News Digest: Weeks of November 15 & 22

November 15

Domestic: A magnitude-five aftershock hit the Bandar Abbas region in southern Iran and caused one death. Two earthquakes had hit Iran one day earlier.

Maritime: The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that an Iranian naval helicopter had circled the USS Essex in the Gulf of Oman on November 11. “There was no impact ultimately to the Essex transit or their operations. But that doesn't mean that this wasn't an unsafe and unprofessional act,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said. “Tehran needs to be pressed on why they thought this was a prudent use of their pilots and their aircraft to fly so dangerously close to a U.S. warship.”

 

November 16

Nuclear: Iran resumed production of advanced centrifuge parts at a plant in Karaj in late August, diplomats told The Wall Street Journal. In June, the facility had been damaged in an attack that Iran blamed on Israel. Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium, which can be used to produce energy or fuel a bomb. In August, the International Atomic Energy Agency requested access to the facility to repair or replace cameras removed after the attack. But Iran has not granted access. It has since produced enough parts to assemble 170 advanced centrifuges.

Education: Parliament rejected President Ebrahim Raisi’s nominee for education minister for a second time. Lawmakers said that Maoud Fayazi lacked experience in the education sector. Out of 260 members present, 140 voted against Fayazi, 115 voted for him, and five abstained. Parliament had rejected Raisi’s first pick for the position, Hossein Baghgoli, in August.

Human Rights: On the two-year anniversary of widespread anti-government protests, authorities arrested Narges Mohammadi, a prominent human rights advocate. She was sent to Evin Prison, according to her husband. “In a phone call she said they informed her that she is to serve 30 months in prison [a sentence issued earlier that had not been enforced] and they want to flog her.”

Economic: President Raisi confirmed that Iranian assets held abroad had been unfrozen. “Now the situation has improved, and I can only say that the government has access to its resources in other countries,” he said. Five days earlier, the Islamic Republic News Agency’s managing director tweeted that $3.5 billion in blocked assets had been released but did not specify from where. Iran reportedly has more than $100 billion in frozen assets held in foreign banks. 

 

November 17

Human Rights: Secretary of State Antony Blinken designated Iran -- along with China, Eritrea, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan -- as a country of particular concern for “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Diplomacy: A high-level Emirati delegation will soon visit Iran, senior Iranian and Gulf officials told Reuters. Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the national security advisor of the United Arab Emirates, was scheduled to visit Iran the week of November 21, Amwaj Media reported.

Regional: Zohreh Koudaei, the goalkeeper for Iran’s women’s soccer team, said that she would sue Jordan's football association for demanding that she submit to a gender-verification check. “I am a woman. This is bullying.” Iran defeated Jordan 4-2 on September 25 to qualify for the Women's Asia Cup. Koudaei played a key role in the victory by saving two penalties in a shoot-out.  

 

November 18

Cyber: The United States sanctioned six Iranian men and one company, Emennet Pasargad, for attempting to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Sectary of State Antony Blinken said that the move represents “the collective efforts of the Department of the Treasury, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The U.S. government “took decisive and disruptive action against those seeking to interfere with the sanctity of our elections,” he added.

 

November 19

Domestic: In drought-stricken Isfahan, thousands of Iranians - including many farmers - protested the government’s handling of water shortages. 

 

November 20

Health: The Health Ministry announced that 44 million Iranians - over half of the population - had been fully vaccinated. 

 

November 21

Cyber: Mahan Air, an Iranian airline sanctioned by the United States for supporting the Revolutionary Guards, said that it foiled cyberattack against the airline’s “internal system.” 

 

November 22

Regional: Bahrain’s interior ministry said that security forces had apprehended several individuals “linked with terrorist groups in Iran” and armed with weapons and explosives. The detained militants were allegedly “plotting terrorist operations against security and civil peace.” 

 

Updated