News Digest: Week of April 22

April 22

Domestic: Iran’s foreign ministry reiterated that nuclear weapons have no place in the country’s nuclear doctrine. "Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program only serves peaceful purposes,” spokesperson Nasser Kanaani stressed. The statement followed a warning less than a week earlier by Ahmad Haghtalab, the Revolutionary Guards commander for nuclear security, who said that Israeli threats could prompt a review of Iran's nuclear doctrine.

International: A group of Iranian pilgrims departed for Saudi Arabia to perform the umrah, otherwise known as the minor pilgrimage to Mecca in Islam, for the first time in nine years. The resumption of umrah trips followed the restoration of diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia in March 2023 after ties were severed in 2016. The umrah, unlike hajj, can be performed at any time and is not subject to strict annual quotas.

Diplomacy: President Ebrahim Raisi began a three day visit to Pakistan, Iran's eastern neighbor. President Raisi met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad. They discussed strengthening ties and boosting bilateral trade from $2 billion (2023) to $10 billion within the next five years, and the conflict with Israel. The two nations also agreed to cooperate on confronting common challenges like terrorism. Raisi then visited the eastern city of Lahore and port city of Karachi in the south.

International: The European Union agreed to tighten sanctions against Iran in response to its April 13-14 attack on Israel. The new measures would target the production of missiles and expand the list of prohibited drone related components. The sanctions will also be extended beyond Russia to include drone and missile deliveries to proxies in the region, according to E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.


April 23

International: The U.S. Treasury sanctioned two companies and four individuals involved in malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Revolutionary Guards Electronic Command. The sanctioned entities and individuals had targeted more than a dozen U.S. companies and government entities through cyber operations, including spear phishing and malware attacks. The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also unsealed an indictment against the four individuals for their roles in the cyber activity targeting U.S. entities. 

Domestic: Residents of the southern port of Bandar Abbas protested after local police fatally shot a 20-year-old fuel smuggler, Amir Mohammed Chatr Sahar, and severely wounded another man without prior warning.

Diplomacy: A North Korean delegation led by Yun Jong Ho, the cabinet minister for international trade arrived in Iran, according to North Korean state media. Yun had previously worked on North Korea’s ties with Syria and has recently led a delegation to Moscow.


April 24

Domestic: Iran sentenced dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi to death for supporting the nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody in September 2022. In July 2023, he had been sentenced to six years and three months in prison for supporting the nationwide demonstrations. He was released on bail in November 2023 but arrested again two weeks later and sentenced to death in April 2024.  

Diplomacy: President Raisi met with his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe on the second leg of his tour of South Asia. During a press conference, Raisi called for boosting cooperation on trade, industry, technology and tourism. Wickremesinghe expressed gratitude for Iran’s support during Sri Lanka’s recent economic crisis and for participation in the construction of a dam.