News Digest: Week of December 5

December 5

Security: A Revolutionary Guards Navy patrol boat attempted to blind two U.S. Navy ships, sea base platform ship USS Lewis B. Puller and guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans, using a spotlight at night. The Iranian boat came within 150 yards of the ships in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz. “This dangerous action in international waters is indicative of Iran’s destabilizing activity across the Middle East,” said Col. Joe Buccino, spokesman for U.S. Central Command.

Cyber: Iran-linked hackers launched phishing attacks against two Human Rights Watch staff and at least 18 others working on Middle East issues, Human Rights watch reported. “Iran’s state-backed hackers are aggressively using sophisticated social engineering and credential harvesting tactics to access sensitive information and contacts held by Middle East-focused researchers and civil society groups,” said Abir Ghattas, the organization’s information security director.

Human Rights: Iran executed at least 504 people in 2022 alone, according to Iran Human Rights (IHR), a Norway-based monitor. “These individuals were sentenced to death without due process or a fair trial behind the closed doors of the Revolutionary Court,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. “Their sentences lacked all legal validity.”


December 6

Domestic: Former President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), a reformist, said that freedom and security should not be placed “in opposition to one another and, as a result, freedom is trampled under the pretext of maintaining security, or that security... is ignored in the name of freedom.” He called on the government to move towards good governance before it is too late." He commended the “beautiful slogan” of “woman, life, freedom” as a reflection of the way Iranian society has developed.

Security: The Revolutionary Court charged 13 men for killing Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Basij paramilitary. Five were sentenced to death. The Criminal Court charged three boys in connection with the incident, which occurred in Karaj, just outside Tehran, on November 12. State media described the accused as “rioters,” a term used to describe protesters.

Security: The Revolutionary Guards reportedly arrested 12 people linked to foreign operatives. "The members of this network, under the guidance of anti-revolutionary agents living in Germany and the Netherlands, were intending to carry out subversive action by procuring war weapons and acting against national security," the Guards said in a statement. Government and military officials had blamed the protests on the United States, Israel and other adversaries.

International: Russia was seeking new shipments of Iranian drones and surface-to-surface missiles, according to a U.S. National Security Council official and a U.N. diplomat. The sales could have “massive implications for security of the region,” the diplomat told the Associated Press.


December 7

Domestic: Android smartphone users received false earthquake alerts. Colonel Ramin Pashaei, the deputy head of the cyber police, said that the mistake was related to a test by Iran Mobile Communications Company. But state media blamed a hack.


December 8

Human Rights: Iran executed protester Mohsen Shekari, who was detained on September 25 for allegedly assaulting a Basij paramilitary member during a Tehran demonstration. The Revolutionary Court convicted Shekari on November 20. He had been charged with "enmity against God," which carries the death penalty. He was the first to be executed during the 2022 protests.