News Digest: Week of February 27

February 26

Economic: Iran’s currency fell to a record 600,000 rials for one U.S. dollar. The rial traded at 32,000 to the dollar in 2015, when Iran signed the JCPOA. Inflation had also reached more than 50 percent in January 2023.

Domestic: A health official said that girls’ schools across Iran had been poisoned using chemical compounds. “Certain individuals sought the closure of all schools, especially girls’ schools,” said Deputy Health Minister Younes Panahi. Hundreds of girls had been hospitalized in at least 10 cities. The attacks reportedly began in November in the holy city of Qom.

International: “Russia is proposing to help the Iranians on their missile program and also at least considering the possibility of providing fighter aircraft to Iran” in exchange for military aid from Tehran, CIA Director Bill Burns said in an interview. He added that Russian-Iranian cooperation was “moving at a pretty fast clip in a very dangerous direction right now.”

International: Brazil permitted two Iranian navy warships, the IRIS Makran and IRIS Dena, to dock in a Brazilian port. In January, the Brazilian government had blocked the ships from docking before President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's meeting with President Biden. But Brazil allowed the ships to dock in Rio de Janeiro between February 26 and March 4. “In the past, those ships facilitated illegal trade and terrorist activities, and have also been sanctioned by the United States,” U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Elizabeth Bagley said on February 15. “Brazil is a sovereign nation, but we firmly believe those ships should not dock anywhere.”


February 27

Economy: Three million tons of goods worth almost $1.5 billion had been exported to Iraq since March 2022, claimed Ruhollah Gholami, director-general of the Ilam Province Customs Department. The goods reportedly included petrochemical, plastic, and metal products as well as ceramic tiles.


February 28

Domestic: An Asiatic cheetah cub died after kidney failure treatment failed. Asiatic cheetahs are an endangered species, and the 10-month-old cheetah was Iran’s only cub. “I apologize on behalf of the team since we failed to save his life,” said the head of Tehran’s veterinary hospital. Asiatic cheetahs once roamed an area spanning from the Red Sea to India. But Iran only had 50 to 70 left because of poaching and the destruction of their natural prey and habitat.

Military: The IRGC and Iran’s conventional army conducted air defense drills over the majority of Iranian airspace, including northwestern, western, and central provinces. The exercise included mock operations against enemy aircraft as well as reconnaissance and communication drills. “Formation of secure layers of air defense in order to protect the Islamic Republic of Iran’s airspace, besides comprehensive defense of critical centers of the country are among the objectives of the exercise,” said Second Brig. Gen. Amir Farajpour.

Domestic: Iran revealed footage of underground tunnels containing air defense systems, including the 3rd Khordad system. In early February, the air force unveiled an underground air force base called “Eagle 44.”

Nuclear: Iran could produce enough material to make a nuclear weapon “in about 12 days,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl in House testimony. “Back in 2018, when the previous administration decided to leave the JCPOA it would have taken Iran about 12 months to produce one bomb's worth of fissile material,” he said. “Now it would take about 12 days.”


March 1

International/Domestic: Iran expelled two German diplomats a week after Germany expelled two employees at Tehran’s embassy in Berlin. Germany had condemned Iran after the judiciary sentenced Jamshid Sharmahd, a German-Iranian citizen and activist, to death. “The two German diplomats are being expelled due to their country's irresponsible interference in Iran’s internal and judicial affairs,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani. Germany protested the move, which it described as “arbitrary and unjustified.”