Iran

Iran has executed a nuclear scientist who allegedly provided U.S. officials with information about the country's nuclear program.

In 2010, Shahram Amiri returned from the US. to Iran, where he was eventually arrested, as NPR's Peter Kenyon told our Newscast unit. "The spokesman for Iran's judiciary tells the official IRNA news agency that Shahram Amiri was executed following his conviction on treason charges," Peter reported.

The nuclear deal with Iran has been in place for a year now. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was the result of complex negotiations between Iran and six world powers — the United States, France, Germany, the U.K., China and Russia. It lengthened the time that Iran would need for "nuclear breakout," ensuring that it could not rush to build a nuclear bomb undetected.

Boeing says it has signed an agreement with Iran Air for the purchase of commercial passenger airplanes, making it the first major U.S. company to do business in Iran since sanctions were lifted earlier this year.

Boeing stopped selling planes to Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Secretary of State John Kerry has negotiated himself into the odd position of explaining to Western banks how they can do business in Iran.

As he tries to keep the Iran nuclear agreement on track in the final year of the Obama administration, Kerry has become personally involved in trying to help Iran get economic benefits out of the deal. That's no easy task and one that critics say is letting Iran off the hook.

When President Obama lifted the ban on U.S. weapons sales to Vietnam, he invoked one of his favorite themes — relics of the Cold War.

"This change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War," Obama said Monday in the capital, Hanoi.

He sounded a lot like the president who made a groundbreaking visit to Cuba in March:

Results of Iran's parliamentary runoff election are in, and supporters of President Hassan Rouhani have made strong gains in the first vote since the landmark nuclear deal signed last year with world powers.

Iranians cast ballots Friday in races where no candidate won more than 25 percent of the votes in the first round of the parliamentary election in February.

In Iran, voters are still waiting for clarity from the Feb. 26 parliamentary elections, but they're optimistic that a more cooperative legislature will help the government boost the economy. Hopes for broader social and political reforms, however, remain faint.

On a recent afternoon, a covered bazaar in north Tehran has its share of visitors, but there seems to be a lot more window-shopping than buying going on. Carpet shop owner Ali Mirnezami confirms that impression. He says this shop has been operating for 90 years, but at the moment things aren't looking good.

Iranians vote on Friday for Parliament. The results could signal whether they are ready to engage more robustly with the West, following a deal with world powers aimed at preventing the country from developing nuclear weapons.

Hardliners have effectively controlled the country's political system since Iran's revolution. But Hassan Rouhani, the current president, is considered a moderate and has worked to improve relations with the West. The election will be a crucial test of his agenda.

Iran's capital, Tehran, is in political overdrive this week. Candidates for parliament are battling the Tehran traffic, vying for support in Friday's elections.

This is Iran's first ballot since a nuclear agreement last July that brought the lifting of international sanctions in January. Long before the nuclear deal was signed, Iranians were told by their leaders that the removal of sanctions would bring more opportunity and better living standards.

But for the most part, ordinary Iranians aren't seeing improvements so far.

Luxury Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli has opened a new store in Iran's capital, Tehran.

This makes it one of the first luxury brands to formally enter the Iranian market since Iran curbed its nuclear program enough to trigger sanctions relief last month. The lifting of sanctions was a major part of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Why would Iranians visit their country's most spectacular ancient sites and come away disappointed?

We talked with 10 Iranian visitors to Persepolis, the ruins of an ancient Persian capital, and found a collective sense of unease — less with the ruins themselves than with what they imply about the world around them.

Iran has eagerly opened its doors to foreign investment now that a nuclear deal has cleared the way. So why is Iran still holding prisoner an Iranian-American businessman?

This is one of the contradictions of the moment in Iran, where economic sanctions were lifted weeks ago.

Last year, an Iranian economist named Mohammad Mehdi Behkish was extremely optimistic about prospects for a nuclear deal that would end many economic sanctions on his country.

"Personally, I would say it can't be that there would not be a deal," he told me when I met him in Tehran.

The alternative, he said, was disaster.

Behkish leads Iran's International Chamber of Commerce. When I met him again this month in his Tehran office, he sounded even more optimistic.

Just ahead of Valentine's Day, we visited the tomb of a poet who wrote often of love.

The 14th century Persian poet Hafez is buried in Shiraz, the city where he lived almost 700 years ago. He remains venerated in Iran, even though he wrote of romance and other topics that are not obviously embraced in the modern-day Islamic Republic.

One of his lines: "Oh Cup-bearer, set my glass afire with the light of wine!"

Ebrahim Pourfaraj wants to build the biggest hotel in all of Iran.

He's already started his project in the far north Tehran, a wealthy zone where the city climbs up the slopes of the snow-capped Alborz Mountains.

You get out of the car, carefully stepping over the little mountain stream that flows in a channel beside the curb. After stepping through a construction trailer, you emerge on a steel-mesh platform looking over the edge of an enormous hole.

Iran has been dismantling parts of its nuclear program faster than many anticipated and could meet its obligations for the lifting of some sanctions as soon as January, according to some officials monitoring the agreement.

Iran's nuclear deal with world powers includes a key target known as "implementation day." No specific date was set when the agreement was reached last July to great fanfare.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani tells NPR that much like in the United States, there are in his country "two differing viewpoints" on the six-party nuclear deal — one that is cautiously optimistic of success and another that is highly skeptical of Washington's desire to live up to its end of the bargain.

Iran is hailing the International Atomic Energy Agency's visit to a controversial military base, saying it disproves "fictions" about the site's nuclear capabilities. But critics note that samples were taken by Iranian officials, without inspectors being present.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports:

"The head of the IAEA and his top nuclear safeguards official visited the Parchin military base, long a target of suspicions involving possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program. Tehran insists its program has always been peaceful.

Security professionals in both the U.S. government and in private industry have long feared the prospect of a cyberwar with China or Russia, two states capable of launching destructive attacks on the computer networks that control critical assets such as the power grid or the financial system.

Now they face a new cyberthreat: Iran.

"[The Iranians] have all the resources and the capabilities necessary to be a major player in terms of cyberwarfare," says Jeffrey Carr, an expert on cyberconflict who has consulted for the U.S. Department of Defense.