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March 29, 2006
Guess Who's Back In Business With The Thugocracy?

Germany has opened an investigation into six companies that may have supplied Iran with technology vital to the mullahcracy's development of nuclear arms, the New York Times reports today. They're apparently not alone, as the Germans state that Russian companies acted as intermediaries for the transactions:

German prosecutors are investigating whether six German companies sold electronic equipment to a clandestine procurement network established to supply Iran with equipment for its nuclear development program.

A prosecutor in the state of Brandenberg, Benedikt Welfens, told German television on Monday that several million dollars' worth of equipment that could be used for a nuclear program had been shipped from Germany to Iran, via a Russian company that operated in Berlin in 2003 and 2004.

"Its main business is the supply of Iran's nuclear program," Mr. Welfens said on the ARD television network. He said the parts included special cables, pumps and transformers, worth about $3.6 million.

The Web site of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel on Tuesday quoted Mr. Welfens as saying that prosecutors suspected that one of the companies knew where the equipment had been headed, while the others may have mistakenly believed the equipment had been destined for Russia, for which no export restrictions apply.

If the German companies truly believed that they sold the equipment to the Russians as end users, it demonstrates a rather lackadaisical approach to the security of dual-use technology on the part of Germany. It seems likely that the German companies, and the German government, didn't much care where their technology ended up as long as it brought in cash. This rationale sounds very familiar in any case; the Germans, Russians, and others got caught breaking the sanctions against Saddam by supplying Iraq with weapons and technology that got middled through Syria in a similar fashion.

But if this shows that Germany has been asleep at the switch, it demonstrates that Russia has been wide awake in its dealings with Iran. The transactions show that Russia has put a lot of effort into breaking the technology embargoes against Iran, all of which are designed to keep Iran from going nuclear -- a goal which they profess to share. If that was truly the case, though, the Russians would not provide clandestine means of communication for that technology to reach Iran.

The Russians have decided to restart the Cold War and want to start building up a network of nuclear states in opposition to the US and the West. Vladimir Putin has supplied the worst dictators with technology and intelligence aimed directly against Western interests, including military intelligence to Saddam Hussein that, in the hands of a more competent military commander, could have made the invasion of Iraq much bloodier. Russia remained one of the regime's biggest suppliers, sending weapons to Baghdad through 2002 despite the absolute UN Security Council ban on sales of military equipment of any sort. And now they're doing the same thing with Iran.

We must not allow Russia to insinuate itself as a mediator in the Iranian nuclear standoff. Their interests lie in a nuclear Iran to keep the US and UK out of the region. They should be treated as an advocate for the enemy in this diplomatic effort, because they certainly have proven themselves no friend to the West.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 29, 2006 5:56 AM

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