News Briefs

September 12, 2021
Iran agreed to install new memory cards in International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring cameras at its nuclear facilities as a result of negotiations in Tehran between IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi and Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Mohammad Eslami. However, Iran will continue to withhold the cameras' recordings from the IAEA, as it has since February. Grossi said that the agreement would ensure "continuity of knowledge" that the IAEA would access if a return to the JCPOA nuclear deal is reached. Eslami said that Iran would take part in the IAEA's upcoming board meeting and continue talks with the Agency there. 
-- Associated Press
September 8, 2021
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet launched a task force incorporating airborne and aquatic drones to counter Iranian attacks on vessels in its area of operations. The drones will monitor maritime activity in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, areas where vessels have been boarded by Iranian forces or have taken damage from mines and other explosions linked to Iran and its proxies. 
-- Associated Press
September 7, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on September 7 that, since May, Iran has increased its stockpile of 60% highly-enriched uranium (HEU) from 2.4 kilograms to 10 kilograms and its stockpile of 20% HEU from 62.8 kilograms to 84.3 kilograms. The Agency also said that Iran continues to block IAEA inspectors from accessing and servicing monitoring equipment at Iranian nuclear sites, and that some of the monitoring equipment has been destroyed or damaged. As a result, the Agency's ability to monitor Iran's activities is declining. Finally, the Agency reported that outstanding issues related to nuclear material stored at four undeclared sites remain unresolved two years after they were raised by the IAEA.
-- Associated Press
September 1, 2021
After Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian hinted at a possible two- or three-month delay before the country would resume nuclear negotiations in Vienna, the German and French Foreign Ministries released statements urging Tehran to restart dialogue sooner. Talks to return Iran and the United States to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) stalled following the election in June of Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and have yet to resume as Raisi forms his cabinet. On a call with Amir-Abdollahian, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stressed the urgency of the negotiations, while a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated that the window to negotiate "won't be open indefinitely."
-- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
August 29, 2021
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi selected Mohammad Eslami, a former Minister of Roads and Urban Development, as the new director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). Eslami replaces Ali Akbar Salehi, an Iranian nuclear scientist. The United Nations sanctioned Eslami in 2008 over his role in illicit acquisitions for Iran's nuclear or missile program. At the time, he headed the Defense Industries Training and Research Institute, a subunit of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics. In recent years, Eslami served as Deputy Defense Minister for Research and Industry and held other roles in Iran's military industries. He has no reported experience in nuclear energy.
-- Associated Press
August 18, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on August 15 that Iran had introduced a second cascade of centrifuges capable of enriching uranium to 60 percent purity at the Natanz nuclear facility. The expansion doubles the Natanz facility's capacity to enrich uranium to 60 percent. Iran had previously shut down the second cascade in April, at the start of now-paused negotiations to return Iran and the United States to compliance with the JCPOA. Iran claimed to have stockpiled 8.9 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60 percent in July, up from 2.4 kilograms the previous month.
-- Bloomberg
August 17, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran had produced 200 grams of uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent purity as of August 14. Iran had previously produced smaller quantities of the metal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the international agreement imposing restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, prohibits the country from making uranium metal, which has applications in nuclear weapons. The U.S. State Department criticized Iran's production of enriched uranium metal and described the move as undermining negotiations to return Iran and the United States to compliance with the JCPOA.
-- Associated Press
August 13, 2021
On August 13, 2021, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Omani national Mahmood Rashid Amur Al Habsi and a network of shipping and trading businesses linked to him for facilitating the sale of Iranian oil. Businesses in the network were based in Oman, Liberia, and Romania. Sales by Al Habsi's network ultimately benefitted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The new designations bar U.S. nationals from doing business with Al Habsi's network and freeze its U.S.-based and U.S. dollar-denominated assets. 
-- Reuters
August 5, 2021
The British navy announced that unidentified gunmen had departed the Asphalt Princess, an asphalt tanker sailing off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Gulf of Oman. The gunmen had boarded the Asphalt Princess the night of August 3, apparently to hijack it, but departed the vessel on August 4, according to the navy report. In a radio call to the Emirati coast guard during the attempted hijacking, one of the ship's crew reported that armed Iranians had boarded the ship. Satellite-tracking data showed the Asphalt Princess, owned by the UAE-based company Glory International, heading toward the Iranian port of Jask on August 4 before turning toward the Omani port of Sohar several hours later. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman denied Iran's involvement in the incident. The U.S. State Department said that it believed the nationality of the hijackers to be Iranian.
-- Associated Press
August 1, 2021
Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States accused Iran of using one or more explosive-carrying drones to attack the Mercer Street, an oil tanker traveling in the Arabian Sea near Oman. The strike killed two members of the Mercer Street's crew and—according to a U.S. official—blew a hole in the top of the ship's bridge. Following the attack, the U.S. Navy escorted the Mercer Street to safety. Zodiac Maritime, a London-based company controlled by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer, manages the Mercer Street, whereas the Japan-based firm Taihei Kaiun Co. owns the vessel. The deceased crewmen were nationals of the United Kingdom and Romania, respectively. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the United Kingdom and its allies planned a joint response to the alleged Iranian strike, which he described as a violation of international law. A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry denied any Iranian involvement in the operation.
-- Associated Press