According to Newsweek, Iran has sent deadly drones to its allies Houthis of Yemen as Middle East tensions heat up spreads across the Red Sea, another major flashpoint where rival forces operate.
Images that Newsweek has acquired and confirmed by an expert who follows Iranian activities in the region, indicate the presence of Iranian Shahed-136, also called "suicide drones," deployed to the northern Yemeni province of Al-Jawf, an area of the country controlled by the Ansar Allah, or Houthi Shiite rebel movement.
"The Iranians have delivered to their Houthi proxies in Yemen advanced UAVs," says the Newsweek expert. "They are forward deploying or prepositioning these drones in order to stage an attack against a variety of targets they have within range."
These drones are assessed to have an effective range of 2,000 to 2,200 kilometers drawing a massive radius across the region in which a potential attack is suspected to be in the works.
"What they're trying to achieve is plausible deniability," the expert said, "as in being able to strike either a U.S., Saudi, Gulf, or Israeli target and then having the strike traced back to Yemen, and hoping for deniably against any kind of retribution."
Iran's top general, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, revealed on Wednesday that he was going to send warships to patrol the Red Sea.
"We are once again in the region of the Red Sea, where the Islamic Republic's merchant vessels have faced some limited aggression in recent times," Bagheri said. "We will deploy our naval patrol and establish full security for our oil and commercial fleet in that sea."
Report by Newsweek's Tom O'Conner.
Prince Reza Pahlavi: Khamanei's Ban On Vaccine Is Murder
In a message regarding Khamenei’s ban on the purchase of coronavirus vaccine from the US and the UK, Prince Reza Pahlavi called the ban “murder for the sake of wealth, and justifying it by ignorance,” and said “it is now time to allow the medical community to control the ways of providing aid to people and once and for all break the dam of greed and ignorance of the Ayatollah.”
Prince Reza Pahlavi said in his video message: “Murder for greed, and justifying it with ignorance. This was Khamenei’s brutal order about the vaccine. My dear countrymen, everyone knows that a vaccine approved by the world’s highest medical authorities is not created to hurt the Iranian people, and everyone knows that administrating a vaccine that is not approved by any clear international test is only for filling the pockets of the corrupt criminal cult and at the cost of Iranian people’s lives.”
“This corruption had never clawed at the lives of Iranians in such a brutal manner. This crime is too blatant to cover up,” he added.
He added: “My fellow countrymen, enough is enough, it is time for the medical community to control the means of providing aid to people and vaccination. To this end, currently, some of our concerned countrymen are negotiating with international organizations, and for their efforts to succeed, we must express our demand loudly through effective campaigns on social media and Persian and International media.”
“Together once and for all we can break the theocracy’s dam of greed and ignorance once and for all,” Prince Reza Pahlavi pleaded.
Iran Sanctions President Trump & 10 American Officials
Hours before the end of the Trump administration’s term in office, the Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran says it is sanctioning President Trump and several officials in his administration and the previous administration.
The spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Tuesday, January 19 that the ministry has sanctioned 10 high-ranking US officials including the current president in accordance with the “Opposing US human rights violation and its adventurous activities including terrorism in the region” bill which was recently passed by the parliament.
After Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, President Trump and his cabinet will evacuate the White House and other departments.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mark Esper and Christopher Miller, Former Secretary and the current acting Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Director of Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel, Former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, former and current US State Department representatives on Iran Brian Hook and Elliott Abrams, and the director of Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Andrea Gacki, are among the sanctioned officials, according to Khatibzadeh.
The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry says these individuals have been sanctioned due to their role in “ordering and guiding” the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Previously the Foreign Ministry had announced that it has delivered the request for the arrest of Donald Trump to Interpol.
Explosions Near Baghdad Result Of 'ISIS Attack', Not US Airstrikes
While pro-Iran media claimed the explosions near power transmission towers in Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad were caused by US airstrikes, a source close to the Iraqi Armed Forces has confirmed that the incident was an ISIS attack on power infrastructure, not a US airstrike.
Security Media Cell, a Twitter account said to be close to Iraq's military in a tweet on Tuesday morning denied reports that people had been killed or wounded in airstrikes in the Jurf al-Sakhar area in Babil. Some local media had earlier reported at least nine casualties.
In another tweet the Security Media Cell also announced that the explosion was a result of ISIS militants' attack on electric power transmission towers in the Behbehani area, north of Babel Governorate, not airstrikes.
On Monday night, the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news reported that explosions were heard near Jurf al-Sakhar overnight after drones targeted sites belonging to the Iraqi Armed Forces in the area. Al-Hurra and Al-Arabiya, however, claimed that the sites belonged to the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia and reported several deaths and injuries.
The US Central Command Spokesman Captain Bill Urban in a tweet on Tuesday refuted the claims about US involvement in the attacks. “Explosions reported earlier today about 40 miles outside of Baghdad, Iraq, in the town of Jurf al-Sakhar, were not the result of US military action,” Capt. Bill Urban, CENTCOM spokesman," he said.
Iran's Currency Continues Edging Up Ahead Of Biden Inauguration
The Iranian foreign-exchange (Forex) market opened with another hike in the value of the rial on Tuesday [January 19] in expectation of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday and Washington’s possible return to Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement.
The Melli Exchange Company (MEX), which leads Forex rates in Iran, dropped its opening dollar sale rate by 9,000 rials to 21,290. On Monday the MEX opened with a dollar selling price of 22,200 rials.
The falling Iranian national currency on October 1 reached the milestone of 300,000 rials to the dollar, a ten-fold fall in the three years since Trump indicated that he would withdraw from the nuclear agreement and impose sanctions on Iran. Draconian third-party sanctions on Iran’s oil exports have deprived the government of its major foreign-currency revenue source.
Forex experts, however, believe that the market may become favorable to the national currency for a while, but the upward trend may be reversed soon. "Further drop in the rate of the dollar could not be expected if more than 800 cases of sanctions are not lifted," Tala News, an economic and financial website, wrote on Monday. "The market will again be waiting for the news after an initial downward trend [following the end of Trump's presidency]," the article said.
The rial traded at a stable rate of just 70 to the dollar in the 1970s before the Islamic Revolution, but it began a steady fall that has continued since 1979. Compared to pre-revolution era, the rial has lost its value 3,000-fold.
Iran Conducts More Military Drills One Day Before Biden Inauguration
Iran’s military has launched ground forces drills on Tuesday [Jan. 19] along the coast of the Gulf of Oman, following naval exercises last week as the new US administration is set to assume power.
State TV reported that commando units and airborne infantry were participating in the annual drills, along with warplanes, helicopters and military transport planes. Claims made by Iran’s military cannot be verified since no independent journalists had access to information.
Iran’s frequent military drills lately are seen as an attempt to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the 2015 nuclear deal that Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018 and imposed sanctions. Biden has said he intends to return to the agreement but Tehran under tremendous economic pressure wants a quick reprieve.
“The general goal of this drill is to assess the offensive and penetrative power of the ground forces against the enemy from air, ground and sea,” said Kiomars Heidari, chief of ground forces as saying.
On Saturday, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill, launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target at a distance of some 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) in the Indian Ocean, a day after the Guard’s aerospace division launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones against “hypothetical enemy bases” in the country’s vast central desert.
Iran is also ratchetting up its nuclear pressure on the West by increasing uranium enrichment to 20 percent, cutting the time needed to achieve the degree of purity needed for nuclear weapons.
Spokesman Warns Of More Power Outages As Cold Front Approaches Iran
In the coming days Iran will face more problems in supplying electricity to residential and industrial customers due to an approaching cold front that will increase consumption, the spokesman of the state electricity network said Tuesday.
Mostafa Rajabi-Mashhadi told ILNA news website that citizens must do their utmost to reduce gas and electricity consumption.
In recent weeks unexpected and widespread power outages have hit major Iranian cities amid the winter cold, prompting controversy over who is responsible. At the same time heavy smog enveloped cities as reports emerged of power plants burning dirty fuel because of a shortage in natural gas supplies. The fuel called Mazut is rarely used in any country due to its dangerous polluting impact.
Many have also blamed cryptocurrency ‘mining farms’ that use a lot of electricity for creating the crunch amid the high-consumption winter season. Cryptocurrency mining depends on large computer farms that solve complex problems and record data in exchange for earning bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies.
Officials have repeatedly promised to inform the public of impending power cuts, but that has not happened and consumers are angry over the unscheduled power outages. Some have even speculated that electricity cuts can be the result of hacker attacks on the network.
Alleged US Airstrike On Iran-Backed Militia In Iraq
There have been reports of multiple US airstrikes on Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militia group Kata’ib Hezbollah’s locations near Jurf al-Sakhar in Iraq.
The area could contain several weapon storage facilities meant to be used by the militias or smuggled into Syria and Lebanon.
According to Reuters, the US Central Command said it was not aware of “any strikes in Iraq”. Al-Hadath network has denied any reports about the Iraqi military suffering casualties.
So far six people have been reportedly killed by the airstrike in the South of Baghdad. Iranian sources have blamed the US and some have blamed Israel.
The attack occurred about a year after Qasem Soleimani was killed, with different reports of increased alertness around the anniversary of his death.
Some speculate that the attack could be a last response by the Trump administration to the IEDs that exploded on the path of the convoy of the international coalition on Dhi Qar highway. The first bomb caused no damages but the second bomb set one vehicle on fire.
In the past two weeks, around the one-year anniversary of Soleimani's, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in Iraq, tensions have escalated between Iran and the US. There were reports of Iran’s possible retaliation on American forces in the region.
Iranian Labor Associations Urge Regime Not To Sacrifice People's Health To Ideology
A week after Leader Khamenei’s order banning the import of American and European coronavirus vaccines, seven labor associations and unions have released statements blaming the regime for any possible consequences of its delay in the purchase of vaccine.
In recent days, workers, teachers, and retiree associations have joined the national movement demanding coronavirus vaccine and released statements criticizing Ali Khamenei’s ban on the purchase of American and European vaccines.
The teachers’ association of Marivan, the teachers’ association of Gilan province, Retiree Alliance, Iranian Workers’ Free Union, teachers’ association of Qazvin province, National Retirees’ Association, and Tehran Bus Company Workers’ Association, are among these groups.
The Retirees’ Association statement reads: “The officials and leaders of our country have just talked until now; without any scientific expertise they have ordered a ban on American and the joint British and Swedish vaccine.”
Teachers’ association of Gilan province also urged the regime not to sacrifice people’s health over ideological views and regular political conflicts.
World Health Organization has also criticized the regime of Iran for “politicizing” the issue of the vaccine.
Teachers’ association of Marivan in Kurdistan province warned about the consequences of any delay in importing the vaccine and said the responsibility will be on the government.
IRGC General Busts Myth About Iranian Military In Syria To Fight ISIS
An IRGC General has effectively busted the Islamic Republic of Iran and its leader Ali Khamenei's claims about Iranian forces under the command of General Qasem Soleimani were dispatched to Syria to fight ISIS.
General Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, the commander of IRGC's artillery in 2011-2012 said in a live program on Channel five of Iran's state television on January 2 that "The Supreme Leader told General Soleimani to go to Syria to protect Syrian leader Bashar Assad. His mission was to prevent Assad's fall."
Chaharbaghi stressed: "This was long before the emergence of ISIS. Assad's armed opposition were fighting his forces." In Fact, Soleimani's mission in Syria started in 2011 while, ISIS emerged in Syria as recently as 2014.
Chaharbaghi said that when he first saw Soleimani in Syria, he was based at a chamber in a Shiite Shrine planning his military moves against Bashar's opposition whose forces had reached the walls of Assad's palace in Damascus.
Iranian opposition abroad have welcomed the statement by Chaharbaghi who busted the myth of Iranian forces going to Syria to fight ISIS or defend Shiite Shrines. The Iranian opposition charges that Soleimani killed hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians mainly women and children.
An Iranian opposition account said on Twitter: "Soleimani created a stigma by killing children in Syria that will hardly ever be wiped off history books."
Since 2011 Iran has spent between $17 to $30 billion dollars on its military operations in Syria according to various Iranian officials including IRGC's coordinating commander Mohammad Reza Naghdi and former Majles Foreign Policy Committee Chief Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh.
Angry Losers In Iran's Stock Market Chant 'Death To Rouhani'
As steep losses at the Tehran Stock Market (TSE) continued Monday, more investors held a protest outside the stock exchange chanting slogans against President Hassan Rouhani.
The stock market, which roared to 2 million points last August amid US sanctions and a economic crisis began shedding value in the fall and has now reached just over 1.1 million points. Many ordinary Iranians who invested money hoping to protect their rial savings have sustained serious losses.
Social media postings Monday showed dozens of investors outside the TSE chanting “Death to Rouhani” and “Death to economic corruption”. They were burned the flag of the stock market and chanted, “The Islamic casino is right here.” The market lost another 36,000 points on Monday.
Protesters allege that the government has failed to stop institutional investors from using their influence to manipulate prices. They blame the government for encouraging people to buy shares in what they now see as a bubble that has now burst and reduced the value of their investments.
Stocks of petrochemical, steel production and mining experienced the biggest losses. One reason can be attributed to the rise in the value of Iran’s currency rial, which would mean less export revenues for these sectors. The rial which lost its twofold against the US dollar last year has somewhat rebounded due to hopes that US President-elect Joe Biden will reduce sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.
Government Daily Calls For Revoking Licenses For Iran’s Cryptocurrency Farms
The Islamic Republic Daily, an official government newspaper, on Monday demanded the revoking of all licenses issued to cryptocurrency farms to assure the public the government is willing “to defend the national interest.”
Cryptocurrency mining depends on large computer ‘farms’ that solve complex problems and record data in exchange for earning bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies. The farms use high levels of electricity, and have been blamed for recent nationwide power outages.
Public outcry has been increased by information published in the media and social media showing unknown Chinese individuals or companies involved in the mining business, taking advantage of electricity being cheaper in Iran than elsewhere and especially subsidized in certain sectors.
The Islamic Republic Daily in its editorial headlined “Red Farms” says that published documents and additional evidence show an “extraordinary amount of electricity” used by cryptocurrency farms and blames officials who have issued licenses. The newspaper argues that the situation will undermine public trust in the government, a more serious issue than the loss of energy to “Chinese” cryptocurrency mining farms.