News Digest: Week of September 12

September 12

Nuclear/Diplomacy: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Iran’s latest response to the E.U. draft deal on restoring the 2015 nuclear deal was “clearly a step backwards and makes the prospects for an agreement in the near term — I would say — unlikely.” He said that Tehran had introduced “extraneous issues” into the negotiations.

Military: Iran unveiled a new suicide drone, the Arash-2, that was designed to attack Tel Aviv and Haifa, two of Israel’s major cities. Brig. Gen. Kioumars Heydari, the commander of the conventional army’s ground forces, did not provide details about the vehicle’s capabilities.

Diplomacy: Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani urged Saudi Arabia to adopt a constructive approach to bilateral talks.

Israel: Mossad director David Barnea warned that a restored nuclear deal would not give Iran “immunity” from Israeli operations. He pledged “painful retaliation” for any attack against Israel or its citizens. “We will not go after the proxies but against those who gave them the orders, funded them and armed them, and we will do it on Iranian soil.”

Syria: Iran has used more than 10 military facilities in Syria to manufacture advanced weapons, including missiles, for Hezbollah and other proxies, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.   

Human Rights: For the sixth consecutive day, families of death row prisoners assembled outside of the judiciary in Tehran and the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Karaj to demand that authorities stop the executions. But security forces reportedly dispersed the demonstrators and arrested several of them.

 

September 13

Nuclear/Diplomacy: The State Department confirmed that it had “provided feedback” to the latest Iranian response to the draft deal to restore the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s response was a “step backwards in many ways,” Spokesperson Ned Price said, without providing details. “This is a negotiation. There are going to be back-and-forths.”

Nuclear: The United States is ready to “quickly implement” a deal to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement despite Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program, Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate said at a quarterly meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors. “What we lack is a willing partner in Iran.”

Military: Ukrainian forces reportedly downed what appeared to be an Iranian Shahed-136 suicide drone, provided to Russia, for the first time.   

 

Domestic: Fires erupted at an oil well in southwestern Khuzestan province. Authorities alleged sabotage.

Regional: Iran offered to help resolve the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan following deadly border clashes. Foreign Ministry Nasser Kanaani emphasized that Iran would not accept changes to the border between the two countries.

Security: The judiciary announced the arrest of several people in connection with the May 2022 assassination of Hassan Sayad Khodai, a colonel in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Iran had blamed Israel for his death.

Health: To curtail the growing number of medical students leaving Iran, the health ministry raised the exit permit bond to $5,000 for medical, dental and pharmacy students.

 

September 14

Cyber: The United States sanctioned 10 Iranian men and two companies for hacking computer systems and installing ransomware, which can prevent victims from getting access to their files and data unless they pay a ransom to the hackers. “Ransomware actors and other cybercriminals target businesses and critical infrastructure and threaten the physical security and economy of the United States and other nations,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Concurrently, the Justice Department charged three of the men sanctioned by the Treasury for a scheme to hack computer systems of hundreds of victims in the United States, Britain, Israel, Iran, and elsewhere. The State Department offered a reward of up to $10 million dollars for information on them.

 

September 14

Russia: On the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan, President Ebrahim Raisi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral ties. “The relationship between countries that are sanctioned by the US, such as Iran, Russia or other countries, can overcome many problems and issues and make them stronger,” Raisi told Putin. “The Americans think whichever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped. Their perception is a wrong one.”

 

Updated