Few independent journalists are working inside Iran today. But videos, emails and other information coming from inside the country suggest that Iran is experiencing its most significant protests in more than a decade. The demonstrations began after a 22-year-old, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody on Sept. 16, having been arrested for violating Iran’s law requiring women to wear head scarves fully hiding their hair. This weekend, the protests spread to at least 80 cities, and demonstrators briefly seized control of a city in northwestern Iran. In response, the country’s security forces have opened fire on crowds.
Top officials from the world’s nuclear monitoring agency and Iran signaled there was no room for imminent compromise over an ongoing probe, likely meaning that attempts this week to revive a landmark atomic agreement will founder. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi warned Iran in a speech on Monday that his inspectors’ investigation into the source of uranium traces discovered at several undeclared sites is “not going to go away.” Iran’s leading nuclear official, Mohammad Eslami, dismissed Grossi’s concerns while reiterating assertions that Israel planted evidence in the IAEA’s possession.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards launched an artillery attack on Iranian militant opposition bases in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Saturday, Iranian state television reported. "Headquarters of anti-Iranian terrorists" based in northern Iraq were targeted by the Guards, state TV said, in reference to Kurdish rebel groups based there. Iran has blamed armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents of involvement in ongoing unrest in the country, particularly in the northwest where most of Iran's up to 10 million Kurds live.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…Five members of Basij—a volunteer militia group affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—have reportedly been killed during the demonstrations, suggesting the Iranian people are increasingly willing to resist security forces trying to dispel protests. “We’ve seen videos of protesters attacking police cars, chasing after police officers, throwing different kinds of incendiary devices at the police,” Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran, told The Dispatch. “That really is an unprecedented development, the level of ferocity in terms of a pushback against Iranian security forces.”
In the shadow of the 77th U.N. General Assembly in New York, a group of high-level politicians, senior officials and human rights activists committed to warning the world about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran gathered on Sept. 21 in mid-town Manhattan for the sixth annual UANI Iran Summit. United Against Nuclear Iran’s mission is to educate the public and policymakers about the threats posed by the Islamic Republic. The conference coincided with a speech to the General Assembly by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, an appearance conference participants decried.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley sharply criticized the Biden administration for its failure to confront the Iranian regime during a special press conference held Wednesday in New York City on the sidelines of the 77th U.N. General Assembly. Speaking to media at the sixth annual conference of United Against Iran (UANI), an organization dedicated to educating the public and policymakers about the dangers posed by the Islamic Republic, Haley lamented the Biden administration’s continued efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or 2015 Iran deal.
…“Raisi’s predecessors engaged in varying forms of denialism,” says Jason Brodsky, policy director of watchdog group United Against Nuclear Iran. “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the extreme in calling it a myth. [His successor] Hassan Rohani, in contrast, was more sophisticated in front of a Western audience [by calling the Holocaust] reprehensible while lacing his comments with caveats that he is not a historian and that the Holocaust was something historians should reflect on.”
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said the United States will continue seeking a nuclear deal with Iran as the country faces unrest. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” moderator Margaret Brennan asked Sullivan if Iranian mass protests, which began after a 22-year-old woman died while in the custody of the state’s morality police for allegedly wearing a hijab improperly, changes the U.S.’s calculus in ongoing nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
Iran's top diplomat says Tehran received a new signal from the United States that the "will and goodwill" exist in Washington to reach an agreement to replace the nuclear deal that fell apart after a U.S. pullout four years ago. The official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on September 25 as saying he responded by urging the U.S. side to demonstrate "realism" so the sides could finalize a deal. Amir-Abdollahian didn't detail how or at what level any exchange had taken place.
The head of Iran's atomic energy agency said Saturday he will meet next week with the chief of the UN's nuclear watchdog, as attempts to revive the country's nuclear deal stall. "I will go to Austria to take part in the annual general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, where I will meet with Director General Rafael Grossi," Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad Eslami told state television, according to AFP. The Vienna-based IAEA's annual conference takes place this year from September 26-30. The UN watchdog said early this month it was "not in a position to provide assurance that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively peaceful".
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Elon Musk's SpaceX has activated its Starlink service in Iran as the country experiences disruption to its internet network, according to a think tank. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at global think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in a tweet on Sunday that he had spoken with Musk about using Starlink satellite internet in Iran. Musk granted Sadjadpour permission to share the news that Starlink had been activated in the country, Sadjadpour tweeted. "It requires the use of terminals in-country, which I suspect the [Iranian] government will not support, but if anyone can get terminals into Iran, they will work," Sadjadpour tweeted.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Antigovernment protests in Iran gathered strength Sunday with new demonstrations in scores of cities and indications that unrest was growing, posing one of the biggest challenges the country’s conservative Islamic rulers have faced in years. A movement initially led by young people that focused on the country’s strict Islamic dress code for women appeared to be broadening into a mass outpouring of pent-up dissatisfaction among middle-class workers and even religious Iranians at the regime’s treatment of its own citizens.
Iran summoned the British and Norwegian ambassadors over what it called interference and hostile media coverage of the nationwide unrest triggered by the death of a woman detained by morality police. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian also criticised U.S. support for "rioters" - the label Tehran has used for many who have joined the protests which have swept the country, prompting a security crackdown and curbs on internet and phones.
The Met Police said members of the crowd threw missiles at officers and breached police lines in Princes Gate, Knightsbridge, on Sunday afternoon. It comes as protests in Iran spread across the world, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in custody after being detained by Iranian morality police. At least five officers were seriously injured, the Met Police said. Twelve people have been arrested on suspicion of violent disorder offences. Dozens of protesters in London chanted "death to the Islamic Republic" and were seen waving Iran's pre-revolutionary national flag.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. support for "rioters" is contrary to Washington's diplomatic stance towards Iran, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Sunday. "Peaceful protest is the right of every nation. However, the U.S. involvement in Iran's affairs and support to 'rioters' in implementing their destabilisation project is in clear conflict with Washington's diplomatic messages to Iran regarding the necessity of a nuclear deal and establishing stability in the region," Amirabdollahian said.
The U.S. is giving Iranians access to export-controlled technology that will allow them to circumvent the clerical regime’s latest communications crackdown, including a new internet blackout imposed this week. The Treasury Department on Friday responded to Tehran’s restriction of internet access in large parts of the country by issuing a new license that allows U.S. companies to provide Iranians with cyber services that can help them to maintain digital connection to the world.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
As Iranians take to the streets to protest the country’s strict Muslim dress code, they have chanted for the death of a man who once wielded power in secret and now has a growing public profile—Mojtaba Khamenei, son of the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader. Mr. Khamenei, 53 years old, has no official government position. But U.S. and Iranian officials have said he is in charge of his father’s business empire and is influential in appointing security officials and sometimes overseeing key parts of Iran’s security apparatus, which has come under renewed scrutiny following violent clashes between police and protesters over the death of Mahsa.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, made his first public appearance on September 17 since falling ill earlier this month, which prompted a fresh round of questions about who might eventually succeed him. Among the favourites in the running are President Ebrahim Raisi and the Supreme leader’s son Mojtaba Khamenei. The Ayatollah Khamenei appeared in public for the first time in two weeks on September 17 for a religious ceremony broadcast on Iranian state TV – showing no sign of fatigue as he addressed his audience with a firm voice.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia will remain supportive of international peace efforts to confront global challenges and ensure that the ambitions of future generations are realized, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in his speech at the United Nations Saturday. In his address at the UN 77th General Assembly, Prince Faisal also called on Iran to urgently fulfill its commitments regarding its nuclear program, to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and “take serious steps in order to build trust with the neighboring [countries] and international community.”
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran is planning "proportional action" in response to Ukraine's decision to downgrade diplomatic ties over the reported supply of Iranian drones to Russia, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said on Saturday. Nasser Kanaani said Ukraine should "refrain from being influenced by third parties who seek to destroy relations between the two countries", a ministry statement said. Ukraine said on Friday that it would withdraw accreditation of the Iranian ambassador and significantly reduce the number of diplomatic staff at the Iranian embassy in Kyiv over Tehran's decision to supply Russian forces with drones, a move President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called "a collaboration with evil".
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday it summoned Britain’s ambassador to protest what it described as a hostile atmosphere created by London-based Farsi language media outlets. The move comes amid violent unrest in Iran triggered by the death of a young woman in police custody. The state-run IRNA news agency reported the ministry also summoned Norway’s ambassador to Iran and strongly protested recent remarks by the president of the Norwegian parliament, Masud Gharahkhani. The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody after being detained by Iranian morality police launched unrest across Iran’s provinces and the capital of Tehran.