Nov 22, 2019

Judge orders Iran pay $180 million in damages for detaining Washington Post reporter

Journalist Jason Rezaian. Photo: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Iranian government to pay journalist Jason Rezaian $180 million in damages for his 18-month detention, saying he was used as leverage in diplomatic talks with the U.S. in 2014, the Washington Post reports.

Flashback: Rezaian was a Washington Post correspondent in Tehran when Iranian authorities took him and his wife into custody amid U.S.-Iran nuclear talks. While she was released two months thereafter, Rezaian was let go in Jan. 2016 as part of a prisoner swap between the two nations on the same day the nuclear agreement was implemented.

The big picture: The lawsuit was brought under a “terrorism exception” to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The law that typically bans Americans from suing foreign governments in domestic cases with exceptions made for nations designated by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism, the Post explains.

What he's saying: U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of Washington justified the large sum of the damages, saying it aimed to prevent Americans from being held hostage. “Holding a man hostage and torturing him to gain leverage in negotiations with the United States is outrageous, deserving of punishment, and surely in need of deterrence,” he wrote in his opinion, per the Post.

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106 killed in Iran protests, human rights group says

Iranians gather around a charred police station while they protest the increase in oil prices in Isfahan, Iran. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

At least 106 people have been killed in Iran since protests over increased oil prices began last week, according to human rights group Amnesty International, which says the true death toll could be far higher.

The big picture: Iran was much quicker to use violent measures this time than during previous protests. The Iranian government also shut down the internet to prevent social media from further mobilizing protesters, per CNN.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

Secret cables expose Iran's influence-building in Iraq at U.S. expense

A protester in Baghdad rejects U.S. and Iranian influence. Photo: Ameer Al Mohammedaw/picture alliance via Getty Images

Hundreds of secret Iranian intelligence cables obtained by the Intercept and shared with the New York Times "show how Iran, at nearly every turn, has outmaneuvered the United States in the contest for influence" in Iraq, per the Times.

Why it matters: Widespread protests in Iraq against corruption and poor government services have in some cases been spurred on by another grievance: Iranian influence over Iraqi politics. These documents, which date to 2014-2015, offer glimpses of how that influence was built and exercised — often at the expense of, and due to failures by, the U.S.

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019

U.S. graduate student released from Iran

An American graduate student imprisoned in Tehran since 2016 was released on Saturday in exchange for an Iranian stem cell researcher held in the U.S., the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Iran may have released American Xiyue Wang to distract from its recent wave of protests and the government's harsh response, the Times writes. The U.S. estimates around 1,000 Iranians died as a result of the mass clashes.

Go deeperArrowDec 7, 2019