Iran Watch Newsletter: March 2024

March 29, 2024

Publication Type: 

  • Newsletters

This month’s newsletter features a new episode of Iran Watch Listen, a podcast by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control. We sat down with Wolf-Christian Paes, an expert on arms and maritime security, to discuss Iran’s support for the Houthi rebel group, the ways in which arms are smuggled into Yemen, and what can be done to stop the smuggling.

The newsletter also includes profiles of entities connected to Houthi procurement efforts, as well as news about a potential uranium deal between Iran and Niger, the Houthis' first fatal attack on Red Sea shipping, and Iran’s attempt to acquire a permanent naval base in Sudan. Additions to the Iran Watch library include official statements from the most recent meeting of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, documents on the expanding military and space cooperation between Iran and Russia, and U.S. sanctions announcements targeting Iran’s support for non-state groups.

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A map showing the locations of several seizures at sea in late 2021 and 2022. (Credit: UN Panel of Experts on Yemen)

Interviews and Podcasts | How to Put Iranian Weapons Out of Arm’s Reach for the Houthis

Iran’s military support for the Houthis, which can be traced back to at least 2009, has ramped up since 2015, when Iran began providing the group with the parts and know-how to assemble potent missiles and drones, and even to manufacture some of the components locally.

Wisconsin Project researchers sat down with Wolf-Christian Paes, who served on the U.N. Panel of Experts on Yemen from 2018 until 2023, to better understand the various modes of Iranian support for the Houthis, the pathways by which weapons and components have been smuggled into Yemen, and the ongoing challenges of enforcing the arms embargo imposed on the group by the U.N. Security Council.




Houthi efforts to smuggle weapons into Yemen, led by Muhammad Ahmad al-Talibi, the group’s assistant minister of defense for logistics, rely on networks of intermediaries in Iran and beyond.

Sepahan Electric

An Iran-based electronics company; was the last entity known to have custody of German-origin pressure transmitters that were later found in Quds-1 cruise missiles used by the Houthis; customers have included Iran Electronics Industries (IEI) and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).

Toseeh Tejara Dasht Persian Co.

An Iran-based company; was the last entity known to have custody of ignition coils manufactured by a Sweden-based company that were later found in delta-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used by the Houthis.

OLS Technology (HK) Co., Limited

A Hong Kong-based company; was the last known entity to have custody of a shipment of Swiss-origin servo actuators later found in Quds-1 cruise missiles used by the Houthis.




The M/V True Confidence after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile. (Credit: U.S. Central Command)

Niger Termination of U.S. Military Ties Followed Accusation of Iran Uranium Deal | Wall Street Journal

March 17, 2024: Niger ended its counterterrorism alliance with the United States after U.S. officials expressed concerns that Niger was in secret talks to provide Iran with access to its uranium reserves. Niger and Iran reportedly signed a preliminary agreement, but the deal was not finalized as of February 2024. U.S. officials also raised concerns about the arrival of Russian military equipment and trainers to Niger. The country's ruling junta denied the allegations.

Houthi Attack Kills Three Sailors in Group’s First Fatal Strike on Shipping | Al Jazeera

March 6, 2024: Houthi rebels in Yemen fired an anti-ship ballistic missile that struck the True Confidence merchant vessel as it was transiting the Red Sea. The attack killed three crew members, injured four others, and caused significant damage to the ship, forcing the crew to abandon it. Several days earlier, a cargo ship named Rubymar sank after being struck by Houthi missiles in February. A Houthi spokesman said the group's attacks would not stop until Israel ends its operation against Hamas in Gaza.

Iran Tried to Persuade Sudan to Allow Naval Base on Its Red Sea Coast | Wall Street Journal

March 3, 2024: According to a senior Sudanese intelligence official, Iran has supplied explosive drones to the Sudanese military and sought to acquire a permanent naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast in exchange for a helicopter-carrying warship. Iran reportedly intended to station warships at the base and to use it for intelligence collection, including monitoring maritime traffic to and from the Suez Canal and Israel. Sudan declined the proposal.




At its quarterly meeting, the IAEA Board of Governors discussed Iran's most recent nuclear advances as well as the lack of progress in resolving several outstanding safeguards issues.


Iran and Russia continued expanding their military and space-related cooperation.

  • Russia launched Iran’s Pars-1 satellite into a 700-kilometer orbit from the Vostochny Cosmodrome – February 29.
  • After several reports that Iran is considering providing Russia with ballistic missiles, the Group of Seven leaders issued a statement that they will “respond swiftly and in a coordinated manner,” if Iran proceeds with the transfer – March 15.


The United States sanctioned entities facilitating Iran’s financial support for non-state groups across the Middle East.

  • The Treasury Department issued three rounds of sanctions aimed at disrupting the networks of financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal. The sanctioned companies and vessels have shipped Iranian commodities and enabled transactions for the Qods Force, Hizballah, and the Houthis – March 6, 15, and 26.
  • Treasury also sanctioned four Iran-based members of the Al-Ashtar Brigades, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization active in Bahrain – March 12.