News Digest: Week of May 1

May 1

International: The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed “The Solidifying Iran Sanction Act,” a bipartisan bill which extended the Iran Sanctions Act set to expire in 2026. “The Iran Sanctions Act is one of the most important tools in U.S. law to compel Iran to abandon its dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) who sponsored the bill. “This bill takes the long overdue step of striking the arbitrary sunset from the law, so that sanctions will only be lifted if Iran stops its threatening behavior. Iran can’t run out the clock on U.S. law.”

International: Alireza Akbari, a former deputy defense minister (2000-2004) executed in January 2023 over espionage accusations, had started working with British intelligence in 2004, The New York Times reported based on interviews with Western and Iranian sources. Tehran alleged that the former regime insider had exposed nuclear and military programs as well as more than 100 Iranian officials, including Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the father of Iran’s nuclear program, assassinated in 2020. Akbari had also reportedly revealed to the West that the underground military site at Fordo was a nuclear facility. Iran discovered that Akbari was a spy in 2019 with help from Russian intelligence.

International: The Saudi navy transported 65 Iranians from Port Sudan to Jeddah amid escalating violence in Sudan. The Iranian nationals were due to fly to Tehran. Iran’s foreign ministry said that the coordination was a “positive event.” The cooperation was the latest sign of the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

International: During a trip to Israel, U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy pledged continued American support for Israel’s security. “I chose to come here now – today – to celebrate the bond between our two countries…As long as I am Speaker, America will continue to support full funding for security assistance in Israel,” said McCarthy in a speech to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. “We stand shoulder to shoulder against Iran’s regional aggression, we must also remain resolute in our commitment that Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons,” he added. 

International: Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval traveled to Iran to meet with Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkani, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, and President Ebrahim Raisi. Doval and Shamkani issued a joint statement pledging to “jointly face global and regional challenges.” They emphasized their shared goal to complete construction of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and other transportation routes to promote regional integration.


May 2

Domestic: State media reported an explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base in northern Semnan Province. The blast reportedly occurred during a “movement of ammunition,” but no other details were provided. Two IRGC personnel were killed and three injured. 

Economic: Oil Minister Javad Owji  announced that Iran’s oil production had surpassed three million barrels a day. “Over the last 20 months, Iran’s oil production has reached levels above 3 million barrels per day and natural gas output has reached more than 1 billion cubic meters,” said Owji. The reimposition of U.S. sanctions in 2018 had curtailed Iranian exports. 

Domestic: The Coordination Council of Iranian Teachers' Trade Associations called on educators to protest outside of Parliament and Ministry of Education branches nationwide on May 9. They demanded salary increases, improved working conditions, the removal of incompetent officials, and a “review of the intellectual and political foundations of the ruling ideology” taught in schools. 


May 3

International: President Raisi traveled to Syria to meet with President Bashar al Assad. “Many regional and extra-regional changes have failed to impact the brotherly relations between the two countries and Iran and Syria proved they were right in their positions,” said President Raisi. “This trip will not only be beneficial for Tehran and Damascus, but it is also a very good event that other countries in the region can also take advantage of,” said Iran's ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari. Raisi’s trip to Syria, one of Iran’s few allies, was the first made by an Iranian president to Syria since 2010, the year before the civil war broke out. Raisi and al Assad signed 15 cooperation agreements, including long-term oil and trade agreements, which emphasized the “comprehensive plan of strategic and long-term cooperation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic. 

Security: The Revolutionary Guards seized the Panama-flagged oil tanker Niovi in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Navy released drone footage of the tanker’s capture and said that U.S. ships were in the area at the time of the incident but did not receive a distress call. “Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are unwarranted, irresponsible and a present threat to maritime security and the global economy,” the U.S. 5th Fleet said in a statement. The seizure came six days after the Iranian Navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged ship, the Advantage Sweet.

International: The families of three Americans detained in Iran – Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz – demonstrated outside of the White House to urge President Joe Biden to do more to free their loved ones. “Our Americans in Iran have been ignored for too long, and they have been intertwined with policy when they never should have been,” said Neda Sharghi, the brother of Emad. 

International: Canada imposed new sanctions on nine Iranians and one prison for “gross and systematic human rights violations.” Three men and one woman were part of the morality police squad that detained Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who died in detention in September 2022. And four men were on the board of directors of Paravar Pars, a major drone producer. Iran has supplied Russia with hundreds of armed drones for use against Ukraine since 2022. Ottawa had imposed 11 rounds of sanctions since October 2022.   


May 4

International/Trade: Economy Minister Ehsan Khandouzi, said that obstacles to Iranian exports to Syria would be removed. Khandouzi accompanied President Raisi on his trip to Syria and met with Syrian Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Mohammad Samer al Khalil and Central Bank Governor Mohammed Issam Hazima. Khandouzi and his Syrian counterpart agreed to increase Syrian imports of Iranian goods.