News Briefs

August 15, 2019
An Australian corporation involved in the transport of an estimated $10-$15 million worth of urea fertilizer from Iran to China may have breached U.S. sanctions. The cargo ship CS Future departed Iran’s Bandar Abbas port on July 1 carrying “urea in bulk,” according to vessel inspection reports. Online vessel trackers showed the ship travelling through the Middle East, including a stop in Oman, before arriving at Lianyungang, China on July 25. The cargo was then reloaded onto a second cargo ship, the Bulk Aquila, which is operated by the Hong Kong-based Quantum Fertilizer, a subsidiary of Australia-based Incitec Pivot. Leaked video from the Lianyungang port confirmed the transfer. Quantum Fertilizer claimed that it was “misled about the origin of the product” and that its Chinese supplier gave assurances that the cargo was of Chinese origin. Internal documents, however, suggest that Quantum knew the cargo arrived via the CS Future. Quantum announced that Bulk Aquila is offloading the cargo at China’s Yantai port with independent inspectors present.
-- The Guardian
August 11, 2019
Negar Ghodskani, a 40-year-old Iranian national, pled guilty in Minnesota to charges of unlawful procurement and export of U.S. goods to Iran. Working with Greenwave, a Malaysia-based front company, Ghodskani facilitated four shipments to Iranian companies in 2011, including 150 synthesizers and four analog-to-digital devices. Ghodskani’s co-conspirator Alireza Jalali, also Iranian, re-packaged the products in Malaysia and sent them via commercial air freight to Iran. Recipients in Iran included Rastafann, which supplied radar systems to the U.N.-sanctioned Naval Defense Missile Industry Group and communications systems to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Fana Moj, which develops missile components and has also provided support to the IRGC. Ghodskani was indicted in Minnesota in 2015 and arrested in Australia in 2017. After a prolonged extradition fight, she agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Alireza Jalali was arrested in New York in 2017.
-- Radio Farda
August 11, 2019
Two Lebanese-owned tankers have been conducting ship-to-ship transfers of Iranian oil in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Syria, according to reports from On June 26, the tanker Sandro received 350,000 barrels of refined oil from the Iran-flagged tanker Jasmine, which is on a U.S. Treasury watch list. On July 25, the U.S.-sanctioned, Iran-flagged tanker Silvia I transferred approximately 500,000 barrels of crude oil to the tanker Sandro. Jasmine is owned by the Lebanon-based firm Africo 1 (Off-Shore) SAL, which took ownership of the tanker in February. Jasmine has since turned off its location transponder. The firm Sandro Overseas (Off Shore) SAL, also based in Lebanon, became the owner of Sandro on May 30; the tanker turned off its location transponder five days later. Corporate records show that Africo 1 and Sandro Overseas share the same listed owners: Lebanese nationals Marwan Ramadan, Bilal Atris, and Khalid Deeb. The ownership of the two companies changed between December 2018 and January 2019. The Syrian Oil Ministry recently awarded Sandro Overseas a contract to process oil residues from Syria, replacing Synergy SAL Offshore, which has also been connected with Iranian oil shipments and was sanctioned by the United States in June. According to corporate records, Synergy SAL Offshore and Sandro Overseas list the same address in the Al-Azarieh Building in Beirut; Africo 1 also lists the building as an address. According to the Syria Report, there is a "high probability" that Sandro Overseas is connected to Samer Foz, a Syrian businessman who was also sanctioned by the United States in June. Phone records also indicate a connection between Foz and Synergy SAL Offshore.
-- The National (Abu Dhabi)
August 9, 2019
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.
-- Reuters
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."
-- CNN
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.
-- BBC
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. 
-- 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