Inside the Middle East
December 17, 2012
Posted: 618 GMT

A look back at the highlights of 2012 covered on Inside the Middle East.

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Algeria •Bahrain •Culture •Dubai •Egypt •Inside The Middle East •Iran •Iraq •Israel •Jordan •Kuwait •Lebanon •Morocco •Oman •Saudi Arabia •Sports •Tunisia •Turkey •UAE •Women •Yemen

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July 29, 2012
Posted: 806 GMT

Iranian demonstrators purportedly took to the streets in a rare act of public defiance last week, but not over corruption, unemployment, or social and political reform.

The protests were reportedly over chicken, which has become the latest symbol for Iran's deepening economic malaise.

Videos circulating on social media websites purported to show demonstrators marching in Neishabour, a city located about 500 miles northeast of Iran's capital, Tehran.  In one YouTube video, a number of people could be seen lining a street in Neishabour chanting slogans critical of the nation's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Others chanted against the rise in prices.  Photos posted to blogs in iran appeared to show similar scenes from the northeastern province, though, the videos and pictures could not be independently verified.

Recent discontent in Iran has focused on rising prices of food staples, such as poultry.  Many Iranians blame the government and tightening international sanctions over the country's controversial nuclear program for the economic decline and rising inflation.

The price of chicken in Iran has increased nearly threefold in the past two months. Chicken now sells for around 80,000 rials a kilogram, roughly $6.15.

Earlier this month, one senior government official caused a stir when he urged Iranian state television to avoid broadcasting images of people eating chicken. Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, chief of Iran's national police forces, announced at a press conference that pictures of poultry could spark social unrest, with potentially unforeseen consequences.

"They show chicken being eaten in movies while somebody might not be able to buy it," said Ahmadi Moghaddam in mid July. "Films are now the windows of society and some people observing this class gap might say that we will take knives and take our rights from the rich."

Meanwhile, one of Iran's top-ranking conservative clerics has been doing his part to quell concerns over what some are calling Iran's "chicken crisis."

"We see that many people are shrieking over the price of chicken.  But what's the worst that can happen if one doesn't eat it? The overwhelming majority of doctors say that meat products don't make for good food," said Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, according to state media.

Filed under: Iran

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June 22, 2011
Posted: 846 GMT

From CNN's Global Public Square

By Michelle Mariam Moghtader, CNN

Every year before summer rolls around Iranian authorities tighten clothing restrictions. Normally the “Moral Police” crackdown on the women forcing them to wear their hijab so that it covers all of their hair, for example.  But since last year, the "Moral Police" have been targeting the men too.

Last summer, the Iranian government issued a men’s hairstyle guide.

This year, they banned necklaces for men.

In addition, Iranian state TV has taken issue with jeans as well. A YouTube videofrom Iranian state TV features a discussion in which jeans are said to actually come from the word "jinn" – invisible creatures who know the unknowable. The young man in the video says wearing jeans is also supposed to have a hazardous effect on a man's testicles because it raises the temperature. This, according to Iranian state TV, renders men infertile.

This annual clothing crackdown is the government’s attempt to distract citizens from their real problems. Iran suffers from large scale unemployment and internal political paralysis.  It is also facing the threat of even more sanctions.

Will talk of sorcery or criticizing jewelry stop the Iranian people from thinking about their real problems?  Unlikely.

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Filed under: Iran

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May 6, 2011
Posted: 840 GMT


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Will Osama bin Laden's death weaken extremists? Or does it make the region more dangerous, especially for Israel?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: No, it weakens extremists. When the world's number one terrorist, a man who's responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people is brought to justice and is eliminated, it tells terrorists everywhere there's a price and you will pay it and that's good.

VERJEE: Was President Obama right not to release the photo?

NETANYAHU: Probably.


NETANYAHU: He probably has his reasons. I haven't seen the photos but I think it's immaterial (ph). I don't think that anyone really questions the fact that Osama bin Laden has been killed. I think that's a safe fact.

VERJEE: Who would you consider today, the world's most dangerous man, the biggest threat to the world's security after bin Laden?

NETANYAHU: The biggest threat is the possibility of the militant Islamic regime will acquire nuclear weapons or that nuclear weapons will acquire a militant Islamic regime. The first is called Iran. If the Iranian regime gets atomic bombs, it'll change history.

VERJEE: Do you think Ahmadinejad is the biggest threat?

NETANYAHU: I think he's a big threat. I think his boss, Khamenei is a bigger threat. Iran is (ph) the country and he's infused with fanaticism - he wants to get the whole lot – he calls us Israel, "the little Satan" because America is "the great Satan" and I hope that Europe and Britain aren't offended because they're a middle-sized Satan. So all these statements have to be eliminated and, if necessary, they're developing atomic bombs for that affair (ph).

VERJEE: So why haven't you taken action, a targeted action against Iran if you're convinced it needs to be eliminated?

NETANYAHU: Well, because one of the things that we've looked at is the leadership of the international community, led by the United States, to force that regime to stop its nuclear bombs program. I think the sanctions might work if the international community makes it clear that there's a credible military option if the sanctions don't work. And I think that the coupling of those two things - economic sanctions and a military option if sanctions don't work - that's the only thing that will make this regime stop. And I hope to see that determination (ph) in place.

VERJEE: There's a government now that represents all Palestinians in a unity government. Why won't you accept that?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Hamas •Iran •Israel •Netanyahu •Palestinians •Video

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April 19, 2011
Posted: 906 GMT
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the West is seeking destruction and a reinforcement of their evil dominance in the region.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the West is seeking destruction and a reinforcement of their evil dominance in the region.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the West for unrest bubbling throughout the Middle East and North Africa in a speech Monday on Iran's National Army Day.

"They are trying to foment discord in the region. They are trying to cause destruction and provoke wars between nations and governments in order to sell their weapons," Ahmadinejad said in a speech translated into English by state-run Press TV. "They are seeking destruction and a reinforcement of their evil dominance in the region."

The Iranian president's accusations come as NATO planes are enforcing a U.N.-approved no-fly zone over Libya and also are launching airstrikes on Libyan government troops as opposition forces battle them.

Ahmadinejad also warned of what he said are Western efforts to trigger sectarian strife between Shia and Sunni Muslims, while calling for cooperation between nations in the region.

Unrest has spread across parts of the Middle East and North Africa since January when popular uprisings began in Tunisia and Egypt, which eventually unseated the governments there. The political unease has spread in varying degrees to more than a dozen other nations.

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Filed under: Iran

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March 17, 2011
Posted: 1138 GMT
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured March 8) said military invention by the U.S. and Europe in Libya would make matters worse.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured March 8) said military invention by the U.S. and Europe in Libya would make matters worse.

The United States and Europe should not intervene militarily in strife-torn Libya because it would make matters worse, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Spanish state television TVE on Tuesday.

"I think a military intervention would be even worse. The experience of Iraq and Afghanistan is before us. It made things worse, not better," Ahmadinejad told TVE in an interview at the presidential palace in Tehran, Iran, which was televised in Spain.

He condemned Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's bombardment of rebels, saying, "We condemn these massacres and we have condemned them previously. Whomever bombs his own people should be condemned."

But Ahmadinejad - speaking in his native Farsi that was translated to Spanish - also warned, "A Western intervention will just complicate the situation. The West needs to leave behind its colonialist vision."

He accused the United States and Europe of having provided weapons and backing to Gadhafi and other autocratic regimes in the region in the past. Read more...

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Filed under: Iran •Libya •U.S.

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February 21, 2011
Posted: 749 GMT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized Iran's plans to send naval ships through the Suez Canal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized Iran's plans to send naval ships through the Suez Canal.

The Israeli prime minister on Sunday accused Iran of trying to expand its influence in the region by planning to send naval ships through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.

Egypt has agreed to allow two Iranian warships to cross, in a move that puts the country's new military regime in a prickly position with its Israeli neighbor.

The post-Hosni Mubarak caretaker government gave the green light to the Iranian warships Friday. The move comes in the wake of the Egyptian president's ouster earlier this month.

"Iran is trying to take advantage of the situation," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu said Israel views the crossing of the Iranian ships through the Suez Canal "gravely."
No Iranian warships have crossed the canal as of Sunday, said Ahmed el-Manakhly, transit director of the Suez Canal Authority.

The Iranian state news agency al Alam earlier reported that two Iranian ships had crossed through the canal and are headed to a Syrian port.

The ships are expected to be the first Iranian warships to sail through the Suez since the Islamic republic's 1979 revolution. Egypt's newly empowered military government has said it would honor all its international treaties.

The Suez Canal is a key waterway for international trade. It connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, allowing ships to navigate between Europe and Asia without having to go around Africa.

Millions of barrels of oil move through the Suez every day en route to Europe and North America

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Filed under: Iran •Israel •Netanyahu

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November 29, 2010
Posted: 1055 GMT
WikiLeaks document: Saudi King Abdullah told an Iranian official: 'You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters.'
WikiLeaks document: Saudi King Abdullah told an Iranian official: 'You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters.'

By Tim Lister, CNN

(CNN) - U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by the website WikiLeaks and published by newspapers in the United States and Europe on Sunday reveal considerable anxiety among the Gulf states about Iran's nuclear program, with the Bahrain's king warning, "The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."

The cables, many marked "Secret," were among several hundred thousand obtained by WikiLeaks and published by newspapers Sunday.

They reveal great concern among Arab states about Iran's regional ambitions. One cable describes a meeting between Saudi King Abdullah and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and other U.S. officials in March 2009.

According to the cable, the king told the Americans what he had just told the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki. "You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters," the Saudi monarch was quoted as telling Mottaki. "Iran's goal is to cause problems," he told Brennan. "There is no doubt something unstable about them." Read full story...

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Filed under: Bahrain •Egypt •Iran •Iraq •Oman •Saudi Arabia •U.K. •U.S.

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November 28, 2010
Posted: 641 GMT
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, shakes hands with Iran's first vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, shakes hands with Iran's first vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi.

(CNN) - Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in Iran on Saturday as part of a two-day visit to the country aimed at expanding relations, Iranian state media reported.

It is Hariri's first visit to Iran as prime minister, state-run Press TV said, and the visit comes a month after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled to Lebanon on his first state visit to the country.

"We consider this visit to be very important and hope for further expansion of ties between Iran and Lebanon," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

During the trip, Hariri is expected to meet with Ahmadinejad, Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahibi, National Security Chairman Saeed Jalili and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, Fars reported.

"Lebanon considers cooperation with Iran necessary for creating a common ground to fight the dangers that threaten the two countries and even the region," Press TV quoted Hariri as saying before departing Beirut for the Iranian capital, Tehran.

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Filed under: Iran •Lebanon

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November 9, 2010
Posted: 1906 GMT

Following our post (see below) on a Fars News Agency report about Hamas extending an invitation to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit the Gaza Strip, we were finally able to get in touch with Hamas official Dr. Ahmed Yousef.

Yousef told us that in fact no written invitation had been made to the Iranian leader and that his comments to the  news agency had been misunderstood.

Yousef said President Ahmadinejad was indeed welcome to come to the Gaza Strip as were all Arab and Muslim leaders to see the impact of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade.

He said this blanket invitation was made through the Arab League and the only leader who had responded thus far was the organization's secretary-general, Amr Moussa, who visited Gaza this past June.

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Filed under: Gaza •General •Hamas •Iran •Palestinians

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