By Louis Charbonneau, Globe and Mail, May, 17, 2012
Syria remains the top destination for Iranian arms shipments in violation of a UN Security Council ban on weapons exports by the Islamic Republic, according to a confidential report on Iran sanctions-busting seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Iran, like Russia, is one of Syria’s few allies as it presses ahead with a 14-month-old assault on opposition forces determined to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
News of the report came as Tehran and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency try narrow their differences on how to tackle concerns over Iran’s atomic program, and as Iran prepares for talks with the five permanent council members and Germany in Iraq next week.
The new report, submitted by a panel of sanctions-monitoring experts to the Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee, said the panel investigated three large illegal shipments of Iranian weapons over the past year.
“Iran has continued to defy the international community through illegal arms shipments,” it stated. “Two of these cases involved [Syria], as were the majority of cases inspected by the panel during its previous mandate, underscoring that Syria continues to be the central party to illicit Iranian arms transfers.”
The third shipment involved rockets that Britain said last year were headed for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
“The panel recommends the [blacklisting] of two entities related to these interdictions,” it said. “The report also takes note of information concerning arms shipments by Iran to other destinations.”
The kinds of arms that Iran was attempting to send to Syria before the shipments were seized by Turkish authorities included assault rifles, machine guns, explosives, detonators, 60 mm and 120 mm mortal shells and other items, the panel said.
The most recent incident described in the report was an arms shipment discovered in a truck that Turkey seized on its border with Syria in February. Turkey announced last year that it was imposing an arms embargo on Syria.
Diplomats told Reuters that the panel’s draft report may be changed by the Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee before it is submitted to the council itself for consideration.
It was unclear how long it would take the committee to pass the report to the Security Council. Last year’s expert panel report on Iran was never made public because Russia blocked its publication.The report also discusses Iran’s attempts to circumvent sanctions on its nuclear program but notes that the four rounds of punitive measures the 15-nation Security Council imposed on Iran between 2006 and 2010 are having an impact.
“Sanctions are slowing Iran’s procurement of some critical items required for its prohibited nuclear program,” it said. “At the same time prohibited activities continue, including uranium enrichment.”
Among the items Iran has attempted to procure for its nuclear program, the panel said, were nuclear-grade graphite, high-strength aluminum, powder, specialized alloys, maraging steel, carbon fibre, magnets, vacuum pumps, turbines, electrical switchboards and helium gas detectors.
“The panel identifies the acquisition of high-grade carbon fibre as one of a number of critical items Iran requires for the development of more advanced centrifuges,” the report said, adding that nations should be on alert for illicit attempts to acquire such items.Iran rejects allegations by Western countries and their allies that it is secretly developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons. It has refused to suspend its enrichment program as demanded by the Security Council despite being hit with increasingly draconian UN and various national sanctions.
The report said Iran has been trying to circumvent UN and other unilateral sanctions on financial firms by using correspondence-banking relationships with institutions not under sanctions, and appears to be relying on Iranians abroad to carry out such transfers. Transfer traffic has risen sharply, it said.
The panel said it had received information about a small firm set up abroad by an Iranian national that was involved in funds transfers to various recipients worldwide. The firm, which the report did not identify, had processed transfers amounting to some $11-billion (U.S.) over an 18-month period, it said.
Supplying arms to both Syria and the Taliban through Iranian-fronted, non-sanctioned institutions, selling oil to India by using deception in the manner of payments, obfuscating, delaying, distracting and potentially lying about its nuclear weapons grade intentions...these are some of the signs that Iran is still unwilling to play by the international communities "rules" in the broadest sense of that word. Sanctions, while slowing the development of weapons-grade uranium, is merely sending Iran to ever more subversive and anti-western, specifically anti-American strategies and tactics, mostly reported as the "war in Afghanistan" or the potential for "civil war in Syria."
What would it take for China and Russia to up the ante by increasing their support of Iran's efforts to subvert the sanctions, and to develop a nuclear weapon and to continue to sell its oil "uninterrupted" to whomever it wishes? What are the real stakes in the behind-the-scenes struggle for dominance in the Middle East, and in Afghanistan? Do we have the potential skirmishes of a more virulent, and potentially more explosive conflict that is being "kicked down the road" like so many other world issues to which there seem to be no effective political, diplomatic, legal and enforceable agreements to resolve them?
Is the UN demonstrating its impotence, while pleading its effectiveness, in bringing about authentic and enforceable conditions for compliance with international norms, needs and long-term goals? Are world leaders being forced to smile in public about their "successful" conflabs, when they meet for photo-ops and commmunique's, while they know that their efforts are being undermined at every turn by the same nefarious actors on the world stage that refuse to be reined in?
Is this story, like so many others in politics, one to keep the size, scope and profound implications off the front pages, until some other more "pleasant" and more acceptable and more conventional events, such as the U.S. presidential elections, are over? Is the public consciously and deliberately being kept in the dark about the dangers, in order to avoid the kind of anxiety and political unrest that the disclosure of the truth would inevitably unleash?
Are our own politicians being forced to "keep the lid on" those issues for which there seems to be no resolution, while some of them meet, for example, this weekend in Camp David, to discuss the Greek potential slide into default, and the potential of other EU countries to follow, without any real solutions to avert the disaster?
Is the political discourse really "war by other means" as some would have us believe? And are we to include in our own calculus that we are, have always been and always will be "at war" with those actors, like Iran and North Korea, and formerly Lybia, whose goal seems to be to maintain the threat to peace as a constant sign of their capacity to wreak terror and to render "us" or "others" impotent to contain their negative ambitions.
Is the international community, parallel to the domestic community, trying to cope with scurrilous actors and actions, without the means and the collaborative political instruments and will to deal effectively with those actors, except to cause the occasional reprieve and the occasional hiatus in the will of the rogues?
Is the separation between the political actors, like the leadership of Iran, and the people of that country so great that, while we want to and do "trust" the people, we are unable and unwilling to trust the leadership?
And to what extent are our political leaders "slammed" by the people of Iran, because their leaders need such hatred to cover their actions?
And if deception is at the core of any successful "war" then why are we not consciously and ambitiously grooming a school of Noam Chomsky's and Chris Hedges to continuously pull the mask from the political rhetoric that risks luring us into a kind of unconsciously complicity with whatever nefarious goals we might be facing? And clearly such an effort would have to start with schooling journalists in the separation between their professional goals and the goals of the political class, and the need for their independence from the political class, and the public's support of that independence...for our own good!