News Digest: Week of November 14

November 14

International: The Revolutionary Guards launched missile and drone attacks on Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in northern Iraq. Iran reportedly hit a Komala Party base near the city of Sulaimaniya as well as four Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan offices near Erbil. At least two people were reportedly killed. Tehran had blamed the Kurdish groups for supporting anti-government protests.

International: Azerbaijan said that it had arrested five locals who spied on behalf of Iranian intelligence. One collected information about the country’s oil sector while working as a captain in the Caspian Sea oil fleet. Two other people surveilled military equipment and energy infrastructure. Another provided information about Azerbaijan’s military, politics and society. And a fifth individual reportedly located Azerbaijani citizens in Iran.  

Sports: Former soccer star Ali Daei announced that he had turned down an invitation to travel to Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In an Instagram post that received nearly three million likes, he expressed solidarity with protestors. Daei said that he wanted to remain “in my homeland and express my sympathy with all the families who have lost loved ones these days.”

 

November 15

Human Rights: The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Iran’s government to free protesters that had been detained. “Instead of opening space for dialogue on legitimate grievances, the authorities are responding to unprecedented protests with increasing harshness,” spokesman Jeremy Laurence said. He also warned against executing protestors.  

International: Georgia foiled a plot by the Qods Force, the external operations arm of the Revolutionary Guards, to assassinate Izik Moshe, an Israeli businessman living in the capital Tbilisi. The State Security Service said that an Iranian national, Mohammad Reza Ebadi Arablu, hired a team of assassins from Pakistan, allegedly connected to al Qaeda. He also instructed two dual Georgian-Iranian citizens to smuggle weapons from Turkey for that team.   

Security: A drone reportedly hit a tanker off the coast of Oman. The Pacific Zircon was managed by Eastern Pacific Shipping, a firm controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. The company said that the tanker incurred minor damage but that none of the crew members were injured. A day later, U.S. Central Command confirmed that the drone was an Iranian-made suicide drone. "This unmanned aerial vehicle attack against a civilian vessel in this critical maritime strait demonstrates, once again, the destabilizing nature of Iranian malign activity in the region.” An Israeli official said that a Shahed-136 drone, the same type used by Russia in Ukraine, was used in the attack. “We see this as an Iranian provocation in the Gulf – it’s not an attack against Israel – it’s the same thing they usually do in the Gulf, trying to disrupt stability and mainly influence World Cup events.”

 

Security: The U.S. Navy announced that two of its vessels had interdicted a dhow carrying 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a compound commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel as well as explosives. The dhow was on a route used to traffic weapons from Iran to the Houthis in Yemen. “This was a massive amount of explosive material, enough to fuel more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles depending on the size,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. 

 

November 16

Security: The chief of Britain’s MI5 spy agency said that Iranian intelligence services had made at least 10 attempts to kill or kidnap British citizens and others residing in the United Kingdom since January 2022. "We do not tolerate threats to life and intimidation of any kind towards journalists, or any individual, living in the UK,” Ken McCallum said. He added that Russia, China and Iran posed the greatest threats to Britain. “We are facing adversaries who have massive scale and are not squeamish about the tactics they deploy.”

Domestic: In Tehran, security forces reportedly opened fire on people at a metro station. Footage on social media also showed security forces beating women on a train who were not wearing hijabs. 

Domestic: In the southwestern city of Itzeh, gunmen on motorcycles opened fire in a bazaar, killing five people, according to state television. The dead included a young girl and the wounded included civilians and members of the security forces. 

Domestic: In the central city of Isfahan, Iran’s third-largest city, gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed two members of the Basij paramilitary.  

 

November 17

Nuclear: The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors urged Iran to explain traces of uranium at three undeclared sites that date back to a covert program before 2003. The resolution – drafted by the United States, Britain, France and Germany – passed 26 to 2, with five abstentions and two countries absent. Russia and China, which have veto power at the U.N. Security Council, opposed the resolution. India, Namibia, Pakistan, Qatar and South Africa abstained. The resolution stopped short of referring the case to the U.N. Security Council for debate or potential action. But the United States, in a separate statement, warned that the Board of Governors “will have to be prepared to take further action, including under Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute,” which includes referral to the Security Council.

 

 

Updated