News Briefs

June 23, 2021
According to U.S. defense officials, the U.S. Defense Department monitored a failed attempt by Iran to launch a satellite on June 12. The officials said that they had yet to determine why and at what stage the launch failed. Analysts concluded that Iran likely used a two-stage Simorgh space launch vehicle, which employs engines based on North Korean designs. Meanwhile, commercial satellite images taken on June 20 show indications that Iran is making preparations for a second launch. Some analysts believe that Iran can repurpose technology from its space program for use in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
-- CNN
June 23, 2021
Iran's state media reported on June 23 that authorities foiled a "sabotage attack" against a nuclear facility in Karaj operated by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The report added that the assault resulted in no casualties or damage and that Iran had yet to identify the perpetrators. Karaj contains two known sites tied to Iran's nuclear program: a location for the storage of radioactive waste and the Karaj Agricultural and Medical Research Center, an AEOI-run complex launched in 1974. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) lists the waste-storage site as a "safeguard facility" and visited it in 2003. The United Nations and the United States imposed sanctions in 2007 on the Karaj Agricultural and Medical Research Center, which the U.N. Security Council linked to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
-- Associated Press
June 21, 2021
Gholamali Rakhshanimehr, an official at the Iranian state-owned electrical company Tavanir, said that Iran had shut down the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) on June 19. It was the first time the plant has been shut down in its operational life. Tavanir announced separately that the BNPP would be undergoing repairs until June 25. According to Rakhshanimehr, the shutdown could result in power outages. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors the BNPP, said that it was aware of reports about a shutdown. In March, Iranian nuclear official Mahmoud Jafari had warned that the BNPP might stop operating because U.S. economic sanctions were preventing Iran from obtaining key components and equipment from Russia, which supplies the plant's fuel.
-- Associated Press
June 15, 2021
Ali Rabiei, a spokesman for Iran's government, announced on June 15 that Iran had produced about 6.5 kilograms of uranium enriched to 6.5 percent fissile purity since April and 108 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity over the previous five months. Uranium becomes fit for use in nuclear weapons at 90 percent purity.
-- Reuters
June 11, 2021
On June 11, Iran paid $16.2 million in late dues to the United Nations, thereby regaining its U.N. voting rights. The United Nations had suspended Iran's voting ability after Iran's earlier failure to pay its dues. Iran obtained the money from a bank account in South Korea that had previously been frozen due to U.S. financial sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury ultimately allowed Iran to withdraw the funds, a potential signal to Iran as nuclear negotiations continue.
-- The New York Times
June 10, 2021
Unnamed current and former Middle Eastern and U.S. officials allege that Russia is taking steps to sell the Kanopus-V spy satellite to Iran. The officials said that the Kanopus-V could be launched from Russia within months and that its high-resolution camera would enable Iran to continuously surveil sites such as military sites in Israel, oil refineries in the Persian Gulf, and bases used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The officials added that leaders from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) traveled to Russia several times since 2018 to negotiate Iran's acquisition of the spy satellite and that Russian specialists made a trip to Iran to train Iranian ground crews to operate the satellite from a new facility in Karaj. According to a Middle Eastern official, Iran can use the Kanopus-V to maintain "an accurate target bank" for potential missile and drone strikes. Last year, Iran launched its own, allegedly less-capable Noor-1 military satellite following earlier failures.
-- The Washington Post
June 10, 2021
On June 10, the U.S. Department of the Treasury lifted sanctions on three former officials of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and several Iranian energy companies. The United States called the move routine and denied any connection to ongoing negotiations over Iran's nuclear program in Vienna, saying that the Treasury removed sanctions on the former officials because they no longer worked at blacklisted entities. Nonetheless, analysts view the action as a signal that the United States is capable of following through with the administrative process of removing sanctions. The Treasury first designated the former officials in 2013 for evading sanctions and designated the energy companies last year for their involvement in Iran's petrochemical industry, which the United States has targeted with sanctions.
-- The Wall Street Journal
June 4, 2021
Unnamed U.S. officials allege that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have used dive-bombing drones to launch at least three attacks against Iraqi military bases used by the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Operations Forces in the last two months. The episodes included an April 14 strike on a covert CIA hangar at an airport in Erbil, a May 8 attack on the Ayn al-Asad air base in Anbar Province, and a May 11 strike on an airfield in Harir used by U.S. special forces. Analysis of the drones' debris indicated that they could carry 10-60 pounds of explosives and that they used technology similar to that provided by Iran to Houthi rebels in Yemen. The attacks went unclaimed and caused no injuries; according to Iraqi and U.S. officials, Iran engineered the operations to minimize casualties. The drones flew low enough to evade U.S. defenses designed to counter artillery, mortars, and rockets. U.S. analysts have speculated that the militias were targeting U.S. facilities housing surveillance aircraft and U.S. MQ-9 Reaper combat drones.
-- The New York Times
June 2, 2021
Iran's largest naval vessel sank near the Iranian port of Jask in the Gulf of Oman on June 2 after a fire broke out on board. The Kharg, a 207-meter vessel that was built in the United Kingdom in 1977, served to resupply other Iranian warships and participated in military exercises. It also had the capacity to launch helicopters, lift heavy cargo, and sail as far as the Mediterranean Sea. Iranian officials announced an investigation into the fire but did not give a cause. According to Iran's state-owned media, 400 sailors evacuated the Kharg, with 33 sustaining injuries. Also on June 2, an oil refinery near Tehran operated by Tondgooyan Petrochemical Co. caught fire; the cause of that fire also remains unclear. The episodes followed incidents in April 2021, when the MV Saviz, an Iranian ship reportedly used as a base by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the Red Sea, became the target of a suspected Israeli attack, and in 2019, when an Iranian naval support ship was struck by friendly fire in a training accident.
-- Associated Press
May 31, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on May 31 that Iran had failed to explain traces of uranium discovered by the IAEA months earlier at three undeclared nuclear sites in the country. In a separate report, the IAEA said that Iran's stock of enriched uranium had reached 3,241 kilograms, an increase of 273 kilograms from the previous quarter. The IAEA estimated that Iran had produced 2.4 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60 percent fissile purity and 62.8 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity. The second report also noted that Iran was using 20 cascades of centrifuges to enrich uranium at its Natanz nuclear facility as of May 24; according to an unnamed senior diplomat, Iran had been using between 35 and 37 cascades for that purpose before an explosion at Natanz in April that Iran blamed on Israel. The IAEA added that Iran had produced 2.4 kilograms of uranium metal, a material with uses in nuclear weapons. Iran had produced only 3.6 grams of uranium metal when the IAEA last reported it three months earlier.
-- Reuters

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