My thoughts on the world around me

U.S. Selling Bomb Parts to Iran

Yes, your eyes have not deceived you. The United States is selling bomb parts to Iran. How?

According to Joby Warrick, Iran is using several front companies, from the United Arab Emirates to Malaysia, to acquire weapons parts. Since Iran cannot buy directly from the US due to strict exporting laws, it’s using dummy corporations, littered throughout the globe, in order to bring western technology into Tehran.

The article notes how complex the issue has become:

While illegal trafficking in weapons technology has occurred for decades — most notably in the case of the nuclear smuggling ring operated by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan — the new documents suggest that recent trading is nearly all Internet-based and increasingly sophisticated.

Many of the schemes unknowingly involve U.S. companies that typically have no clue where their products are actually going, the records show.

“The schemes are so elaborate, even the most scrupulous companies can be deceived,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and co-author of a forthcoming study of black markets for weapons components.

Albright said the deceptions can be even more elaborate when the target is nuclear technology. “That’s where the stakes are the highest,” he said. “If Iran is successful, it ends up not with an IED but with a nuclear weapon.”

This issue has a sad, dramatic flair to it:

Iran in the past two years has acquired numerous banned items — including circuit boards, software and Global Positioning System devices — that are used to make sophisticated versions of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that continue to kill U.S. troops in Iraq[.]

American technology is killing American soldiers.

As I read the article, two things struck me in particular:

1. How much research is going into finding out where these parts are going?

2. Weapons trade is a monster that the US has no control over.

First, do US companies know who they are selling these sensitive materials to? It does not seem as though much research is going into it. The article notes this very same point:

Typically, the new front companies will not be discovered until long after crucial technology has left American shores aboard ships ultimately bound for Iran, Albright said.

Based on the above statement, US companies apparently do discover, at some point, that Iran is the end-user. How long does that process take? Couldn’t they just hold on to the technology until they are absolutely certain where the parts are headed?

Second, the US has no control over their weapons market. According to the article, they’re selling parts out of “California, Florida, Georgia and New Jersey.” Are these plants all operating under the US government, or are they separate private entities. I think that’s an important distinction that needs clarifying.

I find the distinction important because, presumably, the US would be looking out for US interests. The US would have to think in terms of national security, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, a private company is ultimately looking to turn a profit. A private engineering firm will be focused on the bottom line, and not take the risk of losing potential buyers if their turn-around proves too slow.

Ultimately, the article points out the difficulty the US is having in reigning this issue in:

“The current system of export controls doesn’t do enough to stop illicit trade before the item is shipped,” he said. “Having a law on the books is not the same as having a law enforced.”

The article makes a dangerous revelation: the war on terror is escalating, not just in intensity but in complexity. Worst of all, the US is being outmaneuvered.


January 11, 2009 - Posted by | Economics, Foreign Policy, International Trade, Law, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. So the question to make is what? A moral one? A national security one? A geopolitical one? A business one?
    The super powers have been doing business with questionable parties since the beginning of history. Actually, a different kind of history could be tell from the perspective of apparently absurd alliances. In “Charlotte Gray”, Charlotte (Cate Blanchett) asks her British secret liaison (a spy in the South of France, invaded by the Germans) how did the Germans know about the plane drop out location and the consequent assassination of the freedom fighters. Her contact avoids to answer directly, but confirms that ‘there was another, more important war going on’ and sacrificing those com munists was more important that allowing them to fight the Germans. France, Germany and Russia were selling technology to Saddam and were not supportive of USA in attacking Iraq –they were concern of not getting paid; they did not care if Saddam killed thousands of Kurds or Iranians. The Reagan administration did not care about selling weapons to Iran –resulted in the Iran-Contra affair. And the list goes. So again, what kind of question are we supposed to ask? Someone is selling the raw material to the Palestinians so they can attack Israel. The US sells weapons to Israel; without the first one Israel would have no need to keep updating their arsenal at the rate they are doing it. So militarism is to countries in conflict what greed is to Wall Street: a necessary ether than needs to be promoted, cultivated… and either you supply or buy or both. So the strategy is: do not facilitate conflict resolution so you can keep your business going! Long time ago someone told me ‘why are you so concern for all these conflicts, we are just marionettes of very powerful interest; what you see is just the show…’ Back to Iran, let’s not forget that Iran has a long history of deep rooted relationship with Russia, so turning proxies into your sphere of influence is a tactical and necessary thing. Hello? What happened with the ‘father of the atomic program’ in Pakistan? He sold secrets to North Korea…and was pardoned because he is a national hero… Let the Washington Post and other liberal media report about it, they have their own audience to satisfy. It makes for interesting geopolitical debates but will not change a thing –unfortunately. Cynicism can be a healthy attitude, particularly when most people around you don’t care.

    Comment by GR | January 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. It’s unfortunate to say the least, that things like this are happening right now in front of us all.
    We need, the world needs, more people like you that has the desire for a better world and can denounce the atrocities that are taking place.
    Thank you, you make some of us realize that there are young people out there dreaming and wanting to make a difference.

    Comment by amc | January 13, 2009 | Reply

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