Iran’s parliament has passed a new “hijab and chastity” bill that lays out punishment for people, especially women, who violate the country’s mandatory dress code rules. On Wednesday, lawmakers approved the three-year duration of the legislation on a trial basis, with 152 voting in favour, 34 against, and seven abstaining. The Guardian Council, a powerful oversight body consisting of clerics and legal experts, would need to approve the bill before it can be implemented. The implementation of the legislation, which had been in the works for months, was not put to a parliament vote. It was approved last month by a special committee consisting of 10 lawmakers.
Two U.S. senators are urging the Biden administration to appeal to the Iraqi government to help secure the release of a Princeton University graduate student believed to have been abducted by an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq six months ago. In a letter obtained by NBC News, Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, who both represent New Jersey, home to Princeton, conveyed their “grave concern” about Elizabeth Tsurkov’s plight in their appeal to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. They called on the administration “to use our close and abiding relationship with Iraq to raise Elizabeth’s abduction and call for her release at every opportunity and level.”
One year ago, the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iran’s morality police sparked what analysts have described as the longest-running, anti-government protest in Iran's recent history. In the months since, Iranian security forces have unleashed a harsh crackdown, killing at least 530 protesters, according to human rights groups. Yet far more common and more difficult to quantify are the tens of thousands of family members and acquaintances of the dead, who have been pressured, arrested and harassed, or who have disappeared. “I think that the government understands the power of grief and how powerful that can be to move people,” visual forensics reporter Nilo Tabrizy tells “Post Reports.” One year after Mahsa Amini’s death, and after these protests began, Tabrizy shares the stories of what two families have endured amid an evolving movement and a regime’s exacting repression playbook.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…Nonprofit organizations including United Against Nuclear Iran, a New York group that campaigns against Tehran’s nuclear program, have publicly identified many of the prohibited Iranian exports spotted in seas and ports around the globe. The group, using satellite imagery and transponder data, has detailed scores of tankers carrying Iranian oil that remain untouched by U.S. sanctions or prosecutions. Iran’s state shipping company, National Iranian Tanker Company, a target of U.S. sanctions, says it has been able to ship oil to its biggest customer, China, unimpeded.
This week marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who died in the custody of the Iranian regime’s so-called “morality police” after being arrested for wearing an “improper hijab”. At the time, the UK adopted a rhetorically tough posture. Rishi Sunak’s government vowed to support the Iranian people, protect the UK from the IRGC terror threat and impose consequences on the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 84-year-old supreme leader. One year on, reality tells another story. Other than condemnations and limited sanctions, the government has done very little to impose any consequences on Khamenei’s regime. Of course, Whitehall’s default response to any criticism of its Iran policy is, “What more can we do?” For now, IRGC proscription seems firmly off the cards, with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly openly opposing the move, despite all the evidence.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran has no issue with the U.N. nuclear watchdog's inspection of its nuclear sites, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Wednesday, days after Tehran barred multiple inspectors assigned to the country. "We have no problem with the inspections but the problem is with some inspectors ... those inspectors that are trustworthy can continue their work in Iran," Raisi told a news conference on the sideline of the U.N. General Assembly.
Qatar held separate bilateral meetings with the United States and Iran this week that touched on Iran's nuclear program and U.S. concerns about Iranian drone transfers to Russia, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The sources said the meetings have not involved the kind of shuttle diplomacy Qatar conducted in Doha this year in which Qatari diplomats went back and forth between the two sides, ultimately leading to Monday's U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange. Qatar, a wealthy Gulf Arab state with diplomatic ambitions, is pressing both sides to engage in more talks and reach "understandings," sources told Reuters earlier. One source, who like the others cited spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said meetings took place on Monday and Tuesday in New York on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
An oil tanker confiscated by the United States for carrying Iranian oil and diverted to the US Gulf Coast, was headed to the Bahamas on Wednesday under a new name, ship tracking data showed. The tanker Suez Rajan was the subject of attention this year for carrying more than 980,000 barrels of contraband Iranian crude oil, which was confiscated by the US in a sanctions enforcement operation. It was unable to unload the Iranian crude for nearly two and half months over fears of secondary sanctions on vessels used to unload it. It was renamed the St Nikolas after unloading the cargoes. The vessel fully unloaded the Iranian crude this month and the Suez Rajan Ltd company pleaded guilty in April.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
A leader of a government vigilante mob who carried out the 2011 storming of the British embassy in Tehran is now accompanying Iran's president during his visit to the United States. Mojtaba Amini is also the producer of a TV series that has been criticized for glorifying the imprisonment of dual nationals and journalists. Amini's producing of the Gando TV series was aimed to undermine the administration of former President Hassan Rouhani while receiving praise from supporters of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Members of President Hassan Rouhani's administration, including Foreign Minister mohammad Javad Zarif, protested the series and even wrote a letter of complaint to Khamenei, requesting its cancellation.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Without the diplomatic immunity conferred on visiting heads of state, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi might be in a real pickle. His resume is littered with corpses—thousands of men and women whose summary executions in 1988 constitute “grave war crimes,” according to the Swedish court that last year sentenced a former guard to life in prison for assisting in the deaths Raisi had, along with two other Iranian officials, ordered. Instead, Tuesday found Raisi at the plenum of the U.N. General Assembly, claiming the moral high ground during what he would likely count as a successful visit to the Great Satan. By the time he left New York City, the news was no longer the one-year anniversary of the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, whose killing in September of 2022 ignited months of spontaneous protests across the Islamic Republic. The subject had changed to the release Monday of five U.S. citizens, in exchange for access to $6 billion, informal assurances on the status of Iran’s nuclear program, and the reciprocal release of five Iranians. The Council of Foreign Relations invited Raisi to a stop by, and he also passed an hour with a group of U.S. journalists.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed concerns Wednesday that the U.S. deal to release five Iranians and agree to the release of nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets — in exchange for the release of five Americans who were detained in Iran — encourages hostage-taking among hostile nations. "These are hard decisions, hard decisions for the president to make," Blinken, who is currently in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, told "CBS Mornings." But Blinken said over 30 Americans who were unjustly detained worldwide are now home as a result of those decisions. Some Republicans voiced opposition to the exchange, saying financial relief in a hostage situation will incentivize future hostage-taking.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed no regrets about how his government handled widespread protests in the country last year, even as reports of mass arrests being made in the country as the anniversary of the protests in response to the death of Mahsa Amini approaches. "Those who carried out terror, who have killed individuals, who have attacked police and security forces, who had made some destruction in the country, of course we did not have mercy upon them," Raisi told NBC News' Lester Holt last week in his first interview with a Western news organization since Amini's controversial death in police custody last year.
In her first-ever interview with a U.S. media outlet, Jamileh Alamolhoda, the wife of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, told Newsweek Senior Foreign Policy Writer and Deputy Editor of National Security and Foreign Policy Tom O'Connor that Western-style feminism was a mismatch for the Islamic Republic. She derided attempts by the United States and other powers to try to export their values to a nation in which she argued women already enjoyed all of the rights they would ever need. The remarks come almost exactly one year after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly failing to adhere to conservative clothing protocols for women set off a firestorm of protests that the Raisi administration has largely blamed on the U.S. To this day, demonstrations, many led by women, continue to emerge in Iran in defiance of security forces.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Relations between Russia and Iran have reached a new level despite opposition from much of the Western world, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday during his visit to Tehran. "We are aiming at an entire range of planned activities, despite opposition from the United States and its Western allies," the Interfax news agency cited Shoigu as saying. "Sanctions pressure on Russia and Iran shows its futility, while Russian-Iranian interaction is reaching a new level." Shoigu met Iran's top security official, Ali Akbar Ahmadian, on Wednesday and they talked about a wide range of topics, especially the developments in the Caucasus region, according to Iran's Nour News.
Iran’s supplying of bomb-carrying drones to Russia could see Moscow help Tehran’s program become more lethal, raising risks across the wider Middle East, the top U.S. Air Force commander in the Middle East said Wednesday. Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, the head of U.S. Air Force Central, described the danger potentially posed by Russia’s “cooperation and collusion” with Iran as extending from the airspace over Syria, while Tehran threatens commercial ships in the waters of the Persian Gulf. American pilots have already faced what they describe as more aggressive maneuvers from Russian pilots in Syria, while a new deployment of U.S. air power has been sent to protect commercial shipping in the Gulf’s key Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of all the world’s oil passes.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday accused regional rival Saudi Arabia of betraying the Palestinians by seeking to normalize relations with Israel. "The initiation of a relationship between the Zionist regime and any country in the region, if it is with the aim to bring security for the Zionist regime, will certainly not do so," Raisi told a news conference as he attended the UN General Assembly. "We believe that a relationship between regional countries and the Zionist regime would be a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and of the resistance of the Palestinians," he said. Saudi Arabia and Israel have bonded in part over shared hostility to Iran's clerical state, although Riyadh has moved to ease tensions with Tehran through talks brokered by China.
If Iran is able to obtain a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia will seek to acquire one as well, the kingdom’s crown prince declared Wednesday. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed “concern” about the possibility of a nuclear Iran, a longtime rival of Saudi Arabia, during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News host Bret Baier. “Well, we are concerned [about] any country getting a nuclear weapon. That’s a bad move,” Salman said. “You don’t need to get a nuclear weapon because you can’t use it even if you can get a nuclear weapon.” The crown prince argued that if Iran is able to obtain a nuclear weapon and its authoritarian regime decides to use it, the country would quickly find itself at war with “the world.”