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Week of January 29nd
A surname doesn’t mean anything
The grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has been disqualified from running for the Assembly of Experts, elections which coincide with the parliamentary vote on February 26th. Hassan Khomeini is known for his ties to the reformist faction of Iran.

On the other hand, former president and current member of the Assembly of Experts, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was approved to run again. According to Saeed Abutaleb, a former parliamentary deputy, “I think not only that Rafsanjani and his allies will be successful in the election, but it’s even possible that Rafsanjani becomes the chairman of the Assembly.”

Here’s an explainer on Iran’s upcoming elections and why we should care.



Beijing visits Tehran
During his tour of the Middle East, China’s President Xi Jinping stopped by Iran from January 22nd to 23rd. He is the first foreign leader to visit Tehran since the Iran Deal. Beijing and Tehran signed 17 agreements on everything from energy to boosting trade worth to be about $600 billion.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for closer economic and security ties with Beijing. "Iranians never trusted the West... That's why Tehran seeks cooperation with more independent countries (like China)," he said.

The question on everyone's mind: 
Will the Iran Deal prove to be a double-edged sword for Moscow & Beijing?

Meanwhile, the fate of a Chinese national convicted of exporting nuclear equipment to Iran remains in limbo while his Iranian co-defendant is set free.


Rouhani tours Europe
President Hassan Rouhani kicked off his four-day European tour by first stopping in Italy to meet Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis, ahead of signing trade deals said to be worth $18 billion. He is the first Iranian president to visit Europe in almost two decades. Before heading to the Vatican Rouhani told a forum of business leaders in Rome that "Iran is the safest and most stable country in the entire region." In a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Rouhani asked the Holy See to pray for him. The Vatican then issued a statement that Iran should play a role in combatting terrorism alongside other countries in the Middle East.

Rouhani’s visit doesn’t come without controversy. As a respectful gesture to the Iranian president’s visit, Italy’s nude statues were covered with wooden boxes. While many claim it was the Iranians’ idea, President Rouhani said, “This is a media issue and journalists want to write about this. I have nothing specific to say about this, and I did not have talks about this with anyone. But I know this: The people of Italy are very hospitable and want their guests to enjoy themselves.”

When in Rome... By cartoonist Mana Neyestani.

While President Rouhani was in Paris, he signed an agreement with Peugeot and Airbus to purchase 118 planes worth $25 billion. The order included 12 A380 superjumbos, 73 wide body, and 45 narrow body jets. During Tehran’s aviation conference, Iranian transport minister Abbas Akhondi estimated that Iran needs close to 500 new airplanes.

Amidst the news of airplane purchases, there were rumors about the U.S. and Iran establishing direct flights, but the U.S. Department of State denied the claims.



All prisoners home
American student Matthew Trevithick recounts his 41 days in Evin Prison to CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Treithick claims the first thing his interrogators asked was if he knew Jason Rezaian. "I said of course, the whole world knows Jason Rezaian. Everybody knows that name,” he recalls. “He said [Rezaian is] never leaving and neither are you."

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian delivered a speech at his company’s headquarters giving a long list of thank-yous to everyone from his family, editors, to Secretary Kerry and special presidential envoy Brett McGurk who negotiated for a prisoner swap. Rezaian said, “For much of the 18 months I was in prison, my Iranian interrogators told me The Washington Post did not exist, that no one knew of my plight and that the United States government would not lift a finger for my release. Today, I’m here in this room with the very people who helped prove the Iranians wrong in so many ways.”

Since arriving back in Idaho, Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini’s wife Naghmeh has filed for separation. She writes in a Facebook post:
“I do deeply regret that I hid from the public the abuse that I have lived with for most of our marriage and I ask your forgiveness. I sincerely had hoped that this horrible situation Saeed has had to go through would bring about the spiritual change needed in both of us to bring healing to our marriage. Tragically, the opposite has occurred…”

Finally more details emerge about the fourth American prisoner, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. While in the United States, he reportedly was an advisor to the FBI. In 2013, Khosravi visited his mother in Iran only to end up staying and working as an English teacher.
After seeing an interview about missing American Robert Levinson, Khosravi reportedly drunk texted an FBI contact claiming to know his whereabouts only to show off. Khosravi’s texts prompted the Iranian intelligence to arrest him at the airport and take him to Evin Prison.

You probably forgot about them already, but the ten U.S. navy sailors detained by Iran after they crossed into Iranian waters have finally returned home to San Diego.

Also, Reuters has an exclusive on how the White House dropped a $10 million claim in the prisoner deal.

Other stories that made headlines
 
-- Officials say France wants to push for new sanctions on Iran at the EU.

-- Iran warns U.S. Navy ship and fighter jet to stay away from Iranian naval drill.

-- An unlikely classroom: Learning English in an Iranian prison.
 
-- Iran is one of the leading executioners of juvenile offenders.
 
-- Cartoonist Atena Farghadani acquitted of shaking lawyer’s hand during prison visit.
 
-- Iran’s sanctions windfall unlikely to affect Syrian War.

-- Ayatollah Khamenei posts Holocaust denial video on Remembrance Day.

-- UNESCO condemns Iran’s Holocaust cartoon contest.

-- Canada wants to repair burnt bridges with Iran, but sold all of Tehran’s assets.

-- Within OPEC, Iran is a challenge to any deal on oil cuts.

-- New York Times Iran reporter now requires visa to travel to U.S. headquarters.
 
-- The Republican myth of Ronald Reagan and the Iran hostages, debunked.

-- Majority of Iranians believe banks are the most corrupt institutions in Iran.
 
-- Iranian oil set to return to Europe next month according to officials.

-- Can next crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia be managed?

-- Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the politics of sports.

-- Could Iraq mediate the Iran and Saudi strife?

-- Secretary Kerry tries to ease GCC concerns about warming U.S.-Iran Relations.

-- Iran is spending more money on culture, but where's the accountability?

-- Is Bernie Sanders really naive about Iran? Don’t be so sure.

-- Iran-linked groups focus of Baghdad kidnapping probe, according to U.S. sources.
 
-- Global insurers plot cautious course to Iran.
 
-- What Iran’s textbooks can teach us about sectarianism and ancient hatreds.
 
-- Canada to lift sanctions and allow aircraft maker Bombardier to export to Iran.
 
-- Could Iran become the next crossroad of international aviation?

-- Iran is world's biggest emerging market since collapse of Soviet Union.

-- Fashion photography book on Tehran Streetstyle is now for sale.

-- A hitchhiker’s guide to Iran by a Polish-British couple.

-- Director Abbas Kiarostami offering workshop in Cuba for aspiring filmmakers.

-- Why Iran could be your next ski destination.

-- An amazing tour of Iranian art collector Mohammed Afkhami’s flat in Dubai.

Events

...تا هفته بعد
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