Five people were killed in Iran's Kurdish region on Monday when security forces opened fire during protests over the death of a woman in police custody, a Kurdish rights group said, on a third day of turmoil over an incident that has ignited nationwide anger. Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran's Kurdistan province, fell into a coma and died following her arrest in Tehran last week by the morality police, sparking demonstrations in numerous areas including the capital. Two of the people were killed as security forces opened fire on protesters in the Kurdish city of Saqez, Amini's hometown, the Hengaw Human Rights Organization said on Twitter.
Elon Musk said his satellite-internet system Starlink would seek an exception to sanctions to make its service available in Iran, an apparent attempt to boost access to outside information in the country as protests spread. Mr. Musk, founder of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, made the proposal on Twitter in response to a request from Erfan Kasraie, who describes himself as a Persian-language journalist and doctoral researcher. Mr. Kasraie tweeted that such access would be “a game changer for the future.” The offer to provide Starlink access to Iran comes as protests spread across the country in response to the death earlier this month of a young woman in police custody, Mahsa Amini, 22 years old, who allegedly violated the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday said it will add three Iranian cargo planes serving Russia to a list of aircraft believed to violate U.S. export controls under the Biden administration's sanctions. Using commercially available data, the Commerce Department identified Boeing 747s operated by Mahan Air, Qeshm Fars Air and Iran Air transporting goods, including electronic items, to Russia in apparent violation of stringent U.S. export controls on Russia related to its invasion of Ukraine.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…Bonus: United Against Nuclear Iran Policy Director Jason Brodsky noted the contrast between Raisi’s interview and the recent visit to Yad Vashem by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who laid a wreath at the museum’s Hall of Remembrance.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
France’s foreign minister on Monday urged Iran to take the last offer on the table to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, saying the window of opportunity “is about to close.” A high-ranking European Union official said he didn’t expect any progress on the issue this week at the annual gathering of world leaders. Both officials said things looked promising last month, until an Iranian response. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said Iran raised issues linked to its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament. She gave no details.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has headed to New York to attend the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, his first such meeting as president. Raisi will be accompanied by members of his cabinet and according to Iranian press reports, the delegation plans to meet with other heads of state. He is also slated to address the UN General Assembly. The trip comes as Iran is rocked by protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died while in police custody after being apprehended by the hijab police.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
In an attempt to wrestle back China market share from Russia, Iran is reportedly gearing up to slash the price of its sanctioned crude oil stored offshore Singapore, The Straits Times reports, citing unnamed industry sources. If Iran offers its crude oil to China at a heavy discount, it would likely indicate that optimism for a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with the West and a reversal of sanctions has faded to zero. According to The Straits Times, Iran is “offering the crude in tankers anchored in Malaysia and Indonesian waters at discounts of around US$5 to US$7 to Russian cargoes”.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The head of Iran’s morality police has reportedly been suspended from his post as protests swept across Iran for a third day over the killing of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who was detained by the police after being accused of not wearing the hijab appropriately. A number of respected Iranian news outlets reported that Col Ahmed Mirzaei, the head of the moral security police of Greater Tehran, had been suspended from his role after the death of Mahsa Amini. Tehran police denied he had been suspended or fired.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Congressional Republicans are moving to compel the Biden administration to release details of its nuclear deal negotiations with Iran, including any side deals that could provide the hardline regime with access to billions of dollars in cash. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.) and 20 Republican colleagues are spearheading a legislative measure that would force the Biden administration to submit to Congress all documents "relating to any initiative or negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program," according to a copy of the legislation. In addition to forcing the release of the deal itself, the measure would expose any side deals that are being negotiated as part of the accord, according to sources familiar with the bill.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The Iranian president’s comment that “there are some signs” that the Holocaust happened but that the issue required more research sparked an outcry on Monday from Israeli officials, who denounced the remarks as antisemitic Holocaust denial. Hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi made the comment during an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” on the eve of his visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. When asked whether he believed the Holocaust happened, Raisi said there “are some signs that it happened.”
Iran is ready to send ships loaded with fuel to Lebanon within one or two weeks to help run the country's power plants, the Iranian embassy in Beirut told Al-Manar TV as a Lebanese delegation was in Tehran to discuss energy cooperation. "Any gift from anywhere is welcome." A Lebanese energy ministry spokesperson said they were unaware whether a fuel import deal had been struck but said "any gift from anywhere is welcome." Iran had previously proposed providing fuel to the Lebanese state in the form of a donation in an effort to avoid US sanctions on Iran's energy sector, two government sources told Reuters earlier this month.
IRAQ & IRAN
Pro-Iran factions in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have prepared a list of names of activists throughout the country’s central and southern cities to arrest them on charges of “belonging to the dissolved Baath party,” revealed a security source. The source said the majority of the arrest orders were based on “fabricated evidence” about meetings of Baath members. The PMF is resorting to such claims to crack down on activists, accusing them of “stirring strife” and “sabotaging the Arabeen rituals”.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
"It's been more than 203 days since I last saw my best friend," said Olivier Van Steirtegem, as he runs his fingers swiftly across his piano in his home in Brussels, playing a mesmerizing jazz tune. It's a tribute to his friend, Olivier Vandecasteele, who was arrested on February 24 by Iranian authorities on charges of spying. "This song I'm playing is John Boy by Brad Mehldau. It was the last one Olivier and I listened to together, before he was arrested by Iran," Steirtegem, 42, who is the owner of a furniture store, told DW.