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Two Strong Quakes Strike Southern Iran, Killing At Least One

The quakes measured 6.3 and 6.4 magnitude, jolting the southern province of Hormozgan, according to Iranian state TV.
The quakes measured 6.3 and 6.4 magnitude, jolting the southern province of Hormozgan, according to Iranian state TV.

Two strong earthquakes struck southern Iran near the port of Bandar Abbas on November 14, killing at least one person, state TV reported.

The quakes measured 6.3 and 6.4 magnitude, jolting the southern province of Hormozgan, state TV said.

"One person died after an electricity pole fell on him," Iranian state TV said, citing local officials.

Bandar Abbas, Iran
Bandar Abbas, Iran

Walls of buildings cracked in the southern port city Bandar Abbas, the capital of Hormozgan province, local Governor Azizollah Konari told journalists.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) measured the tremors at magnitudes of 6 and 6.3.

"The quake was felt in several southern Iranian cities in Hormozgan province," an official told state TV, adding that rescue teams had been sent to the area.

There was no immediate report about damage caused by the quakes.

Iran lies on major seismic faults and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years.

Based on reporting by IRNA, Reuters and AP

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Iran Has Strong Options For Retaliation Against Israel, Including Going Nuclear

Iran put its latest missile technology on parade last week for National Army Day.
Iran put its latest missile technology on parade last week for National Army Day.

If Iran decides to respond to a suspected Israeli strike on its territory on April 19, it might not have to pull its punches like it did the last time.

Tehran's telegraphed barrage against Israel last week was written off by many as a failure. But Iran has many arrows in its quiver should its standoff with Israel continue to escalate.

Experts say that Iran has more sophisticated weaponry at its disposal, can bring its proxies into the fight, and, unlike its attack on April 13, can utilize the element of surprise. And the ultimate threat -- officially activating its long-suspected effort to develop a nuclear weapon -- could come into play.

Caution First

Iran's initial response after its territory was hit on April 19 was muted. While unidentified U.S. officials reportedly said that Israel had carried out the attack, Tehran did not directly accuse Israel of involvement. Israel has not commented on the incident.

A senior Iranian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that there was "no plan for immediate retaliation, and no clarification on who is behind the incident."

WATCH: Iranian state media said explosions were heard early on April 19 near the central city of Isfahan, which is home to an air base and a nuclear facility. The IAEA nuclear watchdog reported that there was no damage to Iran's nuclear sites. U.S. sources were cited as saying Israel had attacked the area.

Iranian State Media Report Explosions After Suspected Israeli Strike
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"The foreign source of the incident has not been confirmed," the official said. "We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more toward infiltration than attack."

Iranian Army General Siyavush Mihandoust said only that explosions heard in the central city of Isfahan were "due to the work of air defenses against suspicious objects."

Iranian state television reported that three small drones were shot down east of Isfahan, which is home to Iranian nuclear facilities, and broadcast footage that projected an image of calm in the city.

A spokesman for Iran's National Center of Cyberspace, Hossein Dalirian, dismissed reports by U.S. media that quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying that missiles were used in the attack.

"There have been no air strikes from outside [Iran's] borders against Isfahan or other parts of the country," Dalirian wrote on X, formerly Twitter. "They have only made a failed and humiliating attempt to launch drones, and the drones were shot down."

Timing Is Everything

Analysts said it is common for Tehran to hold off on commenting on such incidents until it can determine a course of action.

But if Iran does choose to respond militarily -- as it did on April 13 in retaliation for the April 1 killing of seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in a strike on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus that it blamed on Israel -- it can take things much further.

Hamidreza Azizi, a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, noted that ahead of Iran's April 13 barrage against Israel, which was effectively thwarted, Tehran ensured that "everybody would know about it beforehand."

There was deliberately "no element of surprise," Azizi said.

But hours before the April 19 strike, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told CNN that if Israel again took actions against Iran, "the next response from us will be immediate and at a maximum level."

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani on April 15 said that "there will not be a 12- or 13-day gap" between an Israeli strike and an Iranian answer. Israel, he said, "must now reckon in seconds, not hours.”

The Iranian officials' stress on the immediacy of a possible retaliatory strike signals that Iran would not telegraph its strategy this time, raising the chances of inflicting greater damage.

More In Iran's Arsenal

Tehran launched more than 300 drones and missiles during its April 13 attack, in which the vast majority were either shot down or failed to reach their target, but experts and Iranian officials have suggested it could have used more powerful weaponry.

IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Sardar Hajizadeh said that Iran had used "old weapons with minimal power" on April 13, adding that Tehran had decided against using more powerful missiles, including hypersonic missiles, in its arsenal.

Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Berlin, questioned the veracity of Iran's claim it could have used better weapons, saying that one of the missiles launched against Israel, the Kheibar Shekan ballistic missile introduced in 2022, "is one of the best missiles Iran has."

Hinz told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that in terms of quality, he is not sure Iran could make a "qualitative jump" in any future attack.

In terms of sheer numbers, however, Iran has "many, many more missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in stock," Hinz said. "There is no doubt about that."

Dangerous Friends

While Iran sent a message with its April 13 attack that it was willing to take on Israel directly and had the capacity to inflict heavy damage, Tehran still has many partners and proxies willing to strike their mutual enemy.

While members of Iran's so-called "axis of resistance" have been battling Israel -- including the U.S.- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas, Huthi rebels in Yemen, and Lebanese Hizballah -- those groups for the most part sat out the April 13 attack.

"One thing Iran could do is involve Hizballah, because Hizballah is just much closer to Israel," Hinz said. "And when you deal with amazing defenses, the best thing to do is to overwhelm them, and that is much, much easier at a shorter distance."

Going Nuclear

Just hours before the April 19 strike, an IRGC commander specified that an attack that targeted Iranian nuclear facilities would prompt a reciprocal attack on Israeli nuclear sites and could even lead to a rethinking of Iran's official nuclear doctrine.

Ahmad Haqtalab, who oversees nuclear security for the IRGC, said in comments published by Iranian media on April 18 that "our hands are on the trigger for reciprocal attacks using advanced missiles against their own nuclear sites."

Iranian military personnel stand guard at a nuclear facility in Isfahan on April 19.
Iranian military personnel stand guard at a nuclear facility in Isfahan on April 19.

Iran has long been suspected by Israel, the United States, and other countries of pursuing a nuclear weapon, while Tehran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed after Israel's apparent strike that "there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites." But prior to the incident, Haqtalab said that even the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites made it "possible and conceivable that the doctrine and nuclear policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be reviewed to reverse the declared considerations of the past."

That decision would ultimately be made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final call on all major decisions in Iran and has claimed that Iran cannot pursue nuclear weapons for religious reasons.

But Azizi emphasized that the threat is real, saying that an attack on Iranian territory "might be exactly what Iran wants to find an excuse to weaponize its nuclear program."

Hannah Kaviani of RFE/RL's Radio Farda contributed to this report.

Iran Versus Israel: Who Has The Military Edge?

A fourth-generation ballistic missile called Kheibar with a range of 2,000 kilometers is test-launched at an undisclosed location in Iran in May 2023. (file photo)
A fourth-generation ballistic missile called Kheibar with a range of 2,000 kilometers is test-launched at an undisclosed location in Iran in May 2023. (file photo)

Iran and Israel have traded attacks and threats in recent weeks, increasing fears of a full-scale war between the archfoes.

Israel launched an attack on Iran on April 19, almost a week after an unprecedented drone and missile assault by Tehran. Iran’s attack was in retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike that killed seven Iranian commanders in Syria on April 1.

In the event of a direct conflict, Israel would have the military superiority, both offensively and defensively, experts say. But they say the threat posed by Iran’s arsenal of drones and missiles should not be dismissed.

Under decades of sanctions, Iran has invested heavily in developing domestic weapons programs, resulting in cheap and effective drones as well as more advanced ballistic missiles.

John Krzyzaniak, a research associate at the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said Iran’s missiles “pose a serious threat” to Israel. Tehran’s combat and suicide drones, meanwhile, can “wreak havoc on a civilian population” if fired in large numbers, he said.


Even so, Israel maintains military supremacy.

Besides Israel’s operational and intelligence advantage over Iran, it also has a nuclear deterrent, experts said. Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, with the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative estimating that Israel has around 90 nuclear warheads.

During the April 13 attack, Iran fired over 300 drones and cruise and ballistic missiles against Israel. Tehran claimed that it did not use some of the country’s most advanced weapons. The attack appeared to be highly choreographed and not intended to cause significant damage or casualties.

Israel said almost all of the drones and missiles were intercepted with the help of the United States, Britain, and Jordan. A handful of missiles slipped through the Israeli defenses and hit an air base, causing minor damage, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Fabian Hinz, research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said Iran simultaneously launching more than 100 ballistic missiles was “quite something” due to the sheer logistics and manpower involved.

“I’m actually not sure if it has ever been done in war before and that makes me wonder how much bigger they could go,” Hinz told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda.

Israel’s defense systems “performed well” against the Iranian missiles, said Jeremy Binnie, a Middle East defense specialist at the defense intelligence company Janes.

But Binnie said the reliability of the Iranian weapons appeared to have been a “major factor.” U.S. intelligence estimated that around half of the Iranian missiles failed on launch or in flight.

Israel’s attack on April 19 appeared to expose the vulnerability of Iran’s defenses. Tehran said small quadcopter drones were used, suggesting the attack was carried out from inside Iranian territory.

Israel’s advanced fighter jets give the country the superiority in the air. But Israel faces several obstacles, experts said, including a lack of aerial refueling tankers. Israel would also need permission to cross the air space of several countries to reach Iran.

If a war breaks out, Israel is likely to deploy long-range missiles against Iran, experts said. Tehran’s air defenses, meanwhile, have not been battle-tested.

Experts said given Israel’s military advantage, Iran is likely to continue to use unconventional warfare and its asymmetric capabilities. That includes the so-called “axis of resistance”: Iran’s loose-knit network of proxies and militant groups who aid it in opposing Israel.

Hannah Kaviani of Radio Farda contributed to this report.

Iranian State Media Report Explosions After Suspected Israeli Strike

Iranian State Media Report Explosions After Suspected Israeli Strike
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Iranian state media said explosions were heard early on April 19 near the central city of Isfahan, which is home to an air base and a nuclear facility. The IAEA nuclear watchdog reported that there was no damage to Iran's nuclear sites. U.S. sources were cited as saying Israel had attacked the area.

Video Purportedly Shows Israeli Aerial Attack On Iran

Video Purportedly Shows Israeli Aerial Attack On Iran
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Tehran said it shot down three quadcopter drones outside the central city of Isfahan, which is home to key military and nuclear facilities. Israel's suspected military response early on April 19 appeared to be limited in scale and scope and aimed at de-escalating tensions with Iran.

Israel's Limited Attack On Iran Appears Aimed At De-Escalating Conflict

The Iranian Army's tactical air base in Isfahan (file photo)
The Iranian Army's tactical air base in Isfahan (file photo)

Israel had vowed to make Iran pay for Tehran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack on April 13.

But Israel’s suspected military response early on April 19 appeared to be limited in scale and scope and aimed at de-escalating tensions with Iran.

Tehran said it shot down three quadcopter drones outside the central city of Isfahan, which is home to key military and nuclear facilities. Unnamed U.S. officials said Israel used missiles in the attack.

Experts said the use of small quadcopter drones, which are unable to travel long distances, suggests the attack was carried out from inside Iranian territory.

Israel has not claimed the attack in Isfahan. But experts said the suspected Israeli response sent a clear message to Tehran.

Raz Zimmt, a senior researcher at the Israeli-based Institute for National Security Studies, said Israel’s use of quadcopter drones, if confirmed, suggests its aim was to “expose the vulnerability of the Iranian security forces” on their own turf.

Zimmt said the attack was not without its risks, but out of all the options available to Israel, it was possibly the least risky.


“At this stage, deniability is vital to lower the risk. I think that if Israel takes responsibility for what happened -- and there is sometimes this tendency among Israeli politicians – this would make it more difficult, not impossible but more difficult, for Iran not to retaliate.”

Reuters quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying that Tehran “has no plan to strike back immediately.”

Israel has been accused of previously attacking military sites in Isfahan with small drones. In January 2023, a military factory was hit. Three months later, Iran said it had foiled a drone attack on a Defense Ministry complex in the city.

Farzin Nadimi, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that if Israel was behind the Isfahan attack, it was carried out in a manner “that carried the least risk of an Iranian retaliation.”

Iran’s April 13 attack was a response to the suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed seven Iranian commanders, including two generals.


Tehran said its attack showed that a “new equation” had been established and that Iran would not let Israeli strikes on Iranian interests abroad go unanswered.

But on the same day as the Isfahan attack, Israel was accused of targeting air defense systems in Syria, a key ally of Tehran where Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has a presence.

Zimmt said Israel wanted to send the message that “first, we retaliated, and second, we attacked in Syria and not just in Iran, meaning we are not ready to accept this so-called ‘new equation’ that the Iranians are trying to force on us.”

Mohammad Zarghami of Radio Farda contributed to this report.
Updated

Apparent Israeli Air Attack Strikes Near Iranian City Of Isfahan

Video Purportedly Shows Israeli Aerial Attack On Iran
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Israel's military reportedly struck targets inside Iran in retaliation for an unprecedented air attack Tehran launched last weekend on its sworn enemy, but the limited scope of the operation and a muted Iranian response appeared to indicate an escalation of the conflict had been avoided.

Explosions were heard early on April 19 -- the 85th birthday of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- near the central city of Isfahan, with reports unclear over the cause.

Several major U.S. media organizations, all citing U.S. government sources, said Israel launched a missile or drones to strike targets inside Iran.

Video posted on social media and broadcast around the world showed several large explosions that were reportedly near Isfahan.

Iranian state media quoted officials in Tehran as saying the explosions were caused by air defenses that shot down three drones in the area of Isfahan.

Hossein Deliriyan, the spokesman for Iran's National Center for Cyberspace, refuted the U.S. media reports, saying in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that "there has been no air attack from outside the borders on Isfahan or other parts of the country."

Speaking at a mosque on April 19, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi didn’t mention the attack near Isfahan and with the Israeli retaliation limited in size and scope, experts said it appeared it was aimed at deescalating soaring tensions while still sending a clear message to Tehran.

Reuters quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying that Tehran “has no plan to strike back immediately.”

Tehran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel in the early morning hours of April 14, almost all of which were shot down by Israeli defense systems, along with intercepts by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

The attack by Tehran had been widely anticipated in Israel following a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, on April 1 that killed two brigadier generals.

Since then, diplomats and politicians around the world, fearing another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, had urged restraint as they awaited Israel's response.

According to Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, Washington informed the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations that it had received word from Israel on the strikes at the "last minute," but “there was no sharing of the attack by the U.S. It was a mere information.”

“I’m not going to speak to that [the suspected Israeli attack] except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after a G7 ministerial meeting on the Italian island of Capri.

Iran's state news agency IRNA said air defenses fired from a large air base in Isfahan that is home to Iran's aging fleet of U.S.-made F-14 Tomcats acquired before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Isfahan also houses facilities that are part of Iran's nuclear program, including its underground Natanz enrichment site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had seen no damage to Iran's nuclear sites. Earlier this week, the sites were rumored to be a possible target if Israel launched a strike inside Iran.

One of Iran's top nuclear facilities, the installation at Natanz, is located in central Isfahan. Such sites have seen several sabotage attacks that Tehran has blamed on Israel.

"IAEA can confirm that there is no damage to Iran's nuclear sites," the UN nuclear watchdog said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"Director-General Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts. IAEA is monitoring the situation very closely."

Israeli strikes targeting a Syrian Army position in the country's south were also reported on April 19.

According to AFP, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strikes, which he attributed to Israel, "targeted a radar installation of the Syrian Army" between the provinces of Sweida and Daraa provinces.

Raisi had warned earlier this week that Tehran would deliver a "severe response" to any attack on its territory and the limited scope of the reported Israeli attack appeared to heed U.S. President Joe Biden's comment to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel should show restraint with any response and instead "take the win" since the Iranian attack didn't have a great impact.

"It is absolutely necessary that the region stays stable and that all sides refrain from further action," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Finland on April 19.

Inside Israel, some hawkish lawmakers appeared to acknowledge the strike while criticizing it.

"Feeble," wrote hard-right Security Minister Itamar Ben-Givir in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel and Iran have been bitter enemies for decades but Iran's was the first direct attack by one on the other's soil instead of through proxy forces or by targeting each other's assets operating in third countries.

With reporting by CNN, ABC, CBS, and IRNA

Sister Of Iranian Protest Victim Detained By Tehran's Morality Police

School students wearing the compulsory hijab
School students wearing the compulsory hijab

The sister of Nika Shakarmi, a victim of the Women, Life, Freedom movement protests, has been detained by Tehran's morality police for failing to adhere to the Iran's mandatory hijab law.

Aida Shakarmi, a university student, was arrested in the Iranian capital on April 17 and remains in custody, her father said on Instagram.

Nika Shakarmi, a 16-year-old from Khorramabad residing in Tehran, was killed by security forces during nationwide protests that broke out following the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police for an alleged hijab offense.

Nika Shakarmi was missing for eight days after being chased by security officers during a protest before her body was discovered. Authorities attributed her death to a fall from a height, a claim her family disputes.

The Shakarmi family has faced continuous threats and harassment from security forces since as they actively pursued justice for their daughter.

The report of Aida Shakarmi's detention comes amid a new crackdown on women for not adhering to the hijab law. Enforcement intensified after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a directive during the recent Eid al-Fitr prayer sermon to step up measures against what he called "religious norm-breaking" within Iranian society.

Khamenei also emphasized the mandatory hijab law as a "definite religious decree," underscoring the obligation of all to adhere to this law the same as other legal decrees.

The resurgence of the morality police has sparked increased tensions and confrontations across various cities.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

U.S. Announces New Sanctions On Iran In Response To Attack On Israel

An Iranian Shahed drone (file photo)
An Iranian Shahed drone (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- The United States has announced new sanctions on Iran targeting its drone production capabilities after its attack on Israel, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement on April 18.

The sanctions designate 16 individuals and two entities enabling Iran’s drone production, including engine types that power Iran’s Shahed drones, which were used in the April 13 attack.

“These actors work on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), its UAV production arm, Kimia Part Sivan Company (KIPAS), and other Iranian manufacturers of UAVs and UAV engines,” the Treasury Department’s statement said.

The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is also designating five companies in multiple jurisdictions providing component materials for steel production to Iran’s Khuzestan Steel Company (KSC), one of Iran’s largest steel producers, or purchasing KSC’s finished steel products.

Also targeted were three subsidiaries of Iranian automaker Bahman Group, which OFAC said had materially supported Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

In addition, the U.S. Commerce Department is imposing new controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies, such as basic commercial grade microelectronics.

U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States and its allies had helped Israel beat back the April 13 missile and drone strike and were now holding Iran accountable with the new sanctions and export controls.

“The sanctions target leaders and entities connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s Defense Ministry, and the Iranian government’s missile and drone program that enabled this brazen assault," Biden said in a statement. "And our allies and partners have or will issue additional sanctions and measures to restrict Iran’s destabilizing military programs."

He added that the Group of Seven (G7) leaders are committed to acting together to increase economic pressure on Tehran.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G7 industrial democracies on April 17 said they would "ensure close coordination of any future measure to diminish Iran's ability to acquire, produce, or transfer weapons to support destabilizing regional activities."

The Treasury Department’s statement noted that Britain is imposing sanctions targeting several Iranian military organizations, individuals, and entities involved in Iran’s drone and ballistic missile industries.

Britain said these sanctions included the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the IRGC Navy.

Tehran says it carried out the April 13 attack in retaliation for a presumed Israeli strike on April 1 on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus that killed two generals and several others.

With reporting by Reuters
Updated

German Foreign Minister Says G7 Needs 'Response' To Iran's Unprecedented Attack

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addresses journalists in Tel Aviv on April 17.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addresses journalists in Tel Aviv on April 17.

The G7 must respond to Iran's attack on Israel, Germany's foreign minister said on April 18, adding that measures were being discussed with her counterparts at a meeting in Italy.

"We are also discussing further measures here at the G7, because of course there must be a response to this unprecedented incident," Annalena Baerbock said from the island of Capri.

She added however that "there must be no further escalation in the region; that would be fatal for its people."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on April 18 painted a dark picture of the situation in the Middle East, warning that spiraling tensions over the war in Gaza and Iran's attack on Israel could devolve into a "full-scale regional conflict."

Guterres said Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip had created a "humanitarian hellscape" for civilians trapped there.

"The Middle East is on a precipice. Recent days have seen a perilous escalation," Guterres told a high-level Security Council meeting.

He said one miscalculation or miscommunication “could lead to the unthinkable --- a full-scale regional conflict.”

Iranian Journalist Arrested After Recounting Assault By Morality Police

Iran's so-called morality police arrest a woman over an alleged head-scarf violation. (Illustrative photo)
Iran's so-called morality police arrest a woman over an alleged head-scarf violation. (Illustrative photo)

Iranian journalist Dina Ghalibaf was arrested after she published a personal narrative about her previous detention by Iran’s morality police for not adhering to the mandatory hijab law.

Ghalibaf, a journalist and student of political science at Tehran’s Beheshti University, disclosed details of her arrest by law enforcement on April 15 for defying the compulsory hijab law, including that she was sexually assaulted during her detention. She was subsequently re-arrested by intelligence forces and taken to an undisclosed location.


Reports indicate that Ghalibaf was arrested at her residence. No information available on her whereabouts has been made available.

Ghalibaf's arrest coincides with the reimplementation of Iran’s Plan Noor initiative, under which the morality police have resumed operations and are strictly enforcing dress codes. This has led to several incidents of violence against women challenging the compulsory hijab, documented through numerous accounts, including Ghalibaf's.

According to Ghalibaf, during her initial detention, she was forcibly moved and subjected to electric shocks while handcuffed. She says a law enforcement officer also sexually assaulted her.

Following the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, who died while detained by the morality police, and the subsequent nationwide protests it sparked, the presence of morality police vehicles in cities had noticeably decreased. Instead, the Islamic Republic employed individuals referred to as "hijab guards."

The new crackdown on women for not adhering to the hijab intensified after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a directive during the recent Eid al-Fitr prayer sermon to step up enforcement measures against what he called "religious norm-breaking" within Iranian society.

Khamenei also emphasized the mandatory hijab law as a "definite religious decree," underscoring the obligation of all to adhere to this the same as other legal decrees.

The resurgence of the morality police has sparked increased tensions and confrontations across various cities.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Iranian Political Prisoners Launch Hunger Strike Over Wave Of Executions

Inmates at Iran's in Ghezel Hesar prisone have been holding regular protests against exeuctions since February 29. (file photo)
Inmates at Iran's in Ghezel Hesar prisone have been holding regular protests against exeuctions since February 29. (file photo)

A group of Iranian political prisoners around the country have launched a hunger strike to protest a wave of death sentences that could push Iran's execution rate even higher, human rights activists reported.

The hunger strike, which includes prisoners at the notorious Evin and Ghezel Hesar prisons, coincides with the 12th consecutive week of the "No to Execution Tuesdays" campaign, which has been ongoing in Iranian prisons to protest against the regime's use of the death penalty.

Sources within the prisons said that in recent days the government has quietly executed a large number of nonpolitical prisoners across the country as Iranians focus on rising tensions with Israel after Tehran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Iran's sworn enemy in an unprecedented attack on Israeli soil.

The sources added that many inmates also have been moved to solitary confinement in Ghezel Hesar and other prisons, a sign more executions could be carried out soon in what the protesting prisoners describe as a "new wave of repression and intimidation by the judicial and security apparatus."

Prisoners in Ghezel Hesar have been actively protesting through the "No to Execution Tuesdays Strike" campaign since February 29, aiming to draw attention to the widespread executions.

The campaign has gained momentum, with inmates from prisons such as Evin, Khorramabad, Karaj Central, Khoy, Naghadeh, Mashhad, and Saqqez joining in support.

The rate of executions in Iran has been rising sharply, particularly in the wake of the widespread protests following the September 2022 death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was being held for an alleged head-scarf violation.

Two weeks ago, Amnesty International highlighted that at least 853 executions were carried out in Iran in 2023, marking a 48 percent increase from the previous year. The organization attributes this rise to the government's strategy of instilling fear among the populace against regime opposition.

In response to these ongoing issues, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva renewed its special rapporteur's mandate on Iranian affairs on April 4, 2023.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Raisi Reiterates Warning As Israel Mulls Response To Weekend Air Attack

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attends a military parade alongside high-ranking officials and commanders during a ceremony marking the country's annual National Army Day in Tehran on April 17.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attends a military parade alongside high-ranking officials and commanders during a ceremony marking the country's annual National Army Day in Tehran on April 17.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has reiterated his warning to Israel that "the tiniest invasion" would trigger a swift and severe response amid global concerns over how the Jewish state will retaliate following a drone and missile attack on it orchestrated by Tehran over the weekend.

Speaking at a National Army Day parade on April 17 that was relocated without explanation, Raisi called the massive drone and missile attack in the early morning hours of April 14 a "limited action" and that an Israeli response on Iranian soil would be met with a "massive and harsh" answer. He made no further comment on what such a response would entail.

"If we had carried out a heavier operation, nothing would be left of Israel. But it was supposed to be a limited action," he said

Almost all of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran were shot down by Israeli defense systems, along with intercepts by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

An attack by Tehran had been widely anticipated in Israel following a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, early last month that killed two brigadier generals.

Since then, diplomats and politicians around the world, fearing another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, have urged restraint as they await Israel's response.

Israel and Iran have been bitter enemies for decades, but this was the first direct attack by one on the other's soil instead of through proxy forces or by targeting each other's assets operating in third countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 17 that Israel will decide how and whether it will respond to the unprecedented attack on its soil.

“I want to be clear: we will make our decisions ourselves. The state of Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend itself,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting on April 17.

Netanyahu's statement came after the British and German foreign ministers said during separate visits to the Middle East that, while they were in solidarity with Israel in its right to respond, restraint is needed as well.

“Everyone must now act prudently and responsibly. I’m not talking about giving in. I’m talking about prudent restraint, which is nothing less than strength,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

“Because Israel has already shown strength with its defensive victory at the weekend,” she added.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Iran's Afghan Community Worried About Prospect Of War With Israel

Afghans who were deported from Iran are seen in Afghanistan's western province of Herat.
Afghans who were deported from Iran are seen in Afghanistan's western province of Herat.

Many in Iran are worried about the prospect of a war with Israel and the possible impact on the country’s faltering economy.

That includes members of Iran’s large community of Afghan refugees and migrants, one of the most vulnerable groups in society.

Experts have warned that a full-scale war is a possibility in the wake of Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel on April 13.

Afghans in Iran, speaking to RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, described a wartime atmosphere in Iran since Tehran’s first-ever direct attack against Israel.

They also said the authorities have intensified their crackdown on undocumented Afghans, many of whom fled war, poverty, and persecution in Afghanistan.

"This situation is alarming for all Afghan migrants in Iran," said Omid Poya, an exiled Afghan journalist living in Iran. "Those who don’t have legal documents [to stay in Iran] don’t even leave their houses anymore.”

An Afghan migrant, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said “Iranian cities are in an emergency-like situation” since the April 13 attack, referring to the deployment of additional law enforcement officers on the streets. This, he said, has “forced many of us to worry about our future.”

An estimated 4.3 million Afghans currently live in Iran, according to the UN. More than 1 million have been deported in the past year as part of Tehran’s plan to expel all undocumented Afghans.

An Afghan migrant working in his cafe in Tehran (file photo)
An Afghan migrant working in his cafe in Tehran (file photo)

Afghans suffer widespread abuse and discrimination in Iran, where they have often been blamed for insecurity and unemployment.

Life More Difficult

Many Afghans are worried that a possible war between Iran and Israel will worsen the already dire economic situation in the Islamic republic, which has witnessed soaring inflation, rising unemployment, and growing poverty in recent years.

Following Iran’s April 13 attack, the national currency, the rial, plummeted to a new record low against the U.S. dollar.

That has had a direct impact on the livelihoods of Afghans and how much money they can send back to their families in Afghanistan.

"Life has become more difficult after the dollar rose against the Iranian currency," said Azizgul Afghan Beg, an Afghan living in Tehran. "Our main concern is where we will escape if a war breaks out here.”

A group of Afghan refugees are seen in Herat after returning from Iran. (file photo)
A group of Afghan refugees are seen in Herat after returning from Iran. (file photo)

An estimated 70 percent of the estimated 3.6 million Afghans who have fled their homeland after the Taliban seized power in 2021 moved to Iran.

Afghans, including journalists, activists, and former soldiers and police officers, said they fear being forced to flee Iran and return to their homeland.

“Our lives will be in danger," Qadariah Rezaei, said an Afghan rights campaigner residing in Iran. Afghans would pay a “heavy price” if Tehran becomes embroiled in a conflict with Israel, she said.

Other Afghans say they are contemplating returning to Afghanistan.

"It is better to return to our homeland because of the mounting worries over war and the sharp slump in employment,” said Shamsul Rahman, an Afghan living in the southeastern city of Kerman.

Written by Abubakar Siddique based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.

As Iran And Israel Escalate Conflict, Arab States Stick To Their Guns

A model of a missile is carried by Iranian demonstrators as a minaret and dome of a mosque is seen in the background during an anti-Israeli rally in Tehran on April 15.
A model of a missile is carried by Iranian demonstrators as a minaret and dome of a mosque is seen in the background during an anti-Israeli rally in Tehran on April 15.

As the world anxiously awaited the outcome of Iran's large-scale attack against Israel, some Arab countries had already taken steps to blunt its impact.

When the dust from the April 13 attack settled, the vast majority of the hundreds of drones and missiles launched by Iran had been shot down -- by Israel, its Western allies, and Jordan, despite its strong opposition to Israel's ongoing war in Gaza.

At least two other Arab states -- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), which have been highly critical of the Gaza war and have joined Iran and other Muslim states in pushing for a cease-fire -- also reportedly played a role in intercepting the Iranian assault by sharing intelligence information.

The actions by the Sunni Arab countries, all of which have tenuous relationships with both Israel and majority-Shi'a Iran, led to speculation that they may have chosen sides. But experts say that their involvement in thwarting Iran's attack does not mark a major shift in their positions -- either for or against Israel or Iran.

Not Taking Sides

"Some went so far as saying that this is an indication that the threat perception among Arab states vis-à-vis Iran is rising, and the equation has changed and the Arab countries may side with Israel against Iran," said Hamidreza Azizi, a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "I don't see the picture like that."

Azizi explained that the Arab countries' contribution, whether shooting down Iranian drones or missiles or providing intelligence, "was more about preventing a war than siding with one side against another."

On X, formerly Twitter, geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz said that while several countries participated, directly or indirectly, in the effort to limit the impact of Iran's attack, Jordan clearly "acted out of self-interest."

WATCH: Listeners of RFE/RL's Radio Farda urged restraint on both sides as a Harvard professor of international relations said he didn't expect Israel to respond in the short term.

 'Everyone Is Against Us': Iranian RFE/RL Listeners' War Worries
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Noting that Iranian projectiles had flown over Jordanian airspace during the attack, Horowitz, the director of security consultancy Le Beck International, asked: "What sovereign country would let a third party fly hundreds of missiles and drones over major urban centers without budging?"

Others acted following significant pressure by Israel's key ally, the United States, he said, or out of "fear of a regional escalation." This fear, Horowitz said, alluding to recent steps by Saudi Arabia and others to improve ties with Tehran in recent years, "was the same fear of escalation that has led them to renew communication and broker normalization deals with Iran."

Gaza And Security Above All

Through the smoke of the Israel-Iran showdown, observers who spoke to RFE/RL said, Arab countries sent a message that their desire to maintain regional stability and to see a cease-fire in the Gaza war trumps all.

"I don't see any kind of change in the Arab states' approach toward Israel's war in Gaza," said Azizi. "They are still opposed to it and it seems to be still the main priority of the Arab world and the Muslim world, more broadly speaking."

In fact, Iran's attack -- which Tehran launched in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria on April 1 -- may have been seen by Arab states as an unwelcome distraction from the Gaza situation, according to Azizi.

"What might have irritated the Arab countries is not Iran's strike or retaliation, per se, but the timing of it amid all the efforts for bringing a cease-fire to stop the war," Azizi said. "And also in the sense that, you know, the [Iranian] attack has already shifted international focus from basically pressuring Israel into reconsidering its approach in Gaza to the Iran-Israel confrontation."

The other major considerations in the eyes of the Arab countries, Azizi said, were maintaining regional stability and avoiding a war with Iran.

"They simply don't want further instability in the region. They want to focus on their developmental projects. There are a lot of ambitious initiatives that all states separately or together have been pursuing. So, further instability would be a big challenge to that," Azizi said. "And the last thing they would want to have is a war with Iran itself."

Out Of The Shadows

Iran and Israel have long been engaged in a shadow war that followed a general code -- Iran used its proxies and partners in the so-called "axis of resistance" against Israel to strike against its archenemy, and Israel did not hesitate to hit Iran's militant partners.

This was underscored by the events of October 7, when the Iran-backed and U.S.- and EU-designated terror group Hamas launched a deadly assault on Israel that prompted Israel to invade the Gaza Strip to root out Hamas. The war has left tens of thousands of Palestinians dead and has been accompanied by attacks on Israel by Iranian-backed proxies, as well as strikes by Israel against Iranian-backed militants and even members of the Iranian military in the region.

But all the while, Iran and Israel were careful not to strike each other directly.

That changed with the April 1 aerial strike that targeted the grounds of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, which killed Iran's top regional commander and six other members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Blaming Israel for the deadly strike that hit a consular annex building, Iran vowed direct retaliation. And while it telegraphed its response 12 days later with advance warnings to regional states, Tehran's launching of hundreds of missiles and drones was a dangerous signal that Iran's "strategic patience" with Israel had run out and it was willing to take Israel on directly.

Speaking about the options Iran had prior to deciding to launch its barrage against Israel on April 13, experts who spoke to RFE/RL noted that it was Israel that took the first step to engage with its Iranian adversary directly.

Stopping the Israeli war in Gaza is the highest priority for Arab states.
Stopping the Israeli war in Gaza is the highest priority for Arab states.

"I think the one that [Iran] chose was one that signals that they took this seriously. They were trying to remind Israel that Israel might face military consequences if it continued [such] actions," Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "But they didn't want to raise the ante to do something even more extensive or more damaging.

"I think the Iranians felt they had to respond, but wanted to do so in a way that didn't provoke a wider war," he added.

Now that Iran and Israel's long-standing conflict has emerged from the shadows, the question is whether it could spiral into a direct war or return to a proxy war.

Both Israel and Iran have suggested that their standoff is not over. Israel has vowed to respond to Iran's attack, without saying how or when. Iran has said that it considers its tit-for-tat with Israel concluded with its unprecedented attack on Israeli territory, while warning that even the "tiniest" retaliation on Iran's territory would bring a "massive and harsh" response.

"We are still in, in a sense, the realm of a shadow war, assuming that Israel does not now respond by hitting Iran back," Walt said. "Assuming it does not now escalate further, then I think we will see a return to the shadow war of the last few months."

Safety In Deniability

Azizi said that is something Iran was comfortable with, even in the event its interests or proxies were hit by Israel, because there was always "some room for deniability" that Iran itself was attacked.

On the other hand, Iran benefited from plausible deniability that it did not direct attacks on Israel carried out by its partners like Hamas, or Huthi rebels in Yemen, or Lebanese Hizballah.

By attacking Israel, Azizi said, "Iran actually abandoned plausible deniability, taking not only responsibility but credit." This, he added, "was an attempt to push Israel toward the old rules of engagement -- to say, let's go back to the gray zone."

None of the actors on the sidelines -- including the United States, which has worked to improve or establish relations between Israel and Arab states, and Russia, which commended Iran's attack on Israel as justified -- wants to see an all-out war.

Those closest to the conflict, the Arab states, have made it clear that they want stability and an end to the Gaza war. Some major players and regional rivals of Iran -- notably Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. -- have in recent years restored their relations with Tehran in an effort to minimize the threat.

While Arab countries have criticized and, in some cases, helped thwart Iran's attack on Israel, they did not condemn Tehran for its actions. Iran, while sending a vague warning that Jordan could be "the next target," has avoided criticism following months of diplomacy with Arab states over the Gaza war and humanitarian crisis.

"I think both sides (Iran and Arab states) are quite clear that they want to continue going toward this path," Azizi said, even suggesting a possible mediation role for an Arab country in resolving the Iran-Israel crisis.

Written and reported by Michael Scollon with contributions by Radio Farda correspondent Saeed Jafari.

U.K. Says Israel 'Making Decision To Act' As Iran Vows To Respond To Any Incursion

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (file photo)
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (file photo)

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on April 17 that Israel “is making a decision to act” in response to Iran's missile and drone attack over the weekend, while Iran warned that even the “tiniest” invasion of its territory would bring a “massive and harsh” response. Israel has vowed to respond to Iran's unprecedented attack without saying when or how, leaving the region bracing for further escalation after months of unrest linked to the ongoing war in Gaza.

Iran Says UN Nuclear Watchdog Chief Will Visit Tehran

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi (center) looks on during a news conference with the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, as they meet in Tehran in March 2022.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi (center) looks on during a news conference with the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, as they meet in Tehran in March 2022.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, will shortly be travelling to Tehran to resume nuclear talks with the Iranian side, a top Iranian official said on April 17. "We have good cooperation with the IAEA and the IAEA chief will also come to Tehran soon to continue the bilateral talks and update them, so to speak," Iran's nuclear boss, Mohammad Eslami, said, according to the Iranian news agency IRNA. Grossi said in an interview with CNN on April 16 that he was "considering" visiting Tehran.

Crew Of Ship Seized By Iran Safe, Operator MSC Says

MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, which is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.
MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, which is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

The 25 crew members of the MSC Aries, which was seized by Iran on April 13, are safe, shipping firm MSC said, adding that discussions with Iranian authorities were in progress to secure their earliest release. "We are also working with the Iranian authorities to have the cargo discharged," the company said. Portugal's Foreign Ministry summoned Iran's ambassador to condemn a weekend attack on Israel by Tehran and to demand the immediate release of the Portuguese-flagged container ship. MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

Yerevan Assures Iran That South Caucasus Won't Turn Into Field Of 'Geopolitical Competition,' Envoy Says

Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mehdi Sobhani (file photo)
Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mehdi Sobhani (file photo)

Iran says it has received assurances from Armenia regarding its concerns about the potential escalation of geopolitical competition in the South Caucasus stemming from the Armenian leader's recent high-level discussions with U.S. and EU officials in Brussels.

Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mehdi Sobhani said on April 16 that Tehran had a discussion with Armenian authorities about the trilateral meeting on April 5 between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Western powers said the meeting was focused on helping Armenia increase its resilience and diversify its economy, which is still heavily dependent on Russia.

Sobhani said Armenian authorities told him that the meeting was "not directed against any third country" and was meant to "strengthen the economy of Armenia and to receive humanitarian aid and support for those displaced from Karabakh."

Iran does not oppose Armenia’s efforts to develop its economy and solve the problems of the people displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh, Sobhani said at a news conference in Yerevan. This is Armenia's right, he said.

"Our concern is that Armenia and the [South] Caucasus should not turn into an arena for geopolitical competition and that the development of Armenia's foreign relations should not be at the expense of other countries," Sobhani said.

"And the Armenian authorities have informed us that the diversification of their country's foreign policy is not directed against Armenia-Iran relations."

The Iranian ambassador also defined the "extra-regional forces" whose intervention in the South Caucasus would be considered dangerous by Tehran. These would be forces unrelated to any security or geopolitical issues of the region, he said.

“That is, they come here from across the ocean and try to make decisions for the people of this region,” Sobhani said.

Asked whether members of the EU mission who have been monitoring the Armenian-Azerbaijani border since last year are considered "extra-regional forces," the Iranian ambassador said, "Yes, some European countries and the United States are."

Meanwhile, the Iranian diplomat said that Tehran's "red lines" regarding borders in the South Caucasus have not changed.

"Iran has expressed its opposition to the change of internationally recognized borders at the highest level, at the level of the head of the country, and it cannot be ignored," he said.

"We are categorically against the change of any geopolitical and internationally recognized borders. If there are problems on the border, they should be solved on the basis of dialogue, mutual understanding, with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries respected," Sobhani said.

Baku and Yerevan have been conducting negotiations over their respective borders for decades, but the process took on new urgency after Azerbaijan recaptured Nagorno-Karabakh amid a swift military offensive in September 2023.

Unlike in the past, the talks are now being conducted one-on-one without Russian, U.S., or EU mediators.

EU To Begin Work On Expanding Sanctions Against Iran As Israeli War Cabinet Meets Again

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU needs to coordinate the European response to the first-ever attack on Israel launched from the territory of Iran. (file photo)
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU needs to coordinate the European response to the first-ever attack on Israel launched from the territory of Iran. (file photo)

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says he will request that the EU’s diplomatic service start work on an expansion of sanctions in response to Tehran's weekend attack on Israel.

Borrell made the comment on April 16 after an emergency video conference of EU foreign ministers called to discuss the repercussions of the attack and as Israel's war cabinet was set to meet again to decide its response to Iran's weekend attack.

Borrell said the EU needs to coordinate the European response to the first-ever attack on Israel launched from the territory of Iran, which he said "certainly represents a major escalation of an already very tense situation in the region."

The ministers "took a strong stance asking all actors in the region to move away from the abyss" during their video conference, he said.

Israeli military chief of staff Herzi Halevi said on April 15 that the launch of more than 300 missiles and drones from Iran at Israeli territory "will be met with a response" but gave no details.

The attack caused no deaths and little damage, but it has increased fears that violence will spread beyond the current war in the Gaza Strip and throughout the Middle East.

Iran launched the attack in retaliation for an air strike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 attributed to Israel. At the same time Tehran signaled that it did not seek further escalation.

President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekend that the United States would not participate in an Israeli counterstrike.

Washington instead said it would strive to toughen economic and political sanctions against Iran.

 'Everyone Is Against Us': Iranian RFE/RL Listeners' War Worries
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Meanwhile, Israel has begun writing to 32 countries to ask them to place sanctions on Iran's missile program and join Washington in designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group.

Earlier on April 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi by phone about what the Kremlin called "retaliatory measures taken by Iran." Putin urged all sides to refrain from action that would trigger a new confrontation, which would be fraught with catastrophic consequences for the region, the Kremlin said.

In his first publicly aired comments on Iran's attack, Putin said the root cause of the current instability in the Middle East was the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Israel.

Raisi's office gave a slightly different interpretation of the call, saying Putin said Iran's response was "the best way to punish the aggressor and show the wisdom and rationality of Iran's leaders."

The statement also said Raisi declared that Iran would respond more severely, extensively, and painfully than ever to any action against Iran's interests.

Also on April 16, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "the main one responsible" for Iran's first direct attack on Israel.

"Those who have been silent for months about Israel's aggressive attitude immediately condemned the Iranian response," said Erdogan, who regularly criticizes Israel and its leadership. "But it's Netanyahu himself who is the first who should be condemned."

He said Israel's attack in Damascus violated international law and "was the straw that broke the camel's back."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

'Everyone Is Against Us': Iranian RFE/RL Listeners' War Worries

 'Everyone Is Against Us': Iranian RFE/RL Listeners' War Worries
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Senior Israeli government ministers are reportedly still debating how the country will respond to an Iranian attack in which more than 300 missiles and drones were fired directly at the country. Listeners to RFE/RL's Radio Farda urged restraint on both sides as a Harvard professor of international relations said he didn't expect Israel to respond in the short term.

U.S. To Hit Iran With New Sanctions, Yellen Says; U.S. Looking To Use Russian Assets For Ukraine

The new sanctions, which come in response to Iran's April 13 attack on Israel, could seek to reduce Iran's capacity to export oil.
The new sanctions, which come in response to Iran's April 13 attack on Israel, could seek to reduce Iran's capacity to export oil.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on April 16 warned that the United States intends to hit Iran with new sanctions over its unprecedented attack on Israel, and these actions could seek to reduce Iran's capacity to export oil.

"I fully expect that we will take additional sanctions action against Iran in the coming days," Yellen told a news conference in Washington.

The United States has taken previous action to contain Iran's "destabilizing" behavior by diminishing its ability to export oil, she said.

"Clearly, Iran is continuing to export some oil. There may be more that we could do."

The United States and its Group of Seven (G7) allies are continuing to explore a range of possibilities to unlock the value of nearly $300 billion in frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on April 16.

She said Ukraine needed ongoing streams of support, and that is driving the quest to monetize the frozen Russian assets.

She also said the United States and the G7 were absolutely committed to Ukraine's support and urged Congress to approve military aid, calling it "a humanitarian and moral imperative."

With reporting by Reuters

'Nightmare Scenario': The Risks Of Escalation As Israel Mulls Iran Response

A man walks past a banner depicting missiles launching from a representation of the map of Iran colored with the Iranian flag in central Tehran.
A man walks past a banner depicting missiles launching from a representation of the map of Iran colored with the Iranian flag in central Tehran.

Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel has put the Middle East in uncharted territory.

Tehran fired scores of drones and missiles at Israel on April 13, its first-ever direct attack on its archfoe.

In the wake of the assault, Israel has been weighing up its options, which analysts say could range from a diplomatic offensive to isolate Iran to directing military strikes on the Islamic republic.

With the risk of escalation higher than ever, the worst-case scenario of an all-out war between Iran and Israel is a distinct possibility, analysts say.

"Israel will have to take intentions into account, not just results, and this means there is a case that is going to be made in Israel for a response inside Iran -- with all the risks that come with it," said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based Le Beck International consultancy.

While neither Iran nor Israel may want an escalation, "the dance they've engaged in -- trying to 'out-deter' the other -- is a very dangerous one," Horowitz said.

Iran's attack was retaliation for the suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy's compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian commanders, including two generals.

Suspected Israeli air strikes have killed at least 18 members of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of Iran's armed forces, in Syria since December.

Iran's April 13 attack appeared to be highly choreographed and not intended to cause significant damage or casualties.

'Nightmare Scenario'

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said Israel has "no choice" but to respond to Iran's attack. Tehran, however, has warned its response will be "stronger" and "more extensive" if Israel retaliates.

The IRGC's chief commander Major General Hossein Salami, on April 14 said Iran's operation -- dubbed Honest Promise -- had "changed the equation" and Tehran would respond to Israeli actions rather than exercise "strategic patience."

"Iran wants a paradigm shift and has said that from now on, every Israeli action will receive a similar response," Farzin Nadimi, a senior fellow with the Washington Institute, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Any direct Israeli military action against Iran could trigger a full-blown war between Israel and Iran -- what Horowitz calls the "nightmare scenario."

Such a scenario could drag in the United States, Israel's key ally, and trigger attacks on Israel by Iranian proxies and pro-Iranian militant groups in the region, including Lebanon's Hizballah, Yemen's Huthi rebels, and Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Syria.

"If we reach this point, we may see weeks of Israeli strikes in Iran, the full-scale engagement of Hizballah in an attack against Israel, an Israeli ground incursion in Lebanon, and Iranian attempts to close the Persian Gulf," Horowitz said.

Iran has for years threatened to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a major route for world oil supplies.

Even in the absence of a direct Israeli attack on Iran, "a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks between Iran and Israel could get us there, if outside parties don't act as they did so far to de-escalate tensions," Horowitz warned.

'Level Of Uncertainty'

Many global powers and regional actors have called for de-escalation, including the United States, which has called on Israel to show restraint.

U.S. President Joe Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington will not support an offensive strike against Iran, according to reports.

"The United States has enormous leverage over Israel, if it chooses to use it," Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "It has not been using its leverage.... Now, with the possibility of a wider war looming, it appears the Biden administration has told Israel that if they do anything more, they're on their own."

While it is not impossible for Israel to ignore Washington and take matters into its own hands, Walt said the odds of a regional conflict were slim because "most of the actors in the region do not want this to happen."

He said the only groups that "might have an interest" in a wider war are Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, and Netanyahu's hard-line government.

Even so, there would be no real winners in a broader conflict, according to Horowitz.

"There is just no predicting how any of the warring sides will come out of an escalation, and this level of uncertainty generally isn't good for anyone," he said.

With reporting by Elaheh Ravanshad and Saeid Jafari

Israeli War Cabinet To Meet For Third Time On Response To Iran's Attack

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) attends a war cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv on April 14.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) attends a war cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv on April 14.

Israel's war cabinet was set to meet for the third time in three days on April 16, an official said, to decide on a response to Iran's first-ever direct attack, amid international pressure to avoid further escalating conflict in the Middle East. Military chief of staff Herzi Halevi had promised that Saturday night's launch of more than 300 missiles, cruise missiles and drones from Iran into Israeli territory "will be met with a response," but gave no details. While the attack caused no deaths and little damage, it has increased concerns that violence rooted in the Gaza war is spreading.

Wave Of Complaints Follows Police Hijab Crackdown In Tehran

Iranian women walk on a Tehran street without wearing the mandatory head scarves.
Iranian women walk on a Tehran street without wearing the mandatory head scarves.

The stricter enforcement of the mandatory hijab law by Tehran police has prompted a wave of complaints from Iranians who say police are using aggressive and sometimes violent tactics in their treatment of alleged violators.

Tehran Police Chief Abbasali Mohammadian announced a ratcheting up of enforcement of the new "hijab and chastity" bill from April 13 even though the legislation had yet to be approved by the country's Guardian Council.

According to reports, some citizens said their car windows were smashed by baton-wielding officers as they sought violators, while others recounted aggressive confrontations with state motorcycle patrols.

It was also reported that Nafiseh Latifian and Negar Abedzadeh, the wife and daughter of legendary soccer goalkeeper Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, were among those detained on Tehran's Fereshteh Street for allegedly violating hijab regulations.

"The two were detained for causing tensions and clashing with officers," the Fars News Agency, which is aligned with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reported.

Even though the Guardian Council has yet to approve the law, a necessary step in it becoming official, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a directive during the Eid al-Fitr prayer sermon for enforcement of measures against what he called "religious norm-breaking" within Iranian society.

Khamenei also emphasized the mandatory hijab law as a "definite religious decree," underscoring the obligation of all to adhere to this and other legal decrees.

The "hijab and chastity" bill, which passed in parliament last year without public discussion, came in reaction to a wave of protests and defiance by women against being forced to wear the head covering. However, the approval process is still ongoing after some objections by the Guardian Council, including questions over how the law will be enforced.

Ahmadreza Radan, a senior police official, discussed the stepped-up measures, telling the Mehr news agency that in cases involving vehicles, a warning is issued on the first offense.

"On the second, the vehicle is detained on site and then impounded," he added.

Radan also spoke about the Noor Plan, which targets businesses and individuals accused of failing to adhere to hijab norms. He described it as a response to demands from "devout citizens," with businesses facing closure for repeated violations.

The renewed focus on the mandatory hijab enforcement arrives as numerous reports suggest a decline in adherence to the headscarf among Iranian women in Tehran and other cities following widespread protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police in 2022 for an alleged hijab violation.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

The death of Amini released a wave of anger that has presented the Islamic regime with its biggest challenge since the revolution.

The Women, Life, Freedom protests and civil disobedience against the compulsory hijab have swept the country, involving tens of thousands of Iranians, many of whom were already upset over the country's deteriorating living standards.

Campaigns were also launched against the discriminatory law, although many have been pressured by the state and forced to leave the country.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

John Bolton Says Strong Israeli Response To Iran Attack Would Be Justified

John Bolton, known as a proponent of American hard power, said Israel can't be sure the next ballistic missiles launched from Iran won't contain nuclear warheads.
John Bolton, known as a proponent of American hard power, said Israel can't be sure the next ballistic missiles launched from Iran won't contain nuclear warheads.

PRAGUE -- Former U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton says Israel is entitled to retaliate against Iran for its weekend attack, including destroying its nuclear weapons program, and stands by his comment that President Joe Biden is "an embarrassment" for urging Israel not to respond.

In an interview with Current Time, Bolton said if Iran targeted the United States using hundreds of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones as it did on April 13 against Israel, Washington would retaliate at a minimum by destroying the bases and facilities from which the attacks were launched.

"I am firmly of the belief that if the U.S. faced that kind of attack, there's no doubt [what] we would do. Why should we deny the Israelis the right to…react the same way we would?"

John Bolton: Israel Has Right To Respond To Iranian Attack
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Bolton spoke with Current Time from Washington as Israel weighs its response to Iran's attack, which Iran said was in response to a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, last month that killed two brigadier generals.

Almost all of the missiles and drones were shot down by Israeli defense systems or intercepted by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

Biden has said he wants to prevent the conflict in the Middle East from spreading and urged caution, telling Israel to "think carefully and strategically" before launching a response against Iran that could trigger a wider war.

But Bolton, known as a proponent of American hard power, said that because Israel can't be sure that the next ballistic missiles launched from Iran won't contain nuclear warheads, it is in Israel's long-term interests to consider responding by destroying Iran's nuclear weapons program. And if Israel decided to do so, the United States should support the move, he said.

The April 13 attack has raised fears of another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, and the risks are high because "we're in uncharted territory," said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based Le Beck International consultancy.

A full-scale war is the nightmare scenario that could be triggered by an Israeli attack on nuclear sites in Iran, Horowitz said in an interview with RFE/RL on April 15.

"If we reach this point, we may see weeks of Israeli strikes in Iran, the full-scale engagement of Hizballah in an attack against Israel, an Israeli ground incursion in Lebanon, and Iranian attempts to close the Persian Gulf," Horowitz said.

The region is now "closer to such a scenario than we were before," and even if there is no specific trigger, a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks between Iran and Israel "could get us there if outside parties don't act as they did so far to de-escalate tensions."

Bolton wrote the book Surrender Is Not An Option: Defending America At The United Nations after serving as U.S. ambassador to the UN from August 2005 until December 2006. As undersecretary of state for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005, he advocated tough measures against the nuclear weapons programs of both Iran and North Korea.

In his interview with Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, Bolton said Israel is already engaged in a war in the Gaza Strip against Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the EU, and has been attacked by Hizballah militants from the north.

In addition, he noted that Huthi rebels in Yemen backed by Iran have targeted international shipping in the Red Sea and there have been attacks by Iran-aligned militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

Bolton accused the Biden administration of refusing to look at the conflict in the Middle East in a strategic sense. He also said that all the terrorist groups operating in the region are armed, equipped, trained, and financed by Iran, thus as strong response is justified.

"Iran is the puppet master here. That's the wider war we're already in," he told Current Time. "This is not separate battles between Israel and Hamas and Gaza, or the Huthis trying to close the Red Sea in the Suez Canal to international commercial traffic. This is all controlled by Iran," he added.

He defended his criticism of Biden as "an embarrassment," saying the wider war that the U.S. administration and others say they fear already began on October 7, the day that Hamas militants attacked Israeli towns, taking around 250 hostages and killing more than 1,100 people. More than 100 hostages are still in captivity.

Bolton, who spent 17 months as an adviser to former President Donald Trump, said he could not predict what Israel's response will be nor the outcome of an Israeli war cabinet meeting on April 15, but said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows the Iran nuclear threat "better than anyone else in Israel or, frankly, in the United States."

If forced to predict, he said, he would say the response would be "lower level" and would come within a few days.

Bolton, Trump's third national-security adviser, was asked for his resignation in September 2019 after months of division over the direction of foreign and national-security policy.

Bolton wrote a book the following year about his time serving in the White House. The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir angered Trump for portraying him as ignorant of basic geopolitical facts. The White House tried to stop the book's release, but a judge denied its request. Trump reacted to the publication by calling Bolton "incompetent" and "a boring fool."

With reporting by Kian Sharifi

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