Iran Could Go Nuclear If Threatened, Top Officials Warn As Middle East Tensions Rise


Iran Could Go Nuclear If Threatened, Top Officials Warn As Middle East Tensions Rise | Semafor 

Iran would be compelled to build nuclear weapons if the country’s existence is in jeopardy, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader warned. Kamal Kharrazi emphasized that while Iran has the capability to produce a nuclear bomb, it has so far chosen not to go nuclear. “In the case of an attack on our nuclear facilities by the Zionist regime, our deterrence will change,” Kharrazi told Iran’s Student News Network. The remarks are the latest in a string of warnings from Iranian officials that the Tehran will rapidly build nuclear weapons if it feels sufficiently threatened. One senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said in mid-April that threats, and especially Israeli, could lead Tehran to “review” its nuclear doctrine. Gen. Jim Hockenhull, the head of UK Strategic Command, which includes the UK Defense Intelligence unit, told Semafor last month that “statements made by the IRGC are often made for the shaping impact rather than necessarily as a statement of either what might happen or what will happen.” Even so, “the possibility of this to unravel is clearly there,” he cautioned.  

People Indifferent To Iran Parliament Runoff Election | Iran International 

While the May 10 runoff parliamentary election appears to be a non-event for most Iranians, a politician suggests that widespread dissatisfaction with the government may lead to a very low turnout. Gholam Ali Rajaei, an aide to former President and Expediency Council Chief Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told reporters in Tehran that the luckiest winner in Tehran may get through to the Majles with around 50,000 votes. Explaining the reasons for the general apathy, Rajai said that people know they cannot expect too much from individuals who are elected to the Majles with the votes of only 6 to 7 percent of eligible voters. According to Rouiydad24, it is not only this reformist politician who is pessimistic about the turnout in the runoff elections. Evenconservative media outlets in Tehran are echoing similar sentiments. They argue that the general public's mood does not reflect the typical enthusiasm seen during election periods. The March first-round elections already recorded the lowest turnout in Iran's post-revolution history.  

Coldplay And Sting Call For Release Of Toomaj Salehi, Iranian Rapper Sentenced To Death | The Guardian 

More than 100 figures from the worlds of music, culture and human rights activism – including Coldplay and Sting – have signed a statement calling for the release of the Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi who has been sentenced to death in Iran after protesting in support of women’s rights. The 33-year-old, who was a vocal supporter of the Women, Life, Freedom movement in Iran was sentenced to death by a court in the city of Isfahan on 24 April, according to his lawyer. He was originally arrested in September 2022, and spent a year and 21 days in prison, including 252 days in solitary confinement. After being released on bail, he described being “severely tortured” during his time in prison. He was arrested again two weeks after his release, in December 2023, and charged with “corruption on Earth”.  


UN: Iran’s Nuclear Cooperation ‘Unsatisfactory’ | i24 News   

'The Iranians are taking note that they can get away with a direct attack on Israel and world powers with levy sanctions and nothing more' @JasonMBrodsky speaks on Iran's nuclear capabilities and the dangerous precedent taken by the international community following the attack 

Iran's Espionage At Swedish Universities Discovered: "Naivety" | Nyheter 

A new report shows that the Revolutionary Guard has access to all research from collaborations between Iranian and foreign universities. The result ends up in the hands of terrorists, points out Member of Parliament Alireza Akhondi, who is a member of the board of the organization United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Säpo warns of Iranian activities on Swedish soil, while two Swedish citizens risk the death penalty in Iran. At the same time, exchange programs between Swedish and Iranian universities continue. These programs expose Swedish research to espionage by the Islamist regime, according to the organization UANI. The organization has obtained documents that show that the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) has full insight into the international collaborations at Iranian universities. According to UANI, all Iranian students and researchers abroad are part of a program aimed at gathering knowledge for Iran's defense industry.  


Iran Economy Is Reeling Under Sanctions, Khamenei Chief Admits | Iran International 

Iran’s economy is struggling as sanctions bite hard, the Supreme Leader’s chief of staff has said in a rare admission by the regime. In unusually frank remarks, Gholamhossein Mohammadi Golpayegani said: "We are facing difficulties due to sanctions; however, the government will find a way to overcome these problems." His comments to Iranian media on Friday come amid grim data on the state of the economy. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) last month reported a 52.3% inflation rate for 2023, and there are widespread shortages including of gasoline despite the country’s major oil resources. The sanctions are being enforced against Iran because of its nuclear weapons programme and support for terror groups, but Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his loyalists have been reluctant to acknowledge the strain caused to the economy. Instead, they claim the sanctions are opportunities for growth and development and could foster national unity.  

Iran Frees Seven Crew From Portuguese Ship Seized In Gulf | AFP News 

Iran on Thursday freed seven of the 25 crew on a Portuguese-flagged ship seized in the Gulf on April 13, Portugal's foreign ministry said. Five Indians, a Filipino and an Estonian from the MSC Aries "have been freed today", the ministry said in a statement. Another Indian crew member had already been released. 

US Treasury Official Raises Alarm On Environmental Risks From Illicit Transfers Of Iranian Oil Off Malaysia | Fox News 

A U.S. treasury official warned of environmental risks from illicit transfers of Iranian oil off Malaysia, news portal Malaysiakini reported on Thursday, as the United States narrows its focus on financing for militant groups routed through Southeast Asia. The United States sees Iran's capacity to move its oil as being reliant on service providers based in Malaysia, a senior U.S. treasury official said this week. The official also said the United States was attempting to prevent Malaysia from becoming a jurisdiction where the Palestinian militant group Hamas could raise and transfer funds. Brian Nelson, the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said one of the main ways Iran raised money was through the sale of illicit oil to buyers in East Asia, Malaysiakini reported.  


Canadian Parliament Approves Proposal To Proscribe Iran’s IRGC | Iran Focus

On Wednesday, May 8, members of the Canadian House of Commons unanimously voted to add the IRGC to the official list of foreign terrorist organizations of Canada. According to Canadian media reports, the proposal, presented to the House by the Judiciary Committee, was approved with 327 in favor and no opposing votes. The decision of the Canadian House of Commons urges the government of Canada to identify the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization in its entirety. Canadian lawmakers had also approved recognizing the IRGC as a terrorist organization in 2020, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not implement it. The decision was made Flight 752 by IRGC missiles near Tehran, which resulted in the deaths of 176 people. Designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization is one of the main demands of the Iranian opposition from Western countries, which has been emphasized more recently.  


Top US University Playing Along In Iran’s Soft War | Iran International 

Princeton University has been trying for more than a decade to place itself at the center of US-Iran diplomacy, a new Semafor report has revealed, offering an academic position to a former high-ranking Tehran official. The university has also liaised with IRGC-connected diplomats for student exchange programs, only to see two of its graduate students detained or kidnapped by the IRGC and its allied armed groups in Iraq. With its second student still missing, Princeton’s experience is a “cautionary tale of how American institutions can be ensnared in the internal politics of Tehran and Washington and become pawns in those battles,” the report’s author, Jay Solomon, writes. “[The] Congress is now formally probing the school’s ties to Iranian regime officials.” The report, published Thursday under the headline “How Princeton got burned by its outreach to Iran,” is based on original investigation and makes use of a cache of Iranian foreign ministry emails that were obtained by Iran International and used in two scoops about an Iranian influence network in the US. Some familiar names from previous reports appear in the new one: Mostafa Zahrani, a senior Iranian foreign ministry diplomat with strong ties to IRGC, and Ariane Tabatabaei, currently at Pentagon, whose close and extensive ties with the regime have raised many eyebrows, and led to calls for revocation of her security clearance –as has happened with her mentor, Robert Malley, who until a year ago was Joe Biden’s Iran envoy.  


Iranian Director Mohammad Rasoulof Sentenced To Prison And Flogging Ahead Of Cannes Premiere | Vulture 

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof has been sentenced by the Islamic Revolutionary Court to eight years in prison, flogging, and confiscation of property. The ruling came down just days before the start of the Cannes Film Festival, where Rasoulof is premiering his newest film in competition, The Seed of the Sacred Fig. According to translated tweets from Rasoulof’s lawyer, Babak Paknia, he was sentenced for “signing statements and making films and documentaries,” which the court sees as “examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security.” This ruling is just the latest act of persecution by the Iranian government against Rasoulof, who has been arrested numerous times for his films’ alleged “propaganda against the system.” His work deals with topics including capital punishment and the persecution of writers. One such film, A Man of Integrity, won Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2017. Authorities confiscated Rasoulof’s passport and banned him from leaving the country that same year.  

Jailed Iranian Writer Couple Must Be Released, Say 700 Activists | Iran International 

Writers Anisha Asadollahi and her husband Keyvan Mohtadi “do not belong in prison” more than 700 activists have said in a letter calling for the couple’s release. The two members of the Iranian Writers Association were arrested in May 2022 on charges of "conspiracy and collusion" against national security. In a statement issued on Wednesday, union, cultural, and political activists stated: "Keyvan Mohtadi and Anisha Asadollahi are caring and thoughtful individuals who do not belong in prison." Parastoo Foruhar, artist and writer; Keyvan Samimi, political activist; Esmaeel Abdi, member of teachers union; Mehrangiz Kar, women's rights activist; Reza Khandan Mahabadi, writer and Fereshteh Molavi, translator; are among the signatories. Asadollahi was sentenced to five years and eight months and Mohtadi to six years in prison.  

Iran Arrests Two Protest Singers, Whereabouts Unknown | Iran Wire 

Security forces of the Islamic Republic have arrested two protest singers and moved them to an undisclosed location. The security forces in Shiraz arrested Vafa Ahmadpour (Vafadar) and Danial Moghaddam on May 9. Their whereabouts and the reasons for their arrest remain unknown, according to HRANA human rights website. The news of the arrest was shared on Ahmadpour's social media channels. Both singers are known for their protest music. Ahmadpour recently released a song titled "Amadeh Bash" (Be Ready), and this could be linked to his arrest. He has a history of run-ins with authorities. In February, he was detained for 15 days and sentenced to a year in prison for "spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic."  


FBI Warns Of Efforts By China, Russia, Iran To Influence Election | The Hill 

China, Russia and Iran are among the foreign adversaries ramping up their efforts to influence the 2024 election with campaigns being aided by artificial intelligence, the FBI warned Thursday. “Election threats are more diverse and expansive than ever,” a senior FBI official said on a call with reporters. And while each adversary has their own approach with different nuances and prerogatives, “sowing discord and undermining democracy is consistent across the board,” the official added. China in particular is expanding their influence efforts by creating fake social media accounts to “push narratives and sow divisiveness,” mirroring efforts deployed by Russia in prior elections. The bureau said artificial intelligence tools are an undercurrent of many of the operations. “It doesn’t just kind of lower the barrier of entry for people to do work in this space or create fake content,” the official said. “It also really increases the ability for our sophisticated nation state actors to scale their operations and really build them out larger than we’ve seen previously.”  


Khamenei Votes As Iran Begins Run-Off Parliamentary Elections | Associated Press

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his ballot on Friday as people in the country voted in a runoff election for the remaining seats in the country's parliament after hard-line politicians dominated March balloting. People in 22 constituencies across the country will elect 45 representatives from a pool of 90 candidates, 15 of whom are considered moderate. 

Elections Meaningless As Long As Guardian Council Exists: Ex-Iranian President | Iran Wire 

A former Iranian president has called on reformists to refrain from participating in the upcoming elections until the clerical establishment dismantles the hardline Guardian Council. Mohammad Khatami conceded that even the presence of a few representatives in the parliament is "useless." "Let us for once stand beside the people and say that we will not participate in the elections as long as the Guardian Council exists," he said in a leaked audio.  Khatami is heard saying this in an audio file that was leaked on Thursday, May 9. In the audio recording, he discusses issues around the parliamentary elections in a meeting with reformists.  Khatami, who was Iran's president from 1997 to 2005, is heard saying in the audio: "Until now we begged and we pleaded 'Give us three seats in the parliament. Please change your behavior a little bit.' But we saw that it was of no use." The Guardian Council of the Islamic Republic is a constitutionally mandated 12-member body with the final say on legislation passed by the parliament and overall elections. The Guardian Council must qualify all candidates to run in the elections.  


Israei Strikes Iran-Linked Militia In Damascus As Its Campaign Against Proxies Continues | The National 

The Israeli Air Force on Thursday struck and destroyed a building in south Damascus belonging to one of the strongest pro-Iranian militias in the Middle East, pro-Iranian sources said. The attack, on the Iraqi Al Nujaba militia base in the Sayda Zeinab district, is the fourth known Israeli raid against targets linked to Tehran in Syria since the two countries came close to direct war three weeks ago, amid the war in Gaza. State media in Damascus quoted a military official as saying “Israeli military aggression targeted one building” on the outskirts of the capital with missiles at 3am local time. “Our aid defences repulsed the missiles of aggression and brought down some of them,” the official said. The attack resulted in “material damage”, he said. In Baghdad, a parliamentarian linked to the Iranian backed non-state groups in the country confirmed that the strike hit a site run by Al Nujaba, saying it caused no casualties.  


Maritime Group Reports Hijacking Attempt Of Vessel East Of Yemen's Aden | Iran International 

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) organization said on Friday it had received a report of a failed hijacking attempt of a vessel 195 nautical miles east of Yemen's Aden. The vessel's master reported being approached by a small craft carrying five or six armed people with ladders. Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen have launched drone and missile attacks on shipping in and around the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean since November to show support for the Palestinians in the Gaza war. The attacks began after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called on Muslims to blockade Israel. Maritime sources say pirates may be encouraged by a relaxation of security or may be taking advantage of the chaos caused by attacks on shipping by the Iran-aligned Houthis. After firing on the vessel, the people in the small craft were forced to abort their approach when the security team on the vessel returned fire, the UKMTO reported.