The Pentagon on Monday accused Iran of “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct by a naval helicopter that it said flew within about 25 yards of a U.S. Navy ship and circled it three times in the Gulf of Oman. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the Iranian helicopter circled the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, three times and at one point flew as low as 10 feet off the surface of the water. He said the incident on Nov. 11 had no effect on the Essex’s operations. “Without getting into specifics, the crew of the Essex took the appropriate force protection measures they felt that they needed to, and they acted in accordance with international law,” Kirby said.
U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi will visit Iran "probably soon", the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday, as Tehran and world powers prepare to resume talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal. "Grossi has been invited to travel to Tehran. A date has been set in this regard and we are waiting for his response to the specified date. He will visit Iran probably soon," Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly news conference. "God willing, Grossi will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation during his visit."
The United Arab Emirates is taking steps to de-escalate tensions with Iran as part of a policy choice towards diplomacy and away from confrontation, a UAE senior official said on Monday. Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, said the Gulf state remains deeply concerned about Iran's behaviour in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. "Despite this we have taken steps to de-escalate tensions as we have no interest in a confrontation. The whole region would pay the price of such a confrontation for decades to come," Gargash told the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate.
UANI IN THE NEWS
An Iranian military helicopter flew within 25 yards of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, USS Essex (LHD-2), last week, the Pentagon first confirmed Monday. “Video circulating on Iranian Telegram channels today of an #Iran military helicopter getting close to what looks like the USS Essex,” United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) director Jason Brodsky tweeted on Saturday. “Would note this comes after US reported the USS Essex had an ‘unsafe & unprofessional interaction’ with multiple Iranian drones earlier this month.” Video of the encounter showed the Iranian helicopter flying low over the water, flying up on the ship from behind, passing once below the deck level and then another time just above the height of the U.S. ship’s deck.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met Monday with Rob Malley, the US special envoy on Iran, during the latter’s visit to the region, as the Biden administration works to coordinate with Mideast allies before the resumption of indirect talks with Tehran, aimed at reviving their multilateral nuclear accord. Lapid reiterated Israel’s position that Iran is simply trying to buy time with negotiations over its nuclear program until the issue of rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal is no longer relevant, according to the Ynet news site.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
In a move almost unthinkable only three years ago, Gulf Arab navies have held their first joint military exercise with Israeli warships, co-ordinated by the US Navy. The five-day drill in the Red Sea involved warships from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Israel and the US. It began last Wednesday and included boarding, search and seizure tactics "to help ensure freedom of navigation". US Naval Forces Central Command said the training would "enhance interoperability between participating forces' maritime interdiction teams". The exercise follows the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020, which saw the UAE and Bahrain normalise their relations with Israel.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's hardline-dominated parliament on Tuesday rejected conservative President Ebrahim Raisi's proposed education minister for a second time since he formed his cabinet in August. Masoud Fayazi failed to win a vote of confidence, losing 140 to 115 after critics said he lacked sufficient experience in education and was ill-equipped to run a large ministry which has faced teacher protests over pay. "In your research publications, nothing can be seen except Islamic jurisprudence ... then how do you introduce yourself as an expert on managing kindergartens?," said lawmaker Ahmad Moharamzadeh before the vote in a parliamentary session broadcast live on state radio.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iranian parties sent bags full of cash dollars to several regions in the southern Syrian towns, such as the Houran and Golan regions, to recruit new members, according to a recent Israeli intelligence report. Several parties are buying homes and lands to be occupied by Iranian or other Shiite population groups from various countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. They establish illegal Iranian outposts in those areas and then turn them into legitimate settlements with the approval of several Syrian army officers.
Until a few weeks ago, he was among the strongest men in Syria — if not the strongest — but Javad Ghaffari’s last battle in the war-torn country was this time with no one other than the ruling elite he came to the country to defend. “He became a liability,” an official Syrian source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “The time has changed, and he still wants to act as per the rules of war, when the war is almost over.” The Iranian general, whose real name is Ahmad Madani, was appointed as head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces in Syria in 2015 to succeed Maj. Gen. Hussein Hamadani.
It was a late October morning in 1983 when two suicide trucks driven by members of a then little-known terror group named Hezbollah crashed into a US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American and 58 French military personnel and six civilians. Armed, funded and indoctrinated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hezbollah was created to forge ahead with the Islamic Republic’s regional ambitions, expand its influence, and export its ideology. In the years since the attack, Hezbollah has spread its tentacles into every aspect of social, economic and political life in Lebanon.
TURKEY & IRAN
Iran and Turkey will continue high-level diplomatic talks to draft a “long-term cooperation road map” to boost ties, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has announced. “We hope to finalise the road map in a future visit to Tehran by Mr [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, the eminent Turkish president,” Amirabdollahian said on Monday, standing next to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at a news conference in Tehran, without announcing a specific date for the visit. This was the first high-level visit to Iran by a Turkish official since President Ebrahim Raisi began his first term in office about three months ago.