US Accuses Japanese Yakuza Leader Of Trafficking Weapons-Grade Uranium To Iran


US Accuses Japanese Yakuza Leader Of Trafficking Weapons-Grade Uranium To Iran | Associated Press 

A leader of a Japan-based crime syndicate conspired to traffic uranium and plutonium from Myanmar in the belief that Iran would use it to make nuclear weapons, U.S. prosecutors alleged Wednesday. Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, and his confederates showed samples of nuclear materials that had been transported from Myanmar to Thailand to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent posing as a narcotics and weapons trafficker who had access to an Iranian general, according to federal officials. The nuclear material was seized and samples were later found to contain uranium and weapons-grade plutonium. “As alleged, the defendants in this case trafficked in drugs, weapons, and nuclear material — going so far as to offer uranium and weapons-grade plutonium fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement. “This is an extraordinary example of the depravity of drug traffickers who operate with total disregard for human life.” 

Man Extradited To U.S. In Suspected Iranian Plot To Kill Activist | New York Times 

A man charged with participating in a plot hatched in Iran to assassinate Masih Alinejad, an Iranian American human rights activist and a sharp critic of Iran’s repression of women, has been extradited to the United States, American authorities said on Wednesday. The man, Polad Omarov, 39, was turned over to representatives of the U.S. government at Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague on Wednesday morning, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the Czech Justice Ministry. He was arrested in the Czech Republic in January 2023. A federal indictment unsealed in New York last year said Mr. Omarov and three co-conspirators were part of an Eastern European criminal organization known by its members as Thieves-in-Law, which has ties to Iran and in 2022 was given the assignment to kill Ms. Alinejad, a journalist in Brooklyn. 

Exclusive: Iran Sends Russia Hundreds Of Ballistic Missiles | Reuters 

Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two U.S.-sanctioned countries. Iran's provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say. ran's defence ministry and the Revolutionary Guards - an elite force that oversees Iran's ballistic missile programme - declined to comment. Russia's defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The shipments began in early January after a deal was finalised in meetings late last year between Iranian and Russian military and security officials that took place in Tehran and Moscow, one of the Iranian sources said. 


Iran-Fuelled Drone Race Shapes The War In Ukraine | The National 

… The new EU measures, agreed in time for the February 24 anniversary of the invasion, are meanwhile meant to cut Russia’s access to drones but officials admit that targets of sanctions are “always a moving target”. Under sanctions “it would be harder for Russia to produce these drones with Iran’s help as it would be missing key technology”, Jason Brodsky, a policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, told The National. “But this is still a whack-a-mole approach. Iran and Russia can always employ new front companies after sanctions on old ones.” While Russia was launching its invasion, diplomats in the West were still hopeful of reviving the nuclear deal that curbed Tehran’s uranium enrichment in return for sanctions relief. 

The World Is Not Taking The Houthis Seriously Enough | UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky For Mosaic

If all the actors that have taken the world stage in the months since October 7, the Houthis are surely the most surprising. Formerly an obscure Yemeni militia, they have emerged a highly armed and motivated member of Iran’s Axis of Resistance, putting to shame more famous yet recently more passive partners like Hizballah. Claiming to defend Gaza, the Houthis have effectively halted shipping in the Red Sea, and regularly release videos daring the world to stop them. Many in America, at least, are taking their claims at their word. This is a deep mistake. The Houthis are in fact motivated much more by their own local necessities and regional ambitions than they are by the wellbeing of civilians—or of their Hamas allies—in Gaza. It is therefore far too simplistic to suggest that the Houthis will halt their attacks if Israel and Hamas agree to a ceasefire. The truth of the matter is that, unless countered, their domestic ambitions, coupled with Iran’s broader goals, will make the Houthis a force to be reckoned with in the region irrespective of the Palestinian situation. 


Iran Invites IAEA Chief To Attend Conference In May | The New Arab 

Iran's nuclear chief said Wednesday that Tehran has invited the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi to visit in May. The UN agency, based in Vienna, has been struggling since 2021 to carry out controls on Iran's nuclear programme, which continues to expand even as Tehran denies it wants to make nuclear weapons. Last month, Grossi expressed frustration over Iran's nuclear activity in an interview with AFP, saying Tehran was "restricting cooperation in an unprecedented way". The head of the IAEA "has expressed his desire to go to Iran and this trip is on his agenda," Mohammad Eslami, head of Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, told reporters. 

Iran Dismisses Plan By UN Atomic Agency Leader To Visit In March | Voice Of America 

Iran's nuclear chief on Wednesday dismissed a suggestion that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, would visit Iran next month but instead invited Grossi to a conference in Tehran in May. Grossi said this week Iran was continuing to enrich uranium well beyond the needs for commercial nuclear use and said he planned to visit Tehran next month to tackle the "drifting apart" of relations between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic. But Mohammad Eslami said a visit next month was unlikely because of a "busy schedule" without giving further clarification. "Iran's interactions with the IAEA continue as normal and discussions are held to resolve ambiguities and develop cooperation," he said at a weekly press conference in Tehran. Eslami said Grossi had been invited to attend Iran's first international nuclear energy conference in May. 


Despite Sanctions, Iran Imported $236mn Worth Of Drone Parts In 10 Years | Iran International 

Despite global sanctions, Iran has imported at least $236 million worth of aircraft and drone engine parts over the past 10 years from countries including Turkey, the UAE, Germany and even Ukraine and the US.  Data by the Islamic Republic's customs organization, scrutinized by Iran International, show that around $26 million worth of items listed as prohibited under the US Treasury's sanctions against Iran was imported to the country only in the first eight months of the current Iranian year, which started on March 21. Earlier in the month, the head of a top unit at the US Department of Homeland Security said that "sensitive" materials are showing up overseas -- in Iranian weapons. "The Iranian drones that are being recovered on the battlefield in Ukraine, that are being recovered on the battlefield throughout the Middle East, they do have sensitive US communications systems and they have sensitive microelectronics," Jim Mancuso, the assistant director of the Global Trade Division at Homeland Security Investigations, told ABC News. Iran, China and Russia are all "attempting to illegally acquire" US technology, he added. 


Iran Flaunts A New Ship-Fired Missile, But Analysts Say It's No Game-Changer | Business Insider 

Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps paramilitary recently demonstrated the capability to strike land targets with ballistic missiles fired from a ship, but it is hardly the wide-ranging threat Iranian officials claimed it to be. The IRGC fired two missiles, believed to be from Iran's Fateh family of short-range ballistic missiles, from launchers on the deck of the Shahid Mahdavi, a container ship modified to carry helicopters and drones, on Feb. 12. IRGC naval forces fired missiles at a mockup of Israel's Palmachim airbase inside Iran during the exercise. "Iran likely wants to demonstrate a growing diversity of options to attack its rivals in the region to reinforce the US administration's concern that attacking Iran directly could result in a wider and more intense regional conflict," Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and expert on naval operations, told Business Insider. Iran already has warships that can fire guided missiles, and the container ship is a large platform that rivals like Saudi Arabia or Israel can track and target. 


Iran’s Khamenei Calls Israel A ‘Cancerous Tumor’ With Assured ‘Destruction’ | Al Arabiya 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Thursday described Israel as a “cancerous tumor” destined for “destruction.” “The Islamic world will certainly witness the destruction of the Zionist cancerous tumor,” state news agency IRNA quoted Khamenei as saying. Iran does not recognize Israel and has made support for the Palestinian cause a fundamental component of its foreign policy since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Khamenei reiterated his criticism of Muslim countries maintaining ties with Israel, asking: “Why don’t Muslim leaders publicly cut off their ties with the murderous Zionist regime and stop helping this regime?” 


Document Shows Iranian Protester Raped Before Murder | Iran International 

A recently unveiled document has revealed that 16-year-old Nika Shakarami was raped by state-backed security during the Women, Life, Freedom protests. The document, circulating on social media and seemingly discovered among a trove of files accessed after a hacktivist group breached the servers of the Iranian judiciary on Tuesday, contains evidence confirming that Shakarami had been subjected to rape amid a state sanctioned campaign of sexual violence as documented by rights groups. The trove of documents obtained by the hacktivist group Edalat-e Ali covers a wide range of sensitive topics, spanning from internal discussions within the National Security Council following Mahsa Amini's death to efforts aimed at curbing unauthorized VPN vendors, protests against the 2020 employment examination, and cases related to economic corruption. 


US Voices Alarm On Alleged Iran Role In Sudan | AFP 

The United States voiced concern Wednesday at reported arms shipments by adversary Iran to Sudan's army, which is locked in a deadly war with paramilitaries allegedly receiving Emirati and Russian support. John Godfrey, the US ambassador to Sudan, said Washington was "deeply concerned by external support" to both the Sudan Armed Forces and rival Rapid Support Forces, known by the acronyms SAF and RSF. "There are reports about resumed ties between Sudan and Iran that could reportedly include Iranian materiel support to SAF, which is also very troubling and a source of great concern for us," Godfrey told reporters. Without naming other countries, Godfrey said the United States has "urged external actors to refrain from providing materiel support to the two belligerent parties." 


Canadian Visa Bid Exposes Wealth Of Iran Parliament Speaker’s Son | Iran International 

Documents filed by the son of Iran’s Parliamentary Speaker for immigration to Canada reveal that he has hundreds of thousands of dollars in Iranian and foreign banks, Iran International can exclusively reveal. “I declare that the Account Number 380.8000.13637806.2 (in Iran’s Pasargad Bank) is under my name... and I can spend or transfer 50% of the available balance (12,394,806,106 rials equivalent of $295,114) immediately upon my request,” read part of a letter addressed to the Canadian Immigration Office by Es’hagh Ghalibaf, the son of Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. In another document, he declared that he also has over $15,000 in National Australian Bank (NAB) and Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ). While in many countries $300,000 might not be considered a huge sum, in Iran, where government employees earn around $200 a month, it raises questions as to how he has amassed such an amount. The Parliament Speaker, according to some reports, earns around $4,000 a month. 

Iran Begins First Election Campaign Since 2022 Mass Protests Over Mahsa Amini's Death | ABC News 

Candidates for Iran's parliament began campaigning Thursday in the country's first election since the bloody crackdown on the 2022 nationwide protests that followed the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. State television said 15,200 candidates will compete for a four-year term in the 290-seat chamber that hardliners have controlled for two decades. That is a record number and more than twice the candidates who contested the 2020 election, when voter turnout was just over 42%, the lowest since 1979. Amini died on Sept. 16, 2022, after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict headscarf law that forced women to cover their hair and entire bodies. The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers. In the severe crackdown that followed, over 500 people were killed and nearly 20,000 arrested, according to human rights activists in Iran. 

Iran’s IRGC Chief Urges Voter Participation Amid Anticipated Boycott | Iran International 

With the Iranian parliamentary elections approaching, officials are urging citizens to actively participate amidst concerns of the lowest voter turnout since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Hossein Salami, the Commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said, "People should perceive the sensitivity of the situation and come to the ballot boxes to once again demonstrate their impressive presence." He claimed that “elections hold significance beyond casting ballots, due to their global impact", aware of the international reputational damage a major boycott will impose on the regime amid Iran's being a pariah state. His call for participation coincides with growing frustration among Iranians over what they perceive as the regime's neglect of their demands for greater freedom and economic improvement. Official statistics reveal an inflation rate just below 50 percent, with essential goods, especially food, experiencing even sharper price hikes.  The aftermath of the severe crackdown on the 2022 nationwide protests has fueled internal dissent, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and arrests as social and economic oppression continues at full speed. 


Ukraine: No Official Information On Iran Supplying Russia With Ballistic Missiles | Times Of Israel 

Ukraine’s Air Force spokesperson says there is no official information on Iran supplying Russia with hundreds of ballistic missiles. “So far, our official sources do not have information about receiving missiles, especially such a large number,” Yuriy Ihnat says on national TV. Six sources have told Reuters earlier today that Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. 


Suspected Houthi Missile Hits Ship In Gulf Of Aden As Yemeni Rebels Continue Attacks Over Israel-Hamas War | CBS News 

A suspected missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels set a ship ablaze in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday as Israel intercepted what appeared to be another Houthi attack near the port city of Eilat, authorities said. The attacks come as the Iran-backed rebels escalate their assaults over Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The attack Thursday in the Gulf of Aden saw two missiles fired, the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said. It said the unnamed ship was ablaze, without elaborating. Ship-tracking data analyzed by The Associated Press identified the vessel as a Palau-flagged cargo ship named Islander. It had been coming from Thailand bound for Egypt and previously sent out messages saying "SYRIAN CREW ON BOARD" to potentially avoid being targeted by the Houthis. "The missile attack lead to a fire onboard and coalition military assets were responding to the incident," the private security firm Ambrey said. The ship's Liberian-listed owners could not be immediately reached for comment. 


Daily Clashes Between Iran-Backed Militias In Iraq Kill Over 200 Fighters | Media Line 

Fierce fights between rival militias Saraya Al-Salam and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq have been taking place in several provinces, including in Baghdad, and innocent bystanders have been injured, but the Iraqi government is reluctant to intervene. The undeclared war between Iran-backed militias in Iraq has escalated in recent months, with daily clashes in several governorates, including in the capital, Baghdad, killing at least 200 fighters so far, according to local news sites, which counted up the dead named and depicted by the militias on their websites and social media accounts. The clashes began on Dec. 25 in the province of Basra, between the Saraya Al-Salam militia, affiliated with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia, affiliated with the prominent cleric and politician Qais Khazali, who previously defected from the Muqtada al-Sadr movement. Sporadic clashes have also broken out between Iraqi Hizbullah and several armed militias over the past two months, most of them in areas with Shiite majorities. 


Iran Addresses The ICJ On Israeli Occupation Of Palestinian Territories | Al Arabiya 

Iran called upon the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take steps to prevent the “ongoing genocide” in Gaza, adding that other nations have a legal duty towards the Palestinian people, as it addressed the ICJ on Thursday. “This court has an important role to play,” Raza Najafi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs said, adding that the ICJ must “consolidate the rule of law into the rule of power” and bring hope to the Palestinian people that justice will prevail. ajafi, whose country does not recognize Israel, said the UNSC was responsible for Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip saying that “the inaction or insufficient action of the Security Council” is one of the “main causes of prolonged occupation of the Palestinians.” “All the atrocities and crimes committed by the Israeli regime in the past almost eight years are a consequence of such inaction,” he said.