WNPR

Iran

What difference does it make who's president of Iran?

It's fair to ask the question on this weekend of Iran's presidential election. After all, the president's title makes him sound like the top official, but he is not. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, holds far more power.

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.

Less than 24 hours after reports of their detention emerged, 10 U.S. Navy personnel have been freed by Iran. The sailors left an Iranian naval base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday morning, along with the boats they were operating when they were taken into custody.

"There are no indications that the sailors were harmed during their brief detention," the Department of Defense says, confirming the release of nine men and one woman.

The cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran turned a lot hotter in the past 48 hours, after the Saudis executed a Shiite cleric accused of terrorism on Saturday and hours later an Iranian mob ransacked and firebombed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.

After executing a well-known Shiite cleric, inflaming sectarian conflict, Saudi Arabia has now announced it is severing diplomatic ties with Iran, NPR's Leila Fadel reports.

Saudi Foreign Minister Abdel al-Jubeir said Iran's diplomatic mission to Saudi Arabia had 48 hours to leave the country, Reuters reports; Saudi Arabia's diplomats in Tehran have already left Iran, the wire service notes.

Pages