News Briefs

July 31, 2019
The United States will renew sanctions waivers which allowed China, Russia, and European countries to continue limited nuclear cooperation with Iran under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The waivers will be renewed for 90 days, a shorter period than in the past. Ongoing cooperation activities include work at the Arak nuclear complex, the Bushehr nuclear plant, the Fordow enrichment facility, and the Tehran Research Reactor. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly pushed for renewing the waivers, arguing that the Treasury needed additional time to consider the effect of possible sanctions on the Chinese, Russian, and European firms involved. 
-- Reuters
July 25, 2019
Iran tested a Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile, which flew approximately 1,200 miles within Iran’s borders before landing east of Tehran. U.S. intelligence officials were monitoring the test site, which is located in Iran’s southern coast, leading up to the launch. The Shahab-3 is based on the North Korean No-Dong missile, and Iran has had it in its arsenal for two decades. The United States has demanded that Iran cease all missile testing, but Iran maintains that its tests are not in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which only prohibits Iranian missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. 
-- The New York Times
July 22, 2019
The United States sanctioned Chinese company Zhuhai Zhenrong and one of its executives, Youmin Li, for transporting Iranian crude oil. This action marks the first time that the U.S. Treasury has sanctioned a foreign entity involved in Iran’s oil exports since the United States declined to renew sanctions waivers in May which had previously allowed eight countries to buy Iranian oil. 
-- The Wall Street Journal
July 11, 2019
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered radioactive traces in an Iranian warehouse which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously identified as a secret atomic site. Inspectors tested soil samples over several visits, most recently last March, and determined that the site contained “traces of radioactive material.” The warehouse is located on Maher Street in the Turquzabad District of Tehran. Netanyahu claimed that the site contained as much as 300 kilograms of nuclear-related equipment and material and that 15 kilograms of material was removed from the warehouse and hidden in other parts of Tehran.
-- The Times of Israel
July 8, 2019
Iran has begun enriching uranium to 4.5%, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed. This step is a violation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which limits uranium enrichment to 3.67%. This move comes days after Iran exceeded the 300 kilogram limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi acknowledged the increase and hinted that Iran is considering a further step of 20% enrichment as well as using additional centrifuges, which would also violate the JCPOA.
-- Associated Press
July 4, 2019
British and Gibraltar authorities seized a tanker carrying Iranian crude oil which was reportedly destined for the Banyas Refinery in Syria. Spanish Foreign Minister Joseph Borrell asserted that the seizure was “a request from the United States to the United Kingdom.” International monitors reported that the ship, Grace 1, turned off its electronic tracking system while in Iranian waters, a common tactic to avoid U.S. sanctions. Officials from the U.K. and Gibraltar, however, cited EU sanctions prohibiting oil sales to Syria in detaining the tanker. Iran acknowledged that Grace 1 was carrying Iranian oil but denounced the seizure as “illegal” and summoned the British Ambassador. 
-- The New York Times
June 30, 2019
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany's national intelligence agency, noted in an annual report on Germany's national security that Iran made fewer attempts to aquire materials tied to nuclear proliferation in 2018 than in 2017. The report added that these efforts at procurement failed to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 treaty placing limits on Iran's nuclear program. The BfV noted that Iran was also trying to acquire materials for the development of ballistic missiles, which fall outside the JCPOA, at a higher pace in 2018 than in 2017. Another report, by the BfV's local counterpart in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, observed that Iran was still attempting to procure materials for weapons of mass destruction.
-- The Jerusalem Post
June 29, 2019
European leaders announced that the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchange (INSTEX) is now operational. INSTEX is designed to protect trade between Iran and the EU from U.S. sanctions by minimizing international cash flow and instead balancing transactions on each side internally. The program is working with an Iranian equivalent organization, the Special Trade and Finance Institute. In addition to the E3 (the United Kingdom, France, and Germany), other EU members are currently becoming INSTEX shareholders and European officials are open to the involvement of third party countries in the future.
-- Financial Tribune
June 28, 2019
Following a meeting between British, Chinese, French, German, Iranian, and Russian diplomats in Vienna, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that Iran would move ahead with its plans to exceed limits on uranium enrichment set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), despite European objections. However, Araghchi lauded Britain, France, and Germany's progress on Instex, a special purpose vehicle designed to facilitate European trade with Iran by circumventing American economic sanctions. He implied that further progress on Instex could convince Iran to halt its plans to violate the JCPOA. Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden announced that they plan to become involved in Instex. The Netherlands added that it intends to join Instex as a shareholder.
-- The Wall Street Journal
June 23, 2019
The United States launched a cyberattack against Iranian military computer systems under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The strike temporarily disabled computer systems which control Iran’s missile and rocket launchers. According to government sources, the U.S. Cyber Command planned the strike following Iran’s recent attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The strike also comes in wake of an increase in Iranian cyberattacks against the United States, which appear to have started after U.S. sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector.
-- Associated Press