News Digest: Week of October 11

October 11

Trade: Adani Ports, the largest port operator in India, announced that it would cease - as of November 15 - to handle cargo from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It did not provide a reason, but the announcement followed a seizure of heroin from Afghanistan worth some $2.65 billion at a port run by Adani Ports.

Security: Microsoft announced that hackers allegedly linked to Iran targeted more than 250 customers “with a focus on US and Israeli defense technology companies, Persian Gulf ports of entry, or global maritime transportation companies with business presence in the Middle East.” Less than 20 of the targets were breached since July. “Gaining access to commercial satellite imagery and proprietary shipping plans and logs could help Iran compensate for its developing satellite program,” Microsoft said in a blog post

Security: Facebook announced that it had disrupted a “covert influence operation” that was focused almost entirely within Iran. Facebook said that individuals associated with the Revolutionary Guards ran a campaign posing as local news outlets to praise the armed forces and criticize opposing factions. But the tactics were “not particularly novel or sophisticated.” Facebook removed 93 Facebook accounts and 194 Instagram accounts.


October 12

Security: The Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA, reported that Iran had arrested 10 individuals in southern Bushehr province for spying on behalf of “regional” countries. 

Military: The Revolutionary Guards and the conventional army, the Artesh, heldan annual air defense drill called “Velayat.” The two-day exercise in the central desert featured use of a wide range of missile, radar, reconnaissance and electronic warfare technologies. 


October 13

Regional: Iran and Azerbaijan agreed to reduce tensions through dialogue. In a joint statement, their foreign ministers condemned “the harmful rhetoric observed recently, which does not correspond to the level of friendly relations between our countries.” In early October, Iran had held military drills near the shared border that surprised Azerbaijan. Iran also alleged that Israel, which supplies weapons to Azerbaijan, had deployed its forces in the country. Baku rejected the claim. 

Regional: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, at a trilateral press briefing in Washington with his U.S. and Emirati counterparts, warned that “Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold country” amid a delay in nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers. “Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment, in any way. That is not only our right, it is also our responsibility,” he added. “Iran has publicly stated it wants to wipe us out. We have no intention of letting this happen.”

Regional: Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani called for dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Iran. “Iran is our neighbour, a player in our region … we cannot change geography. Our disagreements can be resolved around a table, they can’t be resolved by confrontation,” he told the Global Security Forum in Doha. He also expressed hope that the 2015 nuclear deal would be restored “to see that there is no risk of a nuclear race in our region.”

Human Rights: Secretary of State Antony Blinken marked the sixth anniversary Siamak Namazi’s detention. The Iranian-American businessman was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for allegedly collaborating with a “hostile” government. Blinken reiterated that he was innocent. In 2016, Siamak’s father, Baquer, traveled to Iran to free his son but also was detained and sentenced to 10 years in prison. “I appreciated the opportunity to meet with Siamak’s brother and Baquer’s son Babak today,” Blinken said in a statement. “The Iranian government continues to subject the entire Namazi family to unimaginable abuse.”