Iranian Nuclear Ambitions; Israeli Strategic Strikes
- Houthi Missile Attacks and US Naval Response.
- Iran Expands Military Capabilities and Bolsters Security.
- Financial Ties Exposed: Iran’s $154 Million Support to Hamas.
- Israeli Raids on Homs Result in Deaths and Escalating Tensions.
- Baykar Drone Factory In Ukraine.
- Houthi Missile Attacks and US Naval Response. On Feb. 6, from 1:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. AST, CENTCOM reported six anti-ship ballistic missiles launched by Houthi militants. USS Laboon intercepted one targeting MV Star Nasia, which reported minor damage but no injuries. The remaining missiles aimed at MV Morning Tide had no effect. Three anti-ballistic missiles attempted to hit the MV Star Nasia, a Greek-owned and operated bulk carrier flying the Marshall Island flag, as it was transiting the Gulf of Aden. The ship then reported an explosion near it (indicating that one of the three missiles had fallen), causing minor damage but no casualties. The USS Labo (DDG 58), operating near the MV Star Nasia, intercepted a third anti-ship ballistic missile fired by the Houthis, but the ship continued sailing towards its destination. Later, another missile fell into the waters near the ship without effect. As for the remaining three ballistic missiles, the command suggested that they intended to target the MV Morning Tide, a UK-owned, Barbados-flagged cargo ship operating in the southern Red Sea. The same day, the Houthis’ spokesperson announced launching two more missile attacks on two British and American ships, shortly after the Embrey Maritime Security Company announced that a cargo ship owned by a British company had been slightly damaged while sailing off the coast of Yemen. Contrastingly, the Iranian cargo ship “Golsan” passed through the Bab al-Mandab with the Djiboutian Coast Guard. The Chinese cargo ship “Lanhai 1” was seen passing through the vital corridor towards the Arabian Sea, declaring that it had armed men on board for protection, a measure that commercial ships have been taking since the start of Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea weeks ago. On Tuesday evening, Arabic media outlets reported that the US Navy launched a raid on two Houthi drones.
- Shifting U.S. Strategy in Yemen: Empowering the Houthis? On the same day, as Yemen’s Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Mohsen Muhammad Al-Daari discussed defeating the Houthis with US officials in Yemen, American envoy Tim Lenderking presented a contrasting approach at a Middle East Institute event, advocating for granting the Houthis governance privileges to halt their attacks. This divergent strategy, aimed at preserving the Biden administration’s stance in Yemen, highlights the need for a unified strategy. Yet despite Lenderking’s upcoming diplomatic tour in Oman announced by the State Department, the Houthis told the Omani officials they insist on continuing attacks until Israel ceases its actions in Gaza.
- Iranian Support for Houthis and Regional Security Implications. Other news that went viral in the region’s networks and raised many questions was the US Defense of Intelligence Agency (DIA), which provided details on its website revealing the extent of Iranian support for the Houthi groups. Intelligence confirmed support to the Houthis began in 2015, with the U.S. intercepting 18 Iranian ships from 2015 to 2023 smuggling weapons to Yemen, including ballistic missile components, drones, and anti-tank guided missiles, alongside thousands of assault rifles.
Iran Is Developing Nuclear Power, Enhancing Defense, And Evading Sanctions
- Iran Expands Military Capabilities and Bolsters Security. Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi announced the establishment of a new drone base and the introduction of 39 new types of manned aerial vehicles to the Iranian Air Force, aligning with the Fajr ceremony and the 45th anniversary of the Air Force’s allegiance to Imam Khomeini. Concurrently, government spokesperson Ali Bahadori Jahromi lauded the Intelligence Ministry for identifying operatives linked to Mossad across 28 countries, highlighting this as evidence of Iran’s robust security measures and the effectiveness of its intelligence operations in safeguarding national interests.
- Iran’s Sanctions Evasion Through UK Banking Channels. Iran has been circumventing US sanctions by covertly transferring funds internationally using British bank accounts. The Financial Times reported that Lloyds and Santander banks facilitated accounts for shell companies controlled by a sanctioned Iranian petrochemical firm based in London. This operation, supported by Iranian intelligence, funneled millions to the Quds Force and pro-Iranian militias, leveraging a complex network of entities despite sanctions on the National Iranian Petrochemical Commercial Company since November 2018.
- Iran’s Economic Maneuver: High-Interest Bonds Amid Currency Turmoil. In an effort to stabilize the plunging rial, Iran authorized state banks to offer 30-percent interest bonds for fixed-term deposits, aiming to deter capital conversion into foreign currencies and outflow from the banking system. This unprecedented move, reflecting a jump from previous rates of 15% to 22.5%, seeks to counter the rial’s decline from 400,000 to 500,000 per dollar within four months, amidst escalating US-Iran tensions impacting the currency’s value. Despite logistical and regulatory challenges faced by banks initially, the scheme saw nearly complete uptake, signaling potential extension or expansion.
- From Kabul, Iran’s Envoy Threatens To Deploy Suicide Forces. Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iran’s envoy to Afghanistan, stated that Afghanistan is integral to the “axis of resistance,” prepared to dispatch “several brigades of martyrdom forces” from Kabul to Gaza if deemed necessary. On the “Ofoq” channel, Qomi emphasized Afghanistan’s long standing resistance against occupiers, highlighting the nation’s unified struggle rather than attributing it to specific factions or the current Taliban governance. Despite the Taliban’s focus on verbal and demonstrative support for Gaza, Qomi’s comments suggest a deeper, potential involvement rooted in a shared ideology.
- Secret Ties Unveiled: German Firm Linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Documents reveal a covert connection between GIC International, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Ghadeer Investment Holding, suggesting a scheme to finance the Iranian armed forces. German media, drawing on leaked information, exposed GIC International as a key node in a broader network devised by Tehran to bypass sanctions and facilitate international commerce, potentially channeling substantial revenues to Iran. Despite claims of compliance with EU laws, the uncovering of these ties by German regulators has prompted the company to seek alternative means for maintaining financial and material exchanges with Iran, underlining the complex challenges of sanction enforcement and the intricate web of Iran’s international financial operations.
- Iran and Iraq Finalize Border Agreement to Ease Arbaeen Pilgrimage. During the same time Iraq is grappling with its inability to maintain security around the country, security officials from Iran and Iraq have finalized arrangements for a border agreement aimed at facilitating travel for Arbaeen pilgrimage attendees.
- Iran Boosts Gas Production Despite Alleged Sanctions. The Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Company (IOEC) has successfully increased Iran’s daily gas output capacity by 8 million cubic meters (MCM), demonstrating significant progress in the country’s energy sector. This development is marked by the completion of a new 110-km offshore pipeline in the South Pars Gas Field’s Phase 16, elevating the phase’s nominal daily production capacity to 28 MCM.
- Fars News Claims Advancements in Iran’s Nuclear Capabilities. According to Fars News, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, led by Mohammad Eslami, reports significant advancements in the nation’s nuclear program, including successful collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Fars News claims that Iran has broken the monopoly held by the US, UK, and Germany on a crucial nuclear device, enhancing its self-sufficiency in the nuclear and other industries, such as petrochemicals and isotope spectroscopy. This development is part of Iran’s efforts to become independent in producing essential nuclear technology and equipment, particularly in the area of stable isotope production and purity measurement, which is vital for both the nuclear sector and the knowledge-based economy.
Prisoner Swap Proposal, Defensive Strikes, and Financial Revelations
- Al Jazeera Reports on Fierce Confrontations and Heavy Casualties. Clashes between Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades and Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades, and Israeli forces have escalated in Gaza. The Palestinian claims to have targeted an Israeli Apache helicopter and engaged Israeli vehicles and a Merkava tank with missiles and explosives in Khan Yunis.
- IDF Encircles Hamas Stronghold in Khan Yunis. Israeli forces have strategically encircled the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, identified as a critical stronghold of Hamas leadership in the southern Gaza city. This operation is part of a broader IDF offensive, which saw Israeli Air Force fighter jets conducting targeted strikes around the hospital premises early Tuesday morning. The military’s actions are underpinned by intelligence indicating that senior Hamas officers and commanders are using the hospital as a hideout. Concurrently, ground troops from the 98th Division and the Paratroopers Brigade have been active in Khan Yunis, engaging Hamas terrorists operating from civilian areas. These operations have led to the killing of dozens of terrorists and the arrest of some 80 suspects involved in previous attacks, including the October 7 massacre. Givati Brigade snipers and the 646th Brigade Combat Team have been particularly effective, eliminating more than 15 terrorists and dismantling a Hamas observation post within the city.
- Financial Ties Exposed: Iran’s $154 Million Support to Hamas. Israel has disclosed evidence of Iran’s substantial financial support to Hamas, specifically to its leader Yahya Sinwar, with documents showing $154 million transferred from 2014 to 2020. Notably, the IDF uncovered over NIS 20 million ($5.5 million) in cash in a Gaza Strip tunnel.
- Ceasefire Stalemate Continues. Despite ongoing efforts, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledges significant hurdles remain in reaching a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Hamas’s proposal for a permanent end to hostilities includes a three-stage, four-and-a-half-month plan demanding the release of all hostages for Palestinian prisoners, which Israel is unlikely to accept. This proposition, although indicating Hamas’s readiness for dialogue, faces Israeli reluctance, particularly against the backdrop of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance against Palestinian statehood. With both sides holding firm on their demands, the path to a ceasefire and the resolution of the hostage crisis remains fraught with complexity.
- IDF Confirms Deaths Amid Ongoing Efforts for Hostages’ Release. The hostage situation in Gaza, following Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist onslaught, has taken a grim turn with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirming the death of 32 out of the 136 hostages still unaccounted for. This confirmation comes amid Israeli intelligence reports indicating that an additional 20 hostages may also have perished, suggesting that over one-fifth of those captured might have been killed. The IDF has notified the families of the 32 confirmed deceased, marking a sorrowful acknowledgement of the loss endured by the communities affected.
- Qatar Proposes Israel-Hamas Deal: 3,000-5,000 Prisoners for Hostage Release. Qatar has communicated to Hamas that Israel might be open to releasing 3,000-5,000 Palestinian prisoners, chosen by Hamas, in exchange for hostages. Despite Netanyahu’s opposition to releasing a large number of terrorists, this development is part of Qatar’s broader effort to mediate a ceasefire. Qatar’s proposal also includes measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, such as allowing displaced residents to return, improving refugee camps, and restoring essential services.
- Global Solidarity with Israel Intensifies. Canada has announced sanctions against senior leaders of Hamas, including Yahya Al-Sinwar and Muhammad Al-Deif, in response to the October 7 attack on Israel, targeting a total of 11 individuals from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement. This move by the Canadian Foreign Ministry underscores the perceived threat these groups pose to regional security. In a parallel show of support, Argentine President Javier Milli, upon his arrival in Israel, declared his intention to relocate Argentina’s embassy to Jerusalem. This announcement was made during discussions with Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, as part of Milli’s visit aimed at strengthening bilateral relations. Milli’s visit, which includes meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and participation in events commemorating the October 7 attack, signifies a deepening of diplomatic ties between Argentina and Israel, with potential religious conversion highlighting the personal significance of this gesture.
- Israeli Strikes on Syrian Military Positions Near Homs. In the latest development, Israeli missiles targeted several Syrian army outposts and an airbase in the vicinity of Homs, according to Syrian state media. The strikes, part of Israel’s escalated response following the October 7 attack by Hamas, aimed at Iranian-backed militia positions in Syria as well as Syrian army defenses and forces. Syrian air defenses reportedly intercepted some of the missiles, though specifics on the targets impacted were not disclosed. The Shuyrat airbase and other strategic locations near Homs were confirmed as targets. The attack resulted in casualties, injuries, and property damage, with state television broadcasting the immediate aftermath. This incident underscores Israel’s ongoing efforts to counter Iran’s influence in Syria, which has significantly increased since Tehran’s intervention in the Syrian civil war beginning in 2011.
Showdown in Iraq: Prime Minister’s Proposal vs. Pentagon’s Response
- Drone Strike Kills Iraqi Militia Leaders in Baghdad. A drone strike in Baghdad’s Al-Mashtal area on Wednesday evening resulted in the deaths of three individuals, including two leaders of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah Brigades and a leader from the Popular Mobilization Forces.
- Al-Araji Affirms Legal Duty to Serve Iran. In a statement reflecting on Monday’s meeting, February 5, 2024, the leader of the Iranian Badr Organization and Iraqi National Security Advisor, Qasim al-Araji, emphasized the legal obligation to serve Iran while discussing bilateral relations with the Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Ali Akbar Ahmadian, and his delegation. Al-Araji reiterated the strategic importance of Iraq-Iran relations, emphasizing shared interests and the need for direct, collaborative solutions to regional challenges. Ahmadian reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to respecting Iraq’s sovereignty and resolving issues through constructive dialogue, highlighting the enduring historical ties between the two nations.
- Iraqi Prime Minister Reveals Agreement on Ceasing Attacks. Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani unveiled an agreement last night regarding the cessation of attacks between armed factions and American forces. Al-Sudani announced to Al-Arabiya channel that the Mobilization Forces factions agreed to halt their attacks in exchange for the cessation of American responses. He emphasized the end of the international coalition’s mission against ISIS and rejected any military incursions into Iraqi territory. Al-Sudani clarified that the coalition’s presence began and will conclude at Iraq’s request, with negotiations underway to withdraw forces, including in the Kurdistan region. American Secretary of State Blinken also commented on the matter yesterday evening.
- Iraqi Experts Assert Attacks Against the U.S. Will Continue. Iraqi newspapers underscore persistent US struggles countering Iran-backed militant assaults in the Middle East. Attacks targeting US forces and shipping extend across Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Yemen. Despite retaliatory US airstrikes following the deaths of three soldiers in Jordan, aggression persists. Subsequent attacks in Syria and on merchant vessels follow joint US-British strikes against the Houthis. While experts foresee a potential decrease in attacks due to US measures and Iran-backed groups’ inclination to limit losses, a complete cessation remains improbable.
- Iraqi PM Engages in Economic Diversification Despite Security Risks. Baghdad, February 6, 2024 – Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani held separate discussions with Dutch and Chinese officials to bolster economic ties. In a meeting with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanke Bruins Slot, Al-Sudani emphasized Iraq’s commitment to enhancing bilateral cooperation across various sectors, welcoming Dutch companies‘ participation in strategic projects such as the Al-Faw Grand Port and Development Road. Concurrently, Al-Sudani met with Chinese Ambassador to Iraq Cui Wei to discuss strategies for deepening economic partnership, particularly focusing on China’s involvement in the Development Road project. Both meetings underscored Iraq’s efforts to diversify economic partnerships and promote regional stability.
- Clashing Views: Iraqi PM’s Proposal vs. Pentagon’s Accountability. Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani articulated an “equation” regarding mutual attacks between armed factions and American forces, proposing a cessation of hostilities from both sides in exchange for peace. Stressing rejection of any military attack on Iraqi soil, Al-Sudani highlighted the termination of the international coalition’s mission against ISIS. In contrast, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh attributed attacks on U.S. forces to pro-Iranian armed factions, particularly naming Kata’ib Hezbollah. She affirmed accountability for those responsible for recent attacks, including the incident in Jordan, signaling a different assessment of the security landscape.
- Israeli Raids on Homs Result in Deaths and Escalating Tensions. Israeli airstrikes on Homs on Tuesday night resulted in one death and numerous injuries, including civilians. The strikes targeted residential buildings and military installations in northwestern Homs and its countryside. Despite the Syrian regime’s claim of intercepting some missiles, the attacks raised concerns about regional tension escalation. Reports suggest the raids targeted Iranian militia sites, highlighting heightened Israel-Iran tensions in Syria. The funeral of five civilians killed in the attack was held today, revealing dissatisfaction among residents with venues rented by individuals linked to Iran and Hezbollah. Hezbollah confirmed the death of three members, including leaders, during the raid, with one attending a meeting in a targeted building. Hezbollah militia announced the killing of three of its members. Among them are leaders The dead are Hussein Muhammad Shamas, nicknamed (Mahdi), who hails from the town of Labweh in the Bekaa Governorate in Lebanon, Muhammad Jaafar Isali, nicknamed (Walaa), from the town of Ansar in southern Lebanon, and Ahmed Samir Qanbar, a leader in Hezbollah.
- Confrontation Escalates as SDF Site Attacked by Suspected Iranian Militia Drone. A joint Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and American forces site in Syria was targeted by a drone attack suspected to be carried out by Iranian militias. The attack, originating from areas controlled by the Syrian regime, struck a training academy in the Al-Omar field east of Deir ez-Zor. Iranian-affiliated sites on the southern bank of the Euphrates River, extending over 400 kilometers, are believed to be involved. Confrontations between the SDF and Iranian factions risk escalating tensions in northern Syria, with Iranian factions aiming to weaken the SDF amid the Turkish offensive against them. Analysts warn of increased vulnerability for American forces to further attacks, given Russian silence and potential Turkish acceptance of new conflicts in the region.
- Baykar Drone Factory In Ukraine. Baykar, a Turkish defense company, is constructing a drone factory near Kiev, Ukraine, projected to employ 500 people and produce up to 120 Bayraktar TB2 and TB3 drones annually. The facility underscores Baykar’s global defense export growth, servicing over 30 countries.
- ICC-Wanted Putin Schedules Diplomatic Visit to Turkiye. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s planned visit to Turkiye on February 12 raises eyebrows as he faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. This visit, during heightened regional tensions, marks a critical juncture in international relations.
★ Arabian Gulf
- Saudi Will NOT Normalize Relations Without Palestinian State Recognition. Saudi Arabia has reiterated its stance to the U.S. that it will not establish diplomatic ties with Israel without the recognition of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
📌 Incase you missed it,