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Rohani, Reformist Allies Win Control Of Iran's Powerful Assembly Of Experts
Final results from Iran's February 26 elections show relative moderate President Hassan Rohani and his allies winning a majority in the powerful Assembly of Experts and making a strong return to parliament as one of three dominant blocs. - 2/29/16

Khamenei Praises Iran Vote, Urges Focus on National Interests
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on those elected to parliament and the important Assembly of Experts to act in the interests of Iran and stand against the influence of outsiders. IRNA quoted President Rouhani saying Saturday the election has given the government more credibility and clout. "The competition is over. It's time to open a new chapter in Iran's economic development based on domestic abilities and international opportunities," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying. - 2/29/16

Iran's Parliament Speaker celebrates election results
Ali Larijani, the speaker of the current Parliament who was re-elected in Qom, referred to the defeat of the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers as "a turn of forces in the country" and called it a "welcome event". - 2/29/16

Enforcing Iran sanctions still tangles Iranian-Americans in 'spider's web of laws'
The U.S. has imposed hundreds of sanctions against Iran for more than 30 years to temper the country's nuclear ambitions. And even though the sanctions against Iran were eased with January's nuclear disarmament deal, rules about how people in the U.S. can interact with Iran remain virtually unchanged. And their enforcement has brought harsh consequences. -PBS - 2/29/16

India presses for undersea Iran gas plan
Three major Indian gas buyers will be visiting Iran early next month to discuss a long-proposed undersea pipeline which New Delhi sees as an alternative to a similar project via Pakistan, a press report says. - 2/29/16

Kerry to Congress on Visa Waivers: ISIS Fighters Don't Come from Iran
Washington, DC - Secretary John Kerry did not mince words on Capitol Hill yesterday when challenged by Republicans over the Obama Administration's implementation of a new visa law that was initially aimed at preventing ISIS fighters from coming to the U.S., but which was amended to include sweeping restrictions against dual nationals and travelers to Iran. -NIAC - 2/29/16

Rohani, Reformist Allies Make Gains Against Conservative Rivals In Elections
Iranian officials said on February 28 that with 90 percent of the votes counted in the country's elections, President Hassan Rohani's reformist allies have won all 30 of Tehran's contested seats in the 290-seat parliament. - 2/28/16

'Tehran is Now Free' -- Iranian Election Results Spark Gleeful And Humorous Response On Social Media
Many pro-reform Iranians who voted in the February 26 elections for the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, mainly to make sure fewer hard-liners get elected, have been sharing jokes about what appears to be a landslide win for reformists and relative moderates in the Iranian capital. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/28/16

Iran: Assembly of Experts election results show strong backing for moderates
The final list of the Assembly of Experts representatives reveals that two hardliners from Tehran, Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and Mohammad Yazdi, did not find their way into the fifth assembly. - 2/28/16

Iranian activist sentenced for criticizing government on Facebook
Iranian activist Zartosh Ahmadi Ragheb was sentenced to six months in jail by the authorities for writing material critical of the government on his Facebook page. The court's sentence was issued last week, and he has 20 days to appeal the decision. - 2/28/16

Iranian Businessman Buys Stake In English Soccer Team
Iranian-British businessman Farhad Moshiri has bought a 49.9 percent stake in English Premier League team Everton FC, subject to approval by the league. Forbes, which estimates Moshiri's net worth at $1.79 billion, ranks him 894th among the world's billionaires. - 2/28/16

Voting Ends In Key Iran Elections
Votes are being counted in Iran a day after elections that pitted reformist allies of President Hassan Rohani against long-dominant conservatives. Preliminary results carried out by the semiofficial Fars and Mehr News agencies indicate reformists and independents linked to them were leading so far against hard-liners in several cities. - 2/27/16

Why the Arabs don't want us in Syria
In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I've made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. -Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Politico - 2/27/16

'Roadmap' in focus as Swiss leader visits Iran
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says democracy is one of the factors bringing the Islamic Republic and Switzerland close to each another. Rouhani made the remarks during a joint press conference with Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann in Tehran on Saturday as the two countries sought to forge new cooperation. - 2/27/16

Defenders of Democracy Turn To An Awkward Ally: Saudi Arabia
So desperate to punish Iran are the hawks of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that they're willing to partner with one of the least democratic countries on earth to get it done. In an op-ed in the neoconservative opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, FDD's executive director Mark Dubowitz and senior fellow David Weinberg are positively giddy about what Saudi Arabia has to offer in the way of defending democracies. It's, at first blush, a strange alliance, but not when one considers either FDD's monomania and the geopolitics surrounding Iran. -Ali Gharib - 2/27/16

Conflicting reports about voting by detained Iranian opposition leaders
The Kaleme website reports that opposition leaders MirHosein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, who have been under house arrest since February 2011, cast their votes today in a portable ballot box that was sent to their street. It is not yet clear if Mehdi Karroubi, the other opposition leader under house arrest, also got to cast his vote. - 2/27/16

The Disappointments of War in a World of Unintended Consequences
It may be hard to believe now, but in 1970 the protest song "War," sung by Edwin Starr, hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That was at the height of the Vietnam antiwar movement and the song, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, became something of a sensation. Even so many years later, who could forget its famed chorus? "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing." Not me. And yet heartfelt as the song was then -- "War, it ain't nothing but a heartbreaker. War, it's got one friend, that's the undertaker..." -- it has little resonance in America today. -Tom Engelhardt, LobeLog - 2/27/16

Iran's Elections: A Battle For The Future Of The Islamic Revolution
Iran could chart its course for the next decade and beyond when hard-liners and moderates clash on February 26 in elections for parliament and the powerful body that will choose the country's next supreme leader. - 2/26/16

Iran's elections: a bid to dilute hardliners
On Friday Iran will hold elections for its Parliament and Assembly of Experts. This will mark the first time Iranians go to the polls since the start of President Hassan Rouhani's tenure in 2013. Both the process surrounding these elections and its outcome serve as a litmus test for the balance that can be expected amongst Iran's power centres. -Ellie Geranmayeh - 2/26/16

Activist Iranian couple, financially ruined by arrests, sentenced to long prison terms
Arash Sadeghi and Golrokh Irayi, a political activist couple, have been sentenced to fifteen and six years respectively for their activism, and the sentence has been approved by the appeals court. - 2/26/16

Iranian Teacher's Union Leader Sentenced to Six Years in Prison
The secretary general of the Teachers Association of Iran, Esmail Abdi, has been sentenced to six years in prison for "propaganda against the state" and "collusion against national security" by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court. - 2/26/16

Protests in Tehran sparked by abuse of dog leads to violent arrests
Reports from Iran indicate that protests staged by animal rights activists in front of Parliament on Wednesday February 25 were met with a violent reaction from the authorities, and a number of the activists were beaten and arrested. - 2/26/16

More Arms to Saudi Arabia: More Mideast Conflicts
According to a report released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia have increased by an astonishing 279% between 2011 and 2015, compared with the prior five-year period. More then three quarters of the weaponry came from the U.S. and the United Kingdom. -William D. Hartung, LobeLog - 2/26/16

Iran's Technicolor Elections
Tehran was awash with color this week as the election season began. A regime crackdown preceded the election--including detentions and harassments--but, as in the past, Iranians are allowed to vent more than usual during the noisy week of actual campaigning. And they do. -Robin Wright, New Yorker - 2/26/16

Tehran's teens: Iran isn't what you think it is
With their stylish clothes, effortless English and modish hair, the young people relaxing in this park in north Tehran would give New York or London hipsters a run for their money. "Life is very enjoyable for us," one young woman says. "We are friends, we go out with each other, and we laugh, we have fun. And that's it." -Mick Krever, CNN - 2/26/16

Kerry 'Engaged' in Case of Iranian American Father, Son Held in Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry says he is aware of reports that Iran has detained the father of an American man who was arrested by Iranian authorities last year. The wife of Baquer Namazi says authorities in Tehran arrested her 80-year-old husband on Monday and may have taken him to the Evin prison. -Pamela Dockins, VOA - 2/25/16

The Economic Backdrop to Iran's Elections
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has described Iran's parliamentary election this Friday as critical, setting the course for years to come. It will certainly set the course for the rest of President Hassan Rouhani's presidency, especially whether it will last beyond its first term ending 18 months from now. -Djavad Salehi-Isfahani - 2/25/16

Iran's Hard-Liners Accuse Britain Of Backing Moderates In Upcoming Vote
Iranian hard-liners are trying to undermine their moderate opponents ahead of the February 26 parliamentary elections by alleging that their list of candidates is supported by Great Britain. The vote will pit moderates against hard-liners running for the parliament's 290 seats and the 86-member Assembly of Experts that could choose Iran's next supreme leader. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/25/16

Iran to Spend $36 Million on Internet "Smart Filtering," to No Avail
The Iranian government, in a joint project with several domestic universities, is spending $36 million to develop what it calls "smart filtering" in order to strengthen its Internet censorship capabilities. Smart filtering refers to the selective blocking of content within a website, as opposed to the complete blocking or shutting down of an entire website. - 2/25/16

Iran's Supreme Leader Wants Parliament That Resists 'Foreign Influence'
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that he is confident Iranians will vote in this week's elections for a parliament that will resist the influence of foreign powers -- including the United States. - 2/25/16

Experts on Iran Elections: Expect More of Same
This week, Iranians will select a new parliament and Assembly of Experts in twin elections that many Western analysts regard as a defining moment in Iran, one which will test the country's openness to reform and the future of the nuclear deal. But, some observers close to Iran believe that regardless of whether reformists or conservatives come to power, the ultimate power holders in Iran will remain unchallenged. - 2/25/16

Iranian chess player ranks 2nd in FIDE Women's Grand Prix
Iranian chess player Sara Sadat Khadem al-Sharieh has finished second in the Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE) Grand Prix in Iran. Iran's 18-year-old international master and female grandmaster ended her campaign with 2,403 points and finished in second place. - 2/25/16

British embassy resumes operation in Tehran
Iran's foreign ministry announced that the British embassy will begin consular activities in Tehran on Wednesday February 24. A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said the resumption of consular activities at the British embassy is in line with earlier agreements between the two countries. - 2/25/16

Why are Iranians lip synching to political speeches?
The Dubsmash app, as BBC Trending has reported in the past, is usually used by people to create and share videos of themselves miming or lip-synching along to the words of pop songs. But the prominent Iranian actress Baran Kosari has used it to film herself miming to the music-free soundtrack of a recording of former President Mohammad Khatami. -BBC - 2/25/16

A Plague of Black Swans in the Middle East
In the parlance of political risk assessment, a Black Swan is an event regarded as highly improbable or even impossible before it happens. A Black Swan is not only surprising but has the capacity to disrupt or severely alter the anticipated course of events. Once a Black Swan is sighted, however, the expert community quickly adjusts to the new reality and begins to explain why, under the circumstances, a Black Swan was likely to appear and, perhaps, was even inevitable. -Gary Sick, LobeLog - 2/25/16

European Parliament votes for EU-wide arms export embargo against Saudi Arabia
A resolution calling for a ban on all weapons sales to the country was passed by 359 votes to 212, with 31 MEPs abstaining. The non-binding motion calls on member states to stop selling weapons to the country, which is currently conducting a widely-criticised military operation in neighbouring Yemen marked by high civilian casualties. -Independent - 2/25/16

For Iran's Reformists, Getting To The Polls Is Half The Battle
It's a familiar dilemma for a certain swath of Iran's 55 million registered voters: Does voting makes sense in their Islamic republic, where allegations of rigging are rife and candidates are routinely disqualified by vetters from the notoriously hard-line Guardians Council? Naysayers dismiss the elections as "selections," window-dressing for the supreme leader and his chosen allies; yeasayers counter that despite the shortcomings, elections since the country's 1979 revolution have provided opportunities for political change. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/24/16

Elections in Iran, a Test for the Regime
Iran will hold two crucial elections on February 26, 2016, which could decide the fate of the Islamic Republic for many years to come. Earlier this month, Iranians celebrated the 37th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution. During that period, the country experienced revolutionary upheavals, a disastrous eight-year war with Iraq that killed and wounded nearly a million Iranians, eight years of populist rule by a hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and crippling Western sanctions. -Farhang Jahanpour - 2/24/16

47 Organizations Urge Waivers for Dual Nationals
On Tuesday February 23rd, 47 organizations including NIAC Action sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson requesting the Secretary to use his authority to waive restrictions so that individuals are not barred from visa-free travel to the United States on the basis of their national origin or family heritage. - 2/24/16

Why Iranian government should invite Obama to Iran this year?
Achievements of Obama' presidency in the last seven years are undeniable to friends and critiques of his administration. On this list, which is envy of any modern US president, the nuclear agreement with Iran requires special attention. Building on this success, US must continue on the path to normalization of relations between with Iran. -Cyrus Kangarlu - 2/24/16

Trump: The American Ahmadinejad?
Western coverage of Iran has long relied on the convention of describing important public personalities as the Persian version of their American counterparts, replicas of the real thing. The Iranian Brad Pitt. The Iranian Frank Sinatra. The Madonna of Iran. Last week's Republican primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina presented us with an opportunity to reverse the construction, to exchange modifier with object, by confirming what has long been evident: that Donald Trump is the American Ahmadinejad. -Shervin Malekzadeh - 2/24/16

Iranian authorities announce total blocking of WhatsApp and Tang
Social networking sites Line, WhatsApp and Tango are now subject to complete censorship, according to the Iranian judiciary, and all access to them is to be blocked by the authorities. The right-wing factions of the government have consistently called for the blocking of mobile social networking applications over the past two years... - 2/24/16

Zarif in Brussels: Redefining the EU-Iran Relationship
When Iran's then-foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited the European Parliament in 2010, his speech in the foreign affairs committee soon degenerated into a shouting match with the MPs. They accused his government of repressing dissent and grievous human rights abuses in the wake of the "Green" protests in Iran in 2009. The contrast with the visit last week of Mottaki's successor, Javad Zarif, could not be greater. -Eldar Mamedov, LobeLog - 2/24/16

Ahvaz air pollution skyrockets due to dust particles
Officials in the city of Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan Province in southwestern Iran, say the concentration of dust particles in the city's air has risen to over 24 times the acceptable level. - 2/24/16

Iranian TV Show Angers Afghans
A new show on Iran's state-controlled television has angered critics who say it promotes hatred against Afghan refugees living in the Islamic republic. The show, titled Outbreak, features a storyline about an Afghan man carrying a biologically engineered virus who is sent to Iran by the United States. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/24/16

Silicon Valley Wants Changes in Visa-Waiver Crackdown
Silicon Valley executives, stung by a law intended to make it harder for terrorists to enter the U.S., are publicly calling for a key provision on so-called visa waivers to be rescinded. -WSJ - 2/24/16

Branding Our Community: Norooz vs. Nowruz
Iranian-Americans are a nascent diaspora, most of us having immigrated only in the past four decades. We are coming to our own, lifting our heads from the business grindstone and beginning to establish ourselves in other realms of diaspora influence and acceptance such as politics, philanthropy and culture. By doing so, we are promoting our beautiful arts and culture by sharing our rituals and festivals. The most uniting, revered and unanimous of these is Persian New Year or Norooz. -Noosheen Hashemi - 2/23/16

Siamak Namazi, American Businessman Jailed In Iran, Tries Hunger Strike
A U.S. businessman jailed in Iran has tried going on a hunger strike to improve his condition and has not been allowed to speak to his lawyer, relatives say. Siamak Namazi, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was detained by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in October while visiting relatives, according to his family. Iranian authorities have not announced any charges against him. - 2/23/16

The Nuclear Deal Implementation Day: Can the Deal with Iran Survive Iranian and US Elections? (part three)
Although the implementation of Iranian nuclear deal has been welcomed by all those who had been involved in the negotiations as part of the P5+1, the deal has had many vociferous opponents. In the United States, the opposition to the Iranian deal has not stopped at verbal denunciation alone. -Farhang Jahanpour - 2/23/16

Dog-Beating Video Sparks Protests In Tehran
Adisturbing video of a hunter in northern Iran brutally beating his dog has triggered a rare public protest in the capital, where dozens gathered to call for an end to animal cruelty. Pictures and videos of the protest on February 22 posted on social media showed participants calling for the animal rights to be protected, and for legal measures to be taken to ensure the safety of animals. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/23/16

Iranian president receives Azeri counterpart
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has officially received his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev who arrived in Tehran Tuesday to discuss boosting relations. The visit is to feature high-level meetings and inking of several documents for cooperation. - 2/23/16

Iran: Ultra Conservatives concerned about increasing public participation in elections
After Iran's Supreme Leader appealed to the public to take part in the elections even if they oppose the regime, now the ultra-conservative and extremist figures of the establishment are saying widespread participation in the elections is "the strategy of the country's enemies to engineer the outcome of the elections". - 2/23/16

Is Congress Accusing Dual Nationals of Holding Dual Loyalties?
Over the past several weeks, Iranian Americans and our friends in the Arab American community have grappled with the reality that, soon, we may face new restrictions on our travel simply because of our heritage. Under a new law passed by Congress, certain dual nationals are now barred from the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and thousands of European dual nationals have been notified that they are no longer welcome to travel to the U.S. visa-free. -Jamal Abdi, Huffington Post - 2/23/16

Iran rejects oil freeze call as 'joke'
Iran on Tuesday vehemently rejected any possibility that it will stop increasing its oil production with the country's oil minister Bijan Zangeneh mocking any request on Tehran to that effect as "a joke". - 2/23/16

Iranian Kurdish Filmmaker Sentenced to 223 Lashes and One Year in Prison
Keyvan Karimi, an Iranian Kurdish documentary filmmaker, has been sentenced to 223 lashes and one year in prison for "insulting the sacred." Karimi's initial six-year prison sentence by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh in October 2015 has been reduced by an Appeals Court to 12 months in prison and a five-year suspended prison term. - 2/23/16

'Secret leadership': who will oversee Iran's overseers?
Concentration of power in the hands of one person is a terrible thing, but nothing will be achieved by fantastical arguments designed to prove there are mechanisms within Iran's constitution to remedy the issue. Yet that is exactly what Iran's reformists and moderates are trying to do in contending that the Experts Assembly, the clerical body whose 88 members will be elected by Iranian voters on 26 February, should supervise the supreme leader. -Amir Faress, Guardian - 2/23/16

The Persian Rug Trade Is Back in Business
Sanctions on Iran were all about oil, right? Yes, but a little-known fact is that the international sanctions imposed over the past decade to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions had a devastating effect on its second largest export: the iconic Persian rug. -Newsweek - 2/23/16

Washington's Twenty-First-Century Opium Wars
After fighting the longest war in its history, the United States stands at the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. How can this be possible? How could the world's sole superpower have battled continuously for 15 years, deploying 100,000 of its finest troops, sacrificing the lives of 2,200 of those soldiers, spending more than a trillion dollars on its military operations, lavishing a record hundred billion more on "nation-building" and "reconstruction," helping raise, fund, equip, and train an army of 350,000 Afghan allies, and still not be able to pacify one of the world's most impoverished nations? -Alfred W. McCoy, LobeLog - 2/23/16

Russian Defense Minister In Tehran
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has arrived in Tehran, days after his Iranian counterpart visited Russia. Iranian television reported that Shoigu met with President Hassan Rohani on February 21, and was due to also hold talks with Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan during his trip to discuss the "situation in the region." - 2/22/16

Iran says Airbus A380s 'may not be delivered'
Iran says it will replace A380 Airbus planes with A350 planes if the conditions for their delivery are not met as agreed - an announcement that has now cast doubts if the advanced planes that the country had earlier said wanted for long-distance flights to the Americas will ever be available to Tehran. - 2/22/16

Iran laying basis for non-oil economy
Iran expects to attract $15 billion in direct foreign investment this year as the biggest economy closed to international business since the fall of the Soviet Union is humming back to life. - 2/22/16

Trial date set for three detained Iranian journalists
The trial of Issa Saharkhiz, Ehsan Mazandarani and another journalist, who were arrested last November by the Revolutionary Guards in the course of a state operation to "combat infiltrators", is set for March 6. - 2/22/16

The Carpet Weaver Of Shiraz
What does the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran, as part of a nuclear deal, mean for one Iranian? We met a carpet weaver in the ancient city of Shiraz. She spends her days on the floor of a little room. Working swiftly by hand, she ties knots with little bits of wool -- orange, green, white and two shades of red. Wool threads stretch across a steel frame like strings on a harp. -Steve Inskeep, NPR - 2/22/16

Skiing at Iran's 'gateway of the mountain'
Located more than 3,000m above sea level, Darbandsar Ski Resort is perched high in the Alborz mountain range in the shadow of Mount Damavand, Iran's highest peak. A favourite weekend destination for many Iranians, the ski resort is about an hour's drive from the capital, Tehran. -Mohammad Ali Najib, Al Jazeera - 2/22/16

Plunging oil price brings Saudi Arabia and Iran together in alliance of enemies
The Iranian endorsement of a plan by its arch regional rival, Saudi Arabia, to stabilise global oil prices could be seen as a diplomatic coup for Riyadh. However, Tehran's support for a production freeze has not been driven by a new desire for political rapprochement as much as acceptance of a greater enemy: collapsed commodity prices. -Guardian - 2/22/16

Iran Banned Women From Attending Men's Volleyball Games
Iran banned women from attending the International Beach Volleyball Championships that ended Friday, the world volleyball governing body said. The International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) said allowing women to attend the five-day competition at Iran's Kish Island had been a condition of its decision to let the Iranian volleyball federation host the men's tournament for the first time. - 2/21/16

Thousands of undocumented children living in Iran's Khorasan Razavi province
Mohammad Ajami, director of Foreign Immigrants Affairs in Khorasan Razavi, has announced that the province is home to 20,000 undocumented children born of unregistered marriages between Iranian women and foreign nationals. - 2/21/16

Saudi Arabia Is The Middle East's Biggest Danger
Over the last decade, Saudi Arabia has emerged as the Middle East's most assertive power. Stirred to action by the fall of Saddam Hussein, the rise of Iran, and deeply unsettled by the Arab uprisings, the kingdom has taken on an increasingly interventionist role. In Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, Saudi powerbrokers have used money and violence in an attempt to bend the region to their will. What drives Saudi Arabia's regional politics? More importantly, what are the costs of so much intervention? -Toby C. Jones, Hoover Institution - 2/21/16

Iranian activists sentenced for taking part in peaceful protest
Eighteen Iranian activists have been sentenced to 91 days in jail and 74 lashes for participating in a peaceful protest in November that the court saw as "disturbing the public peace". The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reports that the flogging sentences for 16 of the activists have been suspended for two years. - 2/21/16

'I Was Becoming Afraid Of Writing': Iranian Poet Flees Because Of Crippling Censorship
To get her first book of poetry past the Iranian censor, Fatemeh Ekhtesari did what other Iranian writers often have to do: She used dots for words and sentences she thought would not get past the authorities. But Ekhtesari wasn't prepared for her voice to be silenced, so after the book was published in 2010, she wrote the words back in herself and sent copies to her friends. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/21/16

In Tehran, Waiting For Signs Of Change In 'A New World'
Last year, an Iranian economist named Mohammad Mehdi Behkish was extremely optimistic about prospects for a nuclear deal that would end many economic sanctions on his country. "Personally, I would say it can't be that there would not be a deal," he told me when I met him in Tehran. The alternative, he said, was disaster. Behkish leads Iran's International Chamber of Commerce. -Steve Inskeep, NPR - 2/21/16

What If Iran's Guardian Council Managed U.S. Elections?
Elections will be held in Iran in a few days and in the U.S. in a few months. Here's what the Guardian Council, the clerical body charged with vetting all candidates in the Islamic Republic, would do if it was in charge of the American elections: -Ebrahim Nabavi - 2/21/16

Iran Joins Georgia's Caucasian Gas Circle
As the price of natural gas keeps declining, competition among Caspian Basin suppliers is picking up. Georgia, which serves as a crossroads for Caspian Basin energy exports, has become the focal point of a three-way scramble among natural gas exporters. Citing a wintertime shortage of natural gas, Tbilisi is considering deals from Azerbaijan, which already supplies 90 percent of Georgia's gas; Russia, which provides the other 10 percent as a fee for transiting Russian energy to Armenia; and, now, Iran. -Giorgi Lomsadze, LobeLog - 2/21/16

Saudi Arabia Halts Military Aid To Lebanon For Siding With Iran
Saudi Arabia said it is halting $4 billion of deals to equip and support Lebanese security forces in retaliation for the small Mediterranean country siding with Iran in its spat with the Sunni kingdom. - 2/21/16

Could Iran turn California's pistachio profits to peanuts?
With US economic sanctions on Iran lifted, consumers in both countries may soon be able to enjoy far more of each other's top products, from iPods and cosmetics to Persian carpets and pistachios. - Molly Jackson, CSM - 2/21/16

Iran Elections: The Assembly of Experts
Given the Assembly's crucial role in determining the future of the Islamic Republic, it might not come as a massive shock to learn that these elections are pretty much fixed, too. Indeed, the Guardian Council's aggressive purging of Assembly of Expert candidates has proven one of the most dramatic stories of the 2016 elections so far. Let's see what all the fuss is about. -Small Media, LobeLog - 2/19/16

Russia plans to sell Iran up to $8 bn worth of weapons: reports
Moscow plans to sell Iran state-of-the-art warplanes, tanks and missile systems, Russian state media said Wednesday - a haul that could reportedly total up to $8 billion. The deal to sell an unspecified number of Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets to Tehran could be sealed by the end of the year, according to RIA Novosti. The news agency cited an unnamed Russian defense official. - 2/19/16

Iran proposes nuclear power plan with Hungary: Salehi
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said at a Thursday conference in Budapest that Tehran proposed the pilot project with Hungary to design and develop a 25-megawatt reactor as well as a reactor of up to 100 megawatts, Reuters reported. - 2/19/16

People behind popular tech website sent to Kerman prison
Narenji, Iran's top website for technological gadget news, was edited daily by the team of four bloggers and drew a wide range of visitors comprised of Iran's growing audience of technology enthusiasts. Last December, the Narenji team was arrested by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which alleged that the bloggers were "funded and trained by espionage cells waging a 'soft war' against the Islamic Republic regime". - 2/19/16

A new Iran deal? Syria truce may demand one
The pursuit of peace in Syria may require the United States and Iran to break new ground in their increasingly comfortable diplomatic relationship, propelled by last year's nuclear accord and their more recent prisoner swap. Another taboo could be shattered soon: Military discussions. -AP - 2/19/16

Iran's cultural gatekeepers surprisingly greenlight a folk-rock fusion band
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, the clerical establishment that determines what's culturally appropriate and what's not has cast a skeptical eye toward Western rock music. But the clerics might be loosening up. -Marco Werman, PRI - 2/19/16

At Persepolis, Iran's Grand Past Overshadows Its Frustrating Present
We are near the end of a journey through Iran, where we traveled after some economic sanctions were lifted in January. We sought clues to the future amid the clamor of Tehran subway trains and among the pious at religious shrines. We also looked back at the distant past, at the ruins of an ancient Persian capital. -Steve Inskeep, NPR - 2/19/16

Iran's BMW dealer has friends in high places
Sales of the German luxury cars are up since the sanctions lifted, and they benefit a religious charity with ties to the Supreme Leader -MNN - 2/19/16

Campaigning begins in crucial Iran elections
Iranian candidates officially begin their week-long campaigns before two important elections. As many as 6,300 candidates, including 586 women, are campaigning for a place in the country's 290-seat parliament. - 2/18/16

After Prisoner Swap, Anxiety Over Jailed Iranian-American Businessman
Iran has eagerly opened its doors to foreign investment now that a nuclear deal has cleared the way. So why is Iran still holding prisoner an Iranian-American businessman? This is one of the contradictions of the moment in Iran, where economic sanctions were lifted weeks ago. -Steve Inskeep, NPR - 2/18/16

Major oil producers agree to keep production
Iran says a quadripartite meeting that it hosted on Wednesday with the visiting oil ministers of Venezuela, Iraq and Qatar over measures to boost oil prices had ended with an agreement for OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers to keep their current output ceiling to help stabilize the market and boost the prices. - 2/18/16

Iran qualifies for FIFA Futsal World Cup
Iran booked a place in the FIFA Futsal World Cup after defeating Kyrgyzstan 7-0 in the quarter-final of the AFC Futsal Championship at Uzbekistan Stadium on Wednesday. Iran will play Vietnam in the semi-final on Friday and host Uzbekistan face Thailand - 2/18/16

Prof. Samii: Iran to become world's neurology hub in 5-10 years
TEHRAN - Professor Majid Samii, the internationally renowned neurosurgeon, has said that Iran will become the world's neurology hub within the next 5 to 10 years. "Given that the science and neurology center in Tehran will soon be completed, I'm pretty sure that many patients from all continents will refer to this center to receive treatment," Samii told IRNA news agency on Tuesday. - 2/18/16

Local Authorities Defy Iran's Commitment to Federation and Refuse to Allow Women at Volleyball Match
Despite assurances by Iranian authorities that they would comply with international rules and allow women to attend the Beach Volleyball World Championship on Kish Island, women are being turned away. - 2/18/16

Iranian Banks Reconnect With Global Banking System
Iranian banks are starting to get reconnected to the international payments system known as SWIFT, allowing the resumption of cross-border transfers for the first time in four years. Also, an EU court has ruled that the bloc had unfairly frozen the assets of an Iranian bank for six years, dismissing an appeal brought by the European Council. - 2/18/16

Iranian entrepreneur to expats: Move back home!
She's worked in London. She's worked in Berlin. But 32-year-old tech entrepreneur Nazanin Daneshvar encourages tech savvy Iranians living outside the country to move back home and get to work. -PRI - 2/18/16

Iran: Supreme Leader warns Guardian Council critics to be silent
Iran's Supreme Leader, speaking on Wednesday February 17, less than 10 days before the election, condemned criticism directed at the Guardian Council and warned against "infiltration of the elections by the enemy" and "attacking the Guardian Council". - 2/18/16

EVIN MEMORIAL: "Tape Fabricators" Case and Remembering a Prison Guard
At 10 AM, they handed me over to two female prison guards. They took their receipts and left. When the prison guard was about to lock the cell door, she whispered to me: "I apologize, Ms. Ebadi. I have to..." -Zamaneh - 2/18/16

Presidential Debates And Iran: A Political Football To Be Kicked Around
My main focus in all my articles has always been Iran/America relations and how American foreign policies toward the Islamic Republic of Iran are formulated and affect this relationship. Needless to say, putting the shoe on the other foot, the Islamic Republic's formulation of its policies toward the United States is also affecting this relationship. However, Iran's policy decisions and statements are for the most part reactionary and in response to what is blasted against the Islamic Republic from the American side. Just listening to the presidential candidates' irresponsible remarks about Iran, as though it is a politically convenient football to be kicked around, is enough to demonstrate my point. -Kambiz Zarrabi - 2/17/16

Iran as Regional Catalyst
The relative thaw in Iran's economic and political relations with Europe and Japan, and the improvement in its economic prospects, has thus far been received with a degree of anxiety by other major regional players such Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and even Pakistan. These countries seem to believe that Iran's reentry to the international scene will undermine their prospects of achieving regional leadership. -Shireen T. Hunter - 2/17/16

Photos: Noted German quartet gives first Shiraz performance at historic bathhouse
The Leipzig String Quartet performed in the historic Shiraz Vakil Bathhouse on Sunday February 14. The concert was organized by the Aftab City Art Institute in collaboration with the German Embassy`s cultural department and Goethe Cultural Institute and the Fars Guidance Ministry. - 2/17/16

Iran, Iraq Weigh Oil Production Freeze Pact
Iran's OPEC envoy said Wednesday the country plans to increase its oil production to levels it had before the imposition of international sanctions sharply cut its exports. The comments came ahead of a meeting in Tehran of oil ministers from Iran, Iraq and Venezuela to discuss a proposal to freeze production in order to battle a drop in oil prices. - 2/17/16

Iranian Defense Minister Visits Russia
Iran's defense minister is visiting Moscow for talks about closer military cooperation with Russia. Hossein Dehghan met with President Vladimir Putin on February 16 and held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. - 2/17/16

Gulf Cooperation Council: Reality or Fiction?
In the aftermath of the implementation of the nuclear agreement with Iran, there has been abundant commentary on the need to reassure the Gulf allies of the West. The fear is that a richer Iran, unshackled from sanctions and isolation, will pose a threat to the stability and security of the Gulf states. Yet the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are far from presenting a united front against Iran. -Eldar Mamedov, LobeLog - 2/17/16

Merkel: Iran Must Recognize Israel's Existence
Speaking at the side of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Merkel told reporters after a meeting of the two countries' Cabinets that she's "made very clear" that "there cannot be a normal, friendly relationship with Iran so long as the existence of Israel is not recognized." -AP - 2/17/16

Iranian films at Queens World Film Festival in New York
Four Iranian films will be screened at the 6th Annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF): A Report About Mina (Documentary), Lima (Animation), My Sister's Photo (Short Narrative) and Oblivion Season (Feature Narrative). - 2/16/16

Iran ranked 182nd in the world on access to justice for children
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been ranked as 182nd in the world on how effectively children can use the courts to defend their rights according to new research from Child Rights International Network (CRIN). - 2/16/16

Ministry funds internet "smart filtering" at 11 Iranian universities
Iran's deputy communications minister says the ministry has entered into agreements worth 110 million toumans so that 11 universities can implement smart filtering for internet websites and social media networks. - 2/16/16

Annual Nowruz Celebration at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Celebrate Nowruz, the Iranian New Year and spring, with a full day of exciting activities throughout Los Angeles County Museum of Art's campus on Sunday, March 13, 2016 from 11:30 am to 7:00 pm. - 2/16/16

Russia, Saudi Arabia Agree Oil-Output Freeze
Russia and Saudi Arabia, the world's two largest crude producers, have agreed to freeze output, as long as others follow suit. Freezing output at January levels will be "adequate," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on February 16 after talks with Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak in Qatar's capital, Doha. - 2/16/16

U.S., UK excluded from Iran's plan to issue visas at airports
The Iranian Foreign Ministry says citizens of all but nine countries will be able to obtain a 30-day visa to visit Iran when they arrive at an Iranian airport. The ministry identified the U.S. and the UK as being among the nine countries requiring visas prior to arrival in Iran. - 2/16/16

Closeup: Iran's hyped startup scene
Tehran's startup scene is a maze of interconnected people trying to come up with ideas to make it big quickly. To really rev up the sector, Iranian professionals living outside the country - especially Silicon Valley - need to move back -Guardian - 2/16/16

Iran Reformists, Moderates Unite Ahead of Vote
Iranian reformists seeking greater democratic change and moderates supporting President Hassan Rouhani's outreach to the West have formed an alliance to increase their chances ahead of Feb. 26 parliamentary elections, a prominent reformist candidate said Monday. -AP - 2/16/16

Reformist view of Iran's Rouhani: 'Yes he can' becomes 'No, he didn't'
It was Hossein Dehbashi's magic touch that added some of the inspirational glitter to Hassan Rouhani, when the cleric promised Iranians a new era of moderation and hope, and won the presidency by a landslide in 2013. Not only did Mr. Dehbashi create the candidate's two campaign videos... - Scott Peterson, CSM - 2/16/16

Is Iran the most Stable Country in the Mideast 37 Years after its Revolution?
The Islamic Republic of Iran marks the 37th anniversary of the victory of the revolution on February 11, 2016. After ruling Iran for 37 years, the late Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi left Iran on January 16, 1979, appointing Shapur Bakhtiar as his last prime minister, and Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran after some 14 years of exile on February 2, 1979. -Farhang Jahanpour, Juan Cole - 2/16/16

After Prison, A Tough-Minded Optimist Looks To Iran's Future
Saeed Laylaz has had an eventful seven years. When I first met him at his home in early 2009, he was a businessman, writer and former government official. He recognized some of the flaws in Iran's Islamic republic, but spoke optimistically about his country's direction. Soon afterward, he went to prison for his political views. -Steve Inskeep, NPR - 2/16/16

Views Split on Nuclear Deal Implementation (Part Two)
The implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal with the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) on January 16, which resulted in the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iran, has split the views of current and former US politicians. - 2/15/16

Detentions, Confessions, and Hunger Strikes
Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani, members of the musical group Confess who were arrested by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, have now been released while they await a court date. Amir Golestani, sentenced to seven years in prison for his activities on Facebook, has announced that he is on a hunger strike to protest the prosecutor's denial of his conditional release. And the son of detained Iranian journalist Issa Saharkhiz reports that his father has begun a "dry" hunger strike to protest his treatment in prison. - 2/15/16

US Calls for Release of Iranian Opposition Leaders
The U.S. State Department has called for the release of three Iranian opposition members held under house arrest without charge. Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, both candidates in the 2009 presidential election, have spent five years in house arrest along with Mousavi's wife, women's rights advocate Zahra Rahnavard. - 2/15/16

Shirazeh Houshiary: STPI to present new works for artist's first solo show in Southeast Asia
STPI is proud to present "The River is Within Us", the first solo exhibition of UK-based artist Shirazeh Houshiary in Southeast Asia. She is known for her multimedia installations like Breath, a collateral event at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), as well as the 2008 East Window for St Martins in the Fields in London. - 2/15/16

First 'Silk Road' train in Tehran after 14-day journey from China
The first train connecting China to Iran through the ancient Silk Road has arrived in the Iranian capital after traveling over 10,000 kilometers in over 14 days, head of the Iranian railway company said. According to Iranian media, the train, which has been launched in an effort to revive the ancient road, is carrying 32 containers of commercial products originating from China's eastern province of Zhejiang. - 2/15/16

Initials B.B.
How the man who signs 'B.B.' plans to shake up the contemporary Iranian art scene -- Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar told me about his plans to show not only his neighbours in the glitzy Riviera, but the world at large, what he called the 'real Iran'. -Joobin Bekhrad, Reorient - 2/15/16

First Iranian Marine Hotel To Show Beauties of Persian Gulf
Tourists who travel to Iran's Kish Island can enjoy beauties of sea life in the Persian Gulf during their sojourn in the first Iranian marine hotel, Toranj, which was inaugurated on February 11. The hotel, which is located in the northwest of Kish Island, comprises water villas with a direct seafloor view through a glass floor. - 2/14/16

Iran president orders single forex, lower lending rates
Iran must unify multi-tiered foreign exchange rate and cut lending interest rates as part of post-sanctions plan to prop up the economy, President Hassan Rouhani says. "Forex rate must be unified next [calendar] year (starting March 21) so that stability in the market will be bolstered and corruption will be stopped," Rouhani told a banking forum on Saturday. - 2/14/16

Armenia Looks to Receive an Economic Boost from Iran
Economic hopes are rising in Armenia that the country can serve as a trade conduit for Iran now that international sanctions against Tehran are being lifted. Armenia has long-standing ties to Iran, and is a member of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a factor that potentially increases its attractiveness as a trade partner for Tehran. -Gayane Abrahamyan, LobeLog - 2/14/16

Iran eyes historic air trips to New York
Iran's media say the country is eyeing historic direct flights to New York and Toronto in a recent major deal it has signed for buying planes from Airbus. Only weeks after Iran sealed a lucrative deal with Airbus to purchase 118 new planes that include long-range aircraft, a debate has opened in the country as to for which destinations those planes will be used. - 2/14/16

NIAC Action Commends Lawmakers Urging Visa Waivers for Dual Nationals and Visitors to Iran
NIAC Action released the following statement welcoming two new Congressional letters urging the Obama Administration to utilize its waiver authorities under new Visa Waiver Program law to ensure certain dual nationals and other travelers are not barred from the program - 2/13/16

"Standing in the Dust" wins best film award at Fajr Film Festival
"Standing in the Dust" is about the life story of Motevasselian who along with his colleagues, Mohsen Musavi and Taqi Rastegar-Moqaddam, and photojournalist Kazem Akhavan was kidnapped by Israelis in 1982 in Lebanon. - 2/13/16

Iran: President Rohani encourages voter turnout, rejects election boycott
Two weeks before the elections in Iran, the country staged ceremonies marking the victory of the 1979 Revolution. Speaking at the ceremonies, President Hassan Rohani referred to the elections and said people will not vote "for those who promote conflict and extremism". - 2/13/16

Primer: Iran's Upcoming Elections
On February 26, citizens in the Islamic Republic of Iran will have the opportunity to cast a vote for the first time since the 2013 presidential elections that swept Hassan Rouhani into office. Since then, the Rouhani administration has been locked in a seemingly never-ending battle with the most hardline elements of the political establishment over issues ranging from foreign policy, through to cultural censorship and information controls. -Small Media, LobeLog - 2/13/16

In Iran, A Poet's 700-Year-Old Verses Still Set Hearts Aflame
Just ahead of Valentine's Day, we visited the tomb of a poet who wrote often of love. The 14th century Persian poet Hafez is buried in Shiraz, the city where he lived almost 700 years ago. He remains venerated in Iran, even though he wrote of romance and other topics that are not obviously embraced in the modern-day Islamic Republic. One of his lines: "Oh Cup-bearer, set my glass afire with the light of wine!" -Steve Inskeep, NPR - 2/13/16

Iran Calls for Better Relations with Rival Saudi Arabia
Envoys from Iran and Saudi Arabia took part in peace talks in Germany this week to try to resolve the Syrian conflict, which produced a rare public attempt to bridge the two rivals' deep differences. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared to extend an olive branch, saying, "Iran and Saudi Arabia must overcome years of strained relations and work for stability in Syria and the Middle East." - 2/13/16

Valentine's Day Expected to Be Bigger Than Ever in Iran, Despite Police Warning
Shops are prohibited from displaying any signs or selling any products associated with the "decadent Western cultural phenomenon known as Valentine's Day," Iran's police force announced on February 10. - 2/13/16

Iran real estate market stays grim despite sanctions relief
The Iranian ]real estate market remains stagnant and experts say it will stay that way until there is a change in the public's purchasing power. The Mehr News Agency reports that real estate agencies say the market is still in recession and there is no traffic at real estate offices. - 2/13/16

Clinton Criticisms on Iran Normalization Misguided
"Hillary Clinton is wrong to say that we should not "promise or even look towards normalizing relations" with Iran because of our problem's with Iranian activities. As someone who was involved in the very nascent stages of the negotiations with Iran to secure the nuclear deal that she supports, Clinton should know that engagement and diplomatic relations are the best tool to achieve our national security interests." NIAC Action - 2/13/16

U.S. Official: Iran Has Kept Commitments On Nuclear Deal So Far
A senior U.S. official says Iran so far has kept its commitments under the nuclear agreement with world powers implemented last month. Stephen Mull, the State Department's lead coordinator for implementing the deal curbing Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 11 that there is no evidence that Tehran is cheating. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/12/16

Iranian authorities warn shops not to sell Valentine's Day gifts
Iranian security forces have warned retailers that selling Valentine-themed gifts and balloons is illegal, and the police will be on the lookout to confront such violations. The reports says the police emphasized that no gathering of boys and girls exchanging Valentine gifts will be tolerated. - 2/12/16

Iranian Hardliners Violate Law to Keep Assembly of Experts Loyal to Khamenei
In addition to the massive disqualifications of moderate candidates for upcoming elections in Iran, hardliners have implemented another strategy to prevent challenges to their power: restricting the number of seats to important governmental bodies in order to prevent possible inroads by moderate candidates. - 2/12/16

U.S., Russia, European Powers Agree To Syrian Truce In Week
Major powers agreed to a cessation of hostilities in Syria and to expand delivery of humanitarian aid to people caught up in the conflict, top diplomats said in Munich on February 12. - 2/12/16

Press Reports Reveal Abuse Against Afghan Students in Iranian Schools
Afghan students are being subjected to physical punishment and discrimination in Iranian schools, according to media reports in Iran that the government has tried to suppress. - 2/12/16

BASF to invest $4bn in Iran petchem plan
Iran said on Friday that Germany's BASF, the world's largest chemical producer, plans to make an investment of as much as $4 billion in its petrochemical industry. Marziyeh Shahdani, the managing director of the National Petrochemical Company (NPC), has been quoted by the media as saying that negotiations are underway with BASF to construct a petrochemical township in southern Iran. - 2/12/16

Capture Of U.S. Sailors Reenacted At Celebrations Of Iran's 1979 Revolution
The capture of 10 U.S. sailors by Iranian forces last month was reenacted at rallies in Iran celebrating the anniversary of the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Images published by Iranian news agencies and shared on social media show actors in fatigue pants walking in the streets, some with their hands tied and with chains around their necks. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/12/16

US keeps bans against Iran's Mahan Air
Almost a month after Iran saw a series of nuclear-related economic sanctions lifted, new indications show certain segments of the Iranian economy still remain shut out in what could be a violation of the nuclear deal that the country reached with the P5+1 last summer. - 2/12/16

The Art of Dissidence and Diplomacy
Our new program at IPS, Epicenter, is devoted to lifting up the work of artists as both dissidents and as diplomats - those who help to provoke conflict where the status quo is unjust and those who hope to resolve conflict where the status quo is violent. We'll be focusing on the Middle East for the next year, with a particular emphasis on Iran. - 2/12/16

Nation vs. Revolution in Iran
The Implementation of Iran's nuclear agreement with the P5+1, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has not yet been completed, but critical statements by its detractors in Iran about its ineffectiveness have already began. For example, recently Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a former speaker of the Parliament and an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, said that so far the JCPOA had not had a single positive impact. -Shireen T. Hunter - 2/11/16

U.S. Lawmakers Object To Loosening Visa Rules For Some Iranians
The Obama administration's plan to loosen tough new visa requirements for businessmen and journalists who travel to Iran has touched off strong resistance in Congress. - 2/11/16

Iran's President slams corruption without naming its source
The Iranian president says production and manufacturing efforts in the country are stifled by a network of smuggling supported by a corrupt system. He said the corruption must end. - 2/11/16

A Real "Political Revolution" Would End the War in Iraq
These days, Bernie Sanders doesn't say much about the Middle East. But if you've heard him say nothing else on the subject, he's probably reminded you that he -- unlike a certain former secretary of state -- had the foresight to vote against the Iraq War when it came before Congress back in 2002. -Peter Certo, LobeLog - 2/11/16

Tales of exile and of home: Iranian diaspora in literature
When I was at university studying English literature, I took an interest in diasporic and migrant writings. Authors from India, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean all told the same kind of stories of exile and resettlement. Their books raised a shared set of concerns, reflecting homelessness, loss and attempts to reconstruct identity. -Sanaz Fotouhi, Guardian - 2/11/16

Why Did Rouhani Visit Italy?
When Iran's President Hassan Rouhani visited Rome last month, Italian and Iranian officials and businessmen signed $22 billion worth of deals in sectors ranging from energy to infrastructure, steel, and shipbuilding. Rouhani's "charm offensive" in Europe, which also included stops in the Vatican and France, marked his first trip overseas following the nuclear deal's Implementation Day as well as the first visit of an Iranian president to the continent in 16 years. -Cinzia Bianco and Giorgio Cafiero - 2/10/16

Prominent Lawyers Disqualified from Iran's Bar Association Election
More than two dozen prominent lawyers, including well-known human rights defenders, have been disqualified from running in next month's election for the Iranian Bar Association's board of directors. According to a 1997 law, the Judiciary's Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges reviews the qualifications for candidates seeking a seat in the bar association's board of directors. In this way the Judiciary exerts its influence through a body that claims its independence. - 2/10/16

Friends fear for U.S. businessman in Iran
Nearly a month after a prisoner deal between Washington and Tehran, the friends and family of business consultant Siamak Namazi -- who holds degrees from Tufts and Rutgers universities and has ties to many Washington foreign policy insiders -- fear he has been forgotten in the warm afterglow of last month's swap and are pressing the Obama administration to step up efforts to free him. -Michael Crowley, Politico - 2/10/16

Iranian Professors Sound Alarm Over 'Mass Disqualifications' In Upcoming Vote
About 300 professors at universities across Iran have expressed their "growing concern" over the "mass disqualifications" of candidates in February 26 voting for the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, which could choose the country's future supreme leader. - 2/10/16

New App that Detects Morality Police is Instant Hit in Iran
A smartphone application aimed at helping Iranian users avoid the country's morality police became a smash hit immediately after it was released today, with its servers being inundated by requests, according to one of its creators. Authorities Block App within 24 Hours of Its Debut - 2/10/16

Iran TV Anchor Quits, Citing Sexual Harassment
An Iranian news anchor says she was forced to quit her position and flee the country in mid-January following years of repeated sexual harassment by the station's director. Sheena Shirani, a former broadcaster with Press TV, last week published a series of messages and recordings of voicemails she received from news director Hamid Emadi. - 2/10/16

The truth about visiting Iran
My friends, who are avid and intrepid travelers, blanched when I said I was going to Iran. "You'll never get out alive. You're Jewish. You're female. They'll behead you, and they'll post it on YouTube," one of them cautioned. "You'll rot in a rat-infested jail for the rest of your life. There's no American Embassy; no one will be able to help you!" -Judith Fein, Jerusalem Post - 2/10/16

Iran: Rejected female candidates risk backlash in small towns
The Iranian president's advisor on women's affairs, Fahimeh Farahmanpour, has expressed grave concern over the Guardian Council's widespread disqualification of women running in the parliamentary elections. She said when a female candidate in a small town is disqualified on the basis of paragraph 1 of Article 28, which refers to lack of practical commitment to Islam, then she will have to shoulder a heavy cost in her community. - 2/10/16

Khomeini's Grandson Banned From Running In Iran Elections
An Iranian constitutional watchdog has rejected an appeal by Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the Islamic republic's founder, against his disqualification from running as a candidate for a top clerical body. - 2/10/16

The Nuclear Deal Implementation Day: A Win-Win Agreement (part one)
After many years of unprecedented, crippling Western sanctions that stopped Iran's oil exports and even banking transactions, the long and arduous negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany) culminated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed on 14 July 2015. That agreement finally reached the Implementation Day on 16th January 2016, coincidentally 37 years to the day when the late Mohammad Reza Shah left Iran for good and paved the way for the victory of the Islamic revolution. -Farhang Jahanpour - 2/9/16

Iran ready to expand cooperation with EU, Greece: President Rouhani
President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Iran is ready to expand cooperation with European Union, including Greece and that strengthening relations and cooperation between Tehran and Athens are beneficial for both nations. President Rouhani made the remarks in a meeting with Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Tehran. - 2/9/16

Bandage made of crustacean shell helps rapid wound healing
Iranian researchers at Tehran's Amirkabir University of Technology have developed a wound dressing using shell of crustaceans which would revolutionize healing of lesions. - 2/9/16

Hill Update on Iran and Israeli Settlements
(UNDERMINING THE JCPOA) HR 3662: Introduced 10/1/15 by Russell (R-OK) and having 62 all-GOP cosponsors, the "Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act." As highlighted in Part 1 of the 12/31/15 Round-Up, this bill is one a number pending initiatives aimed at undermining the JCPOA. Notably, it is entirely partisan, meaning efforts to move it are nothing more than grandstanding -Lara Friedman, LobeLog - 2/9/16

Sanctions Lifted, American Tourists Head to Iran
The lifting of sanctions on Iran last month has resulted in a surge of bookings, tour operators say, many from Americans undeterred by a State Department warning laying out the risks of taking trips there. Tour operators say the demand has been so acute that they are racing to add new departures and selling them in record time. -Elaine Glusac, NY Times - 2/9/16

The art of picnicking in Iran: You ain't seen nothing until you've seen an Iranian picnic
It soon became apparent that Brits have far more in common with Iranians than I had realised, most notably a subversive sense of humour and the inability to do anything without vast amounts of tea. But something else links our cultures, something at which Iranians excel and at which they beat us hands down. Iranians are serious, hardcore picnickers. -Lois Pryce, Independent - 2/9/16

Iran's selfie-taking, hoops-shooting religious leaders are stars on Instagram
The Instagram account "Talabe Today" shows, the country's imams are a lot like the rest of us. The man behind the popular account is Masoud Zareian, an Iranian seminary student who wanted to improve the image of the country's conservative clergy, according to the BBC, citing a local newspaper who interviewed Zareian. -Christopher Miller, Mashable - 2/9/16

Trash-Talking: Collecting Garbage Isn't A Crime In Tehran. Or Is It?
Left with few options to legally highlight state repression in Iran, former Tehran University chancellor Mohammad Maleki and former hard-line columnist Mohammad Nurizad settled on a seemingly innocuous form of public protest -- collecting garbage from the streets of Tehran. -Golnaz Esfandiari and Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah, RFE - 2/8/16

Cyris Habib Named to DNC Platform Committee
Washington State Senator Cyrus Habib, the highest-ranking Iranian American in political office was recently appointed to the 2016 Democratic National Convention Platform Committee by DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. - 2/8/16

World Bank forecasts 5.8% GDP growth for Iran in 2016
The World Bank has forecasted Iran's gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by 5.8 percent in 2016 and by 6.7 percent in 2017. In its January 2016 Global Economic Prospects report with the theme of Spillovers amid Weak Growth, the World Bank said Iran's economy expanded by 1.9 percent in 2015. - 2/8/16

Iranian films Nahid and Sonita to screen at Portland International Film Festival
The 39th Portland International Film Festival is being held February 11-27 in Portland, Oregon. This year the Iranian films Nahid, directed by Ida Panahandeh, and Sonita, directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, will be screened at the festival. - 2/8/16

Iran's Eight-Million-Year-Old Fossils Unveiled after Returning Home from US
Iran's ancient fossils, which had been sent to the US some 40 years ago for studies and were returned home after Tehran won a decades-long legal dispute with Washington, were unveiled in the Iranian capital. In the unveiling ceremony held in the city's Pardisan Park, 1351 fossils dating back to eight million years ago were put on display. - 2/8/16

EU Foreign Policy Chief Says Preparing 'Important' Visit To Iran
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says she is preparing an "important visit" to Iran following the implementation of the landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and major world powers. - 2/8/16

What Would Be Most Likely to Unravel the Iran Nuclear Agreement
The agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program-one of the most significant achievements in recent years on behalf of nuclear nonproliferation-deserves ample attention and effort to preserve it. Preserving the accord will require much attention and effort, given that many of those who strove to prevent the agreement from ever being completed or implemented are still trying to kill it. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 2/8/16

Iran's rural areas considered for high-speed internet service
Iranian Minister of Communications Mahmoud Vaezi says the government is looking into providing high-speed internet service to the country's rural areas. He added that 18,000 thousand villages will receive high-speed internet this year. - 2/8/16

The Leader Our Foreign Policy Deserves
It's often said that, in democracies, we get the leaders that we deserve. In the current slugfest masquerading as a presidential race, it looks as though we're getting the leader that our foreign policy deserves. The results of the first round of the 2016 presidential election in Iowa, with narrow victories by Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton, only underscore this point. Let me explain. -John Feffer, LobeLog - 2/8/16

Big in Tehran: Inside Iran's $140M console and PC market
I've chalked up 2015 revenue for the PC and console games market in Iran to approximately $140 million, based on research firm Newzoo's latest data, and project it to grow to $167 million this year. But the majority of this is hard to measure or accurately track because it lurks in gray and black markets due to decades of sanctions and the absence of official distribution channels. -VentureBeat - 2/8/16

Beach volleyball and women's rights in Iran?
Beach volleyball is testing women's rights in Iran. Yes, beach volleyball in Iran. You may think that women's rights there are a secondary issue, compared with recent headlines focusing on a nuclear agreement... But in fact, this issue goes to the heart of whether Iran upholds its international agreements. -Minky Worden, CNN - 2/8/16

Iranian Couples Increasingly Living Together Outside of Marriage
First they called it "white marriage," now it's "black coupling." But no matter how Iranian officials choose to denigrate the upward trend of young unmarried couples living together, it's bound to grow. That's because the phenomenon is directly related to socioeconomic disparities between Iranian men and women, a sociologist speaking on the condition of anonymity told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. - 2/6/16

France and Iran Are Back to Business
After a decade of wrangling over the nuclear program, President Rouhani found himself in Italy and France last week in search of business in the automotive, transportation, hydrocarbon, and industrial sectors. That Rouhani choose to visit Paris over any other European capital underlines the fact that Franco-Iranian relations go much deeper than the past decade of haggling over Iran's uranium enrichment levels. -Emma Scott - 2/6/16

Saudi defeat in Syria definite: Iran's IRGC chief
A top Iranian military commander says a "definite" defeat awaits Saudi Arabia if it sends troops to Syria. "Sending troops by Saudi Arabia means a coup de grace for its regime which, of course, is not bad," chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Mohammad Ali Ja'afari said on Saturday. - 2/6/16

Iran Reverses Ban On 1,500 Election Candidates
Iran's constitutional watchdog, the hard-line Guardians Council, has reversed a ban on 1,500 candidates who had registered to run in the February 26 parliamentary elections. It is unclear how many of the newly approved candidates are considered to be reformists. - 2/6/16

Canada lifts Iran sanctions, to restore ties
Canada announced on Friday that it is lifting some sanctions against Iran and is also working over the restoration of diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic. The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a statement that it had amended its "broad-reaching autonomous sanctions against Iran to allow for a controlled economic re-engagement, including lifting the broad ban on financial services, imports and exports." - 2/6/16

UN urges Iran to adopt legal protections for children
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on Iran to reform its laws affecting children, including the execution of minors and discrimination against girls. The committee calls on the Islamic Republic government to address discrimination against girls manifested in "family relations, the criminal justice system, property rights, compensation for physical injury, among others." - 2/6/16

Iran's Landmines: A Never-Ending Nightmare
Akbar, 47, needs to wrap his leg stump in layer after layer of cloth. His leg was amputated after he stepped on a hidden landmine on his way from work, in western Iran, an area still contaminated by landmines from the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war. His health insurance company did not cover the expense of a prosthetic leg, so he had to pay out of pocket what he could afford, which is what he describes as a "rotten" prosthesis. -Mehrnaz Samimi, LobeLog - 2/6/16

Many Iranian Women, Youth Feel Failed by Reformists Ahead of Vote
Many Iranian women and young people are disillusioned about the upcoming elections, desperate for reform but losing hope in their pragmatic president and his promise of a freer society. The February 26 parliamentary poll will see pro-reform candidates, who broadly back President Hassan Rouhani, attempt to overturn the majority held by conservative hardliners in the 290-seat assembly. -Reuters - 2/6/16

Digging Deep To Build The Tallest Hotel In Iran
Ebrahim Pourfaraj wants to build the biggest hotel in all of Iran. He's already started his project in the far north Tehran, a wealthy zone where the city climbs up the slopes of the snow-capped Alborz Mountains. The sheer scale is amazing. Construction crews have dug a hole in a hillside, about 240 feet deep. Pourfaraj says no commercial construction site in Iran has ever gone this deep. -Steve Inskeep, NPR - 2/6/16

How sanctions helped Iranian tech industry
As Iran moves to take advantage of the sanctions relief extended under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the recent drop in crude prices means that Tehran won't be able to count on soaring oil revenues in the near future... However, things are not all bleak. Iran has an asset that could potentially partially be relied on to tackle the issue of economic growth in the long term: its high-tech sector. -Mahmoud Pargoo, Al Monitor - 2/6/16

Lawmakers Urge for Visa Waivers for Dual Nationals, Iran Visitors
Washington, DC - NIAC Action applauds Jared Huffman (D-CA) and all twenty-six Members of Congress who today called on the Obama Administration to protect dual nationals and people who have visited Iran from discriminatory new visa restrictions. - 2/5/16

Wrestling with Iran
In Iran, wrestling commands the same level of public interest as football in the United States. This is no passing fad. Wrestling is intimately entwined with the history and culture of the country, going back to the legendary matches that Persian kings conducted with their rivals...The initiative in Washington to engage in "wrestling diplomacy" began in 2009, shortly after Barack Obama entered the Oval Office. -John Feffer, LobeLog - 2/5/16

U.S. Republican Lawmakers Seek To Make 'Inspection' Trip To Iran
Three U.S. Republican lawmakers who are highly critical of Iran applied for visas to visit Tehran and observe this month's elections, inspect nuclear sites, and meet with the Revolutionary Guards. - 2/5/16

Arrest of Iranian-British Dual National in Tehran May Be Hardliners' Ploy to Foil Iran-UK Relations
New details about the case of Iranian-British translator Bahman Daroshafaei, who was arrested this week at his Tehran home during a historic visit by Iran's foreign minister to the UK, suggest his detainment may be a politically motivated move by hardliners to thwart better relations with the UK. - 2/5/16

U.S. Presidential Hopefuls Clinton, Sanders Spar Over Iran, Russia
The two U.S. Democratic candidates for president sparred over foreign policy during a debate February 4, and showed particularly sharp differences over Iran. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took issue with socialist Senator Bernie Sanders on restoring diplomatic relations with Tehran now that many economic sanctions have been lifted. - 2/5/16

Iran Inks $40 Billion In Deals In Moscow; Eyes Oil Sales To Rosneft
Iran and Russia have initialed contracts worth around $40 billion for nuclear power construction, railways, and other projects, the top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on February 4. - 2/5/16

Tonic For The Troops: Iran Singer Takes Stage In Syria
A well-known Iranian religious singer recently traveled to war-torn Syria, where he performed for Iranian fighters deployed there to bolster Tehran's regional ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Saeed Haddadian, a popular singer in conservative segments of Iranian society, said in a February 3 interview that he traveled to Syria with his son to honor Iranian forces who "do in action what we say in words." -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/5/16

First Europe bank to open Iran office
Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) says it wants to open a branch in Tehran "as quickly as possible," becoming the first foreign lender to set up shop in Iran after the lifting of sanctions. RBI is in "intensive talks" with Iranian banks as Tehran is rejoining the international banking system, its board member Peter Lennkh said in an interview with Austrian newspaper Wirtschaftsblatt. - 2/5/16

German MKM To Invest 1 Billion Euros in Iran's Copper Industry
TEHRAN - Germany's copper producing company Mansfelder Kupfer und Messing GmbH (MKM) signed a memorandum of understanding, worth 1 billion Euros, to invest in a number of mineral projects including the ones in downstream copper industries in Iran. - 2/5/16

Thousands flee as Russian-backed offensive threatens to besiege Aleppo
Tens of thousands of Syrians fled an intensifying Russian assault around Aleppo on Friday, and aid workers said they feared the city which once held two million people could soon fall under a full government siege. Iran reported one of its generals was killed on the front line assisting government forces, direct confirmation of the role Tehran is playing along with Moscow in what appears to be one of the most ambitious offensives in five years of civil war. -Reuters - 2/5/16

Iranian Officials Condemn Radical Mob's Attack On Top Actress
An attack last week on one of Iran's most famous actresses by hardline vigilantes has been condemned by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Rouhani administration's top official in charge of women's affairs. - 2/4/16

Iran's Parliament set to approve shorter work week for women
Iraj Abdi, a spokesman for Iranian Parliament's Social Commission, says new regulations will soon be approved to let women work reduced hours under certain conditions. The new regulations, according to Abdi, will allow women with children under six, women with disabled children and single mothers to work eight hours less at their full-time jobs without a reduction in pay and benefits. - 2/4/16

Iranian B&Bs and inns win TripAdvisor's 2016 award
TripAdvisor has released its list of the top 25 bed and breakfast and inns in the Middle East, placing Iranian House, Saraye Ameriha Boutique Hotel, and Manouchehri House in the city of Kashan as among the winners of the Travelers' Choice award in 2016. - 2/4/16

Most Iranians Approve Nuclear Deal, Doubt U.S. Compliance
Nearly six months after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 was agreed, seven out of ten Iranians approve of the deal, but only 34% believe the U.S. will comply with its terms, according to a new poll released here Wednesday by the University of Maryland's Center for International & Security Studies (CISSM). -Jim Lobe - 2/4/16

Former BBC Journalist, Translator Arrested In Tehran
Iranian journalist and translator Bahman Darolshafayi, a dual Iranian-British national and former BBC journalist, has been arrested in Tehran. Authorities had not announced the reason for Darolshafayi's arrest on February 3. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/4/16

Lawmaker: U.S. Payment To Iran Looks Like 'Ransom' For Prisoners
A powerful U.S. lawmaker is demanding that Secretary of State John Kerry explain why he paid a $1.7 billion claim settlement to Iran the same day Tehran released American prisoners last month. - 2/4/16

Have the Saudis Given Up Hope of Restoring Hadi as Yemen's President?
Far from being a "Decisive Storm," the intervention into Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition is foundering. The coalition swiftly cleared the coastal region and advanced across the desert interior from the Saudi border. But when they hit the mountainous interior-not so co-incidentally, the refuge of the Zaydi Shi'a-their advance ground to a bloody crawl. -James Spencer, LobeLog - 2/4/16

An Iranian rock star in London: the highs and lows of Ali Azimi's turbulent career
'Persistence is the key to success', my late grandfather used to say; it's also a philosophy the London-based Iranian musician Ali Azimi keeps close to his heart. A former mechanical engineer, Azimi came to public attention in 2009 with his band, Radio Tehran, and their album, 88. -Ben Mirza, Reorient - 2/4/16

After Iran deal, imported Persian rugs reach L.A.
The call came in to the rug store at 10:30 on Wednesday morning: After five days in U.S. customs, the shop's first batch of carpets imported from Iran were ready for pickup. Store owner Alex Helmi quickly gathered his employees and told them to drive to the airport to pick up the shipment: 40 handmade rugs valued at about $500,000. -Sarah Parvini, LA Times - 2/4/16

Farhang Foundation Announces the Winners of the 2016 Nowruz Competitions
Preparations for Farhang's 8th Annual Nowruz (the Iranian New Year) Celebrations at LACMA are underway as the Foundation selects the winning submissions from this year's Nowruz Multimedia Program and Nowruz Street Banner Competitions. - 2/3/16

Iran Elections Update
Less than four weeks away from the February 26 elections for Iran's parliament, the details of how many registrants will be allowed to run is not yet clear. This was not unexpected. As I suggested in my previous post, the unprecedented rate of disqualifications by the provincial supervisory committees was bound to unleash a flurry of consultations with the Guardian Council to reverse some of the decisions made at the lower levels. -Farideh Farhi - 2/3/16

Tehran Stock Market Hits One-Year High After Sanctions Lifted
The Tehran Stock Exchange has surged to a one-year high since Iran's landmark nuclear deal with world powers went into effect last month. The Tehran TEDPIX index soared to 73,725 on February 2, boosted by an outpouring of foreign investment of $16.6 million in the 10 days since sanctions were lifted, Bloomberg reported. - 2/3/16

Two Dozen Iranian Baha'is Sentenced to Six to Eleven Years for Practicing Their Faith
Twenty-four Baha'is from northeastern Iran have been handed down sentences that range from six to eleven years "simply for being Baha'is," according to Simin Fahandej, the faith's spokesperson at the United Nations in New York. - 2/3/16

Arms, financial supply to terrorists must be blocked, Iran's President Rouhani tells visiting German Foreign Minister
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has described terrorism as a serious threat to the entire world, including Europe, calling for measures to stop financial and arms supply to terrorists. The Iranian president made the remarks in a meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Tehran on Wednesday. - 2/3/16

Defending Khomeini's grandson earns backlash for Iranian cleric
After moderate cleric Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke out against the Guardian Council for disqualifying Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the late leader of the Islamic Republic, from running in the Assembly of Experts elections, conservative factions slammed Hashemi, referring to him as a "deviant and corrupt element" who should be disqualified as well. - 2/3/16

Iran's 'Sormeh' Wins Award At Italian Film Festival
Sormeh, a short fiction movie directed by Iranian filmmaker Azadeh Ghochagh has won the Best Film Award in the main section of the Italian short film festival 'Dieciminuti'. Ghochagh's production had competed with other movies from France, the UK, Finland, Bahrain, the US, Italy and Norway. - 2/3/16

Families of detained Kerman mine workers upset by lack of news
Twenty detained miners from the Khatoonabad Mine in Kerman, who were arrested last week for labour protests, remain in custody and have been transferred to Kerman Prison. ILNA reported on Tuesday February 2 that there has been no announcement explaining the charges against these workers. - 2/3/16

Rezaian Case Will Affect Coverage of Iran, Washington Post Editor Says
In an interview with VOA this week, Washington Post Editor Marty Baron said Iran's imprisonment of Postreporter Jason Rezaian will have an effect on how the paper covers Iran. Both Baron and interviewer Setareh Derakhshesh, who heads VOA's Persian service, noted Iran seems to be embroiled in an internal struggle between components of the Iranian regime. - 2/3/16

FBI Creates Facebook Page in Farsi to Aid Search for Missing Agent
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has set up a new Facebook page in Farsi as part of its effort to find retired agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran 2007. The U.S. government is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to Levinson's return, but his whereabouts and the circumstances regarding his disappearance remain a mystery. - 2/3/16

How one messaging app is changing Iranian media
First it was Facebook, and then the smartphone messaging apps Viber and Line. Now, however, the hottest communication tool among Iranians is Telegram. It has more advanced features than its predecessors, and enjoys a high level of influence in Iranian society. -Saeid Jafari, Al-Monitor - 2/3/16

Ratings agency Moody foresees strong growth for post-sanctions Iran
International ratings agency Moody's projects Iranian economy to grow in the years to come over its solid foundation and sanctions removal. Iran's gross domestic product (GDP) will grow five percent in 2016-2017, thanks to a solid foundation built to cope with exclusion from the global financial system, Moody's said in an e-mailed research note Monday. - 2/2/16

Iran's Ex-President Criticizes Disqualification Of Reformist Candidates
Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has criticized the disqualification of reformist candidates by hard-liners from national elections scheduled later in February. Rafsanjani's remarks on February 1 reflect a deepening dispute between Iran's hard-liner and reformist factions ahead of the February 26 vote. - 2/2/16

Iran's $100 billion 'fully released': Government
The government says Iran can now access more than $100 billion in frozen assets after the implementation of a nuclear agreement last month. "These assets have fully been released and we can use them," Government spokesman Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht told Iran's Alalam television network on Sunday night. - 2/2/16

Additional charge lodged against pair of detained Iranian journalists
Issa Saharkhiz and Ehsan Mazandarani, two of the Iranian journalists arrested in the recent backlash against journalists that followed warnings by Iran's Supreme Leader against "foreign infiltrators", are now being tried for "actions against National Security", even though the investigators had slapped them with the charge of "propaganda against the regime". - 2/2/16

Babel Tower spins to reflect Iran's desert landscape
Iranian artist Shirin Abedinirad and Italian interaction designer Gugo Torelli created the Babel Tower as an interactive installation that offers a contemporary interpretation of the mythical structure. -dezeen - 2/2/16

Iranian Commanders Who Detained U.S. Sailors Receive Hero Treatment
Meet Iran's new heroes: the head of the naval forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and four of its commanders who last month briefly detained U.S. sailors after their vessels mistakenly strayed into Iranian territorial waters. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 2/2/16

Iranian Artists and Sculptors to prepare Tehran for Spring Equinox
In preparation for the Persian New Year and the arrival of spring, the municipality of Tehran has organized a cultural event entitled "Baharestan" where artists and sculptors are invited to submit proposals for the installation of artwork throughout the city. - 2/2/16

Iran, Pakistan Agree to Boost Border Security, Trade
Iran and Pakistan have agreed to increase border security and boost bilateral trade. The two countries, which share a long, porous border, signed five memorandums of understanding on Monday dealing with issues of cross-border militant activity, smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. - 2/2/16

Exclusive: Documents Confirm Leak of Unexplained Deposits to Nisman's US Bank Account
The leaks exposed a number of suspicious financial transactions involving a New York bank account maintained by Nisman since March 2002. Argentine authorities are currently investigating the possibility that the account was used for money laundering, while a separate inquiry attempts to determine the cause of Nisman's death. -Michael LaSusa, LobeLog - 2/2/16

Iran bans wheat imports: Agency
Iran's Ministry of Agriculture bans state imports of wheat in the coming Persian year which begins on March 20, ordering officials to stop registering new purchase orders. Agriculture officials have already said they foresaw no major wheat imports in the calendar year of 1395 because better rainfall so far is expected to boost domestic harvest. - 2/2/16

Rokhsareh Qaem-Maqami's Sonita wins top award at Sundance Film Festival
Sonita, a joint production of Iran, Germany and Switzerland, by Iranian filmmaker Rokhsareh Qaem-Maqami, has won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival: World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary and Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary - 2/1/16

IRAN: A Travelogue to Home Away from Home
Our family of five, along with nearly 800 other passengers, were aboard the Emirate's double decker A-380, having departed from New York's JFK on winter solstice night 12 hours earlier, and expected to arrive in Dubai within an hour, considering the time difference. We noted, unlike the past, that the Persian Gulf on navigation screen simply has no name designation, factual or fallacious. Looking down however, we were ecstatic to witness the snow-capped, extinct volcanic Mt. Damavand, elev. 18,500 ft., eternally standing high and proud, to safeguard the motherland, IRAN. -Davood N. Rahni - 2/1/16

List of rejected reformist candidates presented to Iran's Supreme Leader
Political activists report that a list of 208 reformists candidates for Parliament who were disqualified by the Guardian Council has been presented to Iran's Supreme Leader in a bid to get permission to run in the election. - 2/1/16

US Lawmakers Keep Focus on Iran Nuclear Pact
While politically minded Americans focus on Iowa's presidential caucuses, many of their representatives in Congress continue to speak out on the international nuclear accord with Iran. The pact remains a lightning rod for controversy on Capitol Hill, where sharp differences persist on its merits, limitations, and impact on the Middle East and beyond. -Michael Bowman, VOA - 2/1/16

Suppression of student media prompts letter to President Rohani
More than 800 student activists have written to President Hassan Rohani to protest "the pressure against student media" and to call for an end to this approach. The Etemad daily reports that in recent months, student newspapers have been under severe pressure, and writing about politics "has become an unforgivable crime" for them, while reporting on "social maladies is being branded as showing a dark view of the country". - 2/1/16

In Iran, New Battle Brews Over Contracts With Foreign Oil Giants
A political battle is taking shape in Iran over any new foreign role in developing the country's enormous oil wealth, only a few weeks after the Iranian nuclear deal with foreign powers relaxed tough economic sanctions. -Thomas Erdbrink, NY Times - 2/1/16

Five Unanswered Questions About Iran's Airbus Mega-Order
There is no doubt that Iran's landmark agreement with Airbus to purchase 118 new aircraft will transform the fortunes of an aviation sector ravaged by international sanctions. The acquisition of brand new, western-built aircraft will help flag-carrier Iran Air reclaim its title as a leader in Gulf aviation, ending decades as an industry pariah unable to strike commercial deals. -Martin Rivers, Forbes - 2/1/16

Sanctions are out, French cosmetics are in: Companies hope to profit in Iran
Pucker up, get your brushes and line your eyes -- sanctions on Iran are out, and cosmetics from France are in. Or at least, that's what some of France's biggest, best-known cosmetic brands are hoping, with a huge market opening up as Iran comes in from the cold after a landmark nuclear deal. -AFP - 2/1/16
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