News Digest: Week of February 19

February 19

International: Mehr News Agency signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with TV BRICS at the 24th Iran Media Expo. The MoU set up further cooperation on content production and distribution across media outlets from BRICS member states, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. TV BRICS is a news platform that broadcasts in English, Russian, Portuguese and Chinese.

Diplomacy: Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi spoke with a delegation from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Tehran. Vahidi hosted Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, and PIJ’s politburo representative, Ali Abu Shahin. The officials discussed the war in Gaza and Tehran’s support for the Palestinian groups.


February 20

Diplomacy: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry to discuss bilateral relations. Sabry extended an official invitation for President Ebrahim Raisi to visit Sri Lanka.

International: Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) announced the finalization of an 81- 81-kilometer (50-mile) gas pipeline from the Pakistan-Iranian border to Gwadar city in Pakistan. The pipeline is a section of a 781-kilometer (485-mile) pipeline that is set to link Nawabshah city in Pakistan as well. Iran was to provide legal and technical advice for the project. Tehran had also given Islamabad a 180-day deadline until September 2024 to complete construction.


February 21

Diplomacy: A delegation from Iran’s parliament visited Baku, Azerbaijan to participate in the 14th plenary session of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) from February 21 to 24. The session was focused on “strengthening regional cooperation for the sake of sustainable development” in Asia. The meeting iclude delegations from 40 countries.

International: Oil Minister Javad Owji accused Israel of sabotaging Iran’s main south to north gas pipeline on February 14. “The enemy intended to disrupt households' gas supplies ... but within two hours our colleagues worked to counter the Israeli plot which only damaged several pipes.”

Domestic: Iranian judicial authorities sentenced Ali Ramazani, a prominent academic and winner of the Microelectronics Olympiad to prison. He was charged with “conspiracy and collusion against national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic” and sentenced to three years and seven months in prison.


February 22

Election: Candidates for Iran’s 290-seat parliament started their campaigns. The Guardian Council had approved 15,200 candidates to run. Registered voters were set to vote on March 1.

Diplomacy: Mohammed Alibek, an aide to the foreign minister and director general of the ministry’s Persian Gulf Department, lodged a complaint with the Kuwaiti ambassador over the country’s claims to the Arash gas field, which sits on the eastern maritime border of Kuwait and is also known as Dorra gas field. Alibek stated that Iran was ready to engage in talks over the dispute.

Diplomacy: Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with the Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in Tehran. The officials announced that their states would sign agreements and a roadmap for agricultural cooperation. Szijjarto’s delegation also met with Finance Minister Ehsan Khandouzi for a joint economic commission.

Nuclear: The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami, stated that Iran would install nuclear technologies in 150 civilian industrial complexes. Eslami added that the equipment will aide other industries like oil, gas and petrochemicals as well as the nuclear energy industry in Iran. He made the announcement during a visit to the Abadan Oil Refinery in Khuzestan, Iran. 

International: U.S. prosecutors indicted Takeshi Ebisawa, a Japanese yakuza boss, for selling uranium and plutonium, on behalf of a head of an insurgent group from Myanmar, to the Iranian army in 2021. Ebisawa met with an undercover U.S. law enforcement officer posing as an associate for an Iranian general and two undercover Danish police officers in Copenhagen for the transaction. Ebisawa had asked for $6.85 million in exchange for the raw nuclear material and weapons, including surface to air missiles, M60 machine guns and AK-47 rifles. 

International: The White House condemned Iran for sending arms to Russia in a press briefing in response to a Reuters report that it had shipped hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia. “If Iran proceeds with this provision of ballistic missiles, I can assure you that the response from the international community will be swift and it will be severe,” John Kirby of the National Security Council said. “For our part, we will take this matter to the U.N. Security Council.  We will implement additional sanctions against Iran. And we will coordinate further response options with our allies and partners in Europe and elsewhere.”


February 23

Terrorism: Iranian security forces confirmed the death of Esmail Shahbakhsh, a leader in the Jaish ul Adl terrorist organization, during an operation in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan province. Shahbakhsh allegedly coordinated the recent attacks on a security checkpoint near the border with Pakistan.


February 24

International: The G7 countries called upon Iran to “stop assisting the Russian military and its war in Ukraine” in a statement after a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The G7 includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.