The U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday it had imposed sanctions on 21 Iranian and foreign nationals and entities for their involvement in financial networks to benefit Iran's defense ministry and other parts of its military. In a statement, the Treasury said those sanctioned helped generate funds for Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS), and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). "Iran generates the equivalent of billions of dollars via commodity sales to fund its destabilizing regional activities and support of multiple regional proxy groups, including Hamas and Hizballah," it said, referring to the Islamist Palestinian group and the Lebanese Shi'ite armed force and political party.
A U.S. Navy warship in the Red Sea shot down an Iran-produced drone launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, U.S. Central Command said on Wednesday, in the latest defensive move by the U.S. military in the region in recent weeks. Washington is on heightened alert for activity by Iran-backed groups as regional tensions soar during the Israel-Hamas conflict and has been trying to ensure that it does not spread. The drone was shot down by the Carney, a destroyer, U.S. Central Command, part of the Department of Defense, said on messaging platform X. "Although its intentions are not known, the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was heading toward the warship," it said, adding that at the time the Carney was escorting two ships, one of which was carrying military equipment to the region.
In a bold act of defiance, an Iranian judge at the 2023 World Wushu Championships in the United States appeared without the mandatory hijab, igniting a controversy back home where the head scarf has become a flashpoint in a battle for women's rights. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Arghavan Jalali Farahani explained that her decision was "a gesture of solidarity with the ongoing struggles in Iran" and a tribute to Mahsa Amini and Armita Garavand, two Iranian women who died after a confrontation with morality police over the hijab and have become symbols of resistance against the mandatory Islamic dress code. The incident gained international attention after a photo of Farahani, with nothing covering her head, surfaced online from the competition being held in Fort Worth, Texas. Despite her name being announced as Iran's representative, the Islamic republic's Wushu Federation swiftly denied she was there officially.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…The United Against Nuclear Iran flag flies near the Suez Rajan. The ship spent months anchored off Texas after it was seized.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog has urged world powers to relaunch talks with Iran and not lose sight of the risks posed by its stockpiling of enriched uranium while attention has turned to the war between Israel and Hamas. “There needs to be some recreation of a system of dialogue with Iran,” Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Financial Times. “Attention . . . may of course be on something else. But this doesn’t solve the issue. It may even make them more acute, in the sense that there’s a sense of a certain indifference,” Grossi said. “People may not be looking at [Iran’s nuclear ambitions], but the problem exists.”
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Israeli government officials were today renewing their efforts to intensify the pressure on the EU and Germany to sanction Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity. When asked if the EU and Germany should outlaw the IRGC, Lior Haiat, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry told Iran International “We do. Because it is a terror organization.” Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, Michal Cotler-Wunsh, told Iran International, that the “IRGC and Hezbollah are terror groups and must be designated as such”. Norbert Röttgen, a German MP from the Christian Democratic Union, told Iran International that "The German government has now repeatedly stated that the legal prerequisites for putting the IRGC on the EU terror list do not exist. This is simply not true.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce announced in mid-November it has launched an investigation into Seyed Hossein Mousavian, who has been a Middle East security and nuclear policy specialist with the School of Public and International Affairs’ (SPIA) Program on Science and Global Security since 2016 and was formerly a high-ranking diplomat in Iran. Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) spearheaded a letter sent to President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 and signed by 10 other Republican committee members — of 45 total members — which included a list of questions about Mousavian and his ties to Iran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United States and Iran have exchanged multiple messages since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war saying that neither side is interested in escalating the conflict, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian tells The New York Times in an interview. “We understand the US does not want the war to spread, but we think the US wants the war to intensify,” the top Iranian diplomat says. “If the US continues its military, political and financial support of Israel and helps manage Israel’s military attacks on Palestinian civilians, then it must face its consequences.” US officials say they have yet to come across intelligence indicating that Iran was directly involved in the October 7 massacres led by Hamas. However, other Iran-backed proxies have launched dozens of missiles at US forces in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks, leading to several American counterstrikes.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian authorities on Wednesday executed a Kurdish man jailed for almost 14 years in a case linked to a Muslim cleric's killing in 2008, rights groups said, decrying unjust proceedings. Ayoub Karimi was first convicted in 2018 on the capital charge of "corruption on earth" in a case involving six other Kurdish men who also received the death penalty. They were accused of belonging to illegal groups as well as over links to the cleric's killing in the western Iranian city of Mahabad. Karimi was hanged along with six other men, who had received sentences in unrelated cases, in Ghezel Hesar prison in the Tehran suburb of Karaj, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group said.
The open expression advocacy group PEN America urges the public to join scores of writers, artists, human rights advocates and civil society organizations from around the globe in calling on the Iranian government to release human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi from prison. The petition FREE NARGES NOW! calls on Iranian authorities to immediately free Mohammadi, ensure she receives proper medical care, and allow her to travel to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony on December 10. “Despite massive global recognition for her tireless advocacy for women's rights and human rights in Iran, Narges is currently serving multiple politically-motivated prison sentences totalling over 30 years,” it says. “Given the precarious state of her health, we are extremely concerned for her physical well-being.”
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Neither Washington nor Tehran wants the conflict in the Gaza Strip to trigger a wider war in the region, officials in both capitals say. But in the seven weeks since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, Iranian-backed militias have launched more than 70 rocket and drone attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon, for its part, has responded with four rounds of airstrikes, killing as many as 15 people, U.S. officials say. National security officials fear a miscalculation amid tit-for-tat attacks, combined with each side’s belief that the other does not want a larger fight, could trigger exactly that: a regional conflict, just two years after the United States ended 20 years of war in the Middle East and South Asia. So far, none of the U.S. reprisal attacks have provoked an escalation, even the one last week in Iraq that killed several militants with Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group. The Pentagon said on Tuesday that the attacks had subsided at least temporarily — the most recent being on Nov. 23, the day before an operational pause in the Gaza war began.
For much of this year and before 7 October, naval gazers had about four areas to look at. First, the ongoing fight in the Black Sea with the Russian blockade weaponizing hunger despite regular Ukrainian successes there. The Russians were also keeping navies busy in the high north and the North Atlantic. Second, the Chinese have been repeatedly upping the ante in the South China Sea and then saying “but you did it” after each event. This has been region-wide but escalating and perhaps reached a head ten days ago when they deliberately turned on their active sonar next to an Australian warship with divers in the water. The Aussie divers were ‘lucky’ to only be injured. Third, Critical Underwater Infrastructure (CUI) was starting to grab headlines as gas pipes, data cables and power interconnectors in various locations blew up or were severed.
Britain is sending a second warship to the Gulf to serve as a deterrent against the Israel-Gaza war spiralling into a wider conflict. UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the deployment of destroyer HMS Diamond was essential after the “unlawful and brazen” seizure by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels of an Israeli ship in the south of the Red Sea and the increase in activity by Somali pirates. He said the destroyer will join Operation Kipion, the UK’s maritime presence in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean, to help ensure the freedom of navigation in the region, reassure merchant vessels and ensure the safe flow of trade. HMS Lancaster has been in the Gulf since last year alongside three minehunters. The mission also aims to prevent regional tensions escalating once the temporary truce ends, when Israel’s ground invasion could become more intense and potentially drag Iran or linked groups into the conflict.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has defended the practice of government agents photographing citizens in public spaces, describing it as "natural." As a response to public outcry, Vahidi compared traffic control cameras, asserting that capturing images of those violating rules is a common and convenient method. In April, Iran's police announced that new cameras were installed in public places and thoroughfares to identify and penalise unveiled women, another attempt to rein in the increasing number of women defying Iran's compulsory dress code. Tehran’s prosecutor opened a case against the reformist Etemad newspaper on Sunday after it published an interior ministry document outlining the enforcement of hijab rules. The report provided details about the deployment of hijab enforcers at Tehran's subway stations and cited a directive issued by Vahidi to several government entities, including Tehran Municipality and the Metro Company.
CONGRESS & IRAN
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) reintroduced his legislation to impose terrorism sanctions on the Iran-controlled Houthis, as acts of terrorism continue to escalate in the Middle East. On February 5, 2021 the Biden State Department announced it would lift terrorism-related sanctions on the Houthis and three of their leaders: Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim. Sen. Cruz repeatedly pushed language to reverse that decision, including filing this bill in 2022…The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The Israeli military said it intercepted an "aerial target" that crossed from Lebanon on Thursday, in an incident that jolted the calm prevailing at the frontier since the Palestinian group Hamas and Israel agreed a temporary truce. Reuters witnesses heard blasts along the southeastern Lebanese frontier. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for any attacks from Lebanon. Israel and the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, had been trading fire across the border for weeks following the eruption of the Hamas-Israel war on Oct. 7, in their worst fighting since a 2006 war.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia has approached Iran with an offer to boost cooperation and invest in its sanctions-stricken economy if the Islamic Republic stops its regional proxies from turning the Israel-Hamas war into a wider conflict. The proposal has been delivered directly and through multiple means since Hamas’s attack on Israel last month and the ensuing war in Gaza, according to Arab and Western officials familiar with the matter. The possibility of a deeper engagement also came up in the encounter between Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman during a summit in Riyadh this month to address the war, said the people, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks. Raisi was among the first leaders that MBS, as the crown prince is known, spoke with after the Hamas attack.