Iran Summary – September 2023

Author: Anna Schaftel; JINSA Programs & Outreach Associate

September 2023 Summary: One year after Iran’s morality police murdered 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for allegedly improperly wearing a hijab, which sparked the most significant nationwide protests in over a decade, the regime intensified its efforts to suppress dissent. Iran International and Semafor released reports documenting an Iranian influence operation in the United States involving current and former government officials as well as think tank researchers. Russia’s Defense Minister claimed the relationship between Tehran and Moscow is “reaching a new level,” as Iran began receiving Russian jets and attempted to provide Russia with missiles. Iran continued its cyberattacks and terror plots, focusing on Israeli and Jewish targets.

Russia Ties: Iran began receiving Russian aircraft, and Israel foiled Iranian attempts to provide Russia with missiles.

  • On September 2, Iran began receiving Russian Yak-130 trainer jets, according to the regime’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency.
  • On September 10, the head of Israel’s Mossad, David Barnea, said that Israel had foiled Iran’s attempts to provide Russia with short- and long-range ballistic missiles. Barnea did not provide details on Iran’s plans nor how they were foiled.
  • On September 19, at the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi accused the United States of having “fanned the flames of violence in Ukraine in order to weaken European countries.”
  • On September 20, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, “Despite opposition from the United States and its allies… Russian-Iranian interaction is reaching a new level.”

Regional Aggression: Iran International and Semafor released reports documenting an Iranian influence operation in the United States involving current and former government officials as well as think tank researchers. Iran continued to target Israeli and Jewish targets abroad, with Israel’s Mossad chief announcing that Israel and its allies had foiled 27 such attacks in the last year alone.

  • On September 4, The New York Times reported that the previously unnamed Swedish national detained by the Islamic Republic was Johan Floderus, a member of the European Union (EU) diplomatic corps. The regime detained Floderus in April of 2022, and he has since reportedly been held at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.
  • On September 10, Israel’s Mossad Chief David Barnea said that in the last year, Israel and its allies had foiled 27 Iranian plots targeting Israeli and Jewish targets in Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America.
  • On September 11, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant accused Iran of constructing an airport in Lebanon just 12 miles from the Israeli border, which he said was being used for “terror purposes.”
  • On September 15, Iran seized two oil tankers in the Gulf.
  • On September 16, Iran withdrew the designation of several senior International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, a move which “effectively removed about one-third of the core group of the [IAEA’s] most experienced inspectors” according to IAEA director general Rafael Grossi.
  • On September 20, Iran International said that members of President Ebrahim Raisi’s entourage “harassed, attacked, and insulted” one of its reporters in New York.
  • On September 26, Iran International released a report documenting an Iran-backed influence campaign in the United States.
  • On September 27, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessels pointed lasers at a U.S. helicopter in the Persian Gulf. The helicopter was not damaged, and no one was injured.
  • On September 27, Tehran claimed it had successfully launched a third military satellite into orbit, the Noor 3.

Domestic/Human Rights: A year after Iran saw its largest protests in over a decade, following the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the regime’s morality police, the Islamic Republic intensified its brutal repression of dissent: disrupting internet access, purging universities, arresting those connected to last year’s protests, and passing harsher mandatory hijab laws. Nonetheless, protests broke out across the country on the anniversary of Amini’s murder.

  • On September 5, Iranian authorities arrested the uncle of Mahsa Amini on unknown charges.
  • On September 7, Iranian journalist Nazila Maroufian released an audio file detailing her sexual assault while detained in Iran’s Evin Prison. Maroufian has been repeatedly arrested and targeted by Iranian authorities since she interviewed Amini’s father after his daughter’s murder.
  • On September 7, Iranian school teacher and activist Abolfazl Khoran was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison, 72 lashes, a two-year ban from social media, and exile to the remote Iranian city of Delfan for attending the memorial of a protestor slain by the regime.
  • On September 16, the Islamic Republic instituted snap checkpoints, internet disruptions, and cracked down on universities ahead of the anniversary of Amini’s murder.
  • On September 18, Iran’s defense ministry said that a defect in its military system was responsible for the large blast heard in the northern city of Gorgan.
  • On September 19, the five Americans freed under the hostage deal announced last month by the Biden Administration landed on U.S. soil.
  • On September 20, Iran’s parliament approved the “Hijab and Chastity” bill, which will impose significantly harsher punishments on women found in violation of the regime’s mandatory hijab laws.
  • On September 29, protestors clashed with security forces in Iran’s southeast on the anniversary of a regime crackdown known as “Bloody Friday.” At least 23 people were injured.

Cyber: Iran continued its cyberwarfare campaign against targets worldwide, with most attacks focused on Israel.

  • On September 11, cybersecurity firm ESET announced that Iranian hackers had managed to penetrate the networks of 32 companies in Israel, one in Brazil, and one in the UAE.
  • On September 14, Microsoft released a report detailing the cyberwarfare campaign carried out by Peach Sandstorm, an Iran-backed hacker group that had most recently targeted the satellite, defense, and pharmaceutical sectors around the globe.
  • On September 21, Israel’s National Cyber Directorate revealed an Iranian cyberattack targeting Israeli job seeker; the hackers managed to gain access to photos of ID cards and resumes, among other personal information.

Recent JINSA Publications on Iran: