News Digest: Week of February 5

February 5

Nuclear: Iran’s nuclear chief, Mohammed Eslami, announced the start of the construction of a new domestically designed 10-megawatt research reactor in central Isfahan. It would produce materials for cancer diagnostics and treatment. Eslami had also announced the construction of a nuclear power plant in northern Hormozgan province. Both projects were part of a 20-year plan to grow Iran’s nuclear power output capacity to 20,000 megawatts by 2041.

Diplomacy: The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Akbar Ahmadian, and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani and other officials met in Baghdad. They discussed ways to ease regional tensions. “Iraq has deployed, and continues to deploy, important efforts towards preserving stability and establishing de-escalation, in the interests of all the people of the region,” al Sudani told Ahmadian. 


February 6

International: An Iranian delegation visited Saudi Arabia for a defense exhibition. They held high-level talks with officials in Riyadh, a reflection of the thaw in Iran-Saudi relations since they agreed to restore diplomatic ties in March 2023.

Security: Police detained two terrorists in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan province. One was a member of ISIS, a Sunni extremist group. The other was a member of Ansar al Furqan, a Sunni extremist group comprised of ethnic Baluch. They were reportedly planning attacks.

Security: Shiraz police rescue unit commander Colonel Kourosh Bazyar died in a hit-and-run after ordering a suspicious pickup truck to halt. The vehicle fled the scene and a smaller vehicle following it hit Colonel Bazyar, who died of his injuries at a hospital. Bazyar played a key role in suppressing the 2022 anti-government protests in southwest Fars province.


February 7

Security: Iranian security forces arrested Azerbaijani nationals who had allegedly entered Iran illegally and had planned sabotage operations under foreign guidance.

Regional: A U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed a Kataib Hezbollah commander who had planned and participated in attacks on Americans, the Pentagon said. Kataib Hezbollah is an Iraqi Shiite militia that has received weapons, training and funding from Iran. 


February 8

Domestic: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved amnesty or reduced sentences for over 2,800 prisoners. The move was part of a judicial proposal for the Eid al Mabath holiday commemorating the start of the Prophet Mohammed’s mission. Iran periodically pardons inmates for certain celebrations to alleviate prison crowding through sentence commutations.


February 9

Diplomatic: Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian flew to Beirut for talks with Lebanese officials on the war between Israel and Hamas and volatility in the region. The minister was due to visit Damascus and Doha next.

International: Meta permanently banned Supreme Leader Khamenei from Facebook and Instagram for repeatedly violating policies against supporting U.S.-designated terror groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. 

International: Iraq’s central bank revoked the operating license for Iran’s largest lender, Bank Melli. Iraq’s central bank cited limited activity, losses and issues with international sanctions, such as the 2018 U.S. Treasury restrictions over funding Iraqi militias, as the reasoning for the cancellation.


February 11

Domestic: Deputy Interior Minister Majid Mirahmadi announced that security forces had caught an ISIS militant attempting to cross from Iraq into Iran.

Diplomacy: Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Damascus. They discussed their shared opposition to Israel’s military operations in Gaza. The foreign minister also met with representatives of Palestinian factions. Israel is “doomed to collapse without U.S. support,” he said.