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February 08 2016
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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Iran Navy holds massive maritime parade, ends major drills

- Iran's naval forces have staged a maritime parade in the Sea of Oman, marking the end of large-scale naval drills in the country's southern waters where they successfully hit and destroyed mock enemy targets. - 1/31/16

Damascus Suburb Blasts Kill 60 near Zeinab Shi'ite Shrine

- Islamic State has claimed a triple bombing in a southern Damascus suburb Sunday that killed at least 60 people. Two suicide bombers detonated explosives as rescue efforts were underway after a car bombing in the Sayeda Zeinab district of Damascus, near a revered Shi'ite shrine. - 1/31/16

Let's Talk About Bernie Sanders and the Middle East

- The contrast between Clinton and Sanders is a bit starker on Iran. Sanders has argued that "what we've got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran." This is virtually the same sentiment that President Obama has expressed on a number of occasions. -Derek Davison - 1/30/16

Surprise Visitor During Latest Caspian Sea Status Meeting

- Representatives of the five Caspian Sea littoral states -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan -- finished up their most recent meeting on January 29. Reports about the January 28 portion of the deputy foreign ministers' meeting seemed to indicate it was business as usual. -Bruce Pannier, RFE - 1/30/16

'Silk Road' train departs China for Iran

- China has flagged off its first direct freight train to Iran from the trading hub of Yiwu in what is seen as the groundbreaking initiative to get Beijing's ambitious New Silk Road connectivity project off the ground. - 1/30/16

Strategy Abroad for Obama's Last Year

- With less than a year left in his presidency, Barack Obama has said he will do all he can for America at home, bypassing Congress if need be with executive orders. He can also act on his own in foreign policy and national security, at least to set the nation on a useful course beyond his own tenure. -Robert E. Hunter - 1/29/16

Iran Says It Flew Drone Over U.S. Aircraft Carrier

- Iranian state TV says the Islamic republic flew a surveillance drone over a U.S. aircraft carrier during a naval exercise. The report on January 29 said the drone took pictures of the vessel, but did not elaborate. There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which oversees the Persian Gulf from Bahrain. - 1/29/16

The Virtues of Diplomacy

- Diplomats are normally seen as mild, perhaps timid people associated with tea sipping and good manners. I could (barely) have passed for one when I was working on Iran in the State Department during the 1979-80 Iran hostage crisis. About mid-way into that seemingly endless contest of national wills, the Carter administration decided to severe relations with Iran. -Henry Precht, LobeLog - 1/29/16

US Hawks Ignore Top Israeli Official on Iran

- Last week, Israel's top military official made some staggering comments during the course of a security conference in Tel Aviv. Here's how The Forward's JJ Goldberg reported the comments of Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, Israel's chief of staff, which seem as of yet to be unavailable in a full English translation from the original Hebrew. Eisenkot said there were two "existential threats" to Israel, and both are currently "declining." -Ali Gharib - 1/28/16

Russian Oil Execs Agree To Talk With OPEC About Boosting Prices

- Russian oil executives and energy officials decided this week they should talk to Saudi Arabia and the OPEC oil cartel about cutting output to boost world oil prices, the head of Russia's pipeline monopoly said on January 27. - 1/28/16

The Forgotten Benefits of Offshore Balancing

- Discussions of grand strategy often are too abstract and general to be of significant practical use in formulating sound decisions about specific foreign policy problems, but sometimes a concept drawn from such discussion points to an overlooked and fundamentally better way to approach such decisions. Such a concept is offshore balancing, which involves the United States not trying to do everything itself but instead exploiting rivalries between other states to prevent any one of them from acquiring hegemonic power and regional dominance. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 1/28/16

Pope Urges Iran to Promote Political Solution in Middle East

- Pope Francis has urged Iran to use its "important role" to promote peace in the Middle East and help halt the spread of terrorism and weapons trafficking. The pope made the appeal during a 40-minute closed-door meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Vatican Tuesday. - 1/27/16

The fifth anniversary of the Egyptian Uprising

- Since achieving their independence from Western colonialism, most Arab countries have never experienced events such as they have seen during the past few years. The demonstrators in Tunisia got rid of their autocratic ruler in a remarkably short time. And the events in Egypt starting exactly five years ago today (25 January, 2015) spelled the end of Hosni Mubarak's regime. The fire of revolutions and uprisings spread to other Arab countries, and are still continuing. -Farhang Jahanpour - 1/27/16

Iran set to hold massive naval drill

- Iran is set to hold the final stage of large-scale naval maneuver codenamed "Velayat 94" in the high seas. The final stage of the massive drills will be held in an area of three million square kilometers east of the Strait of Hormuz, Sea of Oman and northern part of the Indian Ocean, Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said Tuesday. - 1/27/16

Are Jihadis Reaching their Limits of Nihilism?

- It is hard to find even the smallest silver lining in the ongoing series of jihadist outrages that now proliferate with each daily news report. The immoral and cynical exploitation of religion (a constant of human history) is ultimately about power and intimidation. The phenomenon shows no signs of coming to an end and at this point in history happens to most dramatically center in the Muslim world. -Graham E. Fuller, LobeLog - 1/27/16

Azerbaijan's Reserves Rapidly Evaporating Amid Fiscal Storm

- With oil prices now barely above $31 per barrel, Azerbaijan's energy-export economy is taking on lots of water. And what is worse, Baku's lifeboat, the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan, appears to be in danger of foundering. -Durna Safarova, LobeLog - 1/26/16

SEPARATING FACTS FROM FICTION: Truths, Myths, and Outright Lies

- The P5+1/Iran nuclear agreement is a done deal and sanctions against Iran are lifting, much to the chagrin of the war parties here and the Wahhabis there. Significantly though, Israeli regime's objection to the agreement is a calculated strategy for blackmail and extortion against its old patron and benefactor, the United States. As expected, the Israeli PM, Netanyahu, has already begun his well-choreographed routine of We need more, give us more, or we'll screw it up for you! -Kambiz Zarrabi - 1/25/16

Prominent Iranian cleric arrested for role in attack on Saudi embassy

- Hassan Kurdmihan, an Iranian cleric, preacher and director of religious institutions in Tehran and Karaj, has been arrested by Iranian authorities for guiding the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. - 1/25/16

Nuclear deal could lead the way toward better relationship with Iran

- Hailing the implementation of the July 2015 agreement in which Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program, Secretary of State John Kerry recalled that there had been no shortage of skeptics: "Iran has undertaken significant steps that many - and I do mean many - people doubted would ever come to pass." -R. K. Ramazani - 1/24/16

After sanctions, Iranian and foreign firms await the good times

- The deal with world powers that ended Iran's international isolation, in exchange for restrictions on Tehran's nuclear programme, restored its access to tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets, reopened the country to foreign investment and allows it to sell oil again on world markets. -Reuters - 1/24/16

ISIS and the Reversible Stages of Revolt

- Large-scale armed insurrection tends to move through identifiable phases that correspond roughly to what Mao Zedong described many years ago. In Mao's formulation, the first of three phases emphasizes organization, propaganda, and the establishment of cadres and a presence in the areas in which the revolutionary movement intends to operate. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 1/24/16

China, Iran Expand Ties During Xi Visit

- Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for a "new chapter" in China-Iran relations, as the Chinese leader continued an official state visit to Tehran. Meeting at the president's residence in Tehran Saturday, the two leaders oversaw the signing of 17 agreements aimed at expanding diplomatic and economic cooperation. The two countries also agreed to boost mutual trade. -Nike Ching, William Gallo, VOA - 1/23/16

Clinton Campaign Recycles Hawkish Foreign Policy Positions

- For starters, the Clinton camp's is employing a highly selective interpretation of what Sanders said at Sunday's debate. Sanders, while expressing support for continuing to improve relations with Iran, explicitly said he was not in favor of opening an embassy in Tehran at this time and expressed concern with the rhetoric coming from Iran's leadership. -Eli Clifton, LobeLog - 1/23/16

Delicacy and compromise were key to the Iran deal, not bluster and prayer

- We wouldn't have the release of five American prisoners and a non-nuclear Iran if the Republicans' 'my way or the highway' foreign policy ruled Washington -Ali Gharib, Guardian - 1/23/16

Neocons Double their Standards on Prisoner Release

- It's inevitable that neoconservatives will assail President Obama's every dealing with Iran. And indeed, the denunciations were fast and furious of the deal that brought home four Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. ... But the neocon criticisms all smacked of historical ignorance, hypocrisy, or both. -Eli Clifton, Ali Gharib, and Jim Lobe - 1/22/16

Iran and the Diplomatic Jackpot

- After a strenuous campaign by both the administration and civil society organizations in support of the nuclear deal, it squeaked through Congress despite the opposition of the Republican Party and a few renegade Democrats. Then came the waiting. - John Feffer, LobeLog - 1/22/16

Kerry Talks To Iranian FM About Missing Americans

- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he has spoken to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif about the three Americans that were abducted in Iraq last week. Kerry confirmed at the Davos World Economic Forum on January 21 that he had spoken to Zarif about the issue. - 1/22/16

Is Europe Choosing Iran over Saudi Arabia?

- On January 19, the European Parliament (EP) debated the escalating crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia following the execution by Riyadh of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr and the attack in response on the Saudi embassy in Tehran by angry mobs .The debate, kicked off and wrapped up by the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, has highlighted a shift in European attitudes toward Iran and Saudi Arabia that has been taking shape for a while. -Eldar Mamedov - 1/21/16

Iran nuclear deal proves power of diplomacy: Zarif

- "Regionally I think it sends a message that if we can resolve that something everybody thought was impossible to resolve, with countries who were - obviously at least Iran and the United States - were hostile for at least 37 years, then there's no impediment in resolving regional issues," Zarif said while addressing the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss city of Davos on Wednesday. - 1/21/16

Iran's Supreme Leader Condemns Attack On Saudi Embassy In Tehran

- Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned the attack on Saudi Arabia's Embassy in Tehran in early January, saying it was "very bad" and "wrong." Khamenei equated the assault to an attack against both Iran and Islam. - 1/21/16

Pick Your Fights Carefully--with China, Iran or Anyone

- The dramatic and fast-moving events in U.S.-Iranian relations over the past few days underscore, among other lessons, the following two. One is that results matter. No matter how hard the naysayers have striven to say nay, they have offered no alternative to actual U.S. policy that could have yielded results as favorable. And it's not as if there hasn't been ample experience to test what alternatives might have done. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 1/21/16

Crude Reckoning: The Far-Reaching, Unexpected Effects Of Falling Oil Prices

- What do a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter, a Russian villager, and an American miner have in common? They have all been adversely affected by plunging oil prices. For many Western consumers, plummeting prices mean paying less to heat their homes and drive their cars. But cheap oil, at its lowest price in over a decade, is also having far-reaching and unexpected geopolitical and economic consequences around the world. -Frud Bezhan, RFE - 1/20/16

Analysts Watch Iran's Post-sanctions Relationship with Neighbors

- Now that international sanctions against Iran have been lifted, the Islamic Republic's relations with its neighbors, in particular Saudi Arabia, are being closely watched. Saudi Arabia, the dominant Sunni country in the region, is particularly on edge as Shi'ite-led Iran prepares to rejoin the world economy, said Gulf State Analytics founder Giorgio Cafiero. -Heather Murdock, VOA - 1/20/16

Pakistan Offers To Host Saudi-Iranian Talks

- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has offered to host talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia in an effort to resolve disputes between the rival countries. Sharif told Iranian President Hassan Rohani in Tehran on January 19 that he wants to improve relations between the mostly Sunni Saudi kingdom and predominantly Shi'ite Iran and will appoint an envoy to work on the issue. - 1/20/16

JCPOA Implementation and Afterwards

- I am pretty sure it was not planned. But the Implementation Day for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)-January 16-was also the anniversary of the day Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Iran in 1979. This coincidence is sure to give some Iranians, who earnestly believe that the Shah's departure was made possible by loss of U.S. confidence in the Iranian monarch or even support for the revolutionary forces, another reason to be convinced that the United States is responsible for the Islamic Republic of Iran's survival and even maintenance over the years. -Farideh Farhi - 1/19/16

Innocent passage of the warships in the maritime territories of the Persian Gulf

- The recent incident in the Persian Gulf between the US and Iran navies has once again renewed the issue of innocent passage for the warships in the maritime territories at the time of peace (of course, the law of war is different). The non-military ships have normally the right of innocent passage in the territorial sea of other states. This is clearly stated in various sources of the international laws of the Sea, especially the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea dated 1982 known as Montego Bay Treaty. -Bahman Aghai Diba - 1/19/16

Pakistan PM arrives in Iran after Saudi visit

- Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has arrived in Tehran to hold talks with senior Iranian officials. Sharif, who is heading a high-ranking delegation, was welcomed at Tehran Mehrabad airport by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan on Tuesday. - 1/19/16

53 National Security Leaders Hail JCPOA Implementation Day

- More than four dozen former senior national-security officials and members of Congress have issued a statement hailing Saturday's announcement of "Implementation Day" of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and citing it as a reaffirmation of "the value of diplomacy as an invaluable tool for conflict resolution." -Jim Lobe, LobeLog - 1/19/16

In Celebration of the Nuclear Agreement with Iran

- There can be several ways of perceiving the full application of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with effect from "Implementation Day," January 16, 2016. One is that this was a triumph for the world's "global policeman." By using sanctions to make life very hard for the Islamic Republic, this narrative goes, the United States obtained a deal that prevents Iran's leaders from realizing their aim of acquiring nuclear weapons and destroying Israel. -Peter Jenkins - 1/18/16

What Accounts for the Saudi Regime's Hysterical Belligerence? The Agony of Death

- The purpose of this essay is to explain, not describe, the frantically belligerent behavior of the Saudi regime. The goal is not to delve into what the regime and its imperialist enablers have done, or are doing; that unsavory record of atrocities, both at home and abroad, is abundantly exposed by other writers/commentators. It is, rather, to focus on why they have done or are doing what they do. -Ismael Hossein-zadeh - 1/18/16

Iran gives order for 500,000 bpd rise in oil production

- Managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company says the Oil Ministry has been ordered to raise the country's daily oil production by 500,000 barrels following announcement of the removal of international sanctions against Iran. - 1/18/16

At Debate, Democrats Praise Iran Deal, Spar Over Domestic Issues

- The Democratic candidates running in this year's presidential election agreed Sunday that the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran and release of U.S. citizens represent a positive step in relations, while also calling on countries in the Middle East to do increase their role in the fight against Islamic State. -Chris Hannas, VOA - 1/18/16

Iran nabs key suspects in Saudi embassy raid

- Iranian security forces have detained three people accused of having played a key role in the recent raid on the Saudi embassy in the capital, Tehran, a top Iranian Judiciary official says. He also said that efforts continue to identify and apprehend more suspects, and that investigations continue regarding those already in custody. - 1/18/16

The Nonproliferation Impact of Iran Nuclear Deal Implementation Day

- On January 16, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that Tehran completed its nuclear-related commitments under the July 2015 nuclear agreement and sanctions were lifted accordingly. Zaif and Mogherini said that "proper implementation will be a key contribution to improved regional and international peace, stability and security." -Kelsey Davenport, LobeLog - 1/18/16

Obama's Iran Gamble Paying Off

- In the ways of the world, sometimes objectively little events can symbolize much greater ones. Thus the determination by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran has complied with requirements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), limiting its nuclear work and triggering the lifting of some economic sanctions, is trumped in the American public imagination by two other events... -Robert E. Hunter - 1/17/16

World's response to implementation of Iran historic nuclear deal

- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also hailed the agreement implementation. "This achievement demonstrates that international proliferation concerns are best addressed through dialogue and patient diplomacy," said Ban's spokesman in a statement. "This is a significant milestone that reflects the good faith effort by all parties to fulfill their agreed commitments," he added. - 1/17/16

Zarif: Iran Expects Sanctions Will Be Lifted Saturday

- Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says international economic sanctions on Iran will be lifted Saturday, with the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency expected to confirm that Tehran has complied with last July's landmark agreement with world powers to restrain its nuclear development program. "Today is a good day for the people of Iran and the sanctions will be lifted today," Zarif told Iran's IRNA news agency as he arrived in Vienna, awaiting the release of the final report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. "It's also a good day for the region." - 1/16/16

Nuclear Deal Implementation Day

- The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concluded by Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - plus the European Union on July 14, 2015 requires Iran to take four major steps that will set back its capacity to produce material for nuclear weapons. -Daryl G. Kimball, U.S. Institute of Peace - 1/16/16

Iran's Move To Add To Oil Glut Sends Global Markets Reeling

- Oil prices plummeted to $29 a barrel on an expected increase in Iranian oil exports as international sanctions are lifted this weekend, dragging stock markets sharply lower around the world on January 15. With major indexes in New York, Shanghai, London and elsewhere plunging in a world awash in oil but lacking strong sources of economic growth, worried investors snapped up gold, bonds, and other safe-haven assets. - 1/16/16

Republicans' Self-Defeating Attack on Obama's Iran Policy

- Republican presidential hopefuls didn't celebrate the quick release of the U.S. military personnel who found themselves in Iranian waters near a sensitive military site. Rather, they portrayed it as a failed opportunity to escalate tensions with Iran, tear up the nuclear deal, and, in the process, potentially put the safety of U.S. military personnel in jeopardy. -Eli Clifton - 1/15/16

Iran Removes Core of Arak Heavy Water Reactor as Part of Nuclear Accord

- Iranian state TV reported that Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by phone Thursday the removal of the core of the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor is complete. If not disabled the plant could have produced plutonium, a possible element in setting off a nuclear reaction. - 1/15/16

Iranian And UAE Ministers Trade Twitter Digs In Saudi Standoff

- The diplomatic crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia has spilled onto Twitter, where the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- Riyadh's staunch ally -- triggered a war of words by mocking an opinion piece by his Iranian counterpart published in The New York Times. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 1/15/16

The Fifth Anniversary of Arab Uprisings: A Turning point in Modern History?

- The tumultuous developments that have rocked the Arab world and have come to be known as the Arab Spring resulted in the toppling of the first Arab ruler on 14 January 2011, exactly five years ago today. The Arab revolutions have not turned out as expected, but they are still unfinished business and still have a long way to go before one can judge their final outcome. -Farhang Jahanpour, Informed Comment - 1/15/16

Enduring Bases, Enduring War in the Middle East

- Amid the distractions of the holiday season, the New York Times revealed that the Obama administration is considering a Pentagon proposal to create a "new" and "enduring" system of military bases around the Middle East. Though this is being presented as a response to the rise of the Islamic State and other militant groups, there's remarkably little that's new about the Pentagon plan. -David Vine - 1/15/16

The Underlying Messages of the US-Iran Naval Incident

- When news broke that the naval branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had captured 10 US naval personnel whose boat had drifted into the territorial waters of the Iranian island of Farsi, it first appeared that Iran's hardliners were attempting to scuttle the implementation of the recently concluded nuclear deal and thus prevent any further improvement in US-Iran relations. -Shireen T. Hunter - 1/14/16

US Investigating Iran's Brief Detention of US Sailors

- The United States welcomed Iran's release of 10 U.S. Navy sailors Wednesday, a day after they drifted into Iranian waters and were detained. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said resolution of the incident was a success for diplomacy, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he was grateful to have the service members "back in our hands." -Carla Babb, VOA - 1/14/16

Restraint in the Persian Gulf

- Hardliners who--for their separate reasons in each of the countries where such hardliners live--are still determined to sabotage the agreement to restrict Iran's nuclear program must have been salivating when they first heard yesterday that Iran had taken into custody two U.S. Navy patrol boats and their crews in the Persian Gulf. This is just the sort of military incident that historically has upended detentes, spoiled diplomatic initiatives, and escalated into something much more than just an incident. -Paul Pillar, LobeLog - 1/14/16

Saudi Arabia and Iran: Is War Imminent?

- No, war is not imminent between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia's ad hoc warlike posturing against Iran and continued war in Yemen, however, will exacerbate regional tensions and deepen the misery of Arab peoples. The Saudi execution early this month of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr is not about Iran or the Saudi-Iranian power struggle and regional influence in the Persian Gulf. Nor is it about Saudi fears of an ascending "Persian Empire" to the east. -Emile Nakhleh, LobeLog - 1/14/16

Iran Frees All Detained U.S. Navy Sailors

- Ten U.S. sailors and two patrol boats detained by Iran on January 12 and accused of trespassing have been released after Tehran determined they did not deliberately enter Iranian waters. "It was determined that the detained American Marines did not enter Iranian waters intentionally," the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was quoted as telling Iranian state television. "Following their apology, they have been released to international waters in the [Persian] Gulf." - 1/13/16

Saudi-Iran Crisis Mars Tehran Sanctions Relief

- Iran is on the brink of reintroducing itself to the world economy as economic sanctions may be lifted soon in accordance with the nuclear deal struck in Vienna last year. Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. -Heather Murdock, VOA - 1/13/16

Saudi Disillusionment with the U.S. Started With Bush

- The following are excerpts from a telephone interview conducted late last week with Amb. Chas Freeman, Jr. (ret.) regarding the latest developments between Iran and Saudi Arabia, in particular. Freeman, who served as U.S. ambassador (1989-1992) to the Kingdom during the first Gulf War and has maintained numerous high-level contacts there since, served in a variety of other positions in the U.S. Foreign Service. -Jim Lobe, LobeLog - 1/13/16
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