News Digest: Week of January 23

January 21

Economy: The Iranian rial fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar. One dollar was trading for 447,000 rials. It traded for 430,500 rials the previous day. Iran was struggling to deal with rampant inflation and the long-term impact of international sanctions.


January 23

International: The United States, Britain, and the European Union sanctioned Iran for its crackdown on protesters. U.S. sanctions largely targeted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Britain imposed sanctions on five individuals and two entities. The European Union targeted 30 Iranians, including IRGC officials. The European Union decided against designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization, in part due to the lack of an E.U. court decision on the issue. The E.U. parliament had previously called on the 27-nation bloc to designate the IRGC.


Human Rights: Three female journalists had been detained over the weekend, Tehran’s journalist union reported. Melika Hashemi, Saideh Shafiei and Mehrnoush Zarei were transferred to Evin Prison. Authorities reportedly did not provide reasons for the arrests. Dozens of journalists had been detained amid nationwide protests that broke in September 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini. 

Human Rights: In an open letter, 30 female prisoners in Evin Prison demanded that Iran stop executing prisoners. At least 109 prisoners detained since protests started in September 2022 faced execution, according to the Norwegian Iran Human Rights Organization.


January 24

International: Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud accused Iran of interfering in Somali domestic politics. Mahmoud alleged that Iran pursued a “subversive agenda” through its humanitarian efforts in Somalia. Somalia had closed the Iranian Embassy in Mogadishu in 2016 and banned the Iranian Red Crescent. 

International: The United States would increase pressure on China to halt imports of Iranian oil, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said. “China is the main destination of illicit exports by Iran,” he said. 

Economy: Overall inflation in Iran reached 51 percent, the Statistical Center of Iran reported. The greatest increase–78.5 percent–occurred in the hotel and restaurant sector. Food inflation reached over 70 percent. 


January 25

Economy: Iran’s non-oil exports during the previous 10 months hit a record high, said Mohammad Rezvani-Far, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration. Iran exported 103 million tons of non-oil goods, valued at $45.3 billion, to countries including China, Iraq, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and India. 


International: Iran sanctioned 34 British and E.U. officials and entities. The move came in response to new British and E.U. sanctions over the government crackdown on protesters. 

International/Nuclear: Iran had processed “enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons–not one at this point,” said Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had enriched 70 kilograms of uranium to 60 percent purity and had another 1,000 kilograms enriched at 20 percent purity, he added. Uranium enriched to 90 percent is widely considered suitable for weapons. 

International: Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of Iran’s last Shah, announced that he would meet with politicians around the world to build a coalition against the regime. Pahlavi called for the international community to provide “maximum support” for protesters seeking to overthrow the government during an interview with SkyNews. “I’m not running for any office, nor do I seek any political position in the apparatus of state,” he said. “I'd rather be an advocate for the people and stand by their side.”


January 26

International: The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan resolution expressing support for protesters in Iran. Representative Thomas Massie, R-Ky. was the lone dissenter in an otherwise unanimous vote. The resolution, approved by 420-1, “encourages continued efforts by the Biden Administration to respond to the protests, including the recent sanctioning of the Iranian morality police.”

International: The British National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) warned that Iranian hackers are targeting British academics and politicians. Iran-based actors “continue to successfully use spear-phishing attacks” against British people and organizations “for information gathering activity,” the NCSC said in a statement.

International: The French Foreign Ministry called for the release of French-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan, a tourism consultant, due to concerns for his health after he ended a hunger strike. “We are extremely concerned given the extreme fragility of his health situation,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre at a press conference. “The denial of medical access at this point from the Iranian authorities is completely unacceptable.” Legendre also called for the release of six other French citizens detained in Iran.


January 27

Domestic/International: A gunman attacked the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran. One guard was killed and two others were injured. “We demand that this terrorist act be investigated and the terrorist be punished,” said Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev. The Azerbaijani foreign ministry said that it would evacuate its personnel in Iran. The Iranian foreign ministry condemned the attack, and security forces detained a suspect. The attack occurred during months of tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan.

Domestic/Human Rights: Security forces reportedly fired on protesters with live ammunition and tear gas in Zahedan. Zahedan has been the center of a violent crackdown by security forces. The city’s entrances and exits were reportedly blocked

International: The United States indicted three men for plotting to assassinate Masih Alinejad, a Brooklyn-based activist critical of the Iranian government. The men, members of an eastern European criminal organization, were working for people based in Iran. The plot reflected Iran’s determination to silence critics, even in the United States. The plotters faced up to 40 years in prison on murder-for-hire and money laundering charges. One faced an additional five years for possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number.


January 28 

Domestic/International: Suicide drones equipped with explosives struck a military plant in Isfahan that Iran said was an ammunition storehouse. The small size of the blast indicated that the building “could have been a lab or military-logistics site,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Iran’s defense ministry claimed that the attack caused only minor damage. The Jerusalem Post, however, cited Western Intelligence officials who claimed the attack was a “phenomenal success.”  While Israeli officials refused to comment, U.S. intelligence officials told the New York Times that the attack was the work of Mossad.


January 29

International: An airstrike reportedly killed seven drivers and members of a convoy carrying Iranian weapons from Iraq into northeastern Syria. A pro-Syrian regime radio station reported that “unidentified war planes targeted, in a number of raids, six refrigerated trucks.”