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Iran conducts drills, warns off U.S. warships

- The Iranian Army has warned off two U.S.-led coalition battleships during the first day of military exercises involving ground, naval, and aerial forces in southern Iran. The military drills kicked off early on Monday on an order by Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the Army's deputy commander for coordination. The exercises cover an expanse of three million square kilometers in area in Iran's south and southeast, the Makran Coast, and other areas in the Gulf of Oman. - 1/23/18

Pence Underscores US Opposition to Iran Nuclear Deal

- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reiterated Tuesday the Trump administration's view that the international deal on Iran's nuclear program should be changed, and said moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem is a tangible sign of U.S. commitment. As he met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Pence said the U.S. is sending a signal to its European allies about the need to alter the 2015 agreement that brought sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for limiting the country's nuclear program to ensure it would not develop nuclear weapons. -VOA - 1/23/18

A New Decision To Go To War In Syria

- Behind a fašade of continuity, the deployment of U.S. armed forces in Syria for the purposes that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described in a speech this week represents a departure from what such forces were originally sent to Syria to do. The Trump administration is having U.S. troops participate indefinitely in someone else's civil war, for reasons that are quite different from the original stated objective of helping to quash the so-called caliphate of the Islamic State (ISIS or IS). -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 1/23/18

Iranian FM Zarif proposes 'regional dialog forum' amid fresh tension

- Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has proposed the establishment of "a regional dialogue forum in the Persian Gulf" where "fresh conflict and tension" is brewing despite the defeat of Deash terrorists. In an op-ed published Sunday in the Financial Times, Zarif cited "a dialogue deficit in west Asia" where destructive rivalry was spawning an arms race and "an oligarchy" was emerging among big states. - 1/22/18

In meeting with Kurdistan Regional Government's PM, President Rouhani says Iran backs unified Iraq

- President Hassan Rouhani says Iran invariably backs a "united and integrated" Iraq, warning against attempts by certain foreign powers to deal a blow to regional stability and security. At a Sunday meeting with Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), President Rouhani said "all regional countries and ethnicities are duty-bound to defend a federal administration and help secure border demarcations in the region." - 1/22/18

Time To Rethink Iran's Strategy

- Let's get real for a moment: How would a peaceful Middle East and a less confrontational Iran serve Israel's purpose and, by extension, these days that of the Saud clan and, by default, the presumed interest of the Unites States; who are we kidding? America's default position in Middle East affairs, now even more so than before under the leadership of a clueless leader, has been to follow the Zionist's moneys and political influence rather than what might truly be America's own legitimate and realistic interests. -Kambiz Zarrabi - 1/20/18

Iran To Top Tillerson's Agenda On European Trip

- Iran will top the agenda for U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he heads to Europe next week for meetings with allies, a U.S. official said on January 19. Tillerson's trip comes amid behind-the-scenes negotiations over the fate of the landmark agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing crippling international sanctions targeting Tehran. - 1/20/18

Rare Glimpse Into Inner Workings Of American Empire In Middle East

- In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, four former U.S. diplomats provided remarkably candid commentary on recent U.S. involvement in the Middle East, revealing a number of the most closely guarded secrets of U.S. diplomacy. -Edward Hunt - 1/20/18

UN Chief Warns Against Endangering Iran Nuclear Deal

- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging nations not to damage Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers because of concerns they may have with Iran's nonnuclear military activities in the Middle East. "Issues not directly related to the [nuclear deal] should be addressed without prejudice to preserving the agreement and its accomplishments," Guterres said in a statement on January 17. - 1/18/18

Remember Those Protests In Iran?

- Anyway, the most recent protests have died down, and it is not too soon to ask of Pence: "Well, Mr. Vice President, your side was in control of U.S. messaging and policy this time. The administration could say or do whatever it wanted in response to the protests. So what did the administration accomplish?" -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 1/18/18

Tillerson Pledges Long-term US Military Engagement in Syria

- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined plans for the U.S. to remain engaged in Syria, both diplomatically and militarily, long after the defeat of the so-called Islamic State. Tillerson gave a major policy speech Wednesday on the way forward for the U.S. in Syria at an event at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University in California. He listed a number of reasons why it is crucial for the U.S. to remain in the troubled country, including preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State and al-Qaida terrorist groups. -Cindy Saine, VOA - 1/18/18

The Iran Nuclear Deal At Two: A Status Report

- It could have been worse. President Trump's 12 January decision to waive sanctions while threatening to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- the July 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) -- unless Congress and Europe agree to unilaterally alter its terms, leaves the deal in the state of limbo it acquired shortly after his election. -International Crisis Group - 1/18/18

Keeping Iran's Ballistic Missiles In Perspective

- The Trump administration's 120-day "stay of execution" for the Iran nuclear deal has temporarily sidelined arguments over the absence of constraints on ballistic missiles as one of the agreement's principal flaws. But if this "flaw" is not quickly put in proper perspective, the issue could help undermine one of the most important non-proliferation achievements of our era. -Greg Thielmann, LobeLog - 1/17/18

Iran Joins Russia, Turkey In Opposing U.S. Plan To Guard Syrian Border

- Iranian President Hassan Rohani has joined Russia, Syria, and Turkey in opposing a new 30,000-strong border guard force inside Syria that the United States says is needed to keep Islamic State extremists out of the country. "The new plan that the Americans have in mind for Syria is a violation of international laws and a plot against the sovereignty and security of Syria and the region," Rohani was quoted by Iranian state media as saying on January 16 during a meeting with the visiting Syrian parliament speaker in Tehran. - 1/17/18

Moscow will not back US attempt to change Iran nuclear deal: FM Lavrov

- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stressed that Moscow will not back US attempts to change the 2015 nuclear deal struck between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries. "We will not support what the United States is trying to do, changing the wording of the agreement, incorporating things that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran," Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow on Monday. - 1/15/18

Salafi Mission Calls Into Question Saudi Concept Of Moderation

- Plans to open a Salafi missionary centre in the Yemeni province of Al Mahrah on the border with Oman and Saudi Arabia raise questions about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's concept of a moderate form of Islam. The questions are prompted by the fact that Prince Mohammed has so far put little, if any, flesh on his skeletal vow last October to return his ultra-conservative kingdom to "moderate Islam." -James M. Dorsey, LobeLog - 1/15/18

Killing The Iran Nuclear Agreement With A Thousand Cuts

- Don't be either fooled or relieved by President Trump's waiving, for now, of nuclear sanctions on Iran, and thus his forgoing of an explicit withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. Trump still is determined to destroy the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), though not necessarily in the way he threatens, or in a way some have feared. He is set on destroying the JCPOA partly because of the same guiding principle, if it can be called that, steering so much of his presidency, which is to tear down any significant accomplishment of his predecessor... -Paul Pillar - 1/14/18

Trump failed to destroy Iran nuclear deal: President Rouhani

- Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says the administration of US President Donald Trump has failed in its attempts to kill the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, describing this as a "victory" for the Iranian nation and the rule of law. Trump has left no stone unturned over the past year to destroy the agreement, but to no avail, said Rouhani on Sunday, adding, "This means a victory for international commitments and law against dictatorship." - 1/14/18

Congress Addresses Iran And Israel/Palestine

- 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, previously of Americans for Peace Now and now the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. -LobeLog - 1/14/18

Iran Says U.S. Is 'Maliciously Violating' Nuclear Deal By Demanding Changes

- Iran's top diplomat accused U.S. President Donald Trump of "maliciously violating" Iran's 2015 nuclear deal after Trump threatened to pull out of the deal within months unless changes are made. Trump's announcement is a "desperate attempt to undermine a solid multilateral agreement," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter late on January 12, citing sections of the agreement that he said the United States is violating by demanding changes on matters already agreed to by Iran and the five other world powers that negotiated the deal. - 1/13/18

Trump's Iran Statement: A View From Europe

- It is with some reluctance that I write about President Donald Trump's latest statement on Iran, because the statement is so full of half-truths, untruths, and logical fallacies that it is bad for one's blood pressure to have to dwell on it for any length of time. I will try to limit damage to my constitution by focussing on just a few of the statement's most disturbing features. -Peter Jenkins, LobeLog - 1/13/18

Trump Waives Iran Nuclear Sanctions For "Last Time"

- The White House announced on Friday afternoon that Donald Trump will extend waivers on sanctions against Iran for another 120 days, under the terms of the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA). However, in its announcement the administration made it clear that this is the "last time" Trump will issue these waivers unless the deal is substantially renegotiated, something that neither Iran nor the other parties to the deal (Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia) have shown any inclination of doing. -Derek Davison, LobeLog - 1/13/18

European Diplomats Urge Sticking With Iran Nuclear Deal

- European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the international agreement on Iran's nuclear program is working, and that while there are concerns about Iran's development of ballistic missiles and other activities in the Middle East, those should be dealt with as a separate issue. - 1/12/18

Iran--On The Brink?

- With the emergence of demonstrations and rioting in various Iranian cities earlier this month, Washington's neoconservatives and interventionist/ imperial-minded "liberals" have been given a new lease on life in promoting their aspirations for "regime change" in Tehran. Indeed, of the three current potential global flashpoints--North Korea, Russian borderlands, and Iran in the Gulf--Iran arguably presents the most likely situation to actually turn into war. The other two regions, Russia and Korea, pose such potentially appalling nuclear dangers that, rhetoric aside, one would hope will seriously deter national leadership from contemplating. -Graham Fuller, LobeLog - 1/12/18

European Allies Urge U.S. To Continue Backing Iran Nuclear Deal

- BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has urged "all parties" to continue complying with a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, saying that "the deal is working." Mogherini made the plea on January 11, a day before a deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to announce a key decision on whether Washington would continue to waive sanctions against Iran in accordance with the nuclear deal. - 1/11/18

Syrian Offensive Threatens Turkish Cooperation with Russia, Iran

- Turkey on Wednesday assailed Russia and Iran for failing to stop the Syrian government's ongoing military offensive in Syria's rebel enclave of Idlib, threatening the prospects of Ankara's continued cooperation with Tehran and Moscow in the Syrian conflict. Reflecting Ankara's growing alarm, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu lashed out, saying, "Russia and Iran must stop the Syrian regime. They should realize their duties as guarantor countries." -Dorian Jones, VOA - 1/11/18

Iran's Vulnerable Energy Supply And The Protests

- Unlike early 2017, when Iran's energy industry started a year full of hope and prospects of potential growth, 2018 has started with different potential risks targeting its energy industry and production growth. Risks abound, particularly the prospect of additional sanctions and domestic instability. -Sara Vakhshouri, LobeLog - 1/10/18

Questioning Iran's Regional Ambitions

- Not only did the protests voice the anger and frustration Iranians hold against the state of their economy, corruption, and the theocratic government, they drew attention to the blood and treasure spent by Iran backing Bashar Al-Assad's government in Syria, Shia militias in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and militant factions in the Gaza Strip, in addition to limited ties to Houthi rebels in Yemen. -Holly Dagres, Carnegie Endowment - 1/10/18

52 U.S. Security Experts Issue Statement Backing Iran Nuclear Deal

- Today (Jauray 8, 2018) a bipartisan group of 52 American national security leaders issued a statement urging U.S. policymakers not to undermine the Iran nuclear agreement. They also expressed support for the rights of the Iranian people to free speech and condemned the use of force against protestors. - 1/9/18

Iran Hosts West Asia Security Forum in Tehran

- Iran on Monday hosted the second version of the Tehran security conference on "Regional Security in West Asia: Emerging Challenges and Trends". Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, addressing the international event, said the U.S. policies and interferences are the "most fundamental challenges" to the West Asia region. "The U.S. ignores realities in the region and insists on adopting destructive policies by continuing to have illegitimate military presence in Syria," Zarif told the security conference. - 1/9/18

US shamed itself by targeting Iran at UNSC: President Rouhani

- President Hassan Rouhani says the United States shamed itself by trying to target the Islamic Republic at a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting it had called on the recent events inside Iran. "A gathering and protest may be exploited by certain sides. This is natural and happens all over the world," said Rouhani at a meeting with staff of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance in Tehran on Monday. - 1/8/18

Iraq Says Oil Deliveries From Kirkuk To Iran Will Start In January

- Iraq's oil minister says the country will start exporting oil to Iran from its northern Kirkuk oil fields by the end of January. Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said on January 7 that about 30,000 barrels per day will be trucked to Iran's Kermanshah refinery in the first set of shipments. The deliveries are to be made under a swap agreement announced in December by both countries. - 1/7/18

Trump And The Iran Protests

- The Trump administration hasn't been shy about voicing its opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. Even before the latest protests broke out, the administration was also exploring ways of killing the Boeing aircraft deal, as well as the Total investment. Suffice it to say, Trump is not interested in any kind of engagement with the Iranian government. As soon as the protests broke out in Iran in December, Trump gleefully took to Twitter to support the people in the streets and castigate the Rouhani government. -John Feffer, LobeLog - 1/5/18

Contrasting Leadership Styles In The Saudi-Iran Conflict

- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is steadily consolidating power in Riyadh and positioning himself to become the most powerful ruler in Saudi history. His rise has been accompanied with a ratcheting up of hostilities against Iran and even war rhetoric. As Saudi-Iran tensions increase, the lived experiences and leadership styles of the 78-year-old Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and 32-year-old MBS will decide the future of peace and stability in the region. -Seyed Hossein Mousavian, LobeLog - 1/5/18

Iran Hawks Embrace Protest Movement But Show Little Concern For Iranian Lives

- As the protests across Iran reach the one-week point, Iran hawks are using their echo chamber to claim concern for the wellbeing of Iranian protesters and pushing the Trump administration and policymakers to publicly state their support of the burgeoning protest movement. But these same hawks have a long history of opposing diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program and instead threatening military strikes on Iran. This record belies their stated concern for Iran's civilian population and raises serious questions about their motivations in embracing the protesters. -Eli Clifton, LobeLog - 1/4/18

Rhetoric, Epistemology, And The Iranian Protests

- With any country that, like Iran, has been the subject of acrimonious debate in Washington, pronouncements by American observers about events in that country have more to do with politics here than with what is going on over there. So it has been with much of the spinning and interpreting of protests in Iranian streets during the past few days. Some guidelines for intelligent, responsible, and useful commentary on those protests are in order, and applicable no matter the policy preferences of the commenter. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 1/4/18

Turkey Slams U.S. Conviction Of Turkish Banker, Warns Of Impact On Relations

- Turkey has slammed the conviction of a Turkish banker found guilty in a federal court in New York of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions, calling it a "legal disgrace." "It is an unjust and unfortunate development that Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on January 4. - 1/4/18

Dispelling the Iranian Terrorism Myth

- Some ideas take on a character akin to sacred texts whose validity is rarely questioned. One such belief is that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the biggest threat to the Middle East and the United States. The threat narrative has become required foreign policy catechism in Washington, D.C. Menacing stereotypes and bellicose rhetoric are the standards by which Iran has come to be judged. It has been in the crosshairs of American administrations since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. -M. Reza Behnam, Antiwar - 1/3/18

Iranians And Israelis Take To The Street

- When Netanyahu urged on the protesters in their "noble quest for freedom" he seemed to miss a central irony of his message. For weeks now Israelis have marched against the corruption of his own government, of his continued struggle to hold on to power even as the Israeli police question him time and time again over corruption allegations. All through December, around 10,000 Israelis joined weekly protests in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa -Daniel Amir, LobeLog - 1/3/18

Iran Denies Compromise on Caspian Division

- After a meeting earlier this month of the five Caspian states' foreign ministers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared victory: "With great satisfaction, I declare that we have found solutions to all the remaining open key issues related to the preparation of the draft Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The text of the document is, in fact, ready," he said. But now Iran has pushed back, saying that it has yet to resolve the issue of how much of the sea it should control. -Joshua Kucera, Eurasianet - 1/1/18

Azerbaijan Wrestles With Rising Iranian Influence

- Azerbaijan's security services recently presented senior government officials with a report describing how Iran has "increased its capabilities in Azerbaijan's regions," one analyst close to the government told EurasiaNet.org. "Many more people are now under Iran's influence, and this has sounded alarm bells inside the government," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. -Zaur Shiriyev, LobeLog - 1/1/18

Spinning The Iranian Protests

- In supporting recent anti-government protests in Iran, both Iranian hardliners and the US State Department may want to be careful what they wish for. Not only are the protests unlikely to spark the kind of change either of the two adversaries may be hoping for, they also are refusing to stick to the different scripts the Trump administration and opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani read into them. -James M. Dorsey, LobeLog - 12/31/17

Trump's National Security Strategy And The Middle East: A Bridge To Nowhere

- President Trump's new National Security Strategy and the negative reaction his announcement on Jerusalem has generated in the UN Security Council and General Assembly do not bode well for America's relations with friendly Arab countries and the wider Islamic world. -Emile Nakhleh, LobeLog - 12/31/17

The US and Israel reportedly signed a secret pact to take on Iran

- Israel and the United States have secretly signed a far-reaching joint memorandum of understanding providing for full cooperation to deal with Iran's nuclear drive, its missile programs and its other threatening activities, an Israeli TV report said. -Business Insider - 12/29/17

Khamenei Compares Trump To 'Smarter' Reagan, Says U.S. Will Not 'Weaken' Iran

- Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lashed out at U.S. President Donald Trump and asserted that his policies will not "weaken" Tehran. In a series of tweets and a televised speech on December 27, Khamenei suggested that U.S. efforts to rein in Iran have been failing since Ronald Reagan was president three decades ago. "Reagan was more powerful and smarter than Trump. He was a better actor in making threats," Khamenei said. - 12/28/17

Drugs Versus Nukes

- Those wishing to kill the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement that restricts Iran's nuclear program, have never given up. The agreement's ever-lengthening successful record, now more than two years old, of keeping closed all possible pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon ought to have discouraged would-be deal-slayers. But the slayers got a new lease on life with the election of Donald Trump... -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 12/28/17

Clean Break II: Iran Hawks Decide To Burn It All Down

- But who cares about all of that? It doesn't seem to be an issue for at least some of America's anti-Iran hawks. In response to Iran's rising profile in the Middle East, fueled mostly by a war those neocons ardently championed and the striking ineptitude of the hawks' new favorite Persian Gulf monarchy, the intellectual heirs to the men who drew those ill-fated borders are proposing, long after it might have done any good, to re-draw them. -Derek Davison and Jim Lobe - 12/28/17

'China wants link between Pakistan's Gwadar and Iran's Chabahar ports'

- Iran says it has received a request from China to establish a connection between Pakistan's Gwadar port - which Chinese companies are developing - and Iran's southeastern port of Chabahar. Abdolrahim Kordi, the managing director of Chabahar Free Trade Zone, was quoted by Iran's media as saying that China had informed Iran that it was interested in using Chabahr to transit goods from Gwadar to regional and extra-regional destination points. - 12/27/17

The Belt and Road through Eurasia: Who Wins and How?

- China's Belt and Road infrastructure development initiative will have its winners and losers. But for now, Beijing is trying to bolster international support for the project, which will link its western provinces to Europe, by keeping some aspects of the specific routing of rail corridors ambiguous. -Nathan Hutson, Eurasianet - 12/27/17

How Christmas is celebrated in Iran

- You will be surprised, or you won't, depending on how much you know of Iran, but Christmas is celebrated in Iran. It may be surprising because for a predominantly Muslim nation where Christians make up less than 1% of the country's population, you may think that all signs and traces of Christmas, from pine trees decorated with red, green and gold gift boxes placed behind shop windows to nativity scenes of the Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, will be difficult, if not impossible, to spot on the streets. -Marjohn Sheikhi - 12/25/17

Seattle Federal Judge Lifts Travel Ban On Certain Refugees With Close U.S. Ties

- A federal judge in Seattle has lifted a ban on certain refugees with close U.S. ties that had been ordered by President Donald Trump's administration. U.S. District Judge James Robart on December 23 ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Jewish Family Service (JFS) after they argued the policy prevented people from some Muslim-majority countries from reuniting with family living legally in the United States. - 12/24/17

9th Circuit says Trump's third travel ban is illegal

- A federal appeals court decided unanimously Friday that President Trump's latest travel ban violates the law, but the ruling will not take effect until the Supreme Court reviews a likely appeal. -Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times - 12/24/17

Israeli Army Arrests Palestinian Teen For Hurting Soldiers' Masculinity

- The IDF Spokesperson was clearly excited to publish the details of a complicated military operation that took place Tuesday morning: under the cover of darkness, Israeli Border Police broke into the Tamimi family's home and arrested 17-year-old Ahed, taking her in for interrogation. -Yael Marom, LobeLog - 12/24/17

Trump's Muddled Iran Policy Is Headed For Failure

- Not surprisingly, Trump's National Security Strategy is full of hostile bluster and rhetoric with shockingly little substance -- just like the President himself. On Iran, one of the primary international targets of Trump's hostility, the document only reveals that the administration has yet to develop a coherent policy nearly a year into Trump's presidency. -Ryan Costello, LobeLog - 12/22/17

Why China Sold Qatar The SY-400 Ballistic Missile System

- China's sale of the SY-400 system to Qatar must be interpreted within the context of Beijing's grander objectives in the Middle East pertaining to the ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. Both Qatar and countries within the Saudi/UAE-led bloc play important roles in China's vision for a multicontinental trade corridor that positions Beijing at the center of the 21st century global economy. -Giorgio Cafiero, LobeLog - 12/22/17

Iranian Missiles And Fake News

- Apparently even seemingly respectable media outlets occasionally peddle fake news at service of a particular political agenda, with the aim of creating a massive echo chamber that would make it appear to be "real news." Such was the case with the Jerusalem Post's announcement that the European Parliament (EP) has called on Iran to end its ballistic missile program. -Eldar Mamedov - 12/21/17

Iran, Turkey Azerbaijan agree to reject US decision on Jerusalem at UN

- Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan have rejected a US decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as the "capital" of Israel. The three neighboring states agreed to adopt a united stance on Washington's new policy at an upcoming meeting of the UN General Assembly on the issue. - 12/20/17

Trading Jerusalem For Iran

- US president Donald J. Trump's recognition of Jerusalem potentially sets the stage for a controversial American effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The United States and the two Gulf states see a US peace plan-in-the-making as a way of paving the way for more overt cooperation with Israel in confronting Iran, whom they accuse of destabilizing the Middle East. - James M. Dorsey, LobeLog - 12/20/17

Yemen war: Iran denies supplying rebel missile fired at Riyadh

- Iran says accusations by Saudi Arabia and the US that it supplied the missile fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels at Riyadh on Tuesday are "baseless". On Wednesday morning, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Ms Haley's accusations "provocative, purposeful and dangerous" and said he would be following them up at UN meetings and with the secretary general. -BBC - 12/20/17

Bibi Says Iran Will Soon Have 100 Nuclear Bombs. Well, Where Are They?

- Speaking at the Jerusalem Post's Diplomatic Conference on December 6th, 2017, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that, within a decade, Iran stands to emerge from the nuclear deal with not one atomic bomb but "a nuclear arsenal of 100 bombs and more." -Shemuel Meir, LobeLog - 12/19/17

Russia Calls U.S. Security Strategy 'Imperial,' China Denounces 'Cold War' Thinking

- Russia and China have lambasted U.S. President Donald Trump's new national security strategy, which refers to them as rivals of Washington that are seeking to undermine U.S. power and interests. The U.S. security strategy also states that "the dictatorships" of North Korea and Iran "are determined to destabilize regions, threaten Americans and our allies, and brutalize their own people." - 12/19/17

US president can't cause Iran deal to collapse: President Rouhani

- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the United States will not be able to kill the 2015 multinational nuclear deal, emphasizing that the landmark pact will remain in place. "Two years have passed since the [implementation] of the JCPOA," Rouhani said on Tuesday, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear accord is officially called. - 12/19/17

Why The Risk Of War Is Higher With Iran Than North Korea

- There is a fear that the United States might become embroiled in war in 2018 with Iran, North Korea, or possibly both. In view of the inflammatory rhetoric directed by the United States and North Korea toward one another over the past several months, it would appear at first glance that the risk of war with North Korea is higher. The risk appears still higher because North Korea poses a considerable security risk to America's allies in the Pacific region, especially Japan and South Korea. However, barring some new and unexpected developments in the Korean Peninsula, the likelihood of a full-scale war between the U.S. and North Korea is less than the chance of a U.S. military intervention against Iran. -Shireen T. Hunter - 12/18/17

Saudi Plans To Develop Nuclear Power

- Tom Lippman reported here last week that Westinghouse hopes to win an order for nuclear reactors from Saudi Arabia (KSA). He also referred to speculation that, to help Westinghouse, the United States would not insist on KSA foregoing uranium enrichment when it came to formulating the intergovernmental agreement on nuclear cooperation (123 agreement) that would have to underpin a US reactor sale. -Peter Jenkins, LobeLog - 12/18/17

Caspian Sea: Iran is getting ready to accept the realities

- For more than two decades Iran has been insisting on having an equal share of the Caspian Sea along with other littoral states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan). Even when Iran was talking about the principle of equity in the international law, it was intended to be at least twenty percent of the Caspian Sea. But now, ... -Bahman Aghai Diba - 12/15/17

China eyeing take over of Iran gas project if France's Total pulls out

- Speculations are rising that China's leading oil and gas company CNPC could replace French energy giant Total in a key Iranian natural gas project if any new US sanctions against investments in Iran's economic projects forces it to leave the country. Reuters in an exclusive report said CNPC had already started talks with Iran over a share of 30 percent in the project to develop Phase 11 of Iran's South Pars gas field - the world's biggest independent gas field. - 12/15/17

U.S. To Boost Saudi Nuclear Power Development

- Almost a decade has passed since President George W. Bush promised that the United States would help Saudi Arabia develop commercial nuclear energy plants. When he visited Riyadh in May 2008, he pledged to sign a "memorandum of understanding," or MOU, committing the United States to "assist the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to develop civilian nuclear power for use in medicine, industry and power generation" ... -Thomas W. Lippman, LobeLog - 12/15/17

Renewed Uncertainty For The JCPOA

- With relatively little fanfare, an important deadline passed by on December 12: the 60-day window during which Congress could have reimposed nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. That window had been opened on October 13 when President Donald Trump-under the terms of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA)-refused to certify that the nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) was in America's national interest. -Derek Davison - 12/14/17

NYT's Argentina Op-Ed Fails To Disclose Authors' Financial Conflict Of Interest

- On Tuesday, Mark Dubowitz and Toby Dershowitz, two executives at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), took to the op-ed pages of The New York Times to celebrate last week's announcement that Argentina's former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, would face treason charges for her alleged role in covering up Iran's alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aries, killing 85 people. -Eli Clifton, LobeLog - 12/14/17

Iran says parties to JCPOA protested US breach of nuclear deal during Vienna meeting

- A senior Iranian diplomat says the parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have protested the US breach of its commitments under the agreement during a meeting of a commission tasked with monitoring commitments to the accord. "All members of the P5+1 [group] explicitly protested to the US and stressed that it should fully and precisely implement its commitments," Abbas Araqchi, a deputy foreign minister, told reporters in the Austrian city of Vienna on Wednesday after a new meeting of the Iran-P5+1 Joint Commission, which monitors the implementation of the nuclear deal. - 12/14/17

OIC Summit in Turkey Blasts Trump Decision on Jerusalem

- ISTANBUL - Leaders of majority Muslim nations gathered in Istanbul Wednesday and condemned U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as unlawful. The meeting came as unrest in the Middle East continues, along with growing criticism over the Jerusalem move. -Dorian Jones, VOA - 12/14/17

United Nations Chief Urges Washington To Honor Obligations Under Iran Nuclear Deal

- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed support for the 2015 Iran deal from all the signatories except for the US, calling on Washington to also honor its obligations under the landmark agreement. Guterres made the remarks in a report on implementation of a UN resolution that endorsed the July 2015 nuclear agreement, which was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. - 12/14/17

US Official Accuses Turkey of Pushing Extreme Islamist Ideology

- An already tense relationship between the United States and Turkey appears to be under more strain after a top Trump administration official accused Turkey of spreading what he called extreme Islamist ideology around the world. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, said Tuesday that Turkey had joined Qatar as a prime source of funding that contributes to the spread of extremist ideology. -Jeff Seldin, VOA - 12/14/17

Reexamining US Mideast Policy After The Jerusalem Proclamation

- President Donald Trump's official proclamation that the US accepts Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, along with preparations to move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv, has predictably upset apple carts across the Middle East and beyond. The period just ahead will be dominated by diplomatic responses, an increase in violence, and perhaps terrorist acts. -Robert E. Hunter - 12/13/17

Istanbul Hosts Summit Against Trump's Jerusalem Recognition

- ISTANBUL - Twenty-two leaders in the Islamic world were gathering in Istanbul Wednesday in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The meeting comes as unrest in the Middle East continues, along with growing criticism over the Jerusalem move. -Dorian Jones, VOA - 12/13/17



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