April 12, 2024

Iran Contemplates Significant Military Response to Israeli Attack, Another Jaish al-Adl Attack, Threats of Heightened Hijab Enforcement, and More

Week of April 8, 2024 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

Iran Contemplates Significant Military Response to Israeli Attack

Iran continues to indicate it will retaliate militarily in response to Israel’s April 1 attack on its diplomatic compound in Damascus. The threat of a significant reprisal attack has spurred vows of retaliation from Israel and an expression of “ironclad” support from U.S. President Joe Biden. 

Recent intelligence assessments from Western countries have signaled a potential imminent retaliatory strike from Iran against Israeli targets. This has prompted calls for restraint from global powers. Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian and regional foreign ministers from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq held a call Thursday, which came after White House official Brett McGurk reportedly urged them to convey a message urging restraint. Separate calls were held with the United Kingdom and Germany, with UK Foreign Minister David Cameron asserting that Iran should not “draw the Middle East into a wider conflict.” A Russian spokesperson called on all parties to exercise restraint.

In an aggressive reaffirmation of its security stance, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated on Thursday that Israel will continue to defend its national security both offensively and defensively. He noted that, despite the ongoing war in Gaza, Israel remains prepared for potential threats in various regions. Adding to the tensions, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant conveyed to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that any direct attack from Iran would be met with a fitting response from Israel.

Israeli Army Radio reported that the Israeli Air Force, in coordination with the U.S. and Cyprus, has been actively training for long-distance strikes, explicitly preparing for a possible assault on Iran. This readiness was underscored by the visit of U.S. General Michael Kurilla – Commander of the U.S. Central Command – to Israel, aiming to discuss strategic responses to any possible Iranian attacks.

The Iranian government has expressed that an international condemnation of Israel’s assault on its consulate could have mitigated the need for a military response from Tehran. This sentiment was echoed in a statement by the Iranian Mission to the United Nations on the social media platform X, criticizing the UN Security Council’s inaction and the broader international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable for violating diplomatic sanctity in Damascus.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, in discussions with his counterparts from Germany, the UK, and Australia, condemned the Israeli violations of international laws and the Vienna Conventions, stressing the need for a forceful international stance against these breaches. Abdollahian asserted that when international bodies fail to act, legitimate defense measures become essential to address such aggressions. While reiterating Iran’s stance on not escalating the conflict further, Abdollahian highlighted the critical need for addressing the ongoing war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank, suggesting that peace in the volatile region of West Asia hinges on curbing Israel’s war-prone leadership.

The Biden administration has voiced its concerns about a possible Iranian or proxy attack on U.S. forces, warning Iran against escalating tensions. This was reinforced by statements from the White House, indicating that the U.S. backs Israel completely. President Biden stated, “As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad – let me say it again, ironclad.”

Yet, U.S. officials had asserted earlier that they had nothing to do with the April 1 strike. Recent reporting indicates that U.S. officials were angered that they were kept in the dark about the strike, particularly as it increased the threats that U.S. troops scattered about the region will now face. As reported by The Washington Post, “Knowing in advance would have permitted the Pentagon to heighten defenses for U.S. personnel and to position assets, including warships with missile defense systems on board, in a way that could help protect both Israel and U.S. troops from a potential Iranian response.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been actively engaging with global counterparts to communicate the detrimental impact of further military escalation, advocating for a de-escalation in the region. Meanwhile, Tehran has assured Washington that any response to the attacks on its consulate will be measured and aimed to prevent further warfare, highlighting its strategic patience and controlled approach to the situation.

The shadow of a broader war looms once more as leaders from the U.S., Israel and Iran engage in military posturing, and diplomats engage in quiet negotiations to seek to avert disaster. The U.S., Israel and Iran appear closer to military confrontation than any time since the 2020 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, and it is far from clear whether this spike in tensions can be contained.


Another Terrorist Attack by Jaish al-Adl Against Iranian Security Forces

In a severe escalation of violence in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, a clash between Iranian law enforcement and the militant group Jaish al-Adl resulted in the deaths of at least five officers. This latest incident, which left several other officers injured, occurred in the countytown of Sib and Suran on Tuesday, April 9.

According to the state news agency IRNA, militants opened fire on three military vehicles, leading to fatalities and injuries among the security forces. According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, the militants used silencers, confusing security forces who were caught off guard. Tasnim News Agency, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, indicated that the officers were reportedly transporting a suspect involved in the killing of an individual – referred to as “Shibak” – from Sib and Suran to Mehran when they were ambushed on their return trip.

Jaish al-Adl openly claimed responsibility for the violence. The group, recognized as a terrorist organization by Iran and many other countries around the world, indicated that the attack was executed by an “operational intelligence unit along with special forces.”

Sib and Suran, located strategically near the borders of Pakistan, Khash, and Saravan, has become a flashpoint for such conflicts. This recent operation marks the second major assault by Jaish al-Adl on Iranian security forces in a short period, suggesting a considerable strengthening of the group’s military capabilities. Meanwhile, there are increasing concerns about the adequacy of the equipment and training of Iranian forces in the region. Images released from the scene showed three security vehicles, including two Samand sedans and a Toyota truck, all damaged. Given that the vehicles lacked armor to defend its passengers, they are unsuitable for military operations in such a perilous area. This raises significant concerns regarding the readiness of Iranian security personnel to cope with the escalating threats in this volatile region.

Former Central Bank Chief Challenges President Raisi’s Remarks on Currency Market

Nasser Hemmati, former head of Iran’s Central Bank and Presidential candidate, has publicly contested statements made by President Ebrahim Raisi, who recently dismissed the surging dollar rates in Iran’s free market as mere “fabrication.” Hemmati responded on his X account, expressing his bafflement at the government’s approach to selling gold bullion to economic stakeholders at a rate of 64,500 Tomans per dollar, while simultaneously denying the legitimacy of these market figures. Hemmati emphasized that, contrary to President Raisi’s assertions, the volatility seen in the currency and gold markets and other financial assets is causing significant concern among economic actors and adversely affecting the living standards of ordinary citizens. 

President Raisi had addressed the devalued Iranian currency during a meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei, suggesting that individuals could be distorting market figures in unofficial trading spheres, though he assured that such activities would not impact the country’s production and service sectors. 

President Raisi also struck a triumphant tone on alleged economic progress made under his administration, stating, “They did not foresee that after a decade of less than one percent economic growth, we would reach over six percent in 1402.” He also mentioned significant improvements across various economic indicators, including production and liquidity.

On April 11, the U.S. dollar traded at approximately 64,700 Tomans in the free market, signaling the weakness of the Iranian currency as Iran continues to contend with international sanctions and fears of wider conflict. Observers have linked the spike in currency rates to increased tensions between Iran and Israel. Additionally, the global gold market has seen a surge, with prices briefly crossing the $2,300 per ounce mark, influenced by speculation around possible reductions in U.S. interest rates.

Meanwhile, Ali Bahadori Jahromi, a spokesperson for the Iranian government, has sparked debates by dismissing the influence of the free market currency rates on the cost of living. He insisted that since the exchange rate for importing essential goods is pegged at 28,000 Tomans, fluctuations in the free market should have no effect on the prices of staple goods.

In a recent press conference on April 9, Jahromi stated that any price hikes in consumer goods attributed to the free market exchange rate are unlawful, given the fixed rate at which foreign currency is supplied for essential imports. This denial by Jahromi has met with criticism on social media, with users sarcastically echoing his statement that the free market exchange rate does not impact people’s daily expenses.

Tehran Police to Intensify Enforcement of Hijab Regulations Starting April 13

The Tehran Police Command has issued a warning that there will be heightened enforcement of hijab compliance among women and girls beginning on April 13. According to a statement from the Tehran Police Command, “In line with public demands and based on legal duties, the hijab and chastity plan will be pursued more vigorously in all streets and public places from Saturday, April 13.”

The notice calls on women and girls to “observe the law and maintain the moral values and national and religious norms of the society,” warning that failure to comply with mandatory hijab laws will result in legal action by the police against violators.

This announcement marks a repeat of last year’s crackdown which began on the same date, April 13, and was met with ridicule and anger from protesters. During that period, under the “Hijab and Chastity” campaign, women and girls who did not adhere to the government’s preferred dress code took to the streets despite warnings from Ahmadreza Radan, the head of the National Police Force, that those who violate hijab norms in public places, vehicles, or commercial premises would be documented and referred to judicial authorities.

The police also stated they would utilize “smart tools and cameras in public places to identify norm-breakers and send warning messages and documentation to violators of the hijab and public decency laws, informing them of the legal consequences of repeated offenses.” Despite these threats, many women and their allies have persisted in their continued resistance and defiance of mandatory hijab laws.

Celebration Video Triggers Outpour of Support for Bushehr University Students Amid University’s Disapproval

A graduation video from Al-Zahra University in Bushehr has captured significant public attention and sparked a wave of support after being circulated on social media. The video features several students celebrating their graduation with dance and music, specifically to a song by Erfan Tahmasbi. According to the university, the video was published on April 7 without official permission and unbeknownst to the institution’s authorities.

Zahra Hajiani, the Dean of the Architecture Faculty at Al-Zahra University, noted that the university’s security is currently investigating the incident. She revealed that the student responsible for recording the video has been identified and is expected to face inquiries along with her father regarding the unauthorized publication.

The dean previously indicated that the university intends to take legal action against what it considers an “illegal activity.” The student involved has reportedly been asked to remove the video from social media platforms.

Legal experts have weighed in on the situation, suggesting that the actions captured in the video do not constitute a criminal offense. Notably, those students filmed in the video are adhering to the hijab law. Mohsen Borhani, a lawyer and legal scholar, commented on social media platform X that the video “does not meet any criminal criteria under the Islamic Penal Code.” He emphasized that student behavior should be evaluated based on student norms rather than by security or disciplinary committees.

Ali Hassan Ebrahimi, another legal expert, also noted on X that, according to the fundamental principle of legality in crimes and punishments and the lack of any criminal act or omission, the students have not committed any offenses that would justify judicial proceedings. “Only the university’s disciplinary committee would have jurisdiction if any misconduct was indeed proven,” he stated.

Sirus Shahriari, a prominent attorney, expressed his view that the Bushehr university students committed no legal infractions that would warrant judicial pursuit. He advocated for recognizing the joy of completing an educational milestone as a universal right and a matter of societal pride.

The incident at Al-Zahra University is not isolated. Approximately a month prior, a similar incident occurred at Isfahan’s sports science faculty, where a video of students performing athletic movements led to the university declaring the event unauthorized. Organizers and participants were told they would be accountable to university authorities. Additionally, a sports coach and expert, Aysan Nejat, faced account suspension on Instagram after posting a video of her gymnastic and taekwondo routines, which the platform labeled as “criminal content.”

These incidents highlight the ongoing tensions between social media expressions of youth culture in Iran and the conservative regulatory frameworks governing public behavior and university policies.

Student Activists Zia Nabavi and Hasti Amiri Sent to Prison

Student activists Hasti Amiri and Zia Nabavi, known for their opposition to the Islamic Republic, were detained after appearing at the Evin Courthouse in Tehran, as reported by the Shargh network. The activists, who visited the courthouse on Saturday, April 6 to attend to their legal affairs, were subsequently transferred to Evin prison to begin serving one-year sentences.

Both activists were convicted on charges of “propaganda against the system,” a verdict that was confirmed by Branch 36 of the Court of Appeals. Nabavi, notably active within the student community and a previously imprisoned activist, was re-sentenced following his involvement in a student protest at Allameh University against the serial poisoning incidents in late winter 2023. Hasti Amiri, also a student at Allameh University, received a similar sentence.

The sentencing occurred despite assurances in the fall of 2023 that both students were free until further clarification and final decisions regarding their cases were made. In a related development, Nabavi had shared a notice in April 2023 indicating that both he and Amiri were again summoned to execute their sentences. 

Nabavi has been incarcerated previously in response to his activism. Following the 2009 protests, he served a total of eight years and eight months in prison, with judicial authorities later admitting that he had been incarcerated three years and eight months beyond his original sentence.

Amiri, who was active in defending women’s rights and the right to life, served six months of her one-year sentence in 2022 under similar charges. The return of Amiri and Nabavi to prison comes at a time when the Iranian community still lacks justice for the unresolved cases of the serial poisonings of schoolgirls, which began amid the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests in November 2022 and continued into April 2023. To date, more than a year later, no individuals have been held accountable for these incidents.

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