News Briefs

July 25, 2023
Bolivia's defense minister Edmundo Novillo said his country is interested in obtaining Iranian drones to combat smuggling and drug trafficking along its borders. Novillo denied that his country had concluded a memorandum of understanding with Iran, but he admitted to signing an "act" with his Iranian counterpart to identify common interests during a recent visit to Tehran. Novillo spoke after Argentina's foreign ministry had requested information from Bolivia about the discussion and possible agreements with Iran.
-- Washington Post
July 18, 2023
The U.S. State Department issued a new 120-day waiver allowing Iraq to pay Iran for electricity imports. The waiver was expanded to allow Iraq to deposit its payments into non-Iraqi banks in third countries, although Iran will still need U.S. permission to access the funds and may only spend them on humanitarian goods.
-- Reuters
July 12, 2023
Indonesia's coast guard seized the MT Arman 114, an Iranian-flagged oil tanker, in the North Natuna Sea on the suspicion that it was illegally transporting crude oil. The tanker was engaged in a ship-to-ship oil transfer at sea with the Cameroon-flagged MT S Tinos and was spoofing its automatic identification system data to indicate that it was in another location, according to Indonesian authorities.
-- Reuters
July 10, 2023
The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed an eight-count indictment against Gal Luft, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who serves as the co-director of a Maryland-based think tank. The indicment accuses Luft of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China. Luft allegedly attempted to broker several arms deals, including a deal for Chinese companies to sell anti-tank guided missile launchers, grenade launchers, and mortar rounds to Libya; a deal involving aerial bombs and rockets for the United Arab Emirates; a deal for Chinese companies to sell unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Kenya; and a deal involving weapon sales to Qatar. He is also accused of attempting to broker Iranian oil sales, particularly to Chinese customers. He and his associates allegedly sought to obfuscate the origin of the oil by claiming it was from Brazil or the UAE. Luft was arrested in Cyprus on February 17, 2023, but fled after being released on bail. He remains at large.
-- U.S. Department of Justice
July 6, 2023
Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized a commercial ship in the Persian Gulf that was possibly involved in smuggling, according to the U.S. Navy. The seizure occurred a day after the U.S. Navy said it had prevented Iran from seizing two other tankers in the Gulf of Oman, one of which was managed by the U.S. oil company Chevron.
-- Reuters
July 6, 2023
The Alabuga special economic zone business park, where the United States has said Russia and Iran are working together to establish an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) factory, has begun recruiting drone engineers and Farsi speakers. Albatross, a Russian agricultural drone manufacturer, has already inaugurated a production facility at the same site and has supplied 50 M5 reconnaissance drones to the Russian military. Among its suppliers is Alabuga-Fiber, a carbon fiber producer that operates in the same business park and that is sanctioned by the United States. Albatross also claims to import parts from China and advertises equipment made by U.S., European, and Asian companies.
-- Financial Times
July 6, 2023
The United States filed a complaint seeking the forfeiture of over 9,000 rifles, 284 machine guns, approximately 194 rocket launchers, more than 70 anti-tank guided missiles, and over 700,000 rounds of ammunition that the U.S. Navy seized during four interdictions at sea, two of which took place in 2021 and two in 2023. The weapons were allegedly being shipped to militant groups in Yemen by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
-- Department of Justice
June 29, 2023
European diplomats have told their Iranian counterparts that they plan to retain certain ballistic missile-related sanctions against Iran that are otherwise set to expire in October. The 2015 nuclear agreement stipulated that such sanctions would be lifted on Transition Day, eight years after the agreement was adopted. Retaining the sanctions would require the approval of all 27 EU member states.
-- Reuters
June 21, 2023
The United Kingdom launched an investigation into allegations that researchers at British universities have contributed to research that could aid Iran's military drone program. The investigation followed a report by the Jewish Chronicle that scientists at universities including Imperial College London and Cranfield University, which has a partnership with the UK Ministry of Defence, worked with Iranian counterparts to publish studies on drone engine performance and aircraft control systems. At least one of the studies, published in 2019, was supported by Iran's Ministry of Science.
-- Financial Times
June 16, 2023
Iran's crude oil exports exceeded 1.5 million barrels per day in May, the highest monthly rate since the United States reimposed sanctions against Iran in 2018, according to the commodities tracking firm Kpler. Although Iran is selling oil to Syria and Venezuela, China is its biggest customer.
-- Reuters

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