News Briefs

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
November 21, 2021
Iranian airline Mahan Air's website was temporarily rendered inaccessible by a cyberattack on November 21. A group calling itself Hoosyarane-Vatan, or Observants of Fatherland, claimed responsibility in text messages sent to Mahan Air customers citing Mahan Air's cooperation with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The airline has been sanctioned by the United States since 2011 for providing support to the IRGC. Iran has experienced other large-scale cyberattacks this year, including one that disabled gas stations in October and another that disrupted the country's railroad system in July. 
-- Associated Press
November 18, 2021
In October, five drones loaded with explosives dive-bombed a U.S. military base in Al Tanf, Syria. American and Israeli officials have now said that the attack was directed and supplied by Iran and carried out by its proxies in the region. The attack was allegedly a retaliatory strike in response to a series of Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria earlier in October. A Telegram channel linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) appeared to corroborate this account.
-- The New York Times
November 17, 2021
A new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report estimates that Iran has increased its stock of 60% enriched uranium to 17.7 kilograms, an increase of approximately 8 kilograms since the last IAEA estimate in August. The confidential report further states that inspectors are still unable to verify Iran's stockpile due to limited access to its nuclear facilities. A separate report raised concerns about intrusive searches of Agency inspectors by Iranian security personnel at nuclear sites. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi is expected to visit Tehran on November 22nd.
-- Associated Press
November 16, 2021
In late August, Iran restarted production at a centrifuge manufacturing plant that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been unable to monitor since it was damaged in an alleged act of sabotage in June. According to Western diplomats, the Karaj plant has produced parts for at least 170 of Iran's advanced centrifuges since production resumed. The centrifuges built with those parts have been installed at the Fordow uranium enrichment plant, according to the diplomats.
-- The Wall Street Journal
November 12, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has had only technical discussions with Iran's nuclear chief and no high-level contact with the Raisi government since it was elected in June, according to IAEA chief Raphael Grossi. Grossi visited Iran in September but the IAEA was blocked from accessing an important centrifuge plant. Grossi wants to visit Iran again for a high-level meeting before the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on November 22nd.
-- Deutsche Welle
November 10, 2021
An oil tanker that had been seized by Iran on October 24th was released on November 10th. The Vietnamese-flagged tanker, the MV Sothys, had been captured by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy boats and brought to Bandar Abbas while a U.S. Navy destroyer observed but did not intervene. Iran drained the tanker's cargo of oil and released it afterward. Non-governmental groups suspected that the MV Sothys had been involved in smuggling Iranian oil, which Iranian media appeared to corroborate when announcing the tanker's release. 
-- Associated Press
November 10, 2021
Chinese refineries imported an average of 560,000 bpd of crude oil from Iran between August and October, a rebound from lower imports during June and July. The high demand was due to increased import quotas set by Beijing and discounted Iranian oil prices at a time when global oil prices are high. Buying Iranian oil can expose Chinese businesses to U.S. secondary sanctions, but according to a U.S. official the United States has not enforced these sanctions on Chinese companies while negotiations over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) continue. 
-- Reuters