A federal appeals court overturned a June 2017 jury verdict allowing the U.S. Department of Justice to seize a 36-story Manhattan office tower because it was effectively controlled by Iran. The previous verdict ruled that the nonprofit Alavi Foundation, a 60% owner of the building, was in violation of U.S. sanctions because it knew that Assa Corp, the 40% owner, was a front for Iran’s Bank Melli. The Justice Department hoped to sell the building, which is located at 650 Fifth Avenue, for as much as $1 billion and to give the proceeds to victims of Iranian bombings and other attacks. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan overturned the verdict in a 3-0 decision, citing errors by the trial judge.
August 9, 2019
August 7, 2019
Iran unveiled three new precision-guided air-to-air missiles which were developed by the Iranian Defense Ministry and Iran Electronics Industries (IEI): the Yasin, the Balaban, and an updated variant of the Qaem. The Yasin is a smart guided missile with a range of 50 km. The Balaban is equipped with a hybrid inertial navigation system (INS)/Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance and sensors. The updated Qaem uses heat and cylinder seekers to hit within 50 cm of its target, according to Iran's Mehr News Agency. All three can be fired from unmanned aerial vehicles in addition to conventional aircraft.
-- The Jerusalem Post
August 7, 2019
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration issued a warning regarding threats to commercial ships in the Persian Gulf. Iran is using GPS jammers and has placed such systems on Abu Musa Island near the Strait of Hormuz, according to a U.S. official. The jammers reportedly do not affect U.S. military ships and aircraft. Iran is also “spoofing” the automatic identification system on its military vessels to disguise them as commercial ships, and there have been reports of "unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or coalition warships."
August 5, 2019
Iran seized an oil tanker near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf, the third time in recent weeks that it has detained a ship in the region. The tanker, which was carrying approximately 700,000 liters (154,000 gallons) of oil, was "smuggling fuel for some Arab countries," according to the Iranian government. The ship was reportedly taken to Bushehr Port in southwestern Iran and its oil confiscated by authorities. Iranian officials said that the tanker was Iraqi, a claim which Iraq denied. Seven crew members of undisclosed nationalities were also detained.
August 3, 2019
12 Iranian tankers have transported oil to Asia and the Mediterranean since May 2, when the United States revoked sanctions waivers which had previously allowed eight countries to buy Iranian oil. At least six were unloaded in China, while others went to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, likely bound for Turkey or Syria. The National Iranian Oil Company owns or manages 11 out of the 12 tankers. This scale of Iranian oil shipments is larger than was previously known.
-- The New York Times
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.
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 19, 2019
Mahin Mojtahedzadeh, a 74-year-old Iranian national, faces up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to procuring turbine parts from two New York-based companies and exporting them to Iran. From 2013 to 2017, Mojtahedzadeh arranged for companies in Canada and Germany to purchase more than $3 million of gas turbine parts from the United States and send them to Iran. U.S. officials would not identify the supplier companies, but authorities raided the offices of New York-based Turbine Services Ltd. in June. Mojtahedzadeh’s co-conspirators, German nationals Olaf Tepper and Mojtaba Biria, both employees of Energy Republic GmbH, previously pled guilty to charges of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
-- The Daily Gazette (Schenectady, NY)
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