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January 31 2015
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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back for Iran Sanctions Bill

- After a three week showdown between supporters of the nuclear negotiations with Iran and Senators bent on passing new sanctions that would upend the talks, the pro-diplomacy crowd won the day - for now. -Jamal Abdi, NIAC - 1/30/15

Iranian MP Motahari points to intensified attack on free speech

- Tehran MP Ali Motahari says freedom of speech has become more strained under the Rohani administration and self-censorship has become more common in the media. He stressed that continued pressure on the Rohani administration is the chief cause of the strain on the media. - 1/30/15

Iran's High Court Confirms Exile Sentences Dor Dervishes

- The Supreme Court has upheld the sentence issued to seven dervishes by the Shiraz Revolutionary Court, according to media outlets linked to Gonabadi Dervishes. The seven dervishes have been found guilty of "enmity with God" and "corruption on earth"; three of them are sentenced to lifetime exile and the other four are to spend 28 years in exile. - 1/30/15

The False Gospels That Threaten the Iran Nuke Talks

- The interim nuclear agreement with Iran has made the world a safer place. Iran is further away from a nuclear bomb and the United States is further away from bombing Iran. But this interim deal is not sustainable. Unless the paradigm guiding the ongoing negotiations shifts, a final deal is unlikely to be reached and the gains of the interim deal will be lost. -Trita Parsi, National Interest - 1/30/15

Iranian President to Tax-Exempt Groups: Pay Up

- Iran's economy has been limping badly. The U.S.-driven sanctions imposed because of Iran's nuclear program have curtailed its oil exports and cut off its banks from global financial networks. A 58 percent oil price slump since June has done damage, and the government is revising a draft budget that will lower the assumed price of oil to $40 a barrel from $72. -Bloomberg - 1/30/15

Iran's interest in Lebanon has nothing to do with Israel

- Neither Hezbollah and Iran nor Israel want an escalation on the Golan Heights, but the violent dialogue in which they are engaged could still lead to just that. -Haaretz - 1/30/15

Iran set to cancel Geneva pact if new sanctions emerge

- Iranian Parliament's national security and foreign policy commission has announced it is preparing a bill to cancel the Geneva nuclear agreement if new sanctions are imposed against Iran. - 1/29/15

Iran: Detained U.S. journalist to go on trial soon

- Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post journalist detained in Iran, will soon go on trial, the Chief Justice of Tehran has told reporters. He added that Rezaian is in contact with his family and has been visited by them. - 1/29/15

Iran: Prominent Human Rights Activist Detained and Kept from Seeing VP of German Parliament

- Human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was detained by security agents for several hours as she tried to meet with the Vice President of the German Parliament, Claudia Roth, in Tehran on the afternoon of January 25, 2015, according to Saham News. She was released at midnight, after she was interrogated and threatened with imprisonment. - 1/29/15

Iran Names New UN Ambassador After Controversy Over Initial Candidate

- Iran has named career diplomat Gholamali Khoshroo as its new ambassador to the United Nations. Khoshroo, a former deputy foreign minister, is currently serving as Iran's ambassador to Switzerland, according to the country's official news agency, IRNA. - 1/29/15

Khamenei Adviser Meets Putin

- A top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ali Akbar Velayati, who advises Khamenei on international affairs, also held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak. - 1/29/15

Netanyahu Speech Could Hurt Talks With Iran, Pelosi Warns

- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled speech to the U.S. Congress in March could damage the Obama administration's attempts to broker a deal with Iran on nuclear weapons development, the senior U.S. House of Representatives Democrat said Wednesday. -Reuters - 1/29/15

Opinion: Iran Talks Give US More Options

- Over the past 18 months, the U.S. and Iran - Saudi Arabia's rival -- have conducted a high-level bilateral dialogue that belies their 35-year lack of formal diplomatic relations. The near-daily negotiations that are going on now in Europe in an effort to reach a nuclear agreement are unprecedented in duration, depth and intimacy. -Barbara Slavin, VOA - 1/28/15

Iranian Weekly publication "Setareh Sobh" closed after printing MP's letter

- The Setareh Sobh weekly has been shut down by order of the Culture and Media Court for publishing Ali Motahari's letter to the Head of the Judiciary demanding action on the house arrest of opposition leaders. - 1/28/15

NIAC Applauds Successful Efforts to Halt Senate Sanctions Bill

- Today, the chief Democratic sponsor of new Iran sanctions legislation, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), relented in his effort to pass new sanctions. He announced that he and a group of his Democratic colleagues sent a letter to the President in which they pledged to vote against new sanctions prior to March 24, the target date for a political agreement with Iran. - 1/28/15

Iran Says It Warned Israel Via U.S. Officials

- Iran says it has sent a warning to Israel through U.S. officials over the recent killing of a senior paramilitary commander in an alleged Israeli air strike in Syria. Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying that Iran told Americans that Israel crossed Iran's "red lines" by killing Allahdadi. - 1/28/15

Analysts on Iran: Time to Move Beyond Sanctions

- Arguing that sanctions have served their purpose, and that the promise of sanctions relief is key to securing Iran's agreement to a comprehensive nuclear deal, three top foreign policy analysts were critical on Monday of congressional efforts to levy new sanctions against Tehran. In particular, they took aim at the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill, which has undergone several revisions aimed at overcoming President Barack Obama's threatened veto. - Derek Davison, LobeLog - 1/28/15

Toronto MP issues apology after comments anger Iranian-Canadians

- At one point, Leung is heard asking someone, "Let me ask you, if you like Iran so much, then why do you come to Canada?" He continues: "Why are you here? What are you fleeing from?" Leung's comment angered some attendees. One of them fired back: "And I can tell you, go back to China." -CTV Toronto - 1/28/15

Let Nuclear Sanctions on Iran Serve Their Final Purpose

- The kerfuffle over congressional moves to impose additional sanctions on Iran is obscuring a question that requires attention. Have the US and EU understood that the nuclear negotiations will not yield the non-proliferation measures that the US and EU need if they refuse Iran the sanctions relief that Iran needs? -Peter Jenkins - 1/27/15

US lawmakers introduce resolution against new Iran sanctions

- A group of US senators have introduced a resolution against imposing more sanctions on Iran over Tehran's nuclear program amid talks between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 group. The resolution was presented on Monday by 10 Democratic senators and an independent, who caucuses with Democrats, Reuters reported. - 1/27/15

Iranian MPs Move to Permanently Ban Journalists Connected to Shuttered Publications

- A few days after the Iranian Judiciary ordered the reformist Mardom-e Emrooz newspaper banned, ultra conservative members of the Iranian Parliament are working on legislation to permanently ban journalists who have worked for reformist publications that were shut down by the authorities. The measure is meant to ensure that such journalists will not resurface and continue their work in another publication. - 1/27/15

Iran's economy can grow by over 8% if sanctions lifted: Finance Minister

- Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tayyebnia said on Monday that the Iranian economy can grow by over eight percent if the sanctions against the country are lifted. Achieving this goal requires making use of all economic capacities in the country, the Fars news agency quoted Tayyebnia as saying. - 1/27/15

Where Does MOSSAD Not Have Influence in Iran?

- It would be very strange if the discovery of MOSSAD's penetration into the highest leadership of Lebanese Hezbollah a few days ago does not create a security-political storm in Iran. Last week, seyed Hassan Nasrallah announced that a senior Hezbollah authority had been a spy for Israel. He was talking about Mohammad Shoorbe (Shawraba), the head of Nasrallah's personal detail and the commander of Hezbollah's foreign military operations. -Farzaneh Roostaee - 1/27/15

Bob Menendez needs to face up to his role in creating the Mideast mess

- That mess stems from the actions endorsed by Menendez and several other senators whom I hereby dub "The Axis of Lunacy." The axis is bipartisan, including Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona. -Paul Mulshine, The Star Ledger - 1/27/15

Looking Two Steps Ahead into Saudi Arabia's Future

- Much has been written about King Abdullah's legacy and what Saudi Arabia accomplished or failed to accomplish during his reign in terms of reform and human rights. Very little has been written about the role that Muhammad bin Nayef, the newly appointed deputy to the crown prince, could play in the new Saudi Arabia under King Salman. -Emile Nakhleh, LobeLog - 1/27/15

A Portal Between Tehran and NYC: Open For Conversation

- Without a doubt, the lack of diplomatic relations between the US and Iran creates a serious hurdle for Iranians and Americans to meet one another. But artists in NYC and Tehran launched a project, known as Portals, that solves that problem. - 1/25/15

Middle Eastern Turmoil and the Scaremongering on Iran

- It has not been a smooth month for those who want to keep Iran in pariahdom forever and thus seek to kill any international agreement on Iran's nuclear program. The sanctions bill that is the deal-killers' principal vehicle at the moment and is in the Senate banking committee has not been attracting the hoped-for Democratic co-sponsors. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 1/25/15

We are very close to nuclear agreement: President Rouhani

- Iranian president Hassan Rouhani says the country is "very close" to clinching a deal with global powers on its nuclear program. At a Sunday meeting with visiting Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, Rouhani said that Iran has been involved in satisfactory negotiations with P5+1. - 1/25/15

Allies, Lawmakers and Officials Warn Against New Iran Sanctions

- Key allies, policymakers and members of Congress have recently warned about the impact that new Iran sanctions legislation would have on efforts to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran. -Ryan Costello, NIAC - 1/25/15

Iranian Foreign Minister Summoned To Explain Walk With Kerry

- Iranian state media reported on January 25 that parliament has summoned Foreign Minister Javid Zarif to appear and explain his recent stroll with U.S. counterpart John Kerry during nuclear negotiations in Geneva. - 1/25/15

Iranian school principal latest victim of violence near Pakistani border

- Media sources in Iran report that a school principal was killed in Saravan in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan. The Entekhab website reports that unknown assailants shot and killed school principal Kamal Gomshad Zehi while he was on his way to work in the southern region of Sistan-Baluchistan. - 1/25/15

Obama's State of the Union Address and its Bearing on US/Iran Relations

- When it comes to America's foreign policies, It's too bad that trying to do what's good for America is so often blocked by special interest groups and elected officials who owe their positions, hence their loyalties, to influence peddlers with different agendas. Watching the proceedings of January 21st Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on C-SPAN exemplified this tragic state of affairs. -Kam Zarrabi - 1/24/15

Oil price rise after Saudi ruler's death is seen as temporary

- Oil prices went up following the news that Malek Abdullah had passed away. Reports indicate that the rise in prices is temporary and Saudi Arabian oil policies will not change before the OPEC meeting in June. - 1/24/15

King Abdullah's Mixed Legacy

- King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, who died early Friday morning at the age of 90 or 91, left a very mixed legacy - stability, prosperity, and widespread popularity at home, but war and crisis all around the kingdom's borders and a foreign policy in disarray. -Thomas Lippman, LobeLog - 1/24/15

Iranian teachers begin strike to protest wages, inadequate budget

- Teachers from across Iran have begun a strike in the past two days to protest their wages as well as reports that the education ministry will only get a 14-percent budget increase in the coming year. - 1/23/15

Iran's Security Forces Block Service To Remember Republics' First PM

- Security forces prevented a special commemoration service planned for the twentieth anniversary of the passing of the Islamic Republic's first prime minister, Mehdi Bazargan. Commemoration services for Bazargan were banned over the past seven years under the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Bazargan passed away in Zurich in 1995 at the age of 87. - 1/23/15

Chutzpah Squared, Bibi and Boehner

- As Mitchell Plitnick pointed out on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress on February 11, although now it appears that Bibi would like to put off the occasion until March 3, when AIPAC will be holding its annual policy conference and unleashing its 12,000-plus attendees on Capitol Hill. -Jim Lobe, LobeLog - 1/23/15

Saudi Arabia's Controversial Death Sentence

- Last October, Saudi Arabia's Special Criminal Court sentenced Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr-a popular Shi'ite cleric and outspoken political dissident-to death. This was not an ordinary criminal trial, even considering Saudi Arabia's liberal use of capital punishment. -Giorgio Cafiero, LobeLog - 1/23/15

Looking Beyond a Nuclear Agreement with Iran

- After more than three decades of estrangement, the US and Iran aren't likely to quickly normalize their relationship even if-which is still a big if-they reach a nuclear deal in the coming weeks or months. The animosity and mutual distrust run too deep, according to new policy brief released by the Center for New American Security (CNAS) Friday. -David Shams - 1/22/15

Opinion: Deepening Israel-Iran Conflict Likely to Bring More Violence

- Two developments this week linked to the long-running conflict between Israel and Iran are likely to generate even more violence and uncertainty at a time when threats are already multiplying from Sunni Muslim extremists. -Barbara Slavin, VOA - 1/22/15

Iranian Judiciary Shuts Down Newspaper for Publishing "I am Charlie Too" Quote

- Two days after the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan demanded judicial authorities close down reformist newspaper Mardom-e Emrooz, which was only in operation for 16 days, the newspaper was shut down by orders from Branch 2 of Media Court of the Iranian Judiciary for publishing "I'm Charlie" on its front page. - 1/22/15

Iran's Hard-Liners Irked By Zarif's Geneva Stroll With Kerry

- A 15-minute stroll in Switzerland with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has landed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in hot water. The two men took a stroll in downtown Geneva and along the Rhone River on January 14 as part of bilateral talks to reach a lasting deal over Iran's nuclear program. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 1/22/15

Latest attack in Sistan-Baluchistan kills three

- A police officer and two other people were killed in an armed attack in Sistan-Baluchistan Province, the head of the province's security forces reports. Hossein Rahimi told the Fars News Agency on January 21 that police officers were called to the scene of a road accident but upon arrival the officers were shot at from the vehicle. - 1/22/15

Boehner, Netanyahu conspire to push war on Iran

- House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress next month about negotiations with Iran, a visit that would come right at the time that Congress is debating controversial bills that would tighten Iranian sanctions. -Jay Bookman, AJC - 1/22/15

Iranian Ex-Vice President Sentenced To 5 Years In Prison

- Iran's Supreme Court has sentenced a former vice president to five years and three months in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 10 billion rial ($360,000). Rahimi was a top aide to Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who was president from 2005 to 2013. - 1/22/15

Iran's IRGC Warns Israel Following Air Strike That Killed Iranian Commander

- The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) warned on January 20 that Israel should expect "devastating thunderbolts" in response to the January 18 air strike in Syria that killed an IRGC general and several members of the Lebanese Hizballah militia. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 1/21/15

Obama Says 'Shadow Of Crisis Has Passed'

- In his annual State of the Union address on January 20, Obama said: "Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran...But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails..That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom." - 1/21/15

War On Satellite Dishes: 6,000 Receivers Destroyed In Shiraz, Iran

- Six thousand satellite receivers and dishes have been destroyed in a stadium in the city of Shiraz, according to reports by Iranian news agencies that posted photos of the police action, in the latest phase of Iran's ongoing war on banned satellites. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 1/21/15

Iran football players warned: Don't take selfies with female fans in Australia

- Iranian football players have been warned not to take selfies with female fans in Australia, as it is against the country's "moral principles." The Telegraph reported that officials in Iran have been shocked at the dress code of local Australian women, which starkly contrasts with strict Islamic-dress requirements -Mashable - 1/21/15

Iran will face no problem even with $25 oil: Finance Minister

- Iranian Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tayyebnia says the administration will face no problem even if oil price drops to $25 a barrel. "For the time being, predicting oil price fluctuations is not possible. So, the administration is preparing itself to deal with any probable situation," - 1/21/15

Iran, Russia agree to solve S300 missile system issue

- The Iranian and Russian defense chiefs agreed on Tuesday to expand defense relations in order to resolve the issue concerning the S-300 air defense missile systems. In 2010 Russia refused to deliver the missile systems under a pressure by West. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visited Iran on Wednesday. - 1/21/15

Josh Block Misrepresents New Iran Sanctions Bill In SOTU Talking Points

- I just received a copy of the talking points Josh Block, the head of the Israel Project, distributed to journalists and pundits ahead of tonight's State of the Union address. The talking points, which are focused exclusively on pushing Iran sanctions and attacking the Obama administration, have some...serious problems. -Ali Gharib, LobeLog - 1/21/15

Iran's Supreme Leader regrets prevailing discrimination in U.S.

- In a message posted on his official twitter account on the occasion of the Martin Luther King Day, the Leader also marked the birthday of the prominent American civil rights activist and lamented that minorities are still treated unfairly in the United States. - 1/21/15

Theresa May accused of jeopardising Iran embassy deal

- Home Secretary Theresa May has been accused by the Foreign Office of blocking attempts to reopen the British embassy in Tehran by refusing to back down on her immigration demands. Mrs May is said to be delaying progress by refusing to reopen a visa office at the embassy - a key demand by Tehran - until 4,000 Iranians are deported from Britain. -Telegraph - 1/21/15

Iran lauds meeting with Kerry for advancing nuclear talks

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told IRNA that in his meeting with U.S. State Secretary John Kerry, they discussed the details of an agreement to finalize the nuclear negotiations. - 1/20/15

Russia, Iran Sign Military Cooperation Deal

- Russia and Iran have signed an agreement to expand military cooperation during Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's visit to Tehran. Shoigu and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Dehqan, signed the document on January 20. - 1/20/15

Why WaPo Gets the Iran Sanctions Fight Wrong

- With the fight over whether to pile on more Iran sanctions heating up in D.C., the Washington Post has weighed in. It will not come as a surprise to regular readers of the editorial board that the paper is holding its usual liberal-hawk line: the editors tacitly endorse Congress's push for more pressure on Iran. -Ali Gharib - 1/20/15

Basij students in Tehran protest Charlie Hebdo cover

- A group of Basij students gathered in front of the French embassy in Tehran on Monday January 19 to protest the latest Charlie Hebdo magazine cover depicting the Muslim Prophet. Protesters called for the closure of the French Embassy. - 1/20/15

Iran Nuclear Talks End With 'Limited' Progress

- Diplomats say the January 18 nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Geneva have ended with "limited progress." Representatives of Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of nations -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States, plus Germany -- met for closed-door talks at the EU diplomatic mission in the Swiss city. - 1/19/15

AIC Statement: Menendez-Kirk Sactions Bill

- While Iranian and American officials are negotiating over the nuclear issue, the US Congress is pushing for new sanctions legislation. Even before it is finalized, drafts of the "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015," co-sponsored by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), are in circulation. This threat of potential new sanctions has sparked an intense public debate between Republican and pro-sanctions Democratic Senators on one side and the Obama administration on the other. -American Iranian Council - 1/19/15

Terrorist Attacks on Charlie Hebdo

- Despite all the reporting and commentary on the terrorist attacks on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, political pundits and mainstream media have failed to shed any light on some of the submerged factors that might have provoked those heinous attacks. Indeed, the simplistic and politically expedient explanations such as "incompatibility" of Islam with the modern world or "good vs. evil" have shed more heat than light on the issue. -Ismael Hossein-zadeh - 1/19/15

Iran's IRGC confirms killing of its general in Syria's Golan

- Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) confirms the killing of one of its generals in an Israeli airstrike on the occupied Golan Heights in Syria that also killed six members of the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah. - 1/19/15

A Sanity Check from London on Iran

- Those who want to maintain endless tension and animosity between the United States and Iran, and who thus have been endeavoring to kill any diplomatic agreement between the two countries, are racing ahead with their latest project and will be very busy during the week ahead. That project, the AIPAC-promoted Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill, will be the subject of a Senate banking committee hearing, with only anti-agreement witnesses so far announced, on Tuesday, to be followed by the committee's mark-up of the bill on Thursday. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 1/19/15

Iran, World Powers Hold Fresh Talks In Geneva

- Iran and world powers began a new round of talks in Geneva to discuss Tehran's nuclear program. Representatives from Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of nations -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany -- met for closed-door talks at the EU diplomatic mission in the Swiss city on January 18. - 1/18/15

Iranian MPs lodge complaint against outspoken colleague Ali Motahari

- Fifty Iranian MPs have filed a complaint with the Supervisory Board of Representatives against Ali Motahari, the outspoken Tehran representative who has been very critical of the house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Zahra Rahnavard with no judicial proceedings. - 1/18/15

Former Iranian leader calls on UN to promote "reconciliation"

- Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has issued an open letter to the United Nations Secretary General calling for immediate action to "achieve historic reconciliation" in response to growing extremism across the world. - 1/18/15

Update on Iran Sanctions Legislation

- The sponsors of the latest Kirk-Menendez Iran sanctions bill appear determined to move the legislation as quickly as possible, although it has yet to be formally introduced. Of course, both Obama and visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron came out strongly against any sanctions legislation during their joint press appearance at the White House Friday -Jim Lobe, LobeLog - 1/18/15

US, Britain Oppose New Iran Sanctions

- President Barack Obama is calling on the U.S. Congress to hold off slapping new sanctions on Iran, saying penalties at this point could derail nuclear negotiations and raise the risk of war. The president's warning came after two days of meetings with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron. -Luis Ramirez, VOA - 1/17/15

Iranian reformists make plans for 2016 parliamentary elections

- Iranian reformists gathered on Thursday January 15 to prepare for the parliamentary elections announced this week for March 2016. The Coordination Council of the Reformist Front issued a statement calling for guarantees that the elections will be free and fair. - 1/17/15

Iran Calls For 'Political Will' To Advance Nuclear Talks

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says "political will" is needed to make progress in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program but that he believes such progress is "possible." Zarif returned to Geneva late on January 16 following talks in Paris with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. - 1/17/15

Iran planning to lower oil price in budget to $40 a barrel: Finance Minister

- The Iranian administration is planning to lower the crude oil price for the next year's budget (March 2015-March 2016) to $40, Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tayyebnia stated. - 1/17/15

EU, Iran hold high profile talks

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held meetings with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels on Thursday. - 1/17/15

U.S. Fails to Use Leverage on Bahrain

- Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, is a key U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or IS). It is also an authoritarian island kingdom that continues to crack down on its pro-democracy opposition. The U.S. government claims to lack sufficient leverage to influence Bahrain's human rights policy. In reality, Washington is simply unwilling to use its influence for fear of compromising its military alliance. -Matar E. Matar, LobeLog - 1/17/15

Iran's Zarif To Meet Kerry In Paris

- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says he will meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on January 16 to discuss Tehran's nuclear program. Zarif told reporters shortly before leaving Geneva that he would meet briefly with Kerry in Paris. He said he would also meet French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to discuss bilateral and regional issues as well as extremism and Islamophobia. - 1/16/15

In defense of freedom of expression

- The Wednesday edition of Charlie Hebdo (a week after the barbaric attack by two deranged terrorists on its premises) carried a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad, with a caption "Je Suis Charlie", with a tear drop on his face announcing, "all is forgiven". It is not clear who is forgiven and for what, but if it refers to the terrorists it certainly is not appropriate. -Farhang Jahanpour - 1/16/15
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