July 29, 2019

New U.S. Sanctions on Iran Reveal China’s Growing Role in Illicit Supply Chains

By ​Neil Bhatiya

On July 18, in the Trump administration’s first punitive measure since Iran announced earlier this month that it would exceed the levels of enriched uranium permitted under the international nuclear deal, the United States expanded sanctions against Tehran to include a network of international companies it said were linked to procuring materials for Iran’s nuclear program. In announcing the sanctions, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his department was “taking action to shut down an Iranian nuclear procurement network that leverages Chinese- and Belgium-based front companies to acquire critical nuclear materials and benefit the regime’s malign ambitions.”

The move may signal more recognition of how illicit financial actors are coming up with new ways to get around international sanctions. If states want to seriously curtail nuclear proliferation and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, they will need to reckon with how the landscape of international threats is changing, particularly the increasingly central role that China will come to play in licit and illicit supply chains.

The Treasury Department designated a network of firms in Iran, China and Belgium for procuring the kind of aluminum required for use in centrifuges in facilities run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and arranging their shipment directly from China to Iran. Their export to Iran is subject to controls under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the end of nuclear sanctions under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal. The Treasury Department explicitly stated that the necessary clearance under the resolution was not obtained.

Read the full article in World Politics Review.

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