Sanctions Seen Slowing Iran Nuclear Work

Article excerpt

International sanctions are limiting Iran's ability to acquire items for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, a UN report evaluating sanctions against Iran said.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by Arms Control Today, adds that "sanctions aie slowing Iran's nuclear programme but not yet having an impact on the decision calculus of its leadership with respect to halting enrichment and heavy water-related activities." Uranium enrichment and the use of heavy-water reactors are steps that can be used to produce material for nuclear weapons.

The report says that Iran also has continued to violate sanctions by illegally importing and exporting restricted goods, technology, and weapons.

The report was written by a panel of experts formed last November to assess the implementation of four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. According to the report, it is difficult to assess the impact of the UN sanctions in isolation, given the imposition of "stronger and more comprehensive" sanctions in place by a number of individual countries and the European Union. The eight-person UN panel made 30 recommendations to the council for strengthening the implementation of the sanctions, including extending penalties to an additional three Iranian individuals and three Iranian entities involved in violating UN prohibitions.

Russia has blocked the public release of the report, issuing complaints about some of its conclusions and recommendations. "We believe that it is a loose and sloppy piece of work, and we believe that there are some recommendations which our experts do not agree with at all," Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin told reporters May 13.

Iran's nuclear and missile programs have been vulnerable to sanctions because they still rely on foreign suppliers for key goods Iran finds difficult to produce indigenously, according to the UN report.

Such goods include a list of 10 "choke point items" critical for Iran's uranium-enrichment program, which lies at the center of concerns over its nuclear aspirations. The report notes, however, that some of these items do not fall under international controls. Some of the items are relevant to Iran's development of moreadvanced centrifuges, which would allow Iran to enrich uranium at far greater speeds than it currently can, once such machines are developed and installed. U.S. officials have said that Iran has faced difficulties importing some of these items, such as carbon fiber, for the new machines. (See ACT, April 2011.)

The sanctions also may be slowing Iran's ability to acquire high-quality goods necessary for its ballistic missile program, the UN report said, particularly in the area of developing and manufacturing solid-fuel missile systems such as the 2,000 kilometer-range Sajjil-2.

According to the report, Iran can produce solid-fuel propellant indigenously, but still relies on foreign suppliers for key materials, such as aluminium powder. The report details a case in which a shipment of aluminium powder bound for Iran, enough for 100 metric tons of rocket propellant, was intercepted by Singaporean authorities last September.

Michael Elleman, a senior fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies and former missile expert with the UN Monitoring, Verification and inspection Commission in Iraq, said in a May 24 e-mail that "forcing Iran to change suppliers frequently will stress their quality control system, and ultimately the reliability of its solid propellant rockets and missiles."

Although "supplier disruptions will only modestly impact the production and reliability of their smaller rockets," he said, Iranian engineers will be greatly challenged attempting to continue development of the much larger Sajjil-2 because the bigger the solid rocket motor, the more susceptible it is to changes in the starting ingredients."

Financial Sanctions

UN efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring such items are not limited to denying their export to Iran. …