July 14 marked two years since the world’s six major powers reached a deal with Iran over its controversial nuclear program. The agreement between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States significantly limited Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
On July 17, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that two Iranian nationals were charged in the hacking of a Vermont company best known for software for aerodynamics analysis and projectile design. Mohammed Reza Rezakhah, 39, stole or unlawfully cracked pieces of valuable software and then Mohammed Saeed Ajily, 35, sold the software to Iranian entities, including universities and military and government entities. The following is the Department of Justice press release with a link to the superseding indictment.
An American graduate student has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of spying, according to Iran’s judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, and Iranian media. A U.S. citizen “was gathering intelligence and was directly guided by the U.S.,” Ejehi announced at a weekly press briefing on July 16. He noted the sentence could be appealed, but did not elaborate or reveal the individual’s name.
On July 2, Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi announced the allocation of more than $600 million to strengthen the country’s missile defense system and the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Boroujerdi, chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, framed the additional funding as part of a broader counter-terrorism effort.
Iran’s government has taken some small steps to address human trafficking but still does not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, according to the Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 by the U.S. Department of State. Since at least 2009, Iran has been designated Tier 3, the lowest ranking, for not making significant efforts to end trafficking.
On June 23, Iran marked “Quds Day,” an annual event to express support for Palestinians and condemn Israel. Al Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest city after Mecca and Medina. Iran initiated the event in 1979, which has been held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan since then. Tehran intended the day to counter Israel’s “Jerusalem Day,” which commemorates how Israel gained control of the entire city during the 1967 Six Day War.
In June 2017, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned U.S. policy towards Iran and the region in two speeches and a meeting. He also mocked President Donald Trump and his administration. “The new White House leaders are like nascent hooligans who scare people by brandishing their knives until somebody punches them in the mouth and puts them in their place,” he said in a June 18 address to families of fallen soldiers and police. “Don’t take all the huff and puff of the newcomer in the U.S. seriously. The U.S.
On June 20, a U.S. aircraft shot down an Iranian-made drone in Syria. “The armed pro-regime Shaheed-129 UAV was shot down by a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle at approximately 12:30 a.m. after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces,” according to the U.S.-led forces fighting ISIS. It was the second time that the United States shot down an Iranian-made Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). On June 8, a U.S. F-15 jet also shot down a Shaheed 129 drone.
On June 14, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson implied that the United States supports regime change in Iran, which would be a significant departure from U.S. policy under previous administrations. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) asked Tillerson, who was testifying on the budget request for the State Department and USAID, if the United States supports peaceful regime change.
On June 7, the U.S. Senate voted 92-7 to advance a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran. The legislation aims to hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East by sanctioning “Iran’s ballistic missile program, applying terrorism sanctions to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, imposing sanctions on Iranians engaged in human rights abuses, and tightening enforcement on arms embargoes on the Iranian regime,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said.