Air defense systems operated by U.S.-led coalition troops based in eastern Syria halted six drone attacks targeting their base at the Conoco oil field on Saturday, a security source said. The source did not tell Reuters if there were casualties. Coalition troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who together fight remnants of the Islamic State group, have faced increased attacks by Iran-backed groups in Syria and Iraq since Hamas’s attack against Israel on Oct. 7.
Iraq and the U.S.-led military coalition resumed meetings Sunday on how to draw down troops who have been deployed there for years combating the Islamic State. The first long-awaited meeting took place Jan. 27, but had since been put on pause after Iran-backed militants struck a U.S. outpost in Jordan the very next day with a drone that killed three U.S. service members.
Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis said on Monday they had targeted a cargo ship in the Red Sea, the latest such strike since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. The Houthis identified the vessel as the Star Iris. The group's military spokesman, Yahya Saree, said in a televised statement the ship was American but maritime-shipping trackers said the Marshall Islands-flagged ship was Greek-owned. The British maritime security firm Ambrey and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said earlier on Monday that a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greece-owned bulk carrier had been targeted by missiles in two incidents while pasing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
UANI IN THE NEWS
... Kasra Aarabi, of the United Against Nuclear Iran think-tank, said IRGC recruiters did not focus on hiring British Iranians, who are usually secular and oppose the Ayatollah regime. But British Shias who originated from Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon were targeted at the Arbaeen festival in the holy Iraqi city of Karbala, which attracts up to 20 million pilgrims a year.
The Biden administration often appears more afraid of Iran than Iran is of the Biden administration. That is a very dangerous dynamic for the United States. While the military action President Joe Biden has ordered this week to counter the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its axis of resistance is degrading Iran’s capacity, it is not deterring its will.
Forty-five years on from the Islamic Revolution and the Iranian regime is at a significant transformative turning point – one that has already had dangerous implications at home and abroad. Exactly five years ago today, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – the 84-year-old supreme leader – announced a new manifesto outlining his vision for the next 40-years: “the Second Phase of the Islamic Revolution.”
... Kasra Aarabi, of the United Against Nuclear Iran advocacy group, remarked that the IRGC has focused on employing British Muslims mostly originating from Lebanon, Iraq and Pakistan because UK-based Iranians are usually secular and anti-regime and thus, will not cooperate with Tehran’s malign schemes. Aarabi referred to annual Arbaeen religious mass gathering in the holy Iraqi city of Karbala as an occasion in which the IRGC recruiters are very active as the event gathers annually up to 20 million Shia pilgrims from around the world. Approximately 400,000 Shia Muslims live in the UK.
... Another expert, Kasra Aarabi, of the United Against Nuclear Iran think tank, was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that the recruiters usually focus on hiring British Shias who originated from Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon rather than British Iranians “who are usually secular and oppose the Ayatollah regime.”
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Center for National Defense director Robert Greenway tells 'Fox & Friends Weekend' that the U.S. will have 'little warning' for when Iran will produce nuclear weapons.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization has once again accused UN's nuclear watchdog of having “double standards” and not cooperating with Iran’s nuclear industry. “Not only they did not cooperate, but they also obstructed and prevented the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring the equipment, supplies and technology it needed,” Mohammad Eslami claimed, further adding that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been influenced by the “destructive behavior” of global arrogance.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Standard Chartered, a British bank, has helped Iranian petrochemical companies circumvent international sanctions, the Times reported on Saturday. The bank facilitated trades between a Chinese company and Iran's Arak Petrochemical and Bandar Imam Petrochemical, both sanctioned by the United States, the report said, citing leaked transactions data. The bank’s services involved trades worth £2.1 million between 2020 and 2021, the report pointed out.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Hundreds of thousands of people chanted "Death to Israel" in rallies across Iran to mark the Islamic Revolution's 45th anniversary on Sunday, with some burning U.S. and Israeli flags amid the ongoing war between Israel and Tehran-backed Hamas. President Ebrahim Raisi, in a televised speech, accused Tehran's arch-foe the United States and some Western countries of backing "the Zionist regime's (Israel) crimes against humanity in Gaza."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Amidst mounting concerns over the fate of detained protester Reza Rasaei, Amnesty International issued a warning to Iranian authorities regarding his imminent execution. Rasaei, who denies any involvement, faces the specter of death following his conviction in connection with the killing of an agent during a protest in Kermanshah province, on November 18, 2022. The Iranian state media identified the agent as a member of the Revolutionary Guard, further complicating Rasaei's case. In addition to the disputed murder charge, Rasaei has been sentenced to one year in prison and 74 lashes for "disrupting public order."
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran and the United States have exchanged messages throughout Israel's 4-month-old war on Hamas in Gaza, including about Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, the Iranian foreign minister said Saturday. "During this war and in the recent weeks, there was an exchange of messages between Iran and America," Hossein Amirabdollahian said through a translator at a news conference capping a daylong visit to Beirut. He said the United States had asked Tehran to request Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, "not to get widely, fully involved in this war against Israel."
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich slammed President Biden for his stance on Iran and the Middle East in a Sunday interview, calling it “madness.” The Middle East has recently been dealing with the Israel-Hamas war and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels striking ships, disrupting international trade in retaliation to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq suggested they would resume attacks on US troops in the country and across the region in a statement released Friday. The statement comes days after the US military carried out a drone strike that killed a senior Katai’ib Hezbollah commander. US officials said Abu Baqir al-Saadi, who was killed, was “responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on US forces in the region.”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran marked 45 years since its Islamic revolution with a ceremony Sunday in which President Ebrahim Raisi condemned arch foe Israel over the Gaza war and demanded it be expelled from the United Nations. Since Iran's 1979 revolution that overthrew the US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the region's main Shiite Muslim power has had deeply hostile relations with Israel, the United States and Britain. Tensions have spiralled further since the bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted on October 7 with the Palestinian militant group Hamas's attack on Israel, in turn sparking violence between Iran-backed militant groups and US forces.
Iran’s football federation said Saturday it has asked world football’s governing body, FIFA, to suspend Israel’s football federation over the country’s war in Gaza. In an announcement posted on the Iranian football federation’s website, Iran asked FIFA to “completely suspend” the Israeli federation “from all activities related to football”. The request also asks for “immediate and serious measures” by FIFA and its member associations “to prevent the continuation” of the Israeli “crimes and provide food, drinking water, medicinal and medical supplies to innocent people and civilians.”
The military collaboration between Iran and Russia has significantly intensified since the invasion of Ukraine, with Tehran delivering offensive weapons used against civilian targets. The recent revelation by the Prana Network of Iran's clandestine arms deal with Russia, valued at $1.75 billion, has sparked concerns about its implications on global security and regional stability. Additionally, Iran's acquisition of the Russian S-300 air defense system in 2016, along with its forthcoming procurement of advanced Russian military aircraft, signals a significant milestone in their evolving defense partnership.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq's Parliament is pushing for a law to force the departure of US troops from the country following a series of attacks against Iran-backed militias, accused by Washington of attacking its troops in Iraq and Syria. In recent weeks, tension has escalated between US troops and Iran-backed militias in Iraq after a series of retaliatory attacks in the country and over the border in Syria. Last month, the escalation reached new levels with a drone attack hitting a US base in Jordan, killing three US service members and wounding more than 30 others.
Iran marked Sunday the 45th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution amid tensions gripping the wider Middle East over Israel’s continued war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Iranians marched through major streets and squares decorated with flags, balloons and banners with revolutionary and religious slogans. In Tehran, crowds waved Iranian flags, chanted slogans, and carried placards with the traditional “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” written on them. Some burned U.S. and Israeli flags, a common practice in pro-government rallies.
Iranians living in the UK have described deep divisions in the community since the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East. The deadly attack by Hamas in Israel on 7 October and the subsequent bombardment of Gaza have led to tense conversations among British Iranians, they say. “On the face of it, really clearly you can find two camps,” said Negin Shiraghaei, an activist and founder of the Azadi Network.