Jeffrey LewisWMD Procurement Networks in Europe

Ian Cobain has a pair of stories in The Guardian summarizing a “report from a leading EU intelligence service” used “to warn off EU companies from doing business” with front companies for foreign WMD programs:

The 55-page intelligence assessment, dated July 1 2005, draws upon material gathered by British, French, German and Belgian agencies, and has been used to brief European government ministers and to warn leading industrialists of the need for vigilance when exporting equipment or expertise to so-called rogue states.

It concludes that Syria and Pakistan have also been buying technology and chemicals needed to develop rocket programmes and to enrich uranium. It outlines the role played by Russia in the escalating Middle East arms build-up, and examines the part that dozens of Chinese front companies have played in North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

[snip]

The assessment declares that Iran has developed an extensive web of front companies, official bodies, academic institutes and middlemen dedicated to obtaining – in western Europe and in the former Soviet Union – the expertise, training, and equipment for nuclear programmes, missile development, and biological and chemical weapons arsenals.

Ian Cobain and Ian Traynor, Secret services say Iran is trying to assemble a nuclear missile: Document seen by Guardian details web of front companies and middlemen, January 4, 2006, 1.

Ian Traynor and Ian Cobain, Intelligence report claims nuclear market thriving: European firms warned they are main target of illicit trade in weapons parts, January 4, 2006, 6.

These stories are similar to an October 2005 story by Cobain that revealed the existence of a 17 page British document, entitled Companies and Organisations of Proliferation Concern, that MI5 compiled to prevent British firms from “inadvertently exporting sensitive goods or expertise to organisations covertly involved in WMD programmes.”

Also similar: A September 2005 DDP News Agency report by Udo Ulfkotte (yes, that Udo Ulfkotte) revealing that the German Federal Economics Ministry wrote to German firms during the first week of August and warned them “not to make deliveries to undercover military procurement agencies of the Iranians.” (“Germany Warns Companies Not to Deliver to Iranian Procurement Agencies,” DDP News Agency, September 2, 2005.)

Presumably—although Cobain doesn’t say so—the MI5 document and German letter were part of the same effort that led to the compilation of the document described by Cobain.

I’d like to know how this effort is related to the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) efforts to “develop and share national analyses of key proliferation actors and networks, their financing sources, and other support structures …” (more)

Comments

  1. JS Narins (History)

    Although I certainly know who Udo Ulfkotte is, there might be someone reading your blog who doesn’t know, but who is to shy to ask “Who is Dr Udo Ulfkotte?”

    [I added a link … ACW]

  2. David Isenberg (History)

    Not very impresive. To explain why I have embedded my comments in brackets [ ] below. They refer to various passages of the text, which I have not included, but you can easily figure it out by reading the article.

    [How do we know Iran has been successful? Below the article states, “The assessment declares that Iran has developed an extensive web of front companies, official bodies, academic institutes and middlemen dedicated to obtaining – in western Europe and in the former Soviet Union – the expertise, training, and equipment for nuclear programmes, missile development, and biological and chemical weapons arsenals.” Developing a network and successfully obtaining are two different things.

    Plus, Iran long ago developed networks of front companies to enable it to supply its conventional forces, dating back to the war with Iraq, after the overthrow of the Shah. One thing about a black market network is that it is ecumenical, it will work on fulfilling whatever order comes its way. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be successful.

    Besides, haven’t all the rightwingers been saying for a couple of years now that Iran already has everything it needs to make nuclear weapons? If this article is to be believed then the conventional wisdowm is wrong, which means, of course, as you already realize, that this assessment could be wrong also.

    [Import requests and acquisitions are not the same thing. How much of one and how much of the other were actually gained or registered? Even if something was actually procured can we be sure it was actually going to to a nuclear weapons program or associated missile? Perhaps it was a dual purpose item and someone is assuming it would go to a nuclear program.]

    [Only 55pp, for an assessment covering Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, and possibly other countries/regions, as well as Iran? Doesn’t sound that detailed to me.]

    [Exactly. The west is frustrated that it has not been able to rein the Iranian program in, so why not leak a report intimating scary things re the Iranian nuclear program?]

    [Expertise, training and eqpt. for biological weapons? A lot easier said than done. If Iraq showed us anything it is that developing usable biological weapons was a lot harder than anybody thought.]

    [And why wouldn’t it? It’s military is woefully inadequate, despite all the publicity about its modernization. Just look at the cargo planes that crashed last year].

    [Are they all involved in the overseas network, or are some of them just doing research, like any other company in the world, that is part of a military industrial complex?]

    [And so what? Does anyone seriously think that Iran is going to nuke a European country? The worst you can say is that Iran seeks to prevent the Europeans from joining in a military coalition that would attack, or worst case, invade, Iran. Paranoid, you say? There were probably some Iraqis who felt the same prior to 2003.]

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