News / Middle East

UN Experts' Report Shows Iran's Deceptive Procurement Tactics

FILE - Technicians work at a uranium processing site in Isfahan, 340 km (211 miles) south of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
FILE - Technicians work at a uranium processing site in Isfahan, 340 km (211 miles) south of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
Reuters
A confidential new report by a U.N. panel highlights Iran's methods of evading sanctions - from concealing titanium tubes inside steel pipes to using its petrochemical industry as a cover to obtain items for a heavy-water nuclear reactor.

The latest report by the U.N. Panel of Experts, which monitors compliance with the Security Council's sanctions regime on Iran, said Tehran's attempts to illicitly procure materials for its disputed nuclear and missile programs may have slowed down as it pursues talks on a long-term deal with world powers.

But the experts' report, which reached the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee days ahead of a new round of Vienna talks between Iran and six world powers, said an alternative explanation could be that Tehran had merely learned how to outsmart security and intelligence services in acquiring sensitive components and materials.

Though Iran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes, Western powers and their allies suspect the country of trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

Hamid Babaei, spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission, said, "Iran's procurement for its peaceful nuclear activities are not illicit; all Iran has done so far is in compliance with its NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] rights and obligations ... The irony is whatever Iran does in good faith still tends to be seen with suspicion rather than normal behavior of an NPT member."

One example of concealment given by the panel's report was a set of titanium tubes hidden inside a shipment of stainless steel pipes manufactured in and shipped from China. The pipes were ordered by Ocean Lotka International Shipping and Forwarding Co. on Valiasr St. in Tehran.

The report, seen by Reuters, includes a photo of 10 titanium tubes snugly fitted inside steel piping. The report provides no details of the potential nuclear applications of the titanium tubes, noting only that "the Panel's investigation into this reported incident is ongoing".

The experts recommend that governments exercise greater vigilance over freight-forwarding firms, which often appear as the ordering party on shipments of items destined for Iran. While such practices are not necessarily illegal, the panel says Tehran could use them to conceal final destinations or uses.

"In three cases inspected under the current mandate, names of freight forwarders were recorded on shipping documentation in the place of consignors or consignees," the report said.

"The Panel notes that the International Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA) has issued a notice to its members warning about the increased use of counterfeit Bills of Lading in connection with shipments to and from Iran," it added.

Petrochemical cover

Another example of deception the experts have focused on for the past two years is efforts by Iran to obtain German and Indian valves for its heavy-water reactor at Arak, a plant that has proven to be a major sticking point in Tehran's nuclear negotiations with the six powers. A case involving valves is currently under investigation in Germany, the expert panel notes.

That case centers on the procurement of 1,767 valves for Modern Industries Technique Company (MITEC) - which has been under U.N. sanctions since 2010 due to its work on the Arak reactor - from 2007 though 2011. According to the experts' 2013 report, 1,163 valves appear to have reached the company.

The annual report includes a document related to the valves that shows how Iran used its legitimate petrochemical industry activities as a cover for procurement for the Arak project in violation of U.N. sanctions. The panel says the document "came from the computer of an Iranian national who was responsible for overseeing the procurement network".

It said German prosecutors gave the document to the panel.

If the Arak reactor goes online in its current form, it will yield significant amounts of weapons-grade plutonium, but the document merely explains how it would produce radioisotopes that could be used in "radiation processing, radiation therapy, radiography, scanning and tracer purposes and other peaceful applications of nuclear energy".

The owner of the Arak project, according to the document, is "Chemical & Petrochemical Company" with "MEC Engineering & Construction" listed as a consultant.

The United States and its European allies want Iran to either scrap the project or convert it to a non-threatening light-water reactor. Tehran has hinted that it would not oppose modifying the plant.

Iran does need valves for its petrochemical industry, for "which Iran has an established demand", according to the panel's report. But that makes the job of detecting illicit procurement even more difficult, the experts add.

"This further complicates efforts to understand which items may be for prohibited purposes," the panel says, noting that the Arak case "highlights the issue of Iran's use of a petrochemical company as cover for procurement".

The experts also cite a January media report on Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Company (KAA), which is on the U.N. blacklist for supporting Iran's nuclear program, and cites its links to the construction of a uranium enrichment facility at Fordow that Western powers would like to see shut down.

The media report, which several Western diplomats said was supported by intelligence, said the Special Economic Directives Division of Iran's Supreme National Security Council had issued a directive in 2013 ordering that Iranian banks and state firms facilitate the creation of new front companies linked to KAA in order to assist the Revolutionary Guards in evading U.N. and other sanctions.

"The order, which was issued in April 2013, is reportedly intended to obscure the relationship of such companies to Khatam al-Anbiya and make the activities of the company appear innocent," the report said.

One Western diplomat told Reuters that the April 2013 directive remained in effect well after Iran's new pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid