News Briefs

July 4, 2019
British and Gibraltar authorities seized a tanker carrying Iranian crude oil which was reportedly destined for the Banyas Refinery in Syria. Spanish Foreign Minister Joseph Borrell asserted that the seizure was “a request from the United States to the United Kingdom.” International monitors reported that the ship, Grace 1, turned off its electronic tracking system while in Iranian waters, a common tactic to avoid U.S. sanctions. Officials from the U.K. and Gibraltar, however, cited EU sanctions prohibiting oil sales to Syria in detaining the tanker. Iran acknowledged that Grace 1 was carrying Iranian oil but denounced the seizure as “illegal” and summoned the British Ambassador. 
-- The New York Times
June 30, 2019
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany's national intelligence agency, noted in an annual report on Germany's national security that Iran made fewer attempts to aquire materials tied to nuclear proliferation in 2018 than in 2017. The report added that these efforts at procurement failed to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 treaty placing limits on Iran's nuclear program. The BfV noted that Iran was also trying to acquire materials for the development of ballistic missiles, which fall outside the JCPOA, at a higher pace in 2018 than in 2017. Another report, by the BfV's local counterpart in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, observed that Iran was still attempting to procure materials for weapons of mass destruction.
-- The Jerusalem Post
June 29, 2019
European leaders announced that the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchange (INSTEX) is now operational. INSTEX is designed to protect trade between Iran and the EU from U.S. sanctions by minimizing international cash flow and instead balancing transactions on each side internally. The program is working with an Iranian equivalent organization, the Special Trade and Finance Institute. In addition to the E3 (the United Kingdom, France, and Germany), other EU members are currently becoming INSTEX shareholders and European officials are open to the involvement of third party countries in the future.
-- Financial Tribune
June 28, 2019
Following a meeting between British, Chinese, French, German, Iranian, and Russian diplomats in Vienna, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that Iran would move ahead with its plans to exceed limits on uranium enrichment set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), despite European objections. However, Araghchi lauded Britain, France, and Germany's progress on Instex, a special purpose vehicle designed to facilitate European trade with Iran by circumventing American economic sanctions. He implied that further progress on Instex could convince Iran to halt its plans to violate the JCPOA. Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden announced that they plan to become involved in Instex. The Netherlands added that it intends to join Instex as a shareholder.
-- The Wall Street Journal
June 23, 2019
The United States launched a cyberattack against Iranian military computer systems under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The strike temporarily disabled computer systems which control Iran’s missile and rocket launchers. According to government sources, the U.S. Cyber Command planned the strike following Iran’s recent attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The strike also comes in wake of an increase in Iranian cyberattacks against the United States, which appear to have started after U.S. sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector.
-- Associated Press
June 18, 2019
The United Kingdom reached an undisclosed settlement with Iran’s Bank Mellat on a £1.3 billion damages claim, avoiding a trial. The settlement ends a ten year dispute stemming from 2009 U.K. Treasury sanctions which were later overturned by the U.K. Supreme Court as “arbitrary and irrational.” Bank Mellat, 20 percent of which is owned by the Iranian government, denies any connection to financing Iran’s nuclear program.
-- The Guardian
June 17, 2019
A spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi, announced that Iran had increased its production of enriched uranium to four times the previous level, threatening to bring the country's stockpile over the 300 kilogram limit set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) within ten days. Kamalvandi also said that Iran would surpass the 130 ton limit on heavy water set by the JCPOA within two and a half months, if Iran is unable to sell excess amounts overseas. Kamalvandi added that Iran could begin enriching uranium above 3.7 percent within one or two days, as mandated by the Supreme National Security Council, if the other JCPOA parties fail to meet their commitments under the agreement.
-- Islamic Republic News Agency
June 6, 2019
The General Court of the European Union dismissed Bank Saderat Iran's (BSI) appeal for £78.7 million in damages after the bank was placed on the EU sanctions list. The EU placed Bank Saderat Iran and its 28 international branches, including Bank Saderat PLC in London, on a list of entities tied to Iran's nuclear program in 2010, leading to the freezing of the bank's assets. The sanctions were removed in 2013 after the EU Council failed to disclose evidence supporting the allegation that the bank provided financial support to entities involved in transactions for Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The EU court determined that, contrary to the bank's appeal, the imposition of sanctions never constituted a "flagrant and inexcusable" violation of EU law.
-- The National
May 29, 2019
The re-imposition of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran has spurred Chinese, Indian, and Russian efforts to develop systems for international trade less reliant on the American dollar. China has established deals with Pakistan, Turkey, and other countries to conduct trade in yuan rather than dollars. India, meanwhile, has developed an alternative, rupee-based system that has allowed Indian companies to conduct business with Iranian counterparts such as Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company, which the U.S. Department of the Treasury considers a "specially designated global terrorist." Since January 2019, hundreds of Indian shipments have gone to U.S.-sanctioned Iranian businesses. American companies, including the Indian subsidiary of Colorcon Incorporated, have used the Indian system to sell products to Iranian state-owned enterprises.
-- The Wall Street Journal
May 28, 2019
A May 2019 report from the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, a German intelligence agency, accused Iran of attempting to forge ties with technology companies "in highly technological countries like Germany" as part of a wider effort to develop weapons of mass destruction. The report noted that Iran tried to use a Malaysian front company to import an electron beam welding machine from a Bavarian company. The intelligence agency alleged that Iran could use the equipment for missile production. German authorities intercepted the attempted export and convicted the Bavarian company's director of violating German export controls.
-- Fox News