Iran April 2023-

Written by  //  September 20, 2023  //  Iran, U.S.  //  No comments

Iran on Diana’s Wednesday
Institute for the Study of War (ISW)
Al Jazeera: Iran news
Iran’s Women on the Frontlines (31/10/22)

Eurasia Group’s 2023 Top Risks Report
Risk 5: Iran in a Corner
By Ian Bremmer, Cliff Kupchan
….nationwide anti-government protests continue. At the same time, Tehran has escalated its nuclear program in dramatic ways, all but ending any chance of reviving the nuclear deal. And now Iran has wedded itself to Putin’s imperial ambitions in Ukraine. Facing convulsions at home while lashing out abroad, this year will feature new confrontations between the Islamic Republic and the West.
The demonstrations are explicitly anti-government, with protesters calling for the fall of the clerical regime.
The protests are leaderless, dispersed, and attract relatively small numbers—all factors that make them unlikely to overthrow the Iranian regime. But they’ve also been remarkably persistent, with security services so far unable to crush the protesters as they did in previous rounds of unrest. The demonstrations will accordingly erode what’s left of the regime’s legitimacy and lead Iran to lash out against countries that support the protesters.
Then there’s the nuclear program. The mood in Tehran has shifted decisively against compromise, given the protests and the government’s perception that the deal won’t deliver enough sure benefits.
… Iran’s material support for Russia’s war in Ukraine has added another dimension to its failed relations with the West. Tehran has sold Moscow hundreds of drones used to attack civilians in Ukrainian cities, and it is poised to build a drone production factory in Russia and ship short-range ballistic missiles. Combined with repression at home (supported by Russia), Iran’s involvement in a European war has swung public and elite opinion on the continent sharply against the Islamic Republic; it will also lead the United States to impose additional economic sanctions and otherwise disrupt Iran’s supply chains, with Europe likely to step up its own measures over human rights concerns and Tehran’s military cooperation with Moscow.
What will 2023 bring for Iran and its protest movement?
Iran is heading into 2023 amid continuing protests and fraught relations with the West as it tries to entrench its regional influence and manage an ailing economy.
(Al Jazeera) Iran is not on the verge of regime change, but the protests have fundamentally changed the relationship between the state and the population, according to Sina Azodi, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council think-tank.
“I believe the protests will continue in one way or another because the Iranian government has failed to address the root cause of the protests,” he told Al Jazeera. “I don’t think that the situation is sustainable because if the government doesn’t address the population’s grievances every once in a while, it has to show the same level of brutality to quell the protests. It is unclear at this point whether the state has any interest in addressing the grievances of the people.”
The protests have also significantly deteriorated relations between Tehran and the West, as the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have imposed human rights sanctions in response to what they have called a “brutal suppression” of protesters.
Two major Western-led efforts to punish Tehran at the United Nations also garnered majority votes, leading to the establishment of a fact-finding mission on the response to the protests and Iran’s expulsion from the Commission on the Status of Women.

The Backstory: Iran’s Long History of Unrest
(Foreign Affairs) Against all odds, protests continue in Iran, almost five months after they first began in September. The protests’ resilience—and the brutal crackdown employed to stop them—have raised profound questions about the stability of the Iranian regime. Many observers wonder whether the Islamic Republic, which has been in power since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, can survive in the face of such widespread public outrage. “I would argue that never before in its 43-year history has the regime appeared more vulnerable,” Karim Sadjadpour remarked on a recent episode of “The Foreign Affairs Interview.” The leadership in Tehran has sought to quell dissent by cracking down on protestors—but “violence and repression will not snuff out the will of a nation so roused against its government,” Masih Alinejad writes. As Iranians continue to call for political change, it is time for the international community to “think seriously about a world after the Islamic Republic.” (The Beginning of the End of the Islamic RepublicIranians Have Had Enough of Theocracy 18 October 2022)

20 September
Iranian women face 10 years in prison for not wearing hijab
New law approved in Iran, which will be enforced for three years, increases penalties for flouting Islamic dress code

18 September
US-Iran prisoner swap ‘important first step’ but tensions remain: Analysts
A major diplomatic breakthrough between Tehran and Washington remains unlikely before 2024 US election, experts say.
(Al Jazeera) The prisoner swap between the United States and Iran is a step towards de-escalating tensions between the two countries, experts say, but it does not point to an imminent thaw in frosty relations. …
Biden administration officials also have stressed that Iran will only be allowed to use the unfrozen funds for humanitarian purposes amid criticism from Republican legislators who accused Washington of paying a ransom for hostages — against stated government policy.
Just days ago, as the prisoner swap loomed, the US imposed sanctions on dozens of Iranian officials and entities over human rights abuses during a crackdown on antigovernment protests in Iran last year.
U.S., Iran exchange prisoners ahead of UN General Assembly
(Politico) The group of seven, who flew on a Qatari plane from Tehran to Doha early Monday morning, include five American citizens who were detained in Iranian prisons on disputed charges.
“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. Biden thanked the governments of Switzerland, Qatar, Oman and South Korea for their assistance in the negotiations.
As part of the deal, the U.S. has granted clemency to five Iranians who were charged or convicted with nonviolent crimes. Two of those five will also transit via Doha. The White House also confirmed that Iran will also receive access to some $6 billion of proceeds of oil sales to South Korea via a restricted account in Qatar. The sales occurred during a window when trade with Iran was not sanctioned, but the funds were left stuck in South Korea once sanctions were reimposed as a result of currency conversion issues, senior administration officials explained.
U.S. and Iran trade prisoners, signaling partial thaw in relations
The deal, which includes a provision to unlock $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds, marks a major breakthrough for the bitter adversaries
By John Hudson and Susannah George
(WaPo) Five American citizens held in Iran will fly to the United States after a brief stop in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. The U.S. government, in exchange, released five Iranians and unblocked the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil funds held in South Korea.
The deal, negotiated over several months, marks a major breakthrough for the bitter foes who remain at odds over a range of issues, including the rapid expansion of Tehran’s nuclear program, its ongoing military support for Russia and Iran’s harsh crackdown on internal dissent.

16 September
Iran: One year after the death of Mahsa Amini
Security forces have been positioned in Tehran and other cities as Iran marks one year since the death of Mahsa Amini.
(Al Jazeera) Saturday marks one year since Mahsa Amini died, sparking protests across Iran and leading to a chain of events, the effects of which remain fresh in the minds of Iranians.
… Seven people have so far been executed after being convicted by Iranian courts in cases related to the protests.
Mahsa Amini’s father detained on anniversary of death, rights group says
Iranian security forces briefly hold Amjad Amini amid crackdown on commemorative protests
The issue of hijab and women’s rights has been at the centre of demonstrations inside and outside Iran, with Amini’s name and chants of “woman, life, freedom” becoming common refrains.
Inside Iran, many women have chosen to change the way they dress and forego their headscarves.
But the hijab remains mandatory as per Iranian law and religious teachings, and authorities have signalled this will not change, so they have engaged in a series of efforts to counter this shift. …
A number of professors at top universities have been expelled in cases that appear to be linked to the protests.
Internet access continues to be severely restricted in Iran, with more disruptions expected to take place as the country marks one year since the start of the protests.
All major global social media and messaging platforms, in addition to many websites, continue to be blocked with no real prospects of being restored.
The Iranian regime keeps cracking down. Iranian women keep pushing back.
By Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist, author and women’s rights campaigner. A member of the Human Rights Foundation’s International Council, she hosts “Tablet,” a talk show on Voice of America’s Persian service.
(WaPo) Despite the escalating oppression, Iranian women — and the many fathers, brothers and male friends who support them — have refused to give up.

15 September
Addressing Iran’s evolving threats to US interests
Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director of Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution
Editor’s note:The following testimony was submitted to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia on September 14, 2023, for the “Iran’s Escalating Threats: Assessing U.S. Policy Toward Iran’s Malign Activities” hearing. (YouTube)
(Brookings) Much has changed within Iran over the…four and a half decades [since the 1979 revolution], but the Islamic Republic remains a disruptive and dangerous force in the international arena. Recognizing the seriousness of this threat, the Biden administration revived diplomatic efforts to constrain Tehran’s nuclear advances and has signaled readiness to deter Iran’s regional threats. However, progress has been limited and, in many respects, the challenges posed by Iran to its own people, its neighbors, and U.S. interests around the world have only intensified as a result of Tehran’s unchecked nuclear program; its long track record of terrorism, hostage-taking, and violent subversion; its deepening involvement in Russia’s barbaric and illegal war in Ukraine; and its brutality toward its own citizens.
As I’ve argued earlier this year in Foreign Affairs magazine,1 it’s time for a new U.S. approach on Iran, one that ensures international constraints on and visibility into Iran’s nuclear activities, deters Tehran from advancing its most provocative nuclear and regional ambitions, and preserves space for the Iranian people who have fought for democracy for more than a century to bring about lasting change.

13 September
Iran’s ‘gender apartheid’ bill could jail women for 10 years for not wearing hijab
Shops that serve unveiled women could be shut under draft law UN human rights body says suppresses women into ‘total submission’
Women in Iran face up to 10 years in prison if they continue to defy the country’s mandatory hijab law, under harsher laws awaiting approval by authorities. Even businesses that serve women without a hijab face being shut down.
The stricter dress code, which amounts to “gender apartheid”, UN experts said, comes one year after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini….
The length of prison sentences contained in the draft law was comparable to those for serious offences such as murder and drug trafficking, said an Iranian human rights lawyer, Hossein Raeesi. “That’s ridiculous to even think about.”
The hijab and chastity bill details punishments including more than 60 lashes, heavy fines and prison terms. It also warns businesses of closure and other serious consequences if found to be providing services to women with “improper dress code”.
The draft law follows renewed patrolling by the “morality police” and widens “gender segregation” in universities, hospitals, parks and workplaces. It amounts to an apparent attempt at “suppressing women and girls into total submission”, said a group of UN Human Rights Council-appointed experts.

12 September
In Iran, snap checkpoints and university purges mark the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini protests
(AP) — Snap checkpoints. Internet disruptions. University purges.
Iran’s theocracy is trying hard to both ignore the upcoming anniversary of nationwide protests over the country’s mandatory headscarf law and tamp down on any possibility of more unrest.

19 May
Iran executes three men accused over anti-government protests
(The Guardian) Iran has executed three men under charges of being involved in the deaths of security forces personnel in November last year during massive, anti-goverment protests that rocked the country. Human rights groups and family members had campaigned to stop the executions, saying that the case lacked evidence. International human rights organization Amnesty International said the case against the men lacked due process and they were instead “fast-tracked through Iran’s judicial system.”
Immediately after their execution on Friday, state media re-ran video posts of what were presented as the defendants’ confessions, which Amnesty International said had been extracted by torture.
At least seven people have been hanged in relation to the protest movement that swept Iran in September, and dozens more have been sentenced to death or convicted of capital offences.
Iran executed at least 582 people last year, a 75% increase from 2021.

12 May
US bolstering defense posture in the Persian Gulf after Iran seized two merchant ships in recent weeks
The US will bolster its defensive posture with heightened patrols in the Persian Gulf after destabilizing actions by Iran this past month to interfere with and seize commercial vessels transiting the Strait of Hormuz and other strategic waterways, according to a US National Security Council spokesperson.

10 May UPDATED 12 May
After a failed coalition effort, where is the Iranian opposition headed?
By Arash Azizi
(Atlantic Council) On February 10, a press conference hosted by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security led to something many Iranians had waited to see for months: a show of unity between opposition figures.
This included Reza Pahlavi, the country’s former crown prince; Masih Alinejad, a women’s rights activist against compulsory hijab; Hamed Esmaeilion, writer and advocate for the families of those killed on a Ukrainian passenger airliner downed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in 2020; Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace laureate; Abdullah Mohtadi, once the founding leader of the Communist Party of Iran and now head of the left-wing Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan; Nazanin Boniadi and Golshifteh Farahani, two popular actresses based in the United States and France, respectively; and Ali Karimi, one of Iran’s best-known soccer legends, now an anti-regime activist based in Germany.
Speaking at the event, the group pledged unity and said they would publish a charter of demands within a month. However, when this document, known as the Mahsa Charter, was finally published on March 13, it had already lost the support of Karimi—a firm supporter of Pahlavi—and Farahani, who made no explanation for their absence.
Cracks were visible from the outset, with much of the division revolving around Pahlavi’s persona. Some in the Iranian opposition have been long skeptical of his ambition. While Pahlavi has attempted to espouse broadly liberal democratic politics, many of his right-wing supporters are said to be chauvinistic, aggressive, and opposed to working with other
The group’s demise was confirmed on April 16 when Pahlavi declared a momentous trip to Israel, where he was hosted by Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel. In Israel, Pahlavi met twice with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and once with President Isaac Herzog. He also took part in Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies at Yad Vashem, prayed at the Western Wall, visited the Baha’i gardens in Haifa, and also met with members of the Israeli-Iranian community.
The trip wasn’t necessarily controversial for many Iranians. Most major forces in the Iranian opposition—including center-left and far-left groups—advocate for the normalization of relations between Iran and Israel and oppose the regime’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic policies. Alinejad openly supported the trip, and none of the ADFI figures opposed it. However, the fact that Pahlavi had gone on the trip solo showed (in addition to his previous tweets) that the sun was setting on a coalition that was only a few weeks old.

11 May
Woman, Life, Freedom: Eight months of ongoing protests in Iran
An in-depth conversation examining the ongoing anti-government protests in Iran following the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini, and the decades-long fight for gender equality and social justice in the country.
By Atlantic Council
The eight months since September 2022 in Iran have been marked by a wave of anti-government protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman who died at the hands of the so-called morality police for “violating” mandatory hijab. Iranian women have long faced discrimination and limited access to education, employment, and political representation. Mahsa’s death and the subsequent protests reignited the decades-long fight for gender equality, social justice in the country, and supercharged calls for an end to the Islamic Republic. Despite the clerical establishment’s efforts to suppress dissent, Iranian women continue to display remarkable bravery as they risk their lives in hope of securing freedom and creating lasting change.
How the women and girls of Iran have fueled their ‘unprecedented’ protests: Bravery, solidarity, and innovation (transcript)
This edition of the Atlantic Council’s Front Page event series, hosted by the council’s Middle East initiative, featured Iranian women’s rights advocate Azam Jangravi, Iranian women’s rights lawyer and writer Dr. Mehrangiz Kar, and Iranian American actress, writer, and activist Nazanin Nour, three recipients of the Atlantic Council’s 2023 Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award, representing the women and girls of Iran who are fighting for freedom and equality.

8 May
Saudi-Iranian detente is fragile but potential for the Middle East is huge
Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic editor
Should rapprochement solidify it could augur well for Yemen, Lebanon and Syria – and spell disaster for Israel
Tehran’s embassy in Riyadh has reopened for the first time since 2016, the Iranian foreign ministry quietly confirmed in April, in the latest of a series of gestures showing that the two Middle East powers are determined to dial down a rivalry that has disfigured the region for 40 years.
All kinds of signs, trivial and large, suggest the rapprochement is genuine: civilian flights between the two countries are to resume; an Iranian won an $800,000 Saudi Qur’an-reading competition; Iranian steel is making its way to Saudi markets; officials from the two countries were seen embracing after the Saudi navy rescued 60 Iranians trapped in Sudan; and Ibrahim Raisi is expected to announce a visit to Riyadh soon, the first by an Iranian president since 2007.
The reconciliation, nominally driven by the oddest of odd couples – Saudi Arabia’s 37-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and Iran’s 83-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – was formally announced in China on 10 March when the two sides set out a two-month plan to normalise diplomatic and economic relations after eight years of tension.

Iran’s leaders are asking for trouble
On the surface, social tensions have subsided since the height of nationwide protests over last autumn’s death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for violating rules governing the hijab, or headscarf, which Iranian women are required to wear in public. A combination of mass arrests and executions, some of them public, have moved most protesters off the streets in recent weeks.
Iran’s conservative government now sees that it’s much easier to use tried-and-true methods to beat back demonstrators than to force all women and girls to wear the hijab in public. After all, many are simply ignoring the rules.
So, authorities have authored a new law and are using new tactics. Women who flout the state’s dress code can be kept out of school and denied services. Businesses that welcome them can be fined or shut down. Last month, cameras were installed in many city streets to boost enforcement. The next ugly confrontation ending in violence and public fury is all but inevitable.
Public frustration in Iran extends well beyond a repressive dress code. Adding fuel to the Mahsa Amini protests is an economy in terrible shape, thanks in part to Western sanctions and partly to Iran’s own policy incompetence. Inflation is probably still running well above 40%, though Iran’s government stopped publishing inflation stats two months ago. Iran’s currency is now at a record low against the dollar. The unemployment rate tops 10%. A return to the nuclear deal could slowly lift US and European sanctions, but Iran’s willingness to supply Russia’s military with drones used to attack Ukraine signals its government’s determination to reject Western terms.

30 April
Remarks Delivered by Iranian Crown Prince to ADL’s National Leadership Summit
The National Leadership Summit (NLS) is an exclusive opportunity for ADL’s emerging and established leaders to come together, learn, and engage around critical anti-hate issues with top experts and world leaders. Presenters will address ADL leadership on a range of topics, better positioning attendees to effectively carry our mission and ideals into advocacy and action.

19 April
Son of Iran’s last shah gets mixed reactions to visit to Israel
Reza Pahlavi has tried to fashion himself as the leader of Iran’s opposition and a key personality in its future.
(Al Jazeera) The 62-year-old arrived in Israel on Monday and was received and accompanied throughout his visit by Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel. He had meetings with Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.
Pahlavi, who bills himself as an “advocate for a secular, democratic Iran”, said his visit was aimed at building a brighter future because he wants “the people of Israel to know that the Islamic Republic does not represent the Iranian people”.

14 April
Repressive enforcement of Iranian hijab laws symbolises gender-based persecution: UN experts
The repressive enforcement of Iranian hijab laws, as announced by the State authorities, would result in additional restrictive and punitive measures on women and girls who fail to comply with the country’s compulsory veiling laws, UN experts* said today.
The experts warned that such repressive and draconian measures are a manifestation of gender-based persecution and would lead to unacceptable levels of violations of the rights of women and girls in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

After the Iran Deal, A Plan B to Contain the Islamic Republic
By Suzanne Maloney
Foreign Affairs March/April 2023
The current Iranian government may never agree to forfeit its nuclear program or stop fueling conflicts across the world. But the Iranian demonstrators have made it clear they want a democratic government focused on the needs of its people rather than on adventurism abroad. Such a government would almost certainly be far less interested in acquiring nuclear weapons or promoting insurgencies, so Washington should do what it can to help the protesters achieve their aims.
To be sure, there are serious limits to Washington’s power. The United States has only the most tangential reach into the halls of power in Iran and holds little sway in the streets. The future of Iran will ultimately depend on Iranians themselves. But U.S. policymakers can work with allies and partners to ensure that the international community shines a spotlight on the heroic efforts of Iranian protesters, exposes Tehran’s repression, and finds ways to hold the Iranian government accountable by working closely with a fact-finding mission established by the UN in November to investigate the crackdown and by pressing partners around the world to downgrade diplomatic relations with Tehran.
The current Iranian government may never agree to forfeit its nuclear program or stop fueling conflicts across the world. But the Iranian demonstrators have made it clear they want a democratic government focused on the needs of its people rather than on adventurism abroad. Such a government would almost certainly be far less interested in acquiring nuclear weapons or promoting insurgencies, so Washington should do what it can to help the protesters achieve their aims.
The United States can also assist the Iranian people by expanding their access to information and communications. The Biden administration has already stepped up its engagement with technology companies to help Iranians communicate with one another and with the outside world. …

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