Iran Summary – September 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.
Anna Schaftel – JINSA Programs & Outreach Associate
September 2022 Summary: Iran saw its most significant demonstrations in over a decade in response to the police killing of Mahsa Amini. Amid those protests, Iran launched the largest ever strikes against Iranian Kurdish militants in Iraqi Kurdistan, claiming the militants were responsible for the unrest. An American citizen was among those killed in the assault. Throughout September, Iran continued to supply unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia, hundreds of which have reportedly been used to target Ukrainian forces. Negotiations for a renewed nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran remain paused after Iran presented yet another set of demands despite the EU having submitted their “final” text of the deal weeks earlier.
Response to Ukraine Crisis and Ties to Russia:
As Iran continues to supply Russia with UAVs to be used in its invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of Iranian UAVs have reportedly been used in combat in occupied areas of Ukraine. In response, Ukraine announced it would be downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran: withdrawing the accreditation of the Iranian ambassador and significantly reducing the diplomatic staff at the Iranian embassy in Kyiv.
- On September 13, the Ukrainian military reported it had shot down an Iranian Shahed-136 UAV, operated by the Russian military, for the first time. Russia used Iranian-made UAVs throughout September to target and destroy Ukrainian hardware, including American-provided weaponry.
- Presidents Ebrahim Raisi and Vladimir Putin met on September 15 to discuss ways to strengthen Iran and Russia’s bilateral ties. During the meeting, Raisi stated. “The relationship between countries that are sanctioned by the US, such as Iran, Russia or other countries, can overcome many problems and issues and make them stronger. The Americans think whichever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped. Their perception is a wrong one.”
- On September 19, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added to its Export Administration Regulations (EAR) list three Boeing 747 aircraft operated by Mahan Air, Iran Air, and Qeshm Air for transporting Iranian UAVs to Russia.
- On September 24, Ukraine announced it would be downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran over its provision of UAVs to Russia, withdrawing the accreditation of the Iranian ambassador and significantly [reducing] the number of diplomatic staff at the Iranian embassy in Kyiv.”
- A Ukrainian security official recently claimed that Iran provided the drones to Russia on the condition that they also be used to target Israeli citizens. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Russia reportedly launched ten Shahed-136 UAVs over Uman, a Ukrainian city where tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews pilgrimage every year during the holiday.
Negotiations to produce a revived nuclear deal with Iran remain paused. The Iranian regime presented yet another set of demands in the 3rd exchange of indirect proposals between the U.S. and Iran since the EU sent its “final” text of the deal to Tehran. American and European officials now believe a renewed nuclear agreement is unlikely to be reached “in the near future.”
- On September 1, Iran responded to the latest round of nuclear talks with additional demands, including additional sanctions relief, guarantees, in-text assurance that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation will be closed, and more.
- The IAEA reported on September 7 that “Iran’s stock of uranium enriched to up to 60%, close to weapons-grade, has grown to enough, if enriched further, for a nuclear bomb.”
- On September 10, France, Germany, and Britain released a joint statement detailing their “serious doubts as to Iran’s intentions and commitment to a successful outcome on the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)].”
- On September 28, Iranian President Raisi reiterated the outstanding Iranian demands in the negotiations: “receiving guarantees, closing the [IAEA] safeguards case, and effectively and permanently removing sanctions.”
- Also on September 28, the U.S. Special Envoy for Iran and lead negotiator Robert Malley confirmed that the United States is still hopeful that an agreement is reached and suggested that there is no contradiction between supporting Iranian protesters and pursuing a deal with the Iranian regime, saying, “we can do both things at the same time.”
The Iranian regime escalated its regional aggression over the past month. The Iranian Navy unsuccessfully attempted again to seize two U.S. maritime drones operating in the Red Sea, and the Iranian military’s ground forces unveiled a new UAV “specifically designed to attack Tel Aviv and Haifa.” The regime launched the largest recorded barrage in JINSA’s Iran Projectile Tracker, involving 93 drones and missiles, targeting Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in northern Iraq that killed over thirteen people, including a U.S. citizen. Meanwhile, the Iranian regime continues to employ its proxies to destabilize the Middle East, as the Iran-backed Houthi rebels persistently violate the UN-brokered truce in Yemen.
- On September 1, An Iranian navy warship seized two U.S. maritime drones operating in the Red Sea. Iran later released the drones after the U.S. Navy responded by deploying ships and helicopters.
- S. Special Envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, accused the Iranian regime of having encouraged the Houthis to launch attacks and of supporting the “Houthis in developing their military capability,” in a September 12 interview with Arab News.
- On September 12, Iran unveiled a new loitering munition, the Arash-2. Iranian Brig. Gen. Kioumars Heydari, “who heads the Iranian military’s ground forces,” said the Arash-2 was “specifically designed to attack Tel Aviv and Haifa.”
- On September 12, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated that Iran had used more than ten military facilities in Syria to produce advanced missiles and weapons for its proxies, including Hezbollah.
- Iran began bombarding Iranian Kurdish militants in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 24. These attacks continued for several days and culminated in Iran launching 73 missiles and 20 drones at Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in Northern Iraq, its largest single wave of strikes in JINSA’s Iran Projectile Tracker. A U.S. citizen was among those U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned, “Iran’s use of ballistic missiles and drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan Region as an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Domestic/Human Rights: Widespread protests broke out across Iran after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody after having been arrested for “improper hijab.” Iranians took to the streets in the largest demonstrations the Islamic Republic has seen in over a decade, chanting against the regime, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the mandatory hijab laws while demanding accountability for Amini’s death. Demonstrators were met with intense repression: at least 83 Iranians have been killed amidst the crackdown and more than 1,200 people have been arrested, as of September 30. The regime implemented internet blackouts across the country in an attempt to quell dissent. Despite the government crackdown, demonstrations continued to expand through the end of the month, as Iranians continue to take to the streets or engage in other forms of civil disobedience.
- On September 5, two LGBTQ activists, Zahra Hamadani and Elham Chubdar, were sentenced to death for “corruption on Earth,” “promoting Christianity,” and “communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic.”
- Iran announced on September 12 that it would increase the cost of exit permit bonds for medical, dental, and pharmacy students to curtail the emigration of its medical professionals.
- On September 16, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody after having been arrested for violating Iran’s mandatory hijab laws.
- In response to Amini’s death, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities across Iran to demand accountability forAmini’s death. Women “took off their headscarves en masse” and chanted against the regime’s mandatory hijab laws. The U.N. described the demonstrations as “peaceful” but said Iranian security personnel used “excessive use of force” to detain activists, including firing birdshot and other metal pellets.
- On September 21, Iranians “experienced a near-total internet blackout” as protests entered their fifth day. The regime continued to cut off access to the internet and social media apps throughout the end of the month.
- On September 25, as demonstrations entered their tenth consecutive day, protests were documented in 30 of Iran’s 31 provinces.
- The Islamic Republic regime is beating, arresting, and killing protestors, including famous celebrities, singers, and athletes. At least 1,200 people have been arrested in connection to the demonstrations, and human rights groups estimate that more than 83 people have been killed as Iranian security forces violently crackdown.
- Despite widespread internet blackout and violent repression, protests continued in cities across Iran through the end of September and expanded to include protests at the most renowned universities in the country as well as strikes in major cities such as Isfahan. The regime’s violent crackdown on its people continues to escalate.
Cyber: The Iranian regime continues its campaign of global cyberterrorism to undermine its enemies. Albania made the landmark decision to sever diplomatic relations with Iran, accusing the Islamic Republic of having carried out an extensive cyberattack targeting the networks of Albanian institutions on July 15. Shortly after severing relations, Albania was targeted in another round of cyberattacks which the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) attributed to Iran. The U.S. Department of Justice charged three Iranians with having attempted to hack the computer systems of citizens of the U.S., U.K, Israel, and elsewhere.
- On September 7, Albania broke diplomatic relations with Iran in response to the massive cyberattack it allegedly undertook against Albanian institutions in July 2022.
- On September 11, Albania was targeted in a cyberattack by the Islamic State. According to the FBI Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), this attack was “likely done in retaliation for public attribution of the cyberattacks in July and severed diplomatic ties between Albania and Iran.”
- On September 14, the U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned 10 Iranian men and two companies for hacking computer systems and installing ransomware. The Justice Department charged three of the men for a scheme to hack the computer systems of hundreds of people across the U.S., U.K., Israel, Iran, and elsewhere.
- The Israel Defense Force (IDF) announced on September 21 that its Cyber Defense Directorate had thwarted almost two dozen cyber-attacks against the Israeli military in 2022. It reported that over the past year, it had seen a 70% in hostile activity by Iran.
United Nations General Assembly: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi made his first appearance at the U.N. during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). In his address to the assembly, he went into a tirade against the United States, calling U.S. sanctions “a new form of crime against humanity” and of having “double-standards” regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Raisi went on to accuse Israel of being “the source of all crises in the region” and asserting that they “cannot be a partner in peace in security.” The Israeli envoy walked out of Raisi’s address in protest. Raisi refused to sit down with CNN’s chief international correspondent, Christian Amanpour, after she declined his last-minute demand that she wear a hijab during the interview.
- In an episode of 60 Minutes that aired on September 18, President Raisi questioned whether the Holocaust occurred and called the State of Israel a “false regime.”
- On September 21, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, walked out during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s speech in protest. Erdan left a photograph of his grandmothers who survived the Holocaust in response to Raisi’s comments questioning its occurrence earlier in the week.
- On September 21, President Raisi refused to sit down with CNN’s chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour, for their “long-planned interview,” after she declined his last-minute demand that she wear headscarf during the interview.
- Amanpour, who grew up in Iran, stated “Here in New York, or anywhere else outside of Iran, I have never been asked by any Iranian president – and I have interviewed every single one of them since 1995 – either inside or outside of Iran, never been asked to wear a head scarf.”
- On September 21, President Raisi addressed UNGA, attacking the U.S. for sanctions, the assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, and what he deemed to be the “double-standards” Iran’s nuclear program is held to. He also went after Israel, calling for “a single Palestine… from the river to the sea,” and claiming “contemporary history” had not “seen a nation…crueler” than Israel.
- Raisi accused the United States of not being able to “accept that countries stand on their own feet,” and being “naïve to think that militarism is a source of security.”
- Regarding the ongoing negotiations for a renewed nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran, Raisi questioned the “commitment” of the U.S. toward a nuclear deal and asserted that “Iran has been the main axis of the JCPOA’s survival.” Raisi adamantly denied that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, calling the regime’s nuclear program “peaceful activities.” He called sanctions “a new form of crime against humanity,” going on to say they are “a weapon of mass murder, and accompanying or remaining silent towards it is aiding and abetting oppression.”
- Raisi denounced the U.S. assassination of IRGC officer Qasem Soleimani, pledging to get justice through “the trial of the commander and supervisor of the martyrdom of Lt. Gen. Qasem Soleimani through a fair court.”
- Raisi accused Israel of being “the source of all crises in the region,” and saying he believes in a “single Palestine,” in which, “all the land of Palestine ‘from the sea to the river’ belongs to the original inhabitants of this historic and holy land.”
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: