Iranian media on Saturday published photographs and video of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attending a religious ceremony in Tehran, amid speculation about the octogenarian’s health among foreign diplomats, on social media and in published reports. Mr. Khamenei’s health has declined in recent weeks, rekindling talk in Iran’s ruling circles about a succession plan, according to an Iranian official and people close to the government. The 83-year-old leader’s medical condition is treated as close to a state secret in Iran.
Iran’s president said he needs guarantees that the US won’t walk away again from a nuclear deal as a condition for his country to enter into one. President Ebrahim Raisi, speaking through a translator in a “60 Minutes” interview aired Sunday, said Iran is willing to enter what he called a “good deal and fair deal” but harbors doubts after former US President Donald Trump exited the last pact. “There needs to be guarantees. If there were a guarantee, then the Americans could not withdraw from the deal,” Raisi told the CBS News show. “The Americans broke their promises. They did it unilaterally. They said that, ‘I am out of the deal.’ Now making promises is becoming meaningless.”
Iran on Monday told judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the United States had created an "industry of litigation" against Tehran in breach of international law. Lawyers for Iran, which brought its case to the ICJ in 2016, accused Washington of having breached a 1955 friendship treaty by allowing American courts to confiscate assets from Iranian companies, including $1.75 billion from Iran's central bank. This was done to award damages to victims of what the United States said were terrorist attacks sponsored by Iran. The Islamic Republic denies supporting terrorism. The 1950s friendship treaty was signed long before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, which toppled the U.S.-backed shah, and the subsequent severing of U.S.-Iranian relations.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…“It is safe to assume [Raisi] is a leading contender. At the very least, if Khamenei were to pass away during his tenure as president, Raisi would be playing a critical role during the transition, including the possibility of serving on an interim leadership council,” Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), previously told Al Arabiya English. Another potential candidate is Khamenei’s second oldest child, Mojtaba. While Mojtaba Khamenei, 53, holds no official position in Iran and rarely appears in public, he is widely believed to be a key figure in his father’s inner circle.
…The canniest option would be a test in North Korea, Iran’s nuclear partner. The watchdog group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has documented in detail the connections and cooperation between the two programs. Iran seems to be emulating North Korea’s path to the nuclear bomb by stalling agreements through protracted negotiations and then reneging on its obligations. After agreeing to close its plutonium-production program under the 1994 Agreed Framework, North Korea continued clandestine production of uranium and surprised the world by detonating its first nuclear bomb in 2006.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran does not rule out the possibility of a meeting on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York on reviving its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said on Monday. Months of indirect talks between Iran and the United States have foundered over several issues including Tehran's insistence that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its investigation into uranium traces found at three undeclared sites before the pact is revived, and a U.S. guarantee that it would not walk out of any nuclear agreement again.
Negotiations between the United States and Iran to reenter the 2015 nuclear agreement are at a “stalemate,” according to a senior State Department official. Last month, the European Union, which has been coordinating talks to reconstitute the deal, laid out a final offer, and Iran’s response to the deal was “unacceptable to us,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Friday during a live Washington Post event.
Iran’s latest position in talks to revive the nuclear agreement has taken the process backwards, the French ambassador to the United States told Al-Monitor, adding that Iran “must cooperate” with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation into Tehran’s undeclared nuclear materials. “Unfortunately, the last position expressed by Iran brings us backwards, and in particular, establishes links between the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and the obligations of Iran under its international commitments,” French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Etienne said in an interview in Washington on Thursday.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
An official of Iran’s air travel services said on Sunday that the reason behind a lack of plane tickets is that more than half of the country’s aircraft are grounded. Omid Khansari, a member of the board of directors of the southwestern province of Khuzestan’s Air Travel and Tourism Services, told ISNA that "Most of the planes owned by the airlines are grounded because they need parts and it is impossible to provide them due to the sanctions." He added that only about 120 to 130 airplanes out of about 340 airplanes owned by the airlines are operational. Confirming the same data, Alireza Pakfetrat, the representative of Shiraz in parliament, said in August that due to sanctions the quantity and quality of Iran's aviation industry are decreasing day by day, noting that the number of passenger planes that remain operational have decreased as well as the number of flights in the country.
Russia has inflicted serious damage on Ukrainian forces with recently introduced Iranian drones, in its first wide-scale deployment of a foreign weapons system since the war began, Ukrainian commanders say. Over the past week, Shahed-136 delta-wing drones, repainted in Russian colors and rebranded as Geranium 2, started appearing over Ukrainian armor and artillery positions in the northeastern Kharkiv region, said Col. Rodion Kulagin, commander of artillery of Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade. In his brigade’s operational area alone, the Iranian drones—which usually fly in pairs and then slam into their targets—have destroyed two 152-mm self-propelled howitzers, two 122-mm self-propelled howitzers, as well as two BTR armored infantry vehicles, he said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
An Iranian woman who slipped into a coma earlier this week after she was detained by so-called “morality police” died Friday, state media reported, in a case that stirred outrage over the government’s increasingly strict enforcement of ultraconservative dress codes for women. The woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, was detained on Tuesday in Tehran, the capital, by members of the guidance patrol, a special unit that enforces Iran’s obligatory Islamic dress codes, Amini’s mother, Mojhgan Amini, said in an interview with Radio Farda on Thursday. Within hours of the arrest, “we hear that she is in a coma,” her mother said.
The death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman in police custody for allegedly breaching the country’s strict female dress code has generated furious protests over the Islamic Republic’s so-called morality laws at a time when more women are flouting such rules. Hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral of Mahsa Amini in her hometown in northwestern Iran on Saturday, a day after she died in a Tehran hospital. Protests erupted in the town, Saqqez, with demonstrators tearing down a poster of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to videos shown by U.S.-funded news organization Radio Farda.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Friday the US will “continue to pressure” Iran over the nuclear inspections that have stalled negotiations ahead of the UN General Assembly next week. All of the major parties to the negotiations, including Iran, will be represented at the General Assembly, but Thomas-Greenfield said there were no events regarding the nuclear deal scheduled. Reviving the agreement between Iran and world powers has appeared increasingly unlikely in recent weeks, due to a sticking point over inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, which acts as the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
A bipartisan congressional group advocating for US citizens imprisoned in Iran appealed to US President Joe Biden and his administration, urging the release of detainees be prioritized before granting sanctions relief to Tehran as part of a restored nuclear deal. The cross-party American Hostage Task Force met Thursday on Capitol Hill with both relatives of prisoners and Americans formerly jailed in Iran. The meeting was part of efforts to highlight the issue, with much of the Biden administration’s focus vis-à-vis Iran set on reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear is formally known.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
A notable uptick in Israeli air operations against Iran-linked targets on Syrian soil has taken place over the last month, according to regional media. Israeli aircraft struck Aleppo Airport in northern Syria on September 6. This operation followed on the heels of an earlier strike at the same target, on August 31. According to SANA, the official Syrian regime media agency, the raid on September 6 damaged the runway, putting it temporarily out of service. SANA reported that missiles were launched from over the Mediterranean, west of Syria’s Latakia coastline.
IRAQ & IRAN
As intra-Shiite conflict simmers in Iraq, arrests and questions about them threaten to derail attempts to restore calm after some of the worst violence in years. On Sept. 8, the government-salaried, Shiite-led Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) stated they had conducted an operation in the early morning hours against a plan by supporters of the outlawed Baath Party to disrupt a massive Shiite religious ceremony underway. A statement claimed the operation had been conducted “in the holy governorates of Karbala, Babylon, Muthanna and Diwaniyah.”