As Hopes For Nuclear Deal Fade, Iran Rebuilds And Risks Grow

TOP STORIES 

As Hopes For Nuclear Deal Fade, Iran Rebuilds And Risks Grow | The New York Times 

Over the past 20 months, Israeli intelligence operatives have assassinated Iran’s chief nuclear scientist and triggered major explosions at four Iranian nuclear and missile facilities, hoping to cripple the centrifuges that produce nuclear fuel and delay the day when Tehran’s new government might be able to build a bomb. But American intelligence officials and international inspectors say the Iranians have quickly gotten the facilities back online — often installing newer machines that can enrich uranium at a far more rapid pace. 

U.S. Defense Secretary Lowers Expectations Ahead Of Iran Talks | Bloomberg 

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cautioned that talks with Iran about complying with obligations agreed to under a 2015 deal to limit its nuclear program may not lead to a positive solution. “We will return to those talks in good faith, but Iran’s recent actions are not encouraging, especially because of the expansion of their nuclear program,” Austin said in Bahrain Saturday. Negotiating teams return to Vienna later this month to discuss lifting U.S. sanctions on Iran in exchange for a cap on its atomic program. 

Yemen’s Battleground Shifts In Favor Of Iran-Backed Houthis | The Wall Street Journal 

Houthi fighters allied with Iran have gained important new ground in the yearslong war in Yemen, as Saudi Arabia is struggling to defend a strategic, oil-rich city and U.S. efforts to broker peace stagnate. Without coordinating with United Nations peacekeepers in the area, Yemeni forces supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates abruptly withdrew last week from key positions near the western port city of Hodeidah. At the same time, Saudi Arabia vowed to send more forces to defend Marib, the center of an energy hub near the Saudi border where the Houthis have been methodically gaining new ground for months. 

UANI IN THE NEWS 

New Iranian Cabinet Charts Hard-Line Direction In Security Policy | AFP

…Although institutional rivalries still exist between the regular army and the IRGC, the long-standing view of the army as less loyal to the Islamic Republic is no longer as salient as the decades pass. Ashtiani represents the part of the officer corps that has been “thoroughly vetted and demonstrated their loyalties to the Supreme Leader”, according to a profile by the US-based activist group United Against Nuclear Iran in September 2021, and he was sanctioned by the US Treasury in January 2020 for his ties to the leadership. 

Thousands Of Iranians Protest In Isfahan Over Water Shortages | The National Interest 

…Jason Brodsky, an Iran expert and policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, saw Friday's protests as the continuation of a pattern in the response to drought issues throughout the year. “We saw this dynamic during the protests in July in Khuzestan [south-western Iran] over water shortages, which witnessed chants against the regime. The problems we are seeing today are, in part, the result of decades of mismanagement and neglect,” Mr Brodsky told The National. He expected the protests to continue but that the regime will be ready to crack down on them when it deems necessary. “[Iran's President] Ebrahim Raisi's capacity to change the underlying situation is limited due to structural problems within the Iranian system, which will only produce more frustration and protests,” Mr Brodsky said. 

If Turkey Wants The F-16, Ankara Must Act Against Iran | UANI Research Director Daniel Roth For The National Interest 

President Joe Biden is uniquely positioned today to end Turkey’s bid to undermine European security and halt its dangerous drift toward Russia and Iran. Crucially, Turkey is desperate for U.S.-made F-16 warplanes and modernization kits. Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s domestic political support is cratering. Should he survey the landscape, Biden will see that he has an opportunity to accomplish goals that eluded his predecessors. He can stop Turkey’s spiral out of the Western orbit while strengthening U.S. national security with a blow against Iran. 

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM 

Hulata In Bahrain: ‘Nuclear Iran Will Destroy World Non-Proliferation Regime’ | The Jerusalem Post

The world will face unprecedented threats if Iran attains a nuclear weapon, National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata warned at a conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Bahrain on Sunday. “We have been speaking about all of the malign activities of Iran throughout the region,” Hulata said. “Think how much bolder and dangerous Iran will be with a nuclear umbrella. “Should Iran achieve its nuclear ambitions, the region as we know it will be no longer. The free world would face extreme threats it hasn’t faced before, with a new nuclear arms race and the collapse of the existing nonproliferation regime,” he stated. 

A Better Path Forward for Handling Iran | Rep. Jim Banks And Mike Makovsky For Newsweek   

After months of buying time to further advance its nuclear program, Iran announced this month that it will return to nuclear negotiations by December. The White House's meek response—enjoining Tehran to conduct diplomacy "in good faith"—at best reflects the triumph of misplaced hope over hard-won experience, and at worst a descent into defeatist acquiescence to a nuclear Iran. The Biden administration's aim to rejoin the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would be disastrous and self-defeating, not just for the United States but also for our partners in the Middle East. 

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS   

Iran Says It Has Imported 4 Million Tonnes Of Wheat Since Late April | Reuters 

Iran said on Friday it had imported four million tonnes of wheat since late April, the semi-official ILNA news website reported. "This year 4.5 tonnes of wheat were bought from Iranian farmers ... And since late April, 4 million tonnes of wheat were imported," ILNA quoted Hassan Hanan, deputy minister of domestic trade, as saying. Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies including animal feed are exempt from U.S. sanctions, re-imposed in 2018 after the United States pulled out of Iran's nuclear deal with six world powers, but authorities say the step has nevertheless deterred some foreign banks from doing any Iranian business, including food shipments. 

Iran Condemns US Sanctions Over Bid To Meddle In 2020 Vote | Al Jazeera 

Iran has condemned US sanctions against several Iranians and one Iranian group for trying to influence the 2020 US presidential election. The US Treasury announced the sanctions on Thursday, along with criminal charges against two Iranians it says launched a cyber-disinformation campaign to selected voters, elected members of Congress and a US media company. “Iran condemns these new US sanctions as a continuation of the failed policy of Trump’s maximum pressure that are desperate and illegitimate,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter on Friday, referring to former President Donald Trump. 

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

Iran MP's Office Torched After Protest Remarks | Asharq Al-Awsat 

Unidentified assailants torched the office front of an ultraconservative Iranian lawmaker whose recent comments on deadly anti-government protests in 2019 caused an outcry, local media reported Saturday. "The office front of hodjatoleslam (middle-ranking cleric) Hassan Norouzi, representative for the Robat-Karim electorate (in southern Tehran), was set on fire on Friday evening," the conservative Fars news agency said, adding that the assailants were "unknown". Protesters took to the streets across Iran in November 2019 after a surprise fuel price hike, in Iran's most vocal eruption of public dissent in a decade. 

Jailed Iranian Rights Defender At 'Imminent Risk' Of Flogging, Amnesty Warns | Radio Free Europe 

Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately release prominent human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who it said is at imminent risk of receiving 80 lashes following her arrest earlier this week. The London-based human rights watchdog said on November 18 that Mohammadi was arbitrary arrested in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran, two days earlier while attending a memorial for a man killed by Iranian security forces during nationwide protests in November 2019. 

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS 

Four Takeaways From The Iranian Election Interference Indictments | The Washington Post

Iran is shaping up to be one of the United States’ most nettlesome cyber foes. That’s one of several clear takeaways from sanctions and indictments leveled yesterday against two Iranian hackers for attempted interference in the 2020 election. Iran has been a major U.S. cyber opponent since at least 2011, when it launched a barrage of attacks against financial institutions that overwhelmed their websites with Internet traffic until they couldn't operate. 

Iranian Hackers Broke Into Newspaper Publisher Lee Enterprises Ahead Of 2020 Election | The Wall Street Journal 

Iranian hackers last year infiltrated the computer systems of Lee Enterprises Inc., a major American media company that publishes dozens of daily newspapers across the U.S., as part of a broader effort to spread disinformation about the 2020 presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter. On Thursday, the Justice Department said the alleged hackers broke in to the digital systems of an unnamed media company in fall 2020 and tested how to create false news content. 

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS 

Iran's Guards Seize Foreign Ship In Gulf Smuggling Diesel - State Media | Reuters 

Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday they had seized a foreign ship in Gulf waters loaded with what they described as smuggled diesel. Guards commander Ahmad Hajian said the ship's 11 crew had been detained, but did not give details on their nationality or identify the ship. "After inspection, more than 150,000 litres of smuggled diesel were discovered," Iran's state broadcaster quoted Hajian as saying. The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, released video footage showing speed-boats intercepting a vessel and masked armed Guards boarding it. 

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Gantz Says He Supports A ‘Broader, Stronger And Longer’ Deal With Iran | The Times Of Israel 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Sunday that he supports a “broader, stronger and longer” nuclear deal with Iran, even as Israel is said to be expecting talks surrounding a return to the 2015 multilateral accord to fall apart. “I support an agreement that will be broader, stronger and longer — taking Iran back, dismantling its current capabilities and placing effective inspections on its sites and on its weapons production,” Gantz said at a conference on Israeli security affairs, hosted by the Haaretz daily and UCLA. 

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN 

Saudi Warns Iran-Backed Rebels Using Bomb-Laden Boats in Red Sea | Bloomberg 

A Saudi-led military coalition said Iran-backed fighters were using booby-trapped boats in the southern Red Sea and that it was working to neutralize the threat to global shipping. The coalition, which is battling Houthi fighters in Yemen’s war, said it was monitoring the “hostile movements” which it described as an imminent danger to shipping, Saudi state media reported early on Monday. The coalition had taken “operational measures” against the threat, it added. There were no further details. Saudi Arabia and the United States frequently accuse Iran and its proxies of shipping attacks in narrow Middle East waterways. The latest incident came days after the Houthis said they used drones to attack Saudi Aramco refineries and airports in Saudi Arabia. 

CYBERWARFARE 

Iran's Mahan Air Says Its Has Foiled A Cyber Attack – TV | Reuters 

A cyber attack against Iranian private airline Mahan Air has been foiled, Iranian state media reported on Sunday, adding that the airliner's flight schedule was not affected by the attack. The carrier, blacklisted by Washington in 2011 over support it provided to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said in a statement that it had faced similar attacks in the past, adding that its "internal system" had been targeted. "Our international and domestic flights are operating on schedule without any disruptions," Amirhossein Zolanvari, head of the airliner's public relation office told state TV.