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State Dept. Slaps Iran, Says Tehran “Very Actively” Evading Sanctions, Developing Nukes & Ballistic Missiles

With unusual candor and stark language, a top State Department official is accusing Iran of ongoing illicit nuclear-related activity in violation of international obligations.  The shift in tone suggests an early beginning to establishing blame for a failure of international talks designed to remove the nuclear threat posed by Iran.

Release of this startling information is especially explosive given its timing — on the eve of ongoing nuclear talks with the P5+1 resuming in Vienna today — and in the face of Tehran’s claims it is engaged in those negotiations in good faith, despite its long record of using talks as a cover for precisely the kind of nuclear deception being exposed.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Vann H. Van Diepen tells Reuters that Iran is “very actively” violating UN sanctions on procurement for both its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, raising significant questions about the prospects of nuclear talks currently under way. According to Van Diepen, the Iranians

still continue very actively trying to procure items for their nuclear program and missile program and other programs… We continue to see them very actively setting up and operating through front companies, falsifying documentation, engaging in multiple levels of trans-shipment … to put more apparent distance between where the item originally came from and where it is ultimately going.

Since the P5+1 nations resumed negotiations with Tehran about its nuclear program last fall, Iran has continued to violate 5 UN Security Council resolutions demanding that all nuclear and ballistic missile work be ended and Iran come clean and explain evidence of its nuclear weapons work — including triggering nuclear detonations and working to miniaturize nuclear payloads to fit on its medium and long-range missiles.  Tehran continues to insist that its nuclear uranium enrichment and plutonium production programs are for civilian purposes.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran continues to brazenly rebuff discussions surrounding strong evidence of the military nature of their nuclear program, raising significant challenges to the possible success of nuclear talks. At the same time, Tehran’s refusal to discuss its ballistic missile program  in the negotiations as demanded by the P5+1 suggests the gaps between the two sides are increasing.

In an exposé in The Tower Magazine in September, Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow Emanuele Ottolenghi highlighted the elaborate lengths to which Iran has gone to evade sanctions, including the operation of front companies, replication of production processes and machinery, and illicit importation of technologies, parts, and funds.

[Photo: CSIS / flickr]