Iran Watch Newsletter: February 2022

February 28, 2022

Publication Type: 

  • Newsletters

This month's newsletter features a report on Iran’s asymmetric use of its conventional military capabilities. Tehran and its proxies, led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have gained regional influence by employing missiles, drones, and small naval vessels in targeted attacks calibrated to avoid large-scale retaliation. The report includes a description of Iran's most potent conventional capabilities as well as analysis of Tehran’s strategic thinking.

The newsletter also features profiles of key entities in an international network supplying electronics to Iran Communications Industries (ICI), a military firm. Documents from the Iran Watch library include an announcement of a new Iranian ballistic missile and statements from Germany, Israel, Iran, the E.U., and the U.S. Congress addressing the ongoing negotiations in Vienna for the restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as well as news about a draft deal in Vienna, the resumption of U.S. sanctions waivers for civilian nuclear projects in Iran, and Iran's shift of centrifuge manufacturing from Karaj to Isfahan.

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Smoke rises from the Abqaiq oil refinery in Saudi Arabia on September 14, 2019. Image credit: Planet (Planet Labs)

Report | Leveling the Field: Iran’s Asymmetric Use of Conventional Military Capabilities

Iran views its external security as reliant on its ability to exert influence in the Middle East.  Owing to Tehran’s relative diplomatic and economic isolation, military power is the main tool available to Iran’s leaders for attaining this objective. To be effective, however, Iran must be able to use its military capabilities to credibly threaten its neighbors, to control or limit access to key chokepoints in the Persian Gulf, and to deter a direct attack against Iran or its forces.

Iran cannot achieve these ends with its arsenal of main battle tanks, capital ships, and fighter aircraft—the traditional mainstays of land, sea, and air power—which are aging and obsolete. Instead, Iran expanded its asymmetric use of conventional military capabilities in the form of attacks which employ relatively inexpensive but difficult-to-counter weapons and are calibrated not to provoke large-scale military retaliation. Tehran seems likely to continue this behavior as it improves its drone, missile, and naval capabilities—while remaining careful to avoid putting those capabilities to the test in direct combat.

Read the report here.



An international network centered on Iran-based telecommunications firm Hoda Trading procured U.S.-origin electronics, some with military applications, for Iran Communications Industries (ICI), a state-owned enterprise subordinate to Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL).

Iran Communications Industries (ICI)
A subsidiary of Iran Electronics Industries (IEI) that manufactures military communication equipment and systems; produces items used in telecommunication, information technology, and electronic warfare systems, as well as in avionics, optic and electro-optic devices, micro-electronics, and missile launchers.

Hoda Trading
An Iranian electronics and telecommunications company; a subsidiary of Iran Communications Industries (ICI); has procured U.S.-origin electronic components from China on behalf of ICI, including high frequency Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) antennas, which have military applications.

DES International Co., Ltd.
A Taiwan-based trading company; according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, part of an electronic components procurement network run by Hoda Trading and Mohammad Soltanmohammadi on behalf of ICI; purchased U.S.-origin electronics and transshipped them to an Iranian buyer via Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Artin Sana'at Tabaan Company
An Iranian computer parts manufacturer; according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, was part of an electronic components procurement network run by Hoda Trading and Mohammad Soltanmohammadi on behalf of ICI.



The JCPOA Joint Commission meets in December 2021. Image by European Union External Action Service (EEAS).

Iran Nuclear Deal Draft Puts Prisoners, Enrichment, Cash First, Oil Comes Later | Reuters

February 17, 2022: Diplomats involved in nuclear negotiations in Vienna shared details of a draft deal on February 17. The draft outlines steps parties will take to bring them back into compliance with the JCPOA. Initially, Iran would stop enriching uranium above 5% purity and release Western prisoners held in Iran, and the United States would unfreeze $7 billion of frozen Iranian funds held abroad. Subsequent steps would include the United States issuing sanctions waivers permitting Iran to export its oil and Iran abiding by a 3.67% enrichment cap. The stages would culminate in a Re-Implementation Day one to three months from an agreement on the proposed deal. According to unnamed officials, Iran seeks to include a measure that would allow it to resume enriching uranium to 60% if the United States violates the new deal.

U.S. Grants Sanctions Relief To Iran As Nuke Talks In Balance | Associated Press

February 4, 2022: On February 4, the United States restored waivers that shield foreign companies working on certain civilian nuclear projects in Iran from U.S. sanctions. The  waivers permit work at nuclear facilities in Bushehr, Arak, and at the Tehran Research Reactor and apply to companies from the European Union, China, and Russia. The Trump administration had rescinded the waivers in May 2020, two years after withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran Moves Centrifuge Parts Production Out Of Disputed Workshop, IAEA Says | Reuters

January 31, 2022: Iran moved centrifuge manufacturing equipment from the TESA Karaj plant to Isfahan in late January, just over a month after agreeing to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access the Karaj plant. Iranian officials notified the IAEA of the move on January 19 and allowed the Agency to install cameras at the Isfahan facility five days later. The Agency also placed seals on the remaining equipment in Karaj and removed its cameras there. The IAEA noted in a confidential report that production at Karaj had ceased and that the Isfahan facility had not yet begun production as of January 24.  



Security developments included Iran unveiling a new ballistic missile and Lieutenant General Michael Kurilla's confirmation hearing to be the new commander of U.S. Central Command.

  • IRGC officers unveiled the Kheibar Shekan ballistic missile, a solid-fueled, domestically manufactured model with a declared range of 1,450 km - February 9
  • LTG Kurilla called Iran the “primary and enduring threat” in the Middle East during his confirmation hearing - February 8

Officials from Israel and several of the countries participating in nuclear negotiations in Vienna made speeches and statements about the talks.

  • In a speech to American Jewish organizations, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed that Iran demanded that sanctions on the IRGC be lifted as part of a deal - February 20
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told attendees of the Munich Security Conference that “all of the elements for a conclusion to the negotiations [in Vienna] are on the table” - February 19
  • In a phone call with the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said that his country would only agree to a deal if it realizes Iran's economic interests - February 6

Members of Congress weighed in on the prospect that diplomacy in Vienna will lead to a revival of the JCPOA.

  • Republicans in the House and Senate threatened to obstruct a new deal’s implementation if it is not first sent to Congress for approval - February 7 and 16
  • Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a resolution to establish a nuclear fuel bank for any state in the Middle East that chooses to end uranium enrichment activities - February 11
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Murphy (D-CT) argued in favor of a swift return to the JCPOA - February 9
  • U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price argued that newly reinstated waivers for civilian nuclear projects do not amount to sanctions relief - February 7