News Digest: Week of January 31

January 31

Nuclear: A senior State Department official said that negotiators “made progress narrowing down the list of differences to just the key priorities on all sides” during the eighth round of talks in Vienna on restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. “And that’s why now is a time for political decisions.” The diplomat, however, warned that the world’s major powers and Iran only had a “handful of weeks left to get a deal” due to Tehran’s nuclear advances.

Regional: Israeli President Isaac Herzog accused Iran of fomenting regional instability. “There are only two alternatives for this region. One is peace, prosperity, cooperation, joint investments and a beautiful horizon for the people, or alternatively, what Iran is doing, which is destabilizing the region and using its proxies to employ terror,” he said at the conclusion of a historic trip to the United Arab Emirates. Herzog was the first Israeli head of state to visit the Gulf country, which normalized relations with Israel as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020.  

Security: The Revolutionary Guards killed a gunman who attacked their intelligence office in Saravan, a town in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, near the border with Pakistan. One citizen was injured in the clash. For years, anti-government insurgents based in Pakistan have launched cross-border attacks on Iranian security forces.

Nuclear: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran shifted centrifuge-parts production from the Karaj facility, outside Tehran, to Isfahan, in central Iran. The IAEA installed cameras as the new workshop on January 24.

Human rights: Authorities arrested at least four teachers amid protests - led by the Coordination Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations (CCITTA) - against low wages and poor working conditions. Footage disseminated on social media showed demonstrations Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd, and Tabriz, among other cities. The CCITTA also stated that security forces had dispersed demonstrators in Tehran by threatening physical harm. That day, the Iran National Steel Industrial Group’s workers expressed solidarity with teachers’ demands for “a decent life, free education and the abolition of monetization of education.” The teacher protests started in December 2021.


February 1

Human Rights: Mehrdad Karimpou and Farid Mohammadi were reportedly executed on charges of sodomy after six years on death row, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency.

Regional: Qatar was actively seeking to help bridge differences between Iran and the United States, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani told Al Jazeera TV one day after meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington – and five days after visiting Tehran. 

Cyber: The dissident group, “The Justice of Ali,” reportedly hacked into a website that streams state television shows. The group played a video in which a masked man warned that the government “will no longer silence” them. “We’ll burn hijabs. We’ll burn their pictures and propaganda posters.” The website, Telewebion, acknowledged technical issues but did not elaborate.

Religion: Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani, one of the top Shiite authorities in Iran, passed away at the age of 103. He served in the first Assembly of Experts after the 1979 revolution and was the secretary of the powerful Guardian Council from 1980 to 1985.


February 2

Security: Iran’s judiciary announced the arrest of the second in command of Tondar, an obscure opposition group based in California. The judiciary said the man known as “Masmatus” was apprehended the previous month. He was allegedly connected to an attack on a mosque that left 14 dead in 2008.