The Treasury Department on Thursday announced that it was sanctioning Iran’s ambassador to Iraq for his role in carrying out the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force’s (IRGC-QF) “destabilizing foreign agenda” in Iraq, according to a press release from the department. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets and Control said in the statement that Iraj Masjedi, a general in the Revolutionary Guard, “has directed or supported groups that are responsible for attacks that have killed and wounded U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.”
U.S. authorities have seized two domain names linked to an Iran-backed terrorist group operating in Iraq, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday. The websites, “Aletejahtv.com” and “kataibhezbollah.com,” were being used by Kata’ib Hizballah, a group that the U.S. Secretary of Treasury in 2009 designated a terrorist organization. The group, which operates in Iraq and is backed by Iran, is accused of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. The DOJ said “Aletejahtv.com” and “kataibhezbollah.com” acted as Kata’ib Hizballah’s media arm by publishing content designed to destabilize Iraq and recruit others to join their cause.
Persian Gulf waters off Iraq have become a new, important waypoint for Iranian oil smugglers looking to avoid U.S. sanctions, according to American officials, who expressed frustration that Baghdad and other allies aren’t acting more aggressively to enforce curbs on commerce with Tehran. Iranian tankers now regularly transfer crude to other ships just miles offshore the major Iraqi port of Al Faw, according to the officials. The oil is then mixed with cargoes from other places to disguise its origin, and it eventually ends up on sale in world markets, they say.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Any policy analysts, scholars or politicians who still advocate for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), must recognize how the Iranian regime used the agreement as cover to further intensify its controversial nuclear projects. Several credible reports and statements from senior Iranian officials have made it clear that Tehran was advancing its nuclear development even after the P5+1 (the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States has sanctioned five Iranian groups that it says attempted to interfere in the upcoming presidential election between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. In a statement on Thursday, the US Department of the Treasury said it designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC’s Quds Force, and the Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute “for having directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference” in the November 3 election.
On October 18, a 13-year UN arms embargo against Iran expired. Iranian news outlets had eagerly awaited the moment for weeks. The lifting of the embargo had been agreed in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani heralded the step as a "diplomatic victory over the US." After all, US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018, yet insisted the arms embargo against Iran should remain in place indefinitely. But the vast majority of the UN Security Council members states, with the exception of the US and Dominican Republic, voted against upholding the embargo.
Iran is showcasing its capabilities with radar and the Bavar-373 air-defense system in nationwide drills. An arms embargo expired this week, and Iran is openly challenging the US and demonstrating that it can defend against aerial threats. Iran frequently threatens Israel, the US and Gulf states. The air-defense drill is a message against adversaries and a potential sales pitch, as it wants to sell its systems. According to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, the Qadir radar was tested by the IRGC Aerospace Force to track targets at long distances. It detected and identified aircraft flown by other Iranian units as part of the drill.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Three years into the global #MeToo movement, women who say they have been sexually assaulted are improbably going public in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The movement’s reach inside Iran gained momentum in late August after allegations aired on Iranian social media against more than 100 men, including a giant e-commerce company’s former star manager, a prominent sociology professor and the owner of a popular bookstore. But the highest-profile person to face such allegations so far is a nearly 80-year-old, internationally acclaimed artist with ties to the ruling elite.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Government analysts and private sector investigators were able to rapidly attribute to Iranian hackers a wave of thousands of threatening emails aimed at U.S. voters because of mistakes made in a video attached to some of the messages, according to four people familiar with the matter. Those failures provided a rare opportunity for the U.S. government to identify and publicly announce blame for a malicious cyber operation in a matter of days, something that usually requires months of technical analysis and supporting intelligence.
On Wednesday night, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe called a news conference to warn Americans that foreign adversaries were actively interfering in the U.S. elections. Ratcliffe noted that two countries, Russia and Iran, have launched efforts to influence the course of the elections. That Russia would be involved in interference efforts is not surprising. After all, Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential elections is well documented, and the Kremlin remains the key threat to the current elections. But the assessment that Iran was active alongside Russia quickly raised eyebrows.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
At a meeting of the anti-coronavirus task force today, President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran would be facing new restrictions. Rouhani praised the efforts of the various agencies working over the last eight months to combat the virus. He said that only 50% of government employees will report to work in the province of Tehran, one of the hardest-hit provinces in the country. The new restriction will be in place until Nov. 21. Other government employees in the province will presumably continue remote work. Rouhani said that 43 cities across the country will face “severe restrictions” for a period of one week due to a high number of cases.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, has warned that he is being forced into an impossible balancing act between the US and Iran, as he urged Europe to come to the aid of his country’s debt-ridden economy. Appointed as prime minister in June, Kadhimi – a British citizen and former journalist – came to power after unprecedented street protests over corruption, and has since governed with a simple programme of early elections, better security and preventing the collapse of his oil-dependent economy. Since taking office he has slowly been making changes to personnel in some security and economic institutions
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran summoned the Swiss envoy on Thursday to protest against what it called “baseless” U.S. claims that Tehran has tried to interfere with the 2020 presidential election in November. “Iran’s strong rejection of American officials’ repetitive, baseless and false claims was conveyed to the Swiss ambassador...As we have said before, it makes no difference for Iran who wins the U.S. election,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told state TV. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran because Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic ties.
Iran attempted to carry out a cyberattack on Israel, according various reports, including by Al Ain media in the Gulf. The attack is one of many recent reports about cyberattacks. In May, a cyberattack on Iran’s Shahid Rajaee Port was reported, and another attack on Iran’s ports was reported on October 19. In July, more media reports revealed Iranian cyberattacks on Israel’s water infrastructure. This is part of a cycle of reports about cyberwarfare in the Middle East that escalated in April.