Monday, May 25, 2009

Investigator reveals Iran's chilling shopping list for banned technology

Philip Sherwell in New York

May 26, 2009

A SENIOR US financial investigator has disclosed Iran's detailed shopping list for nuclear technology and missile parts after uncovering a vast procurement network for materials related to weapons of mass destruction.

Robert Morgenthau, the New York district attorney, provided a chillingly detailed account of how Iran was using a complex web of illicit overseas financial operations to skirt sanctions and buy banned equipment. Some of the materials that have already been obtained are believed to be central to Iran's attempts to build missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

Iran successfully test-fired a sophisticated medium-range missile last week, thought to have been developed with the kind of technology traced by Mr Morgenthau's investigators.

The missile could deliver warheads to Israel and Europe or target Western forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Iranian nuclear scientists are working to develop longer-range missiles which could reach Western Europe.

The items identified in the investigation included 15,000 kilograms of specialised aluminium alloy, used almost exclusively in long-range missile production; 1700 kilograms of graphite cylinders used for banned electrical discharge machines; more than 30,000 kilograms of tungsten-copper plates; 200 tungsten-copper alloy hollow cylinders; 19,000 kilograms of tungsten metal powder and 24,500 kilograms of maraging steel rods, which are favoured for their superior strength.

Mr Morgenthau's office consulted weapons experts from the CIA, private institutions and universities about what it had uncovered. All of them were "shocked by the sophistication of the equipment they're buying", he told a hearing of the US Senate foreign relations committee.

Mr Morgenthau told US senators there was little time left to halt Tehran's atomic weapons program. "It's late in the game and we don't have a lot of time to stop Iran from developing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons," he told a recent Senate hearing. He described Iran's quest as "deadly serious". More...

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