Steve Inskeep

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Here's the basic difference between the United States, Russia and Iran: The U.S. wants Syrian President Bashar Assad to go. Russia and Iran, Assad's allies, want him to stay.

Over the weekend, Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, met with NPR in New York, where he will be attending the United Nations General Assembly. Through an interpreter, Rouhani argued that, where Syria is concerned, the most important issue for everyone is destroying ISIS.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Is the Iranian nuclear deal just a nuclear deal? Is it something bigger that will transform Iran and the broader Middle East?

Or is it a slow-motion nightmare?

Nobody can know today, of course — and yet it's important to game out the possibilities. What you think of this deal, with terms lasting a decade or more, depends heavily on what scenarios you think are most likely in the future.

President Obama has offered an optimistic scenario: Iran never gets the bomb and seizes an opportunity to end its isolation.

The leader of Iran's legislature has definite views on his country's nuclear deal with world powers.

Ali Larijani says the agreement is good enough. He adds that United States' reading of that deal, particularly when it comes to sanctions, is not good at all. And he's hoping that the agreement brings change in his country — though not as much as many Iranians would want.

In a new sign that Iran might consider freeing Jason Rezaian, a powerful Iranian politician tells NPR that there are "practical" ways to liberate the Washington Post reporter and other American prisoners. He then sketched the outline of a trade.

"That's one way," Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's Parliament, tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

This post was updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

Congress votes on President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran this month. Most lawmakers have said they oppose the deal, yet he has a good chance of winning.

That is because the deal will be considered under rules that favor him, even if only a minority supports him in Congress.

This is the long story of a short street: Schnell Drive, two blocks of brick homes in Arabi, La., just east of New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish.

When we first visited in the fall of 2005, Donald and Colleen Bordelon were often the only two people on Schnell Drive. They had stayed in their home through the storm and the flood, and through the weeks after when the first floor was still filled with water.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's the story of how one family's life has changed since Hurricane Katrina. They are the Bordelons, a family we first met soon after the storm 10 years ago and who we simply had to meet again.

It's not what he says, but how he says it.

The clip comes from NPR's interview with President Obama last Thursday. In it, Obama sums up what he considers his critics' argument — and laughs at it.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now here's your chance to be a witness to history or at least to see the video footage of people who were there.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a perfect spring morning, Jan Scruggs walks along the site overlooking the wall of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C. Contrasting the bright colors of blooming trees and flowers is the black granite carved with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who served during the war.

Scruggs, a veteran himself, is credited with getting the memorial built. He's now preparing to retire. Morning Edition met Scruggs to learn the story of how the memorial was built, honoring the dead from a war that ended 40 years ago, on April 30, 1975.

In 2012, Republicans unanimously made a vow. If their party captured the White House, they would repeal President Obama's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

In 2016, they've added something else: the reversal of Obama's signature foreign policy achievements, his outreach to hostile nations.

In his second term, Obama has been working to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than half a century. His administration has also been negotiating a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program.

I've rarely seen President Obama speak in such definite terms on a thorny issue as he did yesterday about the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Palestinian investor Bashar Masri is building an entirely new city in the West Bank. It's a huge investment, with 5,000 new homes for tens of thousands of families. And, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's also a political statement.

As we approached this new city of Rawabi, north of Ramallah, we saw a row of high-rise apartment buildings topped by construction cranes. Scaffolding surrounds the minaret of an incomplete mosque. Nobody has moved in yet.

David Felber was out of breath when he met up with us at the Pigsat Ze'ev Light Rail station in East Jerusalem.

"We missed the 8 o'clock train," he panted. He didn't want to miss the 8:05.

The 53-year-old was on his way to work at the Ministry of Education in West Jerusalem.

We stepped on board to glimpse how the battle for land touches so much in this region, including Felber's commute.

Jerusalem's light rail system connects the two halves of a divided city. Israel captured East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War against Arab nations almost half a century ago.

Palestinians in the West Bank don't get to vote in Israel's election on Tuesday, but they do have opinions.

And at a time when talks toward creating a Palestinian state have stalled, there are Palestinians like Ahmad Aweidah who are seeking alternatives to the traditional call for a two-state solution.

Aweidah is among those busy building the outward signs of a Palestinian state. Such efforts were visible when we went to visit him in the city of Nablus. His office is upstairs from the National Bank of Palestine, so named even though there is no country by that name.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

While traveling in Israel this month, we asked several Israelis if they worried about the future of their country.

"Of course I'm concerned," answered Stav Shaffir.

"We're threatened from all over," said Anat Roth.

Both women are candidates for Israel's Knesset, or parliament, in Tuesday's election. They have a common concern about their country's future — its conflict with Palestinians, its relations with the rest of the world — that has driven them to vastly different political positions.

No matter how much you've read about the struggle for land in the Middle East, it deepens your understanding to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

The Israeli settlements, founded in areas that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, raise some of the more contentious issues in the conflict.

Israel is under pressure to stop building them, and eventually to surrender many of them to make way for a future Palestinian state. The United Nations long ago said they are not legal, and critics of Israel cite them as a reason to boycott or divest from the Jewish state.

When we walked into a shopping mall in Tehran, Pooya Shahsiah was waiting for us at the top of the escalator. She's the co-owner of a trendy little shop on the second floor that sells shirts, scarves, cups and jewelry. Cloth hangs along the walls in reds and yellows and blues.

There is, for example, a purple shirt with a colorful illustration of a rooster crowing. Parts of the rooster are made out of Persian words.

Iran is a country where people at rallies routinely chant "Death to Israel." It's also home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel and Turkey.

Iran's Jewish population topped 100,000 in the years before the Shah of Iran was toppled in 1979 by the country's Shiite Muslim clerics. Today, the number of Jews has dipped to below 9,000.

Two events last week suggested the conflicting currents in Iran. The country marked the anniversary of its revolution last Wednesday with the usual slogan, "Death to America." The following day, Iran opened an international tourism exhibition with a different slogan: "You are invited."

Iran wants to welcome more international tourists, including Americans. But that's a challenge for a country that's wary of outsiders, and closely monitors its own people.

At the anniversary of Iran's revolution, Iranians still chanted "Death to America." Yet many we encountered in a brief visit to the country seemed prepared to shift relations with the West.

We interviewed more than 20 people in three cities: Tehran, Isfahan and Kashan. Our talks were very far from a scientific sample. They took place in a country where citizens must speak with great care.

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