News Digest: Week of April 3

April 3

International: Israel reportedly launched a fourth round of strikes in Syria in less than a week. Israel targeted military sites near Damascus controlled by Iran-backed militias, hitting a radar system in Sweida and a glass factory near al Kiswah. Two civilians were reportedly killed. 

Domestic: The Ministry of Higher Education announced that universities could expel female students who do not wear the compulsory hijab. “All universities and higher education institutions under the coverage of the ministry of sciences, research and technology will not be obliged to offer educational, welfare and other services to the few students who do not abide by the laws and regulations of the universities in this regard,” the ministry warned in a statement.

Domestic: Education Minister Yousef Nouri resigned amid widespread anger over the delayed payment of teacher salaries for March.  

International: Iraq’s prime minister said that Iranian dissidents could not continue to use Iraqi territory as a springboard for launching attacks in Iran. “It is not reasonable for Iraq's borders to be open for operations against neighboring countries,” Mohammed Shia al Sudani told Al Jazeera. “This issue causes Iran to carry out operations against military camps inside Iraqi territory as a response.” Sudani stressed that Iraq had good relations with Iran and rejected allegations that Tehran interfered in the formation of the government in Baghdad.  


April 4

Domestic: Twenty schoolgirls were reportedly poisoned in Tabriz. The girls were hospitalized with symptoms including shortness of breath. “Emergency experts were immediately dispatched to the scene after a report that a number of students from one of the girls’ high schools in Tabriz were in a bad condition,” the head of Tabriz’s emergency services said

Cyber: Britain’s National Cyber Force has been carrying out cyber attacks to “weaken adversaries,” including Iran and Russia. “In an increasingly volatile and interconnected world, to be a truly responsible cyber power, nations must be able to contest and compete with adversaries in cyberspace,” Sir Jeremy Fleming, the director of Government Communications Headquarters, said

Economic: Iranian and Saudi officials announced they will seek to establish a joint chamber of commerce. “A joint chamber of commerce between the two countries will soon be established, and it will be a useful step to advance the economic goals of Iran and Saudi Arabia,” said Keyvan Kashefi, a member of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce. 

International: Russia hosted talks with senior diplomats from Turkey, Syria, and Iran aimed at reconciling relations between Turkey and Syria. Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Ayman Sousan, thanked the Iranian delegation for their cooperation with the Syrian government in “​​confronting terrorism.”

International: The U.N. Human Rights Council approved a draft resolution condemning “the widespread, repeated and persistent violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The resolution passed 23 to eight with 16 abstentions. It called on Iran to address systemic discrimination and violence against women and ethnic and religious minorities. It also urged Tehran to “​​take all necessary legislative, administrative, and other measures” to prevent executions for “ offenses that do not meet the threshold of the most serious crimes.” Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ali Bahreini, deplored the draft resolution as a “weaponization of human rights as a foreign policy tool.”  

International: Iran appointed Reza Amiri as its new ambassador to the United Arab Emirates following eight years without Iranian diplomatic representation in the Gulf country. The move came less than a month after Iran and Saudi Arabia announced their rapprochement. 


April 5

Security: Iran reportedly thwarted an attack on a Defense Ministry complex in central Isfahan, according to Tasnim News Agency. Defense systems intercepted a small drone. But Interior Minister Ahamd Vahidi said that more investigation was required before he could confirm the incident. Iran had previously blamed similar attacks on Israel. 


April 6

International: China hosted the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers in Beijing to discuss next steps on rapprochement. The ministers formally restored diplomatic ties and agreed to implement the Chinese-brokered agreement signed in March. In a statement, the two countries agreed to “enhance their co-operation in everything that would achieve security and stability in the region,” and to “strengthen bilateral relations and activate the security co-operation agreement between the two countries.” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian welcomed Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al Saud’s invitation to visit the kingdom.

International: Azerbaijan expelled four Iranian diplomats during a period of escalating tensions between the two countries. In January, Azerbaijan closed its embassy in Tehran after a gunman killed the Azeri head of security. Iran has also criticized Azerbaijan’s recent decision to establish an embassy in Israel.


April 7

International: U.S. intelligence documents leaked online illustrate Washington’s views on an Iranian nuclear breakout, The New York Times reported. The documents revealed that U.S. spy agencies monitor Iranian weapons activity. They also detail Iranian debate on how to cover a visit from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chief Rafael Grossi. The documents also showed that the United States is monitoring the IAEA to gain intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program.

International: A California court sentenced an Iranian-American woman to four years in prison over a plot to kidnap Iranian activist Masih Alinejad. Niloufar Bahadorifar pleaded guilty to charges including providing financial support for the plot and violating U.S. sanctions “by giving material support” to Iran. “Bahadorifar provided financial support to a brazen plot intended to kidnap an Iranian human rights activist living in the United States whom the Iranian government has sought to silence for years,” said U.S. attorney Damian Williams. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said that the United States holds “accountable an individual who violated U.S. sanctions by providing financial assistance that ultimately supported a failed kidnapping plot directed by the Iranian government.”


April 8

International: A Saudi delegation arrived in Tehran to discuss the reopening of the Saudi embassy in Iran and the consulate in Mashhad. The technical delegation met with Mehdi Honardoust, Iran’s Chief of Protocol. On April 6, the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers met in Beijing for follow-up talks facilitated by China. “The two sides emphasized the importance of following up on the implementation of the Beijing Agreement and its activation in a way that expands mutual trust and the fields of cooperation and helps create security, stability and prosperity in the region,” the countries said in a joint statement after the Beijing meeting. Under the bilateral agreement signed on March 10, the two countries committed to reopening their respective embassies within two months.

Domestic/Human Rights: The police announced the installation of public cameras to monitor the number of women violating the mandatory hijab law. The government called on businesses to “seriously monitor the observance of societal norms with their diligent inspections.” Violators would reportedly receive “warning text messages as to the consequences.” Women not wearing the hijab will also be banned from using the Tehran metro, state media reported. The move comes as government officials take an increasingly hardline approach to women who violate the law which the Interior Ministry has described as “one of the practical principles of the Islamic Republic.”

International: The U.S. Navy deployed the USS Virginia, an attack submarine, to the Middle East. The submarine is capable of carrying up to “154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and is deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure regional maritime security and stability,” said Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins. U.S. Fifth Fleet spokesperson. The decision to deploy the submarine came after U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials warned of potential Iranian attacks against vessels in the region. “Recent events, including the strikes in Syria and public threats made by Iran against merchant vessels, prompted us to remind regional mariners to remain vigilant,” said Hawkins.

International: First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber hosted Igor Levitin, special aide to President Vladimir Putin. The two discussed bilateral ties and economic cooperation, particularly related to the North-South rail corridor between Iran and Russia. “Iran and Russia can become the export center of some food items in the region with joint production and investment and meet some of the needs of the countries in the region,” Mokhber said. Levitin vowed that Russia was ready to invest in Iran’s transportation sector and “conclude bilateral and multilateral agreements.” Levitin also met with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, on April 9.


April 9

Military: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced a new one-way attack drone, the Meraj-532, according to Tasnim News Agency. It reportedly had a range of 450 kilometers and could fly for three hours and up to 12,000 feet. The drone also reportedly had a 50 kilogram warhead. 

International: Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, hosted Armen Grigoryan, secretary of the Armenian Security Council, to discuss bilateral relations, regional security and Azerbaijan. Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan have escalated in recent months. In January, Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran was attacked. Azerbaijan also expelled four Iranians for “provocative actions” in early April.



Some of the information in this article was originally published on April 6, 2023.