Shahrivar 26 1400 - September 17 2021
THE FOLLY OF EMPIRES: In the Wake of Afghanistan's Ruination

The Bible tells us that Cyrus the Great of Persia went to Babylon to rescue the Jewish people from captivity some 2,500 years ago; doubtless a very noble cause. No; he didn't! Cyrus was not motivated or "anointed" by Yahweh for that noble mission; he was a warrior, a conqueror, out to expand the domain of the empire he was ruling over. He was in his seventies when he was slain in another battle of expansion, this time against the Massagetae tribes, in the marshlands of eastern Caspian Sea area, a thousand kilometers away from Persia's capital. -Kambiz Zarrabi 9/16/21

Iran Set for Entry Into Expanding Club Led by China and Russia

Iran's new president is flying to Tajikistan for his first foreign trip where he's expecting to gain membership of a growing Eurasian club led by China and Russia, whose economic muscle has helped Tehran blunt American sanctions. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, or SCO, was founded two decades ago in St. Petersburg and currently has eight members representing half the world's population and a quarter of its economic output. -Bloomberg 9/16/21

Gantz Says Israel Could Accept a US Return to Iran Nuclear Deal

In an interview with Foreign Policy, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel could accept a revival of a US-negotiated Iran nuclear deal if there are backup plans that involve more sanctions and possible military actions. "The current US approach of putting the Iran nuclear program back in a box, I'd accept that," Gantz said when asked about the Biden administration's Iran strategy. The comment signals a possible shift in Israel's stance on the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA 9/16/21

Iran's environmental woes could be Raisi's Achilles heel

Among the challenges encountered by the Islamic Republic of Iran, climate change looms as one of the most serious, disrupting, and even life-threatening issues facing both rural and urban populations. This threat has worsened at a time when Iran is politically polarized, ideologically fractured, and economically embattled. -Javad Heiran-Nia and Mahmood Monshipouri, Atlantic Council 9/16/21

Hezbollah brings Iranian fuel into crisis-hit Lebanon

Hezbollah began bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon via Syria on Thursday, a move the Shi'ite Muslim group says should ease a crippling energy crisis but which opponents say risks provoking U.S. sanctions. A convoy of trucks carrying Iranian fuel oil entered northeastern Lebanon near the village of al-Ain, where Hezbollah's yellow flag fluttered from lampposts. -AFP 9/16/21

Iran's nuclear chief admits removal of damaged IAEA cameras

Iran acknowledged on Wednesday that it had removed several surveillance cameras installed by U.N. nuclear inspectors at a centrifuge assembly site that came under a mysterious attack earlier this year. The chief of the country's nuclear program, Mohammad Eslami, sought to portray the removal of cameras as Tehran's response to world powers reneging on their commitments under the tattered 2015 nuclear deal. -AP 9/16/21

Iranian musician risks prison for new album

Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian faces prison for making music. In fact, he has already spent two years locked up - including a spell in solitary confinement and a hunger strike - for releasing songs the Iranian authorities did not agree with. But he is undeterred. "I will not step back and I will not censor myself," he tells BBC News. -BBC 9/15/21

Crucial changes at Iran's foreign ministry ahead of nuclear talks

Shortly before talks resume in Vienna around restoring Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, its foreign ministry has made some changes that may well prove critical. Hardline diplomat Ali Bagheri Kani has been appointed as the new deputy for political affairs, replacing veteran diplomat Abbas Araghchi, who led six rounds of nuclear talks in Vienna up to late July - when talks stopped to allow Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi to form his administration. 9/15/21

Iran restarts commercial flights to Afghanistan

Iran on Wednesday resumed commercial flights to neighbouring Afghanistan, where the Taliban took control last month. "Today Mahan Air carried passengers between Mashhad and Kabul airport," Fars news agency reported, referring to Iran's second-largest city, in the northeast, and the Afghan capital. "At present, this airliner is returning to Mashhad with passengers." -AFP 9/15/21

New UN test ban chief says goal is to bring pact into force

The new head of the U.N. nuclear test ban treaty organization said Wednesday his goal is to have the treaty enter into force, which would require ratification by eight countries -- the U.S., China, Iran, Israel, Egypt, India, Pakistan and North Korea. "I remain optimistic, but I'm also realistic," Robert Floyd said at a news conference. "I don't underestimate the challenge." -AP 9/15/21

Iranian photojournalist Majid Saeedi arrested while covering Afghan refugee camps

Iranian authorities should immediately release photojournalist Majid Saeedi, drop any charges against him, and let him work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On August 25, security forces in the city of Khoy, in West Azerbaijan province near the border with Turkey, arrested Saeedi, a photographer for the state-run newspaper Shargh Daily, while he was photographing camps housing Afghan refugees... -CPJ 9/14/21

IRAN: 'No red lines in importing COVID vaccines, even Pfizer and Moderna'

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that the country is facing no red lines in importing coronavirus vaccines, even Pfizer and Moderna. "Of course, the health ministry has always been the sole authorized and eligible source for approving the vaccines which are allowed to be imported, and the foreign affairs ministry has used all its facilities towards this goal," Khatibzadeh said speaking at his weekly press briefing on Monday. -Tehran Times 9/14/21

Why talks with Iran have faltered and what Biden can do to revive them

Deep into the Biden administration's first year, the United States and Iran have failed to restore the Iran nuclear deal and negotiations have yet to resume after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was inaugurated in early August. Far from desperate for a deal, as many Washington commentators portrayed, Iran is content to bide its time and believes it is in a strong position to either restore the agreement on its terms, pursue a new bargain, or escalate tensions with the United States further. -Ryan Costello, Responsible Statecraft 9/14/21

Iran's new government beset by infighting as big beasts jockey for position

Despite his comfortable victory in June's presidential elections, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is struggling to fill key positions in his new administration, as a number of influential conservative figures continue to jockey for power and influence. This infighting among leading politicians has prompted the nascent administration to be described as a "government with four or five presidents", while behind the scenes the hardline Endurance Front party looks to place its preferred candidates in important roles. -MEE 9/14/21

Lebanon: Hezbollah chief says first Iranian fuel shipment to arrive this week

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday that the first vessel carrying Iranian fuel for Lebanon had docked in Syria and would arrive in the country later this week. Nasrallah thanked Syrian authorities for receiving the shipment in their ports and for facilitating its transfer by land into Lebanon, saying it would arrive in Lebanon's Bekaa by Thursday. -MEE 9/14/21

Iranian commander vows 'response' to Kurdish armed groups in Iraq

An Iranian commander threatened Iranian Kurdish dissident groups that operate in Iraq on Monday as the conflict between the two heats up. Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) alleged that the unspecified groups are in cahoots with foreign intelligence and seek to destabilize Iran from neighboring Iraq. -Al Monitor 9/14/21

Iran agrees deal with UN on monitoring of nuclear programme

Iran has agreed to allow UN nuclear inspectors to install new memory cards into its cameras monitoring the country's controversial nuclear programme in a move that could keep the inspection process on life support, and even ease a path towards a lifting of US sanctions. Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, struck the deal in Tehran on Sunday after two hours of talks and will report to the IAEA's board meeting on Monday. -Guardian 9/13/21

Introducing the New Leaders of Iranian Economic Policy

President Ebrahim Raisi has prioritized improving Iran's faltering economy. He took office in August amid a fifth wave of COVID-19 cases, recurring blackouts, and a currency depreciation. The economy subsequently contracted after five months of growth. Iran also remains under U.S. sanctions. To address these economic challenges, Raisi will need to surround himself with competent managers. -Bourse & Bazaar 9/13/21

Iraqi PM Kadhimi becomes first foreign leader to meet Iran's Raisi

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Sunday became the first foreign leader to visit and meet with Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi since the hardliner took office in August. The visit is the latest step in Iraq's efforts to mediate between Tehran and its Gulf Arab foes, including Saudi Arabia, in the hope of stopping its neighbours settling scores on its territory. -MEE 9/13/21

Iran's energy diplomacy

Much is made of Iran's use of proxy or allied groups to exert "hard power" influence throughout the Middle East where Tehran believes its interests are under threat (Lebanon), or sees an opportunity to exert greater influence (Syria, Iraq), or to act as a spoiler (Yemen). But far less is made of its use of "power", of the energy kind, exemplified in its use of its energy exports to take advantage of regional states' inability to cater for their own domestic requirements. -The Interpreter 9/13/21

Who do they think they are? Israel tells US to ease off Saudi, Egypt human rights

Israeli officials warned the United States not to hold Saudi Arabia and Egypt accountable for human rights abuses, or else risk driving them into the arms of China, Russia, and Iran. This would contradict President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken's pledge to "put human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy." -Annelle Sheline, Responsible Statecraft 9/13/21

Warmongering: An Empty Strategy

Russia, China, and Iran are on course to hold joint military exercises in the Persian Gulf later this year or early 2022. In an interview with Sputnik, Russia's ambassador to Tehran, Levan Dzhagaryan, asserted that the "main aim is to practice actions on ensuring international shipping safety, and combating sea pirates." Yet, especially in the wake of the botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan, such cooperation is often portrayed as adversarial and contrary to US foreign policy goals. -Emmet McGeown, Organization for World Peace 9/13/21

#SanctionsStory: The Human Impact of Sanctions on Iran

We asked Iranian Americans to share their #SanctionsStory about the impacts on their loved ones abroad. Listen to what they have to say below then take action to urge Congress to provide Iran with humanitarian relief. -NIAC Action 9/10/21

Iran insists on 'inclusive' government in Afghanistan

On Wednesday, a day after the Taliban announced the formation of the new Afghan government, which was dominated by its old guard and included no representation for women or members of the Shia community, the foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbouring countries - including Iran, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan - held a virtual meeting. -Al Jazeera 9/10/21

Israeli FM Says Israel Will Act Against Iran if the World Doesn't

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday said Israel "reserves the right" to act against Iran to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons if the rest of the world doesn't take action. "The world needs to stop Iran from getting a nuclear capability, no matter the price. If the world doesn't do it, Israel reserves the right to act," Lapid said in Moscow while meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. 9/10/21

Iran's controversial spy thriller series "Gando" returns

The Iranian controversial spy thriller is back to the television screens after being pulled-off by the state for a couple of months as its plotline depicted corruption and ineptness in former Iranian president Rouhani government. Sources elucidate that the third season of the series would feature talks on nuclear deal. -AFP 9/10/21

Iran launches air strikes on Kurdish separatist group in northern Iraq

Iranian jets and drones have carried out attacks on members of an Iranian Kurdish separatist party based in northern Iraq, the group said on Thursday. An official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), a group seeking autonomy for Kurds in Iran, said there were no casualties from the strikes, which targeted the Sidakan and Choman areas of Erbil province on Thursday morning. 9/10/21

"The hardliners return.": Iran under Raeisi.

Iran has a new president, and new leadership altogether. The Islamic Republic's presidential elections on 18 June brought Sayyed Ebrahim Raeisi, the hardline cleric and judiciary chief, to power. Raeisi had lost the previous presidential contest, in 2017, which returned Hassan Rouhani for a second term in a landslide result. How will Raeisi govern? In which direction will he take the Islamic Republic? What will be Tehran's policies, domestically and on the foreign side?... -Muhammad Sahimi, The Scrum 9/9/21

US, Germany press for Iran to return soon to nuclear talks

The U.S. and Germany on Wednesday stepped up pressure on Iran to return soon to talks on its nuclear program, with Germany's foreign minister saying that a delay of two or three months floated by Tehran is too long. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that that isn't good enough. He said he told Amirabdollahian last week that "two or three months is a time frame that is much too long for us" and called for a quicker return. -AP 9/9/21

Iran warns West of IAEA move as U.S says time running out to save nuclear deal

Iran's president on Wednesday warned Western states against rebuking Tehran at the U.N. atomic watchdog after its latest reports criticised his country.. "In the event of a counterproductive approach at the IAEA, it would not make sense to expect Iran to react constructively. Counterproductive measures are naturally disruptive to the negotiation path also," President Ebrahim Raisi said in a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel, according to Iranian state media. -Reuters 9/9/21

US Navy launches Mideast drone task force amid Iran tensions

The U.S. Navy's Mideast-based 5th Fleet said Wednesday it will launch a new task force that incorporates airborne, sailing and underwater drones after years of maritime attacks linked to ongoing tensions with Iran. Navy officials declined to identify which systems they would introduce from their headquarters on the island nation of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. -AP 9/9/21

Iran Reaches Out To Neighbors As U.S. Warns Over Nuclear Talks

The new government in Tehran is reaching out to its Gulf neighbors, as talks over the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with the U.S. looks increasingly shaky. In the past 24 hours, recently-appointed foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has held talks with at least two of his counterparts in the region, with speculation that other meetings will follow. -Forbes 9/9/21

Trump White House tried to play down US injuries in attack by Iran, says ex-official

Donald Trump's White House asked the Pentagon to play down and delay reports of brain injuries suffered by US troops from an Iranian missile attack on Iraq last year, according to a former defense spokeswoman. Alyssa Farah said she fended off the pressure from the White House, which came after Trump had first claimed there had been no casualties and then dismissed the injuries as "headaches" and "not very serious". -Guardian 9/9/21

Iran signals defiance after chiding IAEA report

Iranian envoy to IAEA says no one can tell Iran to halt its nuclear activities after UN nuclear agency criticises Tehran for past nuclear activities. "The agency must maintain its independence and professionalism and agency members must seriously refrain from trying to use it to achieve their political goals," Gharibabadi said, pointing out that Iran accounts for more than one-fifth of all IAEA monitoring while the agency conducts no inspections in Israel. -Al Jazeera 9/8/21

Iran Air's Interesting Airbus A330 Diversion

Yesterday morning, an Iran Air A330 on its way to Hamburg entered a holding pattern waiting for the heavy fog parked over the airport to lift. However, a little over one hour later, the plane lifted back up to 30,000 feet and took off for... Milan. How come? -Linnea Ahlgren, Simple Flying 9/8/21

Iran has had weeks post-election to get back into nuke talks

With talks on restoring the Iran nuclear deal now grounded for over ten weeks, Tehran says it could be another ten weeks before it is ready to resume talking. That would be a mistake. Further stalling intended to increase Iran's leverage could have the opposite effect of decreasing the perceived value of restoring the deal. -Mark Fitzpatrick, Responsible Statecraft 9/8/21

Why Is Iran So Keen on Joining the SCO?

Recent remarks by Russian and Iranian officials suggest that Iran is on the verge of gaining full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional forum launched in 2001 by China, Russia, and the Central Asian republics (minus Turkmenistan) to combat the so-called "three evils" namely "terrorism, separatism, and extremism." -Fardin Eftekhari, The Diplomat 9/8/21

U.S. to Discuss Way Forward on Iran in Moscow, Paris Talks

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley will visit Moscow and Paris this week for talks with Russian and European officials on Iran's nuclear program, the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday. The talks will cover "Iran's nuclear program and the need to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," it said, referring to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers. -Reuters 9/8/21

Iranian commander warns Iraqi Kurdish government about harboring opposition

The commander of the Ground Forces of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of a "decisive and harsh response" against Kurdish fighters based in the semi-autonomous Kurdish territory. "The current situation is no longer tolerable," said Gen. Mohammad Pakpour in reference to a recent uptick in border clashes between Iraq-based Iranian Kurdish opposition and IRGC forces on the rugged border. -Al Monitor 9/8/21

Telluride 2021: With 'A Hero,' Asghar Farhadi Tells a Fable for the Cancel Culture Age

The Iranian director discusses his decision to skip the Oscars in 2017 in protest of Trump's travel ban, the toll of COVID-19 in Iran and the limits on his expression there: "I can't tell exactly what my movies would look like if I had the freedom, but I know that it would be different." -Rebecca Keegan, Hollywood Reporter 9/7/21

Israel's military chief says 'accelerating' Iran strike plans

Military plans dealing with Iran's nuclear programme have been "greatly accelerated", Israel's military chief warned, as questions on the ability to revive a landmark accord limiting Tehran's weapons development continue to grow. Preparations for possible action against Iran are being intensified, Chief of General Staff Aviv Kohavi said in an interview published on Monday -Al Jazeera 9/7/21

Iran Says It Will 'Definitely' Resume Nuclear Deal Negotiations

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Tehran will "definitely" continue indirect negotiations with the US to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. "We will definitely continue the negotiations," Khatibzadeh said, according to Iran's IRNA. He said Iran plans to resume the talks "soon" but did not specify a date. The talks have been on hold since June 20th. 9/7/21

Mohsen Makhmalbaf warns of extremists

Filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf was once a guerrilla in his native Iran before trading his gun for a camera. He later defected from the country, where film and other artistic expression are subject to strict censorship by the Islamic theocracy. Since then the director has been a fervent antiwar supporter with unshakable faith in democracy. -Nikkei Asia 9/7/21

Iran prepares for a new "Great Game" in Afghanistan

Until the horrific August 26 attack outside Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, Iran's bottom line on a new Afghan political order was in fact similar to that of the United States: it expected President Ashraf Ghani's government to survive for several more months, thus opening space for some kind of power-sharing arrangement. In fact, whether genuine or not, Taliban leaders have insisted that they want an "inclusive" government. -Daniel Brumberg, Responsible Statecraft 9/6/21

Israel's 'alarmist claims' raise the stakes against Iran

Israeli leaders have revived threats against Iran after warning it is just months away from possessing a nuclear weapon. The United States and Israel have formed a high-level team to tackle the Iran nuclear issue, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced last week after meeting President Joe Biden. -Thomas O Falk, Al Jazeera 9/6/21

Iran's Raisi Seeks Nuclear Deal Talks Without Western 'Pressure'

Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi said Saturday that talks to revive the nuclear deal are on the agenda of his government, but he wants to pursue negotiations without "pressure" from the US and other Western countries. "The Westerners and the Americans are after talks together with pressure," Raisi said in an interview with state TV. "I have already announced that we will have talks on our government's agenda but not with ... pressure." 9/6/21

Iranian fuel tanker heading for Syria poses test for US sanctions

An Iranian tanker carrying fuel bound for Lebanon was at anchor in the Red Sea on Friday ahead of the final leg of a voyage to Syria, which is set to pose the biggest test yet to US sanctions imposed on two arch regional foes. The tanker is expected in the Syrian port of Baniyas early next week, in defiance of US sanctions that prevent oil exports from Iran and imports to Syria, which have both been subject to stringent US-imposed restrictions on trade. -Guardian 9/6/21

Filmmaker Shirin Neshat on the Parallels Between 'Land of Dreams' and Current Events in Afghanistan

The visual artist and director has long used her work to focus on her Iranian roots, but with her futuristic new drama, she takes a penetrating look at her adopted country - and is troubled by what she sees. -Hollywood Reporter 9/3/21

Women stage protest in Taliban-controlled Kabul

A group of Afghan women activists staged a small protest in Taliban-controlled Kabul Friday calling for equal rights and full participation in political life, CNN has confirmed. In spite of the risk, a group called the Women's Political Participation Network marched on the street in front of Afghanistan's Finance Ministry, chanting slogans and holding signs demanding involvement in the Afghan government and calling for constitutional law. -cnn 9/3/21

Tehran gets new hard-line mayor after ministry approval

Iran's state TV is reporting that the country's Interior Ministry has approved a new hard-line mayor for the capital, Tehran, after a city council election. Alireza Zakani, 55 heads a parliamentary research center, and he was one of the seven approved 2021 presidential candidates. He withdrew from the race to support the eventual winner, fellow hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi. -AP 9/3/21

The Caviar Club

In the mid 1970s​, Iran started buying nudes. Some were abstract nudes, such as Willem de Kooning's Woman III, with her yellow hair and emphatic yellow breasts and an expression that suggests some bemusement at de Kooning's 'melodrama of vulgarity'. Some featured nudity as part of a mysterious mise en scene, as in Francis Bacon's triptych Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants, in which a pair of naked men lie on a peculiar, possibly therapeutic bed. -Azadeh Moaveni, London Review of Books 9/2/21

Amir Ali Hajizadeh: Iran's drone mastermind known as 'the new Soleimani'

In recent weeks, one Iranian name has been on the lips of Israeli military officials: General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force commander has been held personally responsible for Tehran's growing drone capabilities and its alleged attacks on a number of Israeli-linked ships - most recently the Mercer Street tanker in the Gulf of Oman. -MEE 9/2/21

Iran arrests financial reporter Amir-Abbas Azarmvand on security charges

Iranian authorities should immediately release journalist Amir-Abbas Azarmvand, drop the charges against him, and let him work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today... According to the source, the agents presented Azarmvand with an arrest warrant citing recent critical reporting for SMT on the "difficult economic situation of union workers and some of the new economic decisions by the government." -CPJ 9/2/21

Over Two Decades, US's Global War on Terror Has Taken Nearly 1 Million Lives and Cost $8 Trillion

THE U.S.-LED global war on terror has killed nearly 1 million people globally and cost more than $8 trillion since it began two decades ago. These staggering figures come from a landmark report issued Wednesday by Brown University's Costs of War Project, an ongoing research effort to document the economic and human impact of post-9/11 military operations. -Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept 9/2/21

There goes the neighborhood: How Iran may be impacted by Taliban rule

A Taliban government in Kabul will have important ramifications for all of Afghanistan's neighbors, in one way or another. However, of all Afghanistan's neighbors, Iran could be affected most negatively. It shares nearly 1,000 kilometers of common borders with Afghanistan. It already hosts between 2.5 and 4 million Afghan citizens and will find it difficult to cope with a possible surge of tens - or even hundreds - of thousands more Afghans who wish to flee their homeland. -Shireen Hunter, Responsible Statecraft 9/1/21

Iran warns US against wasting time in nuclear talks

Iran's newly appointed foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said his country will not accept protraction in talks with the United States over the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). -Al Monitor 9/1/21

Afghanistan's neighbours offered millions in aid to harbour refugees

Countries neighbouring Afghanistan have been offered millions in aid if they are prepared to temporarily harbour tens of thousands of refugees, prior to security checks clearing them for transit to Europe and the US, but Pakistan and other bordering states have warned they will not take more refugees permanently. -Guardian 9/1/21

Iranian fuel shipments to Lebanon pose new challenge for Biden, experts say

Hezbollah's decision to arrange multiple deliveries of Iranian fuel to Lebanon poses a series of challenges for the US as it prepares to craft a response to the country's crippling energy crisis, experts have said. In a speech on Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah blamed the US for Lebanon's economic woes and said Caesar sanctions imposed by Washington on Syria had harmed Lebanon. -MEE 9/1/21

These women fled Afghanistan. What's at stake for those left behind?

In the past month, Naheed Esar has spent her days settling into a new life as a doctoral student in the leafy college town of Fayetteville, Arkansas. At night, when her family in Afghanistan is just waking up, she calls them. "We try to calm one another," she says. "But it starts with: Are you alive? Where is this person, where is that person?" She doesn't get much sleep. -Nina Strochlic, National Geographic 8/31/21

After 20 Years in Afghanistan, 'America's Longest War Is Finally Over'

The Pentagon announced Monday that the very last U.S. military plane had lifted off from the airport in Kabul, ending 20 years of America's on-the-ground war and occupation of Afghanistan. "Every single U.S. servicemember is out of Afghanistan," said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, in a televised statement. - Jon Queally, Common Dreams 8/31/21

Jafar Panahi Among Activists Urging UN to Take Action on Iran's Covid Crisis

Ten activists have signed a letter addressed to the United Nations demanding that the organization take measures to help Iran's ongoing Covid-19 crisis, including requiring Iran to import the vaccine. Among the signatories are filmmakers Jafar Panahi ("3 Faces," "This Is Not a Film") and Mohammad Rasoulof ("There Is No Evil"), as well as documentarian Mohammad Nourizad. -IndieWire 8/31/21

Iran and Saudi Arabia expected to resume direct talks soon

Iran and Saudi Arabia appear to be ready to resume direct talks hosted by Iraq in the near future, Iranian state media reported. Iran's new Foreign Affairs Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, said during a late-night interview on state television on Monday that he had spoken with his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, at the regional summit hosted by Baghdad on Saturday. -Al Jazeera 8/31/21

Iran Reports Arrests Over Iranian 'Shocking' Prison Abuse Videos

The judiciary's official Mizan news agency reported on August 30 that "six people" were prosecuted and interrogated in connection with the videos. "Two of these people have been arrested and the rest have been released on parole," it added. Mizan said that "some of the violations that are evident in the videos have already been investigated, and people have been punished or fired." -RFE 8/31/21

Iraq brings together Mideast rivals in bid to ease tensions

Arab heads of state and senior officials from the region including archenemies Iran and Saudi Arabia held a rare meeting Saturday at a conference hosted by Iraq. The meeting is aimed at easing Mideast tensions and underscored the Arab country's new role as mediator. French President Emmanuel Macron also attended the Baghdad meeting, hailing it as a major boost for Iraq and its leadership. -AP 8/30/21

US has options if Iran diplomacy fails, Biden tells Israel's Bennett

US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in White House talks on Friday that he was putting "diplomacy first" to try to rein in Iran's nuclear program but if negotiations fail he would be prepared to turn to other unspecified options. -Reuters 8/30/21

No different from Trump, Iran's Khamenei slams 'predatory' Biden

Shortly before Iran and the United States, along with other world powers, are expected to head back to Vienna for nuclear talks, Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei said "predatory wolf" President Joe Biden is no different from his predecessor. Khamenei blasted the "shameless" behaviour of the US on Iran's 2015 nuclear deal on Saturday, saying it behaved as if Iran left the accord, while the Americans in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from it, imposing harsh sanctions. -Al Jazeera 8/30/21

Iran appoints ex-roads minister as head of nuclear agency

Iran's president on Sunday appointed a new director of the country's nuclear department, state TV reported, replacing the nation's most prominent nuclear scientist with a U.N.-sanctioned minister who has no reported experience in nuclear energy but ties to the defense ministry. -AP 8/30/21

Lebanon's energy crisis fuels US-Iran tensions

In the midst of an economic collapse and an energy crisis, Lebanon has found itself in a tug of war between the United States and Iran. On August 19, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah announced an arrangement for a diesel fuel shipment from Iran to Lebanon, which would be a violation of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic. A few hours later, the US ambassador in Beirut, Dorothy Shea, declared that Washington will help Lebanon implement a plan to transfer Egyptian gas to Lebanon for power generation... -Joe Macaron, Responsible Statecraft 8/30/21

U.S. Says Ready to Compromise in Nuclear Talks: Iran Snapshot

The top American negotiator in the Iranian nuclear talks said Washington is prepared to make compromises "on difficult issues" if Tehran does the same. In a sign the U.S. recognizes the shift to hardline politics in Iran following the election of Ebrahim Raisi as president, Robert Malley said on Wednesday he hopes the Islamic Republic returns to the negotiating table "with a realistic approach." -Bloomberg 8/27/21

Hacked Videos Force The Unthinkable In Iran: Official Admission Of Abuses At Evin Prison

The embarrassing images come less than a month after the inauguration of a new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, a former judiciary chief who has rejected rights lawyers' and others' claims of inmate abuse by saying prisoners are treated with "kindness and Islamic mercy." -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL 8/27/21

Raisi Tells First Cabinet Meeting That Iran Is 'Seriously Lagging Behind' As Virus Woes Mount

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi says the country is "seriously lagging behind" in certain social and economic areas and the government must act to "improve people's livelihoods" as the country grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases. Speaking on August 26 at the start of his first cabinet meeting since the government was approved by parliament a day earlier, Raisi acknowledged that the situation in the country "must certainly change." 8/26/21

Iran's Suspicious 'Plot' To Kidnap a Dissident in America

In a statement on July 13, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) accused four Iranian intelligence officers living in Iran of plotting to kidnap an Iranian political activist in New York in order to return her to Iran. The alleged victim is the controversial Iranian political activist Masoumeh Alinejad Ghomi, who is widely known as Masih Alinejad. A fifth person, Niloofar Bahadorifar, a woman of Iranian origin living in the greater Los Angeles area, was also accused of providing financial support to the alleged would-be kidnappers. - Muhammad Sahimi, 8/26/21

Iran's parliament approves President Raisi's conservative cabinet

Iran's hardline parliament has voted to approve almost all of President Ebrahim Raisi's cabinet picks, signalling the formation of his "revolutionary" administration that faces a plethora of political, economic and social challenges. The parliament approved 18 of Raisi's 19-member roster of ministers on Wednesday. Only Raisi's pick for education minister, the young, inexperienced Hossein Baghgoli, was rejected by lawmakers, who approved Raisi's picks with overwhelming majorities. -Al Jazeera 8/26/21

Biden, Bennett to discuss Iran's 'out of the box' nuclear program

President Joe Biden will tell Israel's Naftali Bennett that the US is looking to roll back Iran's nuclear programme through diplomacy but also has "other avenues to pursue", a senior US official told reporters ahead of the two leaders' meeting. Bennett, who is meeting Biden for the first time since becoming Israel's prime minister, has voiced opposition to US efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. -Al Jazeera 8/26/21

The Impact of U.S. Sanctions on Internet Access in Iran

U.S. sanctions are making it easier for the Iranian government to censor, surveil, and repress its population. Iranian citizens are losing access to tools they need to circumvent government filters at a time when Iranian authorities are intensifying their drive to securitize online space inside Iran... -NIAC 8/26/21

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