Iran Says Israel Is Responsible For 'Plot' Against Gas Pipelines – Tasnim

TOP STORIES 

Iran Says Israel Is Responsible For 'Plot' Against Gas Pipelines – Tasnim | Reuters 

Israel was behind last week's attack on Iranian gas pipelines, Iran's Oil Minister Javad Owji said on Wednesday according to semi-official Tasnim news agency. Two explosions hit Iran's main south-north gas pipeline network on Feb. 14 and were initially described by Owji as a "terrorist act of sabotage", without naming any suspects. "The enemy intended to disrupt households' gas supplies ... but within two hours our colleagues worked to counter the Israeli plot which only damaged several pipes," Owji said on Wednesday. In December, a hacking group that Iran accuses of having links to Israel claimed it carried out a cyber-attack which disrupted as much as 70% of Iran's petrol stations. 

Iran Released Filipino Seafarer From Seized Oil Tanker St. Nikolas | The Maritime News  

The Philippines’ Undersecretary in the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that one of the eighteen Filipino seafarers aboard the seized oil tanker St. Nikolas was released earlier in the month. He did not provide further details while also calling on the agency to replace the other crewmembers aboard the seized tanker. DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega reports that the unidentified seafarer was released from captivity by Iran on February 4. No details were provided on how the release was arranged, but the Philippines authorities have repeatedly said they were working to free the eighteen crewmembers aboard the vessel.  A week after the tanker was seized by Iranian forces in the Gulf of Oman, Greece was also successful in gaining the release of a cadet who was aboard the vessel. He was repatriated to Greece by the Ambassador arriving back on January 19. Since then, the shipping company, Empire Navigation, has said the crew is safe and being cared for while it was hopeful that additional releases would be coming shortly. 

Israeli Missile Strike On Damascus Flat Kills Two, Syria Says | BBC 

The Syrian military said two civilians died when several missiles hit a block of flats in the Kafr Sousa district. A monitoring group said two foreigners and a Syrian civilian were killed, and that the area was frequented by senior figures from Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese group Hezbollah. The Israeli military has not commented. However, it has previously acknowledged carrying out hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria that it says are linked to Iran and allied armed groups.  

UANI IN THE NEWS 

President Joe Biden’s Response To Iranian Proxy Aggression Fails To Meet The Moment | UANI Senior Advisor Barry Rosen For The News Journal 

The writing may have been on the wall, but forty-five years ago, it was difficult to see that the Shah of Iran was nearing his downfall. Similarly, regime leaders celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution this week may not fully recognize that the Islamic Republic is flirting with disaster. At the current pace, and given the availability of Iranian intelligence and advanced weaponry to its terrorist proxies, it may only be a matter of time before the U.S. is forced to strike at Iran directly.  According to press reports, there have been more than 160 recorded attacks targeting American soldiers in Iraq and Syria by Iranian proxies since October, the USS Carney and its crew of 329 was attacked last month with anti-ship cruise missiles, and freedom of navigation – which the U.S. considers a national interest and pledged to defend – is under threat around the entirety of the Arabian peninsula by Iran and Iran-backed forces. Arab and Israeli allies, too, have come under attack. Then, last month, three U.S. servicemen were killed by a militia funded, armed, and trained by Iran – an act of war by any definition. 

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM 

Iran Rejects UN Watchdog’s Transparency Concerns, Claims Peaceful Nuclear Intent | The Media Line 

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Monday denied claims by the UN’s nuclear watchdog about Iran’s lack of transparency in its nuclear program. Responding to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi’s statements in Dubai, Kanaani insisted Iran’s nuclear initiatives were peaceful, aligning with international standards and the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Kanaani emphasized Iran’s adherence to its commitments under the JCPOA and highlighted Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s stance against nuclear armament. He criticized what he described as the politicization of nuclear issues and reiterated Iran’s interest in reviving the JCPOA despite stalled talks since August 2022.

Iran Dismisses Plan By UN Nuclear Watchdog Head To Visit Next Month | Jerusalem Post 

Iran's nuclear chief on Wednesday dismissed a suggestion that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi would visit Iran next month but instead invited Grossi to a conference in Tehran in May. Grossi said this week Iran was continuing to enrich uranium well beyond the needs for commercial nuclear use and said he planned to visit Tehran next month to tackle "drifting apart" relations between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic. 

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS 

Iran Keeps Port Traffic Confidential Amid Global Sanctions | Iran International 

As Iran continues to work to evade global sanctions, one of the country's leading figures has admitted the regime is deliberately concealing its maritime activities to avoid scrutiny. Jalil Eslami, Deputy Head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization (IPMO), emphasized the need for discretion regarding the ports where Iran faces traffic restrictions, saying, "Considering the current conditions, Iranian ships face restrictions on traffic in some ports, but it is not a good move to announce the names of those ports." Eslami's statement follows the recent ban on Iranian ships at India's Mundra port due to sanctions measures and in the wake of earlier disclosures by Iranian transportation officials regarding maritime challenges globally. While India has historically maintained friendly relations with Iran and has been a significant trading partner, it has also adhered to international sanctions regimes, particularly those imposed by the United Nations. The recent ban will have major economic consequences. 

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM 

Dozens Of UK-Based Iranian Journalists Harassed, Leaked Intel Reveals | Iran International 

Top secret intelligence documentation obtained by a hacktivist group reveals Tehran targeted dozens of Iran International TV staff with financial bans and threats to their families amid protests in 2019. The network was aware of the intimidation tactics at the time, but the documents, obtained by Edalat-e Ali (Ali's Justice) hackers, offer indisputable proof that Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and judicial officials were coordinating the harassment efforts. In November 2019, a sudden hike in gasoline prices led to nationwide street protests that were met with overwhelming brute force by the Islamic Republic’s security and paramilitary forces. In a matter of days, around 1,500 people were killed by these forces, Reuters reported at the time. Amid official denials, misrepresenting protesters as organized mobs attacking public property, Iran International deployed its full resources to report about the real situation. 

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

Executed Protester's Mother Accuses Iran Of Falsifying Will | Iran International 

Masoumeh Ahmadi, the mother of Mohammad Ghobadlou, a protester executed last month, has accused the government of falsifying his last will and testament before his execution. In an Instagram post on Monday, Ahmadi said, "This is neither Mohammad's handwriting nor his signature," underscoring the lack of authenticity. "They did not allow my son the opportunity to say goodbye to his family and bid us farewell." The document shows a pre-prepared form outlining religious rituals after execution, with handwritten entries and a signature below. However, certain sections, notably the 'remarks' section, remain conspicuously blank, raising suspicions of manipulation. "The lies continue," Ahmadi fumed. "I wish there were consequences for lying." 

Jailed Iranian Activists Punished For Announcing Election Boycott | Iran Wire 

Iranian authorities have taken punitive measures against three prominent political prisoners who had intensified their criticisms of the Islamic Republic ahead of parliamentary elections. Sociologist Saeed Madani, activist Hossein Razzaq and Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, have said they would boycott the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections on March 1. In retribution the authorities transferred Madani and Razzaq to a different ward of Tehran’s Evin prison, while Tajzadeh was placed in solitary confinement. All three were also deprived of their right to make phone calls outside the prison. In a letter published on his Telegram channel on February 18, Tajzadeh accused Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of being responsible for the current "flawed structure of the political system in Iran." 

Rights Group Says Number Of Christians Arrested In Iran On The Rise | Radio Free Europe 

The number of Christians arrested in Iran jumped sharply in the last six months of 2023, according to a religious rights group, which called on the government to “immediately and unconditionally” release all Christians detained on charges relating to their faith and religious activities. The report, released by Article 18, a rights organization focused on the protection of Christians, showed 166 Christians were detained last year, an increase from the 134 arrests recorded in 2022. The group said that while the first half of the year saw only a "handful" of arrests, a worrying trend was that from June to August there were 100 arrests and then "a further rash" of detentions around the Christmas period. "Very few of those arrested agreed to publicize their cases, leading to an increasing number of faceless victims,” Article 18 said. 

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS 

Attacks On US Military From Iran-Backed Forces Have Stopped For Now After Deadly January: Pentagon | Washington Examiner 

Iranian-supported militias in Iraq and Syria have carried out more than 180 attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East since mid-October, but there haven’t been any for more than two weeks now. The most recent attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan were carried out on Feb. 4, deputy Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Tuesday. It’s unclear whether the cessation will continue long-term. The back and forth between U.S. forces and those militias culminated in the killing of three U.S. troops in Jordan on Jan. 28. Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, and Spc. Breonna Moffett were killed in one of these attacks at Tower 22, a small military base in northeast Jordan near its borders with Syria and Iraq. In the days after that attack, Iranian Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani met representatives of several of the armed groups in Baghdad and informed them that killing U.S. forces would incur a heavy response, according to Reuters. 

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS 

Hacktivist Group Breaches Iranian Judiciary Servers | Iran International 

The hacktivist group Edalat-e Ali has disclosed a major breach in the servers of the Iranian judiciary, boasting access to a vast repository comprising millions of files and a treasure trove of confidential documents. The documents encompass a spectrum of sensitive subjects, ranging from internal deliberations within the National Security Council following the death of Mahsa Amini to efforts aimed at quelling unauthorized VPN vendors, protests against the 2020 employment examination, and cases related to economic corruption. The group unveiled a series of documents suggesting the complicity of the Iranian government in prosecuting prominent public figures during the 2022 uprising and preceding events.  Edalat-e Ali exposed document highlighting the Iranian regime's clandestine endeavors to exert control over public figures, particularly those occupying influential positions in the realms of entertainment and sports. Financial sanctions, bank freezes, travel bans and more have hit celebrities across the board. 

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Syria Blames Israel For Deadly Airstrike In Damascus | New York Times 

Syrian state media reported on Wednesday that an airstrike on a residential building in Damascus had killed two people, and said that Israel was responsible for the attack. The Israeli military declined to comment on the strike, which the Syrian government’s official SANA news agency said hit a building in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood just after 9:30 a.m. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said that a third person had been killed by shrapnel from the attack, which also damaged surrounding buildings. A strike last February in the same neighborhood killed at least five people. At the time, a senior Western diplomat said the strike was targeting Iranians near a site used by the Iranian military. While Israel did not comment on the latest attack, it has acknowledged hundreds of past strikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria. 

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN 

Houthis Shoot Down US MQ-9 Reaper Drone Flying Near Yemen | ABC News 

An American MQ-9 Reaper flying near Yemen has been shot down by Houthi militants, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News and the Pentagon later said on Tuesday. The Houthis said they had targeted the Reaper as well as two American ships in the Gulf of Aden in a statement Monday. This is their second downing of a Reaper, having shot one down one in international airspace near Yemen in November. The U.S. has designated the Houthis as a global terrorist organization amid rising regional tensions and a consistent deployment of missiles and drones against each other since war in Gaza broke out. 

IRAQ & IRAN 

Iraq Foreign Minister: We Need An Apology From Iran And Proof About 'Mossad Base' | The National 

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein described his country’s relationship with the US as “damaged”, but said it was being “repaired”. That is not the only relationship in need of repair, as he also described ties with Iran as “damaged”. Mr Hussein is a seasoned Iraqi politician and one with a vast network of connections and friendships, from Washington to Tehran. And today, his mission includes negotiating an agreement with the US about the future of the two countries’ military ties and, by extension, their entire bilateral relationship. Two decades on from the US invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Iraqi government is seeking to end America’s military footprint in the country. While this was a policy adopted by Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani last year, rising tension in the Middle East since the start of the Gaza war has led to numerous militias and Iran-backed groups demanding an immediate end to America’s presence in the region. 

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS 

Iran And Sri Lanka Commit To Deepening Bilateral Relations | Jerusalem Post 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Sri Lankan counterpart, Ali Sabry, met in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday to discuss bolstering bilateral ties across a broad spectrum of areas. During a joint press briefing, Sabry highlighted the "extensive and comprehensive discussion" that took place, emphasizing the longstanding excellent relations between the two nations and the potential for further cooperation in politics, economics, trade, tourism, science, and technology. Sabry expressed gratitude for Iran's support during Sri Lanka's economic crisis, including a $50 million loan for the Uma Oya multipurpose development project, expected to significantly contribute to Sri Lanka's electricity needs. 

MISCELLANEOUS 

Having Banned US Social Media, Iran Receives Same Treatment | Amwaj News 

The story: Twitter/X has removed the verified status of several accounts linked to the Iranian state. The move follows accusations by a campaign group that the social media giant is profiting from sanctioned entities by offering them premium subscriptions. Twitter/X’s measure also comes after a decision by Meta—the parent company of Facebook and Instagram—to remove some accounts run by the Office of Iran’s Supreme Leader. Rights and political activists have long urged US tech giants to boot Iranian state entities and officials, pointing to how the Islamic Republic has filtered Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter/X in past years. The coverage: Iranian state media reported on Feb. 15 that its branches had lost verified status on Twitter/X. English-language news service PressTV, which was one of the accounts to lose its checkmark, claimed that Twitter/X had made the decision “under Israeli lobby pressure.” Other accounts to have their paid verified status removed include Arabic-language Al-Alam TV, Spanish-language HispanTV, Iran’s official IRNA news agency, judiciary-run Mizan news agency, and the hardline Tasnim News Agency. PadDolat, the government’s information website, also lost its verified badge on Twitter/X.