Norwegian version and map:Irans skjulte jakt på atombomben
According to a search Aftenposten has made through several hundred secret documents from the American Foreign Office and American embassies worldwide during the period from 2006 to 2010, more than 350 Iranian companies and organisations are involved in the pursuit of nuclear-and missile technologies. For years, Iran has been working systematically to acquire the parts, equipment and technology needed for developing such weapons, in violation with the UN sanctions against the country’s nuclear-and missile program.
Should Iran succeed, the world is likely to face a new major conflict in the Middle East, as the Israeli government has made it clear that they are ready to take military means in use to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Iranians go shopping
A significant number of companies worldwide have been exposed to Iranian efforts to provide the technology, parts and raw materials which are essential for manufacturing a nuclear bomb. The Iranians’ extensive shopping list of materials and technology which are violating the UN sanctions is long. However, it is very specific:
- Computers and control systems required to run nuclear reactors.
- Uranium to be used for enriching plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.
- Improved centrifuges to enhance the capacity as well as the quality of the enrichment the reactors
- High quality milling machines, required for rocket manufacturing.
- Alloy steel, gyroscopes and graphite, materials which can increase the range of Iranian missiles.
Covert actions. Several of the Iranian efforts have not become publicly known, as the US Government has in many cases offered discretion in return for actions to stop the Iranian attempts, by employing export restrictions or by persuading the companies in question to stay clear of Iranian business contacts.
The Iranians, on the other hand, have continuously maintained that their nuclear program has peaceful aims to solve the future national extensive needs for energy. As most of the mentioned goods have also legitimate and civilian applications, monitoring the Iranian’s drive towards nuclear weapons is a demanding task.
Stalking the Iranians. The large number of Iranian initiatives has been uncovered by extensive American intelligence operations. Over the last years, the US Government has escalated significantly the surveillance of Iranian business people and officials globally. The objective is to detect Iranian initiatives at the earliest possible stages.
The funding of the acquisitions is carried out though several Iranian and North Korean banks operating legally through accounts in a number of major and respectable Western banks despite American objections.
Several of the US secret sources claim that president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Teheran regime are desperately pursuing the development of a nuclear bomb before the country’s economy collapses as a result of international sanctions.
- A race exists between the bomb and financial collapse, French nuclear experts told US sources.
In need of more Uranium. Currently, Iran is practically out of Uranium. According to the secret American reports, one of the most difficult and important challenge the Iranians are facing at the moment is how to obtain new supplies. In addition, they require the knowledge and technology necessary for enriching Uranium of sufficient quality for use in a nuclear bomb.
The Iranian nuclear facilities make use of a Chinese supplied “ultra-centrifugal process”, in which enriched Uranium is separated. Such facilities however, demand a high technological level and degree of sophistication in their designs.
- Next to impossible
Enriching Uranium suitable at nuclear weapon grade quality is a highly expensive and complicated process. Hence, manufacturing equipment and technology for building new and more advanced centrifuges is at the top of the Iranian shopping list. The nuclear facility in Natanz contains about 9000 centrifuges for enriching Uranium. At the beginning of this year, according to the Wisconsin Nuclear Weapon Control Project, Iran had enough low-grade Uranium to produce three nuclear charges. However, the Iranians now face the challenge of being able to enrich Uranium to a much higher degree.
“Iran’s limited domestic supply of Uranium makes it practically impossible to supply the nation’s current and future nuclear power plant capacity. Consequently, the Iranians are likely to be forced into dealing with foreign suppliers to get Uranium for their domestic nuclear industry”, the US Foreign Office stated in February 2009.
These notes could be interpreted in the way that the Iranians have escalated their efforts. Alternatively, it could be suggested that USA have intensified their stalking operations of the Iranians significantly, especially after discovering how far the Iranians had actually come in the development of the secret nuclear facility in Qum, right under the noses of the unsuspecting inspectors of the international nuclear bureau IAEA.
Disagreement on the time horizon
Political leaders do not agree on how close the Iranians are to complete a nuclear bomb. In the summer of 2009, Israeli minister of defense Ehud Barak maintained that “we have a window of between six and eighteen months” “within which to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons”. Any later, and “any military solution would result in an unacceptable amount of civilian causalities”, Barak said.
Newly-retired head of the Israeli Mossad, Meir Dagan, said last weekend that Iran will not have a nuclear bomb ready until 2015. This stands in stark contrast to the Israeli statement of 2003 that Iran would make it before 2007. According to the secret embassy documents, Russian experts have it that “Iran will have a bomb in 10-15 years”. The only thing everyone seems to agree about is that the Iranians will succeed sooner or later.
”Iran has crossed the line...It is now only a matter of time”, EU sources concluded towards the USA after the Iranians declared that their aim is to enrich Uranium up to 20 percent.
In a week, Iran is to meet with the nuclear powers China, France, Germany, Russia, Great Britain and the USA to discuss the nation’s nuclear programme.
– We have got time, but not much of it, US Foreign Minister Hillary Clinton said this week.
The Teheran regime has a world embracing network, working systematically for companies which are affected by the UN sanctions against Iran’s nuclear-and missile programme. Based on secret embassy documents, Aftenposten has made a survey of Iranian attempts during the last three years to get hold of the needed materials, technology and equipment.
SOUTH KOREA In December 2009, Iranian Shahid Bakeri Industries Group buys five tons of carbon fibres from Korean Yoon Network Shanghai Company in China. These materials can be used in the production of rocket nozzles and light engine boxes, to increase the firing range. In October 2009, Machine Sazi Tabriz, a company that provides machine ware for the Iranian missile programme, made an attempt to buy data based computer controlled manufacturing machines of models HS 630 and HS 800 from Hyuandai-Kia.
CHINA Via the straw company Iran Business Ibco, Isfahan Optics Industries made an attempt in December 2009 to purchase gyroscopes from Chinese Hong Kong 4 Star Electronic Ltd. The gyroscopes were manufactured in Russia, and can be used for developing launching systems for nuclear missiles. Through many years, Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group IG, which is part of the Iranian ballistic missile programme, purchased graphite cylinders, pressure bolts, gyroscopes and accelerometers made for the manufacturing of rocket nozzles, from the Chinese manufacturer Dalian Sunny Industries. Additionally, the company wanted to purchase a Model 3 GFF-700 cold flow milling machine, which can be used for the manufacturing of rocket’s nozzle cones and engine fittings for the missiles. In March 2008, the Iranian company Aluminat Co signed a contract with the Hong Kong Most Group on the purchase of custom made aluminium sheets, which can be used in the manufacturing of several components in Scud missiles. In addition, Iran has ordered missile materials from China North Industries (NORINCO), China Precision Machinery Import/Export (CPMIEC), China Xinshidai Company and China Great Wall Industry (CGWIC). However, these purchases were stopped. Parchin Chemical Industries has purchased several shiploads of Natrium Perchlorate, which can be uses for manufacturing fuel for ballistic missiles. In May and June 2008, the Aban Commercial and Industrial Group, which collaborates with the Iranian missile manufacturer SBIG, received several ship transports from China bearing materials useful for missile manufacturing, among others 208 tons of Cailum Perchlorate and Polybutadiene. Sara Company, which is interconnected with Iran’s nuclear power organisation (AEOI), purchased an advanced dehydrating machine Model P-60 from the Chinese company Qingji Industrial Company Ltd. The Chinese company LIMMT has sold MTCR controlled goods to Iran’s missile programmes. The Shanghai Technical By-Products International Corporation works on the Iranian missile programme to provide materials.
SPAIN Iranian Ardalan has made several attempts to purchase engine parts from the Spanish company Maquinara CME, and also ordered 5-axis milling machines, using forged end user certificates from the Turkish company Ak Makina. These machines can be used in the manufacturing of turbo pump rotors, fuel control and steering mechanisms on ballistic missiles.
JAPAN The Japanese company East Asia Limited has been under investigation under the suspicion of Iranian attempts to purchase Uranium via the company’s mining industry in Kazakhstan, which produces about 500 metric tons of Uranium a year. On the 20th December 2009 Saeed Jalili, General Secretary of the Iranian High Council of National Security, set course for Tokyo. The USA was worried about Jalili’s interest in Japanese nuclear power plants.
NAMIBIA It is likely that the Iranians made cautious attempts to purchase Uranium from Rossing Uranium Limited, in which Iran had the ownership of 15 percent of the stock.
KASAKHSTAN It is suspected that Iran attempted to purchase Uranium via the company Nur Afxar Gostar. Kazakhstan categorically rejected these allegations, maintaining that “no proof of the exporting of significant amounts of Uranium has been found”.
SOUTH AFRICA In 2008, Iranian Mehrfam Sepahan Company made an attempt to purchase advanced vacuum furnaces from South African Prestige Thermal Equipment via Sabalan Company. Sabalan is in partnership with Iran’s largest missile manufacturer.
TAIWAN In October 2009, Iranian Machine Sazi Tabriz inquired the Round top Machinery in Taiwan for technicians and spare parts for an advanced manufacturing system delivered from Taiwan via Malayan Era Machinery. These parts can be used for manufacturing missiles and other weapon components. In March 2009, Iranian Faratech CNC Milling Services made an attempt on purchasing a CNC rotary table Model TRNC255 off Tanshing Accurate Industrial Company. Such equipment could be used to upgrade a vertical manufacturing system for missile manufacturing. The Taiwan based company Cision Wide Tech attempted to purchase an advanced lathe manufactured by Taiwanese Proking Machinery to Turkish Ak Makina, the latter acting on behalf of the Iranian missile component supplier Machine Sazi Tabriz.
NORTH KOREA North Korea’s largest weapon manufacturing company, Korea Mining Development Trading Corp KOMID, exports significant amounts of materials and equipment suitable for ballistic missiles. The company has been subjected to sanctions for more than a decade. Tanchon Commercial Bank, seated in Pyongyang, supplied the finances for purchases from the Iranian missile manufacturer SHID. Furthermore, the company is tightly linked to the Iranian Bank Sepah. The latter is also subject of UN sanctions against Iran.
BRAZIL In 2009, Iranian Machine Sazi Tabriz made an attempt to purchase engine parts for missile production off Brazilian Mello S.A. Maquinas e Equipamentos via the Iranian intermediate company Pshtiban Abzar Parswas.
SPAIN In March 2006, the USA discovered that the North Korean bank Tancon had a bank account in The Danish Bank, which it also maintained as late as in April 2009.
SWEDEN North Korean Tanchon, who financed the Iranian purchases, had bank accounts in Nordea Sverige, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken and Svenska Handelsbanken. Several Swedish companies have been in the search light of the USA.
SWITZERLAND North Korean Tanchon, which financed Iranian purchases, had a bank account in Lloyd’s TWSB Bank-Geneva.
UKRAINE. The Iranian missile programme has purchased large amounts of alloy steel off the Ukrainian company Zaporizhzhya Regional Economic Association. This steel is used for manufacturing missile engine boxes. The Malek-Ashtar University of Technology in Iran is the sponsor of Ukrainian scientists. Scientists of Kiev Polytechnic Institute have given the Iranians instructions in integrated navigating systems, which could be used for controlling missiles.
CZECH REPUBLIC. In September 2009, Iranian Kara Gostar Engineering made an attempt via Turkish Ak Makina to bypass Czech export control by purchasing five axis CNC engines off the Czech company Kovosit MAS.
INDIA Iranian Ward Chemical Company wished to purchase large amounts of special graphite off the Indian company Nickunj Eximp Enterprises. The attempt was made via another Iranian company, Sahand Aluminium, which in turn is a straw company for missile manufacturer SHIG. Hind High Vacuum company was investigated for supplying special membranes to representatives working for the Iranian missile programme.
TURKEY In 2009, Turkish Ak Makina made several attempts on behalf of Iranian Ardalan to purchase Spanish and Taiwanese as well as South Korean engine parts, equipment, milling machines and propulsion cores, applicable for the manufacturing of missiles.
GERMANY In September 2009, Iran made an attempt via Turkish Ak Makina to purchase several CNC engines off the Hyundai-Kia Machine Europe in Offenbach, Germany on behalf of the Iranian missile manufacturing company Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group SHIG. In April 2009, a shipload of computers under transport from China to Iran was stopped in the Emirates following a request from German Authorities. The intended receiver of these computers was Iranian Kalaye Electric Company, a company which works for Iran’s nuclear programme. In September 2009, Iranian business associates made attempts to purchase German parts for the Iranian Heavy Water reactor IR-40. However, these attempts were stopped. In 2008, Iranian Texofin wished to purchase CNC systems and advanced milling machines off Siemens. Such equipment could be used in the production of missile engines or equipment for extracting nuclear fuel.
ECUADOR In 2009, Ecuadorian authorities allowed the Iranians to open a new branch of the Iranian export developing bank EDBI, and allowed that Iran be given loans. The EDBI provides the finances for several of Iran’s nuclear purchases.
CANADA In 2009, the Canadian company Forsys was about to transfer the Namibian Uranium mine Valencia to Belgian George Forrest International. However, the USA suspected that the GFI were in contact with Iranian officials regarding a potential purchase of Uranium, and requested that Canadian authorities interfered with these talks.
THE NETHERLANDS In 2009, Iranian missile producers made an attempted purchase of turbine blades off Swiss company Sulzer Eldim BV in The Netherlands for 40 million Euros, after a similar purchase attempt had been stopped in the United Kingdom.
USA Through intermediaries, General Electric was approached by Iranian missile producers in an attempt to purchase turbine blades subject to UN sanctions. In 2006, employees of California registered Aerospace Logistic Services were convicted for supplying engine parts for weapon systems which supposedly ended up in Iran. At least 16 foreign citizens have been convicted for purchasing goods from the USA in violation with UN sanctions.
UNITED KINGDOM. Iran made attempts to purchase a quantity of rotor blades worth 45 million GBP, applicable for missile production. However, the purchase was stopped. Two British P&I clubs provided insurance for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, responsible for several deliveries to Iran in violation with UN sanctions. North Korean bank Tanchon, which is under the suspicion of providing the finances for a great number of Iranian nuclear-and missile purchases, had bank accounts in several British banks, among them Bank of China International-London, British Arab Commercial Bank-London, Havin, HSBC Bank, Lloyds TSB, Moscow Narodny Bank-London of National Bank and Egypt International-London.
AUSTRIA Iranian Surena showed interest in the purchasing of centrifuge pumps off the Andritz company in Austria. Andritz denied the suspicions, maintaining that the company only sold goods to Iranian paper producers.
MALAYSIA Iranian bank Mellat opened a branch in Malaysia’s Labuan Offshore Financial Center. Mellat is the supplier of bank services to Iranian nuclear industry. The bank provides the finances for the Kalaye Electric Company, which develops centrifuges and designs for the Iranian missile programme.
OTHER COUNTRIES Furthermore, Iran has been involved in purchases that could be subject to UN sanctions with the following countries: Russia, Pakistan, Syria, France, Italy, Macedonia, Armenia and the Emirates.