Iran Summary – August 2021

About the Iran Update: The Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s (JINSA) Gemunder Center has started a monthly tracker providing timely information and graphics illustrating Iran’s aggressive and destabilizing activities.

August 2021 Summary: Hardliner Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took office on August 5 and soon after appointed a cabinet that included an anti-Western foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. An even more extreme Iranian government under Raisi significantly decreases the likelihood that the Biden administration will successfully negotiate a U.S. reentry to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement and increases the prospects for further destabilizing Iranian-backed aggression across the Middle East.

Nuclear: While some analysts and government officials expected the nuclear negotiations to resume once Raisi had taken office, there have been no talks since June. In the meantime, Iran continues to expand its nuclear program.

  • Iranian officials confirmed an IAEA report obtained by Reuters, “that Iran had used 257 g of uranium enriched up to 20% U-235 in the form of UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) to produce 200 g of uranium metal enriched up to 20% U-235.” Iran has claimed that the metal would be used in the Tehran Research Reactor, but it could possibly use the material to produce a dirty bomb.
    • S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price responded that “Iran has no credible need to produce uranium metal, which has direct relevance to nuclear weapons development.”
  • On August 17, the IAEA informed member states that Iran implemented a second cascade to enrich uranium up to 60 percent at the above-ground plant at Natanz.

Regional Aggression: In early August, Iran continued its aggressive naval activities that have significantly raised tensions in the Arab Gulf. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Hamas have resumed exchanging blows with Israel, likely to routinize their periodic attacks and test the new Israeli government. Iranian-backed groups have increasingly turned to drones as they target American service members and partners.

Immigration/Human Rights: Iran hosts roughly three million Afghans, including more than one million refugees and around two million undocumented migrants. This number could increase as Afghans flee Taliban rule.

  • Iran announced on August 15 it was preparing temporary refugee camps in the three provinces on Iran’s border with Afghanistan to provide refuge to Afghans fleeing the Taliban insurgents entering Kabul. On August 18, however, Iranian authorities instructed the three provinces to deny entry to Afghans, citing recent developments and coronavirus restrictions.
  • Cyberhackers released gruesome footage showing an attempted suicide and guards beating inmates at the notorious Evin prison, where Iran houses its political prisoners. The video garnered a rare apology from the head of Iranian prisons on August 24.

Recent JINSA Publications on Iran: