Iran Summary – October 2022
Anna Schaftel – JINSA Programs & Outreach Associate
October 2022 Summary: As Iranians across the country continued taking to the streets to voice their discontent with Iran’s corrupt and violent theocratic leadership, the regime sought to repress dissent through violent crackdowns, internet blackouts, mass arrests, and blaming foreign enemies. Nuclear negotiations appear to be indefinitely stalled as the White House says they “don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon.” Iran deepened its ties with Russia, providing Moscow with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sending Iranian military advisors to help the Russians operate the Iranian-made weaponry. While there was a decrease in Iranian-backed projectile strikes in the Middle East during October compared to the exceptionally high number in September, Russia has now become the most frequent user of Iranian-made UAVs. Reports indicate Iran is now also planning to sell ballistic missiles to Russia.
Response to Ukraine Crisis and Ties to Russia: Iran continues to deepen its involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Iranian regime continues to provide Russia with UAVs and has now sent military personnel to train and advise Russian forces on the use of Iranian-built drones. Iran and Russia both deny that any weapons have been exchanged since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, despite intelligence and imagery proving the Russians have been using Iranian-made UAVs. Russia launched nearly 240 Iranian-made UAVs into Ukrainian territory during October and over 300 since September 13, which exceeds any monthly use by Iran’s Middle East partners recorded in JINSA’s Iran Projectile Tracker. Recent reports indicate that in addition to UAVs, Iran plans to provide Russian forces short-range ballistic missiles.
- On October 16, The Washington Post reported that Iran was preparing to send its first shipment of ballistic missiles to Russian forces. According to their report, Iran plans to provide Russia with two types of short-range ballistic missiles, the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar models, which are capable of striking targets at distances of 300 and 700 kilometers, respectively.
- Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, moved on October 18 to formally cut diplomatic ties with Iran in response to their provision of UAVs to Russia.
- On October 20, an advisor to Russia’s defense ministry was caught on a hot mic during a TV interview saying, “We all know the drones are Iranian, but the government has not admitted to it.”
- On October 20, the White House confirmed that Iran had supplied Russia with dozens of drones and had more shipments on the way. National Security Council (NSC) Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, said “Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground and through the provision of weapons that are impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine- in fact, that are killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.”
- On October 22, The Jerusalem Post reported that ten Iranians had been killed by Ukrainian strikes while training Russian forces on the operation of Iranian-supplied UAVs.
- On October 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asserted that the Iranians were providing UAVs to Russia in exchange for “Russian assistance to the Iranian nuclear program.”
- On October 28, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in a conversation with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, demanded, “Iran to immediately cease the flow of weapons to Russia used to kill civilians and destroy critical infrastructure in Ukraine.” Amirabdollahian repeated Iran’s persistent denials of supplying weapons to Russia for the war in Ukraine.
Nuclear: Amid the ongoing upheaval and demonstrations in Iran, and after months of fruitless talks, negotiations to produce a renewed nuclear deal appear indefinitely stalled. Despite Iranian officials suggesting that there has been progress in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United States, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said the negotiations “[are] not our focus right now,” and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre concurred, saying “we don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon.” However, the Administration appears to be more deterred by what they perceive to be Iran’s “unrealistic” demands, rather than the regime’s violent crackdown during the ongoing protests- maintaining “the door for diplomacy will always remain open.” Meanwhile, Iran continues its efforts to build up its nuclear program, “rapidly expanding its ability to enrich uranium,” at its underground nuclear plant in Natanz, according to a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report.
- On October 12, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price indicated that nuclear talks with Iran were no longer a priority for the Administration, saying, “That’s not our focus right now…Nothing we have heard in recent weeks suggests Tehran has changed its position. Our focus is on the remarkable bravery…the Iranian people are exhibiting.”
- The White House released its National Security Strategy on October 12, which outlines its intent to continue to “pursue diplomacy to ensure that Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon.”
- On October 17, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “So, my colleague at the State Department spoke to this last week, and I’ll just reiterate what he laid out, which is: The door for diplomacy will always remain open. But, as of now, we don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon.”
- On October 31, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran said the Administration is not going to “waste our time” on the nuclear deal “if nothing’s going to happen,” and is instead going to focus on matters on Iran “where we can be useful.”
Regional Aggression: The Iranian regime continues to employ its regional proxies to undermine the stability of the Middle East. The United Nations (UN)-brokered truce in Yemen expired without a replacement, leaving limited hope for a reprieve from the violence carried out by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. After launching over 110 projectiles during September, the second highest amount recorded in JINSA’s Iran Projectile Tracker, Iranian-backed groups in the Middle East fired eleven during October.
- The UN-brokered truce in Yemen expired on October 2 without a new agreement being reached to replace it.
- On October 4, Voice of America reported Iran was gathering its forces near the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and had “sent a message to the Kurdistan Regional Government that it may conduct a ground operation if forces of East Kurdistan [Iranian Kurdish militants] do not evacuate the area.”
- On October 12, Iran and Oman held a joint naval drill in the north Indian Ocean.
- On October 21, the Iran-back Houthi rebels carried out a drone attack at al-Dabba port in Yemen, targeting an oil tanker. The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack as threat to the peace process in Yemen.
Domestic/Human Rights: The unrest and demonstrations in Iran, which began in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody on September 16, continued throughout October. Across the country, protestors continue to take to the streets to call for the end of the regime, despite intense repression, internet blackouts, and violent crackdowns by the regime. The Iranian regime falsely claims the protests are the result of U.S. and Israeli attempts to undermine Iran, and have used this conspiracy to single out minority groups such as the Kurds. A fire also broke out in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where the regime holds many of its political and dual national detainees, killing at least eight people and sparking a riot.
- On October 3, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei broke his silence on the ongoing demonstrations in Iran, “The rioting was planned. These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”
- On October 4, Iranian former football star, Ali Karimi, who lives in Dubai and is an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime, was charged in absentia for supporting the ongoing protests in Iran for voicing his support for the demonstrators on social media.
- Baquer Namazi, an 85-year-old Iranian American dual citizen who had been detained in Iran for seven years, was released on October 5 for urgent medical treatment. His son, Siamak Namazi was released temporarily and then placed back in prison days later.
- On October 8, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Alzahra University in Tehran, where he was met with female students chanting for him and the mullahs to “get lost.” Students have repeatedly shut down school administrators or regime or religious officials who have tried to suppress their protests.
- On October 10, more than 4,000 oil workers went on strike, chanting “Death to the Dictator,” “Death to Khamenei!” and “This is the year of blood, Seyyed Ali Khamenei is done!” The strike impacted various oil production sites along the Persian Coast.
- On October 11, Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi blamed Kurdish groups in Iraq for instigating the ongoing demonstrations in Iran, specifically the Komala Party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).
- On October 12, Iranian reformist politician, Mostafa Tajzadeh, was sentenced to five years in prison for “charges related to his repeated calls for structural changes in the country.”
- On October 15, a fire broke out in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where the regime detains many of its political and dual-national prisoners, killing at least eight people and injuring 61. According to The Washington Post, the fire “appears to have been started intentionally.” As the prisoners tried to escape the flames, guards and security forces “assaulted them with batons, live ammunition, metal pellets, and explosives.”
- Iranian celebrity chef Mehrshad Shahidi was allegedly beaten to death in police custody after being arrested at a protest in Arak City on October 25.
- In response to the sanctions the European Union (E.U.) imposed on Iran on October 17 for their “violent crackdown” on protests, on October 26, Iran announced it would be imposing retaliatory sanctions on 12 individuals and 8 organizations.
- On October 26, thousands of demonstrators from across Iran gathered in the hometown of Mahsa Amini to mark 40 days since she was killed in police custody. Iranian security forces “shot teargas and opened fire” on the demonstrators, leaving an unknown number dead or wounded. Iran “later tried to block internet access in the region.”
- On October 26, a terrorist attack by the Islamic State on Shah Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz killed at least 15 people, including two children.
- On October 31, the BBC reported that over 1,000 people have been charged in relation to the protests in Tehran and face open mass trials- rights activists estimate the total number of people arrested across Iran to be as many as 14,000. According to Iran Human Rights, at least 253 people have been killed in the unrest, including 34 children.
Cyber: The Iranian regime continues to use cyber warfare as a means to undermine its enemies. Following Iran’s two major cyberattacks on the Albanian government in July and September, Albania appears to have been targeted yet again in a disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting its politicians and journalists.
- On October 3, Balkan Insight reported that an Iranian hacking group called “Homeland Justice” had leaked Albanian police files containing the names of people allegedly “suspected” for various crimes. The Albanian government denied that the country’s police system had been hacked, and saying it was a “photo-edited list mixing criminals with politicians, with journalists,” intended to create social unrest.
- On October 21, Iran International reported that Softqloud GmbH, a German-based company, has allegedly aided the Iranian regime in their efforts to censor the internet amid the ongoing demonstrations in Iran.
Recent JINSA Publications on Iran:
- October 24: “Israel Trades Future Gas for Drilling and Possible Security Today,” Ari Cicurel
- October 19: “Saudi Arabia’s OPEC+ decision wasn’t as simple as ‘betrayal’,” Michael Makovsky, PhD, and Blaise Misztal
- October 19: “Unparalleled Iranian Attack on Kurds,” Ari Cicurel and LTG Ray Palumbo, USA (ret.)
- October 3: “Iran’s Sanctioned Terror Airlines Still Fly Throughout Europe,” Gabriel Noronha and Ari Cicurel
- October 3: “Unparalleled Iranian Attack on Kurds,” Ari Cicurel
Recent JINSA Iran Nuclear Talks Update:
- October 14: Iran Nuclear Talks Update, Andrew Ghalili