Iran this week said it was reviewing a request to delay the execution of an Iranian-born Swedish academic convicted of espionage. The case of Ahmadreza Jalali, a disaster medicine doctor, has drawn widespread international condemnation and put a spotlight on Iran’s pattern of arresting dual nationals on spurious charges, often for political leverage. Jalali’s death sentence is “final,” a spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Monday, adding that the judiciary was considering an appeal by his lawyers to delay the execution scheduled for May 21.
After easing up on Iranian oil somewhat in favor of heavily discounted Russian crude, China is now set to receive nearly two million barrels of Iranian oil, Reuters reports, citing Vortexa Analytics tanker tracking data. The cargo, set to unload in south China later this week for pumping into the government’s reserves, is the third large cargo to come from Iran since December. The cargo is reportedly on board a tanker owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, which indicates it will be officially recorded as a Chinese purchase of Iranian crude.
Hundreds of Iranians have taken to the streets in cities across the country, protesting against the crippling political and economic situation. Unofficial reports say security forces have killed at least four people. Coming from all walks of life, protestors shout slogans that target the top officials of the clerical system, including the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Ebrahim Raisi. The internet in the cities with ongoing protests is either cut or partially throttled by the government in an attempt to control the spreading of the news.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…In a sign of Abu Dhabi’s influence, dozens of dignitaries and world leaders descended on the federation to honor the late Sheikh Khalifa and shore up ties with its new leader. Moving through the narrow strip of Abu Dhabi tarmac, the arrivals paying tribute included bitter adversaries such as Israel and Iran, Russia and the U.S., and Pakistan and India. First among Western leaders to make the trip were French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The visit by the U.S. delegation sent a positive message, said Jason Brodsky, the policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran. “[It’s] a signal to the Emirati leadership that Washington values their partnership,” he added.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday said that what appears to have “temporarily paused” the nuclear deal with Iran is that “the ayatollahs’ demands are so extreme and so radical.” “[I am] hopeful, which may not be the same as optimistic,” Cruz told The Jerusalem Post when asked about the stalled agreement. “I think the Biden administration desperately wants a deal, and unfortunately they’ve demonstrated they’re willing to concede virtually anything, even if it jeopardizes the safety and security of Israel, and even if it jeopardizes the safety and security of the United States,” he said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Authorities in Tehran are attempting to break a strike by bus workers that has hampered transportation in the capital and threatens to merge with separate antigovernment protests around the country calling for the end of Iran's clerical regime amid a worsening economic situation. Bus drivers and other employees of the Tehran Bus Company have staged strikes since May 16, fueling a transportation crisis that has led the city to use police buses and drivers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a powerful branch of the military, to keep routes open.
Iranian authorities have released on bail two prominent documentary filmmakers after holding the women in detention for over a week at a time of protests over price rises, activists said Wednesday. Mina Keshavarz and Firoozeh Khosravani, who had both been detained on May 7 and held in Tehran’s Evin prison, were released on Tuesday evening, the Bidarzani women’s rights group said. Their release is temporary and came after the families intervened to bring about their freedom on bail, the group added. Persian-language media based outside of Iran also confirmed their release.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is set to meet U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Washington on Thursday to discuss increasing U.S. pressure on Iran, with Gantz intending to cite the Iranian nuclear program's significant progress in recent months, as well as the widespread protests in Iran over economic distress.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran says it has inaugurated a new factory for producing Ababil-2 military drones in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan. This interesting development was openly discussed on Iranian media, so it is clear that Tehran is not trying to keep this a secret. Furthermore, Iran appears to be bragging about how it is increasing the reach of its drone market. The Islamic Republic has exported drones in the past, to Venezuela for instance, but this factory would appear to be a milestone. So what is Iran up to? “During a visit to Tajikistan, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Hossein Baqeri inaugurated a factory manufacturing Ababil-2 military drones,” Tasnim News says.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Jordan's King Abdullah II stated that Iran and its proxies were filling a vacuum left by Russia in southern Syria, warning that this could lead to issues along Jordan's borders, during an interview on Wednesday at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. When asked about Iran, the king stated that "we want everybody to be part of a new Middle East and to move forward, but we do have security challenges. We're seeing border attacks on a regular basis and we know who's behind that." Abdullah II stressed that Russia's presence in southern Syria was a "source of calm" and warned that Iran and its proxies were filling the vacuum left by Russia as it focuses on Ukraine.