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May 22 2015
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A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran


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Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi banished to exile after completing prison term

- Ahmad Zeidabadi, a jailed Iranian journalist who reached the end of his prison term on Thursday May 21, was immediately transferred to Gonabad to serve out the exile portion of his sentence. - 5/22/15

Iranian Writer Prosecuted for Facebook Posts Critical of State Censorship

- Authorities in Iran are prosecuting another writer on national security charges for signing statements and writing posts that criticized state censorship on the Facebook page of the Iranian Writers' Association. - 5/22/15

US sanctions airlines for selling jets to Iran

- The US government has imposed sanctions on two aviation companies in Iraq and the UAE for selling used commercial aircraft to Iran. The Treasury Department designated Iraq-based Al-Naser Airlines and Sky Blue Bird Aviation in the United Arab Emirates as sanctions violators. - 5/22/15

Exxon lobbies US government on Iran sanctions

- Exxon Mobil is reported to have stationed lobbyists to push the envelope on Iran sanctions with the US government as Western companies are jostling for access to the Middle East country's massive oil and gas fields. - 5/22/15

Iranian exiles respond in unexpected ways to idea of U.S.-Iran nuclear talks

- After years of staying aloof from public debate, Iranian Americans - one of the nation's most affluent and educated immigrant groups -- are emerging as an unexpected and articulate constituency for U.S. diplomatic engagement with the ayatollahs. -Pamela Constable, Washington Post - 5/22/15

Much More Is Needed From Iran Hawks to Oppose a Nuclear Deal

- Senate hawks like Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) do not like diplomacy with Iran. Graham has repeatedly threatened war with Iran, whereas Kirk prefers to starve the Iranian people. Yet, given that most Americans do not want another military adventure in the Middle East, and largely support a negotiated nuclear deal with Iran, the hawks are pivoting. -Ryan Costello, NIAC - 5/22/15

Putting Strategic Interests First with Iran

- It is striking how often opponents of a nuclear agreement with Iran resort to an ethical non-sequitur. They are fond of arguing that, because the Iranian government tortures political prisoners or supports entities that commit violent acts for political ends, the same government is bound to breach whatever non-proliferation pledges it may offer. -Peter Jenkins - 5/21/15

Iran, P5+1 begin 2nd day of nuclear talks in Vienna

- Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 group of countries have opened the second day of a new round of nuclear talks in the Austrian capital, Vienna. The nuclear negotiations on Thursday were held at two different levels in the Austrian capital city. - 5/21/15

President Rouhani stresses Iran's peace discourse

- Iran's President Rouhani restated his policy of peace and dialogue on Wednesday. Addressing a meeting of businessmen and investors in Tabriz, capital of the East Azerbaijan Province, President Rouhani restated his policy of peace and dialogue on Wednesday. - 5/21/15

Was the US-GCC Summit Worth It?

- It is too early to judge whether the results of last week's summit between President Barack Obama and leaders of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will become "footprints on the sands of time." The summit did achieve what Obama most needed--the Arabs' formal endorsement of the P5+1 talks with Iran on the latter's nuclear program. -Robert E. Hunter, LobeLog - 5/21/15

US architect of Iran economic isolation warns sanctions could backfire

- Richard Nephew, a former senior US official who was instrumental in constructing the global sanctions wall around Iran, is now warning that Washington's fondness for sanctions as a foreign policy tool could have serious repercussions for the US. -Julian Borger, Guardian - 5/21/15

Threat of 'Snapback' Could Limit Firms' Iran Deals

- At the heart of the recent deal between the U.S. and other powers and Iran over its nuclear program is the issue of how and when sanctions will be removed. The Obama administration has described a deal that would see economic sanctions removed only if Iran is abiding by its commitments to restrict its nuclear activity. -Teresa Welsh, US News - 5/21/15

Graham Turns To Iran Hawks For Campaign Funding

- Last time I wrote about Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) impending presidential campaign, Graham was feeding anti-Semitic tropes over a glass of Riesling, telling the Wall Street Journal that he "may have the first all-Jewish cabinet in America because of the pro-Israel funding." -Eli Clifton, LobeLog - 5/21/15

U.S., Iranian Warships Shadowing Cargo Ship Near Yemen

- Iran has sent two warships to accompany an Iranian cargo boat delivering humanitarian aid to Yemen, and the United States has sent warships to shadow the Iranians. Those were the intriguing developments May 19 as the Iranian ships neared the Yemeni port of Hodaida, where Iran has insisted they will unload their cargo. - 5/20/15

Iran's Supreme Leader: No Access to Scientists, Military Sites

- Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday Tehran would not accept "unreasonable demands" by world powers during negotiations over its disputed nuclear program, including giving international inspectors access to his country's scientists or military sites. - 5/20/15

Israel ordered to pay Iran $1.1 billion: Report

- An Israeli oil company has been ordered by a Swiss court to pay $1.1 billion to Iran in compensation in a long-standing legal battle related to a joint venture before the Islamic Revolution, the IRNA news agency says. - 5/20/15

Critic of Iran's Supreme Leader to spend another year in solitary

- Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent political prisoner and former deputy interior minister, was not released at the end of his six-year sentence and has to serve another sentence. The Human Rights Activists News Agency reported on Monday that Tajzadeh's six-year prison sentence has ended. - 5/20/15

Iranian prisons inquiry in peril after MPs meet with security officials

- Only days after Parliament announced that it would conduct an inquiry into the state of prisons across the country, there is talk of canceling the initiative. - 5/20/15

Moving the Fifth Fleet from Bahrain?

- The US Naval Support base on Bahrain is the headquarters of Central Command's naval arm (NAVCENT) as well as the US Fifth Fleet, so it's a pretty important place as far as the US Navy is concerned. This poses some geopolitical problems for the US, insofar as it ties America in a mutual arrangement to a government, Bahrain's Khalifa monarchy, whose human rights performance is, to put it charitably, dismal. -Derek Davison, LobeLog - 5/20/15

Young Iranian Activist Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison for Facebook Postings and Peaceful Protest

- A young civil activist who has been held at Evin Prison since October 2014 has been sentenced to seven years in prison at her interrogator's urging, a source close to the case told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, for her Facebook postings and her participation in peaceful gatherings. - 5/19/15

Iraqi Battle Plans Altered By IS Capture Of Ramadi

- The capture of the Iraqi Sunni city of Ramadi by Islamic State (IS) militants has fundamentally changed how war is being waged against the extremists in Iraq's Sunni areas. As long as government forces had controlled Ramadi, the pro-government Sunni tribal leaders of Anbar Province were opposed to the presence of Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia in the area. -RFE - 5/19/15

Iran: Basij Militia Unveils Messaging App that Gives State Access to All Conversations

- The Basij paramilitary organization, a subsidiary of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), announced the launch of its new messaging service for mobile phones, "Salam," which will give state officials full access to any content flowing across the service. - 5/19/15

In a Middle East racked by turmoil Iranians have fallen in love with stability

- Iranians look at turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa and claim they recognise the benefits they enjoy at home now -Middle East Eye - 5/19/15

Saudi Arabia resumes Yemen bombardment as conference discusses peace

- The Saudi-led coalition has resumed air strikes on Yemen, bombing Adan on the night of Sunday night May 17. The air strikes were halted for five days to allow delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians. - 5/19/15

Top aide to Iran's leader meets Syria's Assad, pledges support

- A top aide to Iran's leader met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, footage on Syrian state television showed, underlining firm Iranian support for Damascus as it faces mounting pressure from insurgents in a four-year-old civil war. -Reuters - 5/19/15

Iranian Parliamentarians Discover Brussels

- In 2010, when Iran's then-minister of foreign affairs Manouchehr Mottaki visited the European Parliament in Brussels, he was greeted by protests from MPs. Some of them, known for their close links with the exiled Iranian dissident group Mojaheddeen-e Khalk (MEK), carried the picture of Neda Soltan, a young Iranian woman killed during the protests following the fraudulent presidential elections of 2009. -Eldar Mamedov - 5/18/15

Iran confident of quick oil output recovery

- Deputy Oil Minister Rokneddin Javadi says Iran's oil exports could return to the pre-sanctions level over a period of three or four months. Talking to IRNA in Kuala Lumpur, the official said Iran must ramp up production to four million barrels per day, of which 2.3 million to 2.5 million bdp would go to exports. - 5/18/15

Iranian Parliament to investigate unregulated detention centers

- Those detention centres are often run by a number of security institutions dealing with political prisoners and they are often accused by human rights activists of mistreating detainees. - 5/18/15

Congress Votes on Iran

- As we have over the past few months, LobeLog is posting (long) excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now about what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about the Corker-Cardin bill. -Lara Friedman, LobeLog - 5/18/15

Israeli Defense Minister Invokes Hiroshima and Nagasaki In Response to Iran Question

- Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem nearly two weeks ago, the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon invoked the American decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan in World War II in response to a question about "dealing with a threat like Iran." -Ali Gharib - 5/17/15

Iranian Cargo Ship Enters Gulf of Aden On Route To Yemen

- An Iranian-flagged cargo ship that is bound for Yemen in defiance of U.S. warnings has entered the Gulf of Aden and is expected to reach port on May 21. Iranian authorities say the vessel, the Iran Shahed, is carrying 2,500 tons of urgently needed aid - including flour, rice, canned food, medical supplies, and bottled water. Passengers on the ship include doctors, journalists, and antiwar activists from the United States, France, and Germany. - 5/17/15

Two Faulty Objections to an Iran Deal

- The closing months of an Iran nuclear deal were always bound to bring a hailstorm of criticisms from opponents of diplomacy. Well, it's happening -- and maybe "hail" isn't the right kind of storm: critics of a deal seem be throwing shit up against a wall and seeing what they can get to stick. -Ali Gharib, LobeLog - 5/17/15

Iran's Supreme Leader slams Saudis for bombing Yemen

- Iran`s Supreme Leader has referred to the Saudi attacks on Yemen, saying: "We are all neighbours. Security in the Persian Gulf is in everyone's interest. If it is secure, we will reap the benefits; if it is insecure, it will cause insecurity for everyone." - 5/16/15

Iranian Officials Re-Affirm Facebook Will Remain Completely Blocked in Iran

- Despite the Iranian government's stated intention to move towards the selective blocking of Internet content ("smart filtering"), a top government official proclaimed that the social networking giant Facebook would continue to be completely blocked in Iran. - 5/16/15

One female allowed into stadium to watch Iranian soccer favourites

- There was only one female spectator in Azadi Stadium for the 80th match-up between Iran's two most popular soccer teams, Persepolis and Esteghlal, and she was a documentary filmmaker attending the game in connection with her work. - 5/16/15

Tehran's Friday Prayer Leader Calls On Saudis To Rise Up

- Tehran's temporary Friday Prayers leader, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, has called on Saudi citizens to rise up against their country's rulers and to speak out against their "crimes." -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 5/16/15

Digital age poses a new challenge to Iran's relentless book censors

- Writers and translators turn to internet to publish their work - and to avoid the anonymous scrutineers who remove words such as 'kiss' and 'wine' -Saeed Kamali Dehghan, Guardian - 5/16/15

House Passes Bill To Let Congress Review Iran Nuclear Deal

- In a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed legislation that would let Congress review any potential deal to curb Iran's nuclear program before sanctions are lifted. The vote was 400-25, and came one week after the Senate passed the same measure by a vote of 98-1. -Cindy Saine, VOA - 5/15/15

"No Books, No Book Fair," Says Publisher of Banned Books

- Iranian publisher Shahla Lahiji has boycotted the annual Tehran International Book Fair for the fourth year running, to protest the government's refusal to issue licenses to her publishing house. "Since 2014, I have suggested 55 books for publication, but none of them have been issued a license. .." - 5/15/15

Iran Fires Shots At Cargo Ship In The Persian Gulf

- U.S. officials say Iranian patrol ships fired warning shots over a Singapore-flagged cargo vessel in the Persian Gulf on May 14. The Alpine Eternity is involved in a financial dispute with Tehran, the officials said. The ship on March 22 accidentally struck an Iranian oil platform, damaging it. - 5/15/15

Tehran's derelict rich kids have toys taken

- Rich kids behind the wheels on their glamorous toys are no longer off the hook. Tehran police say they have impounded 850 luxury cars for speeding and other traffic-related violations in a space of just two weeks. Erratic driving by the children of the nouveau riche has become a serious nuisance, prompting public outcry on the social media. - 5/15/15

Saudi Arabia--This is Leadership?

- President Obama has good reason to try to reassure GCC leaders this week at Camp David that America has not abandoned them; they represent an important economic force. But they cannot, as constituted, represent a positive force for leadership in the region. -Graham E. Fuller, LobeLog - 5/15/15

Currying Favor at Camp David

- As crown princes and other leaders of Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf meet this week with President Obama, the first thing to keep in mind as background to this encounter is a truth that the president spoke last month in an interview with Tom Friedman of the New York Times. The president observed that the biggest threats those Arab countries face "may not be coming from Iran invading. It's going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries"..-Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog - 5/15/15

MTV viewers get a dose of Iranian politics

- Documentary highlights plight of musicians, including one who fled Iran after being labelled a 'devil worshipper' and flogged -Peyvand Khorsandi, Guardian - 5/15/15

Iranian diplomat reports progress and snag at nuclear talks

- The Iranian nuclear negotiation team arrived in Vienna on Tuesday May 12 to begin the new round of talks with the 5+1 representatives. Abbas Araghchi, a senior member of the Iranian delegation, told reporters in Vienna that the parties have reached consensus on a significant part of the agreement. - 5/14/15

"Vote for Peace..."

- Join NIAC's #Vote4Peace campaign to ensure Congress does not vote to kill an Iran deal that prevents war, prevents nukes, and lifts sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians. - 5/14/15

'Why Nations Fail' Among Works Seized At Tehran Book Fair

- Several books have already been confiscated from one of Iran's largest cultural events, the annual Tehran International Book Fair, which kicked off last week. They include Why Nations Fail, a 2012 treatise by Daren Acemoglu and James Robinson that examines why some nations are rich while others are poor, and argues that "it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success" or failure. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 5/14/15

Family Says Journalist Jailed in Iran Meets With Lawyer

- The family of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who is jailed in Iran facing espionage charges, says he has finally been allowed to meet with his attorney, just ahead of the soon-expected start of his trial. - 5/14/15

Obama Hosts Gulf Summit with Focus on Iran, Regional Conflicts

- President Barack Obama and senior officials from six Gulf nations are continuing their summit Thursday on issues in the Middle East, including a potential nuclear deal with Iran and the fighting in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. - 5/14/15

Iran's New Search Engine Denies Access to Political or Human Rights Content on Internet

- A new Internet search engine developed by the Iranian government, Parsijoo, has been designed to keep Iranian users from accessing any political or human rights-related content. - 5/14/15

US-GCC Summit: Agenda Overload, Leaders at Odds

- Statements after the current summit between the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will likely be upbeat. But they will obscure the difficult-to-resolve tensions during the May 13-14 talks. Iranian nuclear diplomacy will be central. -Wayne White, LobeLog - 5/14/15

Iraqi President In Tehran For Official Visit

- Iraqi President Fuad Masum has arrived in the Iranian capital for an official visit expected to focus on the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group and on economic relations. - 5/13/15

Iranian Ship Heading to Yemen

- A U.S. defense official Tuesday urged an Iranian ship purportedly carrying aid to Yemen to change course and head to Djibouti, where the United Nations is overseeing humanitarian deliveries. -Carla Babb, VOA - 5/13/15

'The Iranians Are Coming!'

- "The Iranians are coming!" That was the conviction widely and vehemently expressed by Arab intellectuals and activists at the Ninth Annual Al Jazeera Forum in Doha, Qatar, last week. Iranian diplomats were greeted with skepticism and hostility at the annual gathering of journalists, policy-makers, and media professionals from across the Arab world. There was widespread suspicion, moreover, that the United States is increasingly on the side of Iran. -Juan Cole, Nation - 5/13/15

Basij Militias Will Run 2000 Child Care Centers, 25% of All Day Care in Iran

- Iran's Welfare Organization will allow the Revolutionary Guard's volunteer paramilitary arm, the Basij, to establish and operate 2,000 child care centers, which would comprise 25% of all day care facilities in the country. The move reflects a growing preoccupation with what is perceived by officials as Iranian youths' lack of interest in conforming to strict hijab (female dress) and general Islamic values. - 5/13/15

Iran Nuclear Chief Has Emergency Surgery

- Iranian state media reports that the country's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, who has played a major role in recent talks with world powers, has had emergency surgery for a perforated bowel. - 5/13/15

The Glimmers of a New Afghanistan?

- I went to Kabul, Afghanistan, in March to see old friends. By chance, I arrived the day after a woman had been beaten to death and burned by a mob of young men. The world would soon come to know her name: Farkhunda. -Ann Jones, LobeLog - 5/13/15

Iranian Professors Urge Government To Butt Out

- Agroup of 700 Iranian university teachers have sent a letter to the government calling for an end to what they say is "unprecedented interference" in the internal affairs of universities. - 5/12/15

Iranian Shareholders blame government, exchange for stock market losses

- A number of Iranian shareholders gathered in front of the Tehran Stock Exchange on Monday to protest the investment losses they have suffered due to a steep fall in share prices. - 5/12/15

U.S. Senate Calls On Iran To Free Jailed Americans

- The U.S. Senate May 11 unanimously passed a resolution calling on Iran to release three jailed Americans and help locate a fourth. The lawmakers urged Iran to free Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian, and cooperate with the U.S. government to locate and return former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran eight years ago. - 5/12/15

Teacher Protests Sweep Iran despite Threats by Officials Not to Participate

- Another nationwide protest by Iranian teachers swept through dozens of cities throughout Iran on May 7, with thousands taking to the streets to draw attention to wages that are below the poverty line. - 5/12/15

Ship carrying Iranian emergency supplies leaves for Yemen

- 2,500 tons of Iranian contributions to the oppressed Yemeni nation loaded on Iran Shahed Khorramshahr Ship began sailing towards Yemeni coasts early Monday night. - 5/12/15

Iranian Judiciary to pay part of cost to turn Evin Prison into park

- The mayor of Tehran says the head of the judiciary has approved plans to transform Evin Prison into a park, agreeing to pay for part of the project cost. Evin was built more than 45 years ago in the north end of Tehran, and many political prisoners under the former and current regimes have served their sentences there. - 5/12/15

Iran's Banks May Have Difficult Return to Global System

- Iran may be about to restore banking links with the rest of the world after years of separation, but the process won't be easy as its Islamic financial system has evolved in ways that will complicate ties with foreign banks. -Reuters - 5/12/15

Central Asia: Mismanaging Religion

- When it comes to religious affairs in Central Asia, authorities are relying on Soviet methods even as they aspire to move away from the Soviet legacy. Religion, especially Islam, is a cultural marker that has reinforced national identity in Central Asian states since the Soviet collapse in 1991, thus helping regional leaders distance themselves from Moscow and consolidate their authority. -Mohammadalii Sepanlou, LobeLog - 5/12/15

Iran trade team in rare US visit

- Iran's media reported on Sunday that a 15-member delegation comprising Iranian traders, entrepreneurs and artists is in a rare visit to the United States. The visit - which officials say started two weeks ago and is expected to end next week - has been arranged by a US-based non-governmental institution called Learning. - 5/11/15

Following Paul Singer's Money, Argentina, and Iran (Continued)

- Last week, Jim and Charles Davis addressed The Washington Post editorial board's claim that Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had pushed an "anti-Semitic conspiracy theory." They suggested that AIPAC and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies might be coordinating their efforts to portray Kirchner's government as an ally of Iranian-backed terrorism with Paul Singer... -Eli Clifton, LobeLog - 5/11/15

UN says Saudi attacks on Yemen break law

- The Saudi attacks on Yemen go against accepted international humanitarian law, says the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen. Reuters reported on Saturday May 9 that Johannes van der Klaauw said in a statement: "The indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, with or without prior warning, is in contravention of international humanitarian law." - 5/11/15

Man Arrested In Iran After Woman's Death Sparks Violence In Kurdish City

- A day after riots were reported over the unexplained demise of a young chambermaid in Mahabad, the capital of Iran's West Azerbaijan province, local authorities announced that an individual has been detained over the death, which happened earlier this week. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE - 5/9/15

Eminent Iranian Poet and Filmmaker Repeatedly Interrogated by Intelligence Ministry

- Iran's Intelligence Ministry has repeatedly summoned and interrogated the well-known Iranian poet, documentary filmmaker, and member of the Board of Directors of the Iran Writers Association, Baktash Abtin, in recent days, and interrogations over his work and professional associations are likely to continue prior to his case being sent to court. - 5/9/15

Critics slam frightening nature of Iranian activist's arrest

- The arrest of Iranian human rights activist Nargess Mohammadi has triggered criticism from activists both inside and outside Iran. The Association of Women Citizens has written an open letter condemning the "sudden and unannounced" arrest of Mohammadi, saying: "Why did the officers, rather than summoning Mohammadi, swarm her house and create an atmosphere of fear." - 5/9/15

Prospects for Saudi-Iranian Detente Bleak

- Some optimistic analysts mistakenly believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia are heading toward a mutual understanding over a new regional security architecture based on a balance of powers between them and their allies. Instead, because the current situation is rife with tensions, regional competition between Iran and its Arab rivals will likely escalate. -Mehdi Jedinia - 5/9/15

Many titles banned in first days of Tehran Book Fair

- The 28th Tehran International Book Fair opened just yesterday and already several titles have been banned from the fair for various reasons. The Tasnim News Agency reported earlier that 10 titles in the fair's foreign section have been banned. They quote Fereydooni saying that some of these books promote "cults and false mysticism" and others have used a fabricated name for the Persian Gulf. - 5/9/15

Congress Tackles Iran

- As we have over the past few months, LobeLog is posting (long) excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now about what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about the Corker-Cardin bill. - 5/9/15

Date Set for 'Pause' in Yemen Fighting

- The United States and Saudi Arabia have announced a May 12 start date for a five-day humanitarian pause in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is waging an air campaign against advancing Houthi rebels. The conflict has left thousands of people in Yemen in need of basic supplies. -Pamela Dockins, VOA_URL - 5/9/15
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