Iranian protesters were seeking to build pressure with three days of nationwide strikes starting Monday, posing more upheaval in the country gripped by unrest even as one senior official suggested that the Islamic Republic's morality police had been abolished. With uncertainty over the status of the feared body whose conduct helped trigger the months of protests, many activists on social media dismissed suggestions of a government climbdown and said there should be no let-up against the state. The Biden administration also expressed skepticism.
One of the six people sentenced to death over the current anti-government protests in Iran has been subjected to mock executions three times in prison, a source has told BBC Persian. A Revolutionary Court in Tehran found Sahand Noormohammadzadeh, 26, guilty of "enmity against God" last month. He was accused of setting a bin on fire and blocking traffic, which he denied. Before his trial, the source said, Noormohammadzadeh was "asked to go on a chair blindfolded to be hanged". Cruel or degrading treatment of people in custody is prohibited under international human rights law.
Iranian government-backed hackers targeted nearly two dozen high-profile activists, journalists, diplomats and others in recent months as part of an ongoing espionage effort, two human-rights groups said Monday. In three cases, hackers gained access to the victims’ emails, contacts and other data, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which published the analysis. The hackers also attempted a Google Takeout, which allows users to download their complete Google account including messages, cloud storage and other sensitive information.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…At least 21 tankers have switched to shipping Russian oil after previously being used for Iranian shipments, said Claire Jungman, chief of staff at U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which monitors Iran-related tanker traffic through ship and satellite tracking. Of those vessels, at least have four changed ownership in recent months. Ship broker Braemar also said that some of the vessels involved in shipping Iranian and Venezuelan oil were shifting to transporting Russian oil.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A new think tank report obtained by The Jerusalem Post warns of the possibility of Iran launching an accelerated effort to achieve a few “crude” nuclear weapons in six months. According to Monday’s report by Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright, even though top Israeli officials recently told the Post that the Islamic Republic’s weapons group was two years away from being able to deliver a nuclear warhead via a ballistic missile, there could be a much more pressing threat.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “extremely concerned” about reports that items produced in Canada may have found their way into Iranian drones that have been used in Russia’s war on Ukraine. Trudeau says the local company is fully cooperating and that the government is following up to figure out how parts may have ended up with the drones. Canada has export controls, but items still ended up in the hands of Iran somehow. This follows a report in the Globe and Mail that showed that an antenna manufactured by an Ottawa-based company apparently ended up on the Shahed-136. According to the AFP, “local media reported that European think-tank Statewatch and authorities in Kyiv found antenna components from Ottawa-based Tallysman Wireless -- among 30 parts produced by Western companies -- in Iranian-made Shahed 136 drones that are part of Russia's arsenal.”
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Tuesday arrested 12 people accused of being linked to overseas agents and planning "subversive action", the elite force said in a statement, according to state media. "The members of this network, under the guidance of anti-revolutionary agents living in Germany and the Netherlands, were intending to carry out subversive action by procuring war weapons and acting against national security," the Revolutionary Guards' statement read.
Businesses in some parts of Iran went on strike on Monday as part of anti-government protests, even as the Islamic Republic vowed to implement harsh sentences on people demonstrating, including the death penalty. Footage shared on social media showed entire streets of shops shuttered in parts of the capital, Tehran, and the cities of Arak, Bushehr, Kermanshah, Shiraz and parts of Esfahan. None of the videos could be verified by Bloomberg.
Confusion over the status of Iran’s religious police grew as state media cast doubt on reports the force had been shut down. Despite the uncertainty, it has appeared for weeks that enforcement of the strict dress code has been scaled back as more women walk the streets without wearing the required headscarf. The mixed messages have raised speculation that Iran’s cleric-run leadership is considering concessions in an attempt to defuse widespread anti-government protests that are entering the third month. The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the religious police.
The United States said Monday it saw no signs that Iran was improving its treatment of women following reports that Tehran was scrapping its notorious morality police amid a wave of civil unrest. Iran is witnessing some of the most significant protests since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in the wake of the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who had been detained by the morality police, which enforces strict codes on women's dress.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has again emphasized her opposition to Iran’s participation on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “The Iranian government should not be on the @UN_CSW – an international body dedicated to promoting gender equality and women's empowerment. Removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women is the right thing to do." A draft resolution proposed by the United States, regarding the removal of Iran from the commission, will be up for a vote at the U.N. later this month.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Top Turkish military officials traveled to Azerbaijan to oversee joint military drills near the Azeri border with Iran as tensions between the two neighbors continue to escalate. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler, and the commanders of Turkey’s land, air and maritime forces arrived in Baku Monday to oversee the exercises codenamed “Fraternal Fist.” Turkish F-16 fighter jets also flew to Azerbaijan to join the maneuvers, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Facebook. The exercises are taking place in the capital, Baku, and southern regions bordering Iran.
IRAQ & IRAN
Days after his visit to Iran, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani ordered the military to tighten security along the zero point along the borders with Iran and Türkiye. An official Iraqi source told Asharq Al-Awsat that border security was “among the most important issues that Al-Sudani discussed with Iranian officials.” Major General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, announced that the latter ordered the border guards to hold the zero line with Türkiye and Iran to put an end to violations, attacks and clashes between the armed forces of the two countries and Kurdish parties opposed to Ankara and Tehran.