A Tehran court has ordered the US government to pay nearly $50 billion in damages for assassinating a top Iranian general nearly four years ago, the judiciary said on Wednesday. Then-US president Donald Trump ordered a drone strike near Baghdad airport that killed General Qasem Soleimani, 62, and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020. Days later, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at bases in Iraq housing American and other coalition troops. No US personnel were killed but Washington said dozens suffered traumatic brain injuries. The Iranian judiciary's Mizan Online news agency said that a Tehran court had sentenced the US government to pay $49.7 billion in "material, moral and punitive damages" after a lawsuit filed by more than 3,300 Iranians.
Iran is “highly likely” to be directing Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea as it tries to support Hamas’s war with Israel, military analysts have told The National. The Iranian regime has supplied the Yemeni rebels with a large stockpile of anti-ship missiles, including the Khalij Fars, a ballistic weapon that can strike ships at high speeds. On Sunday, the British-owned Unity Explorer was one of two commercial vessels attacked with drones and missiles. The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney reportedly shot down two drones in the ships' defence. Iran is allegedly supplying locations to the Houthis to enable them to attack specific ships but it reportedly does not want to escalate the Israel-Gaza war.
Iran said Wednesday it sent a capsule into orbit capable of carrying animals as it prepares for human missions in coming years. A report by the official IRNA news agency quoted Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour as saying the capsule was launched 130 kilometers (80 miles) into orbit. Zarepour said the launch of the 500-kilogram (1,000-pound) capsule is aimed at sending Iranian astronauts to space in coming years. He did not say if any animals were in the capsule. He told state TV that Iran plans to send astronauts into space by 2029 after further tests involving animals. State TV showed footage of a rocket named Salman carrying the capsule. Iran occasionally announces successful launches of satellites and other space crafts. In September, Iran said it sent a data-collecting satellite into space. In 2013, Iran said it sent a monkey into space and returned it successfully.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for the formation of an international coalition to counter the United States and other Western powers, as he highlighted commonalities in the foreign policies of Tehran and Havana at a meeting with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Monday in Tehran. "Revolutionary honesty, revolutionary resilience and revolutionary firmness are the shared convictions of the Islamic revolution and the Cuban revolution," Khamenei said, according to his official website. The hard-line leader noted that there was sufficient potential in both countries as well as other "like-minded" nations to be channeled toward a coalition against Washington. Iran and Cuba have both been under onerous US economic sanctions for decades, which have left much of their respective populations increasingly grappling with daily grievances amid soaring inflation.
Under mounting international sanctions, Russia and Iran have signed an agreement to make joint efforts to counter Western sanctions. “Declaration of the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran” was signed on Tuesday by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at the end of a forum of Caspian Sea littoral states in Moscow. Lavrov was hosting Amir-Abdollahian ahead of a visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Russia on December 7. "We have just signed a declaration on ways and means to counteract, mitigate and compensate for the negative consequences of unilateral coercive measures," Lavrov said. Both nations have found themselves increasingly isolated on the global stage due to their destabilizing actions. Notably, only a handful of countries, including pariah states like North Korea, and Eritrea, stood by Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Authorities in Iran’s religious city of Mashhad have resorted to displaying their facial recognition capabilities as a measure to frighten women into wearing the hijab. Vahid Tafrihi, the social editor of Khorasan newspaper in Mashhad, was the first to bring the controversial move to public attention in an Instagram post on Monday. His post included a photo of one of the monitors that displays photos of several subway passengers taken from CCTV footage along with their age and gender. “This is the Shariati Station of Line One of Mashhad Metro. The photo of all people who pass by CCTV cameras is shown together with age and gender information on large monitors. Can the municipality explain what it is seeking to achieve by this?” Tafrihi, whose newspaper is owned by the religious shrine in the city, asked. Astan-e Qods-e Razavi is a massive state body under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s control which manages the shrine of the 8th imam of Shiites in Mashhad and its vast economic empire.
Iranian authorities have arrested a popular singer who had criticized the government after he was handed over by police in Turkey, the official IRNA news agency reported Wednesday. Amirhossein Maghsoudloo, better known as Tataloo, has been critical of Iran’s leaders since he had moved to Turkey. It wasn’t clear why he was arrested by Turkish police on Monday, but IRNA reported he was facing complaints for allegedly inviting underage people to his home in Istanbul. IRNA said Turkish police handed over him to Iranian authorities in the northwestern province of West Azerbaijan. Iran’s hard-liners regularly criticize artists and celebrities and authorities have summoned many of them in recent months on various charges, including violations of chastity.
Members of the Iranian security forces raped and used other forms of sexual violence against women and men detained in the crackdown on nationwide protests that erupted from September 2022, Amnesty International said Wednesday. Amnesty said in a report it had documented 45 such cases of rape, gang rape or sexual violence against protesters. With cases in more than half of Iran’s provinces, it expressed fear these documented violations appeared part of a “wider pattern. “Our research exposes how intelligence and security agents in Iran used rape and other sexual violence to torture, punish and inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on protesters, including children as young as 12,” Amnesty’s secretary general Agnes Callamard said. The London-based organization said it had shared its findings with the Iranian authorities on November 24 “but has thus far received no response.”
Iranian border forces have arrested labor rights activist Narges Mansouri while she was “attempting to leave the country illegally,” semi-official media reported. The Mashregh News website, which is closely affiliated with security institutions, reported Mansouri’s arrest on December 5. Mansouri, a member of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company Workers' Union, has been arrested, interrogated and tried many times in recent years. In May 2022, the official IRNA news agency reported that the activist was arrested while trying to illegally exit the country during a prison leave.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The Iranian Army’s navy unveiled a remotely operated unmanned underwater vehicle and a vertical take-off drone at the Iran Army Navy’s exhibition of scientific and technological achievements on December 2, as reported by the Tasnim News Agency. The homegrown vehicle, capable of detecting and destroying various types of underwater mines, has a human operator and can be deployed against both moored and bottom mines. It can operate for up to 24 hours at a depth of up to 200 meters below the surface. The vehicle can address a range of underwater mines laid at depths of 10 to 50 meters, posing a threat to vessels as heavy as 250 tons. It is designed to carry cargo for mine destruction, serving as a valuable addition to the Army navy’s RH-53 mine-sweeping helicopters and minesweeping vessels like the Shahin mine-hunting vessel.
A handful of former United States military leaders have argued in recent days that the Department of Defense has not adequately responded to a series of attacks against U.S. forces carried out by groups with Iran's backing. U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have been attacked dozens of times by Iranian proxies since the middle of October. Houthi rebels in Yemen are the most likely culprit in a series of attacks against commercial vessels in nearby waterways, with the most significant incident occurring just days ago. National security adviser Jake Sullivan pointed the finger at Iran for the attacks on Monday, telling White House reporters, "We have every reason to believe that these attacks, while they were launched by the Houthis in Yemen, were fully enabled by Iran." Sullivan also noted that the U.S. is speaking with other allies about the possibility of a "maritime task force of sorts involving the ships from partner nations alongside the United States in ensuring safe passage — passage of ships in the Red Sea."
CONGRESS & IRAN
A group of Republican senators is pushing President Joe Biden to take a stronger stance on China and Iran with legislation that would aim to drive a wedge between the two countries. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) plans to lead a group of eight senators in introducing the Iran China Accountability Act on Tuesday. The bill would restrict Iran from striking a new nuclear deal with the United States unless Tehran distances itself from Beijing, according to a summary of the bill obtained by The Daily Wire. The seven GOP co-sponsors are Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven of North Dakota, Ted Cruz of Texas, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Today, Senator Rick Scott joined Senator Marsha Blackburn and six of their Republican colleagues in introducing the Iran China Accountability Act to weaken Iran’s ties with Communist China. The legislation prohibits the consideration and use of any U.S. taxpayer dollars to advance a nuclear agreement with Iran until they terminate their ties with the CCP and terrorist groups like Hamas. Senator Rick Scott said, “Iran cannot be trusted. Iran has made the choice to back terrorist organizations like Hamas, who are attacking our ally Israel, beheading babies and holding hundreds hostage. Iran has made the choice to cozy up to one of our nation’s biggest adversaries, Communist China, as it seeks global domination and an end to our way of life. Nothing Iran does is good for America. Our bill makes it clear that until Iran cuts ties with Communist China, condemns human rights abuses and stops funding terrorism against Israel, the U.S. will not spend a single cent to move forward on any nuclear agreement.”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Boom, boom, boom!” The steady burst of munitions emanating from a sprawling US base in a desert outpost in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria has come to sound as natural as the crowing of cocks and the bleating of lambs to the inhabitants of Telle, a mud-caked Arab village that sits on its edge. “When we don’t hear those explosions, that is when we worry; that is when we lose our sleep,” said a local man who would identify himself only as Saleh. “There are always sounds coming from the base,” said Nawaf al-Abed, who grows vegetables for a living. “We don’t know if the Americans are firing or receiving fire,” he mused. “There is a wall between us. They keep to themselves.” “I am afraid of the base. There is always the sound of gunfire,” said 15-year old Abdel Kader. Like many here, he dropped out of school to help sustain his 17-member family, including multiple half-siblings and his ailing father’s second spouse. “I am not curious about it. I have no desire to go there.”
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is set to visit Moscow on December 7 for talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as the two countries strengthen economic and military ties in the face of Western sanctions. "I can confirm. There will be Russian-Iranian negotiations on December 7," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on December 5 when asked about media reports of Raisi's impending visit. According to Iran’s official IRNA news agency, Raisi will be accompanied by a high-ranking political-economic delegation. “Consultation on bilateral issues, including economic interactions, as well as dialogue on regional and international issues, especially the issue of Palestine and developments in Gaza, will be the main agenda of the president of our country in this one-day trip,” it added. Tehran and Moscow have deepened their bilateral ties, particularly in the military sphere, since the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
A second teenager injured in a clash between Afghan and Iranian youths in Meybod this week is in a critical condition as calls for the expulsion of illegal Afghans grow. After the killing of Amir-Reza Aghaei last Thursday, public demonstrations took place on Friday, as residents of Meybod urged the government to deport Afghan immigrants who have no legal status. Of the 90,000 population in Meybod, around 12,000 are believed to be Afghans. Two teenagers were stabbed on Thursday and subsequently rushed to hospital. One succumbed to his injuries, and the other, Amirhossein Rahimi, was transferred to a hospital in Yazd for urgent surgery where his condition remains critical. Speaking to Etemad, Amir-Reza's uncle demanded the harshest punishment for the attackers. ChamaranBaharloui, the prosecutor of Meybod, announced that two suspects have been identified and arrested in connection with the murder case.