Iran’s Uranium Diplomacy in Africa

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Update from October 25th: It seems that Salehi’s investments are paying off in Ghana as well – Iran is ready to “share its experience in mineral exploration” with Ghana. It’s worthy to note that the article by pressTV mentions gold, diamonds, bauxite and manganese but fails to mention uranium that Ghana has been mining uranium since 2010.

It’s customary to regard a country’s foreign minister as its top diplomat. He’s the one who’s supposed to lead efforts to promote international standing, create trade opportunities, advance cultural ties. But since Iran views the role of its diplomacy differently than the rest, same goes for the role of its foreign minister.

Led by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, over the past six months Iran’s diplomats have been racking up thousands of air miles over the skies of African countries, including: Mali, Central Africa, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Cameroon, Sudan, Namibia, Sudan, Comoros, Ghana, Benin, Ethiopia, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal.

Quite a list. What have those diplomats been searching for?

We’ve already expanded on the involvement of Iranian diplomacy in Tehran’s subversion activities in Africa. It is also clear that Iranian diplomacy plays a supporting role in Tehran’s ongoing efforts to bolster its strategic capabilities  from African soil. But to fully understand the issue, we need to go back to the beginning of Salehi’s stint as foreign minister in early 2011 (after he made the move from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran).

His first trip abroad at that time was to Zimbabwe, of all places. Why Zimbabwe? This AP report  provides the answer: “uranium procurement.”

It is therefore no surprise that Salehi recently paid another visit to Harare. It is also not surprising that Iran recently opened an embassy in Namibia, where it already has a “15% stake in Rössing Uranium, the world’s longest-running open pit uranium mine and the third largest producer of uranium oxide globally.”

Salehi himself did not mince words during his visit there: “Namibia, an important country in Africa, is the continent’s fourth exporter of mineral resources while Iran has invested in that country’s mining sector.”

For those who missed it: “mineral resources” is the code word for “uranium.” That’s Salehi, Iran’s top diplomat.

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Iranian Diplomatic Infrastructure for Subversion in Germany? (part 2)

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“First, We Take Berlin…”

The involvement of Iran’s Germany-based diplomats in inappropriate activities are the strongest in any European or Western country. Not only are they involved directly – as in the case of the Mykonos massacre in Munich (see part 1), or as in the case of a death threat mail from the consulate in Munich against a German-Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi last year. They are apparently part of a larger infrastructure that Iran is developing in Germany.

In its recently issued annual report “for the Protection of the Constitution,” the German Federal Ministry of the Interior places emphasis on the growing influence of Iranian operatives in Germany and determines that Tehran is exploiting the country as a base for activity throughout Europe.

Embassy = IRGC/MOIS Headquarters

According to the report, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Service and Security (MOIS) and the intelligence department of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) operate out of Tehran’s Berlin embassy – where MOIS has its office. Needless to say, the diplomats at the embassy are instructed to cooperate fully with MOIS/IRGC operatives and, as outlined in our earlier posts, that cooperation includes aiding and abetting subversion activities by IRGC and proxy groups.

The goals of these agencies, the report states, is to monitor opposition groups in Europe and collect information that might help “export the revolution” to Europe. In this context, it makes reference to an ongoing investigation of the activities of MOIS/IRGC’s suspected espionage and threats against opposition leaders.

Iran’s embassy and consulates in Germany are involved, through MOIS/IRGC directives, in developing and maintaining business ties with German firms which view the sanctions as business opportunities. At the most basic level, this activity includes setting up meetings with high ranking Iranian officials – such as securing a speaking opportunity for Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi at a recent conference in Frankfurt on July 10 with German counterparts (including German Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Federal Minister of Economics Philipp Rösler).

Money as a Motive for Cooperation

Germany remains the largest EU exporter of goods to Iran; some two-thirds of Iranian industrial firms use machinery and equipment made in Germany, and rely on imports of German spare parts. Apart from general goods and trucks, Germany is also an important base for purchasing knowhow and technologies relevant to Iran’s nuclear program which have become harder to obtain as a result of sanctions.

Exposure of the money trail between Germany and Iran frequently brings to light numerous firms and deals that are directly related to MOIS/IRGC officers or to funds – particularly the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), managed by Khamenei himself.

The picture emerging from the numerous cases of shipments of dubious content – from weapons to nuclear-related machinery – through German-owned shipping lines and agencies, is that Iran is abusing Germany’s hospitality (and the greed of some of its business people) to strengthen both its subversion activities in Europe and its nuclear program back home.

 

Shadowy Diplomacy

And since MOIS and the IRGC are not only involved but are actually operating from within the Iranian embassy in Berlin, it’s not difficult to figure out that the IRGC-affiliated diplomats are systematically abusing their rights under the Vienna Convention – the very international document meant to protect the integrity (and safety) of diplomats.

This does not mean that every Iranian diplomat in Germany is directly linked to illicit activity. It does mean that Iranian heads of mission are most likely familiar with – and therefore accountable for – the subversive activities of MOIS and the IRGC originating on German soil.

 

Iranian Diplomatic Infrastructure for Terrorism in Germany? (part 1)

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Iran’s diplomatic relations with Germany are a bit of an anomaly.

On the one hand, Iran is heavily invested in strengthening ties with Germany through its disproportionately large diplomatic infrastructure in Germany which includes an embassy in Berlin and 3 consulates in Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg. Hamburg also boasts an Iranian chamber of commerce http://www.dihkev.de/en and a Tehran-based spiritual center http://en.izhamburg.com/.

And yet, already back in the 1990’s, the link between Iranian diplomacy and terrorist activities with Germany as its base became quite evident: “The largest European Al-Qods facility was in the Iranian embassy in Germany. The embassy’s third floor had twenty Qods employees coordinating terrorist activities in Europe” (Qods is an elite faction of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps – IRGC).

The influence of the IRGC and Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in Iranian diplomacy might just be one of Iran’s worst-kept secrets: “Most Iranian foreign officers and diplomats have worked with MOIS, the IRGC, or other security agencies. MOIS works in coordination with the Foreign Ministry in operations carried out abroad, using Iranian embassie for collecting intelligence…Qods is believed to coordinate with MOIS through  foreign embassies, charities, and cultural centers in targeted countries.”

It is noteworthy to remember that according to Mohammad Reza Heydari, an ex-Iranian diplomat, most Iranian diplomats are recruited from the IRGC and that figure might reach as high as 80%!

Every once in a while, the link between the IRGC, terrorism and Iranian diplomats is exposed as in the aftermath of the assassination of 4 Iranian Kurdish leaders in the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin in September 1992.

Hossein Mousavian (Iran’s Ambassador in Berlin) and Ali Fallahian (Iran’s Minister of Intelligence) both tried unsuccessfully to release the assassins and transfer them to Iran before the trial.

According to the testimony of Abdel Ghassem Messbahi, a former senior Iranian intelligence official, the assassinations were authorized by the Committee for Special Operations, “a small group made up of the supreme leader, the president, the foreign minister, the minister of intelligence, and the chief of the Revolutionary Guards”.

After the verdict, German severed diplomatic relations with Iran, expelling Moussavian and fourteen of his staff members. The rest of the EU states followed suit in suspending diplomatic relations for six months. Diplomatic relations then resumed as did further evidence of diplomatic involvement in terrorist activities.

In 2007, two of the assassins serving life terms for murder were released in a shady prisoner swap for German citizen Donald Klein imprisoned in Iran. Kazem Darabi, the Iranian national received a hero’s welcome in Tehran by Ali Baqeri, the head of Iran’s Foreign Ministry in Europe.

to be continued.

 

 

Iranian Embassy Cover Up for IRGC Operatives in Nigeria

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update from 29/08: ” Nigeria charged two of its citizens on Wednesday with assisting an Iranian militant cell in planning possible attacks on Israeli targets, alleging that one had traveled to Tehran and Dubai to receive cash and had known about spying on Israeli interests.”
On October 26th  2010, 13 shipping containers loaded with weapons (11 anti-tank weapons, 4 anti-tank mines, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), 21 RPG missiles, numerous 107 mm artillery rockets, 17 AK-47s, 2 sub-machine guns and 76 grenades) originating in Iran were seized by the authorities in Nigeria.

The Nigerians initially thought that the consignment of weapons was meant for “some local politicians to destabilize the country if they lose in upcoming elections“. They were later informed by Iran’s Ambassador Hussein Abdullahi that the final destination was Gambia and further investigations pointed to Senegal – both Gambia and Senegal cut off diplomatic relations with Iran following this incident.

In the meantime, Iran’s diplomatic services went into high gear to control damage. Iranian Foreign Minister at the time, Manouchehr Mottaki, flew out to Nigeria to meet his Nigerian counterpart, Odein Ajumogobia, for immediate damage control and then continued to Senegal where he was informed by Tehran that he had been sacked in absentia.

Meanwhile, two Iranian nationals who were implicated in the arms smuggling effort headed directly for the Iranian Embassy and hid there. One of them, Azami Aghajani, an IRGC member and businessman based in Tehran was finally apprehended and sentenced to 5 years in jail /sentenced to 17 year in jail in May 2013. The other suspect, Sayed Akbar Tabatabaei, the Commander of the IRGC-QF Africa Corps, entered Nigeria through a letter of recommendation by Iran’s foreign ministry and managed to escape investigations and Nigeria by claiming Diplomatic Immunity. Another IRGC officials suspected of involvement was identified as Esmail Ghani the Deputy Commander of the IRGC-QF whose authorities include “financial disbursements“.

This is a classic case in which the IRGC and its diplomatic counterpart tried to work together to diffuse an IRGC initiative that unfortunately for them was discovered.