Despite its brutal tactics, Iran’s regime fails to contain mass protests

“The Iranian regime is struggling to crush a massive wave of nimble and durable protests, unlike any the Islamic Republic has faced in the past. The leaderless movement has grown in strength despite increasingly harsh crackdowns, relying on unprecedented solidarity between ethnic minorities, different religious groups, and men allied with protesting women.
The movement started in September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an ethnic Kurd from Saqez in northwest Iran, who was arrested in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly and who later died in police custody. Protests in Saqez quickly spread to Tehran and other cities throughout the country. Now in their third month, the protests show no signs of stopping, despite the shocking violence security forces have deployed against the demonstrators, including savage beatings, mass arrests, and indiscriminate killings of protesters, including children.”

“more than 300 have been killed during the protests. That number includes roughly 50 children under 18, the New York Times’ Farnaz Fassihi reported last week. But casualties and arrests are difficult to track; social media and internet access have been severely curtailed, and foreign reporters can’t access the country. Thus far, five protesters are set to be executed for participating in the uprising.”

How Iranian Kamikaze drones could help turn the tide of war in Russia’s favour

“Russian forces have apparently obtained scores of the cheap, plentiful and potentially deadly Iranian-made drones. Like the Nazis in the Second World War, the Russians may hope these new weapons could turn the tide of the war in Russia’s favour.
Made by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries Company, the Shahed-136 entered service last year. With a range of up to 1,500 miles and carrying a warhead of 35 kilograms, the drones are designed to loiter overhead before striking targets. Ukrainian forces say they come in both Kamikaze and munition-launching variants.

Constructed from commercially available components – including mobile phone parts and model aircraft engines – the drones are easy and cheap to build with a supply chain that is difficult to disrupt with Western sanctions.

Their deployment comes amid signs that Russia is running out of other precision weapons. Last week, Sir Jeremy Fleming, the head of GCHQ, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We believe that Russia is running short of munitions.”

The waves of drone strikes are a rudimentary new form of terror, compared with the precision Kalibr cruise missiles which have been used to strike targets deep inside Ukraine.

The drones are estimated to cost less than £18,000 per unit. That’s a fraction of the cost of conventional Russian missiles, which range from about £270,000 for a Tochka-U up to £11.6 million for a x-101 cruise missile.

The relatively low speed of the Shahed-136 – just over 100 miles per hour – make them a tempting if difficult target for Ukrainian small arms fire. Soldiers in the Kharkiv region recently told The Telegraph that the drones are slow and visible enough to engage with small arms fire and that they had downed at least one using ordinary machine guns.

But their lack of defences is not a design flaw. The disposable drone is designed to be launched in swarms to overwhelm air defences. The drone is fired from launcher racks in stacks of five aircraft that take off with a booster rocket before switching to a petrol engine.

This, plus the size of their payload, means the drones pose a serious threat, Ukrainian commanders say.”

“Tehran has carefully couched its denials about the Shahed-136, repeatedly rejecting accusations it has supplied Russia with weapons “to be used in the war in Ukraine”. But security officials told the Washington Post that Iranian technical advisors have visited Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine to provide training on operating the drones.”

Justice Department charges alleged Iranian operative in plot to assassinate Bolton

“Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, allegedly conspired between October of 2021 and April of this year to kill Bolton according to a criminal complaint released by the Department of Justice. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also targeted by the Iranians, a person close to Pompeo confirmed to POLITICO.”

“Poursafi, a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has been charged with the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire and providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot. If convicted, Poursafi faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Beginning in October, Poursafi allegedly attempted to arrange the murder “likely in retaliation” for the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani by the U.S. in Jan. 2020, officials said.

Working on behalf of the IRGC, Poursafi attempted to pay people in the United States $300,000 in cryptocurrency to murder Bolton in Washington, D.C., or Maryland. Poursafi also offered $1 million for an “additional job.””

Israelis press U.S. not to rejoin Iran nuclear deal

“The 2015 nuclear deal, struck during Barack Obama’s presidency, lifted an array of U.S. sanctions on Iran in exchange for major restraints on its nuclear program. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, saying it was too weak and too narrow and he reimposed the sanctions while adding new ones. After about a year, Iran began violating the terms of the deal, including by enriching uranium to high levels and shutting out inspectors.

President Joe Biden has sought to rejoin the deal — he and his aides argued that it remains the best vehicle to contain an Iranian nuclear threat. Over nearly a year and a half, a period that included some long pauses, Biden’s emissaries have engaged in indirect talks with Iranian officials about reviving the agreement.

The two sides, whose discussions have been mediated primarily by European officials, have tangled on a variety of thorny topics. Those include: whether the U.S. will rescind Trump’s designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; the fate of a probe by the International Atomic Energy Agency into traces of nuclear materials at various Iranian sites; and Iranian demands for certain guarantees that the lifting of sanctions will lead to economic benefits — and that the U.S. won’t pull out of the deal under a different president.

Biden has said he will not rescind the IRGC’s terrorism designation, and the IAEA has indicated it will not give up on the probe.

Iran recently responded to a European draft proposal on reviving the deal with comments mostly focused on sanctions and economic guarantees. U.S. officials have been looking at the Iranian demands and preparing their own response, which may be sent to European negotiators later this week.

The U.S. has been consulting allies, among them Israel, before sending its response, though it wasn’t immediately clear if it would wait until after Gantz’s meeting with Sullivan.

“At every step of the process, we have been in touch with our Israeli partners to update them on where we are, to compare notes on the state of Iran’s nuclear program,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday.

The Israeli officials are making their push at a sensitive time: the country, currently being overseen by a caretaker government, will soon hold its fifth election in less than four years.

The main internal debate among U.S. negotiators has been about the economic guarantees sought by Iran, said Ali Vaez, a top Iran analyst with the International Crisis Group. Those guarantees deal in part with Iran’s concerns that even if the 2015 deal is revived, foreign companies will consider it too risky to invest in the country. Even when the deal was in full force, many foreign firms were hesitant to do business in Iran.

For Israel’s political leaders, an Iran whose economy is stronger is an Iran that is a bigger threat to their country’s existence. Iran’s rulers consider Israel an illegitimate state, and some have predicted its eventual doom.

Israeli political leaders’ argument against the nuclear deal often boils down to concerns that, if the U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran, the regime will use the incoming cash to engage even more in an array of unsavory activities, including funding and arming terrorist groups that target Israel.”

“some Israelis in the security establishment — often retired officers with more freedom to speak out — have broken with their political leaders on this issue. They argue that, as imperfect as the nuclear deal may be, it’s better than having no restraints on or surveillance of Iran’s program.”

“At present, Iran’s breakout time — the amount of time needed to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon — is believed to be a few weeks. Under a restored deal, it would likely be around six months. Under the original 2015 agreement, it was estimated at around a year.”

Russia may do Biden a favor by killing the Iran deal

“The original deal was reached during Barack Obama’s presidency, after years of talks among Iran, the United States and other leading countries, including Russia and China. It lifted an array of nuclear sanctions on Iran in exchange for severe curbs on its atomic program. The deal had limits, however, including provisions that would expire over time, technically starting within the next three years. (Supporters of restoring the deal argue that the most important provisions won’t expire for several more years and some elements last in perpetuity.)”

“the original Iran nuclear deal involves the Russians taking special roles in helping Iran implement the agreement, such as shipping out Iran’s excess enriched uranium. If Russia refuses to play that role, the deal is once again undermined.”

Negotiating With Iran Isn’t Working, But Biden Has a Better Option

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/02/18/biden-threat-conflict-iran-nuclear-bomb-diplomacy-00010162

Strikes on U.S. Troops Show the Need To Withdraw From Iraq and Syria

“Just days into 2022, multiple military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria came under attack. Two drones carrying explosives were destroyed last Tuesday as they headed toward U.S. troops in western Iraq. The next day, rockets and indirect fire hit bases in western Iraq and eastern Syria. And last Monday, two armed drones were shot down as they approached a facility housing American advisers at the airport in Baghdad.

Though there were no casualties, the Iran-backed militias behind the attacks have made clear that they will continue. That alone should encourage the Biden administration to get American soldiers out of harm’s way”

Iranian Operatives Plotted To Kidnap Brooklyn Journalist

“On Tuesday, an unsealed Justice Department indictment exposed a shocking international kidnapping plot. According to federal prosecutors, Iranian intelligence official Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani and three other foreign intelligence assets conspired to kidnap Iranian American author and journalist Masih Alinejad from her home in Brooklyn.

Alinejad is a champion of women’s rights and an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As host of Voice of America Persian’s show Tablet, she has reported extensively on the regime’s human rights abuses, particularly those carried out against women.”

“Although the FBI caught on before the plot could be carried out, these events nonetheless set a terrifying precedent for dissidents, journalists, and human rights advocates at home and abroad. Iran’s abduction attempt is an assault not just on Alinejad but on the very tenets of freedom. No person on American soil should live in fear of retaliation for simply speaking out to defend human rights.”