Iran Watch Newsletter: March 2023

March 31, 2023

Publication Type: 

  • Newsletters

This month's newsletter features updates to several Iran Watch resources tracking Iran's missile and nuclear programs. Over the last year, Iran has unveiled new ballistic and cruise missile models and launched the Ghaem-100 space launch vehicle. On the nuclear side, Iran's break-out timeline for a small nuclear arsenal continues to shrink as the country expands its stockpile of enriched uranium and brings more advanced centrifuges into operation.

The newsletter also includes profiles of an Iranian bank and its overseas affiliates that have supported Iran's military industries, as well as news about Iran's newest land-attack cruise missile, its back-and-forth with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over the Agency's investigation into the presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites, and Iran's diplomatic agreement with Saudi Arabia. Additions to the Iran Watch library include official documents and statements relating to Iran's nuclear program, drone transfers, sanctions evasion efforts, and human rights abuses.




Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh introduces the Paveh cruise missile. (Credit: Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting via YouTube)

Timeline | Iran Missile Milestones: 1984-2023

Since the beginning of 2022, Iran has added several new ballistic and cruise missiles to its arsenal and tested the Ghaem-100 space launch vehicle. It also continued shipping missile components to Yemen's Houthi rebels, multiple shipments of which were interdicted by Western navies. This timeline records notable milestones on the path of Iran's missile development, and a related table tracks the various missiles in Iran's arsenal.

Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz. (Image credit: Google, Image 2022 CNES / Airbus.)

Report | Iran's Nuclear Timetable: The Weapon Potential

Over the last few years, Iran has expanded its stockpile of enriched uranium, increased the enrichment level of that stockpile, and brought more advanced centrifuges into operation. As a result, the amount of time it would take Iran to enrich enough uranium for five implosion-type warheads, either overtly or at secret sites, has fallen dramatically. This report estimates Iran's break-out timeline based on new data in the IAEA's latest report, and a related table tracks Iran's deployment of centrifuges at its declared nuclear sites.




Iranian commercial banks have used their overseas affiliates, many of which remain in operation, to evade sanctions and provide financial support to Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

Bank Mellat

An Iranian commercial bank; facilitated the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran's nuclear program between 2003 and 2007; provided banking services to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and Novin Energy Company.

Europaisch-Iranische Handelsbank AG

A German bank focusing on international business with Iran; in 2007 and in 2009, in cooperation with Bank Mellat, facilitated over $500,000 in transactions between a weapons exporter and a subsidiary of Iran Electronics Industries (IEI).

First East Export Bank, P.L.C.

A Malaysia-based subsidiary of Bank Mellat; owns Pearl Energy Company Ltd.




Ali Shamkhani shakes hands with his Saudi counterpart Musaad bin Mohammed Al Aiban in Beijing. (Credit: Islamic Republic News Agency)

Iran, Saudi Arabia Agree to Resume Ties, With China's Help | Associated Press

March 10, 2023: Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations in a breakthrough mediated by China. In a joint statement, the two sides agreed to reopen their embassies and exchange ambassadors within two months.

Iran Agrees to Stop Arming Houthis in Yemen as Part of Pact With Saudi Arabia | Wall Street Journal

March 16, 2023: Iran agreed to stop illicit weapons shipments to the Houthis as part of its agreement to re-establish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, according to U.S. and Saudi officials. The Iranian delegation to the United Nations declined to comment on the report.

Iran Makes Sweeping Pledge of Cooperation to IAEA Before Board Meeting | Reuters

March 5, 2023: Following a trip to Tehran, Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, said that Iranian officials had pledged new cooperation in the agency's longstanding investigation into uranium particles found at undeclared sites in Iran. According to Grossi, Iran promised to give the IAEA access to information, locations, and people relevant to the investigation. Grossi also said that Iran agreed to allow the reinstallation of Agency cameras and other monitoring equipment that had been removed from declared sites in June 2022. However, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization later said that there had been no agreement regarding the cameras or access to individuals relevant to the IAEA investigation into undeclared sites.

Iran Says it Has Developed Long-Range Cruise Missile | Reuters

February 24, 2023: The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, announced that Iran had deployed a new land-attack cruise missile, called Paveh, with a range of 1,650 kilometers. The television broadcast included launch footage of the missile.




Iran's nuclear program advanced, according to IAEA reports, while ongoing safeguards issues remained unresolved.

  • Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a congressional testimony that Iran could produce the fuel for a nuclear weapon in less than 15 days, and would only need several months to build the weapon itself - March 23.
  • The IAEA issued two quarterly reports on Iran's compliance with the JCPOA and its NPT safeguards commitments ahead of the Agency's Board of Governors meeting - February 28 and March 4.
  • Also in advance of the Board of Governors meeting, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi traveled to Tehran seeking Iran's cooperation on several safeguards issues. The two sides released a joint statement - March 4.

Western countries sought to disrupt Iranian drone transfers.

  • The United Kingdom assessed that Iran continues to send Shahed-family drones to Russia, whose military has launched at least 71 such drones against Ukraine in March - March 26.
  • A non-state group launched an Iranian-made drone against a U.S.-led coalition base near Hasakah, Syria, killing one American and injuring several others. The United States responded with airstrikes - March  23.
  • The United States announced two rounds of sanctions targeting procurement networks supplying Iran's drone program, one operating in Turkey and the other in China - March 9 and 21.
  • One member of the Turkey-based network was extradited to the United States in 2022, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 28 months in prison - March 21.

The United States took steps to enforce sanctions and export controls against Iran.

Western governments challenged Iran on human rights abuses and humanitarian issues.