Excerpts from previous status reports, by subject
Removed on November 29, 2010
- First efforts to produce 20% enriched material
- Solid fuel missile progress
- U.S. efforts to broaden Iran sanctions
First efforts to produce 20% enriched material
In February 2010, Iran began converting a portion of this low-enriched uranium stockpile into fuel for its Tehran research reactor by enriching the uranium to higher levels. This effort was widely seen as an indication of nuclear weapon intentions: It would accomplish 90 percent of the work needed to bring Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile to weapon-grade. Iran began the work in its Natanz pilot enrichment plant, and has claimed that it will use the pilot plant to produce the 19.75 percent enriched uranium fuel needed to run the Tehran reactor. However, Iran does not have the capability of converting this material into the fuel assemblies needed for the reactor. Nor does the pilot plant contain a sufficient number of centrifuges to do the necessary enrichment work in a timely manner. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had produced 5.7 kg of uranium enriched to 19.3 percent as of May 21, 2010. On July 11, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organization claimed that Iran had produced about 20 kg of this material.
Solid fuel missile progress
During a military parade in mid-April 2010, Iran displayed several ballistic missiles, including the Shahab-3 and its upgraded variant known as the Ghadr, along with the Sejil. The Sejil is a two-stage, solid fueled rocket, with an estimated range of over 2,000 km, and which could be adapted to carry a nuclear warhead. This missile appears to have been successfully tested several times in a one year period, which confirms Iran’s progress in its mastery of staging and in its use of solid fuel, which makes missiles easier to maintain, to store, and to launch quickly. An upgraded version of the missile was allegedly tested in December 2009, according to Iranian defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, one which has a shorter launch time and an improved ability to evade radar. The Sejil was tested a few months earlier, in September 2009, during military exercises. Iran also tested its liquid-fuel Shahab-3 missile during the September exercises. Both the Shahab-3 and the Sejil missiles are capable of reaching key targets in the Middle East.
In early February 2010, Iran claims to have tested a version of its two-stage, liquid-fueled space launch vehicle, the Safir.
U.S. efforts to broaden Iran sanctions
Acknowledging that efforts to engage Iran have failed to yield results, U.S. President Barack Obama said on March 30, 2010 that it was time “to move forward on [the] sanctions track.” Speaking with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, President Obama said he hopes for agreement on “strong sanctions” against Iran at the U.N. Security Council this spring -- in a matter of weeks, not months. In June 2010, the Security Council adopted resolution 1929 (over two years after the last U.N. sanctions resolution was adopted). The resolution expands the list of Iranian officials subject to a travel ban and the list of firms and individuals subject to financial penalties; fifteen entities linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and three entities linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines were specifically targeted. The resolution also bars Iranian nationals and entities incorporated in Iran from investing in nuclear and missile projects abroad. And it prohibits Iran from importing certain categories of conventional weapons. All of the required penalties are limited to Iranian proliferation. Elective penalties include a call for countries to “exercise vigilance” in doing business with, and in providing financial services to Iranian entities, and in dealing with Iranian banks. Similarly, countries are called upon to inspect suspicious shipments into and out of Iran, including on the high seas, and to refuse services to Iranian ships suspected of carrying illicit cargo.
The resolution was watered down significantly in order to accommodate Russia and China. Ultimately, it received support from all the countries on the Security Council except for Brazil, Lebanon and Turkey. Lebanon abstained. Brazil and Turkey voted against the resolution because of a conviction that additional sanctions would jeopardize their diplomatic outreach, which resulted in a May 17, 2010 nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran. The agreement sought to revive a proposal first presented to Iran in October 2009 by France, Russia and the United States. Iran rejected this proposal, which would have required the export of some 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium stockpile in exchange for the provision of research reactor fuel. At the time, this export would have temporarily eliminated Iran’s ability to use its uranium to fuel a nuclear weapon in a “break out” scenario.
Impatient with the lack of international action, advocacy groups in the United States mounted their own successful campaign to convince U.S.-based companies to stop business with Iran through foreign subsidiaries: in 2010 Ingersoll-Rand PLC, Caterpillar Inc., General Electric Co., and Huntsman Corp. announced plans to pull out; and major accounting firms Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers announced that they no longer have any affiliation with Iranian firms.
The U.S. Congress also increased pressure on the Obama administration to strengthen unilateral sanctions. The Senate voted on January 28, 2010 to punish foreign firms that invest in Iran’s energy sector and to enable U.S. investors to divest from energy firms that do business in Iran. The bill also targets oil and shipping firms that export gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran, and entities that finance such transactions. The foreign firms -- including Total, BP and India’s Reliance -- could be barred from doing business in the United States and could have their assets under U.S. jurisdiction frozen. The Senate bill also sought to close loopholes in sanctions laws that allow foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies to trade with Iran, and that allow countries like the United Arab Emirates to serve as a platform for the transshipment of U.S. origin goods to Iran. The Senate bill was reconciled with a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives in mid-December, 2009. Congress sent the final bill to the president’s desk in June and President Obama signed the final version of the bill on July 1, 2010.
U.S. allies also adopted unilateral measures to punish Iran. In mid-October 2009, Britain’s Treasury froze ties with Iran’s Bank Mellat and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, because of their ties to Iran’s nuclear and missile activities. And in June 2009, Britain announced that it had frozen $1.6 worth of Iranian assets, pursuant to U.N. and E.U. sanctions.
In October 2008, the Australian government announced new travel and trade restrictions against nearly 40 individuals and organizations for their contribution to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The sanctions targeted 20 Iranian individuals and 18 organizations, including Iran’s Bank Melli and Saderat. In addition, Australia said it would no longer provide new financial support for trade with Iran under trade promotion and finance programs.
In August 2008, the E.U. strengthened financial sanctions against Iran by requiring member states to “exercise restraint” in using public money to support trade with Iran, to inspect suspicious air and sea cargo to and from Iran, and placing additional due diligence requirements on E.U.-based financial institutions in their activities with Iranian banks. In late June 2008, 26 additional Iranian entities linked to missile and nuclear work were targeted -- including Iran’s Bank Melli and officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Defense. The move requires all E.U. member states to freeze the assets of listed entities and to institute a travel ban on listed individuals. Earlier, in April 2007, the E.U. acted outside the Security Council in hitting 23 Iranian entities with such penalties.
While pushing for allies to take unilateral action again Iran, the United States used banking laws to encourage major financial institutions around the world to limit or cut ties with Iran. In November 2008, Treasury revoked Iran’s license for “U-turn” bank transfers, which had allowed certain dollar-based transactions involving Iranian entities to briefly enter the United States before being sent to offshore banks. And in March 2008, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network warned U.S. banks that Iran is resorting to "an array of deceptive practices" in order to avoid sanctions. According to Treasury, Iran's central bank, also known as Bank Markazi, may be facilitating transactions for sanctioned Iranian banks. Bank Markazi and other Iranian banks have also requested that their names be removed from global transactions in order to mask the parties in the transaction. A number of banks have limited or ended business with Iran because of these risks, which has made it more costly and difficult for Iran to move hard currency around the world, and has raised the cost of doing business for the Iranian government and Iranian companies.