March 4, 2014 | Canadian Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence

Protecting Canada From Iranian Attempts to Acquire Dual-Use Technology

Good afternoon, honourable senators. I want to commend the committee on its decision to study how best to protect Canada from Iranian attempts to acquire dual-use technology. Previous witnesses have discussed the efficacy of SEMA, the United Nations Act and the Export Control List. These tools are valuable, but designating Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the IRGC, as a terrorist organization in Canada is an additional and crucial measure that must be taken in order to further diminish Iran's ability to acquire dual-use technology.

A terrorist designation triggers serious consequences, such as rendering it illegal for Canadian individuals and companies to have any financial dealings with the listed entity. This terrorist designation must take place in conjunction with efforts by Western governments, including Canada's, to expose Iranian companies' connections to the IRGC. It would then become unlawful to have any financial dealings with those companies. Wilful blindness to a company's real identity would be prohibited and due diligence would be compulsory.

IRGC expert Emanuele Ottolenghi has written that profits made by the IRGC fund the procurement of Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as the sponsorship of Iran's terrorist proxy groups. IRGC revenue also enhances their political and economic prestige, which in turn increases “willingness of public companies to lend their services — both at home and abroad — to aid in the Guards' efforts to procure forbidden technologies and raw materials, and to finance their purchases through middlemen in foreign markets.”

When IRGC companies are exposed and business deals with them become criminalized, their attempts to obtain dual-use technology will be impeded and their revenues will be cut off, which will weaken the IRGC and the Iranian regime.

Honourable senators, if we are serious about dealing with the Iranian threat, we must focus on the IRGC. This entity is not only in charge of Iran's nuclear program, but it is also responsible for the violent suppression of Iranian protesters in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections; it trains and finances terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas; and recent evidence suggests that the IRGC has trained al Qaeda too. It played a key role in the 1979 hostage crisis in Tehran, just as it is likely behind the recent attack on the British embassy. It has been implicated in the attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington, and it is also a money machine, controlling anywhere between 25 to 40 per cent of Iran's GDP.

With IRGC financial tentacles all over the world, Canada needs to move beyond sanctioning a few individuals within the IRGC or banning specific goods for export. We must adopt a more comprehensive approach to preventing Iranians from acquiring dual-use technology, from pursuing nuclear weapons and from sponsoring terrorist activity. We must explore every non-military measure that may have an impact. We must find a fault line that can be exploited and cracked open. This means listing the IRGC in its entirety as a terrorist entity in Canada.