News Briefs

December 31, 2021
An Iranian defense ministry spokesperson confirmed that a rocket launched on December 30 failed to deliver its three satellite payloads into orbit. The Simorgh space launch vehicle had not reached the speed necessary to enter orbit. The United States, France, and Germany criticized the launch and said it violated a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution that called upon Iran not to test ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The United States has alleged that Iran's space program is a cover used to develop ballistic missiles, a claim Tehran denies.
-- Reuters
December 21, 2021
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy fired ballistic missiles and at least five cruise missiles in war games in the Persian Gulf on December 21, according to Iranian state media. The IRGC's overall commander, Hossein Salami, was quoted as saying that the IRGC Navy's use of ballistic missiles was a new development. The wargame also featured armed drones.
-- Reuters
December 21, 2021
On December 21, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that EU-based firms can terminate contracts with Iranian companies if adhering to the contract would cause "disproportionate economic loss" due to U.S. sanctions. The existence of a "blocking statute," which prohibits EU companies from complying with U.S. sanctions on Iran that were re-imposed when the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, had previously cast legal doubt on such terminations. The lawsuit at issue involved a terminated contract between Deutsche Telekom and Bank Melli, a U.S.-sanctioned Iranian bank. Deutsche Telekom argued that the contract could harm its business, of which about half comes from its operations in the United States. The ECJ remanded the case to a court in Hamburg to determine whether such a loss will occur if the contract is upheld. 
-- Reuters
December 15, 2021
Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have reached an agreement to reinstall monitoring cameras at a centrifuge manufacturing plant in Karaj. IAEA cameras at the site were damaged in an alleged sabotage incident in June, and Iran had subsequently refused to allow IAEA inspectors to replace them. Tehran had alleged, without evidence, that the IAEA cameras had been used to plan the June attack. The IAEA denied this claim but agreed to allow Iranian "security and judiciary" officials to inspect its equipment before it is reinstalled. Iran will continue to withhold the cameras' footage from the IAEA until a broader agreement is reached in ongoing negotiations to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
-- Associated Press
December 15, 2021
Microsoft issued a public warning on December 14 that hackers linked to the governments of China, Iran, North Korea, and Turkey are working to exploit a flaw in the Java-based Log4j software that could affect hundreds of millions of computer systems, including those used by governments and major corporations. According to Microsoft, the Iranian group has deployed ransomware in the past. A senior US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency official said that there was no evidence federal networks had been breached.
-- CNN
December 12, 2021
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi submitted his government's draft budget to Iran's Parliament on December 12th. The budget proposal for Persian year 1401, which will begin in March 2022, predicts that the country's economy will expand by 8%. The budget also predicts 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil exports at $60 per barrel. Estimates for Iran's oil exports in November 2021 ran as high as 900,000 bpd, including 500,000 bpd to China, despite sanctions. However, Raisi's draft budget is smaller in real terms than the current budget due to high inflation in Iran. 
-- Reuters
December 3, 2021
Nuclear negotiators in Vienna ended their first week of talks without a deal and returned to their capitals for consultations on December 3rd. European Union chief diplomat Enrique Mora said that there needs to be a "convergence of policy" for negotiations to proceed. Iranian negotiators repeated a demand for the United States to unfreeze $10 billion in assets. The goal of the talks is to bring Iran and the United States back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 agreement limiting Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. From Dubai, French president Emmanuel Macron voiced skepticism about the eventual outcome of the talks and said it was important to discuss "other regional issues" beyond Iran's nuclear program. 
-- Associated Press
December 1, 2021
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has begun enriching uranium to 20% purity using advanced centrifuges at its underground Fordow facility. Iran is using one cascade of 166 IR-6 centrifuges to carry out the enrichment. The IAEA said it intends to step up inspections at Fordow as a result. An Iranian statement downplayed the report as routine, but IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi expressed concern. Uranium enrichment at Fordow is prohibited by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 
-- Reuters
November 26, 2021
An international arbitration panel ruled in late November that Bahrain's government acted improperly when it closed Future Bank in 2015. The bank was a joint venture between Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, two Iranian banks that have been sanctioned by the United States. Bahraini officials argued that Future Bank had to be closed to protect investors from alleged corruption and sanctions violations. However, The Hague-based panel found that Bahrain's actions were not consistent with Bahrain's own banking laws and may have had political motivations, as Iran is a regional rival. It ordered the government of Bahrain to pay the banks more than $270 million in compensation, which Bahrain plans to appeal.
-- The Washington Post
November 24, 2021
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi was unable to secure Agency access to Iran's centrifuge manufacturing plant in Karaj after visiting with top officials in Tehran. Iran removed IAEA monitoring equipment from Karaj after an alleged sabotage attempt in June and has not allowed inspectors to see the site despite a September agreement that the Agency claims authorized inspections there. According to unnamed diplomats, Iran conditioned access to the Karaj facility on the IAEA ending its investigation of undeclared nuclear material found at several sites in Iran in 2019, which Grossi reportedly rejected. Grossi told the IAEA's Board of Governors that his talks with Tehran had been "inconclusive". 
-- Wall Street Journal

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