A Ship Earlier Hit By Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Sinks In The Red Sea, The First Vessel Lost In Conflict


A Ship Earlier Hit By Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Sinks In The Red Sea, The First Vessel Lost In Conflict | Associated Press 

A ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, officials said Saturday, the first vessel to be fully destroyed as part of their campaign over Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The sinking of the Rubymar, which carried a cargo of fertilizer and previously leaked fuel, could cause ecological damage to the Red Sea and its coral reefs. Persistent Houthi attacks have already disrupted traffic in the crucial waterway for cargo and energy shipments moving from Asia and the Middle East to Europe. Already, many ships have turned away from the route.  

Iran Stages A Dismal Election As Islamic Regime Circles The Wagons | Washington Post 

Voter turnout in elections in Iran hit what appears a historic low. According to unofficial accounts, only about 40 percent of the electorate cast a ballot Friday in separate votes for the country’s national parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the political body that will select the successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s 84-year-old supreme leader. An opposition boycott and widespread disenchantment set the mood, even as the theocratic regime pushed its citizens to come out to the polls. “If the election is weak, everyone will be hurt,” Khamenei cajoled Iranians ahead of the vote last week. “I am not accusing anyone, but I remind everyone that we should look at the elections from the perspective of our national interests.” That message didn’t quite resonate, and even elicited something of a backlash. The turnout numbers may mark the lowest since the 1979 revolution that brought the Islamic regime into power. In Tehran, the capital, as little as 11 percent of the electorate may have voted. Ordinary Iranians signaled their despair at a miserable economy, their anger over the repression of landmark protests in 2022, and their cynicism about a regime that disqualified myriad candidates who were not in Khamenei’s hard-line camp from contesting seats.  

Iran’s Switch To Highly Sought Civil Nuclear Fuel Seen As A Ploy | Bloomberg 

Iran’s decision to reduce its stockpile of near bomb-grade uranium in favor of producing a specialized fuel for advanced civil nuclear reactors may be a negotiating tactic, according to western officials. Under most circumstances, a move by Tehran to scale back its inventory of highly-enriched uranium would be welcomed by diplomats at the International Atomic Energy Agency, who gather for their quarterly meeting on March 4 in Vienna. But escalating tensions in the Middle East — including military clashes between US and Iranian proxy groups — has raised suspicions about what’s really happening in the Islamic Republic. “The main concern about Iran’s nuclear activities is not about the visible, but the part that is no longer visible,” said Ali Vaez at the International Crisis Group, who echoed the analysis of senior diplomats who spoke before next week’s IAEA meeting.  


Sunday With Michael Portillo | GB News 

‘The lack of consequences by the West on the regime has given Khamenei the confidence he can get away with anything he wants.’ United Against Nuclear Iran’s Kasra Aarabi on Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei’s attitude to the West. 

Unofficial Results: Voter Turnout Lowest Since 1979 | DW 

What can we tell from the mass boycott of Iran’s “elections”? The Iranian people have once again made it clear the Islamic Republic cannot be reformed & change cannot occur through rigged “elections”. The only solution—as they’ve been demanding—is regime change.   

North Korea Helped Turn Iran Into a Missile Powerhouse | The National Interest 

... According to United Against Nuclear Iran, Tehran and its proxy groups still rely on Pyongyang for components to construct ballistic missiles. In 2014, a U.S. district court even ruled that both North Korea and Iran were liable for damages inflicted by Hezbollah in the 2006 war in Israel since they provided “material support and assistance” to the terror group. 


West Avoids Seriously Confronting Iran As IAEA Meet Begins | Reuters 

A quarterly meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog's main policy-making body began on Monday with Western powers again choosing not to seriously confront Iran over its failure to cooperate with the agency on a range of issues, diplomats said. It is more than a year since the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors passed a resolution ordering Iran to cooperate with a years-long IAEA investigation into uranium particles found at undeclared sites, saying it was "essential and urgent" for Iran to explain the traces. Since then the number of undeclared sites being investigated has shrunk to two from three but the list of problems between the IAEA and Iran has only grown. Iran failed to fully honour an agreement to re-install IAEA cameras at some sites and in September barred some of the agency's most valued inspectors.  

McCaul Calls For More Significant Action On Iran For Nuclear Program | Washington Examiner 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) has called on the Biden administration to take more significant action against Iran for its “ongoing nuclear provocation.” McCaul sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday expressing his position that the United States should advance a formal finding of Iran’s non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and seek a referral to the United Nations Security Council at next week’s International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors meeting. “The administration must take swift and urgent action to directly address Iran’s ongoing nuclear provocation,” McCaul wrote in the letter, which the Washington Examiner obtained. “This must go beyond previous censures, including those adopted by the [Board of Governors] in 2022.  


Iran's SLAL Tenders For Corn, Barley And Soymeal, Traders Say | Reuters 

Iranian state-owned animal feed importer SLAL has issued international tenders to purchase up to 180,000 tonnes of animal feed corn, 120,000 tons of feed barley and 120,000 tons of soymeal, European traders said on Monday. The deadline for submission of price offers in the tenders is March 6, they said. The soymeal can be sourced from Brazil or Argentina only. The corn can be sourced from Brazil, Europe, Russia, Ukraine or elsewhere in the Black Sea region. The barley can be sourced from the European Union, Russia, Ukraine or elsewhere in the Black Sea region. Shipment for all is sought in March and April. Payment problems for Iranian businesses because of Western sanctions had made participation in the country's recent tenders difficult, traders said.  

Iran's Government Delays Wage Negotiations With Workers | Iran International  

With only 17 days remaining in the current Iranian year, the country’s Supreme Labor Council has yet to convene a session to establish next year's workers' wages. Within Iran's state-controlled economy, the government sets wages for public sector workers, including thousands of companies and factories, which also determines salaries of ordinary workers in the private sector. According to the law, representatives of the government, official labor unions and employers every year negotiate to set the minimum wage. However, the government increasingly ignores the unions and pushed through unrealistically low wages amid 40-percent annual inflation. Davood Manzour, the head of Planning and Budget Organization (PBO), said on Saturday that discussions are still underway, with the new levels contingent on anticipated inflation.  

Iran To Boost Daily Gas Production Output In 5 Years | Voice Of America 

Iran's gas output will reach 1.3 billion cubic meters (bcm) per day in five years, Iran's Oil Minister Javad Owji said Sunday according to the semi-official Student News Network, up from 1.07 billion cubic meters per day that it currently produces. To "ensure Iran's central role in global energy," $80 billion will be invested in the development of its gas fields, Owji said while at the seventh summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) held in Algeria. Since the reimposition of sanctions by then U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018, Tehran has been cut off from foreign investors and has mainly relied on cash-strapped domestic companies to develop its energy sector. Most of Iran's gas production is consumed domestically or lost to gas flaring, with experts telling state media that the country may face a gas imbalance of 300 million cubic meters per day in the coming years.  


Iran Plans To Create DNA Bank Of Journalists | Iran International  

The Iranian government's plan to create a DNA bank of people in "high-risk" professions, including journalists, has raised concerns that it could be used to crack down on dissent. The plan, announced by the head of the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran, Abbas Masjedi, would involve collecting genetic samples from firefighters, flight crews, armed forces, forest rangers, mine workers, and journalists. Masjedi said that the plan is intended to help identify victims of accidents and disasters, but critics say it could also be used to track and identify individuals who are critical of the government. The plan can be seen as an attempt to intimidate and silence journalists because the regime can easily use of possible DNA evidence to target its critics. The plan has also drawn comparisons to China's DNA database, which has been used to track and monitor Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.  

Iran Violently Clamps Down On Christians Amid Reports Of Torture, Fines And Floggings | Fox News 

Iran claims to allow the country’s Christian minority to practice its faith in peace. The reality for many Iranian Christians, however, is plagued by whippings, arrests, imprisonment, surveillance and harassment, according to a February report from the religious freedom NGO Article 18. One shocking finding of the Article 18 40-page study, titled "Faceless Victims: Rights Violations Against Christians in Iran," states, "By the end of 2023, at least 17 of the Christians arrested during the summer had received prison sentences of between three months and five years, or non-custodial punishments such as fines, flogging, and in one case the community-service of digging graves." The report noted, "Despite a comparable number of Christians being arrested in 2023 as in previous years – 166 arrests were documented in 2023, compared to 134 in 2022 – fewer names and faces could be publicized."  

Iranian Grammy Winner Shervin Hajipour Sentenced In Iran | Daily Sabeh  

An Iranian vocalist, recipient of a Grammy awarded by U.S. first lady Jill Biden, has been sentenced to over three years in prison for his anthem in support of the 2022 protests following the death of Mahsa Amini. Shervin Hajipour posted on Instagram on Friday, the same day that Iran held its parliamentary election, what appeared to be part of the judgment against him. It said Hajipour received a three-year, eight-month sentence on charges of "for the propaganda against the system” and "encouraging people to protest.” The court issued its sentence in part because it found he hadn't properly expressed regret over publishing the song. It also imposed a two-year travel ban and ordered him to create a song about "U.S. crimes," as well as make posts about those crimes online. Hajipour thanked his lawyers and his agent for their support. "I will not mention the name of the judge and the prosecutor so that they don’t get insulted and threatened, because insults and threats are not in the religion of humanity,” he wrote. "Finally, one day we will understand each other. Until then.”  


Iran Tried To Persuade Sudan To Allow Naval Base On Its Red Sea Coast | Wall Street Journal  

Iran unsuccessfully pressed Sudan to let it build a permanent naval base on the African country’s Red Sea coast, something that would have allowed Tehran to monitor maritime traffic to and from the Suez Canal and Israel, according to a senior Sudanese intelligence official. Iran has supplied Sudan’s military with explosive drones to use in its fight with a rebel warlord and offered to provide a helicopter-carrying warship if Sudan had granted permission for the base, said Ahmad Hasan Mohamed, an intelligence adviser to Sudan’s military leader. “The Iranians said they wanted to use the base for intelligence gathering,” Mohamed said in an interview. “They also wanted to station warships there.” He said Khartoum turned down Iran’s proposal to avoid alienating the U.S. and Israel. A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York declined to comment.  

Iran Claims It Executed Mossad ‘Terrorist’ For Drone Attack On Isfahan Arms Facility | Times Of Israel  

Iran’s judiciary has executed a “terrorist” over a drone attack that targeted a defense ministry site in central Iran last year, state media reported on Sunday. According to state TV, the person “planned to explode the workshop complex of the Ministry of Defense in Isfahan under guidance of the intelligence officer of Mossad,” Israel’s spy agency. The date of the execution and the identity of the accused person were not immediately clear. The site hit in the January 2023 strike was reportedly a weapons production facility for Iran’s kamikaze Shahed-136 drones. Isfahan is also a known hub for Tehran’s missile industry and is where the Shahab medium-range missile — which has a range capable of hitting Israel — is assembled. Iran also has several known nuclear research sites in the Isfahan region, including a uranium conversion plant. The country’s sanction-hit nuclear program has been the target of sabotage, assassinations of scientists and cyber-attacks.  

Hamas Snipers Using U.S.-Made Sights Sold Openly To Iran | Haaretz 

Hamas snipers used telescopic sights produced by an American company which openly sells to Iran, a Haaretz investigation has found. Element Optics sights were affixed to AM-50 Sayyad sniper rifles. The AM-50 is a heavy rifle made in Iran. Israel has captured a number of them during the war in Gaza. The AM-50 is an Anti-Material rifle like the American Barrett M82, and it is chambered in similar 12.7 mm ammo. The same caliber ammo is also used in the ubiquitous M2 Browning Heavy Machine gun, which is in use in Israel. Its length is around 1.5 meters. It weighs around 12 kilograms, and its effective firing range is around 1,200 meters. This rifle constitutes a serious threat to Israeli soldiers, because their ceramic plates based body armor and advanced helmets can't provide sufficient defense against its heavy bullets. By adding a quality telescopic sight, Hamas snipers have a higher chance of hitting their targets from a range of hundreds of meters, and an ability to avoid being detected and being fired back at by army troops.  


Iran Election Turnout Slumps As Hardliners Prevail | Financial Times 

Turnout in Iran’s parliamentary election fell to historic lows, according to preliminary results from a race that underscored how hardliners have consolidated power in the Islamic republic. Overall turnout in the election, which included Tehran and more than a dozen other constituencies, dropped to as low as 41 per cent, according to state news agency IRNA, continuing a trend of disengagement in elections. A run-off vote will be held in Tehran, where about half of the 30 parliamentary candidates did not reach the required threshold. Local media reports put turnout in Tehran at about 24 per cent. Iran’s interior ministry has yet to publish official results. The rate of participation is a setback for Iranian authorities, who have traditionally pointed to high voter turnout as proof of the Islamic republic’s legitimacy.  

Iran Reports Sharp Increase In Fire Festival Casualties | The Media Line 

Iran faces a somber start to its annual Fire Festival celebrations, with reports from the Iranian Students’ News Agency on Saturday revealing that five people have lost their lives and 91 others have been injured due to fireworks explosions. The incidents, occurring between February 20 and March 1, mark a significant increase in casualties compared to the previous year, with deaths doubling and injuries rising by 57%.Jafar Miadfar, the head of Iran’s Medical Emergency Organization, detailed the tragic outcomes of these incidents, noting that the capital, Tehran, and the northwestern province of West Azarbaijan were among the areas affected. Among the injured, 15 individuals have undergone amputations, while 31 have suffered eye injuries and 41 have sustained burns.  

Iran's Raisi Re-Elected To Country's Assembly Of Experts | The National  

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been re-elected to the Assembly of Experts in the country’s elections, state-run media outlets have reported. The 88-member legislative body, which comprises male Islamic scholars, has a remit of appointing, supervising and, if needed, dismissing the country’s supreme leader – who has the final say in all matters of state in Iran. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who turns 85 this year, has been in his post since 1989. Mr Raisi, who took office in 2021, has been touted as a possible future supreme leader. Iranian news agency Tasnim, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, on Sunday reported Mr Raisi had won 82 per cent of the valid votes in South Khorasan province, an 8 per cent increase from the last elections.  


US Envoy Due In Beirut For De-Escalation Talks | Iran International  

US envoy Amos Hochstein will visit Beirut on Monday to continue efforts aimed at de-escalating the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border, a senior Lebanese official and a White House official said on Sunday. The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel have been locked in hostilities for months in parallel to the Gaza war. It has marked the worst conflict between the heavily armed adversaries since a 2006 war, fueling fears of an even bigger confrontation. Lebanon deputy parliament speaker Elias Bou Saab, one of the officials due to meet Hochstein, told Reuters he believed the timing of his visit pointed to progress in efforts to secure a Gaza truce "within the next few hours or days." "If this happens, I believe that Hochstein's visit this time will be of great importance to follow up on the truce on our southern borders and to discuss what is needed for stability," he said. Washington has said a ceasefire deal in the Gaza war is close and is aiming to have it be in effect by the start of Ramadan, a week away.  


Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels Vow To Keep Attacking British Shipping | Politico EU 

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi group said it will continue to attack British shipping in the Red Sea after sinking the MV Rubymar, which went under over the weekend. "Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damages will be added to Britain’s bill," Hussein al-Ezzias, deputy foreign minister in the Houthi group, said in a post on X on Sunday. He called the U.K. "a rogue state" that works with the U.S. "in sponsoring the ongoing crime against civilians in Gaza." U.S. officials confirmed early Sunday that the Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, U.K.-registered vessel, had sunk two weeks after it was attacked on February 18. It’s the first vessel attacked by the Houthis to sink after the rebels started targeting commercial shipping in the Red Sea last November. "You can't mess around in my country and then go spend your evening at Fabric," al-Ezzias said. "Whoever harms Yemen, we will harm him."  

Iran Rejects GCC Communique About Durra Gas Field As 'Unconstructive' | Jerusalem Post 

Iran rejected a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) communique claiming the Durra gas field as "jointly and only owned by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait" as "unconstructive," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday. "Such an unfounded and unilateral statement is unconstructive," Kanaani said, stressing Iran's insistence on diplomatic and technical talks to determine the gas field's status. 


Iran's President Discusses Gaza With Algerian Counterpart, Algeria's Presidency Says | Reuters 

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday discussed bilateral relations, energy cooperation, trade and Gaza with Algeria's leader Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a one-day state visit, according to Algeria's presidency. Algeria, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, backs the Palestinian cause and has called several times for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.