When the United Nations established a fact-finding mission on Iran in November, the intention was to investigate alleged human rights violations related to the country’s deadly crackdown against ongoing nationwide protests. But as the anniversary of the beginning of those protests approaches, and the estimated number of protester deaths related to the crackdown exceeds 500, the mission is still struggling to get information from the Iranian authorities. Shaheen Sardar Ali, a prominent British-Pakistani law professor who is one of three members of the fact-finding mission, spoke to RFE/RL’s Radio Farda this week about the problems the team continues to encounter and explains how the failure to provide information works to Tehran’s detriment.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview Wednesday that he never recommended a US military attack on Iran during the Trump administration, pushing back on claims made by former President Donald Trump and his White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. “I can assure you that not one time have I ever recommended to attack Iran,” Milley said. Milley, an Army general who is retiring at the end of the month as the nation’s top military officer, was Trump’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the final 16 months of his time in office. He had an outsized role in some of the most consequential events of Trump’s presidency, including the response to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and actions he took after January 6, 2001, when he was concerned that Trump could go “rogue.”
Iran wants to give Cristiano Ronaldo and other foreign football players who will soon travel to Tehran a special SIM card that will allow them to access the internet without restrictions – something Iranian citizens cannot do – which has angered some in Iran. Reza Darvish, the president of Persepolis FC, the football club that will face Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in an AFC Champions League tie next week in Tehran, told state television on Tuesday that some people “who want to tarnish our reputation” tell footballers not to come to Iran because they won’t have access to unfiltered internet. “I have spoken with the CEO of [major mobile carrier] Irancell, and I told him we want to give players and personnel Irancell SIM cards with unrestricted internet so they can use it from the time they enter Iran till the time they leave,” he said.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…The unreasonableness of Iranian negotiating demands was the primary reason why the talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal failed. But the protests in Iran calling for an end to the Islamic Republic after the death of Amini were certainly a contributing factor. In October 2022, US officials suggested that the Iran nuclear deal was not their focus right now. Supporting the Iranian people demonstrating against the regime was the priority.
… United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a non-profit group that tracks Tehran’s energy exports and tipped off officials to the Suez Rajan transfer, already had the Virgo on its radar when it delivered nearly 1m barrels to the suezmax last year. Chief of staff Claire Jungman, who leads the ship tracking programme, told TradeWinds the vessel is one of several that she watches every day. However, the VLCC is not listed on the Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) list of sanctioned vessels. That is despite the evidence of furtive cargo transfers and even though the US Treasury Department has labelled the shipping network of the Revolutionary Guards as “terror proxies” in 2019, and even though one shipping company has already admitted to taking cargo from the vessel while its location transponder was not broadcasting.
…Said United Against Nuclear Iran: “UANI applauds the House’s overwhelming, bipartisan passage of the MAHSA Act. Now it’s time for the Senate to move this bill as well. In the meantime, the president should not wait to designate Iran’s supreme leader and president for human rights abuses and support for terrorism, as United Against Nuclear Iran has urged for years. “We thank Congressman Jim Banks and the Act’s 128 bipartisan cosponsors for their leadership and support for the Iranian people.”
…The transfer was spotted through the use of satellite photographs and transponder analysis by US pressure group United Against Nuclear Iran.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Britain, Germany, France and the United States told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Thursday further action would be needed on Iran if the country did not fulfil legal obligations and clarify issues over nuclear material. "Iran needs to provide, without further delay, technically credible information on the current location(s) of nuclear material and contaminated equipment in relation to Turquzabad and Varamin," the four countries said in a statement to the IAEA board on Sept. 13.
Dozens of countries have demanded that Iran immediately answer questions about its nuclear program, including disclosing the current location of nuclear materials from former secret facilities. The demand came in a joint statement on September 13 from more than 60 countries that was read out by a Danish diplomat at the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna. The countries also asked for clarification on other ambiguities about Iran's uranium stockpile. The countries also criticized Tehran for not issuing entry visas to certain IAEA inspectors.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Appetite for Iranian crude is growing in China, the world's biggest oil importer, after the extension of supply cuts by Saudi Arabia and Russia boosted global prices , while Tehran is stepping up output and exports despite U.S. sanctions. Although China's "teapots", or small independent refiners, are stocking up on Iran's discounted oil as they exploit robust margins to fill strong seasonal demand, big state refiners are still keeping away.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The commander-in-chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, is one of three senior officials targeted in a rare criminal complaint filed with Paris prosecutors Thursday. Along with Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib and Al-Quds force chief Esmail Qaani, Salami is accused of "death threats and justifying terrorism," a lawyer for the six Iranian and Franco-Iranian plaintiffs said. Their case refers to public threats issued by the three men between December 2022 and January 2023 against people backing the nationwide protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, arrested for violating Iran's female dress code. Khatib said on December 13 last year that "anyone playing a role in the riots will be punished, wherever they are in the world".
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
American captives could be exchanged for billions of dollars of frozen Iranian assets, even as critics back in Washington warn against dealing with Tehran. That’s the way it was in 1981 and the way it likely will be in the coming days. The upcoming prisoner swap between Iran and the United States follows the same contours that the countries have been tracing since the resolution of the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover and hostage crisis. The limits of this diplomacy remain largely the same as they have been for over the four decades since, with officials in both countries even using similar language to discuss the deals now.However, Iran faces a new challenge from within as the one-year anniversary of the nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody approaches this Saturday.
The White House on Wednesday vigorously defended the administration's deal with Iran to free five detained Americans in exchange for unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue and the release of five Iranian citizens in U.S. custody. The $6 billion in Iranian assets is coming from a restricted account in South Korea, where it was effectively frozen when the U.S. reinstated sanctions against Tehran after former President Donald Trump left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program and will be transferred to Qatar with restrictions that Iran can use it only for humanitarian purposes. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed off on the blanket waiver that paved the way for the funds transfer, and Congress was informed of the move on Monday. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby insisted during a press briefing Wednesday that "Iran will be getting no sanctions relief" despite Republicans calling it "ransom."
The Biden administration signed a security agreement with the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain on Wednesday, pledging its commitment to defend the authoritarian country from attacks. The format of the agreement could serve as a template for other Gulf Arab governments, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, that have recently demanded stronger security guarantees from the United States to deter threats from Iran. Bahrain — an island nation that is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet — has a particularly tense relationship with Iran, located just across the Persian Gulf. Under the new agreement, if the kingdom were attacked, the United States would consult with the Bahraini government and determine the best way to “confront the ongoing aggression,” said a senior Biden administration official, who briefed journalists on the condition of anonymity.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The group that includes former Franco-Iranian boxing world champion Mahyar Monshipour and Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Iran from the Paris Olympics. The letter, sent to the IOC at the end of July, said that Iran violates the principle of non-discrimination in sport by failing to comply with the Olympic Charter, which states that “the practice of sport is a human right,” lawyer Frederic Thiriez told a press conference. Thiriez said the charter also specifies that there must be “no discrimination of any kind, in particular on the grounds of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Iran’s government has warned it will not tolerate any signs of “instability” as the first anniversary nears of the death of Mahsa Amini and the months-long protests it sparked. Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died on September 16 last year after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. Her death triggered months of nationwide demonstrations under the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom.” Hundreds of people were killed in street clashes, including dozens of security personnel, before authorities moved to quell what they branded foreign-instigated “riots.”
CONGRESS & IRAN
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) slammed the Biden administration’s agreement with Iran to unfreeze $6 billion of funds in exchange for the release of five American prisoners, arguing President Biden “just keeps sponsoring problems across the world.” “Joe Biden just lit a match to the Middle East. Israel has got to be on alert,” Tuberville said during a Wednesday interview with Fox Business. “They’re [Iran] so close to getting a nuclear weapon. It’s scary – they might already have it. But he [Biden] just keeps sponsoring problems across the world. Solve some problems here before you continue to send money every other place.” The Biden administration’s agreement — which comes after over a year of indirect negotiations with Iran — will issue a blanket waiver for international banks to allow the transfer of the $6 billion of Iranian funds frozen in South Korea to a bank in Qatar in exchange for the release of five American prisoners.
Yesterday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul spoke on the House floor in support of the bipartisan Fight CRIME Act, H.R. 3152, the MAHSA Act, H.R. 589, and a Baha’i Resolution, H.Res. 492, pressing for accountability on Iran’s ongoing malign actions. “We all know that Iran has committed brutal human rights violations. This regime silences dissent, and suppresses the truth, and is sowing global instability through its lethal missile and drone program. We must take action to ensure Iran is fully held to account for its ongoing malign activities, ranging from the brutal suppression of peaceful protestors, to targeting U.S. forces and fueling Putin’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.
Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Chairman Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) delivered opening remarks at a subcommittee hearing titled “A Dangerous Strategy: Examining the Biden Administration’s Failures on Iran.”In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Grothman stressed that the Biden Administration has failed to be transparent with Congress and the American people on negotiations and actions with the Iranian regime. He continued by blasting the Biden Administration for issuing a sanctions waiver as part of its prisoner swap with Iran on the anniversary of September 11th, which will free up that $6 billion for the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday discussed "consular cases" in a phone call with her Iranian counterpart, her ministry said. Baerbock and Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian "discussed their different stances on a range of issues", the ministry wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "There was a particular focus on German consular cases" in the conversation, which was "open, clear and straightforward", it said. Campaigners have been pleading for Germany to help Jamshid Sharmahd, a German citizen of Iranian descent who has been sentenced to death by Tehran.