Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to nearly weapons-grade levels, according to a report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog seen by The Associated Press on Wednesday. The International Atomic Energy Agency also said that Iran has pushed back against the agency’s objections to Tehran’s ban on some of its inspectors designated to monitor the country’s nuclear program. Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. The IAEA report also estimated that as of Oct. 28, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was at 4,486.8 kilograms, an increase of 691.3 kilograms since the last quarterly report in September 2023.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly told Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh earlier this month that, since Tehran was not given prior notice of the devastating terror onslaught of October 7, it would not join the war against Israel. In a report Wednesday citing “three senior officials,” Reuters said Khamenei had told Haniyeh that, while Iran would offer political support to Hamas, it would not “intervene directly” in the fight. The Iranian leader also reportedly asked Haniyeh to “silence those voices” in Hamas calling for Iran and its proxy terror group Hezbollah to directly join the war against Israel “in full force.
In a speech at Tehran’s Rajaei University on November 13, Mehdi Farahi, the deputy defense minister of the Iranian regime, claimed that Iran had “almost $1 billion” in military exports in the past year. Without referring to the details of the military export items, Farahi stated that the Ministry of Defense uses “knowledge-based companies, industrial towns, universities, and science and technology parks,” and that “7,000 companies” and over “100,000 individuals” collaborate with this ministry. This Defense Ministry official announced the “billion-dollar” military exports of Iran in the past year while the United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran’s missile program, based on the nuclear agreement, the JCPOA, ended in October. However, the United States government declared that it would intensify efforts to counter this program and the production of drones in Iran by imposing new sanctions
UANI IN THE NEWS
…Since 2020, China has increased the volume of oil imports from Iran despite US sanctions. Small Chinese refineries buy the oil, which is shipped in illicit ways. Iran reportedly exported 1.4 million barrels of oil per day last month, mostly to China. This is almost twice as much as it averaged during Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign from 2018-2020, according to United Against Nuclear Iran. The Biden administration says it enforces existing sanctions, but the fact is that China's Iranian oil imports more than doubled sine President Biden took office.
…In what appears to be the most coordinated attack since the regime was founded in 1979, it seems unlikely that Tehran has not been at least highly informed of operations at the highest levels. Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against A Nuclear Iran, noted the Reuters report’s sourcing. “It's Iran's regime and Axis of Resistance, so what they're telling Reuters is meant to protect Tehran. A lack of Iranian foreknowledge of October 7 is hard to believe,” he said. "But Tehran not intervening directly, only through proxies, as well as Khamenei's frustration of Hamas operatives complaining about Iran's regime's support and requests to silence them are more believable,” he added.
…Iran exported nearly 1.4 million barrels of oil per day in October, sustaining its average for 2023. This is up 80% from the 775,000 barrels per day Iran averaged under the Trump Administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy, according to United Against Nuclear Iran, the group of former U.S. Ambassador Mark Wallace and Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose Tanker Tracker generates the best public data we have.
…“The sourcing for that report is from Iran and Hamas,” and therefore suspect, the policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, Jason Brodsky, tells the Sun. Its purpose, he adds, is to distance Iran from the attack, which had been planed two years in advance and therefore unlikely to have escaped notice at Tehran.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The United Nations' nuclear watchdog said Wednesday that Iran's decision to withdraw the accreditation of several inspectors was "extreme and unjustified" and "directly and seriously affected" the agency's work. "Iran's stance is not only unprecedented, but unambiguously contrary to the cooperation that is required," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a confidential report seen by AFP. In September, Iran withdrew the accreditation of several inspectors, a move Tehran described as retaliation for "political abuses" by the United States, France, Germany and Britain. The IAEA has condemned the move, which targets eight top inspectors, with French and German nationals among them, according to a diplomatic source.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The US will enforce oil sanctions against Iran amid the renewed conflict in the Middle East, a White House Energy adviser said Wednesday. “We are going to enforce those sanctions,” President Joe Biden’s energy security adviser Amos Hochstein said on Bloomberg Television, in reference to what he said amounted to more than 1 million barrels a day of oil exports from Iran. “Those numbers will come down.” Hochstein’s remarks, made in an interview with Bloomberg Television on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, come amid speculation on whether the US would tighten restrictions on Iranian oil exports, following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants, for which Iran voiced its approval.
According to the latest data released by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), the inflation rate in the country has surged to its highest level in the past 22 months, hitting 54.8% for the month of Mehr (ended October 22), economic website EcoIran reported, after analyzing data released by the CBI. The central bank rejected the report as false, insisting that the inflation is about 45 percent. It claimed that there were discrepancies in calculations. EcoIran says the number is based on the Central Bank's tables, which are presented periodically to the judiciary to calculate overdue debts, fines, and dowries. The CBI rejected EcoIran’s figure as “wrong” but did not elaborate on the table presented in its document. The inflation rate in the past Iranian month was its highest in two years as the government grappling with large budget deficits continues to print money.
Russian companies will participate in the development of seven oil fields in Iran, the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has announced. The maximum capacities of the Iranian companies will also be employed in the development of these fields, in southern and northwestern Iran, Mohsen Khojastehpour added. Over the past two years, Iranian officials have time and again made optimistic statements about widening energy cooperation with Russia, but so far, there is no concrete evidence of any substantial contributions by Russia. Last year, Ahmad Asadzadeh, the Deputy Minister of International Affairs and Trading at Iran’s Oil Ministry, expressed hope that the comprehensive plan of Iran’s cooperation with Russia’s Gazprom regarding the development of six oil fields and two gas fields would be finalized in a few months.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
German police raided 54 locations across the country on Thursday in an investigation of a Hamburg-based center suspected of promoting Iranian ideology and supporting the activities of Hezbollah, the government said. The Interior Ministry said the Islamic Center Hamburg, or IZH, has long been under observation by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. It said the activities of the group are aimed at spreading the “revolutionary concept” of Iran’s supreme leader. Authorities are also looking into suspicions that it supports banned activities in Germany by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group, which has repeatedly traded fire with Israel across the Israel-Lebanon border since Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza last month. he IZH runs a mosque in Hamburg. The Interior Ministry said German intelligence believes it exerts significant influence or full control over some other mosques and groups, and that they often promote a “clearly antisemitic and anti-Israel attitude.”
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian dissidents, including the exiled Crown Princess, were among demonstrators at a pro-Israel rally in Washington Tuesday to denounce anti-Semitism. Protests and street demonstrations have erupted around the world on both sides since the Palestinian militant group Hamas mounted a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,200 mostly civilians and taking at least 240 more hostage. It has since resulted in the most deadly war between the two sides since Hamas took power in 2007. Iranians have shared their images on social media to demonstrate their presence at the Washington gathering. Among the protesters was the wife of the exiled prince of Iran, Yasmine Pahlavi.
Iran's prison officials transferred this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi to a hospital on November 16 to undergo an angiography, a type of X-ray used to check blood vessels, her family says "After a week of asking, the prosecutor finally granted permission for her transfer, and she was sent to the hospital this morning,” according to a post on Mohammadi's Instagram account, which is run by her family. Mohammadi launched a hunger strike on November 6 in protest against the denial of medical care for herself and other women detainees who refuse to wear a mandatory headscarf.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
In an interview with CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian denied that his country was responsible for a drone attack in the Red Sea that appeared to be targeting a U.S. missile destroyer. He also addressed the Israel-Hamas war and the recent attacks by militant groups on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian denied that his country was responsible for a drone attack in the Red Sea that appeared to be targeting a U.S. missile destroyer. The drone, which originated from Yemen, was shot down early Wednesday morning by the USS Thomas Hudner as it was "heading in the direction of the ship," according to a statement from the Pentagon. "We really didn't want this crisis to expand," Amir-Abdollahian told CBS News on Wednesday, referencing the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. "But the U.S. has been intensifying the war in Gaza by throwing its support behind Israel. Yemen makes its own decisions and acts independently." The Pentagon did not say who it believes fired the drone, but the incident comes after Iranian-backed Houthis militants in Yemen earlier this week vowed to attack ships in the Red Sea.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Bipartisan legislation led by U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Mike Lawler (NY-17), the Iran-China Energy Sanctions Act, unanimously passed out of the House Financial Services Committee. The bipartisan legislation targets the small, independent Chinese oil refiners driving Chinese purchases of Iranian crude and requires the Treasury Department to make annual sanctions determinations for Chinese banks…“Hamas relies on support from the Iranian regime — the leading state sponsor of terror. As Iran deepens its ties to China and Russia, we are reminded that they cannot be trusted and must be held accountable. Iran has directly, or through their terrorist proxies including Hamas, Hezbollah, and PIJ, killed hundreds of Americans, and attacked our bases and our allies in the region. We must pass the bipartisan Iran-China Energy Sanctions Act to cut off sources of funding to Iran,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “
The U.S. extended a sanctions waiver that critics slammed as tantamount to continuing to fund Iran’s disruptive activities as its proxies attack U.S. forces across the Middle East. "It is absolutely outrageous the Biden Administration continues to find ways to send Iran money — especially from Iraq, where the same Iranian-backed militias who are targeting American forces increasingly run the show and are helping keep Iraq addicted to Iranian energy," Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., told Fox News Digital. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed an extension to the initial 120-day waiver that allows Iraq to pay for Iranian electricity through an escrow account, where it has so far deposited an estimated minimum $10 billion — all without fear of reprisal for potentially breaking any U.S. sanctions.
CHINA & IRAN
US President Joe Biden asked China to weigh in with Iran and urge it to avoid steps that could be seen as provocative in the Middle East, a senior US official told reporters on Wednesday after a four-hour meeting between Biden and China's Xi Jinping. The official said Chinese officials had engaged in discussions with Iran on regional risks.