News Digest: Week of August 14

August 14

Diplomatic: Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will visit Saudi Arabia “in the near future,” the foreign ministry announced. Spokesman Nasser Kanani did not provide a specific date but said that “the relations between the two countries are progressing step by step” since they restored diplomatic ties after seven years in March 2023. 

Domestic: The interior ministry reported that registrations for the 2024 parliamentary elections hit a record with nearly 49,000 people in the first week. Only 16,000 registrants filed in the 2020 election.     

Diplomacy: Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian told reporters that Tehran was committed to resolving its disputes over its nuclear program via diplomacy during a televised news conference. “We have always wanted a return of all parties to full compliance of the 2015 nuclear deal,” he added. 

Military: Iran’s defense ministry displayed domestically-manufactured military equipment at Russia's ARMY2023 military expo in Moscow. The display included the Balaban guided bomb, the Qaem bomb, as well as the Sadid, Almas, Toofan and Ababil missiles in addition to the Mohajer-6, Karrar, Arash-2, and Shahed-129 drones, the Saba-248 helicopter, the Yasin training jet, the Zolfaqar missile-launching speedboat, and the Fateh submarine. 


August 15 

Domestic: Tehran’s Grand Bazaar caught on fire. Some 30 warehouses and shops were damaged. No casualties were reported, according to state media. 

Domestic: A court sentenced filmmaker Saeed Roustayi to six months in prison for “anti-regime propaganda activity.” Roustayi was charged after defying Tehran’s order to not screen his film, “Leila’s Brothers,” at the Cannes Film Festival. 

International: Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh claimed that the United States was responsible for the war in Ukraine. “We believe that were it not for the dominance and excessive demands of the West spearheaded by the United States, this ruinous war would not have happened in Ukraine,” Nasirzadeh said at the 11th Moscow Conference on International Security in the Russian town of Kubinka. 

International: Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu said that China will expand its defense partnership with Iran. “We will continue to strengthen the mechanism of security cooperation within the SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization], [and] actively deepen defense collaboration with the organization’s newest member, Iran,” Shangfu said at the 11th Moscow Conference on International Security.


August 16

Diplomacy: In a tweet, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the prisoner exchange agreement with the United States was a “test” for further diplomacy. 


Domestic: The Baha’i International Community reported that Iran had arrested nearly 60 members of the Baha’i faith, which the government concerns a heretical sect, in recent weeks. The group also reported over 180 incidents of persecution including arbitrary interrogations and raids against businesses. 

International: Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Shia al Sudani and leaders of the Cooperation Framework, an umbrella for pro-Iran Shiite parties, in Baghdad. Ghaani reportedly discussed the U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue as well as Iraq’s upcoming provincial elections. His visit to Baghdad was the latest in a series of meetings with between Iranian officials and its militant proxies in the Middle East. 

International: A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers published a letter demanding that the Biden administration unload Iranian oil held in a seized tanker off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The Suez Rajan tanker was seized by U.S. authorities for sanctions evasion but has sat untouched since May 30 because oil companies fear Iranian retaliation for facilitating the transfer. The letter valued the tanker’s cargo at $56 million which would be donated to U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. “It is imperative that the Administration make clear that Iran and designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations cannot prevent our government from carrying out legitimate law enforcement operations,” the lawmakers said.  

Military: Iranian and Saudi defense officials met on the sidelines of 11th Moscow Conference on International Security, the latest step in restoring diplomatic ties. Iran’s deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, Aziz Nasirzadeh, met with ​​Talal Al Otaibi, an aide to the Saudi defense minister to discuss bilateral security relations, according to the Saudi defense ministry.  


August 17 

Diplomatic: Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Saudi Arabia — the first visit by an Iranian foreign minister since the kingdom severed ties with Iran in 2016 — and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.The visit addressed regional security issues and was “very good, direct and fruitful,” according to Amir-Abdollahian.  

Diplomatic: President Ebrahim Raisi and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, held a phone call to discuss Tehran’s potential membership in BRICS. Raisi and Putin also discussed expanding economic and energy cooperation, according to Russian state media. 

Domestic: Iran has detained at least twelve activists over the previous two days, according to human rights organizations. The activists were accused of organizing protests in honor of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who died in detention for “improper hijab” in September 2022. 


August 18 

Domestic: An ISIS-affiliated individual who planned the deadly terrorist attack on Shah Cheragh on August 13 had been detained, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security announced. The perpetrator was a Tajik national, mirroring the attack that had occurred on the same shrine in 2022. “To enter Iran, he [the terrorist] passed through Tajikistan, Turkey and Pakistan, then he was trained in Badakhshan province in Afghanistan and entered the country illegally from the eastern borders,” the ministry said. 


August 20

International: Minister of Intelligence and Security Mahmoud Alavi claimed that French, Swedish and English spies were operating within Iran, according to the country’s state media. 

Military: Iran was able to mass produce ramjet engines, a component of supersonic cruise missiles, Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani claimed. Ashtiani also said that Iran’s production of cruise and solid-fuel ballistic missiles “doubled in recent years.”

Some of the information in this article was originally published on August 16, 2023.