News Digest: Week of February 7

February 7

Regional: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed that the United States endorsed Israel's right to act, kinetically or otherwise, against Iran. He cited a U.S. readout on his conversation with President Joe Biden The readout published on February 6 noted Biden’s “unwavering support for Israel’s security and freedom of action,” though not specifically in relation to Iran. “I made clear, and I was happy that [Biden] made it explicitly clear, that Israel will maintain its freedom of action in every situation,” Bennett said.

 

Nuclear: Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said that “it will be possible to reach a deal quickly” if the United States makes the “political decision” to remove sanctions.

Nuclear: Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s lead negotiator in Vienna, said that “the current stage (of negotiations) can be called the final one,” although “a number of issues, including rather fundamental ones,” still need to be resolved. “The [drafted] final document” exceeds 20 pages and largely retains the “original form” of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he told Russian daily Kommersant.

 

Arms Sales: Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri boasted that Iran would “become one of the world’s largest arms exporters” upon the lifting of “criminal U.S. sanctions.” The U.N. arms embargo on Iran expired in 2020, but U.S. sanctions on arms sales remain in place.

 

February 8

Nuclear: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and 32 other Republican senators pledged to undermine a nuclear deal with Iran unless President Joe Biden submits it for congressional review. “[W]e are committed to using the full range of options and leverage available to United States Senators to ensure that you meet those obligations, and that the implementation of any agreement will be severely if not terminally hampered if you do not,” they warned in a letter.

 

Nuclear: The eighth round of talks on restoring the 2015 nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. The negotiations had paused for 10 days to allow diplomats to return to their capitals for consultations.  

 

Domestic: “Justice of Ali,” a hacker group, claimed to have gained access to security cameras at Ghezel Hesar Prison in the city of Karaj. In an Instagram post, “Justice of Ali” shared footage of what appeared to be screens in the prison control room with the group’s logo on them. The group had previously disseminated footage of human rights abuses in infamous Evin Prison in Tehran.

 

 

February 9

Military: Iran unveiled a new ballistic missile with a claimed range of 1,450 kilometers (900 miles). The missile's name, "Kheibar Shekan" (Kheibar Buster), refers to a Jewish castle and oasis conquered by Muslim warriors in the 7th century in the Hijaz region of the Arabian Peninsula. Iranian media reported that the new model's weight was one-third less than similar missiles and took much less time to launch. 

 

February 10

Oil: Iran's oil exports rose above 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in December, according to firms that track shipments. Iran's exports had not hit the mark in three years. Exports fell to 700,000 bpd in January in part due to a shortage of ships. 

 

Updated