Iran, the United States and ‘the cup of poison’

June 12, 2013

Iranian foreign minister urges “broad discussions” with U.S, a former NSA officer gives Snowden sage advice, and Greece shutters its state media to slash spending. Today is Wednesday, June 12, 49 years after Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for his anti-apartheid efforts. This is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei departs after casting his ballot in the parliamentary election in Tehran, March 2, 2012. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

It’s complicated. Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi wrote five months ago in a previously undisclosed letter to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran should enter into “broad discussions with the United States,” casting light on the surprisingly complex relationship between the two nations:

Based on interviews with diplomats, current and former government officials, intelligence sources and well-connected academics, [a Reuters examination] shows how infighting in Iran and suspicions in the United States have so far blocked attempts to thaw relations. It is not clear whether Salehi’s proposal signifies a change of tack by Khamenei’s camp or will lead anywhere, though a former senior Iranian official said Khamenei’s green light for direct talks with the Americans will remain valid even after the June 14 presidential election.

Iran’s nuclear program has long been a point of contention between the U.S. and Iran. Though Iran has said it is not pursuing nuclear arms, Western powers fear the opposite. U.S. officials hope that Friday’s elections will bring to power a leader open to negotiations with Washington, but the Khamenei-led barring of major reformists from running and placing some of them under house arrest make this outcome less likely.

Screengrab/REUTERS. Click here to watch a video interview with Thomas Drake

Take it from me. Thomas Drake, a former intelligence official at the NSA who was prosecuted under the Espionage Act in 2010 for allegedly leaking classified information to the New York Times about NSA wiretapping practices, is uniquely positioned to give the Prism leak source Edward Snowden some words of advice:

“Be lawyered up to the max and find a place where it’s going to be that much more difficult for the United States to make arrangements for his return,” Drake said… “For me this is a déjà vu,” Drake said, adding that Snowden’s previous comfortable life was over. “When you offer up information about the dark side of the surveillance state they don’t take too kindly to it,” he said. “They want to stay in the shadows.”

Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling government information, adding that the accusations – which initially included 10 felony charges that were later dropped – essentially destroyed his life, placing him into debt and costing him his retirement savings. Analysts expect the U.S. to request extradition for Snowden, who checked out of his Hong Kong hotel room but is thought to be in the area.

An employee wipes tears as she works with colleagues to broadcast a Web-Tv signal at the control room of the Greek state television ERT headquarters in Athens, June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

Media Grexit. The Greek government shuttered the country’s state broadcaster ERT in a planned cost-cutting move just hours after it became the first developed nation to be reclassified as an emerging market, prompting public outcry and internal disagreement:

The stock market traded at two-month lows after Greece became the first developed nation ever to be lowered to emerging market by equity index provider MSCI. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s government declined comment on the market reclassification as it tried to fend off a growing media backlash against ERT’s dramatic closure. The public broadcaster was yanked off air just hours after the shutdown was announced in what the government said was a temporary measure to staunch an “incredible waste” of taxpayers’ money prior to relaunching a slimmed-down station. Labor unions called a 24-hour national work stoppage for Thursday and journalists went on an open-ended strike, forcing a news blackout on privately owned television and newspapers

The government said it would reopen the broadcaster after making cuts, but the public was jarred by how quickly ERT went dark after the announcement and upset by the implications of stifling state media.

Nota Bene: South African President Jacob Zuma reported that anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela is responding to treatment for a recurring lung infection.


Message in a retail bottle – A Kmart shopper found a letter from a Chinese labor camp prisoner in Halloween decorations. (The New York Times)

Baby boon – Britain’s royal fetus could boost the UK’s economy. (The Associated Press)

National growth – Chinese pocketbooks aren’t the only things getting fatter. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Sexist entree – Australian prime minister Julia Gillard isn’t laughing over an opposition party’s innuendo-filled menu. (BBC)

Prism perk for Putin – Snowden’s NSA revelation is leading to a social media crackdown in Russia. (Quartz)

From the File:

  • Turkish president urges dialogue after police clear square.
  • Russian protesters call for Putin’s resignation as he seeks firmer political footing.
  • Europe is in a bind over what to do about Hungary’s ‘erring’ prime minister.
  • Syrian helicopter fires on Lebanese town, injuring two.
  • Swiss upper chamber approves U.S. tax deal.


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