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Sep 30, 2013

Driving Iran’s change: Economic threats, strategic opportunities

DUBAI, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Behind Iran’s overtures to
Washington lie pent-up pressures for change – from sanctions and
internal dissent to regional turmoil – that are shaping a rare
chance to end decades of hostility.

For new President Hassan Rouhani, speed is of the essence.

Sanctions are squeezing Iran’s oil exports, economic misery
is palpable, Arab Spring contagion poses a persistent threat and
involvement in Syria’s civil war is a drain on hard-pressed
resources.

Sep 26, 2013

Shabaab finances face squeeze after Kenya attack

DUBAI (Reuters) – Al Shabaab emerged as a regional threat funded by millions of dollars from activities ranging from extortion to taxing charcoal exports, but its attack on a Kenyan shopping mall is expected to provoke a counter-terrorism response aimed at crippling the Somali Islamist group’s finances.

The money is important to al Shabaab, a group whose aims include the wider imposition of Islamic law but whose ability to attract fighters in one of the poorest countries of the world is based largely on its ability to pay them.

Sep 19, 2013

Iran security elite told to shun politics as nuclear talks loom

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s clerical leadership has told security hardliners to stay out of politics, in effect instructing them not to wreck the new centrist government’s attempt to solve an intractable nuclear dispute with West.

If the message to the Revolutionary Guards from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and new President Hassan Rouhani was meant as an admonition, however, it was a friendly one.

Sep 18, 2013

Hailing “flexibility”, Iran leader commends new nuclear gambit

DUBAI, Sept 18 (Reuters) – Talk by Iran’s Supreme Leader of
“flexibility” days before his government’s debut at the United
Nations General Assembly in New York suggests a new willingness
at the highest level to explore a compromise solution to
Tehran’s nuclear row with the West.

Western governments are intrigued, but wary.

It is unclear how much bargaining room Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, an unyielding promoter of Iran’s nuclear programme,
would allow his negotiators, whether in secret talks with
Washington or in multilateral dicussions with major powers.

Sep 13, 2013

Kerry, Lavrov meeting U.N. envoy on Syria

GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet the United Nations special envoy on Syria in Geneva on Friday as they work on a deal that could avert U.S. military action.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who acts for both the world body and the Arab League, was to meet Kerry and Lavrov together at 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Friday, a U.N. official told Reuters.

Sep 3, 2013

In Mideast, view of US as hesitant superpower sharpens

BEIRUT, Sept 3 (Reuters) – The world’s most powerful man
decides to threaten Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We will strike with all our might,” says U.S. President
Barack Obama, depicted in a cartoon in Saudi newspaper Alsharq.

Aug 28, 2013

U.N. inspectors in new Syria mission as West prepares to strike

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.N. chemical weapons investigators crossed Syria’s front line into rebel-held territory on Wednesday for a second visit to the scene of a poison gas attack that has triggered Western plans for war.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his European and Middle East allies have already blamed President Bashar al-Assad for last week’s killing of hundreds of civilians. But the U.N. experts, who were first allowed to cross the front line by Assad’s forces on Monday, are still engaged in gathering evidence.

Aug 27, 2013

West readies attacks after Syria gas ‘obscenity’

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.S. allies were drafting plans for air strikes and other military action against Syria on Tuesday, as President Bashar al-Assad’s enemies vowed to punish a poison gas attack that Washington called a “moral obscenity”.

Facing Russian and Chinese disapproval that will complicate hopes for a united front backed by international law, and keen to win over wary voters at home, Western leaders seem in no rush to pull the trigger. British Prime Minister David Cameron called parliament back from recess for a session on Syria on Thursday.

Aug 25, 2013

U.N. experts in Syria to visit site of poison gas attack

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.N. weapons experts are due on Monday to inspect a site where poison gas killed many hundreds of people in Damascus suburbs, amid calls from Western capitals for military action to punish the world’s worst apparent chemical weapons attack in 25 years.

Syria agreed on Sunday to allow the inspectors to visit the site. The United States and its allies say evidence has been destroyed by government shelling of the area over the past five days, and the Syrian offer to allow inspectors came too late.

Jul 3, 2013

Smooth Qatar handover rooted in turbulent past of “Father Emir”

DUBAI (Reuters) – Qatar’s outgoing emir wanted to abdicate while he was still able to help his 33-year-old heir consolidate his authority, so ensuring minimal discord inside a family with a long record of palace intrigue.

While no one other than outgoing emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani can know his full motivations, foremost among them appears to have been a need for stability in a dynasty that has ruled for more than 130 years.