News Digest: Week of February 6

February 5

Human Rights: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pardoned or reduced the sentences of tens of thousands of prisoners, including some protesters, to mark the 44th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. But the pardons were heavily conditioned on good behavior, a formal apology, and a pledge not to engage in protests or other activities undermining the state. Iran Human Rights called the move “a propaganda act.”

International: First Lady Jill Biden announced that Shervin Hajipour, a popular 25-year-old Iranian singer, had won the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Song for Social Change. The lyrics of “Baraye”—“For…” or “Because of…” in Persian—were pulled from phrases used in Twitter posts about Mahsa Amini and the public outcry following her death in detention in September 2022. Hajipour’s song on Instagram quickly went viral with 40 million views in two days. It became the anthem or soundtrack of the protests, sung by defiant schoolgirls, blared on car radios, and picked up by sympathy protestors in foreign capitals. Hajipour’s song was “a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” Biden said at the award ceremony.


February 6

International: Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reiterated the importance of talks with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. “I hope to be able to reset, restore, reinforce that indispensable dialogue” Grossi said at a discussion with Chatham House. In January, Grossi had warned that Iran had enough uranium for several nuclear weapons.  

International: Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian promised to provide aid to the Turkish and Syrian regions hit by a powerful earthquake. “Iran stands with the Turkish people and government in this challenging moment,” said Am-rAbdollahian in a call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. 


February 7

Domestic: The Iranian Air Force revealed an underground base called “Eagle 44.” Officials claimed that the base was resistant to U.S. “bunker buster” bombs and housed a fleet of aircraft, including bombers and drones, armed with cruise missiles and smart bombs. 

Domestic: The Iranian Space Agency unveiled two new domestically manufactured satellites. The satellites, called Nahid-2 and Tolou-3, were intended to provide imagery and secure communication lines. Iran launched its first satellite in 2011. 


February 8

International: Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, met with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Moscow. Shamkhani called for more bilateral cooperation in the face of common threats. Patrushev said that transit, oil, and natural gas projects would encourage broader cooperation. Shamkhani had traveled to Russia for a summit on Afghanistan and regional security.

International: The U.S. House of Representatives announced a new resolution on Iran that would call on U.S. allies in Europe to close consulates and recall diplomats in the Islamic Republic. On January 27, it had overwhelmingly passed a resolution that expressed support for the protesters and condemned the government crackdown. The bill had also called on the international community to impose additional sanctions on Iran.

International: Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyer, stressed the Iranian people’s continued desire for an end to the regime. “The protests have somewhat died down, but that doesn’t mean that the people are no longer angry … they constantly want and still want a regime change. They want a referendum,” she said in an interview with CNN. Sotoudeh, who was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes in 2019, was permitted to return home on medical furlough in 2020 following a hunger strike. 

Domestic: Iran exhibited a missile in Isfahan with “Death to Israel” written in Hebrew on its side. It was not clear if the missile was functional or a model. Iran previously blamed Israel for a January 28 drone attack against a military plant in Isfahan that Tehran said was an ammunition storehouse.


February 9

International: A bipartisan group of 60 U.S. Members of Congress called on President Biden to crack down on Iran’s drone program. “We ask that you develop a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to interrupt Iran’s supply chains, shut down shell companies used by adversaries to evade sanctions, and pressure allies to crack down on unscrupulous distributors in Europe and Asia,” the representatives wrote in a letter. The request comes amid Russia’s use of Iranian drones in its invasion of Ukraine. 

International: The United States sanctioned nine companies based in Iran, Singapore, and Malaysia that produced, sold, and shipped Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals. Petrochemicals, derived from oil and natural gas, are essential to manufacturing paints, plastics, solar panels, medicine, and mobile phones that facilitate modern life. The firms sold products worth hundreds of millions of dollars to buyers in Asia. “Today’s action demonstrates our continued efforts to enforce U.S. sanctions on Iran’s petroleum and petrochemical trade and disrupt Iran’s efforts to circumvent sanctions,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.


February 10 

Domestic: Security forces reportedly detained the “main perpetrators” of the January 29 drone attack on a military facility in Isfahan. The government blamed Israeli mercenaries for the attack. State news agency IRNA reported that Israeli involvement “has been proven.”

International: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva delayed permission to two Iranian warships that were scheduled to dock at a Brazilian port from January 23-30.. The decision came ahead of da Silva’s meeting with President Biden. The ships would instead dock from February 26 to March 3, after the two presidents meet.

Domestic: A news outlet affiliated with the judiciary accused reformist leader and former presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi of having ties to Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an exiled opposition group. A security official alleged that Mousavi’s most recent statement, which called for a referendum on the constitution, was a copy of MEK demands.


Some of the information in this article was originally published on February 8, 2023.