Iranian Minister Refuses To Suppress Social Media: TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday criticized Iran’s hard-liner dominated judiciary over last week’s prosecution of the country’s telecommunications minister.
Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi was released on bail after he was summoned for prosecution.
Judiciary officials cited his refusal to block Instagram and impose limitations on the bandwidth of other foreign social media and messaging systems.
Speaking in a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Rouhani said improving the bandwidth of the Internet was done on his orders. “If you want to try someone, try me. It was my order,” he said.
Under pressure from hard-liners, the Iranian government has long blocked access to many websites and social media platforms, from YouTube and Facebook to Twitter and Telegram.
The relatively moderate Rouhani said increasing bandwidth would help improve business and an anti-corruption campaign.
However he said both a “lack of control on content” as well as “closure” of social media are wrong.
The move to prosecute Jahromi is part of a political struggle between moderates and conservative hard-liners ahead of June elections.
Jahromi is seen as a possible candidate who has the support of younger Iranians.
Hard-liners in the country’s parliament and other powerful bodies have long viewed social messaging services as part of “soft war” by the West against the Islamic Republic.
Many Iranians, mostly youth, access social media through VPNs and proxies. Instagram and WhatsApp remain unblocked.
Iran says production of enriched uranium exceeds goals
Iran has exceeded 17 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium within a month’s time, state TV reported Thursday, moving its nuclear program closer to weapons-grade enrichment levels amid heightened tensions with the U.S.
Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, during a visit to the country’s Fordo nuclear facility, said in a televised speech that in less than a month, scientists passed 17 kilograms (37.5 pounds) of 20% enriched uranium.
Uranium enriched to 20% is a short technical step away from weapons-grade 90% enrichment.
Western nations have criticized Iran’s enrichment activity and called on Tehran to adhere to a 2015 nuclear accord.
Iran has said it would produce 120 kilograms (44 pounds) of 20% enriched uranium per year, or 12 kilograms per month on average, so 17 kilograms would exceed that timetable.
Roughly 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of 20% enriched uranium are needed to convert it into 25 kilograms of the 90% enriched needed for a nuclear weapon.
The development brings Iran closer to crossing the line between nuclear operations with a potential civilian use, such as enriching nuclear fuel for power-generating reactors, and nuclear-weapons work, something Tehran has long denied ever carrying out.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
After the U.S. then ramped up sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development.
President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the deal was signed during the Obama administration, has said he hopes to return the U.S. to the deal.