News Briefs

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
January 6, 2019
Iran announced that several satellites are ready to be launched after concluding pre-launch testing. The Payam imagery satellite, manufactured by Amirkabir University of Technology, weighs 90 kg and will be sent into 500 km orbit using the Simorgh rocket. The Dousti imagery satellite will also be sent into 500 km orbit and was manufactured at Sharif University of Technology. The Nahid-1 telecommunications satellite was manufactured at the Iranian Space Agency. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the announcement, saying that satellite launches defy a U.N. Security Council resolution restricting activity related to ballistic missiles. 
-- Tehran Times
January 5, 2019
Iran's Expediency Council approved, with some changes, an anti-money laundering bill intended to help the country meet standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This approval resolves a dispute between Iran's Parliament, which passed the bill last year, and the Guardian Council, which subsequently rejected the bill. Iran's compliance with FATF standards and its removal from the organization's blacklist are critical to facilitating foreign trade, including through the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) payment mechanism planned by the European Union. 
-- Reuters
December 5, 2018
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies, was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities on suspicion that she violated U.S. sanctions on Iran.  The U.S. Justice Department has requested Meng be extradited to the United States, where she faces undisclosed charges brought by the Justice Department's Eastern District of New York office.  Huawei has been under investigation over suspected Iran sanctions violations since at least 2016. Meng, who is 46, is also the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei.  
-- Globe and Mail
December 2, 2018
Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons on December 1. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the test, which he said violated a U.N. Security Council resolution, and urged Iran to halt missile testing. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi defended Iran's missile program as "defensive in nature" and but neither confirmed nor denied that the test had taken place. 
-- The Wall Street Journal