenger -- an iconic vehicle that defines the United States' love affair with muscle cars. This is not New York, Montreal or Tokyo but Tabriz ... -Reuters - 12/24/13

Iraq eyes $15b annual trade with Iran
The Iraqi government hopes to raise the volume of its annual trade exchanges with Iran to USD 15 billion from the current USD 12 billion, Iraqi officials say. - 12/24/13

What Iranians Say Now About 'the Great Satan'
The old American Embassy building in the heart of this capital city was recently opened to tours for Westerners. It is now a museum run by the Revolutionary Guard and its Basiji paramilitary allies, where they keep alive a paranoid narrative of American malice and deceit ... -Carol Giacomo, NY Times - 12/24/13

Photos: Yalda 2013
Following the fall of the Sasanian Empire and the subsequent rise of Islam in Persia, the religious significance of the event was lost, and like other Zoroastrian festivals, Yalda became a social occasion when family and close friends would get together. Nonetheless, the obligatory serving of fresh fruit during mid-winter is reminiscent of the ancient customs of invoking the divinities to request protection of the winter crop. - 12/23/13

Images: Recent Social and Political Caricatures
Iranian political cartoons have a very strong impact on political discussions and social discussions. Recently the scope for public expression has become much wider; people feel much more empowered. - 12/23/13

Iran prepares to relax internet filtering
Mahmoud Vaezi, the Minister of Communications and IT, told the Fars news agency: "Three groups are now working on creating a system of filtering aimed at inappropriate content as opposed to everything on a site." - 12/23/13

Iranian administration promises to appoint minorities to key posts
Younesi had reported that people in positions of power have worked to block the appointment of ethnic and religious minorities to top posts in the country, adding that there needs to be a change in the pervasive attitude that minorities cannot be trusted in such positions. - 12/23/13

Rice: US Will Seek Triggers to Reimpose Sanctions on Iran
Any United Nations Security Council resolution that enshrines a final nuclear deal with Iran - not the interim six-month deal signed in Geneva in November - could have triggers to automatically reimpose sanctions on Iran if they violate the deal, she said - 12/23/13

Iranians Eye Improved US Ties in 2014
After years of a sometimes tense and frosty stand-off, Iran and the United States started talking in 2013. And while the talks, centered on Iran's controversial nuclear program, have not exactly been smooth, many Iranians appear to be warming to the idea of better ties with the U.S. -Jeff Seldin, VOA - 12/22/13

Wife and Mother of Illegally Exiled Iranian Political Prisoner Die in Car Crash After Prison Visit
Tragic news about the deaths of the wife and the mother of an exiled political prisoner as they were on their way back from visiting him in Masjed-e Soleyman Prison has shocked Iranians worldwide. - 12/22/13

Iranian Artists Launch Online Petition to Minister of Culture Denouncing Crackdown
In a letter addressed to Iran's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati, a group of Iranian musicians, music principals, and supporters have asked him to end the suppression of musicians and music professionals and to ensure that artists are not imprisoned for producing artistic works. - 12/22/13

Moving Beyond the Nuclear Issue
Although the Nov. 24 Geneva deal between Iran and the 6 world powers known as the P5+1 was centred around the nuclear issue, its implications go beyond that. It pushed Tehran and Washington one step closer towards a normalization of relations. -MohammadHassan Khani - 12/22/13

Leopards pushed closer to extinction in Iran
Iran's Department of the Environment reports that 46 leopards were killed in the past six years in Iran. IRNA reports that the deputy head of Wildlife Protection said: "The leopard and its habitat are at risk of extinction." - 12/22/13

Iran's nuclear negotiations to break for Christmas
The Iranian foreign ministry announced on Sunday December 22 that the nuclear talks will wrap up for the Christmas holidays and resume afterwards. - 12/22/13

Saudi Arabia's Ad Hoc Foreign Policy
If you are confused or baffled by Saudi Arabia's foreign policy moves over the past month or so, you are hardly alone. It appears the Saudis themselves don't know quite what to make of the various situations in which they find themselves. -Thomas Lippman - 12/22/13

Persian Language Online
The Persian Language Foundation is pleased to announce that, after months of careful toil in the areas of web development and the composition of pedagogical material, the first level of our educational website, Persian Language Online, is complete! - 12/22/13

Iran prepares to relax internet filtering
Iran's Ministry of Communications and IT announced that it is developing a system to overhaul internet filtering in the country. Mahmoud Vaezi, the Minister of Communications and IT, told the Fars news agency: "Three groups are now working on creating a system of filtering aimed at inappropriate content as opposed to everything on a site." - 12/22/13

Top Jewish Non-Profit Heads Leading Iran Sanctions Call
The Forward recently released its annual list of top-earning heads of Jewish non-profit organizations and the results of an independent analysis revealing not only that they earned more than the top leadership of non-Jewish nonprofits, but that several were egregiously overpaid. -Marsha B. Cohen - 12/21/13

Iranian Oil Ministry to Rescue Persepolis
At a time when Iran's cultural heritage is under dire stress, the Ministry of Oil has rushed to the rescue of Persepolis and the Bistun inscription. - 12/21/13

Obama To Veto Any New Iran Sanctions
The White House has vowed that President Barack Obama will veto any legislation imposing new U.S. sanctions on Iran. The threat was issued December 19 after 26 senators - or more than one-quarter of the Senate - introduced new Iranian sanctions legislation. - 12/21/13

Elie Wiesel Teams With Historical Revisionist Hedge Fund Mogul to Derail Iran Diplomacy
Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel took to the pages of the New York Times yesterday in a paid advertisement urging Congress to strengthen sanctions against Iran and, in apparent ignorance of the state of the current negotiations between Iran and P5+1, urged readers to "appeal to President Obama and Congress to demand, as a condition of continued talks, the total dismantling of Iran's nuclear infrastructure... -Eli Clifton - 12/21/13

Iranian, Polish docs share top award at Cinema Verite
olish filmmaker Maciej Drygas's "Abu Haraz" and Iranian director Mostafa Razzaq-Karimi's "Memories for All Seasons" have shared the Best Feature-Length Documentary Award in the international competition section of the Cinema Verite festival. - 12/21/13

Kirk-Menendez-Schumer Wag the Dog Act of 2014
Copies of the bill that Sens. Kirk, Menendez, and Schumer hope to introduce in the Senate this week - presumably to be pressed for passage after the Christmas/New Year recess - are circulating today around Washington, and, as predicted, it is clearly designed to sabotage last month's first-phase deal (the Joint Plan of Action) on Tehran's nuclear program, as well as prospects for a final agreement. -Jim Lobe - 12/21/13

Iran reacts harshly to UN human rights resolution
Iran has condemned the new UN resolution against human rights violations in Iran, describing it as "a misuse of human rights." On December 18, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against the violation of human rights in Iran. - 12/21/13

Brahimi: US Blocks Iran From Syria Peace Talks
U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says 26 nations have been invited to attend a Syria peace conference next month, but that the U.S. has blocked Iran's participation. Brahimi says the U.S. remains unconvinced that Iran's attendance "would be the right thing to do." - 12/21/13

Iran Looks to Deepen Ties to Afghanistan
Amid a dispute with the United States over a long-term security deal, Afghanistan is pursuing closer ties with neighboring Iran. The diplomacy could signal an increasing regional role for Tehran in Afghan affairs after most international troops leave Afghanistan in 2014. -Kokab Farshori, VOA - 12/21/13

Report: How to Secure a Final Nuclear Deal with Iran
The West can weaken the hardline Iranian narrative of confrontation and resistance and facilitate a comprehensive nuclear deal by collaborating with Iran on scientific projects that carry no proliferation risk, according to a report from the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). - 12/20/13

Iranians Hope for Improved Economy in 2014
While Iran's nuclear program, presidential elections and new talks with the West got most of the attention this past year, the issue that hits closest to home for most Iranians is the economy, which has been battered by international sanctions. -Jeff Seldin, VOA - 12/20/13

New Iran Sanctions Bill is a Vote for War Over Diplomacy
NIAC strongly opposes legislation introduced by Senators Menendez, Schumer, and Kirk - the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 - that would implement new Iran sanctions in violation of the recently brokered Geneva accord. - 12/20/13

Procreation Campaign Creates Criticism In Iran
"One flower does not make Spring. More children, a happier life." That's the message being sent to Iranians in an effort to encourage them to produce more offspring. Colorful billboards bearing the slogan and depicting a happy-looking family have cropped up along major highways in Tehran. -Golnaz Esfandiari,RFE - 12/20/13

Meet Farhang: Shab-e Yalda Celebration
Join Farhang Foundation on December 20th at The Moss Theater at New Roads School in Celebration of Shab-e Yalda, featuringGordafarid, Kamran Thunder, Mohammad Hassani and Arash Shapouri, poetry recital by Haleh Mahboubi Gabbay - 12/20/13

Iran's Culture Ministry authorizes release of the film "Parviz"
Iran's ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has authorized limited release of "Parviz", a dark Iranian comedy drama, which has been acclaimed in several international events. - 12/20/13

Which Iran Will We Choose?
The historic interim agreement between the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran over its nuclear dispute is not just about enrichment, centrifuges and breakout capabilities. Ultimately, it will help determine who and what will define Iran's foreign and domestic policies for decades to come. -Trita Parsi, Bijan Khajehpour and Reza Marashi - 12/20/13

Turkish Corruption Investigation Throws Government Into Crisis
A Turkish police investigation into an alleged multimillion-dollar gold-buying scheme involving Iran is creating a major political crisis for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. -Charles Recknagel, RFE - 12/20/13

Iranian President names woman as head of standards agency
The spokesman for the Rohani government announced that Nayereh Pirouzbakht has been appointed to the head of the National Standards Organization. Prior to this, Pirouzbakht was the organization's chief of inspections of import and export goods. - 12/20/13

US Should Empower its Partner in Iran: Report
A member of Iran's parliament today criticized the Rouhani government for transferring the nuclear negotiating file from the Supreme National Security Council to the Foreign Ministry because he believes FM Mohammad Javad Zarif sold Iran short on the recent interim deal he achieved in Geneva. -Jasmin Ramsey, LobeLog - 12/19/13

Securing the Persian Gulf: Diplomacy, Not Arms
Since the conclusion of the Interim Agreement between Iran and 6 world powers in Geneva, Washington has taken pains to reassure friends and allies in the Persian Gulf that it will not be fooled by the Islamic Republic. Further, the US will continue to bolster both its own military deployments and regional defense capabilities. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel outlined this commitment during a Dec. 7 speech in Bahrain. -Robert E. Hunter, LobeLog - 12/19/13

Reflections on the Iran Nuclear Deal
The (interim) nuclear agreement that was signed on 24 November 2013 by Iran and the so-called P5+1 group in Geneva is questionable on a number of grounds. -Ismael Hossein-zadeh - 12/19/13

European delegation meeting with Sotoudeh and Panahi slammed
Iranian hardliners have criticized the foreign ministry for a meeting between the European Parliamentary delegation and Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi. - 12/19/13

IRGC engineers killed in bomb trap in Southeastern Iran
Three members of a Revolutionary Guards engineering unit have been killed in Saravan, Sistan-Baluchistan. ISNA reports that Ramazan Sharif, the Revolutionary Guards Public Relations officer, announced that the three were caught in a bomb trap and there was no military confrontation. - 12/19/13

Turkey: World's top press jailer once more
For the second year in a row, our prison census shows, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country. The number of journalists behind bars is 40; down from the 61 reporters in October 2012, and less than the 49 we recorded on December 1, 2012. Still, Turkey holds more journalists in custody than Iran, China, or Eritrea. -Nina Ognianova, CPJ - 12/19/13

News Analysis: If You Need To Talk To Europe, Call Ashton
Appointed as the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy in 2009, Ashton has often found herself in the spotlight in 2013, signaling the bloc's emergence from the economic and consequent political crises of 2008 as an essential foreign-policy player. -Rikard Jozwiak and Robert Coalson, RFE - 12/19/13

Environment official notes Iran's dismal performance
The head of Iran's Department of the Environment says Iran has fallen 63 spots in the Environmental Performance Index in recent years. - 12/19/13

EU parliamentarians meet Iranian officials
TEHRAN - A European Parliament delegation held a meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-Ravanchi in Tehran and discussed various issues of common concern. - 12/18/13

Tehran stock market sets new record
Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) market has set a new record in trading volume, hitting the 88,169-unit mark after a daily trade volume increase of 1,144 units. - 12/18/13

EU Optimistic On Resumption Of Talks With Iran
European Union foreign ministers say a "swift implementation of voluntary measures by all sides" is key in nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers. - 12/18/13

Beyond Syria: Collateral Damage and New Alliances
The reverberations of the desperate war inside Syria have increasingly radiated outward. In addition to the massive Syrian refugee exodus, Lebanon and Iraq in particular have been impacted adversely by heightened instability and violence. -Wayne White, LobeLog - 12/18/13

Student Protesters Call For Changes At Tehran's Art University
A group of students at the Tehran University of Art gathered in protest to call for the removal of university president Saeed Kashan Fallah. - 12/18/13

Iran to take part in second round of Syrian peace talks
The head of international affairs for the Iranian Parliament has announced that Iran will participate in the Geneva 2 talks regarding peace in Syria. - 12/18/13

Three Months in Rouhani's Iran
I have recently returned from a three-month trip to Iran. I arrived in Tehran in early September before the famous Rouhani/Obama phone call and departed last week as the mood was turning more skeptical regarding the potential for some sort of final nuclear deal, which, in the words of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, would "normalize" the status of Iran's nuclear program if it were to happen. -Farideh Farhi - 12/17/13

Fatal bus crash kills Iranian university students, driver
An accident involving a bus carrying students and a truck killed at least 11 people and left 13 injured. ISNA reports that the accident happened at around 7:50 AM on Monday December 16 on the Dezfool Shooshtar road. - 12/17/13

Iran FM 'Discontent' Over Blacklist Expansion
Iranian media reports say Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, during a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, expressed Iran's "discontent" over the expansion of a blacklist of companies following a landmark nuclear agreement. - 12/17/13

Iran Denies Holding Missing American
Referring to Robert Levinson, who disappeared during a visit to Iran's southern Kish Island in 2007, Zarif said: "We know that he is not incarcerated in Iran. If he is, he is not incarcerated by the government." - 12/17/13

7 days in Iran
How a possible thaw with the West is viewed in Iran - on the factory floor, at Friday prayers, and in government suites. -Scott Peterson, CSM - 12/17/13

Iran Deal Out of Congressional Woods for 2013
In what can only be considered a pretty substantial defeat for Bibi Netanyahu, neoconservatives, and the mainstream Israel lobby here, lobby-led efforts in both houses of Congress to enact some form of new sanctions legislation or resolutions designed to undermine the Geneva nuclear deal before the Christmas recess collapsed over the last 24 hours. -Jim Lobe - 12/17/13

Iran to continue Geneva talks despite U.S. blacklisting
Mohammad Javad Zarif said on his Facebook page on Sunday December 15: "In the past days, inappropriate actions have been taken by the Americans, which we will respond to in the appropriate form and in consideration of all aspects of the matter. Some of our friends were not positive about the Geneva talks from the beginning and have immediately referred to this as the premature death of the deal; however, this is more like wishful thinking than the reality." - 12/16/13

Photos: Snow in Ardabil
Ardabil is about 70 km (43 mi) from the Caspian Sea, and 210 km from the city of Tabriz. It has an average altitude of 1,263 metres (4,144 ft) - 12/16/13

Photos: Socrates play performed in Tehran
Iranian actors performed a play named Socrates at Vahdat Amphitheater in Tehran. - 12/16/13

An interesting initiative for Arbaeen 2013
A 17-million people gathering. Only few days to Imam Hussein (as) Arbaeen (the 40th day of his martyrdom), still collects the greatest congregation of Imam's mourners as the world's greatest gathering; a gathering much larger in scope, the distance walked, and the population participating than the Hajj pilgrimage itself - 12/16/13

Ministry directors fired over bugging of MP's office
Iranian MP Ali Motahari, who previously complained about his office being bugged, announced on Saturday December 14 that two senior managers in the Intelligence Ministry have been dismissed over the incident. - 12/16/13

Iran Is More Than A Regime
In the current debate over the November 24 interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program, an important lesson from Politics 101 is neglected: state and regime are two conceptually different terms. But when it comes to Iran, US foreign policy has systematically been incompetent in grasping this distinction. -Ali Reza Eshraghi - 12/15/13

Ex-FBI agent who disappeared in Iran was on rogue mission for CIA
An American man who disappeared in Iran more than six years ago had been working for the CIA in what U.S. intelligence officials describe as a rogue operation that led to a major shake-up in the spy agency. -Adam Goldman, Washington Post - 12/15/13

Hepatitis statistics show long-term decline in Iran
The head of Iran's Hepatitis Research Network reported on Saturday December 14 that 1.6 million people in Iran carry the hepatitis virus. - 12/15/13

Iranian pipeline workers killed in Iraq
Eighteen Iranian and three Iraqi pipeline workers were killed in an armed attack by unidentified gunmen in Iraq. In recent months, violence in Iraq has escalated to levels not seen since 2008, and according to official reports, at least 7,150 civilians were killed in Iraq in 2013. - 12/15/13

Iran successfully sends second monkey into space
The explorer dubbed 'Pajouhesh' (research) carrying a monkey (Fargam) conducted its sub-orbit mission successfully to make Iran closer to sending human to space - 12/14/13

Farhadi's "The Past" gets Golden Globe nomination
Farhadi's The Past will compete with: Blue is the Warmest Colour, the French film and winner of this year's Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival; The Great Beauty from Italy, which won major awards from the European Film Academy; The Hunt by Danish filmmaker Tomas Vinterberg, and the Japanese animated film The Wind Rise - 12/14/13

EU removes Iranian shipping directors from blacklist
After Iran and the 5+1 reached an agreement in Geneva on November 25, the EU announced that it would begin easing sanctions on Iran in December - 12/14/13

Moscow, Tehran To Continue Nuclear Energy Cooperation
Russia's foreign minister says Moscow wants to continue to help Iran develop its nuclear-energy industry. Sergei Lavrov said after talks in Tehran with his counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, that "we see such interest on the Iranian side, and we know about Iran's plans to build more power units identical to Bushehr." - 12/13/13

Congress Avoids Clash on Iran Sanctions But Road Ahead Uncertain
A must-pass Pentagon spending bill put together in another Capitol Hill backroom omits new sanctions against Iran, which could torpedo the Nov. 24 nuclear agreement reached in Geneva. -Barbara Slavin, VOA - 12/13/13

Iranian diplomat arrives in Britain to restore relations
Iran's non-resident charges d'affaires Mohammad Hassan Habibollahzadeh arrived in London on December 12. IRNA reports that Habibollahzadeh will meet with British officials to work on the step-by-step restoration of bilateral relations between the two countries. - 12/13/13

Kerry Fails to Convince Key Senators to Forgo New Iran Sanctions
A direct appeal by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has not convinced skeptical senators to forgo a push to boost sanctions against Iran. Kerry appears to have changed few if any minds when he told U.S. lawmakers that further sanctions would torpedo delicate international negotiations to limit Tehran's nuclear program. -Michael Bowman, VOA - 12/13/13

Panel Discussion in New York - Shoja Azari: FAKE: Idyllic Life
FAKE: Idyllic Life features recent painting installations and video works by Shoja Azari that seamlessly intertwine quotation with intervention in order to examine the integral roles that history and context play in depictions of the Islamic world. - 12/13/13

US Targets More Companies Evading Iran Sanctions
The United States has targeted more than a dozen companies and individuals for evading international sanctions against Iran and for providing support for Tehran's nuclear program. - 12/13/13

Last Two Slovak Paragliders Freed From Iran
Iran's official news agency IRNA reports that Tehran has released the last two of eight Slovak paragliders who were arrested in May on suspicion of spying. - 12/13/13

Yalda Festival (Shab e Cheleh)
Yalda means birth and like other major Iranian celebrations is deeply rooted in Zoroastrianism, the pre-Islamic religion of Iran. Ancient Iranians celebrated seven obligatory feasts, six of them were known as gahanbar (appointed time) and the last was Norouz, the Iranian New Year. -Massoume Price - 12/12/13

Oscar winning film maker visits OMID Center in Tehran
It's not everyday that we see an Oscar winning film maker at the OMID Center's but on November 6th we were privileged to be joined by the great, and highly entertaining, Ashgar Farhadi as he spoke about his film making, his life and experiences to the young women and staff of both of our Tehran Center's. - 12/12/13

Kerry Asks Congress to Hold Off on Any New Sanctions on Iran
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has strongly defended the Obama administration's interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program, and asked Congress to hold off on passing any new sanctions on Iran to give ongoing negotiations a chance to succeed. -Cindy Saine, VOA - 12/12/13

Caveat Lector!
On Dec. 2 the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled, What a Final Iran Deal Must Do. The authorship is ascribed to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, but it is hard to believe that this piece is really the work of such distinguished statesmen, so striking are the misleading depictions of crucial facts and the shortcomings in their reasoning. -Peter Jenkins, LobeLog - 12/12/13

European Parliament Sending Delegation To Iran
The European Parliament has announced that it will send a delegation to Iran for the first time since 2007. The head of the five-person delegation, Finnish member of the European Parliament Tarja Cronberg, told RFE/RL on December 11 that the delegation will be in Iran for a week and is due to meet with members of the Iranian parliament, Tehran's mayor, ... - 12/12/13

Thirteen Prisoners in Iran: The Untold Story of a Negotiation That Worked
As the Israeli government and its most ardent backers in the United States continue to ramp up their criticism of the Obama administration's pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, they might do well to heed the lessons from the last time they were involved in arms-length diplomacy with their arch-enemies in Tehran. -Robert Collier, National Interest - 12/12/13

Iran: Khuzestan MPs resign en masse over 2014 budgetran
Eighteen MPs from Khuzestan Province have tendered their resignation from Parliament to protest the proposed government budget for the coming year. - 12/11/13

WaPo "Fact Checker" Fails On Iran Nuclear Fatwa
In the wake of the preliminary nuclear deal with Iran, the Washington Post's "Fact Checker," Glenn Kessler, has questioned whether Obama administration officials should have taken the anti-nuclear fatwa by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seriously. -Gareth Porter, LobeLog - 12/11/13

Turkey Seeks Increased Trade with Iran
ISTANBUL - Iran's recent agreement with world powers to curb parts of its nuclear program in exchange for a possible easing of sanctions has spurred hopes in Ankara of a major trade and finance opportunity. -Dorian Jones, VOA - 12/11/13

Will Steny Hoyer Kill Deal? Will Mandela Help Sustain It?
It's possible - although still not probable - that my assessment earlier this week that the Geneva accord was out of the Congressional woods for this year may have been premature. It appears that Democratic Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, a long-time stalwart of the Israel lobby, is considering joining with his Republican counterpart, Eric Cantor, in co-sponsoring a measure aimed at killing the deal before the Christmas recess. -Jim Lobe - 12/11/13

Fernanda Lima and the dress that shocked Iran
A dress worn by Brazilian model and actress Fernanda Lima at the World Cup draw has led to her being singled out by Iranians on social media. Some in Iran said she should cover up - even "wear a hijab" - but many others have rallied to defend her. -BBC - 12/11/13

Notes from Iran on the Current Season of "Homeland"
Anahita and I were sitting in a café in Tehran, Iran watching a Homeland marathon. As an Iranian-American, I'm used to watching this show back home in the States on Showtime. Anahita, a native of Tehran, is used to downloading torrents from the Internet. After we finished the tenth episode of the show's current season, Anahita turned and looked at me. "What can I say? -Complex.com - 12/11/13

Iran a Decade or More From Becoming a Major Gas Exporter
The world's largest gas reserves may tempt some energy companies back to Iran if sanctions are lifted, but Tehran is unlikely to become a significant gas supplier to Europe or Asia for at least a decade. -Reuters - 12/11/13

Cash-strapped Iranian students in U.S. hope nuclear deal will ease tuition woes
When Mohammad Hamedi Rad arrived in the United States last year, he carried his Iranian passport, a hard-won student visa and a backpack containing $14,000 in hundred dollar bills, because there was no simpler way of getting money into the country. -Reuters - 12/11/13

Lionel Messi Facebook insults 'a plot against Iranians
Insulting comments left on Argentinean footballer Lionel Messi's Facebook page may be a plot to defile Iran's image, it's claimed. -BBC - 12/11/13

Iran Warns Against Further U.S Sanctions
Iran's foreign minister says the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and world powers would be "dead" if the U.S. Congress slaps fresh sanctions on Iran, even if they do not take effect for six months. - 12/10/13

Mandela memorial becomes lightning rod for Iranian political intrigue
The Keyhan daily, a prominent hardline voice in the Islamic Republic establishment, blasted those who are calling for President Rohani to attend the ceremony in person, writing: "They are trying to push Rohani toward meeting with Obama." Keyhan has been a strong voice against the re-establishment of relations with the United States. - 12/10/13

Iran Warns Against Further U.S Sanctions
Iran's foreign minister says the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and world powers would be "dead" if the U.S. Congress slaps fresh sanctions against Iran, even if they do not take effect for six months. - 12/10/13

Iran, World Powers Talk Nuclear Deal Details
Iran and six world powers began two days of expert-level talks Monday to iron out details in implementing a landmark accord for Tehran to curb its disputed nuclear program. - 12/10/13

DOCUMENTARY: Iranian Israelis: life in the shadow of a conflict
Bahram Sadeghi (born & raised Iranian and living since his eighteenth in the Netherlands) and Dikla Zeidler (born in Eilat to an Israeli father and a Dutch mother, living in the Netherlands since she was eight) decided to ask some well-known Iranian Israelis, including singer Rita and radio presenter Menashe Amir, the simple question: What is it like to be an Iranian Israeli? - 12/10/13

Iran, World Powers Talk Nuclear Deal Details
Officials from Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia met at the Vienna headquarters of the U.N. nuclear agency, which will play a central role in verifying that Tehran carries out its part of the interim deal. - 12/10/13

Afghanistan's 'Iran Option'
Much has been said about the United States' "zero option" when it comes to its future presence in Afghanistan. But a rushed trip to Iran by the Afghan president to discuss a long-term partnership agreement shows that Kabul is considering its own options. - 12/10/13

Commission warns of jobs crisis for Iranian university graduates
The Research and Education Commission of Iranian Parliament has announced that four million university graduates are currently unemployed across the country. - 12/10/13

Iran, From Enemy to Ally
THE recent nuclear deal with Iran has caused a predictable furor among Middle East hawks. But it offers an opportunity for a much bigger breakthrough: rapprochement and, eventually, even strategic cooperation with Iran. - 12/10/13

Iran's proposed budget would beef up military, IRGC
The Iranian government's proposed budget for the new year includes significant funding hikes for the army and the Revolutionary Guards. - 12/10/13

Obama: '50/50' Chance of Final Iran Deal, Defends Interim Plan
U.S. President Barack Obama and his top diplomat are seeking support for a recent temporary agreement to halt Iran's nuclear programs and U.S. efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. The president and Secretary of State John Kerry sought Saturday to convince critics and the Israeli government that recent diplomatic moves will not endanger Israel. - 12/9/13

IASF HAND Foundation Scholarship Recipient Gives Back
"I live by the philosophy that the energy you project to the universe is the energy you receive right back, so I strive to better my community in as many ways as possible." Lilygol Sedaghat, a political economy major at the University of California, Berkeley, is a recipient of a 2013 The HAND Foundation scholarship from the Iranian-American Scholarship Fund (IASF). - 12/9/13

Objection to selection of "Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia at Princeton": Petition by Ehsan Yarshater
Objection by the International community of Iranian Studies to the selection of a scholar of Greco-Arabic, to the Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia at Princeton University. - 12/9/13

Nelson Mandela: We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians
Nelson Mandela, the icon of freedom, champion of racial equality, and a great supporter of oppressed people everywhere, passed away on 5 December 2013, leaving a huge vacuum behind that will not be filled easily, if ever. -Muhammad Sahimi - 12/9/13

Baluchi Sunni woman elected mayor is first for Iran
The election of the first Baluchi woman (Samiyeh Balochzehi) last week as the mayor of Kalat, a city in the south of Iran, was an unprecedented event in one of the most underprivileged and conservative provinces in Iran. -Al-Monitor - 12/9/13

Selling the nuclear deal: Iran's top diplomat pitches at home
Iran's sales pitch for the Geneva nuclear deal got a lively reception on Tuesday at a packed Tehran University auditorium, where the country's lead negotiator defended the accord and called for unity among sniping political factions. -Scott Peterson, CSM - 12/9/13

Iran Central Bank Can Help Slow Inflation: Official
Iran's central bank can help cut the country's 40 percent inflation rate in half by bringing greater discipline to money markets and ending funding for some housing and other projects, a top bank official said. -Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg - 12/9/13

PHOTOS: Students use day to call for release of opposition leaders
Iran's Student Day was marked in Tehran by students chanting slogans in support of the release of political prisoners. IRNA reports that the amphitheatre of Shahid Beheshti University was packed with students from the early hours of Saturday December 7. - 12/7/13

Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 - 5 December 2013): A Giant Leaves The Stage
Former South African President Nelson Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95 after months of struggling with illness. President Jacob Zuma made the announcement that the anti-apartheid icon had died in a televised address. He said that Mandela died "peacefully", surrounded by family, at around 8.50 p.m., AP reported. - 12/7/13

Bosnia, Iran Drawn Together In World Cup
Iran and first-time participants Bosnia-Herzegovina find themselves in what would be considered a stronger Group F, with matches against each other and also traditional world power Argentina and reigning African champion Nigeria. - 12/7/13

Iran-Argentina match to be 'interesting event', says Queiroz
Iran's Portuguese head coach Carlos Queiroz described Iran's match with Argentina in the World Cup 2014 as 'interesting event', as stressing that the national Iranian football team should prepare for the matches. "We should make ourselves prepared for the World Cup. We are facing a tough job, but we have great ambitions," he said. - 12/7/13

Viewpoint: Deciphering The Direction Of Iran's New Foreign Policy
After the limited nuclear deal Iran reached with the United States and other world powers in Geneva, the quintessential question is whether Tehran is ready to make a major change in its foreign policy and put aside its traditional anti-U.S. stance. Based on its actions and words in the first week of December, Iran seems to be sending contradictory signals. -Mardo Soghom, RFE - 12/7/13

Invitation becomes latest sign of renewed Iranian-UK ties
The chairman of the Iranian Parliament's Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, announced that former UK foreign minister Jack Straw has been invited to visit Tehran. - 12/7/13

U.S. To Keep 35,000 Troops In Persian Gulf
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has offered assurances to America's Persian Gulf allies that diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program is backed by U.S. military power. In a speech in Manama, Bahrain, on December 7, Hagel said Western diplomacy with Tehran should not be "misinterpreted." - 12/7/13

Photos: Iranian President Goes Hiking
Climbing is one of the favorite sports of the Iranian President Hassan Rohani. He usually goes hiking in the surrounding mountains Tehran to maintain his health. What makes hiking more pleasing for Rohani is engaging in conversations with girls and boys, women and men who walk with the President and share their hopes and dreams with him. - 12/6/13

Tell Rep. Hunter to Take Nuclear War on Iran OFF the Table
Have you seen the INSANE things that opponents of US-Iran diplomacy have been saying? Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) - a sitting member of the House Armed Services committee - said today that the U.S. SHOULD NUKE IRAN. - 12/6/13

Netherlands-based filmmaker arrested in Tehran
Samad Khatibi, an Iranian filmmaker and artist based in the Netherlands, has been arrested in Tehran. Nedaye Sabz Azadi's website reports that Khatibi was arrested at Imam Khomeini Airport 10 days ago. - 12/6/13

The Geneva Accords and the Return of the "Defensive Realists"
Notably, with Hassan Rouhani's election, the "defensive realist" school of thought reasserted power, which had previously been ascendant during Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's and Mohammad Khatami's administrations. Their prime objective was a policy of detente and rapprochement, especially with the West, but also with neighboring Arab states - specifically, Iran's geopolitical adversary, Saudi Arabia. -Ali Fathollah-Nejad, LobeLog - 12/6/13

Iran's Minister of Communications Says He Will Oppose Stringent Internet Blocking
Iran's Minister of Communications and Information Technology told a group of reporters today that his Ministry is not interested in continuing the extreme controls the Iranian government has exercised over the past eight years, but rather wishes to see a more relaxed approach to internet access for the citizens. - 12/6/13

President Rohani Calls For Action On Iranian Air Pollution
ISNA reports that on Wednesday December 4, Rohani called on the Department of the Environment, the presidential Deputy for Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health to find new and innovative ways of working together to reduce air pollution. - 12/6/13

Mandela's Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage
In Mandela's Way, Stengel recounts the moments in which "the grandfather of South Africa" was tested and shares the wisdom he learned: why courage is more than the absence of fear, why we should keep our rivals close, why the answer is not always either/or but often "both," how important it is for each of us to find something away from the world that gives us pleasure and satisfaction-our own garden. - 12/6/13

Iran Deal Safe From Lawmakers For Now
Ten days after the signing in Geneva of a groundbreaking deal on Iran's nuclear programme, the agreement appears safe from any serious attack by the strongly pro-Israel U.S. Congress, at least for the balance of 2013. -Jim Lobe, IPS - 12/6/13

Iran Claims To Thwart Azerbaijani Cultural Imperialism At UNESCO
Host Azerbaijan walks away a winner from this week's UNESCO conference on "intangible cultural heritage," successfully enlisting "urgent" help to preserve an archaic form of polo played on short-legged Karabakh horses. -Andy Heil, RFE - 12/6/13

New Poll on Iran Nuclear Deal and What Voters Expect from Congress Released
On Heels of the Interim Iran Nuclear Agreement, Leading Pollster, Nuclear Security Expert, AUFC Reveal New Survey Showing Voters Want Congress to Give Negotiations a Chance Before Passing New Sanctions - 12/5/13

Iranian Judiciary Seeks China Model of State Censorship for Facebook
The debate took a new turn this week with the conservatives' statement that they would grant the Iranian nation access to the popular social networking site if Facebook agreed to cooperate with Iran's state censors. - 12/5/13

Storm Clouds Linger Over Iran Deal
Ten days have passed since the much-anticipated agreement between the P5+1 (US, France, UK, Russia and China plus Germany) and Iran was signed in Geneva. The world's media has been flooded with hundreds of exaggerated expressions of hope that Iran has now rejoined the international community of nations and that perhaps the long, cold winter of US-Iran hostility might be drawing to a close. -Charles Naas, LobeLog - 12/5/13

Iranian Morality Police Arrest Popular Underground Musician Amir Tataloo
Iran's Morality Police have arrested popular rapper Amir Tataloo. Colonel Massoud Zahedian, Chief of the Morality Police, told ISNA that his unit is actively identifying and confronting Iranian underground musicians who produce their work inside Iran and distribute it on television satellite channels abroad. Zahedian added that following the arrest, Tataloo is now in custody of the Iranian Judiciary. - 12/5/13

Sanctions Crucial Issue in Iran Talks
Sanctions relief for Iran is the linchpin of the Islamic Republic's motivation for cooperation with world powers in their efforts to curb elements of Iran's nuclear activities. The recent interim accord hammered out in Geneva freezes for six months Iran's nuclear program... -Andre de Nesnera, VOA - 12/5/13

Electric car owner (Kaveh Kamooneh) charged with stealing 5 cents worth of juice
One Saturday in November, Kaveh Kamooneh drove his Nissan Leaf to Chamblee Middle School, where his 11-year-old son was playing tennis. Kamooneh had taken the liberty of charging the electric car with an exterior outlet at the school. Within minutes of plugging in the car, he says a Chamblee police officer appeared. -11 Live, Atlanta - 12/5/13

Azerbaijan concedes chogan is not an Azeri game: Iranian official
CHTHO's Department for Registration of Natural, Historical and Intangible Heritage Director Farhad Nazari made the remarks on Tuesday after UNESCO registered chovqan (the Azeri word for chogan) as a traditional Karabakh horse-riding game for the Republic of Azerbaijan on its List of Intangible Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding - 12/5/13

Kerry Stresses Israeli Security in Palestinian, Iran Nuclear Talks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Israel's security is a key element of both peace talks with the Palestinians and international negotiations about Iran's nuclear program. - 12/5/13

Iran Names 7 Western Oil Companies It Wants to Return
Iran on Wednesday named seven Western oil companies it wants back in its vast oil and gas fields once international sanctions are lifted and said it would offer contract terms in April next year. -Reuters - 12/5/13

Israel Denies Involvement in Killing of Hezbollah Commander
Israel has denied claims by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah that the Jewish state was behind the killing of one of the group's top commanders, which came at a time of rising tensions in Lebanon related to Syria's civil war. Hezbollah suffered a major blow on Wednesday when Hassan al-Laqis, part of the Lebanese group's secretive top leadership, was shot dead in Beirut. - 12/5/13

White House Again Warns Against New Iran Sanctions
The White House has again warned U.S. lawmakers against new sanctions on Iran, saying they could undermine the interim nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers. White House spokesman Jay Carney said approving fresh sanctions, even if they won't take effect for months, could lead Iran to think Washington negotiated in "bad faith." - 12/4/13

Four Iranian cities rank among world's 10 most polluted
The latest ranking by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) shows four Iranian cities are among the most polluted in the world: Ahvaz, Sanandaj, Kermanshah and Yasooj. - 12/4/13

Medicine imports to Iran rise 40% in month: report
Imports of medicine to Iran increased by 40 percent in the past Iranian calendar month of Aban (ended Nov. 21) compared to its preceding month, according to Iran's Customs Administration. - 12/4/13

Ahmadinejad challenges Rohani to public debate
Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reacted to Iranian President Hassan Rohani's 100-day report by inviting him to take part in a public debate. The Fars News Agency reports that Ahmadinejad has written to Rohani, asserting that the report's heavy criticism of the Ahmadinejad administration is "unfair and unfounded" and that "in the interests of the country" he had chosen to remain silent. - 12/4/13

Iran, Spain Futsal teams rank top in Asia, the world respectively: FIFA
According to FIFA December 2013 ranking, Iran Futsal team, with 1576 points, stood top in Asia and the seventh among the world Futsal teams respectively. - 12/4/13

Britainˈs charge dˈaffaires appreciates Iranian officials
Britainˈs Foreign Ministry, in a statement published on Tuesday evening, said that Sharma has for the first time traveled to Tehran as the non-resident charge dˈ affaires of Britain. - 12/4/13

Iran, Iraq Warn OPEC of Big Oil Increases
Iran and Iraq on Tuesday put OPEC on notice of substantial oil output increases to come, saying others in the producer cartel will need to give way to make room for them. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Iran will take six months after sanctions are lifted to return to full oil output capacity of 4 million bpd. -Reuters - 12/4/13

Iran Opposes Kabul Security Deal With U.S.
Iran says it opposes a security pact between Afghanistan and the United States. Iran's Foreign Ministry on December 3 asked Kabul not to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with Washington. - 12/4/13

Hizballah Blames Saudi For Iran Attack
The head of the Lebanese Shi'ite militant group Hizballah has blamed Saudi Arabia for the bombing attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. The November 19 double-suicide bombing killed around 25 people. - 12/4/13

The Heat is On as FIFA Announces Convoluted Draw Procedure
FIFA will go ahead with its controversial decision to stage World Cup matches at midday in tropical venues, president Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday as soccer's governing body announced a bafflingly complex procedure for Friday's draw. -Reuters - 12/4/13

Nuclear-Related Sanctions On Iran Are No Longer Justified
The statements of US Senators and Representatives on the November 24 Iran/E3+3 Joint Plan have tended to be flawed in at least two ways. First, Iran continues to be portrayed as a state that only responds to pressure and threats... A second feature of many Congressional reactions to the Joint Plan is the utter heartlessness and indifference to human distress. -Peter Jenkins, LobeLog - 12/3/13

Iranian FM fosters relations with regional countries
The Iranian foreign minister is promoting the country's relations with regional countries on a tour of Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Kuwait on Sunday December 1 and after a visit in Oman today, he flew to Qatar for an unscheduled visit. - 12/3/13

Nijmegen needs more time: Iranian Winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh
Nijmegen's Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh said that his struggling team needs more time to move out of the Eredivisie relegation zone. N.E.C. defeated AZ Alkmaar 3-2 thanks to a brace from the 20-year-old Iranian at the Goffertstadion but the team remains rooted to the bottom of the table. - 12/3/13

FM says pleased with breaking decades-old mistrust with west, anxious about US illogical approach
Referring to the Geneva talks, Zarif said, ˈWe are at the beginning of a long way. The Geneva deal is not a final agreement. The foreign minister regretted that behavior of certain states, US in particular, damages mutual trust. - 12/3/13

Over 2 million foreigners working in Iran: Labor Minister
More than two million foreign national are currently working in Iran, Iranian Labor and Social Welfare Minister Ali Rabiei said on Monday. The foreign workers in Iran are just busy with uncomplicated and unprofessional jobs, while unemployment crisis in Iran is related to university graduates - 12/3/13

Why is the U.S. okay with Israel having nuclear weapons but not Iran?
Iranian officials sometimes respond to accusations that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability by replying that, not only do they not want a bomb, they'd actually like to see a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East. Yes, this is surely in part a deflection, meant to shift attention away from concerns about Iran's nuclear activities by not-so-subtly nodding to the one country in the region that does have nuclear weapons: Israel. -Max Fisher, Washington Post - 12/3/13

Persian Gulf Oil Exporters' Rivalry Grows in Battle for Asian Buyers
Middle Eastern oil exporters are locked in an increasingly fierce battle for the world's fastest-growing markets in Asia, as producers worldwide ship more crude east to compensate for shrinking demand from the United States and Europe. -Reuters - 12/3/13

One and Three Perfect Days with the Cyrus Cylinder
We keep time by talking numbers. There are (fractions of) seconds and hours and days and months and years. A day is not exactly 24 hours long, and a year is a little more than 365 days. A good day is too short and a bad day stretches to infinity and beyond. -A.J. Cave - 12/2/13

On US-Iran Relations: Is Obama's Policy of "Tough Diplomacy" Withering Away?
The first four years of the Obama Administration were marked by imposing an unprecedented set of sanctions and military threats against Iran. However, since July 2013 fewer sanctions have been imposed and less military threats issued. Indeed, the Obama Administration-along with some of the other four members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, commonly known as the P5+1-appeared to be sincere in trying to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran. -Sasan Fayazmanesh - 12/2/13

Iranian writers call for more resistance against censorship
The Iranian Writers' Association has issued an announcement in advance of next Wednesday's Struggle Against Censorship. The statement indicates that in the past year, many more writers and artists have stood up against censorship. - 12/2/13

Photos: Upgraded warships rejoin Iran's naval fleet
Two upgraded missile-launching warships, named the Neizeh (Spear) and the Tabarzin (Axe), and an upgraded logistic warship, named the Sirjan, rejoined the Iranian Navy in a ceremony held on Sunday in the southern port city of Bushehr. - 12/2/13

First UK Sonic Arts Residency with Islamic Republic of Iran
International arts consultancy Six Pillars announces the UK's first sound art residency for Iranian artists and musicians. Five emerging practitioners visit London for the first time from Iran on 9 December. The two weeks intense preparation and technical workshops peak with the performance of "Iran-UK Sonics" at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Friday 13 December - 12/2/13

Top US Lawmakers Want Additional Iran Sanctions
WASHINGTON - U.S. lawmakers of both major political parties are expressing skepticism over last month's interim accord on Iran's nuclear program. Congress' appetite for boosting sanctions against Tehran has not waned, despite Obama administration warnings that heightened measures could torpedo delicate diplomacy. -Michael Bowman, VOA - 12/2/13

Iranian cartoonist finishes first in Italian contest
The Iranian cartoonist Behruz Firuzi has won the first prize at the 17th edition of the international competition Fax for Peace, Fax for Tolerance in Spilimbergo, Italy. He received the prize for his cartoon depicting a little girl playing hopscotch but the safe base of it ends with a hole and tombstone - 12/2/13

Iranian Health Minister foresees drug costs declining
Iran's Minister of Health has promised that in view of the recent agreements in Geneva, drugs will become cheaper in the country. According to Ghazizadeh, difficulties in making payments in the past year have contributed to a 20% increase in the cost of drugs. - 12/2/13

Iran: Guards official speaks out against satellite dish seizure methods
Senior Kurdistan Revolutionary Guards chief denounced practice of raiding homes for confiscation of satellite dishes. Brigadier General Mohamad-Hassan Rajabi has been quoted as saying: "Having agents enter homes and seize satellite dishes is not an appropriate method to combat this matter." - 12/2/13

The chalice that helped make possible the Iran nuclear deal
When he took his seat, he slid the bag across the conference table. He said the United States wanted to give the griffin to Rouhani. The Iranian diplomat looked inside. His eyes grew wide. The Iranian stood, looked at the American and thanked him. In the U.S. diplomat's 10 years in the foreign service, he had never had a one-on-one meeting, let alone extended eye contact, with an Iranian peer. -Christi Parsons, LA Times - 12/2/13

Iran Nuclear Chief: Country Needs More Nuke Power Plants
Iran's official news agency IRNA quoted Ali Akbar Salehi on December 1 as saying Iran should build "power plants for 20,000 megawatts of electricity." Salehi said it would help the country reduce its carbon emissions and its consumption of oil. - 12/2/13
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