Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it has formed paramilitary “strike teams” in districts of Tehran and plans patrols to ensure security in the southern oil-rich province of Khuzestan, without giving a reason for the deployments. Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Yazdi, who commands IRGC forces in Tehran province, said members of a plain-clothed religious militia known as the Basij were ready to “tackle thugs and disrupters of security” in the capital, state-run Hamshahri newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Two men have been indicted on charges stemming from the hacking of dozens of websites based in the United States, actions that the federal authorities said were taken in retaliation for the death in an American drone strike of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran. The men, Behzad Mohammadzadeh and Marwan Abusrour, were charged with conspiracy to commit intentional damage to a protected computer and intentional damage to a protected computer, according to the indictment, which was dated Sept. 3 and unsealed on Tuesday.
A group of independent United Nations human rights experts strongly condemned the execution of Navid Afkari in an Iranian prison on Saturday, following the champion wrestler's controversial allegations of killing a security guard during anti-Islamic Republic protests in 2018. "It is deeply disturbing that the authorities appear to have used the death penalty against an athlete as a warning to its population in a climate of increasing social unrest," the experts said in a statement protesting Afkari's killing and expressing their condolences to his family.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Media freedom watchdogs have condemned the prison sentence handed to Iranian independent journalist Khosro Sadeghi Borojeni and urged the country's authorities to stop arbitrarily jailing members of the press. Borojeni, a freelance columnist, was taken to Tehran’s Evin prison on September 9 to begin a seven-year prison term on charges of "insulting the Islamic Republic’s founder," "anti-government propaganda," and "meeting and conspiring against national and international security," the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement on September 15.
Iran's government has distanced itself from the execution of wrestler Navid Afkari, who was executed over the weekend after being sentenced to death on charges of murder amid widespread criticism. According to Iranian legal authorities, Afkari killed a security officer during a demonstration in Shiraz in 2018. On Tuesday, Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Afkari's execution was ultimately a decision made by the family of the murder victim. The athlete's execution took place on Saturday.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Tuesday that Washington would prevent Iran from purchasing "Chinese tanks and Russian air defense systems" as the end to a U.N. arms embargo against Tehran approaches. While the European Union and U.N. disagreed with the U.S. decision to withdraw from an international nuclear deal in 2018 and reimpose unilateral sanctions on Iran, Washington was acting to "keep the world safe," he told France Inter radio.
Iran has denied a media report that claimed it is plotting to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, to avenge the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani earlier this year, the National Post reported. Intelligence about the alleged threat, which first surfaced in the spring, has become more specific in recent weeks, news website Politico said in an exclusive report, citing an unidentified US government official. Marks, 66, is a luxury fashion and handbag designer based in a Palm Beach, Florida.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
An Iranian deputy health minister has warned of a "resurgence" of novel coronavirus cases in several parts of the country following reduced observance of health protocols. Deaths and infections have been on a rising trajectory in Iran since hitting a months-long low at the beginning of September. "Whenever health protocols are less observed, the disease begins to surge," Alireza Raisi was quoted as saying on the ministry's website. "A small number of people have not been careful and went on trips during the recent holidays," he added.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iranian media stressed that rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza during the signing of the peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain. Fars News said that the rocket sirens were heard in Ashkelon and Ashdod “at the same time as Arab, American and Zionists officials gathered at the White House.” Fars News put the details up quickly on its site online, indicating it was either paying close attention or had advance knowledge of the strikes. Iran's media sought to highlight the rocket fire immediately to distract from the signing ceremony.
CHINA & IRAN
This spring, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua posted a roughly two-minute video titled “Once Upon a Virus” on social media, including on official Chinese government accounts. The video is in English and features Lego-like figures. One of the Statue of Liberty, representing America, and a warrior Lego representing China, with what looks like medical workers decked out in PPE, behind it. The video attempts to summarize a pandemic, with the Chinese Legos acting responsibly (“It’s airborne,” the warrior says) and the Statue of Liberty Lego downplaying said warnings (“It will magically go away in April”) as she starts to get sick.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
In the face of the call by the United States for a return to international sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Qatar's U.S. envoy has expressed to Newsweek an offer to hold discussions to de-escalate tensions between Iran and Arab states of the Persian Gulf. President Donald Trump has doubled down on his "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran in the leadup to this year's United Nations General Assembly, attempting to invoke a snapback of economic restrictions lifted by a 2015 nuclear deal unilaterally abandoned by the United States two and a half years ago.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
European statements in condemnation of Iran’s execution of 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari have been met with a barrage of fire from the country’s hard-liners who typically view such criticism as interference in the Islamic Republic’s affairs. Javan, the ultraconservative daily affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), took particular aim at Hans-Udo Muzel, Germany’s ambassador in Tehran, after the latter posted a chain of tweets in Persian, relaying his government’s message against the Islamic Republic’s “attempt to silence opposing voices.”
The German organization Athleten Deutschland on Tuesday called for the Islamic Republic of Iran to be banned from the Olympics over its execution of the Iranian Greco-Roman champion wrestler Navid Afkari. Maximilian Klein, a representative for International Sports Policy at Athleten Deutschland said that "The International Olympic Committee [IOC] and the International Sports Federations must exclude the Iranian regime from the international sports system with immediate effect."