News Briefs

April 10, 2021
Iran exhibited 133 of its nuclear achievements on April 10 as part of National Nuclear Technology Day. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the Natanz nuclear facility to begin using 164 Iranian-made IR-6 centrifuges to enrich uranium; IR-6 centrifuges, the most efficient that Iran has currently put into use, have a claimed output of 10 separative work units (SWUs), enabling them to enrich 10 times as much uranium hexafluoride as first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. Additionally, Rouhani ordered Iran to begin tests of 30 IR-5 and 30 IR-6s (an improved variant of the IR-6) centrifuges. Rouhani also oversaw the launch of the second phase of industrial production of deuterium compounds at the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility. Separately, the Natanz facility launched a new unit for assembling and evaluating centrifuges and the National Centre for Laser Science and Technology in Iran's Alborz province unveiled unspecified nuclear projects.
-- Kayhan
April 9, 2021
On April 9, the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 international agreement that imposed restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, finished the first week of meetings in Vienna on how to return Iran and the United States to compliance with the deal. Representatives from Iran and the United States did not meet face to face, instead relying on diplomats from the European Union, which chairs the JCPOA Joint Commission, and the other JCPOA signatories—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—as go-betweens. The discussions were carried out in two working groups, one addressing how to lift nuclear-related U.S. sanctions on Iran and the other focusing on bringing Iran's uranium-enrichment activities back within the parameters of the JCPOA. Iran, Russia, and the European Union expressed satisfaction with the progress of the talks, and all sides agreed to meet again the following Wednesday. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department stated the United States' willingness to lift sanctions that are "inconsistent" with the JCPOA, a definition that may exclude sanctions imposed under human rights and terrorism authorities, such as those on the Central Bank of Iran.
-- The New York Times
April 6, 2021
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said on April 6 that the AEOI had begun mechanical tests of its new-generation IR-9 centrifuge. Kamalvandi described the IR-9's output as 50 separative work units (SWUs); its predecessor, the IR-8, has an output of 24 SWUs. Kamalvandi also claimed that the IR-9 was developed entirely in Iran.
-- Mehr News Agency
April 3, 2021
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), announced on April 3 that Iran had produced 50 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent. A law passed by Iran's parliament requires the AEOI to amass a total of 120 kilograms of uranium enriched to that level. Iran's mission to the United Nations said on March 29 that the country will only halt enrichment of uranium to 20 percent when the United States lifts economic sanctions.
-- Fars News Agency
April 1, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on March 31 that Iran began using a fourth cascade of 174 second-generation IR-2m centrifuges to enrich uranium at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), the underground portion of the Natanz nuclear facility. Iran has also installed an additional two cascades of IR-2m centrifuges but has yet to begin operating them; Iran has informed the IAEA that it plans to eventually use the total of six cascades to enrich uranium to 5 percent purity. The IAEA also noted that Iran had yet to start installing an intended second cascade of IR-4 centrifuges. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the international agreement limiting Iran's nuclear program that Iran has been in breach of since 2019, restricts the country to the use of less efficient IR-1 centrifuges at the FEP. According to the IAEA, Iran is now using 30 cascades of 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges, four cascades of 696 IR-2m centrifuges, and one cascade of 174 IR-4 centrifuges to enrich uranium at the FEP.
-- Reuters
March 27, 2021
On March 27, China signed an agreement to invest $400 billion in Iran over the next 25 years in exchange for a continuous supply of Iranian oil. The text of the agreement was not made public. An earlier, leaked draft of the deal specified that China would invest in Iran's ports, railways, and banking, healthcare, information technology, and telecommunications industries. In exchange, according to two unnamed Iranian sources—an official and an oil trader—Iran would provide oil to China at a substantial discount. The draft also called for Chinese-Iranian military cooperation in weapons development, joint exercises, research, and intelligence-sharing. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif signed the agreement during Wang's visit to Tehran, where Wang also met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The deal had been under negotiation since 2016, when Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed it during a visit to Tehran. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accelerated talks with China after the United States re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran in 2018.
-- The New York Times
March 22, 2021
March 22: Western intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran is hiding aspects of its nuclear program, including machinery, pumps, spare parts for centrifuges, and carbon fiber—a key component for producing advanced centrifuges—from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to intelligence officials, the material and equipment is concealed in 75 containers spread across locations under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). These containers regularly move between sites administered by the AEOI or the IRGC, with most of the containers recently moved from the AEOI's Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan to IRGC-controlled sites. Iran must declare certain equipment and material relevant to its nuclear program to the IAEA under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The intelligence agencies believe that Iran possessed some of the undeclared equipment before the 2015 accord took effect, but obtained other components on the black market afterwards.
-- The Telegraph
March 20, 2021
U.S. prosecutors charged 10 Iranians with concealing $300 million in transanctions over two decades to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran on behalf of Iran's government. At the same time, prosecutors filed a civil forfeiture action to seize $157 million. According to U.S. officials, defendants Issa Shayegh, Salim Henareh, and Seyed Ziaeddin Taheri Zangakani started the Los Angeles-based company Persepolis Financial Services in 1999 to illicitly transfer U.S. dollars to Iran. Henareh, Shayegh, and Zangakani later moved to Canada and the United Arab Emirates, where they allegedly employed Persepolis and a front company, Rosco, to engage in further transanctions with assistance from co-defendants Abbas Amin and Reza Karimi. Among the specific transactions alleged by U.S. prosecutors were a transfer of $20 million to Malaysia in 2012 to purchase piping equipment for an Iranian oil company and the $50 million purchase of two oil tankers that same year through a front company in Hong Kong. The defendants reside abroad, and U.S. prosecutors declined to say whether foreign governments had been asked to detain them.
-- Reuters
March 18, 2021
According to satellite imagery, Iran has completed underground launch positions at the Khorgo ballistic missile site in the southwest of the country, which began construction three years ago. Photographs show four holes dug into the side of a nearby mountain, three of which appear to be hardened vertical launch positions. Each launch position can quickly fire two ballistic missiles. On March 15, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unveiled an underground facility equipped with dozens of missiles, apparently for naval use, at an undisclosed location.
-- Fox News
March 16, 2021
On March 15, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran had begun enriching uranium with a cascade of 174 advanced IR-4 centrifuges at the underground portion of the Natanz nuclear facility. The deployment of these centrifuges violates the international agreement restricting Iran's nuclear program, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which requires Iran to only enrich uranium using less efficient IR-1 centrifuges. Iran intends to add another IR-4 cascade at the Natanz site but has yet to begin installation. Iran is also currently using 522 IR-2m centrifuges in three cascades to enrich uranium in the underground plant at Natanz, after having begun to install them there last year.
-- Reuters