The United States has quietly acknowledged that Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard successfully put an imaging satellite into orbit this week in a launch that resembled others previously criticized by Washington as helping Tehran’s ballistic missile program. The U.S. military has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press since Iran announced the launch of the Noor-3 satellite on Wednesday, the latest successful launch by the Revolutionary Guard after Iran’s civilian space program faced a series of failed launches in recent years. Early Friday, however, data published by the website space-track.org listed a launch Wednesday by Iran that put the Noor-3 satellite into orbit. Information for the website is supplied by the 18th Space Defense Squadron of the U.S. Space Force, the newest arm of the American military.
Russia has been increasing its supply of one-way attack drones, acquiring them from Iran but also making them at home. Ukraine has also been bolstering its air defenses though with the help of Western aid. The drones Russia uses are sometimes called exploding drones because they crash into a target and detonate on impact. They have been used to devastating effect in Ukraine, even if many of the drones are shot down before they reach their target. Russia has used the Shahed-136 drones in a series of destructive attacks on Ukrainian cities in the last year. In one attack, Shahed-136 drones struck two energy facilities in Odesa, leaving 1.5 million people in Ukraine without power for several days. Again, not all drones make it through though. Ukraine's air force said on Thursday that their air defenses shot down 34 of 44 drones — all of which were either Shahed-136s or Shahed-131s — launched by Russia in an overnight attack on southern and central Ukraine.
Iranian vessels pointed lasers against a U.S. attack helicopter operating in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, in what the U.S. military is calling “unsafe, unprofessional and irresponsible.” According to a U.S. Navy statement, personnel aboard vessels belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy pointed lasers at a U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter while in flight. No one aboard was injured and the helicopter, which was operating from the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, was not damaged, the statement said. The helicopter was operating in international airspace and Iran’s actions were inappropriate, the statement said. “These are not the actions of a professional maritime force,” said Cmdr. Rick Chernitzer, a spokesperson for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. “This unsafe, unprofessional, and irresponsible behavior by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy risks U.S. and partner nation lives and needs to cease immediately.”
UANI IN THE NEWS
When a VLCC transferred an oil cargo onto an Empire Navigation vessel in February 2022, it was just a fraction of the many millions of barrels of the commodity that US authorities claim the tanker had helped move from Iran to China. That is why it was being watched by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and how that ship-to-ship transfer would lead 19 months later to the first criminal conviction in the US of this type of sanctions busting earlier this month.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
More than half of people in Britain believe Iran’s nuclear programme poses a threat to the world, The National can reveal. A survey conducted by Deltapoll shows that the majority of Britons fear that Tehran is moving ever closer to developing weapons of mass destruction. Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief as part of a deal with global powers in 2015, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but in 2018 Donald Trump, at the time the US president, pulled Washington out of the agreement. Iran has since increased efforts to enrich uranium.The International Atomic Energy Agency said earlier this month that Iran was the only country without a nuclear weapon that was enriching uranium to 60 per cent purity.
Iran’s drone program is facing unprecedented challenges, as both the US and Europe increasingly focus on the supply lines that fuel the Iranian drone war machine with components from China or via Turkey. A new report at The Guardian published this week sheds light on how more than 50 components of the drones were actually manufactured in Western countries. These troubling details have been, to some degree, known for years, because Iranian drones have been shot down in the past, and their parts have been traced back to the Western suppliers. What the report sheds light on is how now there is a focus on cutting off the supplies. Iran uses dual-use items to equip its drones, which can include the most minor electrical components or more complex items, such as engines and gyroscopes.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Handwritten notes from Javad Rouhi, who died in Nowshahr prison due to medical neglect, show the brutal torture he endured in the hands of state security. Atena Daemi, a human rights activist, has since his recent death, made the notes public, drawing attention to the dire plight of inmates in Iran's penitentiaries. Rouhi, who was apprehended during the nationwide protests, died under suspicious circumstances while in custody on August 31. He had been sentenced to death alongside two other teenagers, on charges of allegedly setting fire to a police station. The notes written by Rouhi reveal that during his 44 days of incarceration at the Intelligence Department of Mazandaran Province facility, he was subjected to repeated instances of interrogation torture including electric shock and beatings.
Mehdi Yarrahi, a prominent Iranian pop singer, was arrested by Iranian authorities on Monday after releasing a song celebrating the anniversary of the Mahsa Amini protests coming up next month. Iran said the "illegal song" was the reason for his arrest, according to the Mizan News Agency affiliated to the Islamic Republic judiciary stated on Monday. “Take off your scarf, the sun is sinking,” the opening lyrics to the song reads. “Don’t be afraid, my love, laugh, protest against tears.” Yarrahi’s lawyer, Mostafa Nili, confirmed the arrest in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. In an interview with Sharq Daily, Nili added that he did not know the charges nor the whereabouts of his client.
Security measures are being stepped up in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan ahead of the first anniversary of Zahedan’s Bloody Friday massacre. Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan, which is home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people. The restive city has seen protest rallies almost every Friday since September 30 of last year, when security forces killed nearly 100 people in the deadliest incident in the widespread demonstrations sparked by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. The authorities, fearing a flare up in protests ahead of the anniversary, are erecting embankments and digging ditches around Zahedan, according to Haalvsh, a group that monitors rights violations in Sistan and Baluchistan. Military and security forces are also said to be increasingly controlling the residents’ movements by reinforcing checkpoints and stepping up their presence across the city.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran is planning to build a naval base at the South Pole, its naval chief said on Thursday. "Our plan in the future is to raise the proud flag of Iran in Antarctica," navy chief Adm Shahram Irani said during Iran's "sacred defence" week. Tehran hopes to conduct "military and scientific" work at the South Pole, he added, addressing the 86th flotilla, which returned in June from voyages to prepare an Antarctic expedition. In May, Iran said it hoped to send warships to Antarctica in the "near future" and had sent the flotilla on a round-the-world expedition to prepare for the mission. Adm Irani said the flotilla "broke the hegemony of world powers", state-run Irna reported.
An Iranian hacker group known as OilRig hijacked legitimate websites in order to target Israeli organizations, including a healthcare organization, in two separate cyberattack campaigns in 2021 and 2022, the Slovak ESET cybersecurity company reported last week. The two cyberattack campaigns were labeled "Outer Space" and "Juicy Mix" by ESET. The two campaigns collected browsing history, cookies, and usernames and passwords stored on targeted devices. The Outer Space campaign, launched in 2021, was conducted after OilRig compromised an Israeli human resources site. The hacker group used the site as a server to extract information from targeted devices.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A fire broke out Thursday at a car battery factory owned by Iran's Defense Ministry for the second time in less than a week, state media reported. No one was injured in the blaze, which erupted in an area where plastic waste is stored, state TV said. Iranian news outlets circulated photos and video footage of a column of black smoke rising into the sky north of the capital, Tehran. Iran's regular military and its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard operate several factories across the country, many of which produce civilian goods. Iran has seen a series of fires and other mishaps in its military facilities over the years, and often accuses its archenemy Israel of sabotage. Last month, Iran said Israel tried to sabotage its ballistic missile program through faulty foreign parts that could explode.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, confronted one of President Biden's nominees for a senior Defense Department position on Thursday concerning another administration official who was implicated this week in an Iranian influence operation on the U.S. government. The exchange came during the Senate confirmation hearing for State Department counselor Derek Chollet to be the new DoD Under Secretary for Policy, when Ernst demanded answers on how Dr. Ariane Tabatabai, a senior policy advisor at the DoD who formerly worked at the State Department, was able to get, and keep, a security clearance considering her alleged involvement in the Iran Experts Initiative (IEI), an Iranian government operation to improve the country's image abroad, according to a report by Semafor.
House Republicans on Thursday filed a resolution expressing disapproval of the Biden administration's $6 billion ransom deal with Iran amid reports of ongoing diplomacy between Washington and Tehran, in what congressional sources described as an opening salvo in the Republican-controlled chamber's efforts to block the White House from freeing up more funds for Tehran. The resolution condemns a range of recent diplomatic gambits that the Biden administration either hid from Congress or only admitted to lawmakers after significant pressure and delays, according to a copy that was exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The resolution's language provides a roadmap for Republican leaders to stymie the Biden administration's diplomacy with Tehran, particularly amid speculation the United States could free up another $3 billion in Iranian funds frozen in Japan.
US Assistant Secretary of Defense Christopher Maier told a Congressional panel on Thursday that the Defense Department is looking into reports whether his chief of staff had contacts had covert contacts with Iran. Iran International published a report September 26, detailing information obtained from hundreds of emails by Iranian diplomats showing that three individuals close to US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, were part of a group called the Iran Experts Initiative established by the Iranian foreign ministry to promote Tehran’s interests within the US policy centers. One of this individuals, Ariane Tabatabai is currently the chief of staff of Undersecretary Maier at the defense department. During a hearing at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, Congressman Brian Mast (Rep-Fl) asked Maier to answer candidly if Ms. Tabatabai listed on her security questionnaire that she had had any contacts with the Iranian foreign ministry.