News Digest: Week of November 11

November 11

Nuclear: In its quarterly report, the world’s nuclear watchdog said that Iran had violated the 2015 nuclear deal by increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also reported that its inspectors had found traces of uranium “at a location in Iran not declared to the agency.” On November 7, the United States and Israel had accused Iran of stockpiling uranium at a secret nuclear warehouse. 


Nuclear: Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the country was producing at least 5.5 kilograms of low-enriched uranium daily (12 pounds) after the addition of 1,000 centrifuges at Fordo nuclear facility. Before Tehran’s latest move, the country had produced about 450 grams (1 pound) of low-enriched uranium per day.

Nuclear/Diplomacy: In a joint statement, Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union said they were “extremely concerned” by Iran’s decision to enrich uranium at Fordo. “Iran’s action is inconsistent with the JCPOA’s (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) clear provisions on Fordow and has potentially severe proliferation implications,” they said. “We affirm our readiness to consider all mechanisms in the JCPOA, including the dispute resolution mechanism, to resolve the issues related to Iran’s implementation of its JCPOA commitments.”

Diplomacy: The new U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates said Washington wanted to see tensions ease in the Persian Gulf. “We’re very concerned about it and we’re working very closely with the UAE to try to convince Iran that the only solution is a political solution. There is no place for violence in the world today,” John Rikolta told The Associated Press. He added that the UAE was “100 percent in support” of the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign on Tehran.


November 12

Nuclear/Diplomacy: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the European Union’s warning to Tehran over advancements of its nuclear program and accused the Europeans of failing to fulfill their commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal. 


November 13

Justice: Iran’s judiciary said that Rasoul Danialzadeh, a fugitive businessman charged   with financial crimes, returned to Iran “under the guidance...of the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence agents.” Danialzadeh reportedly had ties to President Hassan Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, who was sentenced to a five-year prison term for corruption on October 1, 2019. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said that Danialzadeh would be granted leniency for his cooperation. Esmaili said the businessman owed some $340 million to banks. Tensions have run high between the judiciary, controlled by hardliners, and Rouhani, a centrist.

Diplomacy: Iran stressed its commitment to negotiations as the “only solution” to regional issues. "Iran has always stressed on the significance of political dialogue as the only way out of regional problems and will do all within its power to make that possible,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.


November 14

Economics: Iran imposed rationing and raised the price of fuel to offset the negative impact of U.S. sanctions. The National Petroleum Products Distribution company set a monthly limit of 60 liters for privately-owned vehicles. It also raised the price, still heavily subsidized by the government, from 9 cents per liter to 13 cents. The price for taxis and ambulances was the same for up to 500 liters. The price beyond the quotas was set at 26 cents a liter. President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran’s economy faced “its most difficult” time in decades. Iran previously rationed fuel from 2007 to 2015, the year that the landmark nuclear deal was brokered. 


Justice: Iran pardoned 32 journalists and students in prison for “security-related reasons,” according to judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaeili. Most of the prisoners were political activists who were arrested for their ideology and opposition to the regime. The pardons were announced a day before the Prophet Mohammad's birthday— historically an occasion to pardon criminals.


November 15

Politics: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran is not calling for the elimination of the Jewish people but supports elections to decide who should govern Israel and Palestine. “Calling for the elimination of the state of Israel does not mean the elimination of the Jewish people,” Khamenei told leaders of Muslim-majority countries who gathered in Tehran. “It means that the people of Palestine - be they Muslim, Christian or Jewish - should choose their own government.”


Economics: Hundreds of people filled the streets in multiple cities including Mashhad, Ahvaz, Behbahan, Mahshahr, and Omidiyeh to protest the overnight increase in fuel prices. In the city of Ahvaz, protestors blocked the roads and chanted, “Honourable Ahvazis, turn off your engines!” In Mashhad, protestors directed their anger at the regime. "Have shame Rouhani, Leave the country alone!" and "have shame dictator, Leave the country alone!,” protestors reportedly chanted. 


November 16

Economics: Protests reportedly devolved into violence in several cities. In video posted on social media, protesters set fires and police forces used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them. Mohammad Mahmoudabadi, an official in the city of Sirjan, reported that one person was killed when protestors tried to set fire to an oil depot.  

Cyber: NetBlocks, a cyber monitoring firm, reported widespread internet disruptions and outages in Iran. The company said internet connectivity had dropped to just seven percent of ordinary levels before protests began. “The ongoing disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth,” it reported. 


November 17

Economics: At least 87,000 people had joined demonstrations across some 100 towns and cities, according to semi-official Fars News Agency. Security officials said protestors had ransacked nearly 100 banks and stores across the country. Some 1,000 people were reportedly arrested by security forces. 


Politics/Economics: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed the government’s decision to raise fuel prices and blamed “hooligans” for the unrest. “Some people are no doubt worried by this decision ... but sabotage and arson is done by hooligans, not our people. The counter-revolution and Iran’s enemies have always supported sabotage and breaches of security and continue to do so.” 

Politics/Economics: The Trump administration offered support to the Iranian protestors. “We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators. Tehran has fanatically pursued nuclear weapons and missile programs, and supported terrorism, turning a proud nation into another cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a crusade for personal power and riches," said a White House statement.