Officials in Saudi Arabia carried out the mass execution of 47 people charged with terrorism this weekend. Across 12 cities on Saturday, the individuals were either beheaded or shot by firing squads. The actions have caused tensions in the region to rise, particularly with Iran. Many of the individuals executed were said to be members of al Qaeda, but the death of a prominent Shi'ite cleric named Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr caused an uproar in Iran. Shortly after, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Iran was stormed and burned by protestors.
In response, Saudi Arabia has demanded that all diplomats from Iran leave the country within 48 hours. Since then, both countries have ramped up the rhetoric against each other. At a press conference, the Saudi foreign minister said, "Iran's history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei took to Twitter, writing, “Iranian nation must act against enemy’s will and punch at enemy’s mouth.” Discuss
An Iranian American investigative reporter has been convicted of espionage in Iran. According to a report on Iranian state TV, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaia, who has already been in jail for more than a year, faces a sentence of up to 20 years. Officials in the country have been very secretive about the actual charges and the trial, which took place nearly two months ago. The State Department told reporters that the “process has been opaque and incomprehensible from the start.”
Rezaia is one of three Iranian-Americans being held the country, including Idaho Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and a former Marine named Amir Hekmati. The President of Iran is reportedly suggesting that the United States engage in some sort of prisoner exchange. In a statement, the Washington Post’s executive editor said, “Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing.” Rezaia is planning on appealing the conviction. Discuss
Nearly two years after talks began, leaders from Iran and a coalition of nations that included the United States have come to an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. In a statement this morning, President Obama called the deal “a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon." Though details of the pact weren’t immediately clear, as part of the agreement, the U.S. would lift economic sanctions on Iran, and in return, the country would agree to regulations on its controversial nuclear program. Not everyone on the world stage has supported the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement "a historic mistake for the world.” He tweeted, “When willing to make a deal at any cost, this is the result. From early reports, we can see that the deal is a historic mistake.” From here, Congress will have two months to review and approve the new agreement. Discuss
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress in a speech today that the U.S. should abandon a proposed deal with Iran because it could help the country possess nuclear weapons in the near future. The U.S. is part of a coalition of nations negotiating an agreement with Iran for the country to temporarily stop pursuing nuclear technology. The U.S. and several other nations are offering relief from economic sanctions if Iran complies. In his speech, Netanyahu said, "We've been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well this is a bad deal, a very bad deal." He claimed that the agreement “will all but guarantee that Iran will get those nuclear weapons, lots of them." Specifically, he warned, "Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal because all the restrictions would basically expire in about a decade.”
His speech was extremely controversial in Washington, because it was done at the invitation of Republican lawmakers, not the Democratic White House. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi refused to clap during several standing ovations and issued a blistering statement following the speech, calling it an "insult to the intelligence of the United States." Netanyahu thanked the U.S. for their support, and added, “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political.” Throughout the speech, he underscored why he believed Iran remains an enemy of the U.S. and Israel, in hopes of preventing the proposed deal from moving forward. President Obama refused to meet Netanyahu out of concern that it would interfere with a coming meeting with officials from Iran. White House aids said that Obama did not plan on watching today’s speech on television ... Discuss
According to multiple reports, several Iranian young people arrested for appearing in a YouTube video dancing to Pharrell’s hit single “Happy” have been freed. The move comes after the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani tweeted, “#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy," apparently in response to the arrests. Fox News reports that though the three dancers have been released, the video's director is still incarcerated. Authorities in the country—where co-ed dancing is illegal and women are prohibited from appearing without hijabs according to the Islamic law—tracked down the six dancers from the video soon after it started garnering thousands of views on YouTube. After news of the arrest began to spread online, human rights activists around the world tweeted their support for the filmmakers under the hashtag #FreeHappyIranians. Even Pharrell expressed his support for his fans, tweeting, “It's beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness" ... Discuss
"#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy." 29/6/2013
On Friday, the government of Iran agreed to a deal, saying that they would limit their nuclear program and give international inspectors more access to production sites within the country. In exchange, the United States and other western countries agreed to lift nearly $7 billion in financial sanctions. The agreement is part of an effort to prevent Iran from acquiring stockpiles of nuclear weapons. After signing the six-month deal, however, there did seem to be some confusion concerning some important details—over the weekend Iran President Hassan Rouhani said that the agreement preserved the country’s "right" to enrich uranium, a claim Secretary of State John Kerry disputed.
Despite the confusion, the deal has been met with both praise and criticism from other leaders. Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and State Department official Thomas Pickering called it “The beginning of the end of the Iranian nuclear weapons program." But, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal with Tehran will be remember as “a historic mistake” and that the Iranian government can not be trusted. In Iran, non-elected local leaders and mullahs regularly call for the destruction of Israel … Discuss