On August 13, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned an oil smuggling network for supporting the Qods Force, the external operations branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Qods Force “has been using revenue from Iranian petroleum sales to fund its malign activities,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
In the first half of 2021, Iran persecuted religious minorities including Baha’is and Christians as well as Sunni and Sufi Muslims, according to a new report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. “Iranian authorities have arrested scores of religious minorities, who face lengthy prison sentences, while harassing others or denying them advancement in higher education.” Iran’s population is predominantly Shiite Muslim, and Shiism is the official religion of the state.
After President Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration on August 5, the Biden administration faced the awkward issue of whether to grant a visa to a man sanctioned by the U.S. government and who played a role in the massacre of some 5,000 political prisoners. Raisi, like previous Iranian presidents, may seek to attend the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City in September.
On July 28, the State Department condemned Iran’s crackdown on peaceful protests sparked by a water shortage. “We support the rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and express themselves, without fear of violence and detention by security forces,” Spokesperson Ned Price said. As of July, more than 300 cities—nearly a fourth of all municipalities—faced water shortages caused by a severe drought. Protests erupted in southwestern Khuzestan province in mid-July and then spread to several other provinces. Price’s statement is below, followed by timeline of the demonstrations.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi met with President Joe Biden on July 26 for the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. The United States committed to removing all combat troops by the end of 2021. The two leaders also spoke about attacks by Iran-backed militias on U.S.
When did Iran start building a drone fleet?
Iran’s interest in drones and uninhabited vehicles really goes back to the Iran-Iraq war in the mid-1980s. The Iranians have been in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) business for several decades. The first generation of the Ababil that was used during the Iran-Iraq war appears to have been a low-cost attack munition, rather than an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform.
On June 22, Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, criticized Iran for its “widespread use of the death penalty, and its arbitrary imposition for a range of acts that under international law do not constitute ‘most serious crimes.’” The following is her statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council on a new report on human rights violations in Iran.