The head of Iran’s nuclear program insisted Wednesday that his government would cooperate with international inspectors on any “new activities.” His statement followed an exclusive Associated Press report about Tehran’s new underground tunnel system near a nuclear enrichment facility. The AP outlined this week how deep inside a mountain, the new tunnels near the Natanz facility are likely beyond the range of a last-ditch U.S. weapon designed to destroy such sites. The report sparked wider conversation across the Middle East about the construction, with Israel’s national security adviser saying Tuesday the site would not be immune from attack even if its depth put it out of range of American airstrikes.
A group of Iranian female political prisoners incarcerated in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison have held a protest against the recent execution of three protesters and the state's increasing usage of the death penalty, which has been widely criticized by rights groups and governments around the world. According to reports on social media accounts published on May 23, some of the most well-known female political prisoners, including Sepideh Gholian, Bahareh Hedayat, Faezeh Hashemi, and Narges Mohammadi, participated in a rare political protest inside the prison, with each issuing statements condemning the wave of executions.
The government's failure to ban Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps more than four months after MPs voted for it was challenged on Tuesday. The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion in January to urge the government to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist group. Although the vote was not binding, it put pressure on ministers to respond to violence against protesters in Iran by security forces controlled by the IRGC. Peers in Westminster have now called on the government again to take action against the military body, which has been proscribed by allies such as the US.
UANI IN THE NEWS
The group, United Against Nuclear Iran, or UANI, has spent the past year highlighting collaborations between academics at a number of top Canadian schools and their counterparts at technology-focused universities in Iran. Iranian universities have drawn Western scrutiny, and in some cases sanctions, for their work in nuclear research, satellites and drone technology, all of which can have military applications. UANI is led by Mark Wallace, who was a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations during George W. Bush’s presidency.
…Since 2019, Titan has hauled a series of Iranian crude oil shipments, according to data intelligence company Kpler. The vessel carried about 16 million barrels of Iranian oil in 2022, according to data from United Against Nuclear Iran, which tracks the nation’s crude exports.
…The US-based organization United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) on Monday said: “Following direct intervention by UANI, two European firms agreed to sever ties with Iran’s Aris Engineering Group, which specializes in oil and gas, petrochemicals and mining and lists among its ‘approved vendors’ several entities linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. These entities include Pars Oil and Gas Company, the National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company, and the Iranian Offshore Oil Company.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The top Israeli general raised the prospect of "action" against Iran on Tuesday even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security adviser played down any immediate threat posed by a new underground nuclear facility being dug by Tehran. World powers' efforts to negotiate new curbs to Iranian uranium enrichment and other projects with bomb-making potential have been fruitless so far, fanning long-bruited threats by Israel to resort to force if it deems diplomacy a dead end.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Renting a home in Iran has become nearly impossible for tenants who not only have buried their dream of owning a home, but also struggle to afford rent despite reducing the size and amenities of their homes every year to continue making ends meet. This is especially in Iran’s major cities. As we approach the summer season and the time for tenants to move, the unbridled rise in residential rent costs, coupled with the alarming increase in housing prices, have put them under even more pressure. Some are forced to move to the slums, while others have no choice but moving into substandard houses.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
A British-Iranian hunger striker calling for the UK to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) is to resume his public protest this week after a fatwa was allegedly issued against him. Vahid Beheshti, 46, was recently discharged from hospital after spending two months on hunger strike in a tent outside London’s Foreign Office and is believed to be recovering in a 'safehouse'. He told the JC that “nothing” would stop him from returning to Whitehall to protest, despite being “strongly advised” not to by counterterrorism operatives.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Shima Shahrabi, a journalist for the website IranWire, said Wednesday she was concerned about the physical condition of her brother after Iranian authorities arrested him more than three weeks ago. Shahrabi tweeted that her brother, Sajjad Shahrabi, was arrested because of her own media activities and that phone contact with her brother has been cut off for a week. She added that her brother said he had been held in solitary confinement and was then moved to a multi-person cell following a hunger strike.
Two jailed Iranian journalists, who helped break the story of the case of a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody last September, will go on trial later this month, according to Iranian authorities. A judiciary spokesman said Elaheh Mohammadi will go on trial on May 29 and Niloufar Hamedi will be tried on May 30. Hamedi, with the Sharq newspaper, was the first to report on the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police. The death of Amini, who was accused of wearing her headscarf too loosely, sparked nationwide anti-government protests.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
U.S. Navy warships stationed in the Persian Gulf region have increased their patrols through the Strait of Hormuz, the busy merchant ship passageway, in response to recent moves by Iran to seize two oil tankers, the latest sign of rising tensions between Iran and the United States. “Iran’s actions are unacceptable,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region, said in an interview on Monday at the Navy base here in Bahrain. He was speaking several days after he rode a Navy guided-missile destroyer through the strait of Hormuz, along with leaders from the French and British navies, in an effort to send a unified message to Iran.
Turkish intelligence officials arrested a cell operating on behalf of the Mossad against Iranian assets, local media claimed on Tuesday. According to the reports, 11 members of the 15-strong team were detained on accusations of spying on an Iranian company and 23 persons with business ties to the Islamic Republic. The National Intelligence Organization of the Republic of Turkey, MIT, reportedly uncovered the cell following an 18-month operation. At least one person arrested received training in Israel, said the reports.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran has appointed a new top security official for the first time in nearly a decade, a move analysts say could affect how it approaches its main foreign policy files and reflects the rising influence of conservative voices in the country’s establishment. Ali Akbar Ahmadian, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), on Monday, replaced Ali Shamkhani as the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). Ahmadian was also appointed as one of the two representatives of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the SNSC, which plays a key role in shaping Iran’s foreign and national security policies.
For most of the last nine months, outside analysts have looked to Iran’s protests for signs that the country might experience political change. These demonstrators, the vast majority of them young, certainly rocked the country’s elite with their cries of “Woman, life, freedom!” and their demands for democracy and a more open society. For a time, the protests were so large that outside analysts wondered if the Islamic Republic might simply collapse. Alas, it was not to be. Tehran resorted to overwhelming force to quash the demonstrations, arresting thousands of protesters. It killed hundreds more, including via gruesome public executions. Today, embers of public discontent in Iran still smolder. But by and large, the demonstrations have subsided. They do not pose an imminent threat to the regime. But the Iranian elite is not resting easy, if for a very different reason. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is 84 years old and has a history of health problems.
A moderate conservative politician says the ultraconservative Paydari Party has occupied most power centers including the parliament and the state television. Former lawmaker Mansour Haghighatpour told Etemad Onlinethat the "audacious Paydari Party" has a lot of money, controls several powerful institutions and has seized and occupied the state television silently. Haghighatpour is close to Iran’s former conservative parliament (Majles) speaker Ali Larijani who recently had a public run-in with ultraconservatives or hardliners.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Israeli security planners say they can destroy enemy installations even as new warnings emerge that Iran’s nuclear facilities are being situated ever deeper underground. Yet, as Jerusalem craves Washington’s cooperation in ending that threat, Senator Cruz is warning that President Biden’s Iran policies are “exactly backward.” The Associated Press is reporting that the Islamic Republic is building a new facility in the Zagros Mountains, near the nuclear plant at Natanz, in central Iran. The installation is dug “so deep in the earth that it is likely beyond the range of a last-ditch U.S. weapon designed to destroy such sites,” according to AP.
Former Vice President Mike Pence and 107 other former world leaders on Tuesday signed a letter to President Joe Biden and his counterparts in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe calling on the West to adopt a tougher approach to Iran and support Iranian anti-government protesters demanding regime change. The letter came after U.S. lawmakers last week expressed bipartisan support for the Iranian people demonstrating against their government and slammed Biden for in their view not having a coherent or comprehensive strategy toward Iran. "We believe it is time to hold the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran to account for its crimes," the letter states.
A photograph of a woman, wearing a white chador with an ornate pattern and standing in front of a hanging Persian rug, is perhaps the most striking image of a new exhibition in Milan that aims to shed light on women's lives in today's Iran. The woman is photographed from behind and the pattern of her chador, which completely covers her, seems to intertwine with the dense floral design of the rug. The image is part of the first solo exhibition by Iranian photographer Farnaz Damnabi, which opened at Milan's 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery on Tuesday.