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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Lessons from the arrest of an Iranian arms dealer

I first blogged the case of Amir Hossein Ardebili on this blog when it was announced at the end of 2009 that he had been secretly extradited to the United States two years earlier. Ardebili eventually received a five-year prison term for smuggling about $1 million per year in equipment to Iran via third countries.

Three weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer began publishing a lengthy (8-part) investigative report about the Ardebili case, and the sting that resulted in his capture. I viewed a summary of the report here. Here are some highlights of that summary:
In 2004, Ardebili landed his first major deal, purchasing a radar-cloaking system worth $1 million from a “North American company.” He had it transshipped to Iran via Ukraine.


Darius sought information from Ardebili about Iran’s nuclear intentions during the sting operation. He asked, “Are you looking for nuclear-weapons-making or just nuclear power?” Ardebili answered, “Everything.”


Agents discovered Ardebili routinely made transfers from Tehran banks first to Germany and then to U.S. banks for payment to manufacturers.


A family friend of Ardebili’s approached the Iranian foreign ministry to ask for assistance paying for legal bills. The ministry refused.


After Ardebili’s arrest, ICE agents assumed his online persona and continued to try to conclude arms deals with U.S. companies. They caught some twenty companies that were willing to make illicit deals, and dozens more are under suspicion. Many cases remain sealed “because the indicted were fugitives, because they were cooperating as informants, or because the evidence had led to bigger fish.”

ICE decided in three dozen cases not to prosecute the U.S. companies because of a lack of proof that the companies knew the actual end user was Iran for the items they sold or planned to sell. Agents instead issued warnings to the companies and made visits to company officials to help improve their ability to look for suspicious enquiries and to obtain their commitment to help on future investigations.


ICE is conducting separate sting operations on three continents. It apparently has an operation in the works that is larger in scale than the Ardebili sting.
What all of this shows is the following:

1. Without total international cooperation (which is obviously not the case), there is no chance that an international embargo on selling arms or anything else to Iran is going to be effective.

2. The evidence continues to indicate that Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Anyone who denies that is the case is fooling themselves, willfully or otherwise.

3. Germany's refusal to close off its banking system from Iran is causing severe damage to the international sanctions effort. Germany is not Russia or China, and if the United States had the will to do so, Germany could be not-so-subtly persuaded to shut the banking desk off for Iran.

4. Violations of the sanctions - sometimes even without the knowledge of the violator - are rampant, even in the United States.

Read the whole summary.


At 5:24 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its just impossible to enforce it rigorously. Besides Germany, you need the cooperation of Russia and China. And Iran has plenty of loopholes to exploit.

In and of itself, sanctions will not halt Iran's nuclear ambitions.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

The over-arching reason being, if THEY don't someone else will!

It is pathetic and beyond belief that governments can act like this!

Its like the banks. In the Daily Mail yesterday not one bank was prepared to cut the sickeningly huge bonuses even tho' one CEO said his top people weren't worth all that money. All are scared of giving some pathetic advantage to their rivals!

Infantilism is running the world!


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