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Iran in March 2024

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2024-3-6

  1. Iran Taps $50M Oil Reserve, Launches Naval Commands.Iran announced today March 6, the unloading from the  $50 million Kuwaiti crude oil shipment intended for Chevron Corp, aboard a tanker seized nearly a year ago, citing a court order related to a lawsuit by individuals suffering from a rare skin disease, affected by sanctions blocking medicine access.Additionally, a large number of cruise missiles, electric torpedoes, three types of smart naval mines, homegrown cannon projectiles, missile guidance systems and underwater weapons were also delivered to the Navy, according to Tasnim Agency. The Iranian Navy has set up three ocean commands supervising naval missions to the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.
  2. Qaani Declares Resistance Still Holds Unseen PowerBrigadier General Ismail Qaani confirmed that the resistance fronts have not used all its capabilities yet, but it has proven that no one can ignore it. He pointed out that while Gaza will be reconstructed, the Israeli position cannot be restored
  3. Iran Shows Off Cutting-Edge Military Arsenal at DIMDEX At the DIMDEX 2024 defense show in Qatar, Iran displayed a broad range of military technology, including the “Gaza” UAV, a medium-altitude, low-endurance drone with a 500 kg payload, satellite communication, and a 35,000 feet flight ceiling. It can be equipped with an airborne synthetic aperture radar for surface and underwater detection. The exhibit also featured a 20mm naval machine gun, a 12.7mm four-barrel artillery system, and the Sevom Khordad air defense system, known for downing an MQ-4C Triton. Mockups of naval vessels like the CM-90 boat, Midget submarine, and a frigate were displayed alongside the CM-35A anti-ship missile with a 35 km range, and brochures introducing ballistic missiles like the AD-200, BM-250, BM-125, and BM-300. Additionally, Iran showcased the SL-ASR3 early warning system and Iranian-built Kalashnikovs. Notably, Iran’s defense industry promotes its capacity for mass production, as highlighted by reports of the Shahad 136 UAV being manufactured in Russia as “Geran,” demonstrating Tehran’s ambition to expand its military exports, excluding the US and Israel
  4. Ayatollah Khamenei’s Acts After the elections.The Iranian government and media accused external forces of interfering in its parliamentary elections via cyberattacks and social media manipulation, with Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali reporting about 200 cyber-attacks, particularly DDoS, from foreign sources. The Tehran Times claimed Meta’s team worked with U.S. and U.K. intelligence, affecting electoral outcomes. Contrarily, Ayatollah Khamenei lauded the high voter turnout as a civic “jihad,” against the hostile propaganda. The Supreme Leader made this statement while planting trees during the occasion of the National Tree Planting Day
  5. Iran’s Global Gas Dreams Clash with U.S. Sanctions During the conference in Algeria, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi claimed ambitions to make Iran a major regional gas exporter and an energy hub. However, the reality starkly contrasts these ambitions, as Iran faces a severe daily gas deficit, underinvestment in its oil and gas sectors, and significant production challenges due to sanctions. Meanwhile, global dynamics shift as other nations, notably Qatar, advance in the gas market, further highlighting the discrepancies between Iran’s aspirations and its actual capabilities amid U.S. sanctions. In other related news, the Iranian national currency has been plummeting to a historic all-time drop, just days after the also historic all-time low voter turnout
  6. Iranian FM Explores Economic Ties During OIC Meeting on Gaza In Jeddah, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan, convened during an Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) emergency session focused on Gaza. Amirabdollahian advocated for enhanced economic and commercial partnerships, urging eased cooperation frameworks. Farhan, highlighting the positive trajectory of bilateral relations, expressed Saudi Arabia’s readiness to advance ties with Iran further.

2024-3-12

  1. European Union to Consider Measures Against Iran for Providing Missiles to Russia–as Tehran Chairs UN Conference on Disarmament.The EU is considering taking new and significant measures against Iran following reports that Tehran might transfer ballistic missiles to Russia for use in the conflict against Ukraine. The draft conclusions for an upcoming summit express concern over Iran’s potential military cooperation with Russia, which is already deepened by the supply of drones and missiles. The EU plans to coordinate a swift response with international partners and has called for the preparation of further sanctions against Iran, alongside Belarus and North Korea, in response to these developments. Ironically, in light of the EU’s concerns, Iran will chair the UN Conference on Disarmament on March 18 and again from May 13 to May 24, 2024, a platform for international disarmament negotiations. The conference agenda includes nuclear arms race termination, disarmament, preventing nuclear war, and armaments transparency. Iran’s Foreign Minister criticized disarmament double standards, particularly concerning the Israeli regime, which he views as a global threat.
  2. Biden Faces Pivotal Decision on Whether to Renew $10 Billion Sanctions Waiver for Iran.Biden must decide this week whether to continue the waiver that allows Iraq to buy electricity from Iran and grants Iran access to $10 billion in Iraqi funds for “humanitarian goods,” avoiding U.S. sanctions. Critics argue the move could enable Tehran to support its proxies, while the effectiveness and specifics of Iran’s use of these funds remain largely undisclosed. The decision comes as Iran’s regional activities are under increasing scrutiny, not just relating to its support for Hamas in Gaza, but with the continued attacks by Tehran’s Houthi proxies against shipping in the Red Sea.
  3. GOP Senator Blocks State Department Nominee to Demand Answers About Malley Investigation.Republic Senator Jim Risch is blocking the nomination of Margaret Taylor to be the State Department’s legal counselor. Risch says he has been rebuffed by the State Department for six months as he demands transparency on the department’s suspension of Robert Malley, former U.S. special envoy for Iran, who is under FBI investigation for potentially mishandling classified documents. Risch is using Taylor’s nomination as leverage to obtain information about Malley’s security clearance suspension. The standoff reflects broader concerns over the State Department’s transparency and the implications of Malley’s actions on US-Iran policy. 

2024-3-13

  1. Iranian Hardliners Quarrel over Parliament Speaker Position Having won Iran’s recent elections two weeks ago, hardliner factions now find themselves in a fierce battle over the position of Speaker of Parliament. Current speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is emerging as one of the most prominent contenders, but challengers for the position are increasing due to Qalibaf’s declining popularity among voters and intense competition from other hard-line conservatives. The hardliner infighting has caused Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to war Iran’s political blocs of the dangers of internal rivalry. 
  2. US Intel Report Predicts Instability in Post-Khamenei IranThe intra-hardliner tension aligns with the U.S. intelligence community’s recent prediction of political instability in a post-Khamenei Iran. The U.S. report assessed that the eventual death of Khamenei may pose significant challenges for a country grappling with deep internal divisions and economic woes. The report notes that the Islamic Republic has had only a single leadership transition in its 45-year history, and Khamenei’s 30+ years of rule have resulted in escalating discontent over governance and social restrictions. The report underscores Iran’s economic struggles, with inflation outpacing wage growth and diminishing household spending power. 

2024-3-14

  1. US and Iran Held Secret Talks in Oman Over Red Sea AttacksThe Financial Times revealed that the United States and Iran engaged in secret discussions this year regarding Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. Aimed at urging Tehran to use its influence over the Houthis to halt the militant group’s assaults, these indirect negotiations also touched upon Iran’s expanding nuclear program. The talks, held in Oman in January and led by US White House official Brett McGurk and Iran’s deputy foreign minister, marked the first engagement between the two sides in ten months.
  2. Biden Renews $10 Billion Sanctions Waiver for Iran President Joe Biden faces criticism for renewing a sanctions waiver allowing Iraq to pay Iran billions for electricity at a time when concerns are mounting over Iran’s aggressive actions in the Middle East and beyond. The waiver, a continuation from past administrations, lets Iraq use hard currencies through third-country accounts. Though Iran is able to use the funds only for non-sanctionable goods, critics note that since Tehran’s funds are fungible, the $10B frees up Iranian regime resources for use in other areas, including potentially funding terrorism or other sanctionable activities. 
  3. Iran’s Defense Minister Says Tehran’s Arms Exports Increased Fourfold in Past Two Years Iran’s Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani announced a significant increase in arms exports, increasing four to five times over the past two years. Following the expiration of a UN Security Council arms embargo in October 2020, Iran’s arms industry, has seen notable growth, especially in missile and drone technology. Despite Tehran’s denials, evidence shows Iran has provided drones to Russia, raising concerns that Tehran could provide long-range missiles to Moscow for use in the Ukraine war. These Iranian arms exports have led EU countries to warn they are ready to sanction Tehran for its expanding military support to Russia.
  4. High-Ranking Iranian Judiciary Official Resigns Over Sons’ Corruption Scandal Mohammad Mosaddeq, the First Deputy of the Iranian Judiciary, has resigned following the involvement of his two sons in financial corruption cases. They are currently on trial for establishing a network for influence peddling and money laundering in significant economic cases. Mosaddeq resigned supposedly to preclude any suspicion of undue influence in the legal proceedings. The case underscores public concerns about corruption within the ranks of Iran’s judicial and political systems.

2024-3-19

  1. Iran to Invest Over $13 Billion in Development of Joint Oil Fields with Iraq Iran announces plans to develop six Iraqi oil fields, dubbed “joint fields,” with investments exceeding $13 billion. These developments are part of a significant initiative, highlighted by the attendance of Iran’s First Vice President, Mohammad Mokhber, and Oil Minister, Javad Owji, at the contract signings. Owji noted these contracts aim to boost production by 400,000 barrels per day, generating $15 billion for Iran and creating 66,000 jobs. Owji said that despite outside pressure, Iran maintains steady oil exports, having completed nearly 130 projects worth $28.5 billion and launched 50 new projects, marking a significant milestone in its oil industry.

2024-3-20

  1. Controversy Over Land Seizure Allegations Involving Tehran’s Friday Prayer Leader Recent documents have implicated Kazem Sedighi, a figure close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in a scandal over the alleged appropriation of government land for personal gain. Sedighi, Tehran’s Friday Prayer Leader and head of the morality police, reportedly registered a 4,200 square meter park adjacent to the Khomeini Religious School under his and his family’s names, sparking widespread debate. Despite claims of signature forgery and betrayal by a trusted individual, the controversy has prompted calls for urgent judicial review, highlighting ongoing issues of corruption within Iran’s political and religious elites.
  2. Iran Seeks Closer Ties with Russia Post-Putin’s Reelection Following Vladimir Putin’s reelection, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi reached out to express hope for strengthened Tehran-Moscow relations, aiming to forge a multipolar world order challenging Western dominance. Iran, aspiring for enhanced cooperation in economic, military, and security spheres, sees potential in joint projects like the Rasht-Astara railway and alignment in regional organizations such as BRICS and the SCO. Iran also continues to advance its nuclear and drone capabilities, supplying drones to Russia for use in Ukraine, indicating a deepening partnership with implications for regional and international security.
  3. Biden Extends New Year Greetings to the Iranian People, Pledges Continued Support for Freedom In his message on the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian new year, U.S. President Joe Biden emphasized America’s support for the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy, specifically praising the courage of Iranian women fighting for their rights. He pledged accountability for the Iranian officials responsible for human rights abuses. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Deputy Special Representative for Iran Abram Paley also conveyed Nowruz greetings, highlighting the promise of a brighter future and the untapped potential of Iran’s natural and human resources. 
  4. Iranian Workers Protest Falling Wages, Surging Inflation In response to the Iranian government’s decision to raise wages by 35% for the upcoming year starting March 20—falling short of the 50% demanded by labor representatives and the current 50% inflation rate—workers and labor activists expressed strong opposition. The approved minimum monthly wage of approximately $185 does not match the inflation or the cost of living, exacerbating the economic strain on Iran’s 15 million industrial and service sector workers. Labor representatives criticized the government for neglecting workers’ needs and ignoring rising living costs and walked out of the Supreme Labor Council’s meeting. The situation underscores the growing disparity between wages and the actual cost of living, with many anticipating further protests due to persistent economic challenges.

2024-3-21

  1. White House Warns of Potential Iranian Cyberattacks on US Water Systems The Biden administration has issued a warning to state governors about potential Iranian cyberattacks targeting US water infrastructure. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and EPA Administrator Michael Regan stressed the importance of securing water systems against such threats, noting the increasing aggression of Iran’s cyber capabilities. The alert underscores the serious nature of the threat to critical infrastructure, urging states to bolster cybersecurity measures.
  2. US Sanctions Iran-Linked Shipping Firm and Arms Procurement Networks In a move to disrupt attacks on Red Sea shipping and cut off funding for terrorism, the US has sanctioned Vishnu Inc, a Marshall Islands-registered company accused of shipping Iranian commodities to China and supporting IRGC and Houthi financiers. The US also announced sanctions against three networks based in Iran, Turkey, Oman, and Germany that have procured materials like carbon fiber and epoxy resins for Iran’s ballistic missile and defense equipment production. 
  3. Iranian Labor Union Forecasts Severe 67% Inflation in the Next Year Hassan Sadeghi, head of the Union of Veteran Workers, forecasts a 67% inflation rate for Iran in the next year, starting March 20, highlighting the potential for increased protests due to stagnant wages amid rising living costs. He criticized the Iranian government’s tax-based budgeting and the inappropriate application of IMF policies for Iran’s unique economic situation, emphasizing the disparity between earnings in rials and expenses in dollars.

2024-3-25

  1. Land Scandal Involving Tehran’s Friday Imam Sparks Outrage Allegations of corruption against Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi, involving the misappropriation of a $20 million land plot in Tehran, have intensified public distrust towards Iran’s leadership. Despite Sedighi’s initial denial and subsequent claims of attempting to return the plot to the seminary, public sentiment remains skeptical, viewing the act as insufficient. The scandal highlights broader concerns over systemic corruption within the regime, contrasting the severe treatment of minor offenses against the leniency shown towards high-ranking officials.
  2. Iran Faces Housing Market Crisis Iran’s housing sector is trapped in a cycle of stagnation and soaring prices, exacerbated by the national currency’s depreciation, inflation, and political uncertainties. Despite a nearly 40% annual inflation rate impacting construction costs and a significant currency devaluation, there’s little expectation for market recovery post-Ramadan. The average cost of housing far outstrips the average income.

2024-3-26

  1. Israel Foils Iranian Weapon Smuggling Attempt The Israel Security Agency disclosed the interception of an Iranian-led attempt to smuggle advanced weaponry into the West Bank, aimed at attacking Israeli targets. This operation, attributed to Iran’s Quds Force and the IRGC’s Unit 4000, involved coordination with the IDF and led to the seizure of a significant cache of weapons. Interrogations of Palestinian detainees linked to terror plans unveiled the involvement of Munir Makdah, a known Fatah official and IRGC and Hezbollah affiliate, in recruiting operatives and funding terror activities. The seized arsenal included anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers, explosives, and assault rifles.
  2. Israel Disrupts Major Iranian Weapons Smuggling to the West Bank In a significant security operation, Israel claimed to have halted a large-scale effort by Iran to smuggle advanced weapons into the West Bank, aiming to fuel terrorist activities against Israeli targets. The collaborative effort between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) spotlighted Munir Makdah, a known figure linked to Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as a central figure in the weapons smuggling operation. Investigations into recent attempts at terrorist attacks against Israel led to the unraveling of this plot, underscoring Iran’s alleged involvement in seeking to destabilize the region through the arming of Palestinian operatives.
  3. Abdollahian and Borell push for talks to lift nuclear sanctionsThe EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borell, and Iran’s foreign minister Amir Abdollahian are actively seeking to resume talks on lifting nuclear sanctions, with both sides emphasizing the importance of sustainable dialogue. Amid efforts to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s Foreign Minister, Amir Abdollahian, calls for adherence to agreements and criticizes the West’s inconsistent stance on global conflicts, highlighting the disparity in responses to the crises in Gaza and Ukraine.

2024-3-27

  1. Iran’s Supreme Leader Hosts Hamas Delegation, Pledges “Unwavering Support” During a meeting in Tehran with Hamas Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei praised Palestinian resilience against Israeli aggression. Khamenei highlighted global and Islamic solidarity with Gaza’s plight and commemorated slain Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri. Haniyeh thanked Iran for its backing, presenting updates on Gaza’s ongoing conflict and stressing the severe impacts on the Israeli military, framing the situation as a global war with the U.S. as a principal accomplice.
  2. Iran’s Oil Production Sees Incremental Rise in Early 2024 According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Iran’s oil output increased by 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the first two months of 2024, contributing to a collective OPEC output rise of 140,000 bpd in February. The growth marks Iran, alongside Libya, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia, as one of the key contributors to the expanded production, while Congo, Kuwait, and Nigeria experienced slight declines.
  3. U.S. Sanctions Networks Supporting Iran, Hezbollah, Assad, and Houthis The U.S. has sanctioned entities and individuals across six countries for facilitating transactions aiding Iran’s military efforts and groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. Actions include sanctioning six firms, two tankers, and a money exchanger in countries including Liberia, India, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Kuwait. These sanctions aim to curb activities benefiting these groups amid their involvement in regional conflicts, including attacks related to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and efforts to pressure Israel through Red Sea disruptions. Additionally, sanctions target individuals and entities supporting the Syrian government and the illicit Captagon trade, implicating ties to Bashar Assad and Hezbollah.

2024-3-28

  1. Iraq Signs Five-Year Gas Import Deal with Iran Following U.S. Sanctions Waivers After receiving new exemptions from the U.S. in March allowing Baghdad to settle financial obligations with Iran for gas purchases, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity announced a five-year agreement to import up to 50 million cubic meters of natural gas daily from Iran. The deal aims to address Iraq’s chronic electricity shortages. This arrangement, which also includes oil and gasoline trade, doubles the previous gas supply and is crucial for Iraq’s electricity-dependent economy. Despite Iran’s own energy needs and production deficit, this deal marks a continuation of a decade-long energy partnership between the two countries. The agreement is seen as a temporary solution for Iraq as it faces pressure to diversify energy sources due to U.S. sanctions on Iran.
  2. Shared Oil Fields with Iraq Help Iran Circumvent Sanctions Iran benefits from shared oil fields with Iraq to evade international sanctions, with the oil’s origin—whether Iranian or Iraqi—remaining indeterminate. Despite global conflicts, oil prices have stayed relatively low, partly due to Iran’s undeclared oil production and its implicit acceptance by the U.S., aiming to prevent inflation and interest rate hikes. This scenario is further fueled by Iran’s substantial oil discounts to China, reducing China’s demand in the open market and impacting global oil prices. 
  3. U.S. Warns Pakistan Against Continuing Gas Pipeline Project with Iran The United States has cautioned Pakistan about facing sanctions if it proceeds with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. This project, also known as the Peace Pipeline, initially signed between Tehran and Islamabad, aims to transport natural gas from Iran to Pakistan and potentially to India. With a projected length of 2,700 kilometers and an estimated cost now reaching $7 billion, the pipeline intends to supply 150 million cubic meters of gas daily to both countries.
  4. Iran’s Currency Plummets to Record Lows Iran’s rial has depreciated sharply, hitting a historic low with a 20% drop in value in less than three months, and trading at 610,000 to the US dollar. Despite a 48% increase in oil exports, revenue growth has been modest at 7.8%, hinting at potential discounts to Chinese refineries. The discrepancy between the volume and value of exports, alongside a trade imbalance exacerbated by increased imports and service trade deficits, has contributed to economic instability. The situation is further complicated by US sanctions, notably on Iraqi banks, restricting Iran’s access to hard currencies and exacerbating its trade challenges.

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