Posts Tagged ‘nuclear proliferation’


Jorisch: blacklist the bonyads

June 28, 2012

Bonyads, the supposedly charitable conglomerates of Iran, are finally getting some international scrutiny.  Security analyst Avi Jorisch has called for a new phase in the sanctions regime against Iran:  targeting the bonyads:

Bonyads are tax-exempt Iranian charitable trusts that control an estimated 20–40% of Iran’s GDP. Subsidized by the government, they answer only to Iran’s Supreme Leader. Bonyads represent an important target for sanctions because they control such a large share of Iran’s economy.

As charities, they supposedly provide social services to the poor and the needy, but in fact, they are also involved in every major industry, including soybean and cotton production, hotel administration, soft drink firms, shipping line ownership and car manufacturing.

The United States should publicly name, shame, and blacklist all major bonyads, thus making it illegal to make a charitable contribution to them.

The United States and its allies have all the tools necessary to punish the banks, corporations and charities helping Iran achieve nuclearization. If we are truly going to stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, we must use as many of the bows in our quiver as possible.

Indeed, loopholes in the current sanctions regime probably do allow for donations to the bonyads under the guise of food and medical aid.

Money Jihad readers may recall that bonyads have also been described as “massive semi-government foundations with vast religious and philanthropic missions [which] have metamorphosed into huge holding companies that dominate the trade and manufacturing sectors while evading competition, taxes and state regulations,” and about which “analysts agree that the scant supervision has encouraged inefficiencies, mismanagement, and embezzlement,” and it has been asked whether “their funds have been used to procure weapons of mass destruction.”


Safety smokescreen for Conviasa ban

April 11, 2012

The European Union has imposed an “operating ban” against the Venezuelan airline Conviasa.  This is the same airline that former ambassador Roger Noriega  said “conducts regular flights between Caracas and Damascus and Teheran. The Hezbollah networks use these flights and others to ferry operatives, recruits, and cargo in and out of the region.”  Amb. Noriega also suggested that Conviasa has been used to traffic cocaine from Venezuela to West Africa.

The new Conviasa ban has been attributed in public to questions about airline safety, but anti-money laundering insider Kenneth Rijock has pointed out on his blog that the ban may actually have been imposed due to the transport of nuclear materials from Venezuela to Iran with a stopover in Europe, or due to bulk gold smuggling by the airline to help buoy a faltering Iranian economy.  From Mr. Rijock on Apr. 4:


…The ban fails to specify exactly what operating conditions, ramp inspections, or other events caused this action, but the grounds may be much more disturbing than flight safety deficiencies.

Any one of these may have been the reason to ban Conviasa from EU airports:

  1. Seats on Conviasa’s curious long-haul operation between Caracas, Damascus and Tehran, have a history of being inaccessible to civilian passengers. It has served as a conduit for Iranian nationals,  traveling for any number of reasons, including evasion of international sanctions, to gain access to the Western Hemisphere. Visas are freely available at the Venezuelan Embassy in Tehran for official travelers; I have seen a few of them on brand-new Iranian passports.
  2. Anti-Terrorism experts believe that agents of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially the Quds Force, its international wing, have entered Venezuela in that manner. Remember also that there is a Hezbollah Venezuela, and this is probably the only direct, open access for members of specially designated global terrorist organisations to travel from the Middle East to Latin America. The arrest and detention, at the US-Mexican border, of non-Spanish speaking Middle Eastern nationals suspected of terrorist affiliations, carrying valid Venezuelan passports, validates this belief. Hamas, ETA, whomever the terrorist group du jour happens to be currently in favour with the Chavez regime.
  3. These wide-body A340 aircraft have been engaged in heavy cargo airlift of military materiel either way, eastbound or westbound. Most experts have heard rumours of missiles to Venezuela; small arms to Syria and Iran; what else has been shipped into Iran, evading the international sanctions ? These aircraft are exempt from normal customs procedures in Venezuela, so frankly, anything goes.
  4. Gold has been known to have been shipped in bulk to Iran; we can also assume that bulk cash, in the form of US Dollars, is also traveling from the Chavez regime to Iran. Remember, due to the sanctions, Iran is in dire need of “Greenbacks” to purchase goods and services in the global marketplace for cash. They are getting some of those needs met from Iraqi sources, but their international purchases from suppliers willing to do business surely do not involve credit.
  5. My best guess is that the EC does not want a nuclear accident at one of the EU airports, due to a mishap involving a Conviasa aircraft carrying Uranium to Iran, or even a nuclear device or component to Venezuela, whose leadership has longed to have the nuclear option. Is that really why Conviasa is now banned from EU airports ?

Should a Conviasa aircraft make a forced landing, or suffer an accident between Caracas and the Middle East, whether through equipment malfunction, or pilot error, we need to see what it is carrying on board, preferably with inspectors carrying radiation-measuring equipment, before its cargo is released. I wonder what will then happen to the Conviasa board of directors and the pilot in command.


South Africa is Iran’s lead energy buyer

February 20, 2012

While the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia have joined together in sanctions against Iran, South Africa has not.  In 2010, South Africa bought $22.9 billion in fuel, crude, natural gas, and minerals from Iran.  The quantity easily outstrips purchases by China, the country most often singled out for counterbalancing Western sanctions.  From a Jan. 26 report from the Congressional Research Service using data from the World Trade Atlas:

Table I from the Congressional Research Service report on Iran sanctions

Source: The World Trade Atlas, adapted by Susan Chesser, Knowledge Services Group, CRS.

The report has been followed by a Feb. 8 Associated Press article about South Africa’s involvement with Iran:

South Africa’s close ties to Iran under scrutiny

JOHANNESBURG — The West’s increasing pressure on Iran has meant scrutiny for South African businesses that operate in the Middle Eastern nation accused of having nuclear ambitions.

South African-Iranian political ties have long been close, and that has meant close business ties. A politically connected South African telecommunications company has been accused of pushing Pretoria to support Iran’s nuclear power program. A South African energy and chemicals company is reviewing its Iranian investments. Iranian oil makes up nearly a third of South Africa’s oil imports…

The only good thing about the data is that Germany has slipped in the rankings of Iran’s biggest customers.


2011: Iran’s nuclear march unfazed by sanctions

January 10, 2012

In its November report, the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that:

  • The Iranian military has procured nuclear and dual-use material and equipment
  • Iran has acquired information on how to create nuclear weapons through a secret network
  • Iran has tested nuclear weapon components

The advance in Iranian efforts to use nuclear program for military purposes strongly suggests that the sanctions regime is not having the impact necessary to stop their acquisition of the bomb.  Sanctions may have damaged their economy and currency, but that is irrelevant because Iran has shown that it will continue funding its nuclear program regardless of economic conditions.

Pres. Obama’s decision to appoint lightweight David Cohen as undersecretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence indicated a lack of seriousness about enforcing serious sanctions against Iran to bankrupt its nuclear program.  In 2011, Cohen has succeeded mostly in alienating the U.S. Senate by stabbing New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez in the back.  If only we would treat our foreign enemies that way.


Democrat to Europe: Prove it isn’t Iran crude

November 4, 2011

During an Oct. 13 hearing on Iran sanctions, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) described his proposal to make the European Union certify that any refined fuel products it sells to the United States did not originate from Iranian crude oil.

The concern of the power establishment is that an outright embargo on Iranian crude would limit global supply, damage the fragile economic recovery, and ultimately enrich Iran through soaring oil prices.  But the current sanctions regime hasn’t done much to deter or delay Iran from acquiring the hydrogen bomb.  Sen. Menendez’s proposal is an effort to split the difference, and get Europe to do the legwork of finding alternate suppliers to Iranian crude.  In a question to a State Department flunky (to which he later received a boilerplate answer), Menendez explains his reasoning:

The full two hour hearing can be viewed on C-SPAN’s website.

Perhaps Europe can explore for oil off the shores of America where environmentalists won’t let the U.S. do it, refine it, and sell it back to the U.S. as a certified non-Iranian product.  Or the U.S. could expand its own oil production and cut out all the middlemen.  Just saying…


Germany among Iran’s top 3 energy buyers

October 11, 2011

According to an August report on Iran sanctions from the bipartisan Congressional Research Service, Germany is the world’s third largest importer of Iranian fuel, oil, natural gas, and other energy products.  Germany pays $400 million a year to Iran for energy.

This provides further confirmation that the U.S.-backed sanctions regime against Iran is weak unless Europe, especially Germany, can be brought aboard with an Iranian energy boycott.  Without German cooperation, Iran will be able to continue diverting oil profits toward its illicit nuclear program.

Germany pays $400 million/yr to Iran


Zarate blasts Obama’s Iran sanctions pause

October 7, 2011

During an Aspen Institute panel discussion on terrorist financing in July, former counter-terrorism official Juan Zarate rebuked the 2009 to 2010 “pause” in economic sanctions pressure while Obama administration sought engagement with Iran.

Reporter Erin Burnette asked Zarate and former under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Stuart Levey about the wisdom of easing up on the sanctions regime while trying to engage Iran.  Stuart Levey said that top Obama advisors underestimated how long it would take from the time they began seeking engagement until the time a new round of international sanctions would be approved, which was not until July, 2010.

That delay gave Iran a year and a half of essential time to develop their nuclear program without significant financial pressure.  In this video, Juan Zarate calls that pause in the financial pressure “a major strategic mistake.”  The momentum from sanctions beginning in 2005 had been working, and Washington could have kept applying financial pressure simultaneously while pushing for diplomatic engagement.

The timing of the pause was most unfortunate, Zarate argues, because the U.S. already knew about Iran’s “secret” nuclear site at Kom.

In addition to pointing out the Obama administration’s strategic blunder on Iran sanctions, Zarate also lets it slip in the final seconds of the video that Pres. Obama kept the well-respected Stuart Levey “leashed.”