U.S., Austrian Officers Foil Plot to Aid Iran Military; 2 Arrested for Trying to Export Night-Vision Systems

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 4, 2004 | Go to article overview

U.S., Austrian Officers Foil Plot to Aid Iran Military; 2 Arrested for Trying to Export Night-Vision Systems


Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

U.S. and Austrian law-enforcement authorities have disrupted a suspected plot to illegally supply the Iranian military with thousands of advanced military night-vision systems from the United States, arresting two Iranian nationals on charges of attempting to violate Austrian export laws.

Michael J. Garcia, Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary, announced yesterday that Mahmoud Seif and Shahrzad Mir Gholikhan were arrested Tuesday in Vienna, Austria, after a meeting during which they took possession of a U.S. helmet-mounted military night-vision system they intended to illegally export to Iran.

Mr. Garcia, who heads the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said the arrests followed a two-year investigation by ICE, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and the Austrian Federal Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism, known as the Bundesamt Fuer Verfassungsschutz.

He said the Vienna transaction was the first in what was to be the purchase of 3,000 military night-vision systems from the United States for illegal export to Iran. The equipment ultimately was to be used by the Iranian military infantry.

ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said the new night-vision systems, known as Generation III, are among the most advanced in the world and are capable of amplifying virtually any light source, including faint starlight. Used by U.S. forces around the globe, Mr. Boyd said the systems provide a significant advantage to U.S. troops over opponents in nighttime combat.

Because of their sophistication, the systems are classified as U.S. Munitions List items and their export from the United States is prohibited without a valid export license from the State Department, he said. Additionally, Mr. Boyd said, all exports to Iran are prohibited under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The arrests are the latest in a series of ICE cases involving military equipment bound for Iran.

"Keeping sensitive U.S. weapons technology out of the hands of state sponsors of terror is a priority for ICE and the Department of Homeland Security," Mr. Garcia said. "Sophisticated night-vision systems allow U. …

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