Navy units from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intercepted U.S. speedboats in the Persian Gulf, state-run Islamic Republic of Iran News Network reported, without specifying when the alleged confrontation took place. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which polices the waters, said no such incident occurred. Iran’s state broadcaster published a video on Thursday in which Iranian forces are heard saying, “Let’s get closer and give them a warning” and “Point the heavy machine gun at them.”
The United States believes an "imminent" return to indirect talks in Vienna over a return to the Iran nuclear deal is necessary because the process cannot go on indefinitely, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday. Price said a diplomatic path remained open and noted that Tehran had said it would return to the talks "soon." "We hope their definition of soon matches our definition of soon," Price said. "We would like negotiations to resume in Vienna as soon as possible."
Iran is ready to build two power plants in Lebanon, one in Beirut and the other in the south of the country, in a period of 18 months, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said after meeting Lebanese officials on Thursday. He also told a news conference in Beirut that Iran is willing to help rebuild the port of Beirut, destroyed by a massive blast in August 2020, if the Lebanese government makes such a request. The explosion devastated swathes of the Lebanese capital and left more than 200 people dead.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Reports Oct. 6 said that a meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin could take place Oct. 22. The reports said that the meeting would focus on Iran and on other strategic regional issues. Still, it seems that the date has not been finalized yet for a Bennett visit to Moscow, and could be postponed. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Moscow Sept. 9 and met there with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. The possibility of a Bennett-Putin meeting was discussed on that occasion, but without naming a date.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian drones are an emerging threat to the Middle East. In 2019, Iran used a combination of drones and cruise missiles to attack the giant Abqaiq oil-processing facility in Saudi Arabia, using precision strikes to send a message that Iran’s drones could not strike at will across the region and destabilize economies and countries. Now Iran’s drones are again in the spotlight, following reports by The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and other media.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran is building up its military presence on its border with Azerbaijan in a dispute between the neighbors over Israel. What started as local muscle-flexing could develop into a more serious confrontation with wider ramifications for a region crisscrossed by pipelines shipping oil and natural gas to the West, and in which Russia and Turkey also have strong interests. The most recent tensions began when Iran alleged that Azerbaijan was allowing Israel’s military to have a presence near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Citing “Israel’s presence,” Iran staged military drills close to the border on Oct. 1.
A day after Azerbaijan's leader was seen caressing a lethal drone supplied by Israel, neighboring Iran's new top diplomat met with his Russian counterpart to discuss boosting bilateral ties and establishing a plan to settle growing tensions at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Upon his arrival in Moscow on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian previewed his concerns toward suspected enemy activity in the Caucasus, telling reporters he expected Russia to share Iran's concerns regarding "any possible change of borders, the presence of terrorists and Zionist movements that run contrary to the peace, stability and security of the region."
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia have gone a "good distance", Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told a news conference in Beirut on Thursday, referring to efforts to improve ties. Iran and Saudi Arabia, the leading Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, have been rivals for years, backing allies fighting proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere. They cut diplomatic ties in 2016. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan confirmed on Sunday that his government had held its first round of direct talks with Iran's new government last month, part of a process begun earlier this year to reduce tensions.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
A row between Iran and South Korea is intensifying, with Tehran threatening legal action unless Seoul releases more than $7 billion in funds for oil shipments frozen because of US sanctions. The Islamic republic was South Korea's third-largest Middle Eastern trade partner before the US unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions. Iran had been a key oil supplier to resource-poor South Korea and in turn imported industrial equipment, household appliances and vehicle spare parts from Seoul.
Within Iran’s political establishment, both hard-liners and moderates share the same goal of ensuring the survival of the regime and the concept of Velayat-e Faqih (guardianship, or rule, of the Islamic jurist). Leading adherents of both political ideologies are regime insiders and are loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. However, there is a difference between the two camps: The means they rely on to reach the ultimate objective. This important distinction can shed light on the regional and foreign policies of the regime, depending on which political camp controls the relevant part of the government.