Iran Watch Newsletter: December 2020

December 17, 2020

Publication Type: 

  • Newsletters

This month’s newsletter features a report on the U.S. Justice Department’s effort to forfeit Iranian-origin weapons interdicted by U.S. forces in 2019 and 2020 en route to Yemen – the government's largest-ever forfeiture action for weapons from Iran. The seizure and forfeiture effort are part of a broader U.S. campaign to block Iranian weapons smuggling and punish the networks involved in such smuggling, particularly those operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The newsletter also highlights independent analysis of the assassination of a leading Iranian scientist and how it might impact Iran’s nuclear program, documents describing the latest sanctions imposed by the United States, profiles of entities involved in illicit procurement in support of Iran’s drone development, and news related to the use of Iranian weapons in Libya and Iran’s construction of a new centrifuge assembly plant at Natanz.

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Iran Watch Publications:

U.S. Seeks Forfeiture of Iranian Weapons Seized en Route to Yemen

Iran has a documented history of transferring missiles and other weapons to the Houthis, an Iranian-aligned movement in Yemen. Some of these transfers may violate a United Nations arms embargo. In November 2019 and February 2020, the U.S. Navy intercepted two shipments of Iranian-origin weapons en route to Yemen, which included detonators, drone components, and a variety of cruise missiles. U.S. investigators concluded that the shipments were arranged by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the U.S. Justice Department is seeking the forfeiture of the weapons.

Read the full enforcement action here.

Iran Watch Library:

Iran expands uranium enrichment after death of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh:

In its final weeks, Trump administration continues expanding sanctions:

Entities of Proliferation Concern:

Iran has used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to support recent missile strikes in the Middle East. While pursuing the indigenous development of UAVs, Iran still relies on imports of certain components. The U.S. Commerce Department recently sanctioned several entities for their suspected involvement in diverting U.S.-origin UAV parts to Iran via China.

Landa Ariya Electronic Co.

Iranian electronics import and distribution company specializing in engines and motors; suspected of involvement in the diversion of U.S.-origin UAV parts to Iran via China without the required export licenses.

Ali Basati

General director and deputy chairman of board of directors of Landa Ariya Electronic Co.; suspected of involvement in the diversion of U.S.-origin UAV parts to Iran via China without the required export licenses.

Behnaz Moazen

Landa Ariya Electronic Co. official; suspected of involvement in the diversion of U.S.-origin UAV parts to Iran via China without the required export licenses.

In the News:

Anti-Tank Missile in Libya Looks like Iran-Produced Weapon—U.N.

December 8: After analyzing photographs of an anti-tank guided missile used by a militia in Libya, the United Nations Secretary General reported that the weapon “had characteristics consistent with the Iranian-produced Dehlavieh.” However, the Secretary General was unable to determine whether the missile had been transferred to Libya in violation of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, which expired in October 2020. The photographs allegedly surfaced on social media in November 2019. Libya is subject to an ongoing U.N. arms embargo, and an interim report by the Security Council's Libya sanctions committee concluded that what the photographs show is “almost certainly an Iranian manufactured Dehlavieh.” The committee said the transfer of the missile system is a violation of the arms embargo on Libya but did not say who transferred it.

Iran Is Moving Key Facility at Nuclear Site Underground, Satellite Images Show

December 9: Satellite images of Iran's Natanz nuclear facility show two tunnel entrances related to the construction of an underground facility that may be intended to house a new centrifuge assembly building. The entrances are on either side of a ridge, which appears large enough to accommodate a building of similar size to a centrifuge assembly plant destroyed in a July explosion at Natanz. After the explosion, Iran pledged to replace the building with a new one in "the heart of the mountains." The satellite images also show evidence of excavation and two regraded roads that lead to the tunnels.

Photo courtesy of Maxar Technologies.