Tag Archives: Iran

The Deadly Combination

Two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country’s chemical weapons program were intercepted in mid-2017 according to a confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations.  The report by a panel of independent U.N. experts, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council in August 2017 and seen by Reuters gave no details on when or where the interdictions occurred or what the shipments contained.  “The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea),” the experts wrote in the 37-page report.

“Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another Member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria,” according to the report.

KOMID is the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation.  It was blacklisted by the Security Council in 2009 and described as Pyongyang’s key arms dealer and exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. In March 2016 the council also blacklisted two KOMID representatives in Syria.  “The consignees were Syrian entities designated by the European Union and the United States as front companies for Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a Syrian entity identified by the Panel as cooperating with KOMID in previous prohibited item transfers,” the U.N. experts wrote.  SSRC has overseen the country’s chemical weapons program since the 1970s.

The U.N. experts said activities between Syria and North Korea they were investigating included cooperation on Syrian Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles air defense systems….The experts said they were also investigating the use of the VX nerve agent in Malaysia to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in February.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs…Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.

During the country’s more than six-year long civil war the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said the banned nerve agent sarin has been used at least twice, while the use of chlorine as a weapon has been widespread. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons.

On September 7, Israel targeted and heavily damaged a SSRC weapons factory in Masyaf Syria.

Excerpts from Michelle Nichols North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted: U.N. report, Reuters, Aug. 21, 2017

Excerpts from Israel Hits Syrian Site Said to be Linked to Nuclear Weapons, Reuters, Sept. 7, 2017

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Co-Dependent Enemies: US Sanctions and the Russian Titanium

Ttitanium tube containing the Russian flag, in the Arctic seabed 2007

The United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s state arms export agency and four defense industry enterprises for alleged violations of international arms control regimes restricting export of nuclear and missile technologies to Iran, North Korea and Syria on Wednesday.

A notice posted on the U.S. government’s Federal Register on the State Department’s behalf on September 2, 2015 said the move was a response to violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syrian Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA).  The act prohibits the transfer of goods, services and technologies restricted under international arms control agreements such as the Missile Technology Control Regime to Iran, North Korea and Syria.

A spokesman from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Will Stevens, told The Moscow Times that the Russian entities sanctioned under the act were among 23 foreign entities — including firms and entities based in China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates — found to be engaging in violations of arms export conventions.

Russian arms export agency Rosoboronexport said it was unable to comment on the issue at this time.  The Russian defense industry firms that were involved in the alleged INKSNA violations were fighter jet manufacturer MiG, the high-precision weapons maker Instrument Design Bureau (KBP) Tula, NPO Mashinostroyenia — a rocket and missile design bureau in Reutov, outside Moscow — and Katod in Novosibirsk, which makes night-vision optics, among other things. The sanctions prevent any U.S. companies or government agencies from doing business with the sanctioned Russian arms entities.

The U.S. did not specify which arms deals in particular triggered the latest sanctions actions imposed on Russia’s defense industry…

Vadim Kozyulin of the Moscow-based PIR Center think tank argued that the imposition of sanctions under the Iran, North Korea and Syria Non-Proliferation Act was politically motivated …Kozyulin speculated that the arms transfers in question are deliveries to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime, or the expected future delivery of advanced S-300 air defense systems to Iran — which, he pointed out, is not prohibited by any United Nations resolutions governing arms sales to Iran…

Russia’s largest arms export partners are nations such as China, India and Algeria…“This is not the first time that the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Russian defense companies,” Kozyulin noted. “I used to compile a list of such cases and I guess that you can count about 40 to 50 times when Russian companies were sanctioned by the U.S. since 1998.”…

However, Yury Barmin, an independent Russian expert on the global arms trade, said that “some Russian companies may import spare parts from the U.S. and the latest sanctions may force them to revise their procurement strategies and delay some outstanding orders.”…
Russians responded to the timing of the U.S. decision to place sanctions on 23 global entities for alleged INKSNA violations by accusing Washington of pursuing and protecting its own interests in the global arms market. Barmin argued that Wednesday’s sanctions were only implemented after the completion of a Pentagon contract with Rosoboronexport to deliver 30 Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters to the Afghan military in the wake of NATO’s withdrawal.“Now that this deal has been concluded the U.S. deemed it possible to impose sanctions,” he said.

The CEO of Russian defense firm Katod, which was producing night-vision goggles for sale on the U.S. market, told  that his company was sanctioned because the U.S. feared Russian competition in this segment of the arms market….

Barmin too pointed to the lack of contact with U.S. financial institutions and argued that existing measures will have little impact, “unless Rosoboronexport [is] prevented from performing banking transactions globally, which would imply cutting Russia off from SWIFT altogether.”

If the tit-for-tat game of sanctions with Russia continues, and the U.S. manages to cause significant damage to the Russian defense industry, Kozyulin pointed out that Russia holds certain trump cards that it could use to fight back at the U.S. defense industry.  “For example, Russian titanium,” which is used for Boeing aircraft, “and engines for space rockets might be prohibited for export to the U.S.”

Excerpts from Matthew Bodner, U.S. Sanctions Russian Arms Export Agency for Non-Proliferation Violation, Moscow Times, Sept. 2, 2015

Freezing the Inevitable: the Iranian Nuclear Program

Nuclear_fission

Below are the key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program that were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and June 30,  2015and reflect the significant progress that has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. Important implementation details are still subject to negotiation, and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We will work to conclude the JCPOA based on these parameters over the coming months.

Enrichment

Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge.

Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.

Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.

All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.

Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.

Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.
Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium

Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.

Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only – into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center.

Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.

Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.

Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring.

Iran will only enrich uranium at the Natanz facility, with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation centrifuges for ten years.

Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges.

Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.

Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.

For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.

Inspections and Transparency

The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.

Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.

Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years.

Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.

All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA.

A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.

Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.

Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.

Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities.

Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.

Reactors and Reprocessing

Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.

The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.

Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.

Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.

Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.

Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.

Sanctions

Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.

U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.
 
The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.

All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).

However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation. It will also create the procurement channel mentioned above, which will serve as a key transparency measure. Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution.

A dispute resolution process will be specified, which enables any JCPOA participant, to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of JCPOA commitments.

If an issue of significant non-performance cannot be resolved through that process, then all previous UN sanctions could be re-imposed.

U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.

Phasing

For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the P5+1.

For fifteen years, Iran will limit additional elements of its program. For instance, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures.

Important inspections and transparency measures will continue well beyond 15 years. Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations. The robust inspections of Iran’s uranium supply chain will last for 25 years.

Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.

Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program, Press Release, US Department of State, April 2, 2015

Sabotaging Parchin? Iran’s nuclear program

parchin 2004

A U.S. security institute said it has located via satellite imagery a section of a sprawling Iranian military complex where it said an explosion or fire might have taken place earlier this week. (pdf).

Iran’s official IRNA news agency on Monday cited an Iranian defence industry body as saying that two workers were killed in a fire at an explosives factory in an eastern district of Tehran.  Iran’s Defence Industries Organisation said the fire broke out on Sunday evening, IRNA said, giving no further detail.  An Iranian opposition website, Saham, described the incident as a strong explosion that took place near the Parchin military complex around 30 km southeast of the capital. It did not give a source and the report could not be independently verified….  The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002. But analysts say it has a mixed track record and a clear political agenda.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said it had obtained commercially available satellite imagery on which six buildings at Parchin appeared damaged or destroyed.  However, the images ISIS issued indicated the site of the possible blast was not the same location in Parchin where the U.N. nuclear agency suspects that Iran, possibly a decade ago, carried out explosives tests that could be relevant for developing a nuclear arms capability. Iran denies any such aim.

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency wants to visit this area of Parchin, but Iran has so far not granted access. Iran says Parchin is a conventional military facility and that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful. It has often accused its enemies of seeking to sabotage its atomic activities.

ISIS said its analysis of the satellite imagery from Oct. 7 and 8 indicated an explosion could have taken place at a southern section of Parchin.  “Several signatures that coincide with those expected from an explosion site are visible here,” it said on its website.  “Two buildings that were present in August 2014 are no longer there, while a third building appears to be severely damaged. In total at least six buildings appear damaged or destroyed,” ISIS added.

Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to resolve a decade-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme. Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed power.

U.S. think-tank says it located possible blast at Iran military site, Reuters, Oct. 9, 2014

The Flight of Gold: what Afghanistan, China and Iran have in common

gold

Packed into hand luggage and tucked into jacket pockets, roughly hewed bars of gold are being flown out of Kabul with increasing regularity, confounding Afghan and American officials who fear money launderers have found a new way to spirit funds from the country.  Most of the gold is being carried on commercial flights destined for Dubai, according to airport security reports and officials. The amounts carried by single couriers are often heavy enough that passengers flying from Kabul to the Persian Gulf emirate would be well advised to heed warnings about the danger of bags falling from overhead compartments. One courier, for instance, carried nearly 60 pounds of gold bars, each about the size of an iPhone, aboard an early morning flight in mid-October, according to an airport security report. The load was worth more than $1.5 million.

The gold is fully declared and legal to fly. Some, if not most, is legitimately being sent by gold dealers seeking to have old and damaged jewelry refashioned into new pieces by skilled craftsmen in the Persian Gulf, said Afghan officials and gold dealers.  But gold dealers in Kabul and current and former Kabul airport officials say there has been a surge in shipments since early summer. The talk of a growing exodus of gold from Afghanistan has been spreading among the business community here, and in recent weeks has caught the attention of Afghan and American officials. The officials are now puzzling over the origin of the gold — very little is mined in Afghanistan, although larger mines are planned — and why so much appears to be heading for Dubai.

“We are investigating it, and if we find this is a way of laundering money, we will intervene,” said Noorullah Delawari, the governor of Afghanistan’s central bank. Yet he acknowledged that there were more questions than answers at this point. “I don’t know where so much gold would come from, unless you can tell me something about it,” he said in an interview. Or, as a European official who tracks the Afghan economy put it, “new mysteries abound” as the war appears to be drawing to a close.

Figuring out what precisely is happening in the Afghan economy remains as confounding as ever. Nearly 90 percent of the financial activity takes place outside formal banks. Written contracts are the exception, receipts are rare and statistics are often unreliable. Money laundering is commonplace, say Western and Afghan officials.  As a result, with the gold, “right now you’re stuck in that situation we usually are: is there something bad going on here or is this just the Afghan way of commerce?” said a senior American official who tracks illicit financial networks.

There is reason to be suspicious: the gold shipments track with the far larger problem of cash smuggling. For years, flights have left Kabul almost every day carrying thick wads of bank notes — dollars, euros, Norwegian kroner, Saudi Arabian riyals and other currencies — stuffed into suitcases, packed into boxes and shrink-wrapped onto pallets. At one point, cash was even being hidden in food trays aboard now-defunct Pamir Airways flights to Dubai.

Last year alone, Afghanistan’s central bank says, roughly $4.5 billion in cash was spirited out through the airport. Efforts to stanch the flow have had limited impact, and concerns about money laundering persist, according to a report released last week by the United States Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.  The unimpeded “bulk cash flows raise the risk of money laundering and bulk cash smuggling — tools often used to finance terrorist, narcotics and other illicit operations,” the report said. The cash, and now the gold, is most often taken to Dubai, where officials are known for asking few questions. Many wealthy Afghans park their money and families in the emirate, and gold dealers say more middle-class Afghans are sending money and gold — seen as a safeguard against economic ruin — to Dubai as talk of a postwar economic collapse grows louder. But given Dubai’s reputation as a haven for laundered money, an Afghan official said that the “obvious suspicion” is that at least some of the apparent growth in gold shipments to Dubai is tied to the myriad illicit activities — opium smuggling, corruption, Taliban taxation schemes — that have come to define Afghanistan’s economy.

There are also indications that Iran could be dipping into the Afghan gold trade. It is already buying up dollars and euros here to circumvent American and European sanctions, and it may be using gold for the same purpose.  Yahya, a dealer in Kabul, said other gold traders were helping Iran buy the precious metal here. Payment was being made in oil or with Iranian rials, which readily circulate in western Afghanistan. The Afghan dealers are then taking it to Dubai, where the gold is sold for dollars. The money is then moved to China, where it was used to buy needed goods or simply funneled back to Iran, said Yahya, who like many Afghans uses a single name.

Excerpt, MATTHEW ROSENBERG, An Afghan Mystery: Why Are Large Shipments of Gold Leaving the Country?, NY Times, Dec. 15, 2012

Money Laundering: the HSBC case

HSBC avoided a legal battle by agreeing Tuesday (Dec. 11, 2012) to pay $1.9 billion to settle a U.S. money-laundering probe.  Europe’s largest bank by market value will pay the biggest penalty ever imposed on a bank after facing accusations it transferred funds through the U.S. from Mexican drug cartels and on behalf of nations such as Iran that are under international sanctions…It’s the latest scandal to hit banks since the financial crisis started in 2008. Hours earlier, Standard Chartered PLC, another British bank, signed an agreement with New York regulators to settle a money laundering investigation involving Iran with a $340 million payment…

Money laundering by banks has become a priority target for U.S. law enforcement. Since 2009, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Lloyds, and ING have all paid big settlements related to allegations that they moved money for people or companies that were on the U.S. sanctions list.  HSBC conceded that its anti-money laundering measures were inadequate and that it has taken big steps in beefing up its controls. Among other measures, it has hired a former Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence as its chief legal officer….

Jimmy Gurule, a former assistant U.S. Attorney General and currently a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, said the settlement made a “mockery” of the criminal justice system.  “The message sent by the U.S. Department of Justice is that if you are going to engage in large-scale money laundering for Mexican drug cartels, make sure and do it within the scope of your employment working for a bank because you won’t be prosecuted regardless of the egregious nature of your criminal conduct,” he said.

A U.S. law enforcement official said the sum HSBC was paying would include $1.25 billion in forfeiture — the largest ever in a case involving a bank — and $655 million in civil penalties….Under what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement, the financial institution will be accused of violating the Bank Secrecy Act and the Trading With the Enemy Act, the official said. The source spoke only on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak about the matter on the record.

Last summer, a Senate investigation concluded that HSBC’s lax controls exposed it to money laundering and terrorist financing.  In regard to HSBC and Mexico, the Senate investigative committee reported that in 2007 and 2008 HSBC Mexico sent about $7 billion in cash to the United States. It said such a large amount indicated illegal drug proceeds.  HSBC affiliates also skirted U.S. government bans on financial transactions with Iran and other countries, according to the report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. And HSBC’s U.S. division provided money and banking services to some banks in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh thought to have helped fund al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, the report said.

The report also blamed U.S. regulators, claiming they knew the bank had a poor system to detect problems but failed to take action.  Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee chairman, cited instances in which HSBC had promised to fix deficiencies after being sanctioned by regulators but failed to follow through.  Levin also said the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the U.S. agency that oversees the biggest banks, tolerated HSBC’s weak controls against money laundering for years and said agency examiners who had raised concerns were overruled by their superiors.

HSBC, which in 2011 had net income of $16.8 billion and operates in about 80 countries, has grown quickly in recent years by acquiring banks around the world that became its affiliates. Its far-flung subsidiaries operated with a degree of autonomy that left top bank officials with less than full authority and control, experts say. Each affiliate had its own officer to oversee compliance with laws to prevent money laundering.

HSBC to pay $1.9B to settle money-laundering case, Associated Press, Dec. 11, 2012

How Iran Copes with Sanctions? eco-friendly

According to the latest figures from the Natural Gas Vehicle Knowledge Base, Iran, with the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia, in 2011 became the world leader in natural gas vehicles with some 2.9 million on the road, narrowly edging Pakistan, which is trailed by Argentina, Brazil and India, respectively.  Iran’s reliance on its cleaner fossil fuel seems unlikely to diminish as international sanctions continue to bear down on its nuclear program, which in turn have curbed imports of gasoline; though Iran has large oil reserves, its ability to refine its own gasoline falls well short of its needs.  But for ordinary Iranian motorists, natural gas is less a geopolitical or environmental issue than a pocketbook concern. “This sort of fuel is cheap, and it gets me home every day — that’s what I care about,” said Sasan Ahmadi, a 42-year-old office assistant filling up his Iranian-made Kia Pride at a natural-gas station for his hour commute home.

The government began promoting natural gas about a decade ago, and not just in response to American-led sanctions. A big initial reason was the increasingly thick yellow blankets of smog that often engulf greater Tehran and its 12 million inhabitants. That was a result of rising auto sales by domestic carmakers like Iran Khodro and Saipa, which took off as oil revenue began rising sharply around 15 years ago, enriching tens of millions of Iranians…..

As a means to counter outside economic pressure, natural gas’s usefulness is clear. Because of its inadequate investment in oil refineries, Iran has long been forced to refine a portion of its own crude at refineries in Europe to satisfy rising domestic demand for gasoline. So when the European Union in July barred gasoline sales to the country, natural gas helped to blunt the blow.

Despite the sanctions against Iran, motorists like Mr. Ahmadi can make their commute for the equivalent of less than a penny a mile using the alternative fuel at subsidized prices. Gasoline is more expensive, especially because government subsidies have been reduced, but it is still incredibly cheap by Western standards: less than $1 a gallon….

Excerpt, THOMAS ERDBRINK, Oil-Rich Iran, Natural Gas Turns Wheels, New York Times, Oct. 23, 2012