Mike Shuster

Iran is stockpiling gold. That's the way David Cohen sees it. He's undersecretary of the Treasury, and the Treasury's point man for the banking sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Iran.

"Iran is attempting to hoard gold, both by acquiring it and by preventing the export of gold from Iran, in a somewhat desperate attempt to try and defend the value of its currency," Cohen says.

Iran is hurting. Economic and banking sanctions, plus an effective oil embargo led by the European Union, have brought chaos to Iran's economy. The bottom fell out of its currency, the rial, a couple of weeks ago, provoking street protests. Iranians of all social classes are struggling to cope.



Well, this past week, the Russian government announced that it is dropping out of the program.

NPR's Mike Shuster has more on the consequences.

Large crowds of anxious Iranians gathered in Tehran on Sunday and Monday at foreign exchange offices — some of which had shuttered their doors — as Iran's currency continues its free fall.

From Sunday to Monday, the rial lost nearly one-third of its value against the dollar — and the decline appears to have continued Tuesday.

Yukiya Amano is frustrated.

Last week, Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a meeting of the agency in Vienna that he is aggravated by Iran's unwillingness to show the IAEA what's going on at a base called Parchin.

"Iran should engage with us without further delay on the substance of our concerns," he said. "We need to stop going around in circles, discussing process."



Iran has made substantial progress this summer expanding its enrichment of uranium. That's the conclusion of a soon-to-be released report from the International Atomic Energy Agency. As NPR's Mike Shuster reports, the news will certainly add fuel to the heated debate about how to respond.



This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program are set to intensify in the coming days. Tomorrow in Vienna, authorities from the International Atomic Energy Agency meet again with Iranian representatives. They'll discuss some past suspicious nuclear activities. Next week, other talks involving the United States, Europe, Russia and China are set to resume.

Iran appears to be facing a crisis more serious than anything it has experienced since its war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, President Bashar Assad's regime is under threat from the widening war in Syria, Iran's sole ally in the Arab world. Domestically, the European oil embargo and U.S. banking sanctions are undermining the Iranian economy, bringing inflation, food shortages and unemployment.

Iran is trying to maintain a defiant posture, without much success.

Bagpipes and Scotland? Aye, it's a natural association: Played for centuries, the instrument is especially identified with the Scottish military and traditional Scottish dress, tartan kilts and shawls.

But bagpipes and Pakistan? Nae, you say? Think again.

Turns out no place in the world manufactures more bagpipes than Pakistan. And no city in Pakistan makes more of them than Sialkot.

Bagpipe Central

An ongoing political crisis has left Pakistan's government paralyzed and near collapse, as the country's Supreme Court attempts to revive corruption charges against the president in an apparent effort to force his resignation.

Accusations of corruption have always clouded the reputation of President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Some time ago, the government of Switzerland opened an investigation into Zardari's financial dealings, but the case was closed with no action taken.