News Briefs

May 23, 2018
Satellite imagery has reportedly revealed a secret, active facility in Iran dedicated to advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel. Analysis of this imagery by researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies suggests that the facility, named Shahrud, may be developing long range missiles or satellite launch vehicles. Ground scars at the site suggest that an engine with between 62 and 93 tons of thrust was tested in 2017. In addition, Shahrud appears to house three pits used for casting or curing rocket components, reportedly enabling the production of three rockets annually. A lack of storage tanks, fuel trucks, or fueling stations on the premises, researchers said, suggests that Shahrud is building engines powered by solid fuel. 
-- New York Times
May 22, 2018
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five Iranian individuals who provided Yemen’s Huthis with ballistic missile-related technical support and weapons on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). Mahmud Bagheri Kazemabad and Mohammad Agha Ja’fari were designated for acting on behalf of the IRGC Aerospace Forces Al-Ghadir Missile Command (ASF AGMC). The two oversaw the transfer of missile components and the deployment of ballistic missile specialists across the region. Three others, Javad Bordbar Shir Amin, Mehdi Azarpisheh, and Sayyed Mohammad Ali Haddadnezhad Tehrani, were designated for acting on behalf of the IRGC, IRGC-QF, and IRGC Research and Self-Sufficiency Jehad Organization, respectively.
-- U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Release
May 17, 2018
The European Union has decided to activate a blocking statute in an effort to protect EU companies from the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions against Iran. The blocking statute would threaten penalties against EU companies that cut business ties with Iran because of U.S. sanctions. The European Investment Bank will be allowed to facilitate investment in Iran by European companies, including by issuing loans that private banks are not willing to provide. The process for activating the blocking statute is expected to take up to two months and will require action by the European Parliament and the EU Council. 
-- Politico
May 16, 2018
Turkish citizen Mehmet Hakan Atilla was sentenced to 32 months in prison for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by using the U.S. financial system to conduct transactions on behalf of the Iranian government. The transactions involved billions of dollars of restricted oil revenue held by a Turkish bank. Evidence presented at the trial indicated that Atilla used the bank, at which he was Deputy General Manager of International Banking, to provide the Iranian government, Iranian entities, and other specially designated nationals with access to the oil proceeds. Atilla shielded one of the bank’s customers, Reza Zarrab, allowing him to supply currency and gold to the aforementioned parties and to facilitate transactions on their behalf. 
-- U.S. Department of Justice Press Release
May 10, 2018
The U.S Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated nine Iranian entities for supporting a currency exchange network that transferred millions of U.S. dollars to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). Among those designated were Mas’ud Nikbakht, Sa’id Najafpur, and Mohammad Hasan Khoda’i. The latter two were employees of the also designated IRGC-QF front company, Jahan Aras Kish, which was used to facilitate access to oil revenue in foreign bank accounts belonging to the Central Bank of Iran. Mohammadreza Khedmati Valadzaghard, Meghdad Amini, and Foad Salehi were designated for transferring money from Iran to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and converting it to U.S. Dollars using the also designated Rashed Exchange. A third company, Khedmati and Company Joint Partnership, was designated for its connection to Khedmati and Khoda’i. The U.S. action was taken jointly with the UAE.
-- U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Release
May 3, 2018
Satellite images taken in late April by Israel's ImageSat International depict “unusual activity” at Iran’s Fordow uranium enrichment plant. The underground plant appeared to be vacant over the past two years, according to satellite imagery. Recent images reveal that the facility's entry gate was left open and showed vehicles parked at the facility. The images also show construction progress at buildings outside the facility, which are believed to be meant for production and research and development work.
-- Ynetnews
April 28, 2018
Iran’s ambassador to Germany, Ali Majedi, announced that three Iranian banks, Middle East Bank, Saman Bank, and Sina Bank, are planning to establish branches in Germany to facilitate increased trade with Europe. Middle East Bank and Saman Bank will open branches in Hamburg and Frankfurt, respectively. Sina Bank has not decided on a location. The announcement was made at the Sixth Iran-Europe Banking and Business Forum, held in Tehran. 
-- Iran Daily
April 18, 2018
Iran’s Armed Forces displayed several missile systems, including the S-200 and S-300, during ceremonies to mark National Army Day. Also displayed during the ceremonies were the Mersad, Nasr, Talash, and Skyguard missile systems, the Kamin portable missile system, as well as military boats and submarines. 
-- Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)
April 11, 2018
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis launched ballistic missiles at the Saudi Defense Ministry in Riyadh and targeted two Qasef-1 drones at Abha airport and at a Saudi Aramco oil facility in the southern city of Jizan. Saudi officials claim to have intercepted the missiles and destroyed the Qasef-1 drones, which appear to be of Iranian origin. Saudi coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki accused Iran of being behind the latest attacks. 
-- Associated Press via The Washington Post
April 11, 2018
The German company Krempel GmbH (Krempel Group) says that it halted business relations with two Iranian buyers, Reza Moghaddam Panah and Mahmood Hasan Darvish Commerce, but will continue to trade with Iran. In February, electronic press boards produced by Krempel were found in the remains of Iranian-made rockets used in Syria. The press boards (Presss pan PSP 3040) were sold to Iranian entities, used in rocket production, and subsequently used by Syrian government forces in a chemical attack that killed 21 people. 
-- Jerusalem Post

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