News Briefs

June 24, 2020
According to information from a former Iranian official, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) established a facility near the city of Jarjam in 2011 to produce aluminum powder for Iran's missile program. Iran Alumina Company (IAC), a subsidiary of the state-owned enterprise Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development (IMIDRO), runs the facility. Aluminum powder is a key ingredient in solid fuel missile propellant. In a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader from an IRGC commander, the facility was described as key to "improving the country's self-sufficiency in production of solid fuel for missiles." IAC may have acquired equipment for the facility from China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction Co, Ltd (NFC), whose assistant president Li Xiaofeng allegedly coordinated the supply from German and Japanese firms. According to the former Iranian official, who is now living in France, the facility was still operating in 2018 when he left Iran. U.S. sanctions target Iran's aluminum sector, as well as the IRGC and third parties that do business with the Guards.
-- Reuters
June 18, 2020
During a military exercise in the Gulf of Oman and the northern Indian Ocean, the Iranian Navy tested cruise missiles with a range of at least 270 kilometers. Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, head of Iran's Navy, described the missiles as more accurate than previous models and resistant to "electronic warfare." According to Khanzadi, the missiles have improved guidance systems that allow for improved targeting.
-- Associated Press
June 16, 2020
An annual report by the intelligence service for the southern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg concludes that Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan are pursuing weapons of mass destruction programs through illegal procurement from Germany. According to the report, which covers activity in 2019, these countries seek "products and relevant known-how." The report describes Iran's effort to bypass German trade rules by employing front companies and shipping goods through third countries such as China, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The report further warns that Iran might infiltrate German research centers and universities in a bid to obtain proliferation know-how.
-- Fox News
June 12, 2020
The United Nations confirmed the Iranian origin of cruise missiles launched at airports and oil refineries in Saudi Arabia in 2019 as well as of weapons seized by the United States in November 2019 and February 2020. Cruise missile debris from the attacks on Saudi Arabia "were identical or similar" to some of the items in the U.S. seizures, according to a U.N. report on the implementation of a 2015 Security Council resolution that enshrines the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The United Nations noted that the acquisition and transfer of these weapons may have been "inconsistent" with the 2015 resolution. Iran denied any involvement in the attacks, for which the Houthis in Yemen claimed responsibility.
-- Al-Jazeera
June 10, 2020
Iranian and Turkmen officials inaugurated a car bridge going from the Iranian province of Khorasan Razavi to the Turkmen region of Ahal. Iranian Roads and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami noted that the initiative would increase cross-border trade and strengthen Iran's economic links to Central Asia.
-- Caspian News
June 9, 2020
The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and cannot use the agreement to extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran, according to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. He said the United States "cannot claim that they are still part of the JCPOA in order to deal with this issue from the JCPOA agreement." Russia also expressed opposition to U.S. attempts to extend the arms embargo.
-- Associated Press
June 8, 2020
Economic sanctions that the United States had imposed on Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and E-Sail Shipping Company, an IRISL subsidiary based in Shanghai, came into effect on June 8. The U.S. State Department warned the private and public sectors that they might violate the sanctions by doing business with IRISL and its affiliates. The United States also called on governments to investigate IRISL activity, accusing IRISL of helping Iran acquire materials for ballistic missiles and other military projects and violating UN sanctions.
-- Reuters
June 5, 2020
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed concern about Iran's cooperation and reported on the status of Iran's nuclear fuel stockpile in two reports sent IAEA member states. Iran is refusing to answer questions about its possession of a metal disk made of natural uranium, what happened to the disk, and Iran's storage of undeclared nuclear material where explosives testing related to neutral detectors took place in the early 2000s. Iran has declined to grant the IAEA access to two sites related to these concerns and has sought to destroy or sanitize both sites. In addition, the IAEA reported that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium has grown by about uranium 50 percent since February 2020, to 1,572 kilograms. This is above the 202.8-kilogram limit stipulated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The material has not been enriched beyond 4.5 percent.
-- The Wall Street Journal
June 5, 2020
U.S. federal prosecutors are seeking to withdraw a criminal case against Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, an Iranian banker convicted of moving $115 million from Venezuela to Iranian entities via the U.S. financial system, in violation of U.S. sanctions. Sadr was found guilty of setting up a network of front companies and bank accounts in order to move funds from a construction project in Venezuela to Iran and mask the involvement of his father, the head of an Iranian industrial conglomerate called Stratus Group. Prosecutors cited the likelihood of continued litigation over evidence suppression as the reason for their request to withdraw the case. A lawyer for Sadr had requested that the case be dismissed because prosecutors failed to share exculpatory evidence before the verdict.
-- Bloomberg
June 4, 2020
The United States alleged that Kenneth Zong, an Alaska man, used the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to launder $1 billion held by South Korea for Iran. Zong used a series of fake invoices for construction material to convince South Korean banks and regulators to release the money. Zong is in prison in South Korea after being convicted of criminal charges over the scheme. The United States is seeking his extradition. Through an asset forfeiture effort related to this case, U.S. authorities are also attempting to seize $20 million held by Ras al-Khaimah, an emirate in the UAE.
-- Associated Press