Archive for April 9th, 2009
Straight from the Daily News: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office has smashed a sinister plot to smuggle nuclear weapons materials to Iran through unwitting New York banks, the Daily News has learned.
Officials plan to unseal a 118-count indictment Tuesday accusing a Chinese national of setting up a handful of fake companies to hide that he was selling millions of dollars in potential nuclear materials to Tehran.
“This case will cut off a major source of supply to Iran and it shows how they are going ahead full steam to get a nuclear bomb. Long-range missiles they pretty much have already,” a law enforcement source close to the case said.
“We think it is one of the largest suppliers of weapons of mass destruction to Iran.”
Experts say Iran, under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears close to amassing enough nuclear material to make an atom bomb. A United Nations embargo bans Iran from acquiring the high-tech metals needed to make a long-range nuclear weapon a reality.
The indictment will outline the financial conspiracy behind 58 different transactions, including shipments of various banned materials from China to Iran between 2006 and late 2008.
* 33,000 pounds of a specialized aluminum alloy used almost exclusively in long-range missile production.
* 66,000 pounds of tungsten copper plate, which is used in missile guidance systems.
* 53,900 pounds of maraging steel rods, a superhard metal used in uranium enrichment and to make the casings for nuclear bombs.
The recipient is believed to have been a subsidiary of the Iranian Defense Ministry.
The suspect, who is not believed to be in the U.S., set up four bogus import-export companies that did business with six Iranian shell firms, one source said.
“They took elaborate steps to conceal the identity of the shipper and the recipient,” the source said.
The deals went through “several” New York banks, which cooperated when the alleged plot was uncovered.
“The New York banks were completely unaware,” the source said.
Authorities first stumbled over the scheme seven months ago in an unrelated probe into Iranian money-laundering through Lloyd’s, a British bank.
In January, Lloyd’s paid a $350 million fine to settle accusations it “stripped” information from Iranian money transfers to New York banks, hiding where the cash came from.
Officials said they suspected that money was also used to finance Iran’s nuke program.
“The important thing is to put sunlight on these deals,” the law enforcement source said.”
Straight from the Financial Times: “US officials are considering whether to accept Iran’s pursuit of uranium enrichment, which has been outlawed by the United Nations and remains at the heart of fears that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability.
As part of a policy review commissioned by President Barack Obama, diplomats are discussing whether the US will eventually have to accept Iran’s insistence on carrying out the process, which can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons- grade material.
“There’s a fundamental impasse between the western demand for no enrichment and the Iranian demand to continue enrichment,” says Mark Fitzpatrick, a former state depart- ment expert now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “There’s no obvious compromise between those two positions.”
The US has insisted that Iran stop enrichment, although Mr Fitzpatrick notes that international offers put to Tehran during George W. Bush’s second term as president left the door open to the possible resumption of enrichment.
“There is a growing recognition in [Washington] that the zero [enrichment] solution, though still favoured, simply is unfeasible,” says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. “The US may still have zero as its opening position, while recognising it may not be where things stand at the end of a potential agreement.”
Mr Fitzpatrick adds: “Obviously, no country wants to flag its fallback positions in advance. As soon as you let your falback position be known, it becomes the new position.”
On Friday, Mr Obama summarised the US message to Iran as, “Don’t develop a nuclear weapon” – a form of words that would not rule out a deal accepting Iranian enrichment. Mr Bush was much more specific in calling Iran to halt enrichment.
A series of UN Security Council resolutions since 2006 has forbidden Iran from enriching uranium, with the European Union, Russia and China backing US calls for Tehran to halt the process.
But Iran has sped up its programme during that time and has installed more than 5,500 centrifuges to enrich uranium and has amassed a stockpile of more than 1,000kg of low-enriched uranium – enough, if it were enriched to higher levels, to produce fissile material for one bomb. “Across the political spectrum in Iran, enrichment as a right has become a non-negotiable position,” Mr Parsi said.
Asked last month whether the administration was considering allowing Iran to keep a limited enrichment capability, Robert Wood, a state department spokesman, said: “I don’t know . . . Let’s let the review be completed and then we can spell out our policies.””