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January 19 2017
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UN: Iran Nuclear Deal Working; Continued Commitment Required

- A U.N. report says Iran has not received any unauthorized transfers of nuclear-related items since an international nuclear agreement was implemented a year ago, but Tehran may have violated some provisions on conventional arms transfers and travel restrictions. -Margaret Besheer, VOA - 1/19/17

Iran-Saudi cooperation possible if Riyadh sees realities on ground: Foreign Minister Zarif

- Iran and Saudi Arabia can work together to help end regional conflicts, but Riyadh needs to see the realities on the ground before relations between the two countries could go back to normal, the Iranian foreign minister says. Meanwhile, Zarif warned US President-elect Donald Trump against trying to renegotiate Iran's nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - 1/19/17

President Rouhani: JCPOA belied allegations against Iran

- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the historic deal over Iran's nuclear program and its implementation belied claims about the country seeking weapons of mass destruction and demonstrated the honesty and sincerity of the Islamic Republic. Rouhani made the remarks in a press conference attended by some 200 Iranian and foreign reporters in Tehran on Tuesday on the first anniversary of the implementation of the country's nuclear agreement with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). - 1/18/17

Why Coercion Is a Recipe for Failure with Iran

- Opponents of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord have criticized the deal because it did not end uranium enrichment or limit missile development by Iran. With the Trump administration, some see an opportunity to undermine the agreement by imposing more non-nuclear sanctions on Iran. The assumption is that this could provoke Tehran to withdraw from the deal, snapping back the 'crippling' sanctions, which-according to common wisdom-brought the country to the negotiating table in 2013. -Tytti Erasto - 1/18/17

Iran Against U.S. Presence At Syria Peace Talks In Astana

- Iran says it opposes the United States joining peace talks on Syria to be held in Kazakhstan next week. That goes against the position of the other two organizers of the talks, Russia and Turkey, which have said the new U.S. administration of Donald Trump should be represented at the Astana talks, which begin on January 23. - 1/18/17

Implementing the Iran Nuclear Deal: A Status Report

- One year since its "implementation day", 16 January 2016, the July 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) -- The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- is both a success and in jeopardy. -International Crisis Group - 1/18/17

EU Diplomat Says Bloc Will Stand By Iran Nuclear Deal

- The European Union head of foreign affairs says the EU will stand by the nuclear agreement with Iran, setting up a potential conflict with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has condemned the deal. Federica Mogherini on January 16 insisted that the accord serves Europe's security needs and is "proof that diplomacy works and delivers." - 1/17/17

Bahrain and "Iranian-Backed Terrorism"

- In its just-published 2017 World Report, Human Rights Watch warned against the Bahrain regime's "accelerated repression" of peaceful activists and the continued detention and prosecution of human rights protesters. The report called on the government of Bahrain to "reinvigorate a stalled process of political reform by reversing the dissolution of al-Wifaq, releasing high-profile political detainees, and ending its harassment of activists." -Emile Nakhleh - 1/17/17

IAEA confirms Iran's removal of excess centrifuges from Fordo nuclear facility

- The UN nuclear agency confirms that Iran has removed "excess centrifuges and infrastructure" from the Fordo enrichment facility in line with its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement. "Iran has carried out these steps within the timeframe stipulated under the JCPOA," the IAEA chief said. - 1/16/17

Trump Appointee Crowley Espoused Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theories

- President-elect Donald Trump's decision to name Monica Crowley to lead communications for the National Security Council (NSC) has resulted in a plagiarism scandal for the Fox News personality and Washington Times columnist. A CNN review of her columns for the Times revealed at least seven instances of plagiarism. Politico found that she also plagiarized sections of her PhD dissertation for Columbia University. -Eli Clifton, LobeLog - 1/13/17

As Trump guns for Iran Deal, can its Reformists survive death of Hashemi-Rafsanjani?

- Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's death on Sunday January 8 in Tehran at the age of 82 marks the end of an era in Iran's post-revolutionary history. After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, in 1989, Hashemi-Rafsanjani's death will have the most significant impact on Iranian politics. -Farhang Jahanpour - 1/12/17

Tillerson Backs 'Full Review' Of Iran Nuclear Deal

- U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state says he supports a "full review" of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which the incoming president has previously pledged to renegotiate or scrap altogether. Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said during a January 11 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would recommend such a review if he is confirmed as Trump's secretary of state. - 1/12/17

Will Iran's Alliance With Russia Last?

- At Tuesday's funeral in Tehran of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a key figure in the 1979 Islamic Revolution who later pushed for reconciliation with the West, reformist mourners not only chanted for the release of hunger-striking rights activists held in Iranian jails but also called for an end to their country's burgeoning alliance with Moscow. -Jamie Dettmer, VOA - 1/12/17

Oil Prices Plummet On Fear OPEC-Russia Output Cuts Will Unravel in 2017

- World oil prices have plummeted over concerns that a deal to curb production reached between OPEC, Russia, and other producers will not hold for much longer. - 1/10/17

Congress Takes Up Iran, Israel, UN in 2017

- Welcome to the 115th Congress! Based on this first week, it seems safe to say: fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a very very very bumpy ride. (As we have over the past two years, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now about what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran.) -Lara Friedman, LobeLog - 1/10/17

US Navy Fires Warning Shots at Iranian Boats Near Persian Gulf

- A U.S. Navy ship fired three warnings shots at Iranian boats near the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday, a U.S. defense official told VOA. Four Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels were "traveling right at" the USS Mahan in the Strait of Hormuz at a "very high rate of speed," the defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. - 1/9/17

Iran cashing in on OPEC oil output cut: Report

- Reports suggest that Iran has managed to sell nearly half of oil that it had long held on tankers at sea as it capitalizes on OPEC oil cut to sell millions of barrels, courting new customers around the globe. Tehran has sold more than 13 million barrels of the crude it had held in floating storage. - 1/7/17

Secretary Kerry Warns Trump Against Scrapping Iran Nuclear Deal

- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned the incoming Trump administration against scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, saying it has made the world safer by leaving Tehran technically unable to build a nuclear weapon. - 1/6/17

Poll: Nearly 2/3 of U.S. Public Opposes Withdrawing from Iran Nuclear Deal

- Amid growing speculation about a Trump administration's intentions regarding the Iran nuclear deal, a new poll has found that nearly two-thirds of the U.S. public opposes withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated 18 months ago between Iran and the P5+1. -Jim Lobe, LobeLog - 1/6/17

37 Top U.S. Scientists Urge Trump To Preserve Iran Nuclear Deal

- Dozens of top U.S. scientists have called on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to uphold the nuclear deal reached with Iran, calling it "a strong bulwark against an Iranian nuclear-weapons program." The letter was organized by physicist Richard L. Garwin, known for helping design the world's first hydrogen bomb. The 37 signatories of the letter include a Nobel laureate, former White House science advisers, and prominent academics. - 1/3/17

How much we know about cetaceans of Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman?

- Unlike whales which are currently extremely rare cetaceans were abundant in the Persian Gulf. Some anecdotal reports of stranded whales have been received, usually without an identification of the species. It seems cetacean populations have declined significantly in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. This is probably because of three factors: a reduction of fish stocks due to commercial exploitation, water contamination primarily due to discharge of petroleum products into the Persian Gulf, and a global decline in numbers. -Farnaz Heidari - 1/3/17

Turkmen Cutoff Of Iran Leaves Dwindling Gas Options For Ashgabat

- It looks like Turkmenistan might be left with just one customer for its natural gas. The National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) said in a statement on January 1 that Turkmen state company Turkmengaz "suddenly an illogical manner, contrary to the agreement, halted gas deliveries to Iran this morning..." -Bruce Pannier, RFE - 1/2/17

The Case for Sending Secretary Kerry to Tehran

- Although it is unclear what will happen to the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) once President-elect Donald Trump assumes office, President Barack Obama still has a few weeks left to try to reinforce his signature foreign policy achievement by sending Secretary of State John Kerry to the capital of one of the signatory members-Tehran. -Navid Hassibi - 12/30/16

Iran, US likely to start re-negotiations on nuclear deal: Olli Hainonen

- A former IAEA fellow and its deputy director-general has told Mehr News that it should not be surprising if Iran and the US were to start some pre/re-negotiations on JCPOA once Trump takes over as president. In an interview conducted by Mehr News International Service, Olli Hainonen talked about the possible scenarios for Iran's nuclear deal once Donald Trump takes over as President of the United States. - 12/30/16

Has Obama "Betrayed" Israel at the UN?

- Has America's president betrayed Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his government bitterly accused after President Obama failed to veto a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israel for its settlements in the West Bank? -Henry Siegman, LobeLog - 12/30/16

Oman, Iran's Closest Gulf Ally, Signals Change By Joining Saudi Alliance

- Oman, Iran's closest ally in the Persian Gulf region, has signaled that it may be changing course by joining a Saudi-led coalition of Muslim countries fighting terrorism. Arab news outlets said on December 28 that Oman's defense minister sent a letter to Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announcing the decision to join the Islamic Military Alliance Against Terrorism. - 12/29/16

Putin Says Syria Cease-Fire Deal Signed, Russia And Turkey 'Guarantors'

- Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Syrian government and its opponents have signed an agreement on a nationwide cease-fire and a declaration expressing the willingness to begin peace talks. Putin said on December 29 that a document outlining measures to implement the cease-fire was also signed. - 12/29/16

Turkey Seeks To Include Saudis In Syrian Peace Talks; Iran Says No

- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saudi Arabia and Qatar should join Russian-sponsored peace talks on Syria even as a top Iranian official said the Saudis should be excluded. Erdogan said on December 27 that the talks should include Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are allied with Turkey in supporting Sunni rebel groups seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, because they have "shown goodwill and given support" to Syria. - 12/28/16

Iran 'main bidder' for stake in Russia's Makhachkala port

- Iran has emerged as the main bidder for a stake in the Caspian port of Makhachkala, aiming to expand shipping and trade links with Russia and other countries, a report says. The port in the Russian republic of Dagestan has been put out for bidding by international investors, with China, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Vietnam vying for a share. - 12/28/16

Asia imports of Iranian oil more than doubled

- India and South Korea have raised oil imports from Iran more than four times in a month which saw four major Asian buyers more than double their purchases from a year ago. China, India, South Korea and Japan imported 1.94 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up 117 percent on a year earlier, government and ship-tracking data cited by Reuters showed. - 12/28/16

Do Project Cancellations Indicate Declining US Interest in South Caucasus?

- US President-elect Donald Trump has canceled his real estate projects in Georgia and Azerbaijan. The moves suggest that the US role in the South Caucasus may decline during Trump's administration. -Michael Hikari Cecire, LobeLog - 12/27/16

Iran, P5+1 to meet in January over US sanctions renewal

- A high-level commission monitoring the implementation of last year's nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers plans to meet in Vienna on January 10 to discuss the recent move by the United States to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). - 12/25/16

Russia, Iran Presidents Hold Talks On Syria Crisis

- The presidents of Russia and Iran have agreed to continue working together "on issues related to assistance in finding a political solution to the Syria crisis," a Kremlin statement says. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rohani, spoke by telephone on December 24 and described the Syrian government's capture of the city of Aleppo as a "milestone" in the conflict. - 12/25/16

Trump's Syria conundrum

- President-elect Donald Trump's position on the conflict in Syria has been a confusing assortment of positions, the latest of which - his call for a safe zone in Syria - seems informed by his most recent conversations with candidates he interviewed for the position of secretary of state. -BBC - 12/25/16

IAEA Publishes Restricted Documents on Iran Nuclear Activities

- The International Atomic Energy Agency has published on its website a number of documents, previously restricted, about the international nuclear deal with Iran reached in 2015. The documents released Friday are accompanied by a letter from the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who authorized the publication, but gave no details about why the documents were being made public now. - 12/24/16

2017 Uncertainties Require a New Mideast Security Structure

- 2016 certainly bore no good news for the Middle East. Wars are being waged with greater intensity, and the humanitarian catastrophes in Syria and Yemen are reaching unprecedented levels. Instability remains the key defining character of the region as it moves into the new year. But that is hardly news for the regional stakeholders who have been living with instability for decades now. -Adnan Tabatabai - 12/24/16

More on Flynn's (and Ledeen's) Book

- Iran appears uppermost in Flynn's mind, as he tells us that the regime there can somehow be brought down without resorting to military force, just as was done in the Soviet Union: "You don't have to send thousands of American troops to defeat Radical Islamist regimes. Properly used, this form of ideological and information warfare can probably bring down the Iranian regime, never mind the sadistic and immoral Islamic State..." -Jim Lobe, LobeLog - 12/24/16

Iran seeks closer ties with Eurasian states: President Rouhani

- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has underlined Tehran's determination to establish closer relations with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Rouhani made the remarks at a Friday joint press conference with his Kyrgyz counterpart Almazbek Atambayev in Kyrgyzstan's capital city of Bishkek. - 12/23/16

Syria's Assad Claims 'Turning Point' In War With Takeover Of Aleppo

- The Syrian Army said it has taken complete control of Aleppo after evacuating the last rebel fighters from the battered city on December 22, handing President Bashar al-Assad his most important gain in the nearly six-year civil war. Assad and his forces proclaimed "an important turning point" and credited allies Russia and Iran for helping to make it possible. Russia's air force conducted hundreds of raids over the city while thousands of Iranian-backed militia fighters joined the battle. - 12/23/16

Relax: the Iran Nuclear Deal Is Doing Its Job

- Nearly one year after Implementation Day, the Iran nuclear deal (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) is working, and implementation of the deal is, in large measure, on track. Although the president-elect vowed to toss the deal and negotiate a "better" one, the truth is that the Iran deal is accomplishing exactly what it was supposed to... -Laicie Heeley, Amy J. Nelson, National Interest - 12/23/16

Aleppo: High Point for the Iranian Venture in Syria

- If ever it had any doubts, Iran can today take comfort in its strategic calculations. For its leadership, there was never any question of permitting some sort of neo-Taliban take power in Damascus, crush all its minorities, then cross into Lebanon and Iraq to desecrate the most sacred shrines of Shi'ism, and ultimately threaten the very borders of Iran itself. All of this with the massive support, overt or covert, of Saudi Arabia, now more than ever obsessed by the centuries-old Persian and Shi'a threat. -Francois Nicoullaud - 12/22/16

Iran inks deals as President Rouhani visits Kazakhstan

- Iran and Kazakhstan have signed five agreements for cooperation on the second leg of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's tour of the Central Asia. Rouhani and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev oversaw the signing of the accords in the capital Astana on Thursday, aimed at expanding economic relations. - 12/22/16

Iranian Kurd Group Accuses Tehran of Bombing that Killed 6 in Iraq

- An Iranian Kurdish armed opposition group accused Iran on Wednesday of a bombing that killed five of its fighters and an Iraqi Kurdish policeman in northern Iraq. A twin explosion late on Tuesday hit the offices of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) in Koy Sanjaq, east of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region. -Reuters - 12/22/16

Iran's President Rohani Visits Armenia On His Way To Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

- Iranian President Hassan Rohani visited Armenia on December 21 as part of a swing through three former Soviet republics. Rohani was expected to discuss bilateral ties with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Karen Karapetian. The two presidents were set to attend an Armenian-Iranian business forum. - 12/21/16

Iran, Russia, Turkey start bid to solve Syria crisis diplomatically: Iranian FM Zarif

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran, Russia and Turkey have started the process of finding a political solution to the Syria crisis. There is no military solution to the Syria conflict and the country's crisis can only be solved through political approaches, Zarif said in Moscow on Tuesday. - 12/21/16

Iranian Security Chief Reveals Iran, Russia Sharing Military Base In Syria

- Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, was quoted by Iranian news agencies on December 20 as saying there is "a shared base in Syria where Iran, with Russia's help, does advisory work to help the Syrian army and the [pro-Assad] resistance forces." - 12/21/16

Azerbaijan: Netanyahu Visit Boosts Azerbaijani-Israel Ties

- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent official visit to Baku signals that Azerbaijan-Israel ties are gaining momentum. Netanyahu's visit on December 13, his first since 1997, resulted in the signing of four cooperation agreements, including one creating a joint economic commission that Netanyahu said would expand Azerbaijani energy exports to Israel. -Zaur Shiriyev, LobeLog - 12/19/16

IAEA satisfied by Iran commitment to nuclear deal: Yukiya Amano

- During a visit to Tehran, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has expressed satisfaction with Iran's commitment to its obligations under the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers. "Iran has been committed to its obligations and this is an important matter," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Director General Yukiya Amano said on Sunday at a joint press conference with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). - 12/18/16

Is Tillerson a Timely Choice?

- The announcement of Rex Tillerson as Trump's pick for secretary of state has led many to ask whether an oil executive is capable of advancing America's foreign policy interests. Although the Trump transition team didn't likely foresee the full potential of the appointment, Tillerson may offer a timely change of profile for the role of secretary of state-if we prioritize a long overlooked challenge facing American diplomacy. -Esfandyar Batmanghelidj - 12/18/16

Ayatollah Khamenei Criticizes British PM For Saying Iran Poses Regional Threat

- Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has harshly criticized Britain in a response to Prime Minister Theresa May's claim that Iran poses a threat to the region. "The British were the root of all evil in the region over the last two centuries, now in barefaced fashion they accuse Iran of all countries of being a threat," Khamenei said in remarks published on his website on December 17. - 12/18/16

In Yemen, Yet Another Undeclared U.S. War

- The long national nightmare that was the 2016 presidential election is finally over. Now, we're facing a worse terror: the reality of a Trump presidency. Donald Trump has already promised to nominate a segregationist attorney general, a national security adviser who is a raging Islamophobe, a secretary of education who doesn't believe in public schools, and a secretary of defense whose sobriquet is "Mad Dog." -Rebecca Gordon, LobeLog - 12/18/16

There's more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week

- There was a period in 2011 and 2012 when there were genuinely independent opposition activists operating inside Syria, but as the jihadis took over these brave people were forced to flee abroad, fell silent or were dead -Patrick Cockburn, Independent - 12/16/16

Aleppo Evacuation Under Way: Reports

- Reports say an operation to evacuate a rebel-held enclave in the Syrian city of Aleppo is under way. The International Committee of the Red Cross said on December 15 that it was preparing to evacuate 200 wounded people, some in critical condition, as part of a cease-fire deal. - 12/15/16

Trump to face Putin reckoning if Iran nuclear deal annulled: EU's Mogherini

- EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the US will have to face Russia if President-elect Donald Trump decides to back away from the Iran nuclear deal. Mogherini made the remarks in a Wednesday interview with The Wall Street Journal, adding that it was impossible for Trump to demand fresh concessions from Iran in relation to its nuclear program. - 12/15/16

Dismantling the Iran Deal Would Be Dangerous and Unwise

- When President-elect Donald Trump takes office Jan. 20, he will inherit an array of foreign policy challenges. But unlike his predecessor, the list will not include the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran--unless Trump pursues a reckless plan to dismantle the nuclear deal or allows it to fall apart. -Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association - 12/15/16

Iran Increasingly Sees IS as Threat to Islamic Republic

- In an unusual display of public candor, Iranian authorities have said in recent speeches that Islamic State infiltrators are becoming a growing threat to the Islamic Republic. At least three times in recent months, Iranian officials have spoken about breaking up IS-related terror cells and arresting IS-affiliated militants planning attacks inside Iran. - 12/14/16

Israeli, Azerbaijani Leaders Meet In Baku

- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has held talks with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Baku. Azerbaijan's presidential website said on December 13 that the two discussed bilateral ties during their face-to-face meeting. Reports from Iran quoted clerics and officials complaining about Shi'ite majority Azerbaijan hosting Netanyahu. - 12/14/16

Turkey and Iran: Bitter Friends, Bosom Rivals

- For nearly two centuries and despite their fierce geopolitical competition from the Levant to Iraq and the Caucasus, Turkey and Iran have kept the peace between themselves, compartmentalized growing energy and commercial relations and even cooperated regionally when their interests converged. Yet today, while their economies are increasingly intertwined, a profound disagreement over core interests in Iraq and Syria is putting these two former empires on a collision course. -International Crisis Group - 12/14/16

In Response To Sanctions Renewal By U.S., Iran President Orders Work On Nuclear Propulsion Device

- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to plan work on nuclear propulsion devices to be used in sea transport in response to the recent violation of a multilateral nuclear deal by the United States.​ - 12/13/16

Religious commonalities more important than differences: Iran's Sunni Female Governor

- Different branches of Islam should pay attention to their notable commonalities rather than little differences, says Ms. Homeyra Rigi, the first Sunni female governor in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Rigi, 41, is the governor of Qasr-e Qand city in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. She was appointed to the position in 2014. She had already served as the head of the welfare department of Chabahar and councilor, as well. - 12/13/16

Flynn's Wacky Worldview

- Skepticism about Michael Flynn's fitness for the position of national security adviser appears to be growing as more media outlets are paying closer attention to his (and his son's) core beliefs about the world. Such scrutiny also appears to be more relevant since President-elect Trump may be relying more heavily on Flynn than on the CIA or other government intelligence agencies for his own assessment of world events. -Jim Lobe, LobeLog - 12/13/16

Shifting Partnerships and the Road to Peace in the Middle East

- Since the wave of revolt shook the Middle East beginning in 2011, alliances have been shifting with the change of leaderships. Most of those who once shaped the region and balanced the powers are no longer in charge. With wars, conflicts, and leadership changes, stability and synergy seem unlikely in the near future. The biggest powers in the Middle East, namely Saudi, Egypt, Iran, and the GCC, don't agree about such issues as Syria, Yemen, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran. -Rana Allam, LobeLog - 12/13/16

Iran Summons British Ambassador Over May's Comments

- The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran because of recent comments by British Prime Minister Theresa May about Iran. Ambassador Nicholas Hopton was summoned for talks in Tehran on December 10 to explain May's comments at a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Bahrain on December 7, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported. - 12/11/16

After a year of boldness, Saudi Arabia is in retreat

- IN JANUARY this year Muhammad bin Salman, the young deputy crown prince who in effect runs Saudi Arabia, declared an end to his country's "comatose" foreign policy and a determination to push back against Iran. The Syrian rebels he supported looked unbeatable in Aleppo. His generals spoke of the imminent capture of Sana'a, Yemen's capital, from the Houthi rebels who had seized it. He kept Iran and its client militia, Hizbullah, from imposing their choice of president in Lebanon... -Economist - 12/11/16

Iranian-Turkish Tensions Escalate Over Syria, Iraq

- Tensions between neighbors Turkey and Iran are on the rise, with the countries jostling for influence in war-torn Syria and Iraq. But there are concerns that the rivalry is fueling sectarian divisions in the region. The tensions could also open the door to cooperation with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. - 12/10/16

Qatar's Diminishing Returns in Syria

- Recent developments have set back Qatar's five-and-a-half-year campaign to topple the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad. Donald Trump's win last month and the president-elect's vows to sever Washington's limited support for Syrian rebels, Russia and China's votes on Dec. 5 to block a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Aleppo, and decisive gains scored by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the ruined city have all severely undermined Doha's objectives in the war-torn country. -Giorgio Cafiero - 12/10/16

Azerbaijan: Officials Are Wrong to Securitize the Shias

- What Azerbaijan needs today is not the harassment of ordinary believers on stretched security grounds, but a genuine respect for diversity of views, beliefs and lifestyles. This would form a better basis for a long-term, sustainable security and stability in the country. -Eldar Mamedov, LobeLog - 12/10/16

Trump's National Security Advisor: A Troubling Appointment

- President-elect Trump's appointment of Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn will likely create a Kafkaesque situation that Trump himself will find unmanageable. Questions surrounding the appointment could hamper the president's plans to pursue his policy initiatives and will cast an unnecessary cloud over the new administration. Because of General Flynn's attachment to fake news, dangerous preconceptions of Islam and Muslim countries, and cavalier attitude toward the truth and objectivity, he would be a constant headache for the president. -Emile Nakhleh - 12/9/16

Iran's President Rohani Says OPEC Cooperation Key To Boosting Oil Prices

- Iranian President Hassan Rohani says cooperation among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is key to implementing a deal reached last week to cut production in a bid to boost slumping global prices, Iranian state TV reported. - 12/9/16

Iran threatens to reverse diplomatic relations with England after Theresa May's remarks at GCC

- Chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi has warned England of re-downgrading relations following "divisive" remarks by Prime Minister Theresa May. During the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council's annual summit in the Bahraini capital Manama on Wednesday, May said she was "clear-eyed" about what she called "the threat" Iran poses to the region. - 12/9/16

James Mattis' 33-Year Grudge Against Iran

- The military officials I spoke with say that Mattis is the quintessential Marine; it defines everything he does and believes, from how he treats his soldiers and disciplines his commanders to how he views the world. Most critically, perhaps, for the United States and its future, Mattis has embraced the Marine Corps' longstanding grievance against Iran, one that goes back to the 1980s. In fact, Mattis' anti-Iran animus is so intense that it led President Barack Obama to replace him as Centcom commander. -Mark Perry, Politico - 12/9/16

Iran calls for China to step up economic relations

- "As China expanded its economic relations with Iran during the sanctions, the country fits for playing stronger role in the Iranian economy after the removal of the sanctions," Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Chairman Gholam-Hossein Shafeie said during Iran-China Business Forum in Beijing on Tuesday. - 12/8/16

Iran says in US interest to respect nuclear deal

- Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says it is in the interest of the US to remain committed to last year's landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and the P5+1 group of countries. Addressing a seminar in Tokyo on Thursday, Zarif said that the agreement was "multilateral" and endorsed by the UN Security Council but the US has a "less than respectable" history in abiding by international laws. - 12/8/16

Will the Trump Administration Start a War with Iran?

- The direct stakes in whether the Trump administration adheres to the agreement that restricts the Iranian nuclear program are important enough, in terms of nuclear nonproliferation. Also important are the opportunities to build on that agreement constructively to address problems of concern to both Iran and the United States. But at stake as well, as the new administration makes policy toward Iran, is the need to avoid a potentially disastrous turn, highly costly to U.S. interests, in the U.S.-Iranian relationship. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 12/8/16

Tehran Says Britain Touts Iran 'Threat' To Make 'Massive' Arms Sales In Persian Gulf

- Iran shot back at British Prime Minister Theresa May after she called the country a "threat" at a meeting with Arab Gulf states in Bahrain on December 7. Britain is "not in a position to accuse others of interfering in regional affairs," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said in Tehran. - 12/8/16

Iran's Influence: A Religious-Political State in the Region and the World

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