News Briefs

April 22, 2019
The United States announced that it will start imposing sanctions on eight countries if they do not stop buying Iranian oil after sanctions waivers expire on May 2. Of the eight countries, Italy, Greece, Japan, and Taiwan have already stopped buying Iranian oil. China, India, South Korea, and Turkey could still be sanctioned. Forty percent of Iran’s revenue comes from oil sales. U.S. officials are predicting that there will not be a substantial rise in global oil prices after the waivers end, and have said that there are agreements in place with other countries to offset the reduced supply if necessary.
-- Washington Post
April 21, 2019
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has replaced the top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Major General Ali Jafari served as the top commander from 2007 until April 21, 2019, when he was replaced by Brigadier General Hossein Salami, who was promoted to the rank of major general. The IRGC reports directly to the Supreme Leader, and is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile development and Quds Force operations. The Islamic Republic News Agency first announced the change in leadership but did not specify why. The change comes two weeks after President Trump announced the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
-- New York Times
April 6, 2019
A battery explosion in the Shahid Darvishi shipyard in Bandar Abbas, Iran, killed three officials from Iran's armed forces. The officials were repairing a submarine, according to Iranian state media. Sharvid Darvishi shipyard builds and repairs surface vessels and submarines. This explosion follows a fire, on February 3, at Iran's Space Research Center, in which three Iranian aerospace researchers died. These events have led to speculation about possible sabotage at Iran's military installations by the United States. 
-- Radio Farda
April 4, 2019
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has inspected a site in Tehran identified by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2018 as housing 300 tons of nuclear equipment and as much as 15 kilograms of radioactive material. A team from the IAEA visited the site in February 2019 and took environmental samples that are being analyzed. However, the Agency has been criticized for its delayed inspection, which may have allowed Iran to move or remove items from the site. 
-- Wall Street Journal
April 3, 2019
Iran has been blamed for cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure in the United Kingdom on December 23, 2018. The Post Office, local government networks, companies, and banks have been compromised in an “ongoing” campaign to steal the personal details of thousands of individuals, including Members of Parliament. Cyber security experts have concluded that a group connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is responsible for the attack. A European intelligence chief has labeled Iran as the third major cyber threat to the West after Russia and China. 
-- Sky News
April 2, 2019
Britain, France, and Germany have requested a full report on Iranian ballistic missile activity from the United Nations, following recent activities by Iran that are "inconsistent" with the terms of U.N. Security Council resolution 2231. Under the terms of this resolution, Iran must refrain from "any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons." In their letter, European officials cited as cause for concern Iran's Safir space launch vehicle test and the display of the Defzul surface-to-surface missile and a variant of the Khorramshahr ballistic missile. 
-- Agence-France Press (AFP)
March 25, 2019
France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, which is believed to be transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other conflict zones in the Middle East. The United States sanctioned Mahan Air in 2011 and has been pressuring countries in Europe to do the same. Mahan Air had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran. The ban takes effect April 1. 
-- Reuters
March 25, 2019
The U.S. Departments of State and Treasury sanctioned 31 entities linked to Iran’s Organization for Defense Innovation and Research (SPND), a military institute that allegedly maintains nuclear weapons expertise under the guise of civilian research. The sanctions are aimed at restricting opportunities for scientists connected with SPND to conduct research abroad and participate in international conferences. The names of the firms and individuals appear to have been drawn from a trove of documents seized by Israeli forces in January 2018. According to U.S. government officials, some of the newly-sanctioned entities are connected to Iranian universities, including Malek Ashtar University and Imam Hussein University, while others have been involved in the procurement of advanced technology from Russia and China. 
-- Science Magazine
March 20, 2019
The United States has granted Iraq a 90-day waiver that exempts the country from sanctions for buying Iranian gas. Iraq imports about 1.5 billion standard cubic feet of gas per day from Iran, via pipelines.
-- Reuters
March 18, 2019
The Kenyan Supreme Court upheld the sentences of Ahmad Abolfathi and Seyyed Mansour Mousavi, two Iranian nationals convicted on terrorism charges. The men were arrested in June 2012, convicted in 2013 of planning terrorist attacks and possession of RDX explosives, and originally given life sentences. Their sentences were reduced to 15 years in 2016 and the Court of Appeal later acquitted the men and ordered them freed. This acquittal was reversed by the Supreme Court. Kenyan investigators believe that Abolfathi and Mousavi may have had links to Iran's Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  
-- Kenyans.Co.Ke