Evading sanctions, Iran turns to China for banned materials

The front page of the Wall Street Journal has an article on Iran's efforts to acquire materials that fall under the UN sanctions regime imposed by the Security Council because of Tehran's less than forthcoming attitude about their nuclear program.

It should come as no surprise that to get around the sanctions, Iran turned to the world's number one nuclear enabler; China:

U.S. security and law-enforcement officials say they have fresh evidence of recent efforts by Iran to evade sanctions and acquire metals from China used in high-tech weaponry, including long-range nuclear missiles.

Iran's efforts are detailed in a series of recent emails and letters between Iranian companies and foreign suppliers seen by The Wall Street Journal. Business records show one Iranian company, ABAN Commercial & Industrial Ltd., has contracted through an intermediary for more than 30,000 kilograms (about 66,000 pounds) of tungsten copper -- which can be used in missile guidance systems -- from Advanced Technology & Materials Co. Ltd. of Beijing. One March 2008 email between the firms mentions shipping 215 ingots, with more planned.

The United Arab Emirates has informed the U.S. that in September it intercepted a Chinese shipment headed to Iran of specialized aluminum sheets that can be used to make ballistic missiles. A month earlier, UAE officials also intercepted an Iran-bound shipment of titanium sheets that can be used in long-range missiles, according to a recent letter to the U.S. Commerce Department from the UAE's Washington ambassador.

Evidence of Iran's efforts to acquire sensitive materials also is emerging from investigations by state and federal prosecutors in New York into whether a number of major Western banks illegally handled funds for Iran and deliberately hid Iranian transactions routed through the U.S. One focus of the inquiries is the role of Italy, including the Rome branch of Iran's Bank Sepah and Italy's Banca Intesa Sanpaolo Spa. Banca Intesa said it is cooperating in the inquiries.

The developments could present President-elect Barack Obama with an early test in responding to what many Washington security officials now say is a rapidly growing threat to the region, including U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Bush policy towards Iran was in keeping with UN resolutions and the actions of the Security Council; no high level diplomatic exchanges with Iran until they publicly called a halt to their nuclear enrichment program.

Obama now seeks to overturn this policy; reward Iran by recognizing the legitimacy of their revolution (and legitimize their genocidal rhetoric) by winning US recognition that they are a member of the community of nations.

Iran further puts itself outside this community and becomes an outlaw nation when it tries to evade sanctions imposed against them in order to further their work on construction a delivery system for their soon to be completed nuclear bomb. And it should not surprise us that they have turned to China to break international law.

The last decade has seen China cozy up to many resource-rich nations as they are seeking to guarantee a supply of raw materials for the future. Doing Iran this "favor" is in keeping with their strategy to block the west from a reliable supply of oil, copper, zinc, and other strategic minerals down the road when some resources may be scarce.

Iran is important and we must keep the lid on these sanctions - paltry and ineffective as they are - in order to keep up whatever pressure we can on their economy. But the growing menace of China is something else altogether. At the moment, they need us more than we need them - even with their massive investments in our paper. The economic downturn is already causing massive unrest in China and they desperately need our market to continue their astonishing growth.

How Obama manages this vital relationship with China will have implications far into the future. Hillary Clinton has a pretty good handle on the Chinese situation so let's hope that she doesn't spend all her time trying to make peace between the Israelis and their genocidal enemies so that she can pay the proper attention to what's happening in East Asia.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky