Iran claimed on Tuesday that it had created a hypersonic missile capable of traveling at 15 times the speed of sound, adding a new weapon to its arsenal as tensions remain high with the United States over Tehran’s nuclear program. The new missile — called Fattah, or “Conqueror” in Farsi — was unveiled even as Iran said it would reopen its diplomatic posts on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia after reaching a détente with Riyadh following years of conflict. The tightly choreographed segment on Iranian state television apparently sought to show that Tehran’s hard-line government can still deploy arms against its enemies across much of the Middle East.
Iran is only allowing a “fraction” of the monitoring equipment at its nuclear sites that the UN’s nuclear watchdog expects, the organisation's head said. Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, revealed Iran has for the first time allowed devices at two plants to detect uranium enrichment levels. Earlier this year Mr Grossi visited Iran and met President Ebrahim Raisi, after which a Joint Statement was issued stating Tehran “will allow the IAEA to implement further appropriate verification and monitoring activities”. The director general said for the first time the IAEA has installed an enrichment monitoring device at two uranium enrichment sites, at Fordow and Natanz.
A new unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been revealed. According to Israel's public broadcaster Kan, Unit 700 is headed by Gal Farsat, a former Al-Quds Force official with extensive connections to senior officials in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Unit 700 was reported to be in charge of smuggling supplies and logistics for the Al-Quds Force. In particular, it will be responsible for transferring military equipment to pro-Iranian militias, notably in Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iranian arms sales have been on the headlines, whether for smuggling weapons toterrorist militias in Gaza, Lebanon or Syria, or supplying Russia in their war against Ukraine.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Iran is holding a tanker as a “bargaining chip” on behalf of company involved in a dispute over an oil shipment, a group which monitors Tehran's efforts to evade sanctions has said. United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) said it was “highly likely” the Niovi had been seized on the direct orders of the regime and is being held after a subsidiary of Turkey's ASB group claimed a shipment of its oil was sold to a third party without its consent. The Niovi was seized on May 3 and had previously been shipping crude for ASB, which was hit with US sanctions after being accused of facilitating the sale hundreds of millions of dollars of oil for the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The U.N. nuclear watchdog's chief denied on Monday that his agency had watered down its standards in an investigation into past Iranian activities after Israel accused it of "capitulation to Iranian pressure". The dispute centres on the International Atomic Energy Agency's years-long investigation into the origin of uranium particles found at three undeclared Iranian sites, most of which appear to have been active around two decades ago. "We never ever, never ever water down our standards. We stand by our standards, we apply our standards," IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi told a news conference when asked about unusually strong criticism of his agency levelled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
All of Israel will unite if a strike against Iran is needed, National Unity leader Benny Gantz said at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on Monday. “Today, in an ever-shifting global and Middle East reality, our nation is threatened by the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran,” Gantz said. “We must stress that a nuclear Iran is first and foremost a global challenge, endangering global and regional stability.”
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The Telegram channel for “Islam World Resistance”—a group affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—announced on Saturday that it seeks to murder Israeli LGBTQ community members in response to the annual LGBTQ parade in Jerusalem. The IRGC-linked group wrote on Telegram: "March of homosexuals in the occupied holy Al Quds city. After killing these impure [homosexuals], where should we bury them on the earth to not make the earth dirty?” Al Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem and is by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Jerusalem gay pride parade attracted 30,000 people on Thursday.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The Iranian regime says a female police officer who died after she defected from the force to express solidarity with protesters has suffered a cardiac arrest. Mansoureh Sagvand is the latest such case to mysteriously die in the wake of detention. From the southern city of Abdanan, IRNA state news agency quoted officials from Ilam University of Medical Sciences who claimed her death was caused by cardiac and respiratory arrest. The brave young woman posted her defection publicly on Instagram.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran will reopen its diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia this week, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday, several months after Tehran and Riyadh agreed to end years of antagonism under a Chinese-brokered deal. In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to re-establish relations between the regional rivals whose hostility had threatened stability and security in the Middle East and helped fuel regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria. "To implement the agreement ..., Iran's embassy in Riyadh, our Consulate General in Jeddah and our office to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will be officially reopened on Tuesday and Wednesday," spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
Tensions have escalated between Tehran and the Taliban regime in Kabul over the distribution of their shared waters. As Iran faces increasing water scarcity issues, Afghanistan is trying to dam water sources as much as possible to generate electricity and irrigate agricultural land.Originating in the Afghan Hindu Kush mountain range, the Helmand River is Afghanistan’s longest river that flows across the country before it winds down to the Iran border and runs into the Hamoun Lake that is accessible to both sides. For centuries, it has been a primary source of drinking water, fishing and irrigation for both countries.
Over the past few months, Iran realized that the Taliban would be much more assertive in their future bilateral dealings. For any observer, Kabul’s tough-talking approach seems consistent considering its conduct with Islamabad. Tehran’s loss of patience with the Taliban reflects the over-estimation of its influence. Recent armed clashes along the Helmand-Baluchistan border have inflicted several fatalities, with at least two confirmed losses of soldiers on the Iranian side and one on the Afghan side. The fierce fighting involved automatic machine guns, artillery and rocket fire, while Iran even resorted to the use of gunship helicopters and drones.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran's election to two major roles in the U.N.'s top body last week drew immediate objection from the U.S. and Israel, which condemned the moves as "absurd." Tehran on Thursday was selected to sit as vice president on the General Committee for the 78th session, which will begin in September, as well as rapporteur for the General Assembly’s committee on disarmament and international security. International allies like the U.S. and Israel flatly rejected the appointments and immediately sought to distance themselves from the decision to place Iran – which has come under international condemnation for its continued nuclear development, human rights violations and military aid to Russia amid its war effort in Ukraine – in a top position on the General Assembly.