A deadly attack on an oil tanker by explosive-laden drones. Unmanned aircraft launched from the Gaza Strip hitting Israeli neighborhoods. Strikes on Saudi Arabian refineries and pipelines and on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq. Behind this wave of attacks, U.S., European and Israeli defense officials say: Iran and its allies across the Middle East. They say Tehran’s rapidly developing ability to build and deploy drones is changing the security equation in a region already on edge. The drones themselves are often made with widely available components used in the ever-growing commercial drone market and by hobbyists, the officials say.
A newly discovered hacking group with alleged ties to the Iranian government has waged a yearslong campaign to steal information from aerospace and telecommunications companies in the Middle East, the U.S., Europe and Russia, according to cybersecurity researchers. The hacking group, dubbed MalKamak by the researchers, disguised its activities by using the U.S.-based file storage service Dropbox Inc. as the “command and control” server from which it orchestrated hacking operations, according to a report published by Cybereason Inc. on Wednesday.
Iran has appointed Ali Salehabadi as head of the central bank, Iranian state TV reported on Wednesday, as the Islamic Republic's economy reels under U.S. sanctions. "The role of the central bank in preserving the value of the national currency and controlling inflation is very fundamental," said President Ebrahim Raisi after Salehabadi's appointment. Since 2018, when Washington exited Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions, Iran's economic crisis has deepened with inflation standing over 50%, according to state media, and the Iranian rial has lost over 75% of its value against the U.S. dollar.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that he had spoken with his Russian counterpart about restoring Iran's nuclear deal and that the issue is of mutual concern to the United States and Russia. "We had an opportunity to compare notes on where we stand and where we hope to go," Blinken said at a Paris news conference. After the discussion, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that talks to restore the deal "should be resumed as soon as possible." The global community wants the U.S. to “return to the obligations of the nuclear deal” and halt "illegal restrictions on Iran and all of its trading partners," he said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
From Texas to Tehran, women have been fighting to protect their right to have an abortion -- some by taking over the streets and others by taking over social media. While a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy sparked protests across the United States, a letter from an official judicial body in Iran has mandated that local laboratories report on women with positive pregnancy tests to prevent "criminal abortions." The letter, issued by the crime prevention deputy at the judiciary in Iran's Mazandaran province, was leaked on Twitter by health and medical journalist Mahdiar Saeedian.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
American Navy veteran Michael White, whom Iran freed in a 2020 prisoner swap with the U.S., has shared new details of his 20-month detention in the Islamic Republic, including alleged physical abuses that he said he suffered at the hands of Iranian guards. White shared the details with VOA Persian in a one-hour-and-45-minute conversation filmed in San Diego, California on July 8. VOA dubbed the interview into Persian and published it on August 17. It was only the second published media interview with White since his release in a June 2020 U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange.
For years, Iranian-directed proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Syria have attacked the Islamic Republic’s enemies. The West has willfully ignored the overwhelming evidence and allowed Iran to continue its violence with impunity. Today, the Biden administration and the G-5 + 1 fear upsetting Iran’s leaders, hoping to appease them through willful ignorance, and cajole them into rejoining the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This one-sided “agreement” was never sent for Senate approval as a treaty, and it outsourced American security interests to international actors.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
A Kurdish political party in Iran said Tuesday that its operatives killed an Iranian intelligence agent allegedly responsible for killing Kurdish activists. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) said that Khidir Pirotipenah was killed in a military operation. Pirotipenah “was responsible for the assassination of several Kurdish activists and freedom fighters,” the PDKI said in a tweet. The PDKI is one of several Kurdish dissident groups in Iran that seeks greater autonomy for Kurds in the country.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The office of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran issued a poster showing fighters being led by the late US-sanctioned Iranian terrorist Qassem Soleimani along with supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign targeting Israel. Omer Carmi, a PhD student at Tel Aviv University who covers Iran, tweeted a picture of the poster and wrote: “A new poster by Khamenei’s office, showing a march of 'freedom-fighters' led by Soleimani.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said Iran is after a “big jump in relations” with Russia as he prepares to hold talks with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. Amirabdollahian, after touching down in Moscow on Tuesday, said the government of President Ebrahim Raisi is ready to quickly expand ties with Russia based on a foreign policy that seeks the same across the region. “This doesn’t mean that we’ll be dependent on China and Russia, but from a strategic point of view, we’ll use existing capacities to further the interests of both nations,” Amirabdollahian said.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdohallahian criticized its neighbor Azerbaijan on Wednesday during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. Amirabdollahian criticized Azerbaijan's dealings with Israel and recent military maneuvers close to Iran's northern border. "We certainly will not tolerate geopolitical change and map change in the Caucasus, and we have serious concerns about the presence of terrorists and Zionists in this region," he said. Azerbaijan has also recently carried out military operations with Turkey following Iranian maneuvers last week.