News Digest: Week of January 30

January 30

International: A drone strike targeted Iran-backed militants in Syria near the Iraqi border. “A commander in an Iran-backed group and two of his companions, all of them non-Syrian, were killed this morning after renewed drone strikes,” reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Another strike on a convoy reportedly carrying Iranian weapons from Iraq into Syria occurred the previous night. No country claimed responsibility for either attack.   

International: Iran and Russia signed an agreement to connect their interbank communication and transfer systems in an effort to skirt international sanctions. Both Iran and Russia had been disconnected from the international SWIFT financial messaging service by U.S. sanctions. “We have connected the national banking messaging network of the two countries and we no longer need SWIFT,” said the deputy governor of Iran’s central bank, Mohsen Karimi. 

Domestic/International: Iran summoned Ukraine’s charge d'affaires over comments he made regarding the alleged Israeli drone attack in Isfahan on January 28. “Explosive night in Iran - drone and missile production, oil refineries. Ukraine did warn you,” Mykhailo Podolyak had tweeted on January 29. 

Human Rights: The judiciary sentenced Astiyazh Haghighi and Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, a young couple in their early 20s, to more than 10 years in prison after they posted a video of themselves dancing publicly in Tehran on social media. Haghighi was not wearing a headscarf in the video. They were also banned from foreign travel and using the internet. They were reportedly detained in early November 2022. Haghighi and Ahmadi were convicted of “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” and “gathering with the intention of disrupting national security.”


January 31

Economic: Iran planned to sell a number of public properties to private buyers to raise money amid economic uncertainty and soaring inflation. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian investors that the decision by Iran’s early leaders to make major economic sectors public was a mistake. The new plan was reportedly approved by President Ebrahim Raisi, Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Judiciary Chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei. 


February 1

Human Rights: A protester sentenced to death was granted a stay of execution. Mohammad Ghobadlou had been convicted of “corruption on earth” for running over a group of security officers in Tehran with a car in November. One security officer died and five were injured as a result. The court rejected Ghobadlou’s appeal in December, but it suspended his sentence to allow the family of the dead security officer to ask for or reject retribution.

Nuclear: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed concern over an undeclared modification to machines that enrich uranium to 60%–a step below weapons grade–at Iran’s Fordow nuclear site. The U.N. nuclear watchdog reported that Iran had made an unannounced modification to the interconnection between two machine clusters. The organization said that the machines were “interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran (to the IAEA).” The IAEA had conducted an unannounced inspection on January 21 and discovered the modification. “This is inconsistent with Iran's obligations under its Safeguards Agreement and undermines the Agency’s ability to adjust the safeguards approach for [Fordow] and implement effective safeguards measures at this facility,” said Rafael Grossi, the IAEA chief, in a statement.


February 2

International: Iran blamed Israel for a January 28 drone attack against a military plant in Isfahan that Tehran said was an ammunition storehouse. “Early investigations suggest that the Israeli regime was responsible for this attempted act of aggression,” wrote Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Amir Saeid Iravani in a letter on the mission’s website. The Islamic Republic “reserves its legitimate and inherent right ... to defend its national security and respond resolutely to any threats or wrongful actions by the Israeli regime, wherever and whenever deemed necessary.”