News Briefs

August 23, 2013
U.S. officials arrested Patrick Campbell of Sierra Leone on charges of knowingly brokering the sale of yellowcake uranium to Iran.  In 2012, Campbell responded to an online advertisement for the material posted by an undercover agent for the Department of Homeland Security, who was posing as a buyer representing Iranian interests.  Campbell was arrested after arriving at JFK airport in New York with a uranium sample concealed in his luggage.  According to the criminal complaint, a shipment of 1,000 tons of yellowcake was to be delivered to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.  Campbell is being held pending a hearing.  
-- New York Times
August 21, 2013
China has increased fuel oil imports from Iran in 2013, exploiting a loophole in U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing countries that import Iranian oil.  These sanctions require reductions in crude oil, not fuel oil, which is a byproduct in the refining process.  In 2012, China imported less than $1 million worth of fuel oil from Iran, compared to $495 million in the first seven months of 2013.  Some Chinese refineries are configured to process fuel oil into more valuable fuels.
-- The Wall Street Journal
August 16, 2013
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), replacing Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani. As director of AEOI, Salehi will be responsible for the operation of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but will not be directly involved in nuclear negotiations. A new head of the Supreme National Security Council, a position usually involved in nuclear negotiations, has not yet been appointed.
-- Reuters
August 15, 2013
Confirmation hearings were held for cabinet positions in the government of Hassan Rouhani, Iran's new president. Most of Rouhani’s nominees were confirmed.  Mohammad Javad Zarif, a former ambassador to the United Nations who has spent much of his life in the United States, was appointed as foreign minister.  Mahmoud Alavi was confirmed as minister of intelligence, while Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh was appointed as minister of industry and mines.  The nominees for the ministries of education, science, and sports were rejected after accusations that they had ties to the 2009 "Green Movement."
-- New York Times
August 7, 2013
Iran has developed a new space launch facility 40 km southeast of the city of Shahrud, according to satellite imagery.  The new site has a larger launch pad than the existing Semnan space center, and is equipped with a horizontal rocket checkout facility and a 23 meter launch tower.  Both the Semnan and Shahrud facilities are believed to be capable of launching Iran's Simorgh satellite launch vehicle, which is designed to lift heavier payloads than the Safir rocket currently used by the Iranian Space Agency.
-- Jane's Defense Weekly
July 31, 2013
Four days before the inauguration of Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation by an overwhelming margin that would severely punish importers of Iranian oil, further restrict Iran’s ability to use overseas accounts, and sanction anyone doing business with the country’s automotive, mining, construction, and engineering sectors.  The bill, known as the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, now moves to the Senate for consideration.
-- New York Times
July 2, 2013
Iran, exploiting a gap in European Union sanctions, is importing high grade alumina ore from several European countries. Between January 2012 and March 2013, Iran purchased around 4,000 metric tons of alumina, mainly from Germany and France, as well as from Slovenia, Italy, Hungary, and Belgium. Alumina ore, the export of which is not currently prohibited under E.U. sanctions, can be used to manufacture ceramic composites for missiles and armor.
-- Reuters
July 1, 2013
New U.S. sanctions aimed at halting gold and currency trade with Iran and isolating Iran's auto sector took effect. In order to circumvent sanctions, Iran has been accepting gold as payment in oil and gas trade and has then used the gold to purchase dollars and euros. The new sanctions target foreign banks that continue to conduct "significant transactions" in the rial. Entities that ignore U.S. new restrictions could face sanctions.
-- New York Times
June 21, 2013
The Georgian government froze roughly 150 bank accounts connected to Iranian entities, in-line with U.N. sanctions and in response to concerns that Iran is using Georgia's financial system to evade international sanctions. Tbilisi may also change its visa policy for Iranian nationals, who do not currently need a visa in order to travel to Georgia.
-- Wall Street Journal
June 19, 2013
Britain's Supreme Court ruled against the British government’s decision to impose sanctions on Iran's Bank Mellat, saying that the sanctions were "disproportionate" and "arbitrary." This decision mirrors a decision in January by the European Union's General Court, which overturned E.U. sanctions against the bank imposed in 2010. Bank Mellat's European operations remain closed pending an appeal of the European court's decision.
-- Reuters

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