Iran's Pars 1 Satellite Enters Space After Russian Launch


Iran's Pars 1 Satellite Enters Space After Russian Launch | Reuters 

Russia launched into space an Iranian research satellite which will scan Iran's topography from an orbit of 500 km (310 miles), Iran's state media reported on Thursday. The remote Pars 1 research-sensing satellite, launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, weighs 134 kg (295 pounds) and is equipped with three cameras. The cosmodrome, which came into service in 2016, is in the Amur region of Russia's Far East, not far from the Russian border with China and about 1,500 km (930 miles) from the port of Vladivostok.  

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. “If I protest about some shortcoming, many police and security agents will try to stop me,” said Amin, a 21-year-old university student who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals. “But if I die from hunger on the corner of one of the main streets, they will show no reaction.” Over 15,000 candidates are vying for a seat in the 290-member parliament, formally known as the Islamic Consultative Assembly. Terms runs for four years and five seats are reserved for Iran’s religious minorities.  

Biden Acts To Stop Sales Of Sensitive Personal Data To China And Russia | New York Times 

President Biden issued an executive order Wednesday seeking to restrict the sale of sensitive American data to China, Russia and four more countries, a first-of-its-kind attempt to keep personally identifying information from being obtained for blackmail, scams or other harm. The president asked the Justice Department to write rules restricting the sale of information about Americans’ locations, health and genetics to China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, as well as any entities linked to those countries. The restrictions would also cover financial information, biometric data and other types of information that could identify individuals and sensitive information related to the government.  


Euroviews. Iran's Upcoming Election Is A Mafia-Style Tussle Of Khamenei's Minions | UANI Senior Advisor Saeid Golkar And UANI IRGC Research Director Kasra Aarabi For Euronews 

The 1 March election is set to be an insider patron-client fight, with various oligarchic clans competing to have the upper-hand insider hand and ultimately a greater slice of the pie in the kleptocratic so-called “holy system” that is the Islamic Republic, Saeid Golkar and Kasra Aarabi write. Friday marks parliamentary election day in the Islamic Republic of Iran — or so the regime will want the world to believe. Cue the staged queues lining up at the ballot box ready to deliver their rehearsed script on “Islamic democracy” to international journalists, who will in turn flaunt their “rare and exclusive” reports in Iran.  And while some mainstream media outlets in the West will no doubt fall into the Ayatollah’s trap, polling day on 1 March is anything but a free and fair vote. Of course, this will (hopefully) come as no surprise to many: there are no democratic elections in Iran. Rather, all candidates are pre-approved by the 84-year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — who rules with absolute authority as God’s representative on Earth — and the outcome is manufactured to his taste.  


US Senators Urge Biden To Enforce Iran Sanctions During Hearing | Iran International 

The US Senate committee on foreign relations heard Wednesday that the only way to stop Iran’s malign activities is to enforce crippling sanctions already imposed on its ruling regime. “We have to enforce our sanctions, particularly on the energy sector,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-M), chairman of the influential committee. “And I think there is going to be consensus in this committee to strengthen those tools.” The Senate hearing Wednesday was the latest in a series of Congressional attempts to deal with Iran’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the Middle East, propping up an array of armed groups to destabilize the region and advance the regime’s interest at the expense of almost everybody else, including ordinary Iranians. “Iran will find ways to finance its proxies to the detriment of its own people,” Senator Cardin said in his concluding remarks of the hearing. “The first priority of their budget is these terrorist activities.”  


Iranian Regime Takes Additional Action To Cut Off Iranians' Access To The Internet | Voice Of America 

The United States deplores the decision by the Iranian regime to ban the use of virtual private network, or VPN, services. The Iranian Supreme Council of Cyberspace has criminalized the use of VPNs without a legal license, a decision that has reportedly been approved by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Last year the sale and distribution of VPNs were criminalized in Iran. Now their use in general is prohibited. In a country like Iran, where the internet is already severely filtered, VPNs, which encrypt internet connections or spoof the IP address of users and allow access to censored sites with some anonymity, have been crucial lifelines to vital information and ideas. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said the ban on the use of VPNs in Iran “is just the latest reminder of how much the Iranian regime fears its people and what they are capable of when given unfettered access to the internet and unfettered access to information.”  

Iran ‘Biggest State Sponsor Of Terrorism,’ John Bolton Says As Proxies Battle Israel | Al Arabiya 

The former US ambassador to the United Nations told Al Arabiya English that Iran is the “world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism,” as Tehran-backed Palestinian, Lebanese and Yemeni armed groups continue to engage with Israel in a months-long conflict that erupted after the October 7 attack. John Bolton, who was the National Security Advisor under Donald Trump and also served under American Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, said that Tehran’s involvement with these proxy groups in the Middle East is part of slain Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Qassem Soleimani’s “ring of fire strategy” aimed at isolating and encircling Israel.  


'Men Make The Decisions': A Reformist Woman Candidate In Iran's Elections | AFP 

A rare reformist woman standing in Iran's legislative elections on Friday, Afifeh Abedi hopes to bolster women's place in society and add a fresh voice in a parliament dominated by male conservatives. Women "are very active in society but hold a very small share of the power," said the 44-year-old candidate ahead of a campaign event at a mosque in southern Tehran. "It's men who make the decisions, even when they concern women." Abedi said among issues she wants to address is Iran's strict dress code for women which drove mass protests after the September 2022 death in custody of Iranian-Kurd Mahsa Amini, 22. If elected, Abedi says she plans to "defend the point of view of women who want to wear different outfits.  


Iran-Backed Attacks Slow Since 3 US Service Members Killed | Voice Of America 

Attacks by Iranian-backed proxies have slowed since the drone attack in January that killed three U.S. service members in Jordan near the Syrian border. There have been only two minor attacks in Syria since Feb. 2, when the United States launched retaliatory attacks on targets in Syria and Iraq. But U.S. lawmakers warned Wednesday that the lull does not de-escalate the risks of a regional conflict. “Iran doesn't have complete command and control of their operations,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin said Wednesday. “That makes this a very precarious situation, one that requires careful clear-eyed American leadership. The risks of miscalculation would not only lead to another deadly attack against U.S. service members, it could lead to a full-scale regional war.” The U.S. military said U.S. and coalition forces shot down five Houthi drones late Tuesday in the Red Sea. The Houthis have said they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians amid the war in Gaza. “Iran thrives on chaos and suffering. The best way to undermine threat in the long term is to offer an alternative — a comprehensive and lasting peace that allows for real regional integration. I realize this is no easy task, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't make our efforts,” Cardin said.

Suspected Iranian Cyber-Espionage Campaign Targets Middle East Aerospace, Defense Industries | The Record 

An ongoing cyber-espionage campaign that uses unique malware against the aerospace, aviation and defense industries in the Middle East appears to have links to Iran, security researchers say. The operation is targeting entities in Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — and potentially Turkey, India and Albania — according to analysts at Mandiant, the cybersecurity unit for Google Cloud. The campaign began as early as June 2022, and appears to be linked to an Iranian group that Mandiant tracks as UNC1549, which overlaps with another hacking operation labeled Tortoiseshell. That group’s hit list has included Israeli shipping companies and U.S. aerospace and defense companies, and reports have connected it to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Earlier this month, the U.S. sanctioned members of an IRGC unit for attacks against water utilities.  


Khamenei Pleads With Iranians To Vote Amid Election Skepticism | Iran International 

Iran's Supreme Leader struck an unusually mild tone in a speech aimed at convincing those hesitant to participate in the March 1 elections that voting is crucial for the country's security. “We should view the elections from the national interests’ perspective, not from factional perspectives. If the election [turnout] is weak, the loss will affect everyone,” Ali Khamenei told the youth voting for the first time and the families of martyrs Wednesday while stressing that he was not “accusing anyone”. Amid expectations of very low turnout, Khamenei appeared to be pleading with people to go to the polls on Friday. Khamenei underscored the link between national power and security, cautioning that perceived weakness could embolden adversaries to threaten Iran's security. “If the enemy feels that you are not capable, [and] the Iranian nation has no power, they will threaten your security in every way,” he said. He urged individuals expressing reluctance to vote, and those dissuading others from doing so, to contemplate the implications, and “think some more.”  

Iran Votes: Lukewarm On Leadership, Cool On Economy | Gallup 

Iranians remain unenthused about their current leadership as they prepare to vote in elections on Friday. The turnout -- and outcome -- could have implications for future leadership, given the nearly 85-year-old Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s advancing age. Ahead of their first visit to the polls since the national uprising sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in 2022, a slim majority of Iranians (52%) disapprove of their country’s leadership, while 43% approve. Their displeasure is nothing new: Disapproval has been higher than approval in most years since 2018. In the coming elections, Iranians will choose all 290 members of the Majlis -- Iran’s representative parliament whose role involves building consensus on key policies and decisions -- as well as 88 clerics in the Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for choosing Iran’s supreme leader.  

Iran Prepares For More Sanctions, IRGC Listing: Leaked Document | Iran International 

A hacked document from the Iranian parliament reveals Tehran anticipated heightened global pressure post-Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, including wider terrorist designation for the IRGC. The document is a strategic report by the parliament’s monitoring department titled the Outlook on Regional Developments After the Gaza War, providing a rare glimpse into the Iranian regime's own thinking on the repercussions of the conflict that has engulfed the Middle East since Ocotber. The report was prepared in early December, about the time when Iran-backed regional militant groups intensified attacks on Israeli and US targets to pressure Israel into ceasing its offensive against Hamas. Uprising till Overthrow, closely affiliated with the Albania-based opposition Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) organization, said they breached 600 of the main servers of the parliament, including those of commissions, assistants, the parliament bank, and other servers related to administrative functions, via the legislature's media arm, Khaneh Mellat News Agency.  


Romney Questions Administration’s Response To Attacks By Iranian Proxies On U.S. Forces In The Middle East | U.S. Senator Mitt Romney 

During a Foreign Relations Committee hearing today on Iran’s proxy network in the Middle East, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) questioned the Biden Administration’s logic for not fully enforcing sanctions against Iran amid attacks by various Iranian proxy groups on United States and partner forces in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. Senator Romney also expressed disappointment that no government officials appeared at this hearing to answer questions concerning the Administration’s latest posture toward Iran.  


Israeli Strikes Said To Target Pro-Iran Stronghold Near Damascus | Times Of Israel 

Israeli strikes caused damage to sites near Damascus Wednesday night, Syria’s defense ministry said, in what appeared to be the latest attack in an intensified campaign against Iran-backed forces in the country. “The Israeli enemy launched air strikes from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting a number of sites in the Damascus countryside,” the ministry said in a statement carried by state media. It claimed that most missiles were shot down, a regular assertion on alleged Israeli strikes that analysts are generally skeptical of. “The losses were limited to material,” Syria’s official SANA outlet reported. The Israel Defense Forces did not comment on the strike.  

Lebanon Will Be Next': Iran Greenlights Hezbollah Attack On Israel – Report | Jerusalem Post 

Iran has given Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah the green light to escalate its attacks along Israel's northern border, the Arabic Post reported on Wednesday, citing high-level Iranian and Lebanese sources. The Islamic Republic has reportedly set conditions for Hezbollah, ordering it to launch a large-scale attack on Israel only after it "had become certain of Israel's intention" to carry out an invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah. As per the report, Tehran gave the go-ahead amid fears that, after the IDF completes an invasion of Rafah, southern Lebanon "will be next." A source from Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) told Arabic Post that Esmail Qaani, the IRGC's Quds Force commander, visited Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Monday to discuss "the latest developments" along Israel's northern border.  


Now Iran Energy Crisis Hits Supply To Iraq | Iran International 

Iraq is suffering electricity shortages after the disruption of the supply of gas from Iran and the failure of power lines between the two states. The crisis comes amid severe cold weather and seen hugely reduced power across Baghdad and various governorates. Severe snowfall and gas scarcities have already plunged Iran into chaos, resulting in the shutdown of schools, flight cancellations, and office closures. According to media reports and official statements, half of Iran's provinces have either shuttered schools or shifted to remote learning due to the harsh cold weather, gas shortages, and heating facility challenges since Monday. The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity announced the reduction in the generating units' loads, leaving an immense shortage approximately 4,000 thousand megawatts.  


Iran's Quest For Water From Afghan River Hit By New Delay | Iran International 

Iran's quest for an agreement with Afghanistan to share water from the Hirmand River has been hit by a new setback despite the Islamic Republic’s desperate need for the resource. The river, known as Helmand in Afghanistan, plays a pivotal role as a critical source for agriculture and drinking water. Negotiations peppered with disputes between Iranian authorities and the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan have gone on for months. Now a further delay has pushed back the schedule for any agreement to share the waters from the river which originates in the Afghan mountains. Reports from Iranian media in November highlighted the Kabul government's failure to allocate any portion of the Hirmand River's water to Iran, sparking concerns about water scarcity in the region.