Iran forward and back again

GlobalPost
US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Iran at the White House in Washington, Jan. 17, 2016.  
Yuri Gripas

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NEED TO KNOW

Iran ties are thawing all over the place. Or are they? 

This weekend has certainly seen some historic shifts. The US and the EU lifted nuclear sanctions against Iran after the UN's atomic watchdog confirmed late Saturday that Iran had in fact complied with an agreement inked last summer. John Kerry said the world was "safer" now and Iran's President Rouhani hailed the dawn of a "new chapter."

This "new chapter" includes more than the resumption of Iran's widespread oil exports. Also on Saturday, a prisoner swap went through that was a long time in the making. By Sunday, Washington Post Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian was on a plane out of Iran with his wife, along with at least two other Iranian-American former prisoners.

Not everyone is happy about these developments, of course — namely, Israel — but by and large, Iran is looking friendlier and friendlier in the eyes of the West.

WANT TO KNOW

Not so fast.

The prisoner swap was almost derailed last December when the international community caught wind of what was believed to be a ballistic missile test in Iran. According to some, the US was considering new sanctions at that time but balked due to negotiations over the prisoner swap. 

Fast forward to today. The prisoner swap is a done deal, and the US has significantly less to lose. No sooner did nuclear sanctions lift than ballistic missile sanctions are put in place. 

In a statement, the Treasury Department said it sanctioned “11 entities and individuals involved in procurement on behalf of Iran’s ballistic missile program” and “five Iranian individuals who have worked to procure ballistic missile components for Iran.”

​Rouhani has said any new American sanctions will be "met by an appropriate response." Your move, Iran. 

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Asia loves its knockoffs. You've got "BuckStar," "SunBucks" and "PizzaHot" in places like China and Cambodia. In Myanmar's largest city Yangon, GlobalPost's Patrick Winn found a bogus Kmart and a “KFC” where fries are served with chopsticks. 

But these are all relatively small shops. What happens when the knockoff is an enormous theme park worth billions of dollars? The pantheon of audacious counterfeit franchises appears set to gain a new member: a “Disney” theme park, built along the Mekong River, just a hundred or so miles from the old Ho Chi Minh trail.

It’s called ''Disney Laos,'' and — even by Asia’s standards — this is an exceedingly brash knockoff. Construction will begin soon in Laos, a poor, communist nation better known for rice paddies and land mines than kid-friendly getaways. 

Are the park’s developers really hoping they can slip the word “Disney” into the title without the company’s blessing? The answer is yes.

“If it’s called ‘Disney Laos,’ then that should be permitted. But Disneyland? That would be copyright infringement,” one investor said.