How An Iranian-Backed Militia Ties Down U.S. Naval Forces In The Red Sea


How An Iranian-Backed Militia Ties Down U.S. Naval Forces In The Red Sea | The Wall Street Journal 

It was just after 9 p.m. when radar operators aboard this U.S. Navy destroyer in the Red Sea spotted a tiny arrow on their screens: a missile hurtling toward them at five times the speed of sound. The crew of the warship with 300 sailors aboard had just seconds to shoot it down. As the projectile closed in, the Laboon launched an interceptor from silos beneath its deck, destroying the incoming missile in flight. The Jan. 9 attack was one of the largest maritime battles the U.S. has faced since World War II. Houthi rebels in Yemen that day launched 18 drones and cruise missiles along with the ballistic missile at the Laboon and three other American destroyers, a U.S. aircraft carrier and a British warship in an attack that unfolded over a dozen hours.  

Iranian Authorities Release French National Louis Arnaud, Imprisoned For Over 20 Months | Associated Press 

French national Louis Arnaud arrived in France on Thursday after he was released by Iran where he was imprisoned for over 20 months for allegedly taking part in nationwide protests. Arnaud was greeted at Paris-Le-Bourget airport by his family in the presence of French Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Séjourné. French President Emmanuel Macron posted on the social media platform X on Wednesday that “Louis Arnaud is free” and thanked Oman, an interlocutor for the West with Iran, and “all those who helped bring this happy outcome.” Arnaud had been arrested in September 2022 along with other Europeans. French media reported that Arnaud, a consultant in his 30s, was accused of having taken part in nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amin, a young woman who died after being arrested for allegedly not wearing her headscarf, or hijab, to the liking of security forces.  

Iran Expanding Enrichment Capacity After IAEA Resolution, Diplomats Say | Reuters 

Iran is responding to last week's U.N. nuclear watchdog board resolution against it by expanding its uranium-enrichment capacity at two underground sites, but the escalation is not as big as many had feared, diplomats said on Wednesday. Iran bristles at such resolutions by the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors, and it reacted to the previous one 18 months earlier by enriching to up to 60% purity, close to weapons grade, at a second site and announcing a large expansion of its enrichment programme. This time it plans to install more cascades, or clusters, of centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium, at both its underground enrichment sites, five diplomats said. IAEA inspectors observing Iran's progress plan to issue a report to member states on Thursday, three of the diplomats said. "It's not as much as I would expect," one Vienna-based diplomat said, referring to the scale of Iran's escalation.  


The Enemy In The Job Board | Hakai Magazine 

..Starting from a list of known Russia-affiliated oil smuggling vessels kept by the nonprofit watchdog United Against Nuclear Iran, journalist Nathaniel Peutherer was able to cross reference the ships on that list against old job postings by using vessel identification numbers kept by the International Maritime Organization. The names of vessels involved in the shadow fleet are regularly changed, but their identification numbers do not vary. For cases where the ship owners hid their vessel’s identification number, Peutherer used a specific set of ship characteristics to match job postings to a particular vessel. Other vessels were confirmed directly by contacting crewing agencies. These alternative approaches make tracking vessels through their myriad identity changes somewhat possible.  


World Bank Says Iran's GDP Growth Is Decelerating | Iran International 

After relatively strong GDP growth in 2023, Iran's economic growth would decelerate in the current and next two years, World Bank reported Wednesday. According to the report, Iran's GDP experienced a 5% growth in 2023, but it would slow down to 3.2% in the current year, 2.7% and 2.3% in next two years. The relatively strong economic growth was related to Iran's oil export boom as well as the service sector. According to OPEC's statistics, Iran's oil production surpassed 3 million barrels per day in 2023, 22% more than the previous year. The production level reached 3.2 mb/d in March and hasn't increased more. Before US sanctions imposed in 2018 and expanded in 2019, Iran’s crude oil output was above 3.8 mb/d in 2017. It declined to below 2 mb/d in 2020, but since Joe Biden took office at While House, Iran’s oil production began to increase. This was the result of more crude exports to China that had dwindled to less than 200,000 barrels p/d during the Trump administration.  

Ex-Iranian President Says Government's Top Priority Must Be Lifting Sanctions | Iran International 

Former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stated that the most crucial task for the upcoming president will be to help lift sanctions. “It is clear that the task of lifting sanctions is not a simple one, but it can be achieved with a balanced approach that neither leans towards Eastern nor Western policy,” Rouhani said in a statement published on Wednesday. “And with a global collaboration strategy and the utilization of competent, dedicated, and fearless personnel.” Rouhani advocated for a foreign policy stance transcending the dichotomy of East versus West, contrasting with Khamenei's prominent "Looking East" strategy, underpinning the hardliners' push for a "revolutionary economy." Major decisions concerning Iran’s foreign policy originate from Khamenei's headquarters.  


Houthis Say They Targeted Greek-Owned Ship Damaged In Red Sea | Reuters 

Iran-allied Houthi militants on Wednesday took responsibility for small watercraft and missile attacks that left a Greek-owned cargo ship taking on water and in need of rescue near Yemen's Red Sea port of Hodeidah. The Houthis said the Tutor coal carrier was seriously damaged and vulnerable to sinking after they targeted the vessel with an unmanned surface boat, drones and ballistic missiles. "The impact of the (unmanned surface vessel) caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room," U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said of the attack, which was the Houthis' first to use a boat successfully as a weapon. The Houthis control Yemen's capital and most populous areas. They have attacked international shipping in the Red Sea region since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas. They have sunk one ship, seized another vessel, and killed three seafarers in another attack.  

Escalating Houthi Attacks Draw Attention From Iran And Gulf States | The Jerusalem Post 

The Iranian-backed Houthis say they have increased their attacks, targeting Israel. According to Iran’s IRNA state media, the group say they “have confirmed yet another joint operation with the Islamic Resistance in Iraq against the positions of the Zionist regime, including in the occupied Palestinian territories.” The report follows a statement by the Houthi’s Brigadier General Yahya Saree. "We carried out a special operation in the Red Sea using unmanned boats, ballistic missiles, and drones against a ship called Tutor, which could damage the vessel and caused it to sink," Saree said, adding that “our armed forces warn all companies about the consequences of cooperating with the Israeli enemy and their ships entering the ports of occupied Palestine,” according to IRNA. The Houthis also claim to have tried to target Israeli “ports of Ashdo  


Imprisoned Iranian Journalist Suffers Miscarriage After Court Session | Iran Wire 

Saba Azarpeik, an imprisoned Iranian journalist, suffered a miscarriage and lost her two-month-old fetus after being taken from prison to the hospital due to heavy bleeding. In a social media post on Wednesday, her husband Attaullah Hafezi said his wife had undergone a 9-hour court session on Tuesday before the miscarriage. "Yesterday, my wife Saba Azarpeik was transferred from prison to the hospital due to heavy bleeding and lost her pregnancy this month," Hafezi wrote. The 42-year-old journalist was imprisoned due to complaints from parliament speaker and presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and MP Mohsen Dehnavi over publishing "falsehoods, defamation, and threats." She had been sentenced to prison terms totaling 3 years.  


Evidence Of Iran And UAE Drones Used In Sudan War | BBC 

Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been accused of violating a UN arms embargo by supplying drones to the warring sides in the 14-month conflict that has devastated Sudan. We look at the evidence to back up the claim.On the morning of 12 March 2024, Sudanese government soldiers were celebrating an unprecedented military advance. They had finally recaptured the state broadcaster’s headquarters in the capital, Khartoum. Like most of the city, the building had fallen into the hands of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) at the start of the civil war 11 months earlier.What was notable about this military victory for the army was that videos showed the attack was carried out with the help of Iranian-made drones.In the early stages of the war, the army relied on the air force, according to Suliman Baldo, director of the Sudan Transparency and Policy Observatory. “The armed forces found all their preferential forces besieged, and they had no fighting forces on the ground," he says.  


Advisor To Iran’s Khamenei Urges Election Of President Aligned With Supreme Leader | Al Arabiya News

A senior advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei urged Iranians on Wednesday to elect a president who aligns closely with Khamenei’s views in the country’s June 28 presidential election. The election was expedited following the sudden death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month. Originally scheduled for 2025, the election is now set to replace Raisi, who was known for his loyalty to Khamenei. Raisi’s close relationship with the supreme leader had fueled speculation that he might succeed Khamenei as the next supreme leader. On Sunday, the Guardian Council, a body of clerics and jurists overseen by Khamenei that vets all candidates for public office, approved six candidates for the upcoming election. “We hope that our people, given the lessons of recent years, will choose a president whose views do not conflict with the views of the supreme leader,” the state-linked SNN news agency quoted Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior advisor to Khamenei, as saying.  

IRGC: We Will Not Side With Any Presidential Candidate | Asharq Al-Awsat 

Ramezan Sharif, the spokesperson for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said on Wednesday that his forces “will not side with any candidate” in the presidential election scheduled for later this month. Iran will hold its elections following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash. The presidential campaign in Iran kicked off last Monday after Iran's Guardian Council, which oversees elections and legislation, has approved six candidates to run for president, including five conservatives and one reformist. Sharif affirmed his forces “will not interfere” in supporting or opposing any candidate. He also spoke of the IRGC's interest in widespread participation and ensuring the integrity of the electoral process. The state-run Mehr news agency explained that the statement referred to candidates linked to the Revolutionary Guards, in an implicit reference to Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Iran's hardline parliament speaker who held senior IRGC positions before engaging in politics.  


Hezbollah Launches Rocket Barrage After Israeli Strike Kills A Commander | The New York Times 

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired one of its heaviest rocket barrages yet into Israel on Wednesday, targeting military bases and an arms factory, in response to an overnight strike that killed one of its senior commanders as tensions rise further at the border. The commander, Taleb Abdallah, also known as Abu Taleb, was among the highest-ranking members of Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese militia and political movement backed by Iran, to have been killed since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel set off war in Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Hezbollah rocket barrages, according to the Israeli military. Israel and Hamas have been trading fire since Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip prompted Hezbollah to mount cross-border attacks in support of Hamas, but the intensity of Hezbollah’s attacks has increased this month. Israeli officials have threatened at the highest levels to pursue further military action and Hezbollah has vowed to keep up its fight, raising fresh concerns that the months of low-level conflict could grow into a larger war on Israel’s northern border.  


With China-Iran Ties On Rollercoaster, Tehran Can Only Grit Its Teeth, Hang On | Al Monitor 

In a statement just over a week ago, China once again expressed its support for Abu Dhabi’s position in relation to the three islands contested by Iran and the United Arab Emirates. The statement, which was released during the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum held in Beijing, outlined China’s “support for the efforts of the UAE to reach a peaceful solution to the issue of the three islands, the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, through bilateral negotiations.” For the Iranians, there is no need for negotiation, as they have presided over the islands for several decades. Deeply frustrated by the Chinese position, Iran summoned Cong Peiwu, the new Chinese ambassador to the Islamic Republic. During the meeting, the Iranian government expressed its expectation for Beijing to “correct its position” regarding the three islands. Following the meeting with Iranian officials, Beijing doubled down on its position, claiming that the statement reflected their genuinely held stance on the matter.  


US Envoy To Yemen Calls Houthi Arrest Of International Staff ‘Shocking’ | Al Arabiya 

The United States’ ambassador to Yemen on Thursday called on Yemen’s Houthi group to immediately release the detained staff of international organizations including employees of the US embassy in Sanaa. The Iran-aligned Houthis detained 11 United Nations personnel in Yemen last week, according to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app. On Thursday, the US ambassador condemned the detentions and called them “shocking.” “The Houthis owe all of these Yemenis thanks, not false accusations and imprisonment. The people of Yemen deserve better than fanciful Houthi lies meant to bolster their abusive and autocratic rule,” ambassador Steven Fagin said in a statement. The staff members - all Yemenis - were swept up by armed Houthi intelligence officials in a series of raids that also resulted in the detention of three employees of the US-funded pro-democracy group National Democratic Institute (NDI) and three employees of a local human rights group.  


France's Macron Says Citizen Held In Iran Released | Reuters 

President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that Louis Arnaud, one of four French citizens held in Iran since 2022 and who had been sentenced to five years in prison in November, has been released. "Louis Arnaud is free. He will be in France tomorrow after a long incarceration in Iran," Macron said on X, thanking Oman in particular for its role in obtaining his release. The release is rare positive news about France and Iran. Bilateral relations has deteriorated in recent months with Tehran holding four French citizens in what Paris has said are arbitrary arrests equivalent to state hostage taking. France is also increasingly concerned by Iran's regional activities and the advance of its nuclear programme. Arnaud, who had been held since September 2022 after travelling in the country, was sentenced to five years in prison in November on security charges. He was held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. "This evening, I also think of Cecile, Jacques and Olivier. I am calling on Iran to liberate them without delay," Macron said.  


Iran Intensifies Cyber Crackdown Before Election | Iran Wire 

With Iran's presidential election slated for June 28, authorities are escalating efforts to crack down on online dissent and monitor internet activism, citing a need to prevent "criminal acts" on the internet. The commander of the cyber police force, Vahid Majid, announced the implementation of a special operational plan involving 34 working groups across the country to monitor online activity related to the election. "The FATA police will monitor all activities in line with their assigned duties, and if any criminal cases such as vandalism, insults, lies, rumor-spreading, or any actions related to specific election crimes are observed, they will deal with the violators and criminals according to the law," Majid said. FATA, Iran's cyber police unit, operates under the national police command. He added that in the run-up to the June 28 vote, FATA would work closely with the Interior Ministry, prosecutors, and other agencies to "improve security in cyberspace" and carry out their policing missions effectively.