Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian, a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was appointed to be secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the highest body in charge of foreign policy and national security, on May 22. He replaced Ali Shamkhani, a former rear admiral and defense minister who had held the position from 2013 to 2023. The reshuffle marked the latest consolidation of the IRGC in positions of power.
After a decade surviving Iran’s fractious politics, Ali Shamkhani was removed as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the highest body in charge of foreign policy and national security, on May 22. The former rear admiral, a young hero during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war who rose to become minister of defense in the 1990s, had served three presidents from rival factions as head of the SNSC. He was pushed aside in favor of Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian, a senior Revolutionary Guards officer.
In 2022, Iran executed at least 576 people – more than any other country except China – according to Amnesty International’s annual report on the death penalty. Executions were up 83 percent compared to 2021. The spike was linked to death sentences for drug-related offenses and murder.
In 2022, Iran imprisoned the second most writers worldwide, according to PEN America, an advocacy group for freedom of expression. “The state of free expression globally remained perilous” in 2022, PEN said in its annual Freedom to Write Index. Key factoids include:
On May 15, the State Department released its annual report on religious freedom. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the Iranian government for the crackdown on protesters.
The majority of components in Iran’s drones—including microchips and GPS modules—were made in the United States, which is supporting Ukraine. The components, used for functions ranging from navigation to data processing, have been traced to two Iranian suicide drones—the Shahed-131 and Shahed-136—and the Mohajer-6, a drone that can conduct both strikes and reconnaissance.
Iran’s leaders marked the 44th anniversary of the 1979 revolution by defiantly blaming adversaries, including the United States, for nationwide protests that erupted in September 2022 after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in detention. “The enemy’s goal is to force the revolution and the government of the Islamic Republic to its knees,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned military officers on February 8. “Sometimes they bring up ‘women.’ Sometimes they bring up the ‘Shiite and Sunni’ issue.
Students were the trigger and sustaining force behind protests that erupted on September 16. During the first two months, young Iranians demonstrated against the government at some 143 universities in all 31 provinces, which led to government crackdowns and hundreds of deaths. By early January 2023, at least 685 students had been detained. The initial demonstrations—shortly after the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurd—broke out in the capital and Kurdish cities.