News Digest: Week of November 25

November 25

Diplomacy: General Hossein Salami, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, accused the United States, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia for instigating protests that began of November 15. He threatened to “destroy” the enemies of the state. “If you cross our red line, we will destroy you,” Salami said. “We will not leave any move unanswered.”

Society: Thousands of Iranians reportedly held rallies across the country in support of the government. They accused the United States and Israel for stoking recent unrest in the country. After the sudden increase in fuel prices, announced late at night on November 15, demonstrators took to the streets in towns and cities across Iran. The protests turned violent in some cases. Protestors burned more than 100 banks and dozens of buildings. Security forces used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crows. Crowds chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” in the demonstrations, which were widely covered by state television.


Justice: Tehran rejected a court order to pay Jason Rezaian, an American journalist detained from 2014 to 2016, $180 million in damages. "Mr. Jason Rezaian... was a security convict and the Islamic Republic of Iran commuted his (sentence of maximum punishment) to imprisonment," said government spokesman Abbas Mousavi. "He was pardoned and despite having an open case... he was released."

Military: Iranian officials held a secret meeting to decide which action to take against the United States and its allies months before launching a strike on Saudi oil facilities in September, according to a special report by Reuters. Other targets initially discussed included a seaport in Saudi Arabia, an airport and U.S. military bases in the region. The strike was reportedly approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who attended the meeting in Tehran.

Human Rights: At least 143 protesters were killed in the unrest that broke out on November 15, according to Amnesty International. The report said that almost all the deaths were caused by “the intentional use of firearms by security forces.” Amnesty added that many of the bodies were not returned to families, and authorities moved injured demonstrators from hospitals to detention centers, where they were denied medical care.


November 26

Justice: The judiciary punished employees of Iran International, a London-based TV network, with “judicial and legal restrictions” on their property in Iran. The channel, which is believed to have ties to regional rival Saudi Arabia, aired videos of the protests, which began on November 15. Iran’s government reportedly threatened journalists and told news outlets how to cover the anti-government demonstrations.

Crime: Massoud Molavi, an Iranian dissident who ran an opposition media outlet, was murdered earlier this month in Istanbul, according to Turkish DHA news agency. Molavi managed a Telegram account called “Black Box,” which reported on corruption by members of the Iranian government and intelligence services. Turkish officials said that they had no information on a suspect. Iran’s intelligence services reportedly have a sizable presence in Turkey and have been accused of carrying out attacks on exiled Iranians in the past.


Diplomacy: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States had received more than 20,000 messages, including images and videos, from documenting the harsh crackdown on protests by security forces. “We will continue to sanction Iranian officials who are responsible for these human rights abuses,” he pledged.


November 27

Economics: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the unrest in Iran on the United States and Israel. “The grave, extensive and very dangerous conspiracy that Global Arrogance and Zionism spent so much on and worked for so that they could cause this destruction, villainy, and murder in Iran at a crucial time was quashed by the presence of the people,” he told members of the Basij paramilitary. He thanked the security forces and Iranians who participated in pro-government demonstrations for helping to restore calm.


Diplomacy/Nuclear: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that Paris would consider activating the dispute mechanism of the 2015 nuclear deal, which could eventually trigger U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic. “Every two months, there is another dent (in the deal by Iran) to the point where today we ask ourselves, and I’m saying this very clearly, about the implementation of the dispute resolution mechanism that exists in the deal,” he said.

Society: Protesters burned down the Iranian consulate in Najaf, Iraq. Video on social media showed protesters scaling the consulate wall and waiving Iraqi flags. “Out, out Iran!” demonstrators shouted as the building burned. The attack injured 35 protesters and 32 Iraqi security personnel, according to local police. The consulate was attacked earlier in November, but the flames were quickly extinguished and damage to the building was limited.


November 30

Politics: Mir Hossein Mousavi, an opposition leader under house arrest since 2011, compared the government’s crackdown on protesters to a massacre of anti-government demonstrators under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. “It shows people’s frustration with the country’s situation. It has a complete resemblance to the brutal killing of people on the bloody date Sept. 8, 1978,” Mousavi said. “The assassins of the year of 1978 were representatives of a non-religious regime, but the agents and shooters in November 2019 were representatives of a religious government.” Mousavi ran for president against incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 election. He and Mehdi Karroubi became symbolic leaders of the Iranians who staged mass protests to dispute the results. Hardliners labeled them “traitors” and “seditionists.”  


December 1

Politics: Iran began registration for candidates running in the country’s February 2020 parliamentary elections. The Guardian Council, a powerful body charged with upholding the constitution, must vet and approve each potential candidate. Ali Larijani, who has been speaker for 12 years, announced that he would not run in the election.

Society: Protesters torched the Iranian consulate in Najaf for the second time in a week. The attack occurred despite Iraqi lawmakers’ approval of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s resignation earlier that day.