Nuclear Weapons Development Capability
News reporting from various sources indicates that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear inspectors have detected Iranian enrichment levels reaching an 84% purity level, an amount only slightly below the purity amount needed to support the development of nuclear weapons (>90%).
It is important to note that Iran having enriched material does not necessarily mean a bomb is ready; successfully building a bomb could take months after production of the required material.
At this time, there no longer appears to be any chance that a new nuclear development control agreement between Iran and the west will be forged. While reporting in August (2022) had indicated an agreement with Iran was "within reach," U.S. Secretary Blinken stated (September 12) that Iran’s response to a draft agreement put forward by the European Union was “clearly a step backwards” and that a near-term agreement is unlikely.
The European Union, in its role as coordinator and facilitator of nuclear discussions, had put forward the draft text of an agreement including introducing "solutions to the four technical questions that had remained open." The United States participated in discussions indirectly given Iran’s opposition to direct U.S. participation. Iran had previously maintained that its current nuclear efforts are peaceful, but that it is willing to negotiate with the EU.
Iran nuclear talks restarted in Vienna in February 2022, but failed to reach any conclusion. Iran had been meeting regularly with remaining parties of the 2015 nuclear agreement to determine if any agreement can be salvaged to prevent Iran's further progress on enrichment. Remaining parties include Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
Iran Hypersonic Missile Claim
Iran publicly claimed (November 10) that it has developed a hypersonic missile though no western nation has, at least publicly, confirmed the validity of this claim.
Iran General Amirali Hajizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, said that Iran’s “hypersonic ballistic missile can counter anti-aircraft defense shields” and that “it will be able to pass through all missile defense systems.”
Internet Access in Iran
The Treasury Department issued updated sanctions guidance (September 23) to expand and clarify the authorities of telecommunications with Iran.
The guidance specifically:
Adds permissive categories of software/services to include social media platforms, collaboration platforms, video conferencing, as well as cloud-based services in support of such services, and other tools (e.g., online maps, e-gaming, e-learning platforms, automated translation, web maps, and user authentication services).
Provides authorization for the services that support the communication tools “to assist ordinary Iranians in resisting repressive internet censorship and surveillance tools deployed by the Iranian regime.”
Removes a condition that communications be "personal," which was resulting in compliance burdens for companies seeking to verify the purpose of communications.
Expands existing case-by-case licensing policy, particularly to enable Iranian developers to create homegrown anti-surveillance and anti-censorship apps, which many Iranian people rely upon to circumvent domestic internet controls.
Companies such as Google, announced that they are improving the availability of communications tools as a result of the updated guidance.
US Elections Interference
DOJ announced (November) that it had charged two Iranian nationals for involvement in a "cyber-enabled campaign to intimidate and influence American voters, and otherwise undermine voter confidence and sow discord, in connection with the 2020 U.S. presidential election." Among other things, these individuals obtained information of 100,000 voters in one US state; that they posed as members of the "Proud Boy" organization, sending threatening emails to Democratic voters in order to get them to vote for former President Trump; and, created and disseminated a video containing disinformation about purported election infrastructure vulnerabilities.
The FBI and C|SA warned (November 2021) organizations to patch vulnerabilities tied to Microsoft and Fortinet products that they say the Iranian government is using to deploy ransomware across multiple critical U.S. industrial sectors, such as healthcare and transportation.
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