U.S. Designates Houthis A Terrorist Group


U.S. Designates Houthis A Terrorist Group | New York Times 

The State Department on Friday designated the Houthis as a terrorist organization, following through on a mid-January warning to crack down on the Yemen-based militant group. The action officially labels the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, a step that gives the United States new powers to crack down on the Iran-backed Houthis’ access to the global financial system. 

U.S. Says It Struck 5 Houthi Targets In Yemen, Including An Underwater Drone | New York Times 

The United States struck five Houthi military targets, including an undersea drone, in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday, the U.S. military announced on Sunday. The use of the underwater drone is believed to have been the first time that Iran-backed Houthis had employed such a weapon since they began their campaign against ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden on Oct. 23, the military’s Central Command said in a statement. American military officials provided few details of what they called an “unmanned underwater vessel,” but the Houthis have received much of their drone and missile technology from Iran. In addition to the underwater drone, the Houthis were also using a remotely piloted boat, the statement said. The United States struck both the surface drone and the submarine drone and launched other strikes against anti-ship missiles, the military said in its statement, but provided no precise details on the location. 

Exclusive: IAEA Chief Says Iran's Nuclear Enrichment Activity Remains High | Reuters 

Iran continues to enrich uranium well beyond the needs for commercial nuclear use despite U.N. pressure to stop it, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said on Monday, adding he wanted to visit Tehran next month for the first time in a year to end the "drifting apart". Speaking to Reuters after he briefed EU foreign ministers on the subject, the head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said that while the pace of uranium enrichment had slowed slightly since the end of last year, Iran was still enriching at an elevated rate of around 7 kg of uranium per month to 60% purity. Enrichment to 60% brings uranium close to weapons grade, and is not necessary for commercial use in nuclear power production. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons but no other state has enriched to that level without producing them. Under a defunct 2015 agreement with world powers, Iran can enrich uranium only to 3.67%. After then-President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of that deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, Iran breached and moved well beyond the deal's nuclear restrictions. 


Hit On Iranian Surveillance Ship Appears To Slow Houthis’ Red Sea Attacks | New York Sun 

... According to the Thursday report, the cyberattack occurred more than a week ago. While Houthi strikes on Red Sea ships briefly slowed, they resumed later this week. British forces near Yemeni shores reported an explosion on a ship near their vessel Friday and American and other naval forces intercepted incoming missiles on Wednesday and Thursday. “The slowdown was either because the Behshad was offline, or because the U.S. has been degrading the Houthi stockpiles,” the policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, Jason Brodsky, told the Sun. He noted that while the damage to the IRGC spy ship is difficult to assess, it may well be repairable. “In my view we should have sunk the Behshad,” he said.    

Iran Is Socially Engineering Mass Depression To Suppress Dissent | UANI Senior Advisor Saeid Golkar And UANI IRGC Research Director Kasra Aarabi For The Atlantic Council 

Not often does a seventy-year-old start a global social media phenomenon for his singing and dancing, but that’s precisely what has happened in the Islamic Republic of Iran, of all places. Meet Sadegh Booghi—or “Amoo Booghi” (Uncle Booghi) as he has come to be known—an elderly fishmonger from a small northern Iranian town, who was detained by authorities after videos of him singing and dancing went viral on Instagram—the most popular social media platform in Iran and one that also happens to be blocked (Iranians use circumvention tools to bypass censorship). The pensioner’s Instagram page was suspended. It was reactivated after mass pressure, although a case against Booghi is still open. What was Booghi’s crime? Spreading joy across the country—and much of the world. As Amoo Booghi’s singing and dancing went viral—from Tanzania to Thailand—the key question on everyone’s mind is: why is the regime punishing an old man for spreading happiness at a time when the situation inside Iran is so dire? 


Explosions In Iran Mark A New Stage In The Conflict With Tehran | YNET 

Iran’s oil and gas industry, including petrochemical plants that process crude oil into various products, is the most important economic factor in the country. Not only do the Iranian government's revenues come mostly from these industries, but it also supplies energy needs and petroleum and gas products to the local market, which supports over 83 million people. The New York Times reported Friday that Israel was behind the explosions in two main Iranian gas pipelines that took place overnight Wednesday, and another explosion at a chemical plant in Tehran on Thursday. Cooking gas is a daily essential for households in Iran and also for its exports. Therefore, when gas and oil pipeline networks are affected, and a chemical manufacturing plant is targeted, this harms more than just Iranian households and citizens but also the ability of Tehran’s regime to ensure economic security for its population on a daily basis. This isn’t a decisive blow, but it creates a shortage felt in wide areas of the country. 

The Economic Fallout Of The Gaza Conflict For Iran | Iran International 

The Gaza-Israel conflict has significant implications for Iran's already strained economy, characterized by currency devaluation, reduced government revenues, and high inflation. Iran’s involvement in the regional conflict hinders its economic growth efforts, further reduces the value of the Iranian rial, and decreases government income. Additionally, it has worsened economic problems such as inflation, diminishing oil exports, and weaker GDP growth. The falling value of the rial is the direct result of fears about a wider war involving Iran. Domestic investors hedge their bets by buying US dollars and other currencies, part of which is sent abroad, exacerbating an already high rate of capital flight. On February 15th, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) released a report on the Global Economic Fallout of a Regional War. According to the report, a pessimistic scenario could lead to a 0.4 percentage point decrease in global growth compared to the baseline scenario in 2024, resulting in a 2.4% global growth rate. 


Iran Claims Introduction Of New Missile Systems Amid Tensions | Iran International 

Amid international concerns, Iran on Saturday showcased new weaponry including the Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system. The unveiling ceremony for the two vehicle-mounted systems was attended by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, as reported by the official IRNA state news agency. "With the entry of new systems into the country's defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly," IRNA said. It said the Arman missile system "can simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km", while the Azarakhsh missile system "can identify and destroy targets... up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles". Iran often announces the introduction of new military technologies and weapons that is difficult to independently verify. 

Iran Unveils Air Defense Systems As Middle East Tensions Soar | Voice Of America 

Iran unveiled two new air defense systems on Saturday, state media reported, with tensions high in the Middle East amid the war in Gaza. "The Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, built by the ministry of defense, were unveiled this morning," the official IRNA news agency said. The unveiling of the new weapons comes at a time of heightened regional tensions with the war between Israel and Tehran-backed Hamas raging into a fifth month. Even before the war, Israel and Iran were implacable foes, with Israel fiercely opposed to Tehran's nuclear program. In 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Iran to face a "credible military threat" to prevent it from attaining nuclear weapons. 


At Least 166 Christians Arrested In Iran Last Year For Their Faith | Iran Wire 

Christian rights organizations have documented a significant increase in the number of arrests of Christians in Iran last year, raising concerns about religious freedom in the country. According to Article 18’s annual report published on January 19, at least 166 Christians were arrested across the country in 2023, compared to 134 the previous year. Arrests came in waves in 2023, with “just a handful reported prior to June, then over 100 within the next three months, before a further rash of arrests at Christmas,” says the report, which was released in collaboration with Open Doors, CSW and Middle East Concern. “However, very few of those arrested agreed to publicise their cases, leading to an increasing number of faceless victims.” “By the end of 2023, at least 17 of the Christians arrested during the summer had received prison sentences of between three months and five years, or non-custodial punishments such as fines, flogging, and in one case the community-service of digging graves,” the report says. 

Iranian Women Are 'Not Afraid' To Shed Hijab On Streets Of Tehran Report Shows | Jerusalem Post 

Iranian women are refusing to comply with hijab rules in Iran, ABC News reported, as reporters recently conducted an investigation in Tehran. Not wearing a hijab is punishable by the Iranian morality police, who generally patrol the streets of Iran.  “We Iranian girls are not afraid of anything anymore,” said Maedeh, a 26-year-old sports trainer who was one of several Iranian women to speak with the ABC correspondent without wearing a hijab.  Although ABC News reported that they did not see members of the morality police on the streets of Tehran, Iranian women reported that they were receiving text message warnings when government-monitored feeds showed that a woman was not wearing a hijab. 

Iran Is Arresting Teens For Celebrating A Soccer Match Loss From The National Team, Human Rights Activists Say | Business Insider  

Iranian authorities have detained at least 10 male teenagers for "expressing joy" in response to a recent loss from the national soccer team, a Norway-based human rights organization said on Monday. The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, which focuses on rights issues in the Kurdistan region, said it identified at least three of the minors by name. Hengaw said the latest incident that it knew of involved a 17-year-old named Diako Behroojeh, who was "arrested by Iranian security forces" on Wednesday. The arrests were connected to Iran's 3-2 defeat to Qatar in the Asian Football Confederation's Asian Cup, in a pivotal match that would have put the winner through to this year's finals. Qatar is hosting the tournament. 


U.S. Strike Killed Afghans Recruited To Fight For Iran | New York Times

It was a memorial for the “martyrs” killed when the U.S. struck military bases in Syria, according to Iranian state television. A small crowd sat in rows of folding chairs, men in the front and women in the back, at the main cemetery in Tehran, the Iranian capital, earlier this month. Children milled around and a young man passed a box of sweets. A man recited prayers through a microphone. But the 12 fallen men weren’t Iranians. They were Afghans, according to other soldiers and local media reports, part of the Fatemiyoun Brigade, a largely overlooked force that dates to the height of the Syrian civil war a decade ago. To help President Bashar al-Assad of Syria beat back rebel forces and Islamic State terrorists, Iran at the time began recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight, offering $500 a month, schooling for their children, and Iranian residency. The brigade is still believed to be about 20,000 strong, drawn from Afghan refugees living mostly in Iran, and it serves under the command of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. 

Iran Claims To Add Two New ‘Stealth’ Ships To IRGC Navy | Jerusalem Post 

Iran held a ceremony recently to mark the addition of two new patrol ships, the Shahid Sayad Shirazi and Shahid Bagheri ships, to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy. Iran has two navies: the official navy and the IRGC Navy. Iran’s Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, head of the armed forces, attended the ceremony. These ships look different than most naval ships. They are based on a catamaran or twin-hull design and have a sleek futuristic look, apparently based on inspiration and designs from the Chinese Type 22 missile boat. China has more than 80 of these coastal patrol vessels, which are 42 meters long. The Iranian ships are 60m. long. Iran is seeking to build four of these ships. The ship has a helipad on its stern section and can also apparently hold fast boats. It has naval radar and anti-ship cruise missiles, according to reports. 

Israel Was Behind Attacks On Major Gas Pipelines In Iran, Officials Say | New York Times 

Israel carried out covert attacks on two major natural gas pipelines inside Iran this week, disrupting the flow of heat and cooking gas to provinces with millions of people, according to two Western officials and a military strategist affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. The strikes represent a notable shift in the shadow war that Israel and Iran have been waging by air, land, sea and cyberattack for years. Israel has long targeted military and nuclear sites inside Iran — and assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists and commanders, both inside and outside of the country. Israel has also waged cyberattacks to disable servers belonging to the oil ministry, causing turmoil at gas stations nationwide. But blowing up part of the country’s energy infrastructure, relied on by industries, factories and millions of civilians, marked an escalation in the covert war and appeared to open a new frontier, officials and analysts said. 


Three-Quarters Of Iranians Will Boycott Elections | Iran International 

A recent survey has shown that the majority of Iranians will boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections, with 75 percent seeking the overthrow of the government.  A survey by the Netherlands-based Gamaan institute collected information from 58,015 Iranian residents over an eight-day period from January 31 to February 7. Titled “Iranians’ Attitudes Toward the 2024 Elections,” the survey targeted people aged 19 and above, a sample from 90% of the country's literate adult population. Several balancing techniques were used to ensure that the demographics and characteristics of the sample closely mirror those of the population, but the survey was conducted via a specialized platform for sampling on the internet, which is not openly accessible to all Iranians. Although such methods help mitigate the risk of bias in the results, the sample may not accurately represent the population as most people who use censorship circumvention tools to access the internet are critical of the regime. 

A Man In Iran Guns Down 12 Relatives In A Shooting Rampage With A Kalashnikov Rifle | Associated Press 

30-year-old man gunned down 12 of his relatives Saturday in a remote rural area in southeast Iran, the deadliest shooting reported in decades. Head of the justice department of the province of Kerman, Ebrahim Hamidi, told the semiofficial ISNA news agency the gunman opened fire on his father, brother and other relatives early morning in a village because of family disputes. The report, which did not identify the assailant, stated he used a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Local media report on occasional shootings, but this attack has had the highest death toll in Iran, where citizens are only legally allowed hunting rifles, common in rural areas. In 2022, an employee, who was dismissed from a state-owned financial conglomerate, opened fire at his former workplace, killing three people and injuring another five before killing himself in the country’s west. In 2016, a 26-year-old man shot 10 relatives in a rural area in the south of Iran. 


Iran, Wary Of Wider War, Urges Its Proxies To Avoid Provoking U.S. | Washington Post 

Iran, eager to disrupt U.S. and Israeli interests in the Middle East but wary of provoking a direct confrontation, is privately urging Hezbollah and other armed groups to exercise restraint against U.S. forces, according to officials in the region. Israel’s brutal war on Hamas in Gaza has stoked conflict between the United States and Iran’s proxy forces on multiple fronts. With no cease-fire in sight, Iran could face the most significant test yet of its ability to exert influence over these allied militias. When U.S. forces launched strikes this month on Iranian-backed groups in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, Tehran publicly warned that its military was ready to respond to any threat. But in private, senior leaders are urging caution, according to Lebanese and Iraqi officials who were briefed on the talks. They spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive conversations. U.S. officials say the message might be having some effect. As of Saturday, Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria hadn’t attacked U.S. forces in more than 13 days, an unusual lull since the war in Gaza began in October. 

Hezbollah Vows To Escalate Israel Fight After Civilian Attacks | Bloomberg 

The leader of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia, said it would escalate its fight against Israel following a worsening spate of attacks between the two sides this week. Hassan Nasrallah said the group, based in Lebanon, would retaliate against Israel for targeting its positions and killing civilians in recent days. Hezbollah will hit “not just army sites,” he said in a speech on Friday. “The enemy will pay the price of spilling the blood of our people with blood,” he said in a speech broadcast on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV. A missile barrage on a northern Israeli town and an army base there killed one soldier on Wednesday. That prompted Israel’s military to launch airstrikes on several southern Lebanese villages, killing eight people and a Hezbollah commander. While Hezbollah didn’t claim the attack on the Israeli town, called Safed, it came from areas it controls. 


Houthis Say They Shot Down A U.S. Drone Off Yemen | New York Times 

The Pentagon is investigating the cause of a crash of an American military surveillance drone off the coast of Yemen on Monday morning, two U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, confirmed that the drone, an MQ-9 Reaper, fell out of the sky. Iranian-backed Houthi militants said on Monday that they had downed the drone near the port city of Al Hudaydah, in western Yemen. 

Navy Admiral Explains How Iran Supports Houthi Militants | CBS News 

Houthi militant are continuing their attacks on shipping vessels and military ships in the Red Sea. On "60 Minutes," a U.S. Navy admiral explained to "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell how Iran supports the militant group. 

Iran Begins Efforts To Stop US-British Strikes Against Houthis | Asharq Al Awsat 

Iran launched its diplomatic efforts to stop the US-British attacks on the Houthi group, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani. Kanaani indicated that recent developments in the Red Sea are a result of the situation in the Gaza Strip. Speaking at the weekly press conference, Kanaani announced that the UK-US attacks against Yemen violate the sovereignty of an independent and UN member state. He described the attacks as a "flagrant act of aggression and adventure," accusing them of issuing "false claims" of not wanting to expand the scope of the war while they launched illegal and unilateral actions. Hamas has been launching drone and missile attacks on ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since Nov. 19 in support of the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 


Insight: Iraqi Armed Groups Dial Down U.S. Attacks On Request Of Iran Commander | Reuters 

A visit by the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force to Baghdad has led to a pause in attacks on U.S. troops by Iran-aligned groups in Iraq, multiple Iranian and Iraqi sources told Reuters, saying it was a sign Tehran wants to prevent a broader conflict. Esmail Qaani met representatives of several of the armed groups in Baghdad airport on Jan. 29, less than 48 hours after Washington blamed the groups for the killing of three U.S. soldiers at the Tower 22 outpost in Jordan, the sources said. Qaani, whose predecessor was killed by a U.S. drone near the same airport four years ago, told the factions that drawing American blood risked a heavy U.S. response, 10 of the sources said. He said the militias should lie low, to avoid U.S. strikes on their senior commanders, destruction of key infrastructure or even a direct retaliation against Iran, the sources said. 


Iran Opposes Afghan Reconciliation And Reintegration – Diplomats | Iran International 

Iran is trying to derail UN efforts to help internal dialogue in Afghanistan and foster engagement between Kabul and the international community, diplomatic sources have told Iran International. The United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres told a press conference in Doha on Monday that he will begin consultations on the appointment of a UN envoy to coordinate engagement between Afghanistan's Taliban and the international community. Antonio Guterres said that Taliban representatives did not accept an invitation to a meeting of international envoys to Afghanistan that he convened in Doha on Sunday and Monday. Diplomatic sources indicate that Tehran believes such efforts will reduce its influence with the Taliban in Afghanistan and boost US influence. Afghanistan International, the sister broadcaster to Iran International, asked Iran’s representative, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, if Tehran was working against the goals of the Doha meeting. Qomi responded that the Islamic Republic of Iran engages in efforts that “benefit the Afghan people.” 


After Ban, Iran Slams Munich Security Conference | Iran International 

Nasser Kanaani, spokesperson for Iran's foreign ministry, branded the Munich Security Conference politically driven as the regime attempted to claw back credibility after being banned for a second consecutive year. Kanaani said, "The organizers and hosts of the conference are deviating from its founding principles, transforming it into a platform for advancing their own agendas. The inclusion of individuals with a criminal past, contrary to global norms, reflects a troubling trajectory for this conference, and we harbor reservations about its future." Banned along with Russia, Kanaani said the conference "has become a forum for disseminating unjust and deceitful narratives against sovereign nations." The Islamic Republic is outraged over the presence of prominent Iranian activist Masih Alinejad in the event who was one of many calling for the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) as a terrorist organization after multiple failed assassination attempts on her life. 


Biden's Iran Envoy Facing State Department Inspector General Probe: Report | Fox News 

The State Department's inspector general has opened an inquiry into the suspension of President Biden's special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, according to a report. The inspector general's office informed members of Congress on Jan. 23 about the internal investigation, Semafor reported Saturday, citing correspondence viewed by the outlet.  "The scope of the special review of the suspension of Robert Malley’s clearance will include the procedures the Department used in suspending the clearance as well as actions taken by the Department following the suspension," Ryan Holden, the inspector general’s director of congressional and public affairs, reportedly said in the letter. "This will include whether the Department followed proper procedures in suspending his clearance, determining what access to information he could maintain, and deciding the status of his employment."