Iranian delegates walked out of UN climate talks in the United Arab Emirates on Friday in protest over the presence of Israeli representatives, state media reported. The Iranian side considered Israel's presence at COP28 "as contrary to the goals and guidelines of the conference and, in protest, it left the conference venue", Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian, who headed the Iranian delegation, was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.
The House on Thursday passed a bill that would force the Biden administration to permanently freeze $6 billion in funds it had opened up to Iran earlier this year in exchange for the release of five American detainees. The bill, introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), passed in a 307-119 vote. Ninety Democrats joined almost all Republicans present in voting for the legislation, while 118 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), opposed it. Republicans have slammed the deal since it was announced in August, accusing the Biden administration of kowtowing to Iran and enabling what they consider a terrorist regime to arrest more Americans and take more aggressive action against the U.S. in the Middle East. Rep. Keith Self (R-Texas) said President Biden has signaled he is willing to “reward hostage-taking” by making a deal with Iran and that Washington must stand against Iranian aggression.
Iran is looking to capitalize on its improved ties with longtime rival Saudi Arabia to expand cooperation with the Kingdom and neighboring Arab states at a time when tensions between Iran and the United States were heating up in the waters of the Persian Gulf. Major General Mohammed Hossein Bagheri, chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, called Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman on Thursday to express his desire to promote military relations between the two Middle East powers, among other regional matters, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. The Saudi Defense Ministry also announced the call, stating that "bilateral relations between the two countries in the military and defense field were reviewed, and a number of topics of common interest were discussed."
UANI IN THE NEWS
…US pressure group United Against Nuclear Iran welcomed Ofac’s actions but said they fell well short of what is needed to choke Iran’s revenue streams and hurt its ability to fund Hamas and its other proxies. “While Ofac’s sanctions on over 20 individuals and entities involved with Iran’s military and financial networks mark a significant step, it is imperative to acknowledge the shortcomings in these measures,” UANI’s chief of staff Claire Jungman told Lloyd’s List. “Specifically, the lack of designations on vessels transporting Iranian oil is a glaring oversight. Targeting the oil industry is a positive move, but to effectively disrupt Iran’s revenue streams that fund regional conflicts, a more comprehensive approach is necessary, one that includes sanctions on all elements of the supply chain, including these vessels.”
On November 29, 2023, UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky spoke with BBC News about what we might happen next in the Israel-Hamas war.
…With inflation concerns ahead of the 2024 elections, some analysts said the US is showing limited appetite to put further economic pressure on Iran and Venezuela, whose crude output has risen over the past 18 months. Both OPEC members are exempted from production quotas under the OPEC+ deal due to US sanctions. The monthly average of Iran's crude production was between 2.76 million b/d and 3.01 million b/d during Q3, the highest since 2018, according to the Platts OPEC survey by S&P Global. The official selling price of Iran Light, the country's main export grade, increased from $77.598/b in June to $96.767/b in September for Asian buyers. "Higher oil prices present greater profit margins for sanctioned trades, making them more attractive to illicit traders," said Claire Jungman, chief of staff at nonprofit United Against Nuclear Iran.
IN episode 8 of The Sun's new podcast 'Israel's War on Terror', we examine the Mahdism ideology compelling Iran’s IRGC to wipe out Israel, and the IRGC’s role in the October 7th terror attacks. Kasra Aarabi is the Director of IRGC Research at United Against Nuclear Iran and non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC. He spoke exclusively to The Sun’s David Ross about the role of Iran and the issues surrounding the possible escalation of this conflict.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The Belgian police are beefing up security measures to protect Darya Safai, an Iranian-born member of parliament, following death threats she received on social media. In an interview with Iran International, Safai said that the death threats against her have increased following the Israel-Hamas conflict.“I should be careful and report any suspicious events around me” to the police, the lawmaker wrote on X. The police has launched a probe into the nature and sources of the threats. Safai blamed Islamists for the threats, vowing that she will continue to stand up for freedom. “It’s incomprehensible that people should make serious threats … instead of responding with substantive arguments. But that is just how Islamists operate,” read her post on X.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran sent a popular rapper back to jail less that two weeks after his release from prison on bail, an Iranian news website reported Thursday. Mizanonline.ir, an online news outlet affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, said authorities arrested Toomaj Salehi on a new charge of “spreading lies and violation of public opinion.” Salehi was released from prison in mid-November after spending more than a year in custody on charges that his supporters said were based on the hip-hop artist’s music and participation in the protests that broke out in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22. Amini died in the custody of the country’s morality police after being detained for wearing her hijab too loosely. Earlier this week, Salehi said in a video message that he was tortured after his arrest in October 2022, when state media released a video showing him blindfolded and apologizing for his words, a statement likely made under duress.
A planned meeting between prominent Iranian dissident, Masih Alinejad, and senior German officials collapsed in acrimony on Thursday over the government’s alleged insistence that the meeting be kept confidential. Alinejad, an exiled campaigner for democracy and women’s rights in Iran, said she confronted German officials over the condition that the meeting be kept secret. “The German government publicly and openly meets with our oppressors, but they want to hide us?” Alinejad said in an interview with POLITICO. “I have nothing to shy away from. I have to stand by my people because I am proud of them. I can’t have a meeting behind closed doors. If German policy is all about feminism, then I want to see actions.” Alinejad appeared to be referring to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s “feminist foreign policy,” a set of guidelines her ministry says are aimed at achieving equality for women worldwide.
Israel has made its first public comment on Iran’s apparent coercion of its Jewish minority into staging unprecedented anti-Israel rallies a month ago, telling VOA that it believes the Iranian Jews who participated in them had "no choice." "We understand perfectly [their] circumstances," said Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry Deputy Director General for Public Diplomacy Emmanuel Nahshon in a Nov. 14 VOA Persian TV interview in Jerusalem. "We understand that when you live in a dictatorship, sometimes you have no choice. This is part of what they [Jews in Iran] have been living through since 1979. So we understand the difficulties that they are facing," Nahshon said. Radical Shiite clerics opposed to Israel's existence have ruled Iran since seizing power in its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian Jews held rallies in five cities on Oct. 30 to denounce Israel for waging war against Hamas, which triggered the conflict with its Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian-backed proxies launched a rocket assault against U.S. forces in the Middle East, bringing the total number of attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Syria to 74 since October 17. A U.S. defense official told VOA a single rocket was launched overnight against Mission Support Site Euphrates in eastern Syria, causing no casualties or damage. U.S. naval forces in the Middle East continue to counter threats at sea as well. On Wednesday, while in the southern Red Sea, the USS Carney missile destroyer shot down an Iranian-produced drone launched from areas of Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi militants. “Although its intentions are not known, the UAV [drone] was heading toward the warship. At the time of the shootdown, the USS Carney was escorting the USNS Supply [oiler] and another U.S.-flagged and -crewed ship carrying military equipment to the region,” U.S. Central Command said.
As the Israel-Hamas truce sees a one-day extension, Iran has issued a renewed threat of war against the United States and Israel. "We fight against America, Israel, and anyone who challenges the grandeur of the Islamic Republic," said the Commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami on Thursday, repeating a well-trodden narrative against Iran's archenemies…Iran, a long-time supporter of Hamas both financially and militarily, has refrained from direct involvement in the Gaza war beyond its leaders and commanders' rally cries and incitement. However, its proxy forces continue attacks, citing perceived US support for Israel. At least 60 attacks on US forces have taken place since October 7, and Israel has come under attack from proxy militias in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Today, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, led his colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin conducting needed oversight over the administration’s lack of a cohesive Iran strategy given the recent decision to extend an Iran sanctions waiver. As Israel continues to battle Iranian-backed Hamas and the regime’s proxies increase their attacks against U.S. personnel in the region, the Biden Administration on November 13 issued a waiver providing Iran access to approximately $10 billion.
Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., is planning on introducing a bill Saturday commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine, which the congresswoman says is "now more important than ever" as "China, Russia and Iran are trying to invade the Western Hemisphere" and win domineering influence on Latin America over the U.S. As China specifically peddles influence through the Belts and Roads project, essentially bankrupting Latin American countries on the promise of helping them build new roads, dams and bridges, Salazar argues that the U.S. over the past two to three decades has essentially "forgotten the Western Hemisphere." "And that is why these evil empires like Russia, China and Iran are invading our territory," Salazar told Fox News Digital. "So we, the United States, we have to wake up and understand that this is our territory and that no other country is going to treat the Latin Americans better than the United States."