News Digest: Week of January 2

January 2

Nuclear Negotiations: Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ali Bagheri told reporters that the nuclear negotiations were not at a stalemate and were continuing. Bagheri headed Iran’s delegation in indirect talks with the United States, which were last held in August 2022. 

International: Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs Seyed Mohammad Hosseini met with new Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia after his swearing in ceremony. The two men reportedly discussed bilateral ties and regional relations. Hosseini also met with the presidents of Germany, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, and Bolivia. 

Domestic: The Intelligence Ministry said that six Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) cells had been detained. It said that the network had funded and equipped MEK groups in Iran during the protests. Tehran considers the Marxist-Islamic organization, which seeks the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, a terrorist group.  

International: Israel struck Damascus Airport in Syria with missiles, according to the Syrian Army. Missiles also struck the southern part of the capital. Two members of the Syrian armed forces were killed. The missiles reportedly hit near areas where the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-backed militias operate. Israel last attacked Damascus Airport in June 2022. 

Economy: Some $10 billion of capital flows out of Iran annually, Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture chief Masoud Khansari told the Iranian Labor News Agency. He also said that sanctions and the costs associated with illicitly selling oil had cost Iran more than $100 billion. 


January 3

Domestic: Iran marked the third anniversary of the U.S. assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force, with official speeches, commemorative rallies, major media coverage, and inflammatory threats. During the first days of January, officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi lauded Soleimani and condemned the United States for his killing.


Human Rights: The judiciary indicted three Europeans – including two French citizens and one Belgian citizen – for alleged espionage. No other details were publicized, but Iranian officials had blamed foreign countries for orchestrating the protests that broke out after the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. 

Domestic: Security forces raided a drug smuggling operation in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan province, provincial police chief Mohammad Ghanbari said. Five smugglers were detained and at least 850 kilograms of drugs, mostly opium, were seized.

Security: IRGC member Qasim Fathullahi was killed outside of his Tehran home. He was reportedly shot several times. Fathullahi had commanded a Basij base in Tehran.

International: Chess player Sara Khadem traveled to Spain after competing at a chess tournament in Kazakhstan without a headscarf in late December 2022. She had reportedly been warned not to return to Iran.

Nuclear: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took office on December 29, told his cabinet that Israel would oppose the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. “We will act powerfully and openly on the international level against the return to the nuclear agreement — not only in talks with leaders behind closed doors, but also powerfully and openly in the arena of global public opinion,” he said. The pledge put Israel at odds with the United States.  


January 4

Human Rights: Iran released award-winning actress Taraneh Alidoosti from prison on bail. She had posted a picture on Instagram without a headscarf in early November and called for an international response after the regime executed the first protester in early December. She was detained on December 17.

International: An Iranian drone used by Russia and shot down by Ukraine in fall 2022 had parts made by 13 U.S. companies and 12 other companies based in Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, and China, according to Ukrainian intelligence seen by CNN. Ukraine reportedly shared the information with the United States in late 2022. 

Domestic: Supreme Leader Khamenei said that “those who do not fully observe the hijab should not be accused of irreligion or being counter-revolutionary” in a meeting with a group of mothers as well as female academics and activists. “Avoid excluding those with poor hijab from Islamic and revolutionary circles,” he added. But Khamenei also described the headscarf as an “inviolable” necessity of Islamic law. 



January 5

International: The foreign reportedly closed the French Institute for Research in Iran, an affiliate of France’s foreign ministry, after the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published offensive cartoons depicting the Supreme Leader on January 4. The foreign ministry summoned the French ambassador in response. Iran “condemns in the strongest terms the sacrilegious move by a notorious French magazine to trample on recognized moral norms, savagely violate religious sanctities, disrespect the sanctum of the politico-religious authority, and insult the Iranians’ state symbols and national values,” it said in a statement on January 5.

Human Rights: A senior official ordered the judiciary to investigate reports of rape and sexual assault of female prisoners. “Given the very negative effect of these claims, please carefully study and address these accusations, whether raised inside the country or outside of it,” Kazem Gharibabadi, vice president of the judicial authority for international affairs and secretary of the High Council for Human Rights, wrote in a letter to prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri. The judiciary had dismissed the allegations false and promoted by foreign media. 

January 6

Cyber: Iran's central bank was targeted in an unsuccessful cyber attack, according to Amir Mohammadzadeh Lajevardi, chief of the Infrastructure Communications Company. The attackers tried to overwhelm servers with an influx of internet traffic. "These days, the largest volume of foreign attacks is against banks and financial institutions, internet providers and communications infrastructures, which have been repelled," Lajevardi said. 



Some of the information in this article was originally published on January 5, 2023.