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February 07 2016
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Iranian Couples Increasingly Living Together Outside of Marriage

- First they called it "white marriage," now it's "black coupling." But no matter how Iranian officials choose to denigrate the upward trend of young unmarried couples living together, it's bound to grow. That's because the phenomenon is directly related to socioeconomic disparities between Iranian men and women, a sociologist speaking on the condition of anonymity told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. 02/6/16

France and Iran Are Back to Business

- After a decade of wrangling over the nuclear program, President Rouhani found himself in Italy and France last week in search of business in the automotive, transportation, hydrocarbon, and industrial sectors. That Rouhani choose to visit Paris over any other European capital underlines the fact that Franco-Iranian relations go much deeper than the past decade of haggling over Iran's uranium enrichment levels. -Emma Scott 02/6/16

Saudi defeat in Syria definite: Iran's IRGC chief

- A top Iranian military commander says a "definite" defeat awaits Saudi Arabia if it sends troops to Syria. "Sending troops by Saudi Arabia means a coup de grace for its regime which, of course, is not bad," chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Mohammad Ali Ja'afari said on Saturday. 02/6/16

Iran Reverses Ban On 1,500 Election Candidates

- Iran's constitutional watchdog, the hard-line Guardians Council, has reversed a ban on 1,500 candidates who had registered to run in the February 26 parliamentary elections. It is unclear how many of the newly approved candidates are considered to be reformists. 02/6/16

Canada lifts Iran sanctions, to restore ties

- Canada announced on Friday that it is lifting some sanctions against Iran and is also working over the restoration of diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic. The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a statement that it had amended its "broad-reaching autonomous sanctions against Iran to allow for a controlled economic re-engagement, including lifting the broad ban on financial services, imports and exports." 02/6/16

UN urges Iran to adopt legal protections for children

- The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on Iran to reform its laws affecting children, including the execution of minors and discrimination against girls. The committee calls on the Islamic Republic government to address discrimination against girls manifested in "family relations, the criminal justice system, property rights, compensation for physical injury, among others." 02/6/16

Iran's Landmines: A Never-Ending Nightmare

- Akbar, 47, needs to wrap his leg stump in layer after layer of cloth. His leg was amputated after he stepped on a hidden landmine on his way from work, in western Iran, an area still contaminated by landmines from the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war. His health insurance company did not cover the expense of a prosthetic leg, so he had to pay out of pocket what he could afford, which is what he describes as a "rotten" prosthesis. -Mehrnaz Samimi, LobeLog 02/6/16

Many Iranian Women, Youth Feel Failed by Reformists Ahead of Vote

- Many Iranian women and young people are disillusioned about the upcoming elections, desperate for reform but losing hope in their pragmatic president and his promise of a freer society. The February 26 parliamentary poll will see pro-reform candidates, who broadly back President Hassan Rouhani, attempt to overturn the majority held by conservative hardliners in the 290-seat assembly. -Reuters 02/6/16

Digging Deep To Build The Tallest Hotel In Iran

- Ebrahim Pourfaraj wants to build the biggest hotel in all of Iran. He's already started his project in the far north Tehran, a wealthy zone where the city climbs up the slopes of the snow-capped Alborz Mountains. The sheer scale is amazing. Construction crews have dug a hole in a hillside, about 240 feet deep. Pourfaraj says no commercial construction site in Iran has ever gone this deep. -Steve Inskeep, NPR 02/6/16

How sanctions helped Iranian tech industry

- As Iran moves to take advantage of the sanctions relief extended under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the recent drop in crude prices means that Tehran won't be able to count on soaring oil revenues in the near future... However, things are not all bleak. Iran has an asset that could potentially partially be relied on to tackle the issue of economic growth in the long term: its high-tech sector. -Mahmoud Pargoo, Al Monitor 02/6/16

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Lawmakers Urge for Visa Waivers for Dual Nationals, Iran Visitors - Washington, DC - NIAC Action applauds Jared Huffman (D-CA) and all twenty-six Members of Congress who today called on the Obama Administration to protect dual nationals and people who have visited Iran from discriminatory new visa restrictions. 02/5/16

Wrestling with Iran - In Iran, wrestling commands the same level of public interest as football in the United States. This is no passing fad. Wrestling is intimately entwined with the history and culture of the country, going back to the legendary matches that Persian kings conducted with their rivals...The initiative in Washington to engage in "wrestling diplomacy" began in 2009, shortly after Barack Obama entered the Oval Office. -John Feffer, LobeLog 02/5/16

U.S. Republican Lawmakers Seek To Make 'Inspection' Trip To Iran - Three U.S. Republican lawmakers who are highly critical of Iran applied for visas to visit Tehran and observe this month's elections, inspect nuclear sites, and meet with the Revolutionary Guards. 02/5/16

Arrest of Iranian-British Dual National in Tehran May Be Hardliners' Ploy to Foil Iran-UK Relations - New details about the case of Iranian-British translator Bahman Daroshafaei, who was arrested this week at his Tehran home during a historic visit by Iran's foreign minister to the UK, suggest his detainment may be a politically motivated move by hardliners to thwart better relations with the UK. 02/5/16

U.S. Presidential Hopefuls Clinton, Sanders Spar Over Iran, Russia - The two U.S. Democratic candidates for president sparred over foreign policy during a debate February 4, and showed particularly sharp differences over Iran. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took issue with socialist Senator Bernie Sanders on restoring diplomatic relations with Tehran now that many economic sanctions have been lifted. 02/5/16

Iran Inks $40 Billion In Deals In Moscow; Eyes Oil Sales To Rosneft - Iran and Russia have initialed contracts worth around $40 billion for nuclear power construction, railways, and other projects, the top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on February 4. 02/5/16

Tonic For The Troops: Iran Singer Takes Stage In Syria - A well-known Iranian religious singer recently traveled to war-torn Syria, where he performed for Iranian fighters deployed there to bolster Tehran's regional ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Saeed Haddadian, a popular singer in conservative segments of Iranian society, said in a February 3 interview that he traveled to Syria with his son to honor Iranian forces who "do in action what we say in words." -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE 02/5/16

First Europe bank to open Iran office - Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) says it wants to open a branch in Tehran "as quickly as possible," becoming the first foreign lender to set up shop in Iran after the lifting of sanctions. RBI is in "intensive talks" with Iranian banks as Tehran is rejoining the international banking system, its board member Peter Lennkh said in an interview with Austrian newspaper Wirtschaftsblatt. 02/5/16

German MKM To Invest 1 Billion Euros in Iran's Copper Industry - TEHRAN - Germany's copper producing company Mansfelder Kupfer und Messing GmbH (MKM) signed a memorandum of understanding, worth 1 billion Euros, to invest in a number of mineral projects including the ones in downstream copper industries in Iran. 02/5/16

Thousands flee as Russian-backed offensive threatens to besiege Aleppo - Tens of thousands of Syrians fled an intensifying Russian assault around Aleppo on Friday, and aid workers said they feared the city which once held two million people could soon fall under a full government siege. Iran reported one of its generals was killed on the front line assisting government forces, direct confirmation of the role Tehran is playing along with Moscow in what appears to be one of the most ambitious offensives in five years of civil war. -Reuters 02/5/16

Iranian Officials Condemn Radical Mob's Attack On Top Actress - An attack last week on one of Iran's most famous actresses by hardline vigilantes has been condemned by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Rouhani administration's top official in charge of women's affairs. 02/4/16

Most Iranians Approve Nuclear Deal, Doubt U.S. Compliance - Nearly six months after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 was agreed, seven out of ten Iranians approve of the deal, but only 34% believe the U.S. will comply with its terms, according to a new poll released here Wednesday by the University of Maryland's Center for International & Security Studies (CISSM). -Jim Lobe 02/4/16

Iranian B&Bs and inns win TripAdvisor's 2016 award - TripAdvisor has released its list of the top 25 bed and breakfast and inns in the Middle East, placing Iranian House, Saraye Ameriha Boutique Hotel, and Manouchehri House in the city of Kashan as among the winners of the Travelers' Choice award in 2016. 02/4/16

Iran's Parliament set to approve shorter work week for women - Iraj Abdi, a spokesman for Iranian Parliament's Social Commission, says new regulations will soon be approved to let women work reduced hours under certain conditions. The new regulations, according to Abdi, will allow women with children under six, women with disabled children and single mothers to work eight hours less at their full-time jobs without a reduction in pay and benefits. 02/4/16

Former BBC Journalist, Translator Arrested In Tehran - Iranian journalist and translator Bahman Darolshafayi, a dual Iranian-British national and former BBC journalist, has been arrested in Tehran. Authorities had not announced the reason for Darolshafayi's arrest on February 3. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE 02/4/16

Lawmaker: U.S. Payment To Iran Looks Like 'Ransom' For Prisoners - A powerful U.S. lawmaker is demanding that Secretary of State John Kerry explain why he paid a $1.7 billion claim settlement to Iran the same day Tehran released American prisoners last month. 02/4/16

Have the Saudis Given Up Hope of Restoring Hadi as Yemen's President? - Far from being a "Decisive Storm," the intervention into Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition is foundering. The coalition swiftly cleared the coastal region and advanced across the desert interior from the Saudi border. But when they hit the mountainous interior-not so co-incidentally, the refuge of the Zaydi Shi'a-their advance ground to a bloody crawl. -James Spencer, LobeLog 02/4/16

An Iranian rock star in London: the highs and lows of Ali Azimi's turbulent career - 'Persistence is the key to success', my late grandfather used to say; it's also a philosophy the London-based Iranian musician Ali Azimi keeps close to his heart. A former mechanical engineer, Azimi came to public attention in 2009 with his band, Radio Tehran, and their album, 88. -Ben Mirza, Reorient 02/4/16

After Iran deal, imported Persian rugs reach L.A. - The call came in to the rug store at 10:30 on Wednesday morning: After five days in U.S. customs, the shop's first batch of carpets imported from Iran were ready for pickup. Store owner Alex Helmi quickly gathered his employees and told them to drive to the airport to pick up the shipment: 40 handmade rugs valued at about $500,000. -Sarah Parvini, LA Times 02/4/16

Farhang Foundation Announces the Winners of the 2016 Nowruz Competitions - Preparations for Farhang's 8th Annual Nowruz (the Iranian New Year) Celebrations at LACMA are underway as the Foundation selects the winning submissions from this year's Nowruz Multimedia Program and Nowruz Street Banner Competitions. 02/3/16

Iran Elections Update - Less than four weeks away from the February 26 elections for Iran's parliament, the details of how many registrants will be allowed to run is not yet clear. This was not unexpected. As I suggested in my previous post, the unprecedented rate of disqualifications by the provincial supervisory committees was bound to unleash a flurry of consultations with the Guardian Council to reverse some of the decisions made at the lower levels. -Farideh Farhi 02/3/16

Tehran Stock Market Hits One-Year High After Sanctions Lifted - The Tehran Stock Exchange has surged to a one-year high since Iran's landmark nuclear deal with world powers went into effect last month. The Tehran TEDPIX index soared to 73,725 on February 2, boosted by an outpouring of foreign investment of $16.6 million in the 10 days since sanctions were lifted, Bloomberg reported. 02/3/16

Two Dozen Iranian Baha'is Sentenced to Six to Eleven Years for Practicing Their Faith - Twenty-four Baha'is from northeastern Iran have been handed down sentences that range from six to eleven years "simply for being Baha'is," according to Simin Fahandej, the faith's spokesperson at the United Nations in New York. 02/3/16

Arms, financial supply to terrorists must be blocked, Iran's President Rouhani tells visiting German Foreign Minister - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has described terrorism as a serious threat to the entire world, including Europe, calling for measures to stop financial and arms supply to terrorists. The Iranian president made the remarks in a meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Tehran on Wednesday. 02/3/16

Iran's 'Sormeh' Wins Award At Italian Film Festival - Sormeh, a short fiction movie directed by Iranian filmmaker Azadeh Ghochagh has won the Best Film Award in the main section of the Italian short film festival 'Dieciminuti'. Ghochagh's production had competed with other movies from France, the UK, Finland, Bahrain, the US, Italy and Norway. 02/3/16

Defending Khomeini's grandson earns backlash for Iranian cleric - After moderate cleric Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke out against the Guardian Council for disqualifying Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the late leader of the Islamic Republic, from running in the Assembly of Experts elections, conservative factions slammed Hashemi, referring to him as a "deviant and corrupt element" who should be disqualified as well. 02/3/16

Families of detained Kerman mine workers upset by lack of news - Twenty detained miners from the Khatoonabad Mine in Kerman, who were arrested last week for labour protests, remain in custody and have been transferred to Kerman Prison. ILNA reported on Tuesday February 2 that there has been no announcement explaining the charges against these workers. 02/3/16

Rezaian Case Will Affect Coverage of Iran, Washington Post Editor Says - In an interview with VOA this week, Washington Post Editor Marty Baron said Iran's imprisonment of Postreporter Jason Rezaian will have an effect on how the paper covers Iran. Both Baron and interviewer Setareh Derakhshesh, who heads VOA's Persian service, noted Iran seems to be embroiled in an internal struggle between components of the Iranian regime. 02/3/16

FBI Creates Facebook Page in Farsi to Aid Search for Missing Agent - The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has set up a new Facebook page in Farsi as part of its effort to find retired agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran 2007. The U.S. government is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to Levinson's return, but his whereabouts and the circumstances regarding his disappearance remain a mystery. 02/3/16

How one messaging app is changing Iranian media - First it was Facebook, and then the smartphone messaging apps Viber and Line. Now, however, the hottest communication tool among Iranians is Telegram. It has more advanced features than its predecessors, and enjoys a high level of influence in Iranian society. -Saeid Jafari, Al-Monitor 02/3/16

Ratings agency Moody foresees strong growth for post-sanctions Iran - International ratings agency Moody's projects Iranian economy to grow in the years to come over its solid foundation and sanctions removal. Iran's gross domestic product (GDP) will grow five percent in 2016-2017, thanks to a solid foundation built to cope with exclusion from the global financial system, Moody's said in an e-mailed research note Monday. 02/2/16

Iran's Ex-President Criticizes Disqualification Of Reformist Candidates - Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has criticized the disqualification of reformist candidates by hard-liners from national elections scheduled later in February. Rafsanjani's remarks on February 1 reflect a deepening dispute between Iran's hard-liner and reformist factions ahead of the February 26 vote. 02/2/16

Iran's $100 billion 'fully released': Government - The government says Iran can now access more than $100 billion in frozen assets after the implementation of a nuclear agreement last month. "These assets have fully been released and we can use them," Government spokesman Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht told Iran's Alalam television network on Sunday night. 02/2/16

Additional charge lodged against pair of detained Iranian journalists - Issa Saharkhiz and Ehsan Mazandarani, two of the Iranian journalists arrested in the recent backlash against journalists that followed warnings by Iran's Supreme Leader against "foreign infiltrators", are now being tried for "actions against National Security", even though the investigators had slapped them with the charge of "propaganda against the regime". 02/2/16

Babel Tower spins to reflect Iran's desert landscape - Iranian artist Shirin Abedinirad and Italian interaction designer Gugo Torelli created the Babel Tower as an interactive installation that offers a contemporary interpretation of the mythical structure. -dezeen 02/2/16

Iranian Commanders Who Detained U.S. Sailors Receive Hero Treatment - Meet Iran's new heroes: the head of the naval forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and four of its commanders who last month briefly detained U.S. sailors after their vessels mistakenly strayed into Iranian territorial waters. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE 02/2/16

Iranian Artists and Sculptors to prepare Tehran for Spring Equinox - In preparation for the Persian New Year and the arrival of spring, the municipality of Tehran has organized a cultural event entitled "Baharestan" where artists and sculptors are invited to submit proposals for the installation of artwork throughout the city. 02/2/16

Iran, Pakistan Agree to Boost Border Security, Trade - Iran and Pakistan have agreed to increase border security and boost bilateral trade. The two countries, which share a long, porous border, signed five memorandums of understanding on Monday dealing with issues of cross-border militant activity, smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. 02/2/16

Exclusive: Documents Confirm Leak of Unexplained Deposits to Nisman's US Bank Account - The leaks exposed a number of suspicious financial transactions involving a New York bank account maintained by Nisman since March 2002. Argentine authorities are currently investigating the possibility that the account was used for money laundering, while a separate inquiry attempts to determine the cause of Nisman's death. -Michael LaSusa, LobeLog 02/2/16

Iran bans wheat imports: Agency - Iran's Ministry of Agriculture bans state imports of wheat in the coming Persian year which begins on March 20, ordering officials to stop registering new purchase orders. Agriculture officials have already said they foresaw no major wheat imports in the calendar year of 1395 because better rainfall so far is expected to boost domestic harvest. 02/2/16

Rokhsareh Qaem-Maqami's Sonita wins top award at Sundance Film Festival - Sonita, a joint production of Iran, Germany and Switzerland, by Iranian filmmaker Rokhsareh Qaem-Maqami, has won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival: World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary and Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary 02/1/16

IRAN: A Travelogue to Home Away from Home - Our family of five, along with nearly 800 other passengers, were aboard the Emirate's double decker A-380, having departed from New York's JFK on winter solstice night 12 hours earlier, and expected to arrive in Dubai within an hour, considering the time difference. We noted, unlike the past, that the Persian Gulf on navigation screen simply has no name designation, factual or fallacious. Looking down however, we were ecstatic to witness the snow-capped, extinct volcanic Mt. Damavand, elev. 18,500 ft., eternally standing high and proud, to safeguard the motherland, IRAN. -Davood N. Rahni 02/1/16

List of rejected reformist candidates presented to Iran's Supreme Leader - Political activists report that a list of 208 reformists candidates for Parliament who were disqualified by the Guardian Council has been presented to Iran's Supreme Leader in a bid to get permission to run in the election. 02/1/16

US Lawmakers Keep Focus on Iran Nuclear Pact - While politically minded Americans focus on Iowa's presidential caucuses, many of their representatives in Congress continue to speak out on the international nuclear accord with Iran. The pact remains a lightning rod for controversy on Capitol Hill, where sharp differences persist on its merits, limitations, and impact on the Middle East and beyond. -Michael Bowman, VOA 02/1/16

Suppression of student media prompts letter to President Rohani - More than 800 student activists have written to President Hassan Rohani to protest "the pressure against student media" and to call for an end to this approach. The Etemad daily reports that in recent months, student newspapers have been under severe pressure, and writing about politics "has become an unforgivable crime" for them, while reporting on "social maladies is being branded as showing a dark view of the country". 02/1/16

In Iran, New Battle Brews Over Contracts With Foreign Oil Giants - A political battle is taking shape in Iran over any new foreign role in developing the country's enormous oil wealth, only a few weeks after the Iranian nuclear deal with foreign powers relaxed tough economic sanctions. -Thomas Erdbrink, NY Times 02/1/16

Five Unanswered Questions About Iran's Airbus Mega-Order - There is no doubt that Iran's landmark agreement with Airbus to purchase 118 new aircraft will transform the fortunes of an aviation sector ravaged by international sanctions. The acquisition of brand new, western-built aircraft will help flag-carrier Iran Air reclaim its title as a leader in Gulf aviation, ending decades as an industry pariah unable to strike commercial deals. -Martin Rivers, Forbes 02/1/16

Sanctions are out, French cosmetics are in: Companies hope to profit in Iran - Pucker up, get your brushes and line your eyes -- sanctions on Iran are out, and cosmetics from France are in. Or at least, that's what some of France's biggest, best-known cosmetic brands are hoping, with a huge market opening up as Iran comes in from the cold after a landmark nuclear deal. -AFP 02/1/16

Photos: Iran Navy holds massive maritime parade, ends major drills - Iran's naval forces have staged a maritime parade in the Sea of Oman, marking the end of large-scale naval drills in the country's southern waters where they successfully hit and destroyed mock enemy targets. 01/31/16

Iran's shooter Khedmati wins gold at Asia Olympic qualifiers - Iranian female sports shooter Najmeh Khedmati has put on an awe-inspiring display of skills at the 2016 Asian Olympic Shooting Qualifying Tournament in India, and managed to snatch a gold medal. 01/31/16

Iran: Basij youth arrested for protesting foreign oil deals - Security forces in Tehran broke up demonstrations by a group of Basij youth against Iran's recent oil agreements. The protests had been planned for Friday in front of the Ministry of Oil offices. INSA reports that the special riot police were deployed in front of the building to stop illegal demonstrations. 01/31/16

Activists appeal to UN leader in case of missing Iranian student - A group of activists has written an open letter to the UN Secretary General urging him to follow up on the fate of Saeed Zinali, an Iranian student missing since the incidents at Tehran University dorms in 1999. 01/31/16

Iran to resume carpet export to US - Head of the Iranian National Carpet Center has announced the resumption of Iran's hand-woven carpet export to the US in the current year. Hamid Kargar has deemed 2016 as the year for resumption of Iranian carpet exports to the US expressing hope that the currently low exports rate will be compensated for in the coming months: "The high interest of American businessmen to buy Iran's hand-woven carpets indicates that the exports to America will start again soon." 01/31/16

Damascus Suburb Blasts Kill 60 near Zeinab Shi'ite Shrine - Islamic State has claimed a triple bombing in a southern Damascus suburb Sunday that killed at least 60 people. Two suicide bombers detonated explosives as rescue efforts were underway after a car bombing in the Sayeda Zeinab district of Damascus, near a revered Shi'ite shrine. 01/31/16

The State of Digital In Iran - I don't think anyone really understands the depth of digital upheaval Iran has experienced in the past few years. Social media and e-commerce consumption have both gone topsy-turvy in parallel to an overwhelming migration to smartphone devices. -Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh, TechCrunch 01/31/16

Let's Talk About Bernie Sanders and the Middle East - The contrast between Clinton and Sanders is a bit starker on Iran. Sanders has argued that "what we've got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran." This is virtually the same sentiment that President Obama has expressed on a number of occasions. -Derek Davison 01/30/16

Iran Embarks on European Mission to Attract New Business - Iran is open for business. That's the message from President Hassan Rouhani during his milestone visit to Europe. With most sanctions lifted as a result of its agreement to dismantle its nuclear program, Iran has embarked on a charm offensive to extol the economic opportunities on its territory and to free itself from years of international isolation. -Mil Arcega, VOA 01/30/16

US Issues New Travel Warning to Iran - The U.S. Department of State is warning American citizens, especially Iranian-Americans, of the risks of travel to Iran. The travel warning issued Friday replaces what was in effect since August 5, 2015. It reiterates the risk of arrest and detention of U.S. citizens, particularly dual national Iranian-Americans, in Iran. 01/30/16

Family of Imprisoned Iranian Producer: Canada Must Do More - The family of prisoner of conscience Mostafa Azizi is calling on Canada to exert more pressure on Iran to release him following the prisoner swap that led to the freedom of four Iranian-Americans held in Iran. 01/30/16

Surprise Visitor During Latest Caspian Sea Status Meeting - Representatives of the five Caspian Sea littoral states -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan -- finished up their most recent meeting on January 29. Reports about the January 28 portion of the deputy foreign ministers' meeting seemed to indicate it was business as usual. -Bruce Pannier, RFE 01/30/16

Khomeini's Grandson Vows To Challenge Decision to Bar Him From Election - A grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the cleric who led Iran's 1979 revolution and founded the Islamic republic, says he will challenge a decision to bar him from running in the February election for the Assembly of Experts even though it could be fruitless. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL 01/30/16

'Silk Road' train departs China for Iran - China has flagged off its first direct freight train to Iran from the trading hub of Yiwu in what is seen as the groundbreaking initiative to get Beijing's ambitious New Silk Road connectivity project off the ground. 01/30/16

Airlines resume flights to Tehran in post-sanctions era - Iranian media report that foreign airlines will soon be re-establishing flights to Tehran following the lifting of international sanctions against Iran. Last week Iran announced that it is also reviewing the possibility of establishing a direct flight to the United States. If established, it would be the first such flight in more than 30 years. 01/30/16

Iran and France Sign Major Trade Deals - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has signed trade deals with France worth billions of dollars following the lifting of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear program. "We are ready to turn the page for a new relationship between our two countries," he told a group of French business leaders in Paris after his arrival Thursday in the French capital. 01/29/16

Internet Freedom in Iran Will Benefit From Sanctions Relief - Increased foreign investment and access to foreign companies' technology products in Iran now that sanctions against Tehran have been lifted will not only aid the country's ailing economy, it will also give Internet access a vital boost. 01/29/16

Strategy Abroad for Obama's Last Year - With less than a year left in his presidency, Barack Obama has said he will do all he can for America at home, bypassing Congress if need be with executive orders. He can also act on his own in foreign policy and national security, at least to set the nation on a useful course beyond his own tenure. -Robert E. Hunter 01/29/16

Iranian Artists Call for Immediate Release of Music Distributors - A coalition of Iranian artists have called for the immediate release of three music producers sentenced to six years in prison for promoting underground music in Iran. "This kind of sentencing by the Judiciary is more believable in dealing with murderers, not artists," said a statement signed by 165 members of the Iranian artistic community in support of Mehdi Rajabian, Yousef Emadi, and Hossein Rajabian. 01/29/16

Iran's Rouhani Visits Paris as Part of 'Charm Offensive' - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in France Wednesday - the first official visit of an Iranian president there since 1999. Rouhani flew in from Italy where he closed business deals worth $18.5 billion. He is expected to do likewise in France. 01/28/16

US Hawks Ignore Top Israeli Official on Iran - Last week, Israel's top military official made some staggering comments during the course of a security conference in Tel Aviv. Here's how The Forward's JJ Goldberg reported the comments of Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, Israel's chief of staff, which seem as of yet to be unavailable in a full English translation from the original Hebrew. Eisenkot said there were two "existential threats" to Israel, and both are currently "declining." -Ali Gharib 01/28/16

Pope Urges Iran to Promote Political Solution in Middle East - Pope Francis has urged Iran to use its "important role" to promote peace in the Middle East and help halt the spread of terrorism and weapons trafficking. The pope made the appeal during a 40-minute closed-door meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Vatican Tuesday. 01/27/16

US-Iran Prisoner Swap Raises Hopes for Iranian-Canadian Prisoners of Conscience in Iran - The release of Iranian-Americans in the recent prisoner exchange between Iran and the United States has given hope to the family of prisoner of conscience Saeed Malekpour that he too might also be freed. 01/27/16

Iranian President Signs Business Deals In Rome - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said after meeting in Rome with Iranian President Hassan Rohani that a series of business agreements they signed is "just the beginning" for their countries. Deals being signed during Rohani's 48-hour stay in Italy are valued at up to 17 billion euros ($18.4 billion). 01/26/16

SEPARATING FACTS FROM FICTION: Truths, Myths, and Outright Lies - The P5+1/Iran nuclear agreement is a done deal and sanctions against Iran are lifting, much to the chagrin of the war parties here and the Wahhabis there. Significantly though, Israeli regime's objection to the agreement is a calculated strategy for blackmail and extortion against its old patron and benefactor, the United States. As expected, the Israeli PM, Netanyahu, has already begun his well-choreographed routine of We need more, give us more, or we'll screw it up for you! -Kambiz Zarrabi 01/25/16

Civil vs. Military in Post-Deal Iran - "I'm not a colonel, I'm a lawyer!" Iran's current President Hassan Rouhani uttered when his commitment to civil liberties came under fire during the 2013 presidential debate. In an attempt to accentuate the contrast between himself and his rivals-some of whom came from a military background-Rouhani emphatically distanced himself from those whose mindset, as he put it, had been shaped by the logic of the "garrison." At the heart of the struggle for reform in Iran lies a deep conundrum: the role of the armed forces in society, chief among them the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). -Sajjad Safaei 01/23/16

JCPOA Implementation and Afterwards - I am pretty sure it was not planned. But the Implementation Day for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)-January 16-was also the anniversary of the day Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Iran in 1979. This coincidence is sure to give some Iranians, who earnestly believe that the Shah's departure was made possible by loss of U.S. confidence in the Iranian monarch or even support for the revolutionary forces, another reason to be convinced that the United States is responsible for the Islamic Republic of Iran's survival and even maintenance over the years. -Farideh Farhi 01/19/16

What Accounts for the Saudi Regime's Hysterical Belligerence? The Agony of Death - The purpose of this essay is to explain, not describe, the frantically belligerent behavior of the Saudi regime. The goal is not to delve into what the regime and its imperialist enablers have done, or are doing; that unsavory record of atrocities, both at home and abroad, is abundantly exposed by other writers/commentators. It is, rather, to focus on why they have done or are doing what they do. -Ismael Hossein-zadeh 01/18/16

How does the Nuclear Deal Affect Personal Transactions Involving Iran? - Many questions have arisen following yesterday's landmark announcement of implementation of the nuclear agreement reached last July between Iran and the P5+1 states (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany). This deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (or JCPOA) has brought about much speculation about Iran's emergence from roughly a decade of punishing sanctions and its reintegration into the international economic and political sphere. -Farhad Alavi 01/17/16

The Underlying Messages of the US-Iran Naval Incident - When news broke that the naval branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had captured 10 US naval personnel whose boat had drifted into the territorial waters of the Iranian island of Farsi, it first appeared that Iran's hardliners were attempting to scuttle the implementation of the recently concluded nuclear deal and thus prevent any further improvement in US-Iran relations. -Shireen T. Hunter 01/14/16

PHOTOS: The Kindness Station in Khorramabad provides cloths, food and books for the needy - Walls of kindness have been popping up all over Iran in an attempt to keep the homeless warm this winter. These spontaneous outdoor charities are based on a simple principal: "If you don't need it, leave it. If you need it, take it." A group of philanthropists in the city of Khorramabad in western Iran have gone a step further and created a Kindness Station which is equipped with a refrigerator and library where in addition to cloths, donors can leave food and books for the needy or the homeless. -Farnaz Goudarzi 01/12/16

Iranian-American Organizations Urge President Obama to Waive Discriminatory Visa Language - A coalition of Iranian American organizations issued the following joint-statement regarding legislation recently passed into law concerning the Visa Waiver Program: As Iranian American civil rights and advocacy organizations, we are dismayed that Congress passed legislation to amend the U.S.'s Visa Waiver Program in a manner that risks discriminating against the Iranian-American community and other communities. 12/24/15

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last updated on Sat Feb 6 18:15:37 GMT 2016