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February 2, 2024

Deadly Drone Attack on U.S. Troops Intensifies Tensions Between Iran and U.S., Four Komoleh Party Members Executed Despite Due Process Concerns, Pakistan and Iran Forge Cooperation Amidst Escalating Tensions, and More

Week of January 29, 2024 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

Deadly Drone Attack on U.S. Troops Intensifies Tensions 

In a significant escalation along the Jordan-Syria border, a drone attack resulted in the deaths of three American soldiers and injuries to at least 34 others. The U.S. military confirmed the incident on January 28, with President Joe Biden pointing to militants backed by Iran as the perpetrators.

Iranian officials, however, have distanced themselves from the attack. Ismail Khatib, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence, and Majid Mirahmadi, Deputy Minister of Security, emphasized that the militants did not act on Tehran’s orders. They maintain that these “resistance forces” operate independently, a sentiment echoed by Nasser Kanani, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, who refuted claims of Iran’s involvement as “baseless accusations.”

The attack targeted “Tower 22” in Jordan, a critical component of the U.S. defense network and a logistical hub staffed by 350 U.S. military personnel, which supports nearby operations in Syria. This incident follows a pattern of hostilities, including more than 150 rocket, drone and mortar attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria since October 17th. Separately, tensions have also mounted with the Iran-backed Houthis,  and two U.S. Navy soldiers were lost at sea during a mission to intercept Iranian-made weapons destined for Yemen’s Houthis.

Iran’s response to U.S. statements has been one of defiance, with officials urging the U.S. to abandon threats in favor of a political solution. The Revolutionary Guard’s commander stated, “We are not seeking war but are not afraid of it,” underscoring Iran’s readiness to respond decisively to any aggression.

The political landscape is further complicated by Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group in Iraq, announcing a suspension of its military operations against U.S. forces to avoid embarrassing the Iraqi government. This move, purportedly to prevent an escalation of tensions, coincides with reports of a planned U.S. response to the drone attack, targeting “Iranian personnel and facilities” in Syria and Iraq. It is said that Ismail Qaani, the head of the Quds Force, played a significant role in Kata’ib Hezbollah’s reported suspension of hostilities, having been in Iraq in recent days and influencing Iraqi groups.

Moreover, while the U.S. is advertising its willingness to strike Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, it has not done so to date. Reports indicate that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has withdrawn some of its senior leadership in Iraq and Syria in a bid to reduce casualties and the need for a direct confrontation with the United States. This development, coupled with the U.S.’s calculated response to the drone attack, hints at a broader strategy to prevent tensions from boiling over in the region. Regardless, the region stands on a knife’s edge and any incident could trigger greater escalation.

On February 2, Iranian media reported the death of another Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps advisor in an Israeli airstrike on the southern outskirts of Damascus. Tasnim News Agency, closely affiliated with Iranian security institutions, published a photo of Saeed Alidadi. Earlier, the Syrian state news agency, SANA, reported that at 4:20 AM today, “the Israeli enemy from the direction of the occupied Golan, targeted areas in southern Damascus.” According to SANA, Syrian air defenses “intercepted most of the missiles,” and the attack resulted only in material damage.

Four Komoleh Party Members Executed Despite Due Process Concerns

On January 29, just before dawn, the Islamic Republic of Iran executed four Komoleh Party members: Mohammad Faramarzi, Mohsen Mazloum, Wafa Azarbar, and Pejman Fathi. Mizan news agency reported that the four had been implicated in a plot to bomb an industrial facility in Isfahan, allegedly in collaboration with Israel, but that they had been apprehended shortly before the operation was to take place. According to Iran Human Rights Organization, the individuals were detained in Urmia on July 23, 2022, and swiftly sentenced to death by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court Branch 26 for Moharebeh and Espionage charges. The families of the accused have repeatedly denied the charges against them. 

Human rights advocates have expressed outrage over the execution, criticizing the lack of transparency and fairness in the judicial proceedings. According to Masoud Shamsnejad, the legal representative for all four of the defendants, their request for a retrial was rejected by the Supreme Court on January 16. Shamsnejad later criticized the execution of his clients on social media. He remarked that the verdicts clearly stated that the arrests were made before any alleged operations took place, condemning the executions as “punishment before crime.”

Concurrently, ten other political prisoners at Ghezel Hesar Prison reported a raid by the security forces on January 28, allegedly intended to suppress information regarding the series of executions. To protest against the ongoing wave of executions and demonstrate solidarity with those facing capital punishment, Jafar Ebrahimi and Zartosht Ahmadi Ragheb – current prisoners – have committed to weekly hunger strikes. 

The victims’ families had reportedly been restricted from seeing their loved ones until the eve of their transfer for execution. The wife of Mohsen Mazloum, Johanna Timsi, voiced her opposition to the executions, citing torture that resulted in forced confessions being broadcast on Iranian television. She questioned the authenticity of these confessions, including claims made by the Iranian government regarding Mossad training in African countries, and she criticized the trial process as extrajudicial and lacking in the right to defense. 

Pakistan and Iran Forge Cooperation Amid Escalating Tensions

The foreign ministers of Pakistan and Iran met on Monday to reaffirm their commitment to respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity amid mounting tensions. Each nation pledged to expand security cooperation while emphasizing their concerted efforts to mend relations. During a press conference held on the same day, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, underscored the importance of their enduring collaboration, saying, “Despite recent tensions, our robust and multifaceted cooperation naturally led us to swiftly move beyond recent hostilities and chart a new course in the fight against terrorism.”

Abdollahian also revealed Pakistan had invited Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for a state visit. As Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Jalil Abbas Jilani, said, “Iran and Pakistan are resolute in adopting a collective and group-oriented approach to counterterrorism.” Amir Abdolahian was visiting Pakistan.

The quick mending of relations follows dueling strikes on each other’s soil. Iran waged strikes on Jaish-al-Adl militants across the border in its nuclear-armed neighbor on January 16. Pakistan, angered by this violation of sovereignty, launched its own strikes against “terrorist hideouts” in Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan province on January 18th. 

Tensions with militant groups have not abated since these incidents. On Saturday, January 27th, unidentified armed individuals committed an attack in the border region of Saravan, located in Iran’s southeastern Sistan and Balochistan province. Nine Pakistani laborers died in the attack and several others were wounded. Both Pakistan’s and Iran’s foreign ministries vehemently condemned the attack. Mohammad M. Tipu, Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran, called the incident “horrifying.” He promised to support the victims’ families and urged Iran to cooperate in the investigation. In a statement, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanani said “Iran and Pakistan will not allow common enemies to undermine fraternal relations between the two countries,” and said investigations were ongoing. While no group claimed responsibility, three armed suspects fled the scene after the attack, according to Iranian media.

Recent reports also indicate an armed encounter on January 29 between Iranian border guards and an unidentified terrorist group in the Jakigour region, a critical border area between Iran and Pakistan. Tasnim News Agency reported that Iranian border guards neutralized one of the group’s members after this recent armed clash, while two others suffered injuries and evaded capture. This group’s identity is still unknown.

In yet another incident, separatist militants attacked Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan region on Monday evening, killing at least 15 people, including two civilians and four law enforcement agents, the Pakistani military said. Nine militants, including three suicide bombers, were killed during the attack on the Mach and Kolpur complexes in Balochistan, according to the Pakistan military’s Inter Services Public Relations agency (ISPR). This attack was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a prominent separatist group in Balochistan. The BLA is the same group Pakistan said it was targeted in its strikes inside Iran.  

Parallel to these developments, the Iranian government and state media and propaganda outlets have been under fire for their handling of the initial strikes in January. Many observers have noted the friendly relations Iran enjoyed with Pakistan prior to the mid-January strike. The timing of the attack – amid high-level talks between the two countries – raised questions about the extent of the Foreign Ministry’s knowledge and involvement. Such an attack during diplomatic meetings embarrassed political officials, further exacerbated by what many perceived as amateurish public diplomacy. 

Tasnim News Agency’s incomplete reporting of the incident, followed by extremist groups framing it as a demonstration of Iran’s unbridled aggression against a nuclear power, had a negative reception in Pakistan. This portrayal rallied public opinion against Iran, with Pakistani citizens demanding their government’s response amid existing tensions with India and Afghanistan. This left Pakistan with no choice but to respond. The miscommunication suggested Iran attacked civilians, a narrative only corrected days later when IRGC-affiliated media showed videos of a large, well-equipped military camp of Jaish al-Adl in Pakistan being targeted.

Other critiques focused on how such actions fly in the face of President Raisi’s government’s claim that their cultivation of good neighborly relations provides  an alternative to the JCPOA. “Our foreign policy does not start with the JCPOA nor will it be limited to it… Our priority will be connecting with neighbors,” stated Ebrahim Raisi on June 21, 2021, emphasizing a “neighborhood policy” or “neighborly diplomacy.” More than two and a half years later, not only has the prospect of reviving the JCPOA nearly vanished, but relations with at least two neighbors, Iraq and Pakistan, have faced serious crises.

In the northwest, tensions with the Republic of Azerbaijan—nearing a breaking point during the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict—have cooled. However, Tehran’s exclusion from post-war developments in the South Caucasus and increasing concerns over Azerbaijan’s ties with Israel keep a potential conflict smoldering beneath the surface. Amid these developments, it appears that Tehran’s sole significant achievement in its neighborhood policy is last spring’s agreement with Saudi Arabia to restore relations.

 

Iran Announces the Successful Launch of Three Satellites into Space with Simorgh Satellite Carrier

Iran has announced the successful launch of three satellites into space using the Simorgh Satellite Carrier. Iranian news agencies have identified one of these satellites as a “research satellite” developed by the Iranian Space Agency, while the other two smaller satellites will be used for testing global positioning technology and communication purposes. This marks the first instance in which Iran has simultaneously launched three Iranian satellites into space using the Simorgh satellite carrier.

Previous attempts by Iran to launch satellites using the Simorgh carrier had been unsuccessful, plagued by incidents such as launch platform explosions and extensive fires during testing. According to reports from Iranian media, the three satellites, named “Mehda,” “Kavosh 2,” and “Hotar 1,” have been placed in Earth’s orbit by the “Simorgh” satellite carrier. The largest among these satellites is “Mehda,” weighing 32 kilograms, while the other two, referred to as “nanosatellites,” weigh less than ten kilograms each.

The official government information channel of Iran announced on social media that the launch of these satellites had been “successful,” placing them in low earth orbit. Tasnim News Agency, affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, also released images capturing the moment when these three satellites were launched into space. Just a week ago, Iran had announced the successful launch of the “Soraya research satellite” into Earth’s orbit using the “Qaem 100” satellite carrier, placing it at an altitude of 750 kilometers.

The United States and other Western countries have repeatedly warned Iran about the implications of such launches, claiming that the technology could be applied to ballistic missiles, including those designed for carrying nuclear warheads. Iran, however, has consistently maintained that its space and missile programs are purely non-military and defensive in nature. Iran asserts its legitimate right to advance peaceful aerospace technology while emphasizing its commitment to maintaining a peaceful nuclear program, despite the concerns of the United States and many other countries around the globe.

Continuing Struggle for Personal Choice in Attire Amid Imposition of Compulsory Hijab in Iran

Various authorities within the Islamic Republic of Iran persist in their efforts to enforce compulsory hijab and coerce women into wearing government-prescribed attire. The Karim Khan Branch of the Nashr-e Saales, a cultural establishment, has been reportedly “sealed” as per an announcement made by Nashr-e Saaleh on their Instagram page on  January 30th. While the exact reason for the sealing has not been disclosed, speculations point toward non-compliance with “compulsory hijab” regulations at the branch.

In the wake of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” grassroots movement, numerous cultural centers across various Iranian cities have been sealed, inflicting irreparable losses on the business owners due to their alleged non-compliance with compulsory hijab regulations. Civil resistance by the people, especially women, against compulsory hijab continues, with images circulating depicting women without headscarves, predominantly wearing blouses, pants, and dresses, and their hair uncovered. This defiance of compulsory hijab regulations by Iranian women remains prevalent despite the efforts of the Islamic Republic, particularly its security and law enforcement forces, to enforce the dress code. These women continue to appear in public, adhering to their personal clothing choices, as they persevere in their civil struggle to secure this fundamental human right.

In another report, it was announced that after the conclusion of one of the matches in the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, a group of Shirazi women, seemingly without official permission from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, engaged in drum playing. This report triggered various reactions. Ensieh Khazali, the Deputy for Women’s Affairs of the President, denounced the drumming during a government meeting on the sidelines of the event, as reported by the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). Khazali stated,  “I tweeted and stated that the ladies who played the drums in the Qatar stadium do not represent Iranian women. Iranian women exhibit their presence in social scenes through knowledge, entrepreneurship, and their achievements in various fields.” She also denied any coordination for the drumming activity at the Qatar stadium.


 

Farewell to Jamshid Jam, the Renowned Singer of “My Schoolmate Companion”

Jamshid Jam, a seasoned and celebrated singer in the country’s music scene, bid his final farewell, Wednesday, February 1st, at his residence. The passing of this artist, known for his rendition of the famous anthem “My Schoolmate Companion,” was confirmed by his spouse.

In a previous interview, this prolific artist had shared insights about his enduring work, stating, “At times, I wanted to tell those who listen to this song that I sang it, but I would pass by them with a satisfied smile.” Jamshid Jam, the singer of the iconic song “My Schoolmate Companion,” had previously discussed his passion for music and the path he had traversed, saying, “In the month of Muharram in 1978, I was a student, and I was learning from many music luminaries because I wanted to have a profound knowledge of music. I studied all Iranian music, world music, symphonies, and more… The reason I had such a strong affection for the radio is that I left my mark there.”

“My Schoolmate Companion” is one of Iran’s revolutionary anthems, originally written by Mansour Tehrani and initially recorded with the voice of Fereydoon Forooghi just two months after the 1979 Revolution for the documentary “From Scream to Assassination.” After review by the Ministry of Guidance, Forooghi’s voice was removed from the documentary, and Jamshid Jam re-recorded it, becoming synonymous with this iconic piece. Jamshid Jam, who was a student in 1978 and involved in the events of the university and society, reprised the anthem to commemorate the schoolmates and the Pahlavi regime’s crackdown on students and university scholars on November 4, 1978.

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