News Briefs

February 7, 2019
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unveiled a new surface-to-surface ballistic missile called the Dezful. According to IRGC aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, this missile has a range of 1,000 kilometers and is a newer and more powerful version of the Zolfaghar missile, which has a range of 700 km. The Dezful was unveiled at an underground ballistic missile production facility at an unspecified location.
-- Agence France-Presse (AFP)
February 5, 2019
Bank Mellat, Bank Melli Iran, Bank Pasargad, and Parsian Bank have developed a gold-backed cryptocurrency called PayMon. The cryptocurrency exchange Iran Fara Bourse will list PayMon while the blockchain company Kuknos will oversee the technology behind the cryptocurrency. The consortium of Iranian banks intends to make one billion PayMon tokens available initially.
-- Cointelegraph
February 3, 2019
Panama has removed some 60 Iranian vessels from its Ship Registry, which were flagged by the country in 2016. With the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions in November 2018, Panamanian authorities decided to remove the vessels, most of which are tankers, to avoid being placed on the U.S. Treasury Department blacklist. Panama has informed its consuls around the world not to accept any payment for taxes or fees from vessels coming from Iran or from Iranian companies. Panama's Ship Registry is the largest in the world, with more than 8,000 vessels. 
-- Seatrade Maritime News
January 31, 2019
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, says that China has "slowed its cooperation with Iran in redesigning the Arak reactor" out of a fear of being targeted by U.S. sanctions. The new design for the heavy water reactor has been approved by Iran and China, according to Salehi, although the details of the design are only "half-way through." 900 Iranian experts are allegedly working on the project and Salehi warned that Iran would pursue "alternative options" for the reactor design if China reneges, including pursuing the reactor alone.
-- Radio Farda
January 31, 2019
Germany, France, and the United Kingdom have created a payment channel to facilitate certain trade Iran despite U.S. sanctions. The "Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges," or INSTEX is initially intended to sell food, medicine, and medical devices to Iran, with the possibility of expanding its scope in the future. INSTEX will help the EU meet its obligations to Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
-- Deutsche Welle
January 25, 2019
Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi revealed that additional pipes were procured for the Arak heavy water reactor to replace those filled with concrete as part of the nuclear agreement. The purchase would allow Iran to "quickly revert to the previous position," according to Salehi. In an earlier interview, Salehi said that Iran is "taking preliminary steps toward production of 20-percent modern nuclear fuel" for reactors like the Tehran Research Reactor. An Israeli report on Salehi's comments quoted him as saying that Iran will transfer 30 tons of uranium "yellowcake" from the Ardakan site to Isfahan, perhaps to the Uranium Conversion Facility. 
-- Radio Farda
January 24, 2019
The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two airline companies for carrying weapons from Iran to Syria. Qeshm Fars Air and two of its freight planes were blacklisted for working on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, possibly under the direction of Mahan Air. An Armenia airline services company was also sanctioned for working with Mahan Air. Qeshm bought or leased two Boeing 747s and used the planes to fly in and out of Lebanon. According to the Treasury Department, the planes are owned or controlled by Mahan Air. They were originally purchased by Afghan airline Kam Air with a loan from the Azizi Group. Kam Air may still own the aircraft and have leased them to Qeshm. Kam Air was sanctioned by the U.S. Defense Department in 2013 for ferrying opium into Tajikistan. 
-- Wall Street Journal
January 21, 2019
Germany has revoked the license of Mahan Air, an Iranian airline, because of its role in transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other countries in the Middle East. The decision takes immediate effect and denies the airline landing rights in Germany. The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011 and has been pressuring European countries to do the same. A German government spokesperson said the decision was driven by national security considerataions and not U.S. pressure. 
-- Reuters
January 19, 2019
According to a U.N. Panel of Experts report, Iran is illegally shipping fuel to Houthi rebels in Yemen to finance their military campaign. The fuel is loaded from Iranian ports under false documentation to avoid required U.N. inspections. Front companies are used to conceal that the true recipient of the shipments is a U.N.-sanctioned individual. The report also notes that the Houthis have evolved from importing complete or partially assembled weapons systems to importing high value components that are integrated into locally assembled systems.
-- Associated Press
January 15, 2019
Iran's launch of the domestically built Payam satellite into space failed, after technical problems occurred during the final stage of the launch. The first and second stages of the launch were successful but the Simorgh satellite carrier failed to accelerate to orbital speed in the third stage, according to Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi. Jahromi added that Iran was preparing to launch another Low-Earth Orbit satellite, named Doosti. Iran claims that the aim of the space missions is to collect environmental information and that there is no military aspect to the launches. 
-- Press TV