Iran Summary – April 2023
Anna Schaftel – JINSA Programs & Outreach Associate
April 2023 Summary: Iran continues to supply arms and ammunition for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, part of growing bilateral cooperation to counter international sanctions on either country. Iran sought to reinforce its mandatory hijab laws by installing security cameras in public spaces to identify unveiled women. Poison attacks continued targeting Iranian schoolgirls across the country; at least 300 incidents have occurred since last November. USCYBERCOM revealed that Iranian hackers gained access to a municipal election results website in 2020, but it kicked them off the server before they could launch an attack. The Hill republished a JINSA open letter, now signed by 48 U.S. retired military leaders, calling on the United States to immediately provide Israel with advanced weapons to deter and prevent a nuclear Iran, including KC-46A aerial refueling tankers, multirole combat aircraft, and precision guided munitions.
Russia Ties: Russia-Iran strategic ties grew closer to ease mutual economic strains from international sanctions. Iran continues to supply weapons to Russia for use against Ukraine.
- On April 5, Russian airline Aeroflot sent one of its civilian planes to Iran to be repaired, unable to do so domestically due to limited supplies amid widespread sanctions.
- On April 11, Reuters reported Russia began exporting gasoline and diesel to Iran in February.
- On April 13, the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, China, and Pakistan met in Uzbekistan to discuss closer strategic cooperation on Afghanistan-related issues.
- As of April 24, Iran had shipped more than 300,000 artillery shells and a million rounds of ammunition to Russia via cargo ships on the Caspian Sea, as per the Wall Street Journal.
- On April 25, the Iranian, Russian, Turkish, and Syrian defense ministers held talks in Moscow to discuss the normalization of ties between Ankara and Iran-backed Damascus.
Domestic/Human Rights: Tehran sought to reinforce mandatory hijab laws, threatening to expel university students who do not comply and installing security cameras to identify and penalize unveiled women. Poison attacks targeting schoolgirls continued around the country. Protests broke out in southeastern Iran after a 16-year-old boy was struck and killed by a police car.
- On April 3, Iran’s Ministry of Higher Education announced that women who do not comply with the country’s mandatory hijab laws would face expulsion.
- On April 4, 20 schoolgirls were hospitalized in Tabriz in one of several poison attacks carried out in April. At least 300 such incidents have been reported since November.
- On April 8, Iran announced it was installing cameras in public places and thoroughfares to identify and penalize women violating the regime’s mandatory hijab laws.
- On April 25, Iran re-arrested dissident journalist Keyvan Samimi only three months after he was released from prison on charges of “association against the security of the country” after he was suspected of engaging in political activities.
- Civilians clashed with security forces in Fanouj after a police car killed a 16-year-old boy.
- On April 26, Iran’s supreme court upheld German–Iranian dual national and California resident Jamshid Sharmahd’s death sentence. German FM Annalena Baerbock denounced the decision as “unacceptable,” saying Sharmahd “never had anything like a fair trial.”
- On April 26, an armed guard at a bank in northern Iran fatally shot Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani, a senior Shi’ite cleric in the Assembly of Experts. The motive is yet unknown.
- On April 29, a driver ran over two clerics in the religious city of Qom and stabbed one.
- Iran executed at least 582 people in 2022, according to a report by Iran Human Rights (IHR), representing a 75 percent increase in executions from the previous year. With the exception of China, Iran executes more people annually than any other nation worldwide.
- This is one of the highest figures of any country worldwide; only China executes more people annually.
Regional Aggression: Iran seized a U.S.-bound oil tanker and may have been responsible for a rocket attack targeting a U.S. military base in Syria. The Islamic Republic used humanitarian relief flights to smuggle weapons to its proxies in Syria. Myanmar’s military junta is reportedly using Iranian drone parts in their domestic crackdown.
- On April 10, a rocket attack targeted a U.S. military base in eastern Syria. British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Iran-aligned militias may have been responsible.
- On April 12, Reuters reported that Tehran used humanitarian relief flights to smuggle weapons and military equipment into Syria after the deadly February 6 earthquake.
- On April 13, the New York Times reported that Iran and Nicaragua held discussions in February about increasing military cooperation to counter U.S. influence in Latin America.
- On April 17, Israel’s Shin Bet indicted two Palestinians in the West Bank for conducting operations on behalf of Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force. The two allegedly agreed to smuggle and traffic military equipment in Israel for Hezbollah, gathered information on IDF operations in the West Bank, and worked to recruit additional operatives.
- On April 26, Iran International reported that Myanmar’s military junta, the Tatmadaw, has been using Iranian drone spare parts in their crackdown on dissent.
- On April 28, Iranian Navy commandos seized a U.S.-bound oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman.
- In an April 28 visit to Lebanon’s border with Israel, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amirabdollahian said, “We are here today … to declare again with a loud voice that we support the resistance in Lebanon against the Zionist entity.”
Cyber: Iranian hackers continued to target the United States and Israel, while new reports revealed that Iran had unsuccessfully sought to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election.
- On April 15, Microsoft reported that an Iranian government-linked hacking group, Mint Sandstorm (also called Phosphorus, Charming Kitten) had shifted focus from reconnaissance to targeting U.S. critical infrastructure, including seaports, transportation, and energy sites.
- On April 24, MG William Hartman, the head of USCYBERCOM’s Cyber National Mission Force, announced that Iranian hackers had accessed a U.S. municipal website for reporting unofficial election results in 2020. U.S. military hackers discovered the breach and kicked off the Iranian hackers before an attack could be launched.
- On April 25, Check Point Research reported that Iran aligned hacking group, Educated Manticore, was using new, improved phishing methods to target entities in Israel.
Recent JINSA Publications on Iran: