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Iran in February 2024

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2024-2-6&7

Iran Is Developing Nuclear Power, Enhancing Defense, And Evading Sanctions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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 forcesfrom 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.

2024-2-8

  1. Meta Suspends Accounts of Khamenei, When Will X?
    On February 8, 2024, Meta, the parent company of Instagram, announced the suspension of the official Instagram accounts of Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, citing “repeated violations” of its policies against dangerous entities and individuals. Despite this, Khamenei continues to be active on Elon Musk’s X platform, where his posts frequently criticize Israel and praise Hamas.
  2. Iran Executes Amputation Sentence for Sheep Theft.
    Iran’s execution of a severe sentence, the amputation of four fingers of 34-year-old Yousef Ta for purportedly stealing five sheep, has sparked outrage. Despite Yousef’s insistence on his innocence throughout his 13-month imprisonment, the harsh punishment was carried out. This act, condemned by human rights advocates, highlights the extreme measures of the Iranian judicial system, especially in contrast to the widespread corruption and embezzlement by officials within the same regime.
  3. Five Journalists Vanish Following Raid on Iranian News Site.
    In Tehran, five journalists from the Fardaye Eghtesad website, including its editor and deputy editor, remain unaccounted for three days after a security forces’ raid resulted in the detention of 30 staff members. The incident, cloaked in secrecy with no details on the missing journalists’ status, has heightened concerns over their safety. The judiciary attributes the arrests to matters under security investigation, not journalistic work, amidst speculations linking the detentions to exposes on Iran’s covert international financial dealings.
  4. Iran, China, and Russia Engaged in Illicit Efforts to Acquire Sensitive U.S. Technology, DHS Reports.
    Jim Mancuso, Assistant Director of the Global Trade Division at Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), has raised alarms over Iran, China, and Russia’s attempts to illicitly obtain sensitive U.S. technology. This concern is underscored by the discovery of American microelectronics and communications systems in Iranian drones on battlefields in Ukraine and the Middle East. These nations employ sophisticated networks to bypass U.S. export laws, with technologies often routed through China to end destinations like Iran. The U.S. is actively targeting these procurement networks to prevent the furtherance of adversaries’ military capabilities and uphold national security.
  5. US Adult Performer Whitney Wright’s Controversial Visit to Iran Sparks Debate.
    Whitney Wright, a 32-year-old adult performer from the US, recently visited Tehran, Iran, causing controversy by posting a photo of herself at the former US embassy, now an anti-American museum. Her presence in Iran, a country where her profession is deemed “obscene,” alongside her visit to significant historical sites, has ignited discussions on social media and among critics regarding Iran’s enforcement of its mandatory hijab law and the government’s approach to foreign visitors. This visit comes amidst a backdrop of significant unrest in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini and ongoing debates over women’s rights and freedoms. Iran’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged Wright’s visit, noting no impediments for US citizens traveling to Iran, despite ongoing tensions between the two nations.
  6. Iran Coerces Religious Minorities into Supporting Islamic Revolution Celebrations.
    In Iran, Jewish and other non-Muslim communities have been compelled to participate in events celebrating the Islamic Revolution, signaling the regime’s attempt to fabricate broad support as elections approach. Notably, leaders from the Jewish, Armenian, and Zoroastrian minorities, alongside Revolutionary Guard commanders, were reported to show “enthusiastic attendance.” This move aims to mask the regime’s oppressive treatment of these groups, with the Jewish population notably declining from 80,000 pre-revolution to 5,000-8,000 today, many having fled to Israel and the US. Experts label these minorities as “hostages,” pressured to display allegiance amidst widespread discrimination and religious freedom restrictions, highlighting the regime’s attempt to project unity and support falsely.
  7. Iran’s Foreign Investment Figures Disputed.
    Ali Fikri, head of the Iranian Foreign Investment Organization, claims Iran drew $10.6 billion in foreign investments since President Raisi’s 2021 inauguration, with significant contributions from Russia in the oil and gas sector. This figure starkly contrasts with the UNCTAD’s report of only $1.5 billion for 2022, highlighting discrepancies between contract values and actual financial inflows. These conflicting reports suggest Iran’s potential overstatement of investment figures to boost its global image amidst economic challenges and currency devaluation, with Russian investments notably focusing on service contracts rather than direct financial inputs.

2024-2-13

  1. Iranian Foreign Minister and Hamas Leader Discuss Gaza in Doha
    Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and Hamas Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh discussed the ongoing Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip. The talks, part of Abdollahian’s regional tour, focused on the political and field developments of the situation, emphasizing the urgent need to halt aggression and provide immediate humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank. 
  2. Sudanese Military Engages with Iran Amidst Proxy War Concerns.
    Sudan’s military officials, led by Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, engaged in talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran. This meeting, marking the first high-level visit since the restoration of diplomatic ties in October, highlights Sudan’s intricate position between Iran’s expanding influence and the UAE’s strategic interests in the region. Amidst tensions, Iran’s reported delivery of drones to the Sudanese Armed Forces signals a significant shift, potentially reshaping regional dynamics and stoking fears of a proxy war in Sudan.
  3. Iran Claims Naval Missile Launches and Nuclear Progress.
    Iran is claiming that it can now launch long-range ballistic missiles from its warships, signaling a bold move away from its declared defensive military posture. IRGC commander Hossein Salami issued a veiled warning, suggesting Iran’s capability to target any adversary threatening its security. Iran’s nuclear ambitions have also come under scrutiny, with recent remarks from the country’s former atomic energy chief hinting at significant advancements towards nuclear weapon capability.
  4. The US Seizes Boeing 747 Cargo Plane Linked to Iran’s IRGC.
    The US government has seized a Boeing 747 cargo plane, previously owned by an airline linked to Iran’s IRGC, which was grounded in Argentina in June 2022 on suspicion of illegal activities. The Justice Department stated that the US-built plane had been brought to Florida and would be disposed of. Argentina had grounded the plane after its unannounced arrival from Mexico to an airport in Buenos Aires on June 8, 2022. The plane originally belonged to Iran’s Mahan airline, affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and sanctioned by the US for transporting arms to Syria and supporting terrorism.

2024-2-14

  1. Revolutionary Guard’s Role in Iran’s Nuclear Expansion.
    The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is actively involved in expanding Iran’s nuclear capabilities. An official disclosed the Guard’s participation in constructing new units at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, including two projects with a combined output of over 2,100 megawatts. Initiated in 2014 with Russia’s Atomstroyexport and a $10 billion investment, this development raises significant concerns over the dual-use potential of Iran’s nuclear advancements.
  2. IRGC Conducts Missile Drills Targeting Mock Israeli Air Base.
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) successfully executed military drills simulating attacks on a scaled-down model of Israel’s Palmachim Air Base using “Emad” and “Qadr” ballistic missiles. These exercises, commemorating Revolutionary Guard Day, demonstrated the missiles’ enhanced warheads and modified designs, achieving striking precision within a 4-meter margin at a range of 1,700 kilometers. This provocative maneuver underscores escalating tensions and the IRGC’s advancing missile capabilities.
  3. Cyberattack Targets Iranian Parliament Amid Anti-Government Protests.
    The “Intifada to Overthrow” group, linked to the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, launched a cyberattack on the Iranian parliament’s websites amid escalating anti-government protests. This attack, preceding the March legislative elections, is part of a series targeting Iran’s government infrastructure. Sensitive information, including Tehran’s evasion tactics against U.S. sanctions, was exposed. The leaks reveal methods of document falsification and the use of foreign intermediaries in illicit commercial operations. Authorities are working to restore services and investigate the breach.
  4. Explosions Target Iranian Gas Pipelines; Authorities Maintain Supply Continuity.
    Two significant explosions, described by Oil Minister Javad Oji as “terrorist sabotage,” struck gas pipelines in southwestern Iran. Despite the severity, the Iranian government claimed that gas supplies to industrial and administrative sectors remain unaffected. Minister Oji confirmed there were no casualties from the incident, and the National Gas Company has effectively managed the situation. Repair efforts are actively underway, with expectations to restore gas flow within 12 to 14 hours, reinforcing Iran’s resilience in maintaining essential services amidst challenges.
  5. Iran Open to Defense Talks with Saudi Arabia.
    Iran’s Defense Minister expressed readiness for discussions with Saudi Arabia on defense and security cooperation, stressing regional collective security. The minister highlighted Iran’s willingness to collaborate with not only Saudi Arabia but also other Gulf nations. The Saudi ambassador echoed these sentiments, describing the relationship as “brotherly and friendly.” This announcement follows a positive phone call between military officials from both countries aimed at strengthening ties.
  6. Pure Islamic Ideology’s Influence on Iran’s Politics: Analysis.
    Iran’s political landscape is deeply influenced by pure Islamic governance, with shifts in emphasis on religious ideologies over time. Following Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s passing, cleric Ebrahim Raisi has come into focus, potentially signaling a move towards more religiously-driven politics. Yazdi’s legacy includes the establishment of religious schools promoting his ideologies, fostering extremist elements in government and religious spheres. This shift prompts questions about Iran’s long-term political stability amid ideological competition. As Iran grapples with internal discord and external criticism, the future role of religious ideology in its politics remains uncertain, challenging its resilience to domestic and international pressures.

2024-2-15&16

  1. US Cyber Operation Renders Iranian Spy Ship Inoperative.
    The United States successfully executed a cyber attack on the Iranian vessel “Behshad,” disrupting its intelligence-gathering capabilities intended to aid Houthi forces in Yemen. This operation, prompted by Iranian-backed militia attacks in Iraq, targeted the ship to impede its communication and intelligence exchange activities. Behshad, strategically positioned near Djibouti port and a Chinese base, underscores Iran’s efforts to fortify its maritime assets against potential threats.
  2. Iran Retaliates by Blocking META Programs After Ayatollah’s Account Closure.
    Following Meta’s decision to remove the accounts of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei from Instagram and Facebook due to policies against individuals associated with violence, Iranian authorities have implemented new regulations requiring advertising licenses for social media accounts with over 5,000 followers. These regulations, presented under the guise of advertising and taxation oversight, are, in fact, a direct response to Meta’s actions, signaling the Iranian government’s resolve to counter what it perceives as censorship. Through these measures, the government aims not only to regulate but also to retaliate, tightening its grip on social media access and imposing licensing requirements on influential accounts. This strategy effectively restricts the platform’s influence and outreach, consolidating the government’s control over online communication channels and quelling dissenting voices with greater authority.In other related news, the social media platform X has removed verification badges from Iranian media outlets’ accounts, including those of Tasnim News Agency and Press TV, following pressure from the Israeli lobby. This action comes amidst claims that X provides premium services to sanctioned entities, highlighting concerns over potential violations of US sanctions.
  3. Iran’s Claims Ownership of Antarctica.
    Iranian Admiral Shahram Irani’s claims regarding ownership of Antarctica have alarmed the international community and challenged the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which stipulates that the continent be used for peaceful and scientific purposes only. The US State Department responded to the threats by confirming that the Iranian funds released in Qatar were used to purchase humanitarian goods only, denying the possibility of financing an Iranian military base in Antarctica. The controversy comes in the context of regional tensions reinforced by Western interventions and controversial financial support from the United States for Iran, which complicates international relations and raises security concerns.
  4. New Details Reveal the Iranian Oil Smuggling Network to Bypass US Sanctions.
    New leaks reveal the involvement of Idman Nafrieh and Ali Bayandarian, who are close to the Iranian leader, in smuggling oil to bypass US sanctions. The two collaborate with Pasargad Bank and the Imam’s Orientation Headquarters to sell oil illegally, using the cover commission to issue lines of credit to brokers. The Iranian regime is resorting to complex techniques, including barter and the use of cryptocurrencies, to circumvent sanctions and maintain its oil exports. Despite the punitive measures, Iranian oil exports increased significantly, indicating the success of these strategies.
  5. Iran Vows Retaliation Following U.S. Sanctions and Oil Seizure.
    On February 4, the U.S. seized over 520,000 barrels of Iranian oil for sanctions evasion, targeting a network financing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This action followed the DOJ’s announcement on February 2 linking Iran to recent militant attacks, emphasizing the need to disrupt its illicit oil trade. In response, Iran warned of reciprocal actions on February 15, after the U.S. imposed new sanctions on February 14 against Iran’s Central Bank and a technology smuggling network. These sanctions aimed to thwart Iran’s financial support for the IRGC-QF and Hezbollah, entities destabilizing the Middle East. Despite sanctions, Iran continues to adapt, employing sophisticated strategies to maintain its oil exports and technological procurements, signaling a persistent challenge to U.S. efforts in curbing its regional influence and financial networks supporting militant activities.

2024-2-20

  1. Iran’s Latest Missile Launch: Recycling Old Systems.
    Iran recently garnered media attention by announcing two supposedly new missile systems, the Arman and Azarakhsh. However, these systems were previously introduced in 2018, 2021, and 2023. The Tactical Sayyad missile, renamed Arman, remains virtually unchanged. Iran’s Defense Minister, Brigadier General Muhammad Reza Ashtian, showcased these old missiles as new, citing the name change in honor of Arman Ali Wardi, a Basij militia member allegedly killed in a 2022 protest. This reuse of existing systems with minimal upgrades not only highlights Iran’s limited technological progress but also underscores the failure of its messaging strategy aimed at deterrence.
  2. Impact of Israeli Strikes on Iran’s Gas Production Exposed.
    Energy experts reveal that Israeli strikes have cut 15% of Iran’s daily natural gas output, challenging Tehran’s claims of unaffected services and quick repair times. The Israeli Telegram channel Abu AliExpress pinpointed the explosion’s impact, halting gas flow from Bandar Abbas port and southern fields to major cities like Isfahan, Qom, and Tehran.

2024-2-21

  1. Today’s Iranian Claim: 10,000 Tons Warship Allegations.
    Iran’s Defense Ministry spokesperson, Brigadier General Reza Talaei-Nik, allegedly made claims about ongoing construction of warships weighing up to 10,000 tons, purportedly indicating Iran’s maritime advancements. Alleged assertions emphasize tailored defense structures for Army and IRGC, along with the alleged delivery of Karrar tanks to ground forces and purported advancements in drone capabilities. Other allegedly recycled weapons showcased anew are part of Iran’s efforts to bolster military capabilities. The Shahed-131 drone, featured in January drills, enhances surveillance and combat abilities. Tehran Times said the old/new drone demonstrated effectiveness in engaging targets, including simulated strikes on a facility resembling Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant. With dimensions of 2.6m x 2.2m, weighing 135 kg, and a 900 km range, its unique design contributes to operational prowess.
  2. Iran Accuses Israel of Gas Pipeline Sabotage.
    Iranian Oil Minister Jawad Oji accused Israel of carrying out an attack on gas pipelines in Iran on February 14, which he described as an “act of terrorist sabotage.” The attack, which did not result in casualties, affected gas supplies in three governorates, causing unrest and material damage. Ogi described the incident as part of an “Israeli plot” to cut off gas supplies, but it was quickly addressed. He also mentioned the December cyber attack targeting Iranian gas stations, accusing the United States and Israel of responsibility. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for an investigation and immediate action to address the damage. 

2024-2-22

  1. Iran’s Military Expansion During the Biden Administration’s Term.
    During the Biden administration, Iran has escalated its military activities, notably by exporting approximately 400 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles to Russia since 2020, including the Fateh-110 family with a range of up to 700 km. Concurrently, Iran has bolstered its military capabilities through the procurement of aircraft and drone engine parts valued at over $236 million from Turkey, the UAE, Germany, and Ukraine over the last ten years, with $26 million worth in the current Iranian year. This strategic enhancement of military capabilities comes despite international sanctions.The Defense Ministry of Iran reported a 40% increase in arms sales to foreign states in the last eleven months. Following the expiration of a UN Security Council arms embargo in October 2023, as per the 2015 Iran nuclear deal provisions, Iran’s military trade activities have further intensified. Yesterday, the U.S Justice Department unsealed in Manhattan, New York a 2022 case against a Japanese organized crime syndicate leader, Takeshi Ebisawa who was indicted in transferring nuclear materials including Uranium and weapons-Grade Plutonium.  
  2.  Iran’s Legislative Elections: Apathy and Boycott Calls.
    Iran’s election campaign starts amid low interest and boycott calls, following protests and concerns of a historic low voter turnout. With Supreme Leader Khamenei advocating for participation, the elections face skepticism due to underrepresentation of reformists and deep public dissatisfaction driven by economic woes and the aftermath of Mahsa Amini’s death. The contest is primarily between conservative factions, highlighting the challenges of achieving a competitive and inclusive political landscape.

2024-2-28

  1. Global Recognition of Iran’s Ties to Al-Qaeda Confirmed.
    The U.S. has acknowledged Iran’s significant role in aiding al-Qaeda, highlighting its function as a major conduit for the group’s resources and operatives worldwide. This includes hosting key figures like Saif al-Adel, who, following the death of Ayman Al Zaouhri, is poised to become the group’s next leader. The presence of al-Adel in Iran, a major player in global terrorism, underscores the critical nature of Iran’s support for al-Qaeda. This situation, spotlighted by both the U.S. and UN Security Council, raises grave concerns about Tehran’s deep-seated connections to terrorist networks and the implications for international security.
  2. Economic Crisis in Iran Highlighted by Leaked Funding Request .
    A leaked letter from Khamenei’s chief of staff requesting increased funding for religious entities amid Iran’s economic turmoil reveals the nation’s fiscal challenges. Facing over 40% inflation and public dissatisfaction due to stagnant wages, the government prioritizes religious and military expenditures. This situation, exposed by opposition hackers, demonstrates the severity of Iran’s economic decline and the contentious allocation of resources.
  3. Iran Applauds U.S. Airman’s Self-Immolation.
    Tehran Times highlights Iran’s Foreign Ministry praising Aaron Bushnell’s self-immolation as a potent condemnation of U.S. support for Israeli actions in Gaza. Iran strategically utilizes the incident to underscore American complicity in Palestinian suffering, amplifying anti-Biden sentiments and pro-Palestinian activism. By capitalizing on Bushnell’s tragic act, Iran aims to fuel discontent towards Biden’s policies, positioning itself as a vocal critic of U.S.-Israeli alliance while advancing its own political objectives.
  4. Iran Touts Houthi Disruption of Israeli Trade .
    Iran’s Tehran Times hails Ansar Allah’s disruption of Israeli trade routes, detailing attacks on container ships in the Red Sea, causing the closure of Eilat port. They stress that only Israeli ships will be targeted, complicating maritime trade for Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, they accuse Israel of exaggerating Yemeni actions’ threat to international trade security, urging focus on ending Gaza’s plight. Iran highlights the Houthis diverse ways of fighting back, like messing with the economy and launching missiles, shaking up the region.
  5. Khamenei Blocks Son’s Leadership Speculation .
    Ahead of the Leadership Council of Experts’ elections, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei intervened to prevent his son’s nomination as his successor, emphasizing merit over familial ties. Mahmoud Mohammadi Iraqi revealed a discussion within a tripartite committee about potential leaders, including Khamenei’s son, which the Supreme Leader promptly halted to avoid nepotism allegations. This move underscores the secretive and sensitive nature of selecting Iran’s next leader, amid a backdrop of sanctions and internal debates on leadership succession, with figures like Ebrahim Raisi and Hassan Khomeini considered alongside the strictly guarded process.

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