News Briefs

December 1, 2019
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden are joining the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), a special purpose financial vehicle which is designed to facilitate European trade with Iran outside of U.S. sanctions authority. The six new members join France, Germany, and the United Kingdom as shareholders of INSTEX, which was established in January 2019 but has yet to process any transactions.
-- Radio Free Europe
November 20, 2019
Israel conducted air strikes in Syria targeting weapons warehouses outside Damascus and the Mezzeh air base which are controlled by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force. The strikes came in response to an Iranian attack against Israel the day before, when four rockets were launched from Syrian territory toward the Golan Heights. The Israeli strikes killed at least 21 people and destroyed several Syrian air defense batteries that fired in retaliation.
-- The New York Times
November 18, 2019
The United States announced that it will cancel a sanctions waiver allowing foreign companies to work on the civilian conversion of the Fordow site, where Iran recently resumed uranium enrichment. The Fordow waiver, which will end on December 15, is one of four sanctions exemptions supporting Iran's civilian nuclear program. The United States renewed waivers allowing work on the Bushehr nuclear power station, the Arak heavy water plant, and the Tehran Research Reactor at the end of October.
-- Associated Press
November 15, 2019
Iran raised gasoline prices by as much as 200% and imposed a rationing system, sparking anti-government protests around the country. The changes increased the price of gas to 15,000 rials per liter (approximately 13 cents) from 10,000 rials, while limiting private cars to 60 liters per month with a price of 30,000 rials per liter for additional purchases. Iranian state media claimed that the policy, which will generate an estimated $800 million in revenue per year, is intended to fund subsidies for 60 million Iranians. The surprise announcement prompted major protests in major Iranian cities and smaller towns, some of which have turned violent.
-- The New York Times
November 13, 2019
The U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) targeted 22 entities in Bahrain, France, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. The companies and individuals were added to the Bureau's Entity List, barring them from purchasing U.S.-origin items without government approval. More than a dozen entities were listed for supporting chemical and biological weapons activity in Syria, including Rahal Corporation for Technology and Medical Supplies, and the Jordanian Lebanese Company for Laboratory Instruments S.A.L. In addition, Al Ras Gate General Trading, Bestway Line FZCO, and six other entities were designated for diverting U.S.-origin goods to Iran. Fabcon International, Muhandis Corporation, Paktech Engineers, and Rohtas Enterprise were sanctioned for “supporting unsafeguarded nuclear activities.”
-- Reuters
November 12, 2019
A Singapore court announced that a detained Chinese ship carrying Iranian liquid gas (LPG) will be sold at auction if the owner does not come forward within seven days. In July, Singapore seized and later released two oil tankers owned by the Chinese Kunlun Shipping Company that were carrying Iranian petroleum products. Originally called Gas Infinity and Gas Dragon, they have been renamed Echo Star and Nexo, respectively. Echo Star is under U.S. sanctions, but continued to transport Iranian LPG following its release. The tanker reappeared in mid-October with Iranian cargo in Singapore, where port authorities detained it once again. Nexo is currently idle in the Persian Gulf.
-- Radio Farda
November 12, 2019
Michigan-based software engineering company Altair Engineering Inc. admitted to possible U.S. sanctions and export control violations in a regulatory filing. In May, the company discovered that a third-party consultant in Poland may have provided software developed by its Greek subsidiary to a subcontractor in Iran. After an internal investigation, Altair Engineering disclosed the findings in July to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).
-- The Wall Street Journal
November 11, 2019
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran has resumed uranium enrichment at Fordow and is accelerating enrichment in general, including at Natanz, where several types of advanced centrifuges have been installed. The IAEA's quarterly report also noted that Iran has stockpiled 372.3 kg of enriched uranium, surpassing the 202.8 kg limit outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
-- Reuters
November 6, 2019
An FBI counterintelligence unit arrested an Iranian national in Michigan for allegedly stealing technical secrets from his employer and sending them to his brother in Iran, who has connections to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Amin Hasanzadeh, 42, was born in Iran and holds lawful permanent resident status in the United States. From January 2015 to June 2016, he was a technical engineer at an unnamed company in the Detroit area which serves the defense, aerospace, and auto industries. Hasanzadeh allegedly stole confidential documents and technical data, including information on a secret project involving an aerospace industry supercomputer. He is charged with interstate transportation of stolen property and fraud for lying about his military service in Iran.
-- The Detroit News
November 5, 2019
Iran will restart centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, further reducing its commitments to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran's latest step away from the JCPOA involves injecting uranium gas into the 1,044 centrifuges at Fordow, which are restricted to non-nuclear uses under the terms of the agreement. President Hassan Rouhani added that the move can be easily reversed if the European signatories provide economic relief to mitigate the effects of U.S. sanctions. Iran also announced that it had doubled the number of advanced centrifuges at Natanz and is producing enriched uranium more quickly.
-- The New York Times