The Trump administration is preparing to designate Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi insurgents a terrorist organization before leaving office in January, fueling fears the move will disrupt international aid efforts and upend United Nations-brokered peace efforts between the Shiite movement and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, according to several diplomatic sources. The U.N. and international relief agencies have tried to dissuade the Trump administration from designating the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization, but the apparently imminent decision would give U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo another victory in his anti-Iran strategy as he visits Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates this week. Riyadh, which has been at war with the Houthis for over five years, has already designated the Houthis a terrorist organization and has been urging Washington to do the same.
President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday. A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. The advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.
The al-Qaeda second-in-command who was killed in Tehran was in the midst of inspiring and encouraging attacks on Israel and Jews, according to reports. The operation to kill Abu Muhammad al-Masri was done at the behest of the US, as reported in The New York Times, but he was also involved in planning attacks on Jews. The latest twist in the story was revealed to N12. “Abu Muhammad al-Masri began to plan terror attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, so Israel and the US’s interests joined.”
UANI IN THE NEWS
… A 2018 interview on Iranian state television by Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the secretary of the High Council for Human Rights, has been interpreted in multiple ways. But according to United Against Nuclear Iran, Larijani said, “Our government agreed not to stamp the passports of some of them [members of Al Qaeda] because they were on transit flights for two hours, and they were resuming their flights without having their passports stamped. However, their movements were under the complete supervision of the Iranian intelligence.” Iran has said Larjani was referencing the views of the US 9/11 Commission.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Israeli ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer said today the incoming Biden administration would be making a mistake if it returned to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Why it matters: President-elect Biden plans to re-enter the deal if Iran returns to compliance, but he will clearly face opposition from Israel. Dermer is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest adviser and his comment reflects Netanyahu’s thinking. Dermer spoke in a panel together with the ambassadors of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The Bahraini ambassador, who spoke after Dermer, seemed to agree with him.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Research Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Iran's parliamentary body, says the average consumption of essential goods in 2019 has decreased significantly compared with 2018. Citing the study, the IRGC-linked news agency, Tasnim, reported on Friday that the consumption of veal dropped 20 percent between 2016 and 2019, with veal consumption falling 29 percent. The consumption of other products has also decreased in Iran over the past three years, including an eight percent drop in foreign rice, six percent in vegetable oil, and four percent in sugar.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
One year after Iranians began anti -government protests that drew the deadliest crackdown by security forces in decades, families of some slain protesters have lost hope for justice from an Islamist theocracy that has offered them little but broken promises and threats. Iran’s government sparked the nationwide demonstrations on November 15, 2019 by ordering a 50% increase in the subsidized price of gasoline, further straining the finances of Iranians facing high unemployment and inflation in a shrinking economy under heavy U.S. sanctions.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Any U.S. attack on Iran would face a “crushing” response, an Iranian government spokesman said on Tuesday, following reports U.S. President Donald Trump asked for options for a strike on Iran’s main nuclear site last week but decided against doing so. “Any action against the Iranian nation would certainly face a crushing response,” spokesman Ali Rabiei said, in remarks streamed on an official government website.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
An explosion at a gas station in Iran’s capital Tehran on Monday injured at least one person, Iranian state media reported. “A fuel tanker caught fire while unloading at the gas station at Pirouzi Street in Tehran,” fire department spokesman Jalal Maleki told state TV, adding that the fire had been contained. “One person was injured and there were no casualties ... everything is under control and the cause of the blast is being investigated.”
Iran reported record numbers of new daily coronavirus cases and deaths as it prepares to reinstate tight restrictions to combat a surge that’s overwhelmed hospitals and cemeteries. Some 13,053 new infections and 486 deaths were reported on Monday, the Health Ministry said. Iran, which has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, has seen new cases spike an average 5% each day over the past month. On Sunday President Hassan Rouhani said “severe restrictions” will be imposed from Nov. 21 for two weeks.
Former Iranian Prime Minister and opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife have contracted COVID-19 while under house arrest, a pro-reform website reported on Sunday, as the country records a worrying uptick in new coronavirus cases. Mousavi, 79, and activist Zahra Rahnavard "were examined by a doctor at their home … and their general state of health is good," said opposition website Kaleme. Security forces put Mousavi and Rahnavard under house arrest nearly a decade ago following the mass protests across Iran known as the Green Movement.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran and Iraq are planning for military cooperation in the near future, announced Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri. Bagheri indicated that the new collaboration would lead to greater stability and security in both nations, accusing the United States of supporting terrorism in Iraq. Bagheri was speaking on the sidelines of the visit of a high-ranking delegation of Iraqi military commanders, led by Defense Minister Juma Inad Saadoun, to Tehran. “So far, we have had and will have various discussions in all fields. The two countries have also prepared a document that is in the final stages and will be signed in the near future,” Bagheri said on Sunday.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
As the world was mesmerized by the spectacle of the presidential race in the United States, attention was diverted from other headline-making issues, at least fleetingly. In particular, it looks as though the dust has settled on the latest civilizational clash between the West and the Islamic world following the reprinting of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and the brutal murder of Samuel Paty, a French middle-school teacher who had shown the cartoons in one of his classes.