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If companies in Germany are able to slip through the tightly woven net of restrictions, it could create the impression around the world that German companies are collaborating virtually at will with the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
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German Authorities Uncover Illegal
Exports of Nuclear Technology to Iran

Der Spiegel
Recent arrests suggest that Germany remains a hub for sales of prohibited supplies to Iran that are being used in Iran's nuclear program. Illegal exports are undermining Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has pursued an embargo policy in order to prevent a possible war in the Middle East.

Investigators showed up at around 9:30 a.m. on a sunny Wednesday in August. They wore bulletproof vests as they entered the driveway. Their superiors had ordered them to take protective measures.

The agents held up search and arrest warrants in front of the intercom camera and waited until the gate slowly opened at this residence in the upper-middle-class Hamburg district of Poppenbüttel. They had come to arrest the building's owner, a nondescript older man named Gholamali K., and his son Kianzad.

The two Iranian-Germans are suspected of working at the heart of a ring that allegedly supplied valves to Iran's controversial nuclear program. At the same time, investigators searched offices in a number of German cities -- in Oldenburg, Weimar and Halle -- and arrested two additional men.

The four arrests are the latest blow to suspected supporters of Iran's bid to become a nuclear power. Investigations show that Germany remains a hub for clandestine deliveries to Iran, despite wide-ranging sanctions.

Iranian-German collaborations have a long history. For many years, companies like German engineering giant Siemens played an important role in the construction of the Iranian nuclear reactor in Bushehr. German mechanical engineering companies rank among the best in the world, and their products are highly coveted by engineers in Tehran. A recent confidential situation report by the German Customs Criminal Investigation Office (ZKA) said that Germany is a "focal point for Iran's procurement activity" by Iran. The report went on to say that "preventing illegal exports" represents "a key challenge."

Sales of banned high-tech products boost the Iranian nuclear program, but they also threaten the German government's policy, which is largely relying on tight export restrictions to head off a war in the Middle East. The means "at our disposal to force Iran to be more transparent have not been exhausted," says German Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding that "sanctions are at the top of the list here."

Merkel made a promise to the international community. Germany will "do everything that it can to ensure that trade with Iran will not simply seek out new routes," she said back in November 2007. This is the policy that the German government is pursuing in official talks with the Iranians as well as the Israelis.

The chancellor's main argument is that sanctions are an effective approach. It's a line of reasoning that she uses to counter the warmongers surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is endeavoring to prepare the world for a military strike against Iran. Just last week, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the Israeli leader adamantly warned of the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.

If companies in Germany are able to slip through the tightly woven net of restrictions, this could create the impression around the world that German companies are collaborating virtually at will with the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Such a realization would largely undermine Merkel's argument. Consequently, there is little that the chancellor and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle fear more than the allegation that German support helped pave the way for the creation of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

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