The situation in Iran — a critical part of the global oil supply and a major cyber-adversary of the US — bears watching, and there have been a number of new developments this month.
On the nuclear front, IAEA officials have accused Iran of failing to cooperate with a probe into the alleged 2018 discovery of radioactive material at a previously undisclosed site. (If verified, this would mean Iran was cheating on the nuclear deal with the US and EU). Iran has responded to this accusation by accusing one of the IAEA’s inspectors of setting off explosives detectors during her inspection of one of the country’s nuclear facilities. Iranian authorities detained the inspector and questioned her, a move that drew condemnation from the IAEA.
Even more recently, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned of a possible “loss for all sides” if progress isn’t made on sanctions relief, as the country will “have no choice” but to move ahead with developing nuclear weapons. Israel has said it will “not allow” Iran to go nuclear, so every step Iran takes on the path to the bomb is a step on the path to open war with Israel and, most likely, its number one ally, the US.
The Iranian leadership has raised domestic fuel prices to compensate for some of the economic impact of the sanctions, with the result that Iranians are taking to the streets in massive, violent protests that have shut down the country and raised the stakes for Iranian demands for sanctions relief.
Amnesty international reports that over 100 protestors have been killed so far in a brutal crackdown. Others report numbers that are even higher:
— Open Society (@Opensocietyir) November 19, 2019
There’s also a nationwide internet blackout — the largest in Iran’s history — as authorities attempt to control the flow of news out of the region and limit coordination among the protestors.
Iran has gone almost entirely offline as authorities try to stem the spread of nationwide protests that have gripped the country since Friday.
Protesters took to the streets shortly after the government announced an increase in fuel prices by as much as 300%. Social media images showed banks, petrol stations and government buildings set ablaze by rioters. Some protesters chanted “down with Khamenei,” according to videos, referring to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The internet blackout started on Saturday evening and continued through Monday, according to internet watchdogs. Oracle’s Internet Intelligence called it the “largest internet shutdown ever observed in Iran.”
You can follow some of the protests on Twitter via the hashtag #IranProtests. There were initially quite a few videos of the demonstrations, but the flow of those has dropped off with the internet shutdown.
An observer in Shiraz” the south of the city is in the hands of protesters,banks, gas station, police building,everything is damaged, police has issued free zoned shooting so they can kill anyone.death toll is high,the north of the city is packed with police.”#IranProtests pic.twitter.com/Y8Iv4OfSAC
— Sara (@saraghavamian) November 19, 2019
Finally, on Tuesday Israeli airstrikes targeted Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions inside Syria, in retaliation for an Iranian-linked missile attack the night before.