The Washington Post reports today on a federal court case involving the illegal transhipment of U.S. technology to state sponsor of terror Iran. The case outlines several issues including export controls, the complex nature of these transactions, and the importance of ally cooperation in this arena in order to stem the flow of senstive technologies to state sponsors of terror and other bad actors.
The transhipment of controlled U.S. technology to Iran is an ongoing issue that has cost American lives on the battlefields of the Middle East. The Iranian regime uses sensitive U.S.-made parts for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). This, alone, should be sufficient to warrant increased scrutiny and prosecution of lawbreakers. It should also spur our allies to cooperate with the international export control regime.
The flow of sensitive nuclear technology is another pressing matter of concern to the U.S. and countries in the Middle East. Mentioned in the Post article is a recent study by The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) that details how nuclear technology may be reaching the Iranian regime as a result of lax enforcement of export control laws by other nations.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE’s) port capital of Dubai, for example, functions as one of the world’s most unrestrictive free trade and shipping zones. It also houses hundreds of front companies and foreign trading agencies that actively procure dual-use items for entities in countries under sanction. The failure of the UAE, Malaysia, and other governments to implement and enforce tough export control laws against companies located on their territories allows entities in states like Iran to benefit importantly from onward proliferation.
This is not the first time the UAE and Malaysia come under close scrutiny in this field. The white paper, Iran Entities’ Illicit Military Procurement Network, is worth a read. In recent months, it has been the UAE that has come under close Congressional scrutiny.
Several Members of Congress have repeatedly expressed concern about the transhipment of sensitive U.S. technology to Iran through the UAE. In fact, this is one of several key reasons why the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs introduced a measure late last year to block a proposed U.S.-UAE nuclear cooperation or 123 Agreement.
HR 7316 would, among other things, requires that “the Government of the United Arab Emirates has taken, and is continuing to take, effective actions to prohibit, terminate, and prevent the transfer of goods, services, or technology to the Government of Iran, including fully implementing United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran.” It is expected that the measure will be re-introduced this year.
The UAE has undertaken some steps to deal with export control issues, it even has an English-language website outlining its activities in this area during the past few years. “The UAE is committed to continually improving its own security—and those of its allies—by limiting and preventing illegal transshipments,” says the site.
Like economic sanctions, export controls are sometimes only as effective as the number of countries fully cooperating in implementing and enforcing a trade controls regime. This most recent prosecution reminds us that a great deal of work remains to be done to implement and enforce a reasonable global export control regime that will keep sensitive techologies from the hands of bad actors such as state sponsors of terror Iran, Cuba, Sudan, and Syria.