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India has reportedly agreed to pay Tehran in gold for the oil it buys, in a move aimed at protecting Delhi from US-sanctions targeting countries who trade with Iran. China, another buyer of Iranian oil, may follow Delhi’s lead.

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Despite President Barack Obama’s assertion that he would open up avenues to talk to the Iranians, he has failed to do so, he has rejected Iranian initiatives to start a dialogue, and he is showing every sign of unwillingness to negotiate on any level. Congress has even moved to block any contact between American and Iranian diplomats. [...]

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Iran is testing a domestic Internet, a “Halal” network that will restrict citizens from penetrating foreign sites. Internet users this week reported delays in their network connections, which is believed to be connected to the new network’s trial run.

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President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are engaged in intense maneuvering over Netanyahu’s aim of entangling the United States in an Israeli war against Iran.

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Assad’s regime is weakening. National institutions are eroding. Opposition forces are locally organized. Neighborhood committees and armed groups were formed. At issue is usurping state power despite divisions of strategy, especially over peaceful or violent conflict resolution and pro or con advocacy for outside intervention.

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The U.S. has now initiated a naval build-up off the Syrian and Lebanese coasts. This is part of Washington’s standard scare tactics that it has used as a form of intimidation and psychological warfare against Iran, Syria, and the Resistance Bloc. While Washington is engaged in its naval build-up, the mainstream media networks controlled by the Saudis and Arab clients of the U.S. are focusing on the deployment of Russian naval vessels to Syria, which can be seen as a counter-move to NATO.

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Standing before huge Israeli and US flags, Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said “determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons” was one of three “pillars” of US policy in the region. And while he extolled the importance and encouraging efficacy of diplomatic and economic sanctions, and carefully noted that resort to military force must be a last, and not a first option, Panetta also pointedly stressed that the administration had “not taken any options off the table”.

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An all-out war in the Middle East is hardly in anybody’s interest, yet it may happen, either as an escalation of a lower-intensity conflict, or because one of the sides miscalculates or is pushed into a corner.

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Iran’s armed forces have shot down an unmanned US spy plane that violated its eastern borders, military sources say. Iranian media reports said the drone – identified as a type RQ170 – suffered minimal damage and was now in the hands of the armed forces. The Nato-led Isaf force in neighbouring Afghanistan says the US [...]

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The United States has announced a new set of sanctions targeting Iran’s energy and financial sectors in an effort to apply greater pressure on Tehran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

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