News Digest: Week of January 17

January 17

Regional: Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran, launched drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles at targets in the United Arab Emirates, including Abu Dhabi’s airport, Dubai’s airport and an oil refinery. Two Indians and one Pakistani were killed.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the “terrorist attacks” and conveyed “solidarity with the Emirati people” in a phone call with his Emirati counterpart. 

The Saudi-led military coalition responded with strikes on Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. At last 20 people, including a senior Houthi military leader and civilians, were reportedly killed. Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi vice minister of defense, alleged that “Houthi terrorism is perpetuated by a flow of Iranian weapons.”


Regional: Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh announced that three Iranian diplomats had recently arrived in Saudi Arabia, where they will represent Iran at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s headquarters in Jeddah. The dispatch of diplomats followed four rounds of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia since April 2021, five years after the regional rivals severed diplomatic relations.

Dissent: Farideh Moradkhani, a niece of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was being held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison, her brother Mahmud told Radio Farda. He said that the charges were unclear but noted that Moradkhani was detained on January 14 after she participated in an online event marking the 83rd birthday of Farah Pahlavi, the former empress of Iran.


January 18

Regional: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a video address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, cautioned against lifting of sanctions against Iran. “The last thing you want to do ... is pour tens of billions of dollars into this apparatus. Because what will you get? Terror on steroids,” he said. 

Security: Israel announced the successful test of the Arrow Weapon System, which can intercept ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere. Israel Aerospace Industries and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency cooperated on the project. The system was one of several systems developed by Israel to counter the rocket and missile capabilities of Iran and its allies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as Hamas in Gaza.


January 19

Russia: President Ebrahim Raisi discussed ways to expand ties with Russia during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. During the three-hour exchange, they covered trade, banking, transportation, energy, regional security, and other issues. “We in Iran have no limits for expanding ties with Russia,” Raisi said. He also presented a draft of a 20-year strategic cooperation agreement, which has been in the works since 2020.


January 21

Diplomacy: Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that time was running out for restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. “The talks with Iran about a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA have reached a decisive moment. If a deal is not reached in the next few weeks, Iran’s ongoing nuclear advances will make it impossible to return to the JCPOA.