News Briefs

September 3, 2019
Iran is building a new military base in Syria where it plans to deploy thousands of troops, according to multiple Western intelligence sources. Top leaders in Tehran approved the classified project and charged the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force with building the Imam Ali Compound on the Syria-Iraq border, less than 200 miles from a U.S. Army position. Satellite images from Image Sat International (ISI) confirmed the ongoing construction, which began in recent months and is already in advanced stages. ISI analysts say that the images show five buildings capable of housing precision-guided missiles as well as a number of fortified storehouses, likely for ammunition. The construction reportedly marks the first time that Iran is building a base of this scale in Syria from scratch.
-- Fox News
September 3, 2019
China has reportedly agreed to invest $500 billion in Iran's energy, transportation, and manufacturing industries over the next 25 years. According to a source from Iran's petroleum ministry, the two sides met at the end of August to discuss the agreement, which is part of the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership signed in 2016. China plans to invest $280 billion in Iran's oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors with payments over five-year periods, and $120 billion in its transportation and manufacturing infrastructure with a similar payment structure. China also agreed to increase imports of Iranian oil in defiance of U.S. sanctions. China will also be able to buy Iranian energy at a discount, can delay payments for up to two years, and can pay in soft currencies, meaning it will not have to use U.S. dollars.
-- Petroleum Economist
September 2, 2019
A previously unknown Dutch mole helped plan and implement the U.S.-Israeli Stuxnet cyberattack which caused serious setbacks for Iran's nuclear program beginning in 2007, according to intelligence sources. In 2004, the CIA and Mossad asked for assistance from the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD, which had already recruited an Iranian engineer. The engineer then posed as a mechanic working for a front company to infiltrate Iran's nuclear facilities at Natanz. The mole gave crucial data to the United States and Israel for the development of Stuxnet and later transmitted the virus at Natanz via a USB flash drive. Kim Zetter and Huib Modderkolk, Yahoo News, 9-2-19.
-- Yahoo News
September 2, 2019
Crimea has offered Iran the use of its ports to avoid U.S. sanctions, according to a senior Crimean official. Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Georgy Muradov affirmed that Crimea is "sending signals" of cooperation to Tehran and suggested that Iran could use Crimean ports as well as the Volga-Don Canal, which runs to the Black Sea. Crimea reportedly first offered cooperation with Iran in April. While some Iranian businessmen expressed interest, Iran has yet to take steps in response to the offer. 
-- The Moscow Times
September 2, 2019
Iran prevented a U.N. probe into the alleged storage of nuclear-related equipment and radioactive material at a site in Tehran. According to diplomats involved with the matter, Iran refused to answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over Israeli allegations regarding the former Tehran storage facility. IAEA inspectors found traces of radioactive material when they visited the site in April. Diplomats noted, however, that the radioactive material at the site is most likely left over from previous work and not part of an ongoing nuclear weapons program. This action appears to be the first time that Iran has refused to cooperate with the IAEA since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was implemented in January 2016.
-- The Wall Street Journal
September 2, 2019
French President Emmanuel Macron stepped up European efforts to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by offering Iran a $15 billion bailout if Tehran will return to full compliance with the agreement. The bailout package is intended to compensate Iran for its lost revenue from oil sales due to U.S. sanctions. $15 billion would account for approximately half the amount Iran brings in each year from its oil exports. The United States has not indicated support for the proposal, but President Donald Trump has previously suggested openness to a "short-term letter of credit or loan."
-- The New York Times
August 30, 2019
A quarterly International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report sent to member states indicated that Iran remains in violation of certain limits outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and that its stockpile of low-enriched uranium is increasing. The report disclosed that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium to 4.5 percent - far from the level needed to build a nuclear weapon but enough to power its reactor at Bushehr - in violation of the JCPOA's 3.67 percent limit. The IAEA reported that Iran has continued to allow inspectors and has remained under the limit of 130 tons (143.3 U.S. tons) of heavy water with a current stockpile of 125.5 tons (138.34 U.S. tons). As of August 19, Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium is at 241.6 kg, well over the JCPOA limit of 202.8 kg. Within that uranium, 216.5 kg is enriched to 3.67 percent and 25.1 kg is enriched to 4.5 percent. As in its previous report, the IAEA said that Iran has installed up to 33 IR-6 centrifuges, a more advanced model, adding that it has tested 11 thus far. 
-- Associated Press
August 30, 2019
The U.S. Treasury Department targeted a Lebanon-based financial network funneling money from Iran to Hezbollah and Hamas. Among other entities, the Treasury sanctioned Jammal Trust Bank "for supporting Hezbollah's illicit financial and banking activities," declaring it a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). Jammal Trust allegedly had a relationship with a Hezbollah financial entity and provided services to entities controlled by Hezbollah, including the Martyrs Foundation. In partnership with Oman, the United States also sanctioned four individuals who allegedly acted as middlemen to funnel tens of millions of dollars from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip via Hezbollah: Muhammad Sarur, Kamal Abdelrahman Aref Awad, Fawaz Mahmud Ali Nasser, and Muhammad Kamal al-Ayy.
-- Radio Free Europe
August 29, 2019
August 29, 2019- A Turkish national charged in a conspiracy to smuggle boat engines and other marine products to the Iranian military was sentenced to 28 months in prison. Resit Tavan, 43, was arrested in Romania in June 2017 on an international warrant, extradited to Wisconsin, and spent the last 20 months at the Waukesha County Jail. Tavan pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to defraud the United States, as his exports were in violation of the 1995 trade embargo on Iran. He denied any knowledge that the engines and equipment he was exporting to Turkey were going to the Iranian Navy. 12 other counts were dismissed from the indictment, which also charged Tavan's now-defunct company, the Ramor Group, and its manager Fulya Oguzturk, who remains at large.
-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 29, 2019
 An Iranian rocket exploded on a launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center before its scheduled launch. Satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. first revealed smoke rising from the site. An Iranian official acknowledged the explosion, which he said was "due to some technical issues," but gave no additional details. Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said in mid-August that Iran was preparing to launch Nahid 1, a telecommunications satellite.
-- Reuters

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