Yemeni Terrorist Financing Probe Blocks Red Sea Cable Repair

TOP STORIES 

Yemeni Terrorist Financing Probe Blocks Red Sea Cable Repair | Bloomberg 

The Yemeni government is holding back repairs on a key internet cable that’s been damaged in the Red Sea as it conducts a criminal investigation into the cable owners’ alleged ties to the Houthi militia. The Iran-backed Houthis, designated as a terrorist organization by the US and its allies, control much of Yemen’s telecommunications infrastructure, including a branch of the country’s only international carrier, TeleYemen. TeleYemen is part of a consortium of operators that owns the damaged AAE-1 cable, a 25,000-kilometer (15,534-mile) system that connects Europe to Southeast Asia. The Yemeni government has notified about 20 members of the global group — which includes Emirates Telecommunications Group, Saudi Arabia’s Mobily, Italy’s Retelit, Oman Telecommunications Co. and Djibouti Telecom — that they are being probed for their association with TeleYemen and may be providing material support to a designated terrorist group, according to documents seen by Bloomberg and two people familiar with the situation.  

US Gives Saudis Green Light To Try To Revive Peace Deal With Houthis | The Guardian 

US determination to keep Saudi Arabia engaged in a peace process with Israel has led Washington to give Riyadh an informal green light to try to revive a peace deal with the Houthis, the Yemen-based rebels who have been attacking commercial shipping in the Red Sea since November. The proposed Yemen UN roadmap for peace was agreed in outline in early December but progress was immediately frozen as the Houthis escalated their campaign of attacks in the Red Sea in what they billed as an act of solidarity with Palestine. The campaign, estimated a week ago by the Houthi leadership to have amounted to 112 attacks on ships, has led to a dramatic fall in maritime trade through the Red Sea and a surge in insurance costs.  

Jordan Foils Arms Plot As Kingdom Caught In Iran-Israel Shadow War | Reuters 

Jordan has foiled a suspected Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons into the U.S.-allied kingdom to help opponents of the ruling monarchy carry out acts of sabotage, according to two Jordanian sources with knowledge of the matter. The weapons were sent by Iranian-backed militias in Syria to a cell of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan that has links to the military wing of Palestinian group Hamas, the people told Reuters. The cache was seized when members of the cell, Jordanians of Palestinian descent, were arrested in late March, they said. The alleged plot and arrests, reported here for the first time, come at a time of sky-high tensions in the Middle East, with an American-backed Israel at war in Gaza with Hamas, part of Iran's "Axis of Resistance" network of proxy groups built up over decades to oppose Israel. 

UANI IN THE NEWS 

Trade Data Highlights Malaysia's Role In Shipping Iranian Oil To China | Iran International 

Although Malaysia refutes US claims of violating sanctions on Iranian oil trade, Iran International has obtained additional evidence suggesting that shipments to China are indeed originating from Malaysia. […] Malaysia seized an Indian and a Chinese tanker due to illegal ship-to-ship operations involving Iranian oil six months ago, after the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), disclosed through satellite imagery that the two vessels were bypassing US sanctions. Claire Jungman the chief of staff at UANI and tracker of tricky oil tankers, especially ones coming out of Iran, tweeted on October 25 that her organization identified the ARTEMIS III and Panama-flagged OCEAN HERMANA conducting an illegal ship-to-ship transfer of Iranian oil in the Riau Archipelago islands.  

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM 

Talk In Iran About Change In Nuclear Weapons Policy Must Stop, UN Expert Says | The Guardian 

Loose talk within Iran about abandoning the country’s prohibition on possessing nuclear weapons is very worrying and needs to stop, Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN nuclear inspectorate, has said. He was speaking to the Guardian after talks in London with David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, about the future of Iran’s nuclear programme and Grossi’s delicate efforts to persuade Iran to re-establish an effective inspection programme capable of guaranteeing that the country is not seeking a nuclear weapon. As a result of Iran’s military confrontation with Israel last month an increasing number of senior Iranian politicians have been calling for the country to develop nuclear weapons to match those they believe Israel has secretly developed.  

UN Nuclear Chief Both Alarmed And Hopeful Regarding Iran | Iran International 

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog has expressed concerns over threats by Iranian officials to consider building nuclear weapons, while also voicing hope that Tehran is ready for serious talks. International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Grossi in London on Tuesday was quoted by two major newspapers as being both concerned and hopeful regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The contradiction was apparently due to the different emphasis the Financial Times and Guardian put on Grossi’s separate remarks to each publication. The Guardian emphasized Grossi’s statement that loose talk in Tehran “is very worrying and needs to stop”. However, the FT highlighted Grossi’s optimism that Iran has shown willingness to engage in “serious dialogue” with the IAEA. Both takeaways from Grossi’s remarks could be equally valid: his optimism after a trip to Iran last week and the continuing loose talk in Tehran by senior officials for opting to build nuclear weapons.  

‘A Huge Question’: IAEA Chief Alarmed By Iran’s Talk Of Developing Nuclear Weapons | The Times Of Israel 

International Atomic Energy Authority chief Rafael Grossi said Tuesday he was extremely worried about recent comments from Iranian officials threatening to develop nuclear weapons and about their lack of cooperation with UN inspectors. Grossi made his comments following a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Tuesday. Speaking with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Grossi said, “Loose talk about nuclear weapons is extremely serious for me. And I think it should stop. We are moving closer to a situation where there is a big, huge question mark about what they are doing and why they are doing it.” He added that the status of the agreement with Iran on inspecting its civil nuclear program is “in a very tight spot.” Iran has threatened to move toward manufacturing nuclear weapons in the wake of its ongoing tensions with Israel.  

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS

India Downplays US Sanctions Threat Over Iran Port Deal | Al Arabiya News 

India’s foreign minister has said his company will work to communicate the benefits of a strategic port project in Iran, after the United States said Indian firms working on the project risked sanctions. Iran and India this week signed a contract to develop and equip the long-stalled Chabahar port in an agreement that would give New Delhi 10 years of access to the facility, at a time when its government is seeking to grow trade in west and central Asia. Washington has warm ties with India but a longstanding adversarial relationship with Iran, soured further by Tehran’s support for Hamas in its war with Israel. “It’s a question of communicating and convincing and getting people to understand that this is actually for everybody’s benefit,” Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar said at a public event in the city of Kolkata on Tuesday evening.  

Iran Brands New Australian Sanctions Illegal | Iran International 

Iran has branded new sanctions by Australia “illegal” with key figures within Iran’s military and Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) now under the new measures. The sanctions also target the IRGC Navy and individuals such as Iran's Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani and Brigadier General Esmail Qaani, commander of the IRGC's Quds Force. Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Australia and its partners of maintaining a “double standard” claiming they are aligned with Washington's policies. Australia's sanctions, which also affect several Iranian businesspeople and entities involved in missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs, have been justified on the grounds of curbing Iran's "destabilizing behavior" and extensive proxy activities in the region. The Australian government asserts that these programs have long fueled regional instability.  

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM 

The Long Road To Iran | Jewish News Syndicate 

Dismantling Hamas in Gaza and tackling Hezbollah’s presence in southern Lebanon will clear the path to tackling Iran’s nuclear program, a former Israel Defense Forces officer has told JNS. Professor Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni is a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and the Misgav Institute for National Security, and served as deputy and chief methodologist of the IDF’s Research Center for Force Deployment and Buildup. According to Siboni, a seasoned consultant to the Israel Defense Forces and other Israeli security bodies, “The war with Hamas must end with the full destruction of its capabilities. Partial measures are insufficient.”  

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

The Mullahs’ Repression: Fueling Iran’s Mass Exodus | Iran News Update 

One of the major social and cultural crises in Iran is the impact of ideological totalitarianism and political repression under the mullahs’ regime, leading to a significant increase in immigration and brain drain. This issue has become so severe in recent years that some experts warn of “the danger of Iran becoming empty of elites, specialists, and doctors.” This crisis extends beyond professionals and affects various segments of the population. The economic, social, and cultural burdens resulting from this situation are products of the ruling class’s policies. This class prioritizes religious-political interests, maintaining dominance, power, and wealth over the well-being of the Iranian people, even the most deprived classes. To uphold this preference and dominance, the regime has committed military crimes, political repression, and perpetuated poverty.  

Cosmetics Traders In Tehran Market Close Shop, Rally Against Tax Hikes | Iran International 

Cosmetics traders in Tehran's market shuttered their businesses in response to the recent hike in the country’s value-added tax. Footage shared with Iran International depicts cosmetics shops in multiple malls closed on Monday in protest against the nation’s updated tax regulations.The retailers also organized a demonstration outside the National Tax Administration building, where they called on their union to address their grievances. The state-run news agency ISNA reported on the protest of cosmetic product sellers: "Since a large portion of the goods in this trade are imported through unofficial channels, no tax is paid on them. Meanwhile, official importers of the same goods pay value-added tax upon entry."  

Imprisoned Christian Convert In Iran Denied Medical Care | Iran Wire 

Laleh Sa'ati, a Christian convert imprisoned in Evin Prison, is being denied access to specialized medical attention despite her deteriorating neurological condition. Sa'ati's family raised concerns about her mental well-being after a recent visit, as they saw a significant decline in her condition. This follows news that the prosecutor overseeing her case blocked a request for her temporary release for medical evaluation. Sa'ati's arrest in February stemmed from alleged "acting against national security through contact with Zionist Christian organizations." She was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison and a travel ban in March.  

This Is What It's Like To Be Detained By Iran's Dreaded Morality Police | Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty 

Scores of women have been detained in Iran in recent weeks for not wearing the mandatory Islamic head scarf, as authorities intensify their enforcement of the country’s controversial hijab law and crack down on alleged violators. It's an issue that was at the heart of unprecedented protests that rocked Iran in 2022. Homa (not her real name), a 42-year-old mother of two, spoke to RFE/RL's Radio Farda about what it's like to be swept up in the crackdown. This is her account. I was returning from my mother’s home and had done some shopping. I was holding the shopping bags in one hand and the keys in the other to open my door. My head scarf had slipped down. [A man] on a motorcycle drove by and said, "Lady, put your head scarf back up." I said, "no.’" He asked again but I ignored him. He then pulled out his phone and took a photo of me. Immediately, a morality police van pulled up. 

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS 

Exclusive: US Intelligence Spotted Chinese, Iranian Deepfakes In 2020 Aimed At Influencing US Voters | CNN 

Operatives working for the Chinese and Iranian governments prepared fake, AI-generated content as part of a campaign to influence US voters in the closing weeks of the 2020 election campaign, current and former US officials briefed on the intelligence told CNN. The Chinese and Iranian operatives never disseminated the deepfake audio or video publicly, but the previously unreported intelligence demonstrates concerns US officials had four years ago about the willingness of foreign powers to amplify false information about the voting process. The National Security Agency collected the intelligence that gave US officials insights into China and Iran’s capabilities in producing deepfakes, one of the sources said.  

We Will Not Let Iran And Its Proxies Win, US Vows | Iran International 

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called Iran and its proxies “clear” threats to American interests on Monday, vowing that the Biden administration would do everything to counter those threats. In a White House briefing focused on Israel’s war on Gaza, Sullivan said the US government seeks to prevent the current conflict turning into an “all-out regional war,” but would not shy away from any action, including “use of force when necessary”, to protect American people and interests. “We will not let Iran and its proxies succeed,” he stated.  

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS 

Biden Administration Advances $1 Billion Arms Sale To Israel | New York Times 

The Biden administration has told Congress that it intends to move forward with a plan for the United States to sell more than $1 billion in new weapons to Israel, according to three congressional aides familiar with the deal. The notification of the sale, which would include new tactical vehicles and ammunition, comes as President Biden has withheld a shipment of bombs to Israel, hoping to prevent U.S.-made weapons from being used in a potential invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Last week, Mr. Biden said he would block the delivery of weapons such as bombs and missiles that could be fired into the densely populated area where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering. The potential arms transfer illustrated the narrow path the Biden administration is walking with Israel, trying to prevent an assault on Rafah and limit civilian casualties in Gaza but continuing to supply a longtime ally that the president has said has a right to defend itself.  

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS 

Iran Ex-Official Gets Jail Term In Rare Ruling In $3.7B Corruption Case | Al-Monitor 

Iran's Judiciary said it has sentenced a former government minister to three years in jail over a multibillion-dollar embezzlement scandal, the biggest known corruption case in Iranian history, the judiciary's official news website, Mizan, reported on Tuesday. The ex-official, Javad Sadatinejad, served as agriculture minister (2021-2023) in the administration of incumbent President Ebrahim Raisi. Seven deputies working under Sadatinejad have also been handed prison terms, while a total of 45 other officials have been indicted for varying levels of involvement in the fraudulent tea imports case, Chief Justice Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said in a public speech on Tuesday. The hard-line judiciary chief earlier told the media that the case had caused "public pessimism," raising the need for speedy proceedings due to the "massive digits" that have defined the fraud saga.  

Iran Finds First Case Of New Virus Variant In Traveller From UK | Reuters 

Iran has registered its first case of a highly contagious coronavirus variant that emerged in Britain after an Iranian arrived from the UK, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on Tuesday. At the same time the health ministry reported that Iran, the country worst hit by the coronavirus in the Middle East, had recorded its lowest daily death toll in nearly seven months. "Unfortunately, we found the first case of the mutated British COVID-19 from a dear compatriot who had returned from England... and who was admitted to one of our private hospitals," Namaki told state TV.  

Rouhani Warns Of Undermining Presidential Powers In Iran | Asharq Al-Awsat 

Former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani strongly criticized the Iranian electoral body for disqualifying him from running in the Assembly of Experts elections that were held in March, describing the move as a threat to the country’s political system, particularly the presidency. Rouhani has repeatedly asked for explanations from the Guardian Council, the body overseeing Iranian elections. His disqualification was unexpected and came during elections aimed at selecting influential clerics for the Assembly of Experts, who would potentially choose the next Supreme Leader. Rouhani’s recent political rejection raised eyebrows in political circles, considering his extensive track record.  

Amid Secularization In Iran, Officials Push Islamic Academic Program | Iran International 

Iranian authorities have announced plans to establish an academic program that centers on the Islamic doctrine known as the "promotion of virtue and prevention of vice." While the "promotion of virtue and prevention of vice" (PVPV) is a teaching rooted in the Quran and a guiding principle of behavior for Muslims, it also refers to a key Iranian regime institution tasked with determining and enforcing its strict Islamic behavioral norms in society. This week, Mehran Samadi, the head of the PVPV Office, confirmed the launch of the new university program, which is intended for master's and doctoral levels of study. Though he admitted that the PVPV’s work often focuses on the hijab and chastity, he emphasized that other areas also require attention and enforcement of Islamic principles.  

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Northern Israel Under Threat: Hezbollah's Menacing Drone Force Raises Concerns | All Israel News 

Over the past several years, the use of drones in armed conflicts such as the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Russia-Ukraine War, as well as by several Iranian proxy militias, has revolutionized battlefield tactics around the world. Ironically, one of the countries that pioneered the military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the past, Israel, has now been suffering daily drone attacks on at least five fronts for over half a year. Hamas used cheap, small commercial drones to great effect during its surprise attack on October 7, even causing the IDF to hurriedly install metal cages over its tanks to prevent drones from dropping explosives on them. 

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS 

IITV Host Urges Western Policy Change On Iran At Geneva Summit Opening | Iran International 

At this year’s opening of the Geneva Summit, Iran International’s journalist Pouria Zeraati issued a call to Western leaders, urging them to craft a new policy to back the Iranian people and confront the "terrorism stemming from the Islamic Republic of Iran." “In this path, we all have a key role to play…so that the Iranian people’s great revolution, which began in September 2022, will become triumphant – and you, in the Western world, will no longer be threatened by a regime that is against basic human values,” Zeraati said. Now in its 16th year, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy is a leading annual event organized by a coalition of 25 NGOs. It convenes activists globally on the eve of the UN Human Rights Council's main session to bolster international awareness of human rights issues.  

EU Broadens Restrictive Measures Against Iran | Iran International 

The EU Council announced the expansion of its restrictive measures against Iran on Tuesday in response to the country's military support for Russia's war on Ukraine and armed groups in the Middle East. The expanded measures will allow the EU to target individuals and entities involved in supplying, selling, or transferring Iran's missiles and UAVs when supporting Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, being used by armed groups and entities to undermine peace and security in the Middle East and Red Sea region, or breaching United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015). "This framework, adopted in July 2023, currently prohibits the export of components used in the construction and production of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from the EU to Iran, and provides for travel restrictions and asset freeze measures against persons responsible for, supporting or involved in Iran’s UAV’s program," stated the Council.  

CYBERWARFARE 

Tech Firm Censoring Iran’s Internet, Blames Outages On ‘Cyberattacks’ | Iran International 

The CEO of the controversial cloud tech firm ArvanCloud says Iran is grappling with internet disruptions due to cyberattacks, a claim that skeptics argue masks the Iranian regime’s own role in internet censorship. Known for managing Iran's cloud services and a history of facilitating the regime in internet censorship, the firm has been sanctioned by the US. Speaking about the continued internet outages plaguing the Iranian population recently, the firm’s CEO Pouya Pirhosseinloo appeared to shift the blame away from the state. “Only the ministry of communications can comprehensively investigate the network, yet it seems that recent disruptions are due to widespread cyberattacks, with both the infrastructure and the ministry of communications failing to counter them effectively," he said.