2013-2014 report from the UN’s Iran sanctions panel of experts

On 11 June 2014, the UN’s Panel of Experts established pursuant to UNSCR 1929 (2010) – a panel set up to monitor the implementation of UN sanctions on Iran – released its 2013-2014 report.[1] This report goes further in its judgments than the reports of previous years in showing that Iran is breaching sanctions by procuring both controlled and non-controlled items. Coming in the context of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, the report highlights the important role that sanctions have played in constraining Iran’s nuclear effort .

The panel does report a drop-off in detected cases, although it is careful to note that this could be as a result of better concealment – indeed, there is one impressive example detailed below. Should a comprehensive solution be reached between the P5+1 and Iran, it must include provisions which enable Iranian imports of sensitive technology to be monitored. Finally, analysis of the report highlights that China is frequently a source of technology interdicted on route to Iran. China must do more to improve the implementation of non-proliferation measures.

Covert Procurement

The report contains details of several illicit procurement attempts, all of which were subject to interdiction. While these have been categorised below in terms of enrichment, reactor, missile and conventional, in most cases there is insufficient information to conclusively tie the case to a nuclear or missile effort specifically.

Enrichment-related cases

720kg (1800 bobbins) of Carbon fibre was interdicted.[2] Although manufactured in Japan, this material was shipped via China. Iran has been working to introduce centrifuges that operate are constructed from carbon fibre for a number of years. The 2012 panel report included an assessment of Iran’s indigenous carbon fibre production capability that showed that it was immature and not capable of producing the high-quality grades required for use in centrifuges.[3] It has been clear for several years, therefore, that the Iranian nuclear effort had been acquiring carbon fibre from international suppliers. A survey of suppliers completed by Alpha indicated that there were less than 10 firms in the world capable of making the required grades (it should be noted that carbon fibre also has uses in missile applications, although Iran is thought to seek T700 for use in centrifuges).

The 2014 panel report details one interdiction of carbon fibre which was destined for Bandar Abbas. The recipient in this case shared an address with an entity designated (South Shipping Line Iran) by the UN in 2009 for involvement in proliferation. This case thus appears to be a gross breach of the UN sanctions.

A 7600kg shipment of aluminium 70705T0 in rod form was interdicted on route to Iran from China. If appropriately processed, this material could have use in Iran’s IR1 centrifuge.[4]

  • The report also contains a handful of enrichment-related cases that fall below controlled thresholds. For example, a shipment of 670 inverters were stopped on route to Iran from China. The inverters themselves were uncontrolled.[5] However, experts suggested that it may be possible to modify them to operate in the frequency range required by Iranian centrifuges.
  • In another example, a shipment of 7000 stainless steel bellows to Iran from China was stopped.[6] These goods were destined for an individual named Shahab Jamili, who was also involved in another case involving the transfer of MKS pressure transducers.[7]

Possible Reactor Procurement Activity

Yet another case involved the export of a cold pilger machine to Iran.[8] Cold pilging machines are used to make metal cylinders that are several meters long. While not mentioned in the panel’s report, it is possible that such a machine could be used to produce pressure tubes for a heavy water reactor, such as that under construction at Arak. The cold pilger in this case was shipped from China, but it is unclear where it was manufactured.

Uncategorised

There are two cases that fall into the category of ‘uncategorised’ because of ambiguities regarding potential end use: The first relates to the transfer of electrostatic discharge machines to Iran from Spain via Turkey.[9] The second case involved a shipment of titanium, which as shown in picture 1 below, was concealed in stainless steel tubes.[10]

poe1

Image 1: Concealed titanium cylinder hidden inside stainless steel.

A shipment of 693kg of chopped carbon fibre was also stopped, although this is not subject to control.[11]

Missile related

In terms of missile-related goods, a shipment of aluminium from China was inspected by the panel.[12] The aluminium was of grade 2024 T3 and the cylinder internal diameter 270mm. There is also mention of 3 Russian-manufactured fibre optic gyros being interdicted on route from China, but no further information is given.[13]

507kg of Al7075 aluminium sheet was also interdicted on route from China.[14]

Conventional Arms

The panel reported on one new case of arms exported by Iran, but the case was not reported to the committee. The case involved shipment of rockets, mortars, and ammunition which was concealed under bags of cement in a ship which was interdicted by Israeli authorities in the Red Sea.[15]

Conclusion

With negotiations with Iran ongoing, it is easy to assume that sanctions no longer have the importance that they once did. This would be a mistake. It is UN sanctions that limit Iran’s ability to procure goods for its nuclear and missile programs in all states around the world. The blatant violations of sanctions that are noted in the report should therefore be of concern, and a verifiable mechanism must be found to ensure that Iran cannot advance its program using products procured illicitly from the international market should an agreement be reached.


[1] United Nations, Report of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to resolution 1929 (2010), 11 June 2014, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2014/394 (henceforth referred to as 2014 Iran Panel report).

[2] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.10.

[3] United Nations, Report of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to resolution 1929 (2010), 12 June 2012, p.18, http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2012_395.pdf.

[4] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.38.

[5] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.12.

[6] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.13.

[7] See Ian Stewart, Andrea Stricker and David Albright, ‘Chinese Citizen’s Involvement in the Supply of MKS Pressure Transducers to Iran: Preventing a Reoccurrence’, ISIS and Alpha Report, 30 April 2014, http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/MKS_China_30Apr2014-final.pdf.

[8] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.13.

[9] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.13.

[10] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.24.

[11] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.38.

[12] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.11.

[13] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.37.

[14] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.38.

[15] 2014 Iran Panel report, p.17.