October 11, 2017 | The Jerusalem Post

Report: Iran Tried 30+ Times to Buy Illegal Nuclear Technology in 2016

Iran tried to secure illegal technology that can be used for its nuclear and missile weapons programs, intelligence reports from German states covering 2016 reviewed by The Jerusalem Post reveal.

• In North Rhine-Westphalia, Iran’s regime made “32 procurement attempts… that definitely or with high likelihood were undertaken for the benefit of proliferation programs,” the state’s intelligence agency wrote in a report this month.

The intelligence data will likely furnish further ammunition to those who want US President Donald Trump to decertify the nuclear agreement Tehran signed in 2015 with five world powers. Trump is slated to announce on Thursday whether he will certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA ) – the formal name for the nuclear accord.

The North Rhine-Westphalia report classifies Iran as a country that engages in proliferation, and is involved in “spreading atomic, biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction.” Tehran also engages in illicit proliferation activity regarding missile delivery systems, the report says.

The agency also wrote that Iran uses front companies in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and China to bypass sanctions and restrictions on its atomic and missile programs.

North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most populous state with about 18 million residents, and is home to advanced engineering and technology companies.

The state’s intelligence agency previously said Iran made 141 attempts to obtain illicit proliferation equipment and technology in 2015.

According to the state’s most recent report, the vast majority of Iran’s illegal procurement efforts in 2016 concerned technology for its rocket programs.

• An intelligence report from the state of Saxony- Anhalt in August said Tehran works “unabated” on its missile program.” With ballistic missiles and long-range rockets, Iran will be in the position to be able to threaten not only Europe,” the intelligence officials wrote.

• The report from Hesse state in September said proliferation states Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Sudan use “guest academics” for espionage related to nuclear and other weapons programs. “An example for this type of activity occurred in the sector of electronic technology in connection with the implementation of the enrichment of uranium. The intelligence agency further noted, foreign intelligence services employ “research exchanges at universities in the sector of biological and chemical procedures.”

In response to a Post media query, the spokesman for Hesse’s intelligence agency declined to comment on whether Iran was involved in espionage in the academic arena.

When asked if Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration reported the illicit export attempts by Iran to the United Nations Security Council, German diplomats told the Post: “We have no indication of Iran violating its JCPOA commitments. Quite on the contrary, the recent 2016 Report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution [the country’s domestic security agency] states that there is no evidence of Iran violating the JCPOA . Having said that, we remain worried by Iran’s missile program. The aforementioned report as well as reports from regional intelligence authorities show that Germany is highly vigilant in this regard and will continue to do so. However, this issue is outside the scope of the JCPOA and needs to be dealt with separately.”

It is unclear why Berlin insists that Iran’s attempts to illegally secure nuclear technology are outside of the JCPOA . German-Iranian bilateral trade relationship is expected to exceed €10 billion per year. Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has traveled to Iran with large business delegations to strike business deals. Major German enterprises such as Siemens and Mercedes Benz are active in the Islamic Republic.

• The Post reported in July that state of Hamburg’s intelligence agency wrote: “There is no evidence of a complete about-face in Iran’s atomic polices in 2016” [after it signed the nuclear accord in 2015]. Iran sought missile carrier technology necessary for its rocket program.” Germany’s domestic intelligence agencies in each state are the rough equivalent of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

• An intelligence report from the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg in June stated, “Regardless of the number of national and international sanctions and embargoes, countries like Iran, Pakistan and North Korea are making efforts to optimize corresponding technology.”

According to the report, Iran sought “products and scientific knowhow for the field of developing weapons of mass destruction as well missile technology.”

The 181-page document cites Iran’s cyberware, espionage, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction procurement activities 49 times. A Chinese import-export company contacted a company in the German state that sells “complex metal producing machines,” the intelligence agency wrote. The technology would aid Iran’s development of ballistic missiles, it wrote.

Germany’s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control issued an end-use receipt for the Chinese purchase. Intelligence officials notified the manufacturer that the merchandise was slated to be illegally diverted to Iran. “This case shows that so-called indirect-deliveries across third countries is still Iran’s procurement strategy,” wrote the intelligence officials.

• Another state intelligence report from June said that in the 2016, “German companies located in Rhineland-Palatinate were contacted for illegal procurement attempts by [Pakistan, North Korea and Iran]. The procurement attempts involved goods that were subject to authorization and approval on account of legal export restrictions and UN embargoes.

These goods, for example, could be used for a state’s nuclear and missile programs.”

Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the nonpartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD.