Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium grew by over a quarter in the three months to May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported, adding to concerns over the speed with which Tehran is accumulating 60% highly enriched uranium that can be quickly converted into weapons-grade material for nuclear weapons. U.S. officials have said it could take Iran as little as 12 days to have enough fuel for a bomb. But the Islamic Republic has also taken its first steps in several years to improve the United Nations atomic agency’s oversight of its nuclear work, the IAEA said Wednesday.
Iran is arming militants in Syria for a new phase of lethal attacks against U.S. troops in the country, while also working with Russia on a broader strategy to drive Americans from the region, intelligence officials and leaked classified documents say. Iran and its allies are building and training forces to use more powerful armor-piercing roadside bombs intended specifically to target U.S. military vehicles and kill U.S. personnel, according to classified intelligence reports obtained by The Washington Post. Such attacks would constitute an escalation of Iran’s long-running campaign of using proxy militias to launch rocket and drone strikes on U.S. forces in Syria.
A hacking group has released a batch of what it claims are classified Iranian government documents, some of which revealed new details of an attack early this year on the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran. The hackers, known as Uprising Until Overthrow and affiliated with the exiled opposition Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), posted some of the documents on the Telegram messaging app on May 30. The MKO is considered a terrorist group by Tehran. RFE/RL could not immediately verify the authenticity of the materials, some of which were undated and marked "very confidential," indicating they could be drafts.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…A 2021 report by The Washington Times citing data from United Against Nuclear Iran, which tracks Iranian crude oil purchases, outlined how Beijing’s purchases steadily increased following Mr. Biden’s election. Because Iran has so few other significant buyers, China has been able to demand a steep discount for the oil it purchases from Iran.
…Since 2019, Titan has hauled a series of Iranian crude oil shipments, according to data intelligence company Kpler. The vessel carried about 16 million barrels of Iranian oil in 2022, according to data from United Against Nuclear Iran, which tracks the nation’s crude exports.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday that the reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is not a current focus of the Biden administration. Kirby said the United States remains committed to ensuring Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons and that President Joe Biden “still believes that a diplomatic solution to that would be highly preferable.” But Kirby said Iran was not negotiating in good faith and has shown “no inclination to move in that direction.”
The U.N. nuclear watchdog has re-installed only some monitoring equipment originally put in place under the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers that Iran then ordered removed last year, the watchdog said in two reports on Wednesday seen by Reuters. The re-installed equipment is a fraction of what the International Atomic Energy Agency had planned to set up to improve its surveillance of Iran's nuclear activities, as the IAEA said it had agreed with Iran in March in a bid to defuse a standoff between both sides over Iran's cooperation.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Over an eight-year period ending in 2018, Murad, a U.S. cosmetics company, illegally exported goods and services to Iran in 62 separate transactions worth approximately $11 million. Murad was acquired by Unilever United States (“Unilever”) in 2015. Once discovered, Unilever voluntarily disclosed the conduct to OFAC. The fallout from Murad’s long-running conspiracy: Unilever paid $3.3 million to OFAC for its Iran Sanctions violations. Interestingly, OFAC prosecuted a former senior executive (“Executive-1”) from Murad and settled with Executive-1 for $175k. Executive-1 committed three separate violations as the manager of Murad during the period between June 2016 and September 2017.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The defense minister of Mali was in Iran this week for meetings that could see Iran sending arms to Mali in North Africa. Malian Defense Minister Colonel Sadio Camara had meetings with Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani. Iran’s pro-regime Tasnim media reported that “the defense minister of Iran expressed the country’s readiness to provide Mali with military equipment and experiences in the fight against terrorism.” Ashtiani said Iran is prepared to share equipment, experiences and capabilities in training with Mali. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will spare no effort to strengthen Mali’s defense power against the threats posed by terrorist groups,” the Iranian general who is also the defense minister added.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Two journalists responsible for breaking the story of Mahsa Amini, the Kurdish-Iranian woman killed after being held in custody by Iran’s morality police last year, stood trial in an Iranian court this week. Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi have been imprisoned in Iran for the past eight months and face charges of “conspiracy and rebellion against national security” and “anti-state propaganda” – charges carrying a possible death penalty, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The two women separately stood trial on Monday and Tuesday in a revolutionary court presided over by notorious judge Abolghasem Salavati, according to Iranian pro-reform outlet SharghDaily.
Aras Amiri has kept a low profile since she was released from Iranian detention two years ago, avoiding interview requests after returning to the UK. But now, the British Council employee, who spent three years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, wants to speak. An injustice has compelled her: the detention of seven friends and environmentalists she left behind. Kept in solitary confinement for 69 days, Amiri was allowed to return to Britain after serving just under a third of a 10-year prison sentence. In the women’s ward, she not only met fellow British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but Niloufar Bayani and Sepideh Kashani, two of the seven members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation in jail since 2018.
The human rights group UN Watch says it has submitted to the United Nations the draft text of a resolution to overturn Iran's appointment as the chair of the Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The group said in a statement on May 31 that the text was contained in a UN Watch submission to the 53rd Session of the UNHRC, a Geneva-based body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the globe. There is no stipulated procedure for canceling such an appointment, but the 47-nation UNHRC plenary can overrule any decision of the president if one of the council’s 47 member states sponsors the resolution, according to UN Watch.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iran plans to ramp up its exportation of weapons and other military equipment in the coming months, one of the country's top generals said Wednesday. The chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Baqeri, said Iran plans to share both its equipment and military expertise with friendly countries in the region and around the world. "Introducing the Islamic Republic’s defense and military capabilities and sharing them [with friendly countries] can expand the country’s defense relations and strengthen deterrence," Baqeri said at a Wednesday press conference, according to Iranian state-run Press TV.
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
Amid the tensions between Iran and the Taliban over water, the militant group has reportedly deployed a convoy of tanks from Herat to Islam Qala on the border with Iran. Videos shared on social media show that the Taliban forces are stationed in the region with heavy military equipment. A video shows a convoy of Taliban tanks moving from Herat towards the Iranian border. Local sources say the recent tensions between Iran and the Taliban started after they prevented the construction of a road and the installation of barbed wire by the border guards of the Islamic Republic of Iran.