Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said his government will decide how it will spend $6 billion in previously frozen funds due to be released in a prisoner exchange agreement with the U.S., telling NBC News’ Lester Holt that the money will be spent "wherever we need it." In an exclusive interview in Tehran, Raisi suggested that the Americans held in Iran would be coming home soon, saying that the U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange deal would be completed in “due time” and that the American detainees were “very healthy.” Under the arrangement, Tehran will be granted access to the roughly $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues that were blocked in South Korean banks because of U.S. sanctions. But U.S. officials say Qatar’s central bank will oversee the funds and Iran will be permitted to use the money only for humanitarian purposes in accordance with U.S. sanctions.
Snap checkpoints. Internet disruptions. University purges. Iran's theocracy is trying hard to both ignore the upcoming anniversary of nationwide protests over the country's mandatory headscarf law and tamp down on any possibility of more unrest. Yet the Sept. 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini still reverberates across Iran. Some women are choosing to go without the headscarf, or hijab, despite an increasing crackdown by authorities. Graffiti, likely against Iran's government, is rapidly painted over in black by Tehran's municipal workers. University professors have been fired over their apparent support for demonstrators.
The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved measures Tuesday targeting Iran for its human rights record and placing restrictions on the country’s ability to import or export its expanding arsenal of weapons. The measures would impose a series of sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader, president and other individuals as Washington seeks to further punish the Islamic Republic ahead of the one-year anniversary of nationwide protests. The resolutions will now go to the Senate, where it is unclear if the Democratic-controlled chamber will take them up.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…The fact that the act was passed near-unanimously 410-3 sparked happy reactions from its supporters, but also speculation as to who voted against the bill. “The work is not done yet, but this is a huge victory for the Iranian American community and a testament to its organizing power,” said Jason Brodsky, policy director of the NGO United Against Nuclear Iran. The Twitter user “Javanan Toronto” posted the pictures of representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Cori Bush (D-MO) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), accusing them of voting against the bill.
…“The West Bank is a priority theater for the Islamic Republic. You can tell from the supreme leader’s recent remarks that he is laser-focused on developing a resistance network in the West Bank, namely through Palestinian Islamic Jihad and offshoots,” Jason Brodsky, the policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran, tells The Dispatch. “They are focused on resourcing and radicalizing these elements to create a front against Israel.”
…Vessels identified as the Virgo (left) and the Suez Rajan (right) by the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, are seen in the South China Sea on Feb. 13, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
On the occasion of the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, the Australian government has taken action to further sanction Iran for its human rights abuses. It is the first time targeted financial sanctions and travel bans have been put in place on regime figures under the recently expanded Iran autonomous sanctions framework. The sanctions, designed to address the ongoing oppression faced by Iranians, especially women and girls, will target four individuals and three entities directly involved in systemic rights abuses. Among the sanctioned individuals is Saeed Montazerolmahdi, the spokesperson for Iran's Law Enforcement Forces, who has repeatedly used intimidating and threatening language towards Iranian women and girls alleged to have violated Iran's mandatory veiling laws.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran on Tuesday identified the five prisoners it hopes to see freed in the United States in exchange for five Iranian-Americans now held in Tehran and billions in assets once held by South Korea. The acknowledgment by the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York comes as the Biden administration has issued a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without fear of U.S. sanctions. The moves by both Tehran and Washington appear to signal the prisoner swap is progressing as the money once held in South Korean won is converted into euros and moved to Qatar, where Iran will be able to use it for humanitarian purposes.
Five U.S. citizens detained in Iran who are expected to be swapped for five Iranians imprisoned in the United States as early as next week are "in full health," Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Tuesday. As part of the prisoner swap deal first made public on Aug. 10, the United States has agreed to the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korean to Qatari accounts, where they can be spent only on humanitarian goods. The United States said it will have "oversight" on how and when the funds will be spent. "The money can only be used for humanitarian purposes and we will remain vigilant in watching the spending of those funds and have the ability to freeze them again if we need to," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters on Tuesday.
Donald Trump hurled an unsubstantiated accusation at President Joe Biden, baselessly suggesting that he received a “kickback” after the release of Iranian funding in connection to the planned liberation of five Americans in captivity. Mr Trump took to his social media platform Truth Social on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, writing, “So, let’s get this straight! We did a hostage TRADE with Iran. We gave them 5 very tough, smart people that they desperately wanted. We likewise got back 5 people BUT, we also gave them 6 BILLION DOLLARS!” “How much of a kickback does Crooked Joe Biden get?” he asked. “Does anyone realize how much money 6 Billion Dollars is? When I was President, I got back 58 hostages for ZERO money. Remember Pastor Brunson? It sets a TERRIBLE precedent. Republicans, call out the 25th Amendment, NOW! Biden is INCOMPETENT!
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi issued a stark warning to anyone thinking about protesting the country’s theocratic regime on the eve of the one-year-anniversary of the arrest of Mahsa Amini, whose death in police custody sparked demonstrations across Iran. Raisi, a protege of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the West for last fall’s uprising, which was triggered after Amini, an aspiring 22-year-old lawyer, was arrested on Sept 13, 2022, and allegedly beaten to death three days later by Iran’s morality police for not properly wearing her hijab. “[T]hose who intend to abuse Mahsa Amini’s name, under this pretext to be an agent of foreigners, to create this instability in the country, we know what will happen to them,” said Raisi, during an interview with “NBC Nightly News” host Lester Holt on Tuesday.
The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted to name a street intersection in memory of Mahsa Amini, whose death in the custody of the morality police in Iran nearly a year ago sparked months of nationwide protests there. Los Angeles, the second most populous U.S. city, is home to an Iranian community of nearly 138,000 people, of the 400,000-620,000 people of Iranian ancestry in the United States, according to the University of California, Los Angeles. The intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Rochester Avenue- in an area home to Persian businesses- will be renamed Women Life Freedom Square in Amini's memory, according to a record of the City Council vote on its website.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanani said his country will not hesitate to respond to "foolish" moves by the Israeli government, as the war of words between the two enemies is escalating. Addressing reporters in Tehran on Monday, Kanani was reacting to a recent warning from David Barnea, director of Israel's foreign intelligence agency, Mossad. Barnea has accused Iran of intensifying its worldwide "terror" campaign against Israeli citizens and Jewish targets. He warned that should Iran harm Israeli citizens, his country will hit the "highest echelon … in the heart of Tehran." "Such an overt announcement of plots to assassinate the officials of a country is only indicative of the nature of this terrorist regime," Kanani declared, arguing that Israel has a proven record of "resorting to terrorist moves to achieve its illegitimate objectives."
Two leading military experts are criticizing the Biden administration’s decision to strike a deal with Iran. "It's not good when you look at the deal," Ret. Gen. Keith Kellogg said on "Mornings with Maria" Tuesday, "and the timing was terrible when it was really announced yesterday on the 22nd anniversary of 9/11. And people need to understand that Iran is not a friend of the west at all." "To give them access to $6 billion on 9/11 just doesn't make any sense at all," former U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien also told guest host Cheryl Casone Tuesday. "It sends the wrong message to our adversaries. It shows American weakness and it creates a market for new hostage taking." Iran will reportedly release five American citizens detained in Iran and – in exchange – the U.S. will release five Iranian citizens being held in the U.S.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Republicans are voicing outrage at the Biden administration's decision to carry out a prisoner exchange with Iran, accusing President Joe Biden of paying a ransom to a world state sponsor of terrorism. The administration notified Congress on Monday that it has proceeded with the agreement, which has involved issuing a waiver that will give Tehran access to $6 billion in oil revenue that the U.S. had frozen through sanctions. Under the agreement, the administration will free five Iranians under detention in the U.S., and in exchange, Iran will release five Americans who have been detained by Tehran. Former President Donald Trump lashed out at Biden in a post on Tuesday on Truth Social, saying the deal sets a "TERRIBLE precedent."
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq has started relocating Iranian Kurdish groups from Iraq's Kurdish region frontiers with Iran to camps far from the border as part of a security agreement between Baghdad and Tehran, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said on Tuesday. Iraq and Iran signed a border security agreement in March, a move Iraqi officials said was aimed primarily at tightening the frontier with Iraq's Kurdish region, where Tehran says armed Kurdish dissidents pose a threat to its security. "Based on the agreement between Iraq and Iran, necessary measures were taken to remove these groups from the border areas and they were housed in camps deep inside Iraqi Kurdistan," Hussein told a press conference on Tuesday.