Iran Summary – August 2022
About the Iran Summary: The Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s (JINSA) Gemunder Center produces a monthly tracker providing timely information and graphics illustrating Iran’s aggressive and destabilizing activities.
August 2022 Summary:
- European negotiators presented their Iranian counterparts with a ‘final text’ version of the nuclear agreement, which was met with further demands from Tehran, including assurances against reimposition of sanctions in the event of American withdrawal from a revived deal.
- Iran-backed groups targeted U.S. forces in Syria, leading U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to eventually launch narrow airstrikes on these groups. This marked the beginning of the most extensive cycle of retaliatory attacks between the two sides since President Biden took office.
- At the end of the month, anti-Iran Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr announced he was quitting politics after the pro-Iran Coordination Framework thwarted him from forming a government, leading to deadly fighting in Baghdad.
- Novelist Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck during a public appearance, the latest in a string of Iran directed or inspired plots on U.S. soil that includes a plot to hire a hitman to assassinate former National Security Advisor John Bolton and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Response to Ukraine Crisis and Ties to Russia: Further demonstrating the increasingly close ties between Moscow and Tehran, Russian cargo planes began transporting the first shipments of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for use in its invasion of Ukraine.
- On August 9, Russia’s space-agency, Roscosmos, launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into orbit.
- On August 19, the first shipment of Iranian UAVs reportedly departed for Russia, carrying at least Mohajer-6, Shahed-129, and Shahed-191 UAVs, which are capable of carrying munitions. However, there have been claims that the UAVs have suffered from numerous failures. According to the Associated Press, the Russian military has acquired hundreds of Iranian UAVs for deployment in Ukraine.
Nuclear: Iran’s nuclear chief repeated his claims that the Islamic Republic has acquired the means to produce a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulators confirmed that hundreds of IR-6 and IR-2 centrifuges were being injected with gas at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. Meanwhile, E.U. negotiators presented a ‘final text’ version of the deal to their Iranian counterparts demanding a “yes or no” answer, to which Iran responded with several additional demands. Despite saying that there was nothing left to negotiate, the United States replied to those Iranian demands and received a response from Iran at the beginning of September that it is reviewing.
- On August 1, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls announced a tranche of new sanctions against six Iranian companies under executive order 13846, designed to target Iranian petrochemicals and petroleum. In a press statement, Secretary of State Blinken intimated these sanctions were intended to pressure Tehran into a revived nuclear deal.
- The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran’s spokesman announced that Tehran has begun injecting gas into hundreds of IR-1 and IR-6 centrifuges, in an apparent attempt to increase its leverage ahead of future negotiations by creating a sense of urgency in Western leaders.
- On August 3, IAEA regulators reported the installment of three IR-6 and six IR-2m centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility.
- On August 8, the E.U. set August 15 as the deadline for Iran to approve its final nuclear deal text, saying that there was no room for further negotiation. E.U. Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell firmly set the deadline, stating, “What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text.”
- The Iranian negotiating team rejected the E.U. text on August 15, and have consistently demanded the closure of an IAEA investigation into evidence of nuclear activity at undeclared Iranian facilities, as well as guarantees that the Iran will receive the economic benefits of a deal regardless of what happens in the U.S. 2024 presidential elections. Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian demanded that a stipulation of a revived nuclear deal be that Iranian companies would not be subject to snap-back sanctions in the event of an American withdrawal.
- On August 24, the United States replied to Iran’s response to the initial E.U. draft text, and initial reports suggest the United States did not meet Iran’s demands. Iran is expected to provide a response to the E.U. soon, at which point a new round of negotiations in Vienna may commence.
- On August 31, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said, “We do believe we’re closer now than we had been in recent weeks and months due in large part to Iran being willing to drop some of their demands that were not related to the deal at all.”
- Also on August 31, Amir-Abdollahian said re-emphasized Iran’s demands regarding guarantees, saying, “Iran is carefully reviewing the E.U.-drafted text… We need stronger guarantees from the other party to have a sustainable deal.”
Regional Aggression/International Terrorism: Iran and its proxies engaged in widespread attempts to test and pressure the United States, ranging from attacking American troops to attempting to stealing an unmanned naval drone. After Iranian-backed militias fired drones and rockets at U.S. forces in Syria, President Biden ordered retaliatory fire on August 24 and the following day when U.S. troops again faced fire. Several Iran-directed or -inspired assassination attempts against American citizens on U.S. soil became public, indicating the brazenness of Tehran’s efforts to attack the United States.
- On August 10, the Department of Justice formally charged Iranian national Shahram Poursafi for his role in the plot to assassinate former U.S. National Security Advisor, John Bolton. The plot was allegedly part of Iran’s retaliation for the 2020 assassination of General Qasem Soleimani.
- On August 11, the Department of Justice demanded seizure of a cargo plane in Argentina, alleging that it had been sold by Iranian sanctioned airline Mahan Air to an also-sanctioned Venezuelan company, in violation of American law.
- On August 12, Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed while giving a lecture in Chautauqua, New York. The attacker, Hadi Matar, is a Lebanese-American national apparently sympathetic to the regime in Tehran and had been in contact with the IRGC.
- On August 15, the IRGC held a UAV competition and exhibition in Kashan, with participants from Armenia, Belarus, and Russia.
- On August 15, Iran-backed militias launched rockets and drones at U.S. bases in Tanf and Deir ez-Zor, Syria.
- In retaliation for the attacks by Iran-backed militias against U.S. troops in Syria on August 15, President Biden ordered airstrikes on these groups’ infrastructure on August 24. When the Iran-backed militias retaliated later that day, injuring three Americans, Biden ordered airstrikes that killed four militants on August 24 and August 25.
- Overnight on August 29, the U.S. Navy foiled an Iranian attempt to capture an American sea drone in the Persian Gulf.
- Iran closed its borders with Iraq on August 30, after at least 20 Iraqis were killed and dozens more were injured in the clashes with pro-Iranian militia groups in major Iraqi cities. The unrest followed the announcement that prominent anti-Iranian Shi’ite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, was resigning from politics in response to Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Kathem Al-Haeri withdrawing from his position as a marjaa (religious leader) and directing his followers to follow Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei,
Cyber: During August, several leading technology companies revealed ongoing Iranian cyber intrusions.
- On August 23, a report from Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) found that Iranian hackers had acquired access to a contingent of Gmail accounts in order to, “hijack accounts, deploy malware, and…use…novel techniques to conduct espionage.”
- On August 25, Microsoft released a report that highlighted and uncovered a cyber-attack strategy used by Iran that uses “Log4j” in operating systems.
Domestic/Human Rights: Throughout August, Iran continued its campaign of domestic repression. Iranian officials continue to arbitrarily detain members of its religious minority groups, bulldoze their homes, and seize their property in effort to stamp out dissent. The Islamic Republic has also arbitrarily detained foreigners, as an act of aggression towards the West and as an apparent attempt to increase its leverage in nuclear deal talks. Elsewhere in the country, citizens continued their protests over water shortages and depleted pensions.
- Civil unrest swelled throughout Iran as authorities cracked down on dissenters who were protesting soaring food prices, taxes, and corruption, concurrent with depleted pensions and salaries.
- On August 1, Iran’s intelligence ministry announced it had arrested numerous members of the country’s Bahai minority. The latest in a series of mass, arbitrary arrests of the minority group, Iranian officials did not specify the number of people detained.
- On August 14, an Iranian court upheld the prison sentences of five human rights activists who had been detained for “denouncing the COVID-19 pandemic’s mismanagement by the authorities.”
- On August 16, Iranian-U.S. citizen and human rights activist Siamak Namazi spent his 2,500th day in Iranian prison.
- The United Nations called upon Iran to end its “persecution and harassment of religious minorities” on August 22, citing, among other misdeeds, the regime’s use of arbitrary imprisonment, home demolition, and refusal to grant entry to schools to religious minorities.
- On August 23, in Southwestern Iran’s Chaharmahal-Bakhhtiari province, mass protests took place over insufficient water. Reports indicated that some residents have not had access to water in days. The protests over water shortages extend back to at least mid 2021.
- On August 24, Amnesty International reported that Iranian authorities had “raided and confiscated dozens of Baha’i properties and arrested at least 30 members of the Baha’i community on account of their faith in various cities throughout Iran” in August.
- The Germany foreign ministry announced on August 27 that a 66-year-old German tourist had been detained in Iran.
- Iran’s judiciary sentenced two Swedish citizens to prison on August 30, for allegedly smuggling drugs.
Recent JINSA Publications on Iran:
- August 9: “Why is the Biden Administration Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Russia’s Nuclear Industry” Gabriel Noronha, The Washington Examiner
- August 19: “U.S. Forces Face Repeated Strikes in Syria,” Ari Cicurel
- August 22: “It’s Time to Make Iran Think Twice About Harming U.S. Citizens,” Michael Makovsky and John Hannah, The Hill
- August 26: “U.S. Retaliation Against Iranian Proxies in Syria,” Ari Cicurel, JINSA NatSec Brief
- August 30: “Iranian Leaks Reveal Biden Administration Efforts to Circumvent Congressional Review,” Gabriel Noronha, JINSA NatSec Brief
- August 30: “Iran Tries to Steal U.S. Maritime Drone, Ari Cicurel and Andrew Ghalili, JINSA NatSec Brief
Recent JINSA Iran Nuclear Talks Update:
- August 4: Iran Nuclear Talks Update
- August 9: Iran Nuclear Talks Update
- August 18: “Analysis: Iran Responds to “Final” Nuclear Deal Proposal”
- August 24: “Analysis: US (Unlike EU) Doesn’t Find Iran’s Demands “Reasonable”