With next week likely to be dominated with talk of the new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva, this week is a fine opportunity to focus on a few other topics related to Iran.
Yeganeh Torbati of Reuters took a look at the increasing number of self-exiled dissident journalists who are seeking to return to Iran, their hopes buoyed by a new sense of relative openness in the domestic atmosphere since the election of Rouhani. However, not all news on dissident journalists was encouraging – in the Guardian, Saeed Kamali Dehghan profiled Siamak Ghaderi, the former IRNA reporter who decided to set up his own blog on which he posted a series of interviews with gay Iranians – and was subsequently jailed in 2011, remaining in prison to this day.
He followed up with a report on a Revolutionary Guard raid on a party in the western city of Kermanshah including some gay guests, which the security forces termed a “network of homosexuals and satanists,” noting a distinction between the blind eye often turned by regular police toward homosexual activity and the more intense action of the Guards. Elsewhere in gender and sexual orientation issues, in Al-Monitor Mehrnaz Samimi took a look at an often-overlooked but fascinating aspect of the Islamic Republic – government support and subsidization for sex-reassignment surgery (in some cases, however, because it is viewed as a more acceptable alternative to homosexuality), based on a complex ruling of Islamic jurisprudence.
Tehran Bureau looked at views of Tehran’s residents as Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf begins his third term as mayor, with some praising him for overseeing major public works and beautification projects while others suggesting he has only made superficial changes or improved the upper class north side of town, and still others complaining he has made the city into too much of a securitized atmosphere.
In foreign affairs, the BBC discussed the diplomatic rapprochement between the UK and Iran, whose relations has been largely suspended after the attack on the British Embassy in Tehran in November 2011 by a mob of protesters. Ian Black of the Guardian also chimed in on what he saw as the way being paved for the embassies of the two nations to be reopened. In Reuters, Angus McDowall took a look at Saudi concerns over the potential rapprochement between its rival Iran and the United States, who has long supported Riyadh in its battle with Tehran for regional influence.
Enjoy the reads and the weekend!
The question with this administration is, what will Trump see as an acceptable return for this waiver [granted to India for its trade with Russia and Iran]? Will he demand a transaction in return, some give on the trade side or a big defence deal for the US as well? Russia and Iran are sticking points, but the fact that the Trump administration is dealing with these privately is a sign of how much the relationship has changed. [Mr Trump] usually doesn’t give out freebies.
Power abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of strong U.S. leadership on Syria, Russia and Iran have been more than happy to move in. It's a measure of just how much they've come to dominate the conflict that they'll be the only major foreign powers at the summit. The White House has largely washed its hands of Syria. But with Iran entrenched in Damascus, and the Islamic State biding its time in the far countryside, it's likely only a matter of time before our hands are dirtied again. When that happens we'll likely look at these negotiations as a lost opportunity.