This Associated Press report describes a case study in how nuclear equipment reaches Iran:
Early last year, a Chinese company placed an order with a Taiwanese agent for 108 nuclear-related pressure gauges. But something happened along the way. Paperwork was backdated. Plans were rerouted, orders reconfigured, shipping redirected.
And the gauges ended up in a very different place: Iran.
The story behind the gauges shows how Iran is finding its way around international sanctions meant to prevent it from getting equipment that can be used to make a nuclear bomb. At least half a dozen times in recent years, the Persian Gulf nation has tried to use third countries as transshipment points for obtaining controlled, nuclear-related equipment.
In the case of the pressure gauges, it succeeded. In the process, the Swiss manufacturer and the Swiss government were duped, a Chinese company went around its own government’s prohibition on moving nuclear-related equipment to Iran, and Taiwanese authorities showed themselves unwilling or unable to get into step with the international community.
The deal was a huge victory for Tehran, which had been seeking the gauges for months, said nuclear proliferation expert David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. It also reflected the uneven enforcement of international sanctions against Iran, at a time when the U.S. and other Western countries are pushing hard to expand them.
“The (Iranian) government looked everywhere — Russia, Europe, the U.S., and they were being thwarted by the international community,” Albright said. “It’s really unfortunate they succeeded in using this Taiwan-China connection. …This case is a wake up call of the importance of universal and timely application of sanctions on Iran.”
….The gauges, also known as pressure transducers or capacitance diaphragm gauges, …have numerous commercial applications in machines that employ pneumatic or hydraulic pressure. But experts say the large size of the order suggests very strongly that they are for centrifuges to churn out enriched uranium…
In Shanghai, Roc-Master official Liu Xiaofeng initially said he didn’t recall the transaction. But when pressed, he replied, “It’s our company’s secret information, so I don’t think we need to tell the media anything about it.”