Iran Get Bomb Parts from U.S.

A small portrait of the translator

January 13, 2009 @ 18:37 UTC

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Economy & Trade, Technology, International Relations, Nuclear Proliferation

MSNBC reports that Iran has become quite adept at using fake and existing foreign companies to buy technology it is not allowed to possess. Iran has illegally bought technology it uses for roadside bombs, which it then gives (or sells) to terrorists in Iraq, according to both independent experts and U.S. government officials.

It works as follows: Iranian agents (or businessmen) contact friends or allies in foreign countries. These friends / allies use a company in their country as a front to buy technology from the U.S. When they receive the products, they send it to their Iranian buddies who then use them in bombs and other weapons.

The above is an admitted simplification of quite a complex scheme:

While illegal trafficking in weapons technology has occurred for decades — most notably in the case of the nuclear smuggling ring operated by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan — the new documents suggest that recent trading is nearly all Internet-based and increasingly sophisticated.

Many of the schemes unknowingly involve U.S. companies that typically have no clue where their products are actually going, the records show.

“The schemes are so elaborate, even the most scrupulous companies can be deceived,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and co-author of a forthcoming study of black markets for weapons components.

Albright said the deceptions can be even more elaborate when the target is nuclear technology. “That’s where the stakes are the highest,” he said. “If Iran is successful, it ends up not with an IED but with a nuclear weapon.”

Rare details about the illicit markets emerge in court records from the Justice Department’s investigation of Iran’s Dubai network, as well as in the ISIS study, which tracks four years of secret trading by Iranian and Pakistani front groups. The study includes copies of invoices and the contents of e-mails from companies looking to buy Western technology.

The good news is that the U.S. knows that Iran is doing this, and mostly how. The bad news is that this does not make it much easier to prevent Iran from purchasing goods it is not allowed to purchase.

It should be rather obvious that a lot of resources and manpower should be allocated to those intelligence officials and departments who deal with this problem. These weapons are used by terrorists in Iraq; American technology is killing American soldiers.

This too will be a major challenge for an Obama administration, albeit perhaps one he does not have a whole lot of direct influence on himself.

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