Iran Watch Newsletter: July 2021

July 30, 2021

Publication Type: 

  • Newsletters

This month’s newsletter features updates to timelines of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. New entries cover recent developments in those programs, including launches of new multi-stage space launch vehicles and the production of uranium metal and 60 percent enriched uranium, as well as the international community’s response to those developments.

Other items in the newsletter include profiles of Iran’s defense ministry and two steel-making companies tied to the Iranian defense establishment. The newsletter also features documents from the Iran Watch library on Iran’s plans to produce enriched uranium metal and the United States’ ongoing efforts to enforce sanctions on Iran, as well as news about Iran’s obstruction of international inspections of the Natanz enrichment facility, the paused JCPOA negotiations in Vienna, and an Iranian hacker group’s operations on Facebook.

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 | Iran Missile Milestones: 1985-2021

Since March 2020, Iran has successfully launched two new, multi-stage space launch vehicles, announced the development of new ballistic and cruise missiles, unveiled underground missile launch facilities, and tested its missiles in a series of military exercises. Reports from the United Nations linked Iranian missiles to attacks on Saudi Arabia and described allegations that Iran and North Korea were collaborating on long-range missile development. (Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0)

Read the full missile timeline here.

| Iran Nuclear Milestones: 1967-2021

Since February 2021, Iran has enriched uranium above 60 percent purity, expanded its overall stockpile of enriched uranium, and failed to answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about undeclared nuclear sites. Iran’s nuclear program has also suffered setbacks, such as an explosion at Natanz, the country’s primary uranium enrichment facility, and a week-long shutdown of its only nuclear power plant, located at Bushehr. (Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0)

Read the full nuclear timeline here.



Some of Iran’s commercial steel-producing companies have substantial ties to the country’s military-industrial complex. Businesses operating in this sector have allegedly provided goods and revenue to Iranian entities involved in proliferation, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL).

Mobarakeh Steel Company

A major Iranian steel production company; according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, used as a revenue source for Bonyad Taavon Basij, a foundation linked to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary group subordinate to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); according to the U.S. Department of State, has exchanged steel with Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).

Isfahan Alloy Steel Complex (IASC)

Specializes in the production of alloy steels; has reportedly been subordinate to the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) and been operated by the National Iranian Steel Company (NISCO); has reportedly produced steel for the Defense Industries Organization (DIO).

Ministry of Defense Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL)

Iran’s defense ministry; responsible for defense research, development, and manufacturing, including support for Iran’s missile and nuclear programs; has brokered transactions involving products with ballistic missile applications; supervises Iran’s development and production of missiles; has provided logistical support to the IRGC, including the IRGC Quds Force.



Iran Restricts IAEA Access to Main Enrichment Plant after Attack—Diplomats
| Reuters

July 1: Iran has limited the ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the country’s primary uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz, according to Western diplomats. Iran justified the move as necessary to preserve security at Natanz after an alleged Israeli attack on the site in April. The IAEA has not reported the matter to its member states or convened an emergency meeting of its board of governors. Separately, a temporary agreement between Iran and the IAEA to preserve data from the Agency’s monitoring cameras at Iranian nuclear facilities expired last week. The IAEA said that Iran had not responded to inquiries about extending the arrangement. (Hamed Saber, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Iran Not Ready for Nuclear Talks Until Raisi Takes over | Reuters

July 14: According to an unnamed diplomat, Iran told European officials that it was waiting until Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office to return to negotiations meant to bring Iran and the United States back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The diplomat said that participants in the negotiations expect them to resume in mid-August; the last round of talks ended on June 20. The U.S. State Department confirmed that Iran had asked for more time to accommodate its presidential transition.

Iranian Hackers Target U.S. Military, Defense Companies | Voice of America

July 15: Facebook announced in a July 15 blog post that an Iranian hacker group had created fake profiles on the social media service to contact military personnel and defense contractors in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other European countries in a months-long bid to infect their computers with viruses and steal data. The hackers disguised themselves as journalists, corporate recruiters, employees of defense firms and nongovernmental organizations, and workers employed in the aviation, healthcare, and hospitality industries. According to Facebook, the hackers would try “to move conversations off-platform” through the use of other “collaboration and messaging platforms,” then send malware to their targets. Facebook, which removed the fake profiles and blocked related domains, described the effort as part of a “much broader cross-platform cyber espionage operation” and linked the malware to Mahak Rayan Afraz, a Tehran-based firm tied to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It remains unclear what information, if any, the hacker group—known as “Tortoiseshell”—succeeded in obtaining from its targets.



The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that Iran is preparing to produce enriched uranium metal, a key component in the construction of nuclear weapons. The move marks an escalation since Iran’s successful production of natural uranium metal earlier this year.

With negotiations between Iran and the United States over their return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on pause, the U.S. Commerce, Justice, and Treasury Departments continued enforcing sanctions and disrupting Iranian procurement attempts. The FBI also foiled an Iranian plot to kidnap a U.S. citizen living in New York.