News Digest: Week of May 22

May 22

International: Iran decried the G7 statement, released on May 20, that had criticized Iran’s nuclear advances, human rights violations and regional adventurism. The communique was “selective” and “vague,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani said. Iran’s nuclear program “is solely aimed at peaceful purposes, and nuclear weapons have no place in our defense doctrine.” He noted that some G7 members maintained nuclear weapons. Kanaani also denied that Iran had supplied Russia with drones for the Ukraine war. Tehran “continues to insist on a political solution to the crisis.” 

Israel/Syria: Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, revealed that attacks on Iranian targets in Syria had doubled since the current government took office in December 2022. “These strikes inflict significant damage to the attempts by the Revolutionary Guard to establish a foothold a few kilometers from the Israeli border,” he said at a security conference. Gallant also accused Iran of using commercial vessels in the Strait of Hormuz as “floating terror bases” for launching drones, missiles, and fighters throughout the Persian Gulf.  

Sanctions: The European Union announced new sanctions on five people – including the spokesman of the Iranian Police and the commander of the Tehran Police Relief Unit – and two entities in Iran for roles supporting violent suppression of public protests in the past year. It was the eighth sanctions package connected to human rights violations in Iran, amounting to a total 216 Iranian individuals and 37 entities. 

International: Alireza Enayati was named Iran’s new ambassador to Saudi Arabia. In March, the regional rivals agreed to restore diplomatic ties seven years after severing relations. Enayati had previously served as an aide to the foreign minister and director general of Gulf affairs. 

Security: After a decade surviving Iran’s fractious politics, Ali Shamkhani was removed as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the highest body in charge of foreign policy and national security, on May 22. The former rear admiral, a young hero during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war who rose to become minister of defense in the 1990s, had served three presidents from rival factions as head of the SNSC. He was pushed aside in favor of Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian, a senior Revolutionary Guards officer. 


May 23

Domestic: The Supreme Court reversed a death sentence against Javad Rouhi, a man accused of “war against God and state,” “corruption on Earth” and “apostasy” for his involvement in the September 2022 protests. Rouhi’s appeal against the death penalty had been accepted, and the case would be re-examined, according to his lawyer

Israel: The Chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi suggested that Israel could have to attack Iran if it does not halt its nuclear advances. “We are looking closely at the various arenas that are part of the path to nuclear capabilities. There are negative potential trends on the horizon that could lead to [us] acting,” he said.  “We have the capability to strike Iran. We are not aloof to what Iran is trying to do around us. Iran also cannot be aloof to what we can do against it.” 

At the same conference, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said that even Iran’s underground nuclear sites could be reached by an attack. He added that while a diplomatic solution is preferable, “there is no avoiding military action” if Iran’s nuclear program comes “close to the moment of no return.”  

International: President Ebrahim Raisi met with his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, during a visit to Jakarta. The two discussed rising security threats, export and investment opportunities in Iran, and expressed a desire to increase the value of their mutual trade by $20 billion. “We believe that sanctions and threats cannot stop us in any way," Raisi said. “Cooperation and communication with neighboring countries, Muslim nations and countries that are aligned with us is our priority.” The two also finalized a long-term Preferential Trade Agreement, as well as 10 other agreements. 


May 24

International: A Chinese firm agreed to construct a 3,500-kilometer (2,175-mile) road between Iran and Russia. Jilin Jinguan Electric Co Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Middle East that also outlined the building of $9.8 billion worth of energy facilities, including 3,400 charging stations. 


May 25

Security: Iran revealed the Khorramshahr-4 ballistic missile to journalists in Tehran. The latest iteration of the liquid-fueled weapon had a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), which could allow it to reach across the Middle East, even to Israel. The missile could carry a 1,500-kilogram (3,300 pound) warhead, according to officials. “One of the prominent characteristics of this missile is its ability to evade radar detection and penetrate enemy air defense systems, thanks to its low radar signature,” Defense Minister Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said.