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A woman cries in support of Mahsa Amini and Iran's women's movement

Reuters/ GZERO Media

Why Iran’s protests are different this time

They come from the capital city and from rural townships. Some wear makeup and jeans while others are clad in traditional robes though they leave their silver hair uncovered. They are all Iranian women uniting against the Islamic Republic’s oppressive regime.

Nationwide protests – that have spread to Iran's 31 provinces – broke out on Sept. 17 after Mahsa Amini, 22, a young Iranian woman, was allegedly beaten to death by the regime’s “morality police” for failing to fully cover her hair.

🌖A symbol like the moon🌖. Mahsa, a name of Persian origin that means like the moon, has emerged as a symbol of the ayatollahs’ oppressive system that sometimes sends women to “reeducation centers” for failing to comply with strict modesty requirements – sometimes with deadly consequences.

Iran has a long tradition of mass demonstrations, including those that led to the 1979 revolution and the country’s current system of clerical despotism. However, in recent years many of the country’s mass movements have had their momentum halted by brute government force. Will this time be different?

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Ian Explains: The Iran Nuclear Deal | GZERO World

The Iran nuclear deal

The Iran nuclear deal was enacted in 2015 to stop Tehran from getting the bomb in exchange for economic sanctions relief. At the time it was a big win — especially for the Obama administration.

But not everyone was a fan. Critics say the deal only slowed down the nuclear program, didn’t address Iran's support for Hezbollah, and hardly reset US-Iran ties.

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The US Can’t Let Iran Get Any Closer to Nuclear Weapons, Says Iran Expert Ali Vaez | GZERO World

The US can’t let Iran get any closer to nuclear weapons, says Iran expert Ali Vaez

Even if the US rejoins the Iran nuclear deal, many Republicans are fiercely opposed to it — and could withdraw again in 2025 if they win the White House in two years.

Why do it at all then? Ali Vaez, Iran program director at the International Crisis Group, has some thoughts.

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What We're Watching: Iran plays hard to get, China gets up in India's grid, Dominicans build a wall

Iran rules out nuclear talks… for now: Iran has reportedly rejected an offer to join direct talks with the US and EU over its nuclear program, saying it won't start the conversation until sanctions on Iran's economy are eased. To be clear, this does NOT mean that prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal are dead. Europeans and the Biden administration want a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran certainly needs the economic boost that would come from a removal of sanctions. But Tehran is going to try to maximize its leverage before any talks begin, especially since this is a sensitive election year in in the country. Iran's leaders are going to play hard to get for a while longer before edging their way back to the bargaining table. Still, it's high stakes diplomacy here between parties that have almost no mutual trust — and one misstep could throw things off track quickly.

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Your move, Iran

It's been four days since Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, died in a hail of bullets on a highway near Tehran. Iran has plausibly blamed Israel for the killing, but more than that, not much is known credibly or in detail.

This is hardly the first time that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in an operation that has a whiff of Mossad about it. But Fakhrizadeh's prominence — he is widely regarded as the father of the Iranian nuclear program — as well as the timing of the killing, just six weeks from the inauguration of a new American president, make it a particularly big deal. Not least because an operation this sensitive would almost certainly have required a US sign-off.

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WHAT WE'RE WATCHING VS WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Japan vs South Korea – On December 20, a Japanese military plane encountered a South Korean destroyer in the waters between the two countries. Japan says the South Korean ship locked onto its plane with missile-targeting radar. South Korea says the Japanese plane was flying dangerously low and the radar "was not intended to trace any Japanese-controlled aircraft." Both governments can score political points at home by escalating the war of words, and as he prepares for another summit with President Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un can be happy to see two US allies fighting with one another.

Strikes in Mexico – A faction of the national teachers' union is now blocking railroad lines in one state while manufacturing workers are on strike in another. Work stoppages and protests may well become a new sign of the times in Mexico, because many union leaders believe new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be sympathetic to their demands. If one group scores significant concessions, other unions will face pressure from members to use the same tactics. That can boost wages for underpaid workers, but there are also reports of shortages of food staples as a result of railroad blockades.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Fear of Dogs in Tehran – It is now illegal for residents of Iran's capital to walk dogs or to "drive them around" in automobiles. The city's police chief explained that dogs create "fear and anxiety" among members of the public. Iranian authorities say that dogs are unclean and a menace. But they also consider dog ownership an imitation of Western lifestyles, and that may be the true source of their fear and anxiety.

Complaints about Russian Post Office Beer – To boost the profitability of its postal service in remote areas, Russia now permits post offices to sell beer. Some customers have complained that beer sales undermine the dignity of the Russian Post, but we suspect the Russian thirst for beer will ensure this plan works. Officials also say they hope to help Russians find high-quality beer in places where citizens risk alcohol poisoning from alternative low-quality alcoholic products.

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