WikiLeaks Reveals Iran’s Secret, Worldwide Arms Hunt

( ) Guns and ammo from Turkey. Missile components from Germany. Guidance systems from China. Iran is on a global, clandestine mission to acquire weapons and weapons technologies of all sorts, diplomatic cables released Sunday by WikiLeaks reveal. And the Tehran regime is using a series of front companies in its attempt to assemble the arsenal.

In a cable from February of 2010, State Department officials in Washington alert the staff at the U.S. embassy in Beijing that a Malaysia-based firm, Electronics Component Limited (ECL), is trying to buy three-axis fiber optic gyroscopes from a Chinese company. This isn’t just a simple business deal, the dispatch makes clear. Gyroscopes measure orientation, which makes them a critical component of weapons’ inertial navigation systems. These particular gyroscopes, the State Department warns, “would be suitable for use in the guidance systems of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Worse, the cable adds, “ECL is part of a network of Iranian-controlled front companies that… procures sensitive goods on behalf of a number of Iranian entities of proliferation concern, including the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), which is Iran’s primary developer of liquid propellant ballistic missiles.”

The warning is part of a common thread emerging from WikiLeaks’ three major document dumps. These diplomatic dispatches, along with war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, detail a globe-spanning Cold War between Iran and the United States. Each side has its proxies, each side provides weapons to those allies, and each side uses the game of global diplomacy to corral the other’s ambitions. “The metaphor most commonly deployed by Jordanian officials when discussing Iran is of an octopus whose tentacles reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment, and undermine the best laid plans of the West and regional moderates,” one WikiLeaked cable reports.

International arms control and non-proliferation agreements are one way the U.S. and its allies keep countries like Iran from acquiring advanced weapons technologies. Iran constantly looks for ways to game the system. Sometimes, it’s by getting their arms from other rogue regimes. Other times, it’s by using cut-outs and front firms — particularly in China.

A second Iranian outfit may be trying to make a deal for gyroscopes, one cable says, this time with China’s Hong Kong 4 Star Electronics Ltd. Meanwhile, the developers of Iran’s solid-fuel missiles are using cut-outs to buy carbon fiber in China. The stuff “could be used by Iran to produce rocket nozzles for its… medium-range and short-range ballistic missile systems. It also could be used… produce lighter motor cases that could potentially extend the range of these systems,” a second dispatch notes.

In addition, the missile-developers at Iran’s Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group have tried again and again to buy missile components in Germany, a December 2009 cable observes. German officials have had some success in stopping previous purchases. But this dispatch notes that SHIG is now using “front companies and middlemen posing as end users” to acquire “pressure transducers and other equipment [that] could be used in ballistic missile testing applications.”

It wasn’t just high-end gear, either. Iran also attempted to buy low-tech armaments from overseas, according to the State Department. According to a WikiLeaked dispatch, the U.S. has information that two Turkish firms “may sign a contract to export military material to Iran,” including full metal jacket “.38 caliber and wadcutter bullets; 40 mm automatic grenade launchers; 5.56 mm composite magazines (for M16 assault rifles), and 7.62 X 39 mm and 7.62 X 51 mm composite magazines.” The cable orders American diplomats to go to the Turkish government to thwart the deal. There’s no word in this new WikiLeak document dump whether or not the U.S. please was successful. But the worldwide, largely secret chess match between Washington and Tehran continues.