Information Warfare: Why Israel Trades With Iran

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January 5, 2012:  Iran has been smuggling forbidden technology for decades and now it's been found that they are sneaking in high-tech gear from Israel, a country they have sworn to destroy. An Israeli firm has discovered that its Internet monitoring software, NetEnforcer, has found its way to Iran via a Danish software distributor. The Danish firm stripped all labels and packaging that would identify the software as Israeli and sold it to an Iranian firm. This software, and similar stuff Iran has obtained from other Western sources, enables Iran to control how most Iranians use the Internet.

This kind of smuggling employs techniques that Iran has used successfully for a long time. The Western supplier usually gets a much higher price to cover the risk of being found out and prosecuted. There are, as the Iranians know well, a lot of Western suppliers who are willing to take the risk. The Danish smuggler was found out when a former employee of the firm provided incriminating documents to journalists.

There is actually a lot of illegal trade between Israel and Iran, but it usually involves non-military stuff and is often smuggled via Turkey. But with relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorating (because Turkey increasingly backs Arab attitudes towards Israel), this smuggling route is less reliable.

The war on Iranian arms smuggling has been intensifying in the last decade. Most countries cooperate, but not all. While Turkey has been getting cozy with Iran, the Turks still enforce international trade sanctions against Iran. But as Turkey encourages its companies to do more business with Iran, there are more opportunities to smuggle forbidden goods to assist Iranian nuclear weapons and ballistic missile projects. Iran takes advantage of this whenever possible.

Germany was once a favorite place for Iran to buy equipment for their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. No longer. For example, four years ago, a German citizen was prosecuted for running a weapons related smuggling operation. The defendant shipped 16 tons of high-grade graphite, used for making rocket nozzles, to Iran in 2005-7. The defendant mislabeled the graphite as low-grade, which was legal to sell to Iran. Another ten tons of the high-grade graphite was caught by Turkish customs officials. Germany adopted stricter export rules for Iran four years ago and promptly began seeking out and prosecuting those who ignored the ban. More recently, Germans have been prosecuted for exporting special metals and manufacturing equipment needed for ballistic missile warheads.

Ever since the U.S. embargo was imposed in 1979 (after Iran broke diplomatic protocol by seizing the American embassy), Iran has sought, with some success, to offer big money to smugglers who can beat the embargo and get needed industrial and military equipment. This is a risky business, and American and European prisons are full of Iranians, and other nationals, who tried, and often failed, to procure forbidden goods. The smuggling operations are currently under more scrutiny, and attack, because of Iran's growing nuclear weapons program. But the Iranians simply offer more money and more smugglers step up to keep the goodies coming.

 

 


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