News Digest: Week of April 10

April 10

International: A bipartisan group of 130 U.S. lawmakers urged the European Union to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. In a letter, the group described Iran as “a leading state sponsor of terror,” and warned that Tehran “has freely and openly carried out plots targeting citizens in countries across the EU.” In the last five years, the Islamic Republic has “instigated at least 33 operations to surveil, abduct, or assassinate citizens in Europe,” they added. “We strongly urge you, and your foreign affairs ministerial colleagues, to make the decision to fully sanction, penalize and delegitimize the IRGC, to help prevent them from further threatening democracy and freedom in the United States, Europe, and around the world.”

International: Iran announced that flights between Tehran and Riyadh had resumed, the latest sign of the thaw in relations between the two regional rivals. “The resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia will have positive impacts on regional peace, stability and security,” said Iran’s foreign ministry.

International: A U.S. base in eastern Syria was attacked. A single rocket hit Mission Support Site Conoco but did not cause injuries or damage. A Britain-based monitor claimed that Iran-backed militants might have been responsible for the attack.


April 11

International/Economic: Russia began exporting fuel to Iran in early 2023, Reuters reported. The trains transited Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to reach Iran. Western sanctions on Russian oil exports since the invasion of Ukraine have forced Russia to expand its search for fuel markets. In February and March, Russia reportedly exported 30,000 tons of gasoline and diesel to Iran. In 2022, bilateral ties deepened as Iran started providing armed drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. 

Domestic: Iran released human rights lawyer Mostafa Nili after he spent more than five months in prison. He had been sentenced to four years in Rajaishahr prison.

International: Qatar released 17 Iranian citizens whose ship drifted off course. “Seventeen of the detained compatriots who entered the waters of Qatar by mistake, left for our country today after their release,” tweeted Iran’s Ambassador to Qatar, Hamid Dehghani. Neither country disclosed how long they had been detained.

Domestic: President Ebrahim Raisi replaced two cabinet members, the minister of agriculture and the head of the Planning and Budget Organization (PBO). Mohammad Aqamiri, a deputy minister, replaced Javad Sadatinejad as interim minister of agriculture. Davoud Manzour, a former deputy, replaced Masoud Mirkazemi as head of the PBO. In early April, Raisi had removed Education Minister Yousef Nouri.

International: Russia had reportedly sent an Aeroflot Airbus A330-300 plane to Iran for repairs in early April. Russia needed Iranian assistance due to supply problems caused by international sanctions on Moscow. Iran had gained experience repairing planes with limited access to parts due to international sanctions.  

Domestic: Tasnim News, an agency linked to the IRGC, reported that former President Hassan Rouhani, a centrist, intended to run for Parliament in 2024.

International: Iran waived visas for Chinese tourists during a visit by a Chinese tourism delegation. “In order to boost the attraction of tourists from China, the government of Iran has always been trying to [facilitate] the entry of visitors,” said Ali Asghar Shalbafian, the deputy minister of cultural heritage, tourism and handicrafts.

International: U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Iran, regional issues, and the Yemen war. They discussed “broader trends toward de-escalation in the region, while underscoring the need to maintain deterrence against threats from Iran and elsewhere,” a White House statement said. Sullivan also reaffirmed President Joe Biden’s “unwavering commitment to ensure Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon.”


April 12

International: Iran used humanitarian flights to smuggle weapons to Syria, Reuters reported. Flights carrying aid for earthquake victims carried weapons and military equipment meant to reinforce Syrian air defenses against Israeli air strikes. Iran's mission to the United Nations denied the reports. But nine Syrian, Iranian, Israeli, and Western intelligence officials confirmed them.

International/Military: Iran reportedly discussed plans to obtain ammonium perchlorate, a key ingredient for ballistic missile propellant, from China and Russia, Politico reported. Iran reportedly sought to purchase enough for thousands of rockets. U.N. resolution 2231 bars countries from providing Iran with the compound without U.N. Security Council permission. International sanctions have limited Iran’s ability to produce the compound key to domestic production of ballistic missiles. In November 2022, the U.S. Navy intercepted an Iranian vessel transporting 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate to Yemen, where Iran has armed the Houthi rebels. 

International: A delegation arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to prepare Iran's embassy for reopening. “The Iranian delegation will take the necessary measures in Riyadh and Jeddah to set up the embassy and consulate general,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani. In early March 2023, the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic ties seven years after severing relations. On April 6, 2023, the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers met in Beijing, facilitated again by China. Saudi Arabia sent a delegation to Iran on April 8.

Economy: Some 20,000 workers called on President Raisi to raise wages in a letter. The government had previously decided to increase the minimum wage by 27 percent, but workers criticized the move, which fell short of the 53 percent inflation rate.


April 13

Human Rights: Iran executed some 582 people in 2022, a 75 percent increase from 2021 and the most executions since 2015, rights monitors Iran Human Rights and Together Against the Death Penalty reported. Nearly half of the cases in 2022 were for alleged murder. Ethnic minorities were disproportionately targeted. Iran had also executed at least 150 people between January and March 2023. 

International: The foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, China, and Pakistan met in Uzbekistan to discuss shared interests in Afghanistan. They urged the Taliban to govern inclusively and not suppress women and minorities. The four countries called on the Taliban to “take tangible action in fighting against terrorism and eliminating terrorist groups in the country.”

International/Military: Iran and Nicaragua had discussed military cooperation against U.S. influence in February 2023,The New York Times reported. U.S. classified material leaked in 2023 showed that a February visit by Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian included meetings with Nicaraguan military leaders.