October 3, 2009


Iran Expands Its Far-Flung Sanctions-Busting Network

DEBKAfile Special Report
October 2, 2009

Iran has posted hundreds of agents in world ports to organize clandestine supplies through third countries of items subject to UN or US sanctions present or future.

These items range from nuclear components to refined petroleum products. Dubai and the Ras al-Khaimah of the United Arab Emirates are two such ports. Malaysia, Hong Kong and Venezuela are willing helpers. So too is China. Canada has been targeted as a sanction-busting hub, albeit against its will. Customs officials in Ottawa told the Canadian National Post of Oct. 1 that they have seized everything from centrifuge parts to programmable logic controllers suspected of being en route for Iran although addressed to third parties. Microchips identified as "navigational chips" from the US, Denmark and Japan were marked for the UAE but believed to be destined for Iran.

Ras al-Khaiman is a useful address because its large port for container ships and big airport are controlled by Iran; the small emirate is situated opposite the big Iranian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas.

Tehran has pressed China, India, Malaysia, Venezuela and Syria into service for beating possible sanctions on gasoline and refined oils - even before the Obama administration has decided if a ban on these items is feasible.

Some of these countries are more than willing to oblige Tehran. On Sept. 24, Iran and Venezuela signed a contract for the construction of huge oil refineries in Syria to produce 140,000 barrels a day of refined oil products. Iran is short of refinery capacity. Venezuela holds 33 percent of the $1.5 bn project, Iran and Syria 26 percent each and Malaysia 15 percent.

China, which imports 17 percent of its crude from Iran, has increased its gasoline sales to the Islamic Republic. Beijing has instructed small, unknown Chinese firms to buy up large amounts of gasoline and related products on the Singapore market and ship the goods to Iran.

One such company is the government-owned Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp in southern China.
According to oil industry gossip, the two giant Swiss Vitol and Indian Reliance, once major Iran suppliers, are angling for ways to go back to selling Iran gasoline if the US manages to gain UN Security Council approval of sanctions, although China is now providing one-third of these imports.

These circles are highly skeptical about Washington's ability to persuade world countries and Asian firms to go along with an embargo on gasoline.

The US justice department has prosecuted over 20 companies and individuals over the past year for sending a wide range of sensitive technology to Iran, including missile guidance systems, military aircraft parts and components for improvised explosive devices. But Russia has not given up Iran as a market for its weapons.

Iran Loses Its Only AWACS as Ahmadinejad Threatens the World

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
September 22, 2009

Up above a big military parade in Tehran on Tuesday, Sept. 22, as Iranian president declared Iran's armed forces would "chop off the hands" of any power daring to attack his country, two air force jets collided in mid-air. One was Iran's only airborne warning and control system (AWACS) for coordinating long-distance aerial operations, DEBKAfile's military and Iranian sources disclose.

The proud military parade, which included a march-past, a line of Shehab-3 missiles and an air force fly-past, was planned to give Ahmadinejad a dazzling send-off for New York and add steel to his UN Assembly speech Wednesday.

Dubbed "Simorgh" (a flying creature of Iranian fable which performs wonders in mid-flight), the AWACS' appearance, escorted by fighter jets, was to have been the climax for the Iranian Air force's fly-past over the parade. Instead, it collided with one of escorting planes, a US-made F-5E, and both crashed to the ground in flames. All seven crewmen were killed.

Eye witnesses reported that the flaming planes landed on the mausoleum burial site of the Islamic revolution's founder Ruhollah Khomeini, a national shrine. According to Western observers, no distress signals came from either cockpit indicating that the collision and explosions were sudden and fast.

DEBKAfile's military sources say the disaster was a serious blow to the Iranian Air Force not long after its first and only AWACS went into service in April 2008. It was a renovated version of the Russian Ilyushin 76, part of Saddam Hussein's air force before it was transferred to Iran in 1991 during the first Gulf War.

Tehran hired Russian technicians to carry out renovations and install up-to-date radar. At the launching ceremony of the upgraded AWACS, Air Force commander Brig. Gen. Ahmad Miqani boasted its new radar systems were made in Iran and able to spot any airplane or missile at a distance of 1,000 kilometers from Iran's borders.

The loss of this airborne control system has left Iran's air force and air and missile defenses without "electronic eyes" for surveillance of the skies around its borders.

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