In a cautiously worded speech at Columbia University on July 10, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi declared his country's "religious democracy" was eager to promote trade and encourage regional friendships.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami won a second term in a electoral landslide on June 8. The reform-minded Khatami received unprecedented support 21.6 million votes, or about 77 percent of the ballots cast for a president seeking re-election. His closest rival, conservative former supply minister Ahmad Tavakoil, received 15 percent of the vote.
EurasiaNet: What do you expect President Khatami to do with his election mandate? During the campaign, he seemed to be hesitant about his candidacy. Was this a tactical maneuver, or do you think he's a genuinely reluctant leader?
Towering over a Tehran highway, there stands a billboard commemorating the death of an early 20th century Muslim cleric, Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri. The billboard, like many of the pictures of gray-bearded clerics or revolutionary soldiers, is meant to sell a political viewpoint.
Shamkhani pointed out "Iran had good capabilities to equip the Tajik national army well," based on earlier agreements for military cooperation, including technical assistance and military equipment. (IRNA, 1842 GMT, 8 Mar 01; FBIS-NES-2001-0308, via World News Connection) Iran and Tajikistan initiated military cooperation in 1998 with a memorandum in Tehran.
Iran has reason to be hopeful and Western business interests have cause for concern as the five Caspian Basin states gear up for a critical conference that aims to create a framework for the division of the sea's natural resources.
Azerbajani President Heidar Aliyev on March 12 began a state visit to Turkey. The same day, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was wrapping up a landmark summit meeting in Moscow with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The travels of these two key Caspian region leaders indicate that the competition over the region's vast oil and gas resources is kicking into high gear.
Evin prison, the sprawling complex nestled at the foothills of the quiet, brown Zagros mountains in north Tehran, recently admitted a group of high-profile inmates. The inmates - leading reformist journalists and pro-democracy activists -- have turned the prison into a critical base for Iran's faltering reform movement.
One jail cell, measuring 12 square meters, houses four of the most popular (and in the eyes of Iran's conservatives, most dangerous) reformist journalists. Akbar Ganji, the popular investigative journalist, is there. As is Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, the soft-spoken, Islamist pro-democracy editor and Latif Safari, the chest-thumping publisher of several shut-down reformist newspapers.
When a political shift in Tehran placed a reform-minded cleric at the head of the Islamic Republic, the United States eased sanctions, toned down official rhetoric, and offered the coolest of overtures to its erstwhile enemy. This diplomatic thaw has helped to dispel many of the erroneous stereotypes propagated by the respective governments. Yet fundamental barriers still remain.