Category Archives: Commentary

Iran and the FATF: More Efforts Needed

Emma Scott and Jean-Annet de Saint Rapt

Public Statement Issued by the Plenary

The FATF plenary which took place on 17-19 October 2018 decided to continue the suspension of counter-measures against Iran. The Plenary said it was disappointed with the pace of Iran’s AML/CFT reforms. Iran now has until February 2019 to bring the necessary legislation into force, in line with international standards or risk a call for counter-measures.

Iran has been categorised as a high-risk jurisdiction and is one of only two countries on the FATF ‘call for action’ list (or blacklist), together with the DPRK. A call for action requests all countries to impose countermeasures against the jurisdiction. Countermeasures include, but are not limited to 1) the application of enhanced due diligence, 2) refusing the establishment of subsidiaries, branches or representative offices of financial institutions, 3) limiting business relationships or financial transactions with the identified country or persons in that country, and 4) requiring financial institutions to review and amend, or even terminate, correspondent relationships with financial institutions in the country concerned.[1] Since the FATF implemented its new monitoring system in 2008, Iran has been permanently on the black list. Although, the FATF has recognised that Iran made some efforts to comply, the risk of terrorism financing emanating from Iran remains a significant obstacle.

 

Iran Tries to Ease its Relationship with the FATF

In 2016, Tehran agreed to cooperate with the FATF financial body. Tehran’s motivation was that it wanted to escape the FATF blacklist to help it better integrate into the world economy after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Simultaneously, President Hassan Rouhani initiated major banking sector reforms, which aimed to contribute to the development of the economy and attract foreign investment. Transparency and regulation are key to such reforms as these would bring Iran into compliance with international norms such as the Basel Standards, International Accounting Standards (IFRS) and FATF recommendations.

To address its AML/CFT deficiencies, in 2016, the FATF set an Action Plan which Iran had to complete. Iran agreed to follow this Action Plan,[2] and in response the FATF suspended the call for countermeasures for a 12-month period but left Iran on its public statement. The FATF pubic statement currently includes a short summary of the recent actions taken by Iran in accordance with its Action Plan, and lists the remaining deficiencies, that still need to be addressed, in its ani-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regime. Only when all the action points are complete will Iran be in full compliance with the FATF requirements. In 2017, “In light of Iran’s demonstration of its political commitment and the relevant steps it has taken in line with its Action Plan”,[3] the FATF decided to continue its suspension.

Outstanding Issues of the FATF Action Plan on Iran
1) Criminalise terrorist financing (including removing exemptions)
2) Freeze terrorist assets
3) Ensure a customer due diligence regime
4) An independent Financial Intelligence Unit
5) Identify and sanction unlicensed money/value transfer service providers
6) Implement the Palermo and TF Conventions  
7) Verify wire transfers contain complete information
8) Establish a range of penalties for ML offense
9) Ensure legislation to provide for confiscation of property of corresponding value

In February 2018, for the same reason, the FATF prolonged again the suspension of counter-measures,[4] but in June 2018, in its public statement, the FATF expressed its disappointment with Iran for failing to implement the Action Plan. However, it maintained the suspension “Given the Iranian government’s continued efforts to finalize and pass amendments to its AML and CFT laws[5].

By this stage, the need for Iran to cooperate with the FATF became even more pressing. The U.S., under the Trump Presidency, had withdrawn from the JCPOA and decided to re-impose sanctions. Consequently, Iran’s economy witnessed a withdrawal of foreign investment and a depreciation of the rial. By complying with the FATF recommendations, Iran hopes to resolve its economic problems and minimise its differences with the remainder of the international community.

A number of pieces of legislation were sent to the Iran’s Parliament. The Parliament had already approved the Bill of Amendment to the Countering Financing of Terrorism Act, which amongst other things, lays out a legal basis for the confiscation of assets or funds to commit terrorism financing, and a Bill of Amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act. In September it passed a bill to join the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (i.e. the Palermo Convention), and finally, Sunday 7 October saw the Parliament pass a bill to join the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, albeit with a number of exemptions.

 

Iran’s Definition of Terrorism

The FATF Action Plan for Iran requires it to criminalise terrorist financing, “including by removing the exemption for designated groups “attempting to end foreign occupation, colonialism and racism””.[6] In Iran’s domestic legislation bringing into force the 1999 Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, Iran’s lawmakers carved out an exemption to article 2(b) of the Convention by stating that struggle against colonial domination and foreign occupation does not apply to the country’s definition of terrorism. The Parliamentarians further carved out an exemption to Article 6, maintaining that it doesn’t apply to the right of legitimate struggle.

That said, a number of other Middle Eastern regional states including Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen, issued reservations when joining the 1999 Convention, stating that they do not consider acts of national liberation as terrorism, and they are not on the FATF blacklist. So, that should not be an impediment to Iran’s implementation of the FATF’s standards. While the FATF may overlook Iran’s non-compliance with action point 1 if it complies with the other action points, so far, this is not been the case. The difficulty for Rouhani’s government will be to take concrete steps in freezing assets and implementing the laws passed, which is what the FATF expects.

 

Iran’s Banking Problems: Get in the Way

A broader problem for Iran is the implementation of the banking sector reform. Last March, the International Monetary Fund pointed out that the Iranian banking system had been in “distress” now for a number of years.[7] The IMF called for urgent comprehensive restructuring and recapitalisation of the banks. Since that report, the economic situation in the country has deteriorated due to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and the re-imposition of sanctions. Thus, reform has become even more critical as the monetary crisis and inflation have worsened.

The problem with Iran’s economy is that for decades, the Iranian financial sector consists not only of regulated but also unregulated financial actors, which is one of the issues the FATF has with Iran. Some of these unlicensed actors, usually affiliated with politico-religious groups, have very limited due diligence procedures on their clients and transactions. Additionally, such unregulated actors  can promise to pay high interest rates on deposits to fund credit activities, and subsequently go bankrupt resulting in significant losses for Iranian businesses and individuals. This situation also acts as a deterrent to foreign investors willing to take a risk to invest in Iran. Furthermore, international standards on credit analysis and capital requirements are not often met.

Rouhani’s reforms need to restructure the banking system in a way that will help the economy recover. The intension is to place all credit and financial institutions under Central Bank supervision, while the Central Bank intends to comply with the Basel Standards, which, for instance, set capital requirements for credit activities. For starters, in 2017, the latter issued new policies to be implemented by financial institutions.

Thus, as part of the banking reforms, Rouhani and his administration have decided to implement the FATF recommendations. The implementation of these international standards will make Iran more likely to be accepted into the international finance system. As a senior member of the Iranian government put it: “there is no guarantee all our problems would be solved if we comply […with the FATF] but I am sure that not complying would give the U.S. more excuses to increase our problems.”

 

Reaching a Consensus at the FATF: A Long Process

The decision to remove Iran from the blacklist is a FATF Plenary consensus decision. However, the U.S., holding the influential position of Chair for a one-year period, is likely to continue to push for Iran to remain on the list. The other countries may not want to keep Iran on the list if it continues its efforts to comply with the recommendations.

An on-site inspection team needs to deploy to Tehran, and report back to the Plenary on the implementation of the Action Plan, before Iran is removed from the list. The improvement of Iran’s relationship with the FATF will continue to be a gradual process as Iran slowly attempts to improve and implement a more stringent regulatory environment and reform its banking system.

Ultimately, even if Iran complies with the FATF recommendations and takes action against designated individuals or entities on UN sanctions lists, the issue of U.S. sanctions lists will remain. As a result, even with Iranian reforms, there remains the risk that any entity trading with Iran will be accused by the U.S. of sanctions evasion, and henceforth could become the target of secondary sanctions.

 

[1] The FATF Recommendations: International standards on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation, updated February 2018,available at http://www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/fatfrecommendations/documents/fatf-recommendations.html

[2] Outcomes of the Plenary meeting of the FATF, Busan Korea, 22–24 June 2016, available at http://www.fatf-gafi.org/countries/a-c/austria/documents/plenary-outcomes-june-2016.html#iran

[3] FATF Public Statement, 23 June 2017, available at http://www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/high-riskandnon-cooperativejurisdictions/documents/public-statement-june-2017.html

[4] FATF Public Statement, 23 February 2018, available at http://www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/high-riskandnon-cooperativejurisdictions/documents/public-statement-february-2018.html

[5] FATF Public Statement, 29 June 2018, available at http://www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/high-riskandnon-cooperativejurisdictions/documents/public-statement-june-2018.html

[6] FATF Public Statement, 19 October 2018, http://www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/high-riskandnon-cooperativejurisdictions/documents/public-statement-october-2018.html

[7] International Monetary Fund, Islamic Republic of Iran, IMF Country Report Mo. 18/93, March 2018 available at https://www.imf.org/~/media/Files/Publications/CR/2018/cr1893.ashx

Latest Report of the UN Secretary General on Security Council Resolution 2231: Its nuclear- and ballistic missile-related provisions

On 12 June 2018 and following the United States withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal) on 8 May 2018, the UN Secretary General released his fifth report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015). The UN Secretary General is required to report to the Security Council on the implementation of the resolution every six months. Therefore, this 5th report provides an assessment on the implementation of the resolution since the issuance of the 4th report on 8 December 2017.

 

Key Findings included:

  • 13 new proposals submitted through the Procurement Channel bringing the total number of submissions to 37
  • 6 cases of illicit procurement activity, which would have required advanced approval by the UN Security Council
  • Component parts of missile launches fired by the Houthis at Saudi territory were manufactured in Iran, and features of the missiles were consistent with the Qiam-1

 

Usage of the Procurement Channel

There were 13 proposals submitted through the Procurement Channel to participate in or permit activities with Iran for nuclear or non-nuclear civilian end uses. This figure is up from 8 proposals submitted in the previous reporting period and brings the total number of proposals submitted since Implementation Day (16 January 2016) to 37. Of these 37, 24 proposals have been approved by the Council, 3 have been disapproved, 7 have been withdrawn by the proposing state, and 3 are currently under review.

While more frequently used than in the first year, the number of submissions demonstrates that activity in the procurement channel remains quite low in comparison to expectations, and this is partly due to a lack of awareness by sellers, and in some cases national authorities of its existence.[1]

 

Procurement of Nuclear-related Dual Use Items

Information was submitted from 2 member states (the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States of America about attempts by Iran to procure apparently-controlled dual-use items outside of the authorised channels Notably four shipments were seized by the UAE while in transit to Iran. The items involved 40 cylindrical segments of tungsten, 1 inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer, 10 capacitors, and 1 titanium rod. As these materials are control list items governed by the Nuclear Supplier Group Guidelines of Nuclear Related Dual-Use Equipment, they would have required advanced approval by the Security Council in line with the provisions of paragraph 2 of Annex B of resolution 2231 (2015).

U.S. authorities informed the Secretariat that two commodities – carbon fibre and aluminium alloys again governed by the Nuclear Supplier Group Guidelines of Nuclear Related Dual-Use Equipment had been transferred to Iran over the last year without prior approval of the Security Council as would have been required for such items.

Iran responded to the accusation by stating that it was the responsibility of the exporting state to seek approval through the procurement channel. While this is true, the response negates the fact that Iran is required to issue end user certificates for all such items before they are imported to the country so that the Iranian government cannot claim that it was not aware of the imports. As such, the statements in the UNSGs report assert that Iran has violated UNSCR2231 and the JCPOA, albeit in a relatively narrow and technical way.

 

Ballistic Missile related transfers

In examining 5 of 11 ballistic missile launches (22 July and 4 November 2017, and 19 December 2017 and 5 and 30 January 2018) by Yemen’s Houthi rebels at Saudi territory, the Secretariat found that some component parts in the debris of launches had been manufactured in Iran. Specifically, the Secretariat found that the features of the 5 missiles examined are consistent with those of the Iranian Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile.

This latter finding supports that of the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen in January 2018, which reported that the Borkan-2H short-range ballistic missile fired at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in November 2017 “was a derived lighter version, designed specifically by the manufacturers of the Qiam-1” missile.

The Secretariat further assessed that the logo on the jet vane actuators matches that of the Iranian entity Shahid Bagheri Industries (S.B.I.), an Iranian entity linked to composite rocket fuel and missile technology.[2] The Secretariat also observed that a printed circuit board was marked with SHIG 6081, where SHIG is an abbreviation for the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, reportedly responsible for Iran’s liquid fuelled ballistic missiles.

 

To read the full report, please click here. The next report of the Secretary General will be issued in December 2018.

[1] Paulina Izewicz, Assessing the JCPOA Procurement Channel, The International Institute of Strategic Studies, 29 March 2018, https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2018/03/jcpoa-procurement-channel

[2] Iran Watch, Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group, last modified 1 January 2009, https://www.iranwatch.org/iranian-entities/shahid-bagheri-industrial-group

Can Europe save the JCPOA?

Ian J Stewart, Director of Project Alpha

Click here to access the full article: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

On May 8, President Trump “withdrew” the United States from a deal agreed by his predecessor to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. US withdrawal was not foreseen when the agreement was drafted, nor was the possibility that the United States might stand in isolation from its closest international partners. Withdrawal also did not mean that the deal ended, but US actions have caused a crisis and could well result in the deal coming to an end. Some have argued that the European states might be able to save the JCPOA. It is important for them to bolster the agreement to the extent that they can, even if the tools available to salvage it are limited.

There appears to be three broad scenarios for what might happen next. The first is that Iran decides to stay in the JCPOA. The immediate response of Iranian officials has been to say that the country will remain in the agreement if the Europeans—and the other parties—can assure Iran receives the benefits it expected when the deal was concluded. A second foreseeable scenario would have Iran withdraw from the JCPOA and resume its nuclear program. There are a couple of different ways this could happen. The third path forward could see the US trigger a snapback of UN sanctions. The re-imposition of UN sanctions would put the EU in the impossible situation of having to decide between complying with the UN Charter or complying with a legally non-binding nuclear agreement with Iran. Ultimately, it will be for Iran to decide whether to continue with the JCPOA or to terminate the agreement.

North Korea: 2016 in review and the challenges of 2017

By Ian K. Bolton, Research Associate Interdictions and PSI (ian.bolton@kcl.ac.uk)

2016 was an exceptionally busy year for the world of counter-proliferation (CP); in January, Implementation Day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran was reached. By November, the United Nations’ First Committee voted to begin negotiations in 2017 on a global legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons for all countries. However, it was North Korean events which were the most dramatic.

On 6 January 2016, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, with a yield believed to be in the region of 10 kilotons[1]. The nuclear test was widely condemned; notably China seemed to be genuinely angered by the test[2]. Before the world had been able to respond through the United Nations, North Korea escalated matters. On 7 February, North Korea confirmed it had launched a long-range rocket from its Sohae site, claiming the rocket was carrying a satellite for its space program. However under Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from conducting any such activity which is contributing to their ballistic missile programme.

The International Community delivered its response to the January nuclear test on 2 March, passing a new UN Security Council Resolution – UNSCR 2270. This resolution created one of the most wide‑ranging sanctions regimes against North Korea in the UN’s history. The restrictions adopted under UNSCR 2270 are broad and include entire sectors, such as coal and iron ore. The exception to these restrictions were when they would impact on the livelihoods of North Korean nationals. UNSCR 2270 also introduced an obligation on UN Member States to inspect all cargoes originating in, or destined for, North Korea.

Before the ink of UNSCR 2270 was dry, North Korea was once again challenging the resolve of the International Community. On 15 April, they tested the Musudan Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile. Although the test was seen by the CP community as having failed, this was indicative of things to come. On 23 April, North Korea tested a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile[3]. By the end of August there been 7 further ballistic missile tests, ranging in their success. One North Korean watcher described this pattern of testing as Mr. Kim having ‘missile lust’, and not giving up on efforts to develop them further[4].

The next significant provocation came on 9 September when the regime conducted their fifth and largest‑to‑date nuclear test[5]. The test sparked international condemnation and heightened tensions across the region, with the US conducting an overflight of South Korea by two US B-1B Strategic Bombers. Once again the International Community looked to take decisive action. On 30 November 2016, the UN Security Council passed a new resolution, UNSCR 2321, which built on UNSCR 2270.

Adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council, resolution UNSCR 2321 tightened even further the sanctions and controls on North Korea[6]. The new resolution looked to address some of the issues which had come to light in the aftermath of UNSCR 2270, such as easy work-arounds on sectoral sanctions. New restrictions were put in place on mineral sectors, including copper, nickel, silver and zinc. The amount of coal North Korea could export was also restricted to defined amounts. It introduced restrictions on North Korean workers based overseas, as well as the provision of statues from North Korea. Additionally the UNSCR raised concerns about the activities of North Korean diplomatic missions and holdings and how these could be misused. All in all UNSCR 2270 and UNSCR 2321 together have created one of the most extensive UN sanctions regimes ever to be passed.

Challenges in 2017

It is clear that international condemnation, pressure and sanctions have not deterred North Korea from carrying out further provocations. Proof of this can be seen in the ballistic missile test that took place yesterday, 12 February 2017. The successful testing of the Pukguksong-2 missile will be an early test of the International Community’s resolve and ability to respond. Indeed satellite imagery and evidence[7] suggests North Korea has restarted its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, the reactor used to produce plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme[8]. This action would seem to indicate North Korea is preparing to conduct further nuclear tests.

The Trump administration has been sabre rattling in the region, both during the recent visit by Defence Secretary Mattis[9], in President Trump’s tweets[10], and during the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister. The critical question is what will the International Community, and the Trump administration, do in response to further provocations? It is hard to see what further scope there is for tightening sanctions on North Korea, and were such tightening to be suggested there would be concern regarding the humanitarian impact, a key concern for many countries, including Russia and China. Trump has already pointed the finger at China for failing to control North Korea[11], but traditionally China has resisted pressure to tighten its sanctions implementation. Given the antagonistic relationship between Trump and China so far, the US may undertake some form of unilateral military action against North Korea, though highly unlikely. Apart from further sanctions and possible military action, the best hope for a change in direction is the potential restarting of 6-party talks; the US administration has said they are willing to talk to North Korea. In practice it is difficult to see what this could accomplish, but the same was said by many before the start of Iran talks.

Another key challenge in 2017 will be the full implementation of both UNSCRs 2270 and 2321. UNSCR 2321 followed so quickly on the heels of UNSCR 2270 that many countries have not yet fully implemented UNSCR 2270, and as such have not submitted implementation reports to the UN as set out in the resolution[12]. Individual national legislation will need to be adopted by many in order to enforce the sanctions. This legislation will need to give countries powers to seize vessels and cargoes as prescribed by the UNSCRs. Countries will need legislation and capacity to allow all cargoes going to, or originating in, North Korea to be inspected. Furthermore, countries will need to ensure they can inspect cargo travelling via land and rail transportation, as well as sea and air, an often overlooked area. For many countries, especially in South East Asia given the high traffic of North Korean activity, there may be a need to dramatically increase customs enforcement capacity. Countries will need to be able to enforce the sectoral controls introduced by the UNSCRs, this will include an ability to analyse and identify what materials/ores they may be dealing with and if they are sanctioned.

Even more complicated will be how restrictions on coal, which essentially provides export limits, will actually be enforced, especially by China, North Korea’s biggest coal customer. North Korea watchers are already pointing out the potential frailties of this[13]. Domestic ship, registries, agents, insurers and companies will need to be looked at to ensure they are not misused by North Koreans. Countries will also need to examine their ship registries to de-list North Korean owned, operated or controlled vessels. Countries will need to take action to prevent public and private financial support to North Korea by persons or entities within their jurisdiction, unless by prior approval of the UN North Korean Sanctions Committee. And all of this is just a snapshot of the many new obligations and capacities countries will have to undertake.

Given this huge implementation challenge, the international community, and in particular countries like the US and UK, along with institutions, such as the European Union and United Nations, must have a focus on providing critical assistance to other countries, especially those with limited enforcement capacity. It is this that really will be the biggest challenge of 2017. Without this, having extensive and wide ranging sanctions on North Korea is worthless.

[1] http://www.bgr.bund.de/DE/Gemeinsames/Oeffentlichkeitsarbeit/Pressemitteilungen/BGR/bgr-160909_nordkorea_BGR_kernwaffentest.html?nn=1542132

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/12084087/North-Korea-hydrogen-bomb-Kim-Jong-un-earthquake-live.html

[3] http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/23/asia/north-korea-launches-missile-from-submarine/

[4] Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider: http://uk.businessinsider.com/timeline-of-north-korea-tests-2016-10?r=US&IR=T/#february-7-the-rogue-regime-fires-a-long-range-rocket-2.

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/10/world/asia/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-tests.html?_r=0

[6] https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12603.doc.htm

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/28/north-korea-has-restarted-reactor-to-make-plutonium-fresh-images-suggest

[8] http://38north.org/2017/01/yongbyon012717/

[9] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-38824008

[10] https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/816057920223846400?lang=en

[11] https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/816068355555815424

[12] Currently just over 60 countries have completed implementation reports of UNSCR2270 as evidence on the UN website: https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1718/implementation-reports.

[13] http://38north.org/2016/12/aberger121616/

Putin, Trump and the JCPOA

By Ian K. Bolton, Research Associate Interdictions and PSI (ian.bolton@kcl.ac.uk) and Alexandra V. Dzero, Associate Sanctions and Illicit Trade (Alexandra.dzero@kcl.ac.uk).

The counter-proliferation world holds its breath just near two weeks on from the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th US President. What has been of key concern is the future of the Iran deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). During his presidential campaign Donald Trump stated several times that if he became president he would rip up the deal which he stated was “one of the dumbest deals ever”. However, despite the raft of Executive Orders issued by President Trump so far, there has been no action on Iran so far. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains opposed to the deal and keen to see Trump deliver on his promise. However, Israel’s military, intelligence and foreign services are advocating the deal remain in place but be rigorously enforced. US allies France, Germany and the UK also back the deal. During her US visit, Theresa May has made clear that she understands Iran’s ‘malign influence’ in the world but sees the Iran Deal is vital to regional stability.

One of the key factors in any US reneging on the JCPOA will be the Kremlin, especially if Trump is interested in establishing more positive relations with Russia. Any move by Trump to renege on the deal will almost certainly cause tensions between Washington and the Kremlin. Russia’s President Putin will almost certainly push the US to allow the JCPOA deal to remain in place. For the Kremlin, the JCPOA allows Iran to re-establish itself as a ‘normal’ state, and allows for increased trade and nuclear cooperation. Given their geographic proximity, Russia and Iran have had ongoing relations, both positive and antagonistic, since Tsarist times. In modern years, they have been drawn together by a mutual distrust of the US. Russia’s views Iran as a strategic neighbour, and a key state along its southern periphery with whom it shares mutual interests in energy, security and trade. The Russian defence industry however has been one of the primary beneficiaries of Russian-Iranian relations, selling Iran weaponry and hardware not allowed to be sold by Western states.

Russian trade with Iran has been relatively small – in 2015 amounting to only 1.2bn USD, having declined from around 3.5bn USD since Russia reluctantly joined in with UN mandated sanctions in 2010-2011. However, this is expected to grow substantially. With ongoing sanctions against Moscow and Iran’s gradual opening to trade following the JCPOA, Russian business stakeholders have already begun to scope out the opportunities. Soon after Iranian sanctions were lifted, Lukoil wasted no time in beginning to investigate investments in Iran’s oil and gas sector. Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy corporation, is looking for new orders to complete after it finishes constructing reactors at Bushehr. The Russian aerospace industry has also become involved, with an alleged agreement for the license-production of Sukhoi Su-30MK fighter variants in Iran’s aerospace factories.

The Kremlin will try to dissuade Trump from ripping up JCPOA and will almost certainly aggressively advocate for the deal to remain in place if Washington insists to renege it. Russia-US relations will be soured significantly if President Trump acts on his statements. If Trump does go ahead with his plans for the deal, Russian pressure will play a key role in preventing the JCPOA’s demise.

China and Proliferation: Significant Progress, But Risks Remain

Over the past two decades, significant positive advances have been seen in China’s non-proliferation policies. Since the early 2000s, China has worked to establish an export control system and made ongoing efforts to align the country’s system with international supplier regimes. However, despite these positive developments, there is evidence that the non-proliferation practices of the Chinese authorities have often fallen short of government policies. Several risk areas remain; this article will consider China’s export controls and the risks posed by Chinese entities.


China’s Export Control System
Since 2002, China has worked to develop a system of export controls which is broadly aligned with international standards. In 2004 China joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group; the country has also pledged to adhere to the MTCR, and as a UN member state it must comply with UN sanctions resolutions. China’s export control system is in place to ensure that the country meets its obligations in this regard. It is administered by the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and draws on the expertise across government.
However, China’s relatively weak capacity to administer and enforce its controls presents a significant challenge.[1] In some specific cases there has also been a lack of will to enforce or follow up on breaches of legislation.[2] The growth of the Chinese industrial sectors capable of producing or exporting sensitive goods also poses a significant regulatory challenge. China is clearly expanding its capacity to administer and to enforce export control legislation. However, good intentions alone will not suffice if adequate resources are not invested in enforcement, outreach and engagement.
To facilitate industry’s compliance with the controls, China has made some attempts to engage its private sector on non-proliferation and export compliance issues. However, these efforts have been relatively limited in scope to date. The implementation of a comprehensive private sector engagement strategy is required in order to minimise proliferation risks. The development of a stronger and more pervasive compliance culture would help China overcome some of the challenges posed by a rapidly growing private sector.

Proliferation Risks posed by China
When considering the nature of proliferation risks in China, a number of key dimensions of the problem can be highlighted. These risks are both posed by the Chinese government, but perhaps more significantly by private sector entities operating to divert goods onto programmes of concern.
While China has put in place a system of export controls, there are still shortcomings in how the system is operationalised. In some cases, this has allowed for the transfer of sensitive goods to WMD programmes. In short, there is a risk of continued proliferation posed by the interpretation of the licensing criteria by the Chinese authorities in licensing transfers that abide by the letter, but not necessarily the spirit, of national legislation or international commitments. A key example here is the apparent reluctance of the Chinese authorities to invoke catch-all controls, or to prevent the transfer of non-controlled goods to WMD programmes.[3]
However, by far the most significant proliferation risk posed by China relates to Chinese companies. Many Chinese businesses, intentionally or due to lack of awareness, still seek to transfer goods without an appropriate licence or authorisation, and to programmes of concern. The reluctance of the Chinese authorities to follow up on cases of illicit transactions can facilitate this. The types of Chinese entities involved in WMD-related trade have evolved over time. During the 1990s and early 2000s, numerous state-owned entities were sanctioned by the US for their involvement in proliferation.[4] Many of these enterprises have since altered their behaviour and put in place compliance programmes.[5] Now risks are more frequently documented as being posed by entities of the Chinese private sector.[6]
Alongside exporters of sensitive goods, the Chinese financial and transportation sectors continue to be utilised by proliferators, especially with regard to China’s neighbour North Korea.[7]The risks posed by Chinese intermediaries, and the role of transportation hubs, have been found to constitute some of the most significant challenges to the non-proliferation of WMD.

Doing Business in China
Exporters doing business in China should take into account the risks posed by Chinese entities to avoid involvement in illicit trade.Before entering business relationships with Chinese companies, firms should conduct extensive due-diligence. Steps should be taken to ensure the Chinese company has in place a rigorous export compliance system. If in doubt, firms should contact their national authorities.

The following resources are available to firms conducting business in China:

China Country Profile
Red Flags and Due Diligence

The following case studies may be of interest:

Li Fang Wei

[1] Chin-Hao Huang, “Bridging the gap”: Analysis of China’s export controls against international standards’, Final Project Report to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Counter-Proliferation Programme (April 2012), 14.
[2] US Embassy, Beijing, ‘China Urged to Investigate And Halt Shipment Destined for Iran’s DIO’, 08BEIJING2674, 9 July 2008, http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/07/08BEIJING2674.html, accessed 20 December 2012.
[3] Secretary of State, ‘Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR): China’s Record On Controlling Missile-related Exports’ 1 October 2008, Cable no. 08STATE105132, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08STATE105132_a.html, accessed 8 February 2013; ‘PRC Urged to Investigate A Chinese Firm’s Missile-related Transfers to Iran; Update Sought on PRC Investigation of a Second Chinese Firm’, 08BEIJING1463,16 April 2008,  http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/04/08BEIJING1463.html, accessed 20 December 2012.
[4] See for example the sanctions on NORINCO P. C. Saunders and S. C. Lieggi, ‘What’s behind US Non-proliferation Sanctions against NORINCO’, James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies; with Kan, ‘China and Proliferation’, p.73.
[5] See for example the case of China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) ‘US Removes Chinese Firm from Sanctions Blacklist Over Iran’, Associated Foreign Press, 19 June 2008,
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5h8UAMuXVNkqRYXpTh9iHspgJSz5g, accessed 19 February 2013.
[6] See for example the case of Li Feng Wei: William Maclean and Ben Blanchard ‘Chinese trader accused of busting Iran missile embargo’, Reuters, 1 March 2013,
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/01/us-china-iran-trader-idUSBRE9200BI20130301, accessed 1 July 2013.
[7] See for example: Julian Ryall, “Chinese Firms Breaking UN Embargo on North Korea”, The Telegraph, 8 June 2012; Jack Kim & Louis Charbonneau, ‘North Korea uses Cash Couriers, false names to outwit sanctions’, Reuters, 15 February 2013,
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/16/us-korea-north-money-idUSBRE91F00K20130216, accessed 18 February 2013.

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