News Briefs

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
March 18, 2019
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, announced that the construction of Bushehr-2 and Bushehr-3 nuclear power plants is underway. The cost of Bushehr-2 is estimated at $10 billion and it is expected to be operational by October 2024. Bushehr-3 is scheduled to be finished in April 2026. The Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) is leading construction. 
-- Mehr News Agency
March 14, 2019
On March 14, Chinese electronics firm Huawei pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court to charges that it plotted to violate the Iran trade sanctions. The indictment, issued in January, charges the company and two affiliates with bank fraud, conspiracy to violate sanctions, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, among other counts. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou allegedly took part in the conspiracy and has lied in the past about Huawei’s connections to Iran. If Huawei is convicted, it could face fines, forfeiture, and other financial penalties.
-- Associated Press
March 13, 2019
An analysis of satellite imagery by Israeli intelligence firm ISI appears to show the construction of a missile factory in Safita, Syria. The images show a secured site with a fence, vehicles, three hangars, and a new water tower, as well as patterns of activity suggesting that it is a missile manufacturing plant under development. The hangars may be intended for the production and assembly of missiles, however the absence of protected structures suggests that engines and warheads are not currently being produced. The building pattern is similar to that of missile manufacturing plants, including one located in the Iranian city of Khojir. 
-- Ynet News
March 12, 2019
The United Nations is investigating whether two North Korean missile and arms firms, KOMID and Green Pine, are operating in Iran in violation of U.N. sanctions. The heads of both companies recently travelled to Iran, according to air passenger documents cited by the United Nations. The U.N. is concerned that North Korea continues to rely on diplomats stationed at the Iranian embassy to facilitate the work of these firms, both of which are blacklisted by the United Nations. Iran has so far failed to supply copies of passports for all North Korean diplomats stationed in Iran. 
-- NBC News
March 2, 2019
Iranian state-run Bank Sepah is taking over five Iranian banks linked to the military, including Ansar Bank, Ghavamin Bank, Hekmat Iranian Bank, Mehr Eqtesad, and the Kowsar financial credit institution. This consolidation is an apparent effort to reduce the military’s role in the economy and make it easier for Iran's Central Bank to enforce regulations on investment and financial transparency. 
-- Bloomberg
February 27, 2019
The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) launched an anti-ship missile from a Ghadir-class submarine during ‘Velayet 97’ naval exercises in the Persian Gulf. According to Iranian officials, the missile was developed as part of the Jask-2 project and is based on a longer-range version of the Nasr missile. The Nasr is a solid propellant missile based on China's C-704, with a range of 38 km when launched from the surface. Video footage suggests that the missile may have been launched from beneath the surface. 
-- Jane's Defense Weekly
February 24, 2019
Danske Bank, which is under scrutiny for a $240 billion Russian money laundering scandal, may have laundered money for Ukrainian arms dealers, according to an investigation. A plane charted by New Zealand shell company SP Trading Ltd, which banked with the Danske branch in Estonia, was caught trying to transport 40 tonnes of weaponry from North Korea to Iran in December 2009. The cargo was seized at the Bangkok airport. The transaction was orchestrated by Iurii Lunov, a Ukrainian citizen, and Aleksandr Zykov, a Kazakh citizen. Both men were involved in an earlier transfer of cruise missiles from Ukraine to China and Iran, in which a firm named "SP Trade" was also used. U.N. investigators alerted Danske Bank in 2010 to the risk from providing banking services to shell companies and arms traders. 
-- bne Intellinews
February 21, 2019
Iran is refitting thousands of unguided rockets in Syria and Lebanon with Global Positioning System (GPS) components in order to increase their precision, according to Israeli military officers. These GPS kits are the size of a small suitcase and can be transported easily, either by ground via Iraq, or through the air to Syria or Lebanon. They can be installed on any unguided rocket within a few hours, rendering it capable of landing within a few meters of a target. In Lebanon, Iran is apparently focused on increasing the accuracy of Hezbollah's stockpile of 14,000 Zelzal-2 rockets. 
-- The Daily Beast