Captain Of Ship Carrying Iranian-Made Missile Components To Remain Behind Bars Pending Trial


Captain Of Ship Carrying Iranian-Made Missile Components To Remain Behind Bars Pending Trial | Associated Press 

A Pakistani national who U.S. officials say was the captain of a ship carrying Iranian-made missile components to Houthi rebels in Yemen was ordered Tuesday to remain behind bars as he awaits trial on charges of attempting to smuggle a warhead and other weapons, and lying to U.S. Coast Guard officers as they boarded the boat. Two Navy SEALs drowned while boarding the unflagged vessel in the Arabian Sea on Jan. 11 in the wake of continued Houthi attacks on commercial and military ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  

US And UK Hit Iranian Deputy Commander And Houthi Member With Sanctions | Associated Press 

The U.S. and U.K. sanctioned a deputy commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a Houthi militant member, Tuesday. The U.S. additionally sanctioned firms registered in Hong Kong and the Marshall Islands, along with two ships, including one that transported $100 million in Iranian commodities to China. Iranian official Mohammad Reza Falahzadeh, and Houthi group member Ibrahim al-Nashiri were hit with the U.S. and U.K. sanctions Tuesday. Hong Kong-registered Kohana Co. Ltd. and Marshall Islands-registered Iridescent Co. Ltd. — which own the Panama-flagged Kohana — were also designated for U.S. sanctions. The U.S. says the Kohana has shipped over $100 million in Iranian commodities to businesses in China on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defense.Additionally, the U.S. and U.K. sanctioned Hong Kong-based Cap Tees Shipping Co. Ltd., which owns the Artura, accused of transporting Iranian commodities for the network of previously sanctioned Houthi and Iranian financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal. Treasury says the Artura obfuscated its identity by using the name of a different vessel, Sanan II, to complete some of its shipments.  

Many In Iran Are Frustrated By Unrest And Poor Economy. Parliament Elections Could See A Low Turnout | Associated Press  

Iran is holding parliamentary elections this Friday, yet the real question may not be who gets elected but how many people actually turn out to vote. Widespread discontent over the cratering economy, years of mass protests rocking the country, and tensions with the West over Tehran's nuclear program and Iran's support for Russia in its war on Ukraine have many people quietly saying they won't vote in this election. Officials have urged people to cast ballots but tellingly, no information has been released this year from the state-owned polling center ISPA about expected turnout — a constant feature of past elections. Of 21 Iranians interviewed recently by The Associated Press, only five said they would vote. Thirteen said they won't and three said they were undecided.  


Watch Iran’s ‘Sham Election’ To See Who’s Rising Within The Regime | New York Sun 

… The most important role of that group of regime loyalists is to handpick the next supreme leader. Its 88 members, known as Mujtahids, are elected to serve a term of eight years. In that time span Mr. Khamenei, who will turn 85 in April and is reported to be in bad health, is likely to leave the stage. “Rouhani’s disqualification is important,” the policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, Jason Brodsky, tells the Sun. “It shows that Khamanei does not take chances by installing people he doesn’t trust” in the Assembly of Experts. “He wants his legacy to be preserved” by ensuring that the next top ayatollah would continue his policies. The election for the Majlis is less significant than for the Assembly of Experts. The parliament  no longer has any say on directing policy. The group’s members “are all yes-men, and the little criticism that the regime allowed in the past no longer exists,” Mr. Sabti says.  

US Blacklists First Shipowner For Supporting Houthis Since Terrorist Designation | Tradewinds 

… United Against Nuclear Iran chief of staff Claire Jungman said the sanctions against the Artura and Koahana show the “power of persistent advocacy” by the group, also known as UANI. She told TradeWinds that UANI first identified the Artura in Iran in February of last year as it loaded a cargo at Kharg Island, Iran, and later delivered it to China. It has moved at least three other Iran-connected cargoes, moving more than 4m barrels of oil from the country. “These vessels, part of the wider network UANI has been spotlighting, represent just the tip of the iceberg,” Jungman said on X. “Our continuous call for action is yielding results, undermining Iran’s attempts to evade sanctions through maritime manoeuvers.”  

US Blacklists Tanker Shipowner As VLCC With $100m Cargo Heads To China | Tradewinds 

… The ship’s flag state Panama was told about the suspected involvement of the ship in the Iranian oil trade in May 2023 by the campaign group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which tracks the Iranian tanker trade. In a letter to flag administrators, UANI said the ship, then named Irises and owned and operated by Iridescent, was involved the previous month in a ship-to-ship transfer of Iranian oil with another VLCC, the Suriname-owned 300-000-dwt Vigor (built 2004). The Vigor in return received the oil from an Iranian tanker, said UANI. The group claimed that the tanker was also linked to the transport of Venezuelan crude, a trade that had been blacklisted by the United States.  

US Sanctions Two Tankers Linked To Iranian Armed Forces And Houthis | Lloyd’s List 

According to Ofac, Artura conducted STS transfers with Mehle (IMO: 9191711), which was sanctioned in January, also for ties to al-Jamal. In some instances, Artura obfuscated its identity by using the name of a different tanker, Sanan II, Ofac said. Both Kohana and Artura were also previously cited by New York-based advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran as involved in sanctioned Iranian trades. The blacklisting comes amid an apparent refocus by the US on Iran’s commodity exports linked to military and proxy financing in the aftermath of the October 7 atrocities and rising tensions in the Middle East.  


Iran Has Reduced Stockpile Of Near Weapons-Grade Uranium, Says Nuclear Watchdog | CNN 

Iran has reduced its stockpile of near weapons-grade uranium in the months since October 2023, according to a confidential report from the International Atomic Weapons Agency (IAEA) viewed by CNN on Tuesday. In October, Iran possessed 128.3 kilograms (282.9 pounds) of uranium enriched to approximately 60%, the highest level documented by the IAEA. By February, the stockpile had been reduced to 121.5 kilograms, according to the report. Iran reduced the quantity of near weapons-grade uranium by mixing 31.8 kilograms of the stockpile with uranium enriched to a much lower level, around 2%, according to the report. However, while Iran had reduced its stockpile of near weapons-grade uranium, the report also noted a steady increase in stocks of uranium enriched to 20%. These grew from 567.1 kilograms in October to 712.2 kilograms in February.  


Public Frustration At Unrest And Poor Economy Threatens Turnout In Iran Elections | Times Of Israel 

Iran is holding parliamentary elections this Friday, yet the real question may not be who gets elected but how many people actually turn out to vote. Widespread discontent over the cratering economy, years of mass protests rocking the country, and tensions with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program and Iran’s support for Russia in its war on Ukraine have many people quietly saying they won’t vote in this election. Officials have urged people to cast ballots but tellingly, no information has been released this year from the state-owned polling center ISPA about expected turnout — a constant feature of past elections. Of 21 Iranians interviewed recently by The Associated Press, only five said they would vote. Thirteen said they won’t and three said they were undecided.  


Iran Satellite Launch From Russia Fuels Fears Over Moscow-Tehran Ties | Iran International 

An Iranian satellite is to be launched into space from Russia on Thursday, Tehran’s information and communications minister has announced. The Pars 1 carries a 15-meter camera enabling it to send high-resolution images of surface locations from its orbit 500km above the earth. The launch aboard a Soyuz rocket will raise fresh concerns about the deepening security alliance between Moscow and Tehran. Last month, Iran announced the launch of the Sorayya satellite, utilizing the indigenous Qaem 100 satellite carrier, as part of its space program led by the aerospace division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has drawn scrutiny from Western nations. While Iran maintains that its satellite initiatives are aimed at enhancing communication capabilities, critics argue that the efforts are closely linked with the country's missile development program, both managed by the IRGC.  

Unflagged Ship Smuggling Houthi Missile Parts Was Talking To IRGC, FBI Reveals | Iran International 

The crew of an unflagged ship allegedly smuggling missile parts to Houthi rebels were talking by satellite phone to Revolutionary Guard members, according to an FBI affidavit. The revelation comes as the captain and three other men from the dhow are due to appear in a federal court in Virginia on Tuesday. The vessel was intercepted by US naval forces in January in the Arabian Sea amid continuing Houthi attacks on shipping in the region. Two American Navy SEALs drowned in the operation. The captain, Pakistani national Muhammad Pahlawan, refused to slow the ship when the US Navy began its boarding attempt.  


Secret Service Paid Over $12 Million For A Year's Protection Of 2 Trump Advisers From Potential Iranian Threats | CBS News 

John Bolton and Robert O'Brien, two former national security advisers who served in the Trump administration, required ongoing U.S. Secret Service protection long after they left their positions due to potential threats from Iran. Newly released documents reveal the cost to taxpayers of that security. For nearly one year of protection, the total for both individuals was $12,280,324. The cost of the security details was disclosed in a series of Department of Homeland Security reports to Congress, signed by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The reports were obtained by "60 Minutes" through a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Secret Service, as part of a report about Iran's escalating threats against former Trump officials. While the Homeland Security reports do not mention Iran by name, "60 Minutes" has independently verified that Bolton and O'Brien were receiving protection due to possible threats from the regime. The DHS documents disclose the protection for both men involves dedicated special agents, 24 hours a day, covering their homes and offices, as well as domestic and foreign travel. Officials like Bolton and O'Brien do not typically receive this level of protection once they leave office, and not for as long as both have been receiving it.  

Iran Continues To Offer Safe Haven To Al-Qaeda, US Confirms | Iran International 

Iran continues to allow al-Qaeda to facilitate its terrorist activities, a key communication channel to transfer funds and fighters to South Asia, Syria, and elsewhere, the US State Department told Iran International. The State Department said that “Iran continues to deny al-Qaeda’s presence in the country, despite their knowledge of al-Qaeda leadership figures’ activities there," the relationship dating back to as early as 2009. The State Department also confirmed remarks by James Rubin, the US special coordinator for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, who recently talked of “a new partnership between Iran and al-Qaeda" in a briefing in London, saying that Iran is harboring al-Qaeda leaders inside its soil. The department also emphasized that “Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism, facilitating a wide range of terrorist activities and other illicit activities around the world -- in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, through militant groups and terrorists such as Hezbollah and Hamas.”  


VOA’s Acting Director Denounces Iran For Convicting VOA Persian Journalists In Absentia For ‘Propaganda’ Crimes | Voice Of America 

The Voice of America’s acting director has denounced Iran for convicting a number of VOA Persian journalists in absentia for the alleged crime of spreading antigovernment propaganda. The convictions came to light last week, when hacking group Edaalat Ali published Iranian judiciary documents showing that a Tehran Revolutionary Court handed guilty verdicts to dozens of Persian journalists from VOA and other Western news outlets in a secret 2022 trial. In a Tuesday statement, acting VOA Director John Lippman said, “These actions by Iran are typical of a regime that does not value human rights or the rule of law. They are thinly veiled attempts to stop the free flow of information into Iran. They are also evidence of the success of VOA Persian in having an influential role in keeping the issues of women’s rights, open expression, and the importance of a free society front and center in Iran. VOA stands by our journalists and their reporting.” Iran’s U.N. mission in New York did not immediately respond to a VOA email sent Tuesday requesting comment on Lippman’s statement.  


Gallant: Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas Hope To Turn Ramadan Into ‘2nd Stage Of October 7’ | Times Of Israel 

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday Israel has identified that Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas are aiming to take advantage of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and turn it into “the second stage of October 7, and ignite the ground.” Speaking during an assessment at the IDF Central Command, Gallant said, “Hamas’s main goal is to take Ramadan, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and turn it into the second phase of their plan that began on October 7. This is the main goal of Hamas, it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah.” “We must not give Hamas what it has not been able to achieve since the beginning of the war and converge the combat fronts,” Gallant warned. Hamas called its mass-murdering October 7 onslaught on southern Israel “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” in an effort to claim religious legitimacy for its atrocities. Announcing the brutal incursion, Mohammad Deif, the Hamas military commander, urged Arabs in Jerusalem and inside Israel, the Negev, the Galilee and northern Israel to “set the earth on fire under the feet of the occupiers” — a call that has so far remained unanswered by Arab Israelis.  

Iran Hacking Group Impersonates Defense Firms, Hostage Campaigners | Cyberscoop 

An Iranian-sponsored cyberespionage unit is impersonating major brands like Boeing and the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI as part of a social engineering and phishing campaign targeting the aerospace, aviation and defense industries across the Middle East, researchers with Mandiant said late Tuesday. The Iranian hacking group has also been observed employing a fake website playing on the Israel-Hamas war, using the “Bring Them Home Now!” slogan associated with a campaign to free hostages held by Hamas. The website is the latest example of the way in which Iranian hacking groups are using the conflict between Israel and Hamas to carry out opportunistic attacks linked to the fighting. The Iranian campaign relies on phony job offers from major international companies and the fake hostage-themed website to funnel targets to compromised websites designed to either harvest credentials or deliver one of two previously unreported and unique backdoors dubbed “MINIBUS” and “MINIBIKE,” the researchers said.  

US Military Reports Destroying 5 Houthi Drones | Voice Of America 

The U.S. military said U.S. and coalition forces shot down five Houthi drones late Tuesday in the Red Sea. U.S. Central Command said the drones were launched from areas of Yemen controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and that the drones “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the U.S. Navy and coalition ships in the region.” The strikes were the latest in months of actions seeking to counter attacks by the Houthis against vessels in the Red Sea.  


Flashpoint Iran: Many Iranians, Struggling With Inflation, Show Apathy Ahead Of Uncompetitive Parliamentary Election | Voice Of America 

Independent Persian chief editor Camelia Entekhabifard on why many voters in Iran were apathetic ahead of March 1 parliamentary elections. VOA Persian managing editor Arash Sigarchi on Tehran’s Revolutionary Court convicting him and 10 other VOA Persian journalists in absentia for alleged propaganda crimes after a secret trial. U.N. Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Iran Javaid Rehman on why he is optimistic as he prepares to end his six-year mandate in a few months. Iranian American entrepreneur and attorney Rumi Parsa on why U.S. social media giants Meta and X penalized Iranian government accounts this month, one year after he sued them in U.S. federal court to take such action.  

Iran’s Parliament Election 2024: What You Need To Know | New York Times 

Iran is holding parliamentary elections on March 1, the first general vote since an uprising, led by women and girls, swept across the country in 2022, calling for an end to the Islamic Republic’s rule. The government violently crushed the protests, but demands for change endure and many Iranians view boycotting the vote as an act of protest. Election turnout is expected to be low, especially in the capital, Tehran, and other major cities, according to the government’s own polls cited in Iranian media. The election is important because voter turnout is viewed by both supporters and critics of the government as a barometer for legitimacy. Opponents say they are sitting out the vote to signal that they no longer believe meaningful change can come through the ballot box under the current system.There is a separate election on March 1 for electing members of an 88-seat body called the Assembly of Experts.  


Iran Exports To Russia Hit High Of $2B As Sanctions Strengthen Alliance | Al-Monitor 

Iran's exports to Russia passed the $2 billion mark in 2023, Iran's ambassador to Moscow said in an interview with the state-run IRNA news agency on Monday. The figure, according to Kazem Jalali, marked a considerable jump compared to previous years. Fruits, polymer products, vehicles and non-metal minerals and chemical products top the list of Iranian commodities shipped to Russia, according to the Tehran-based Navad-e Eghtesadi news website, which tracks the country's economic developments.  Also, data released in November by the Tehran Chamber of Commerce indicated that Iran's exports to Russia witnessed a 30% rise throughout the year. But Russian exports to Iran in recent years come mainly from the agricultural sector. Both under severe international sanctions, Moscow and Tehran have grown increasingly closer in their economic alliance, particularly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The war resulted in Russia becoming the world's most sanctioned state, a spot earlier held by Iran.  


US Official: Iranian And Hezbollah Operatives In Yemen Are Aiding Houthi Attacks | Times Of Israel 

Operatives from Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are working inside Yemen to support Houthi insurgents’ attacks on international shipping, a US official said Tuesday. Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, told a Senate subcommittee that Iran’s clerical state was “equipping and facilitating” the Houthi attacks, which have triggered retaliatory US and British strikes on Yemen. “Credible public reports suggest a significant number of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives are supporting Houthi attacks from inside Yemen,” Lenderking said. “I can’t imagine the Yemeni people want these Iranians in their country. This must stop,” he said. The White House said in December that Iran was “deeply involved” in planning the attacks, which the Houthis say are acts of solidarity with the Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war.