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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 33, December 1998 - January 1999

US Imposes Sanctions Against Russian Entities for Assisting Iran

On 12 January, the White House announced the imposition of trade penalties against three Russian entities accused by the United States of, in the words of the announcement, "materially contributing to Iran's nuclear weapons and missile programs." The announcement continued:

"These three entities are NIKET (the Scientific Research and Design Institute of Power Technology), the D. Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology, and the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI). Based on existing authorities, including President Clinton's July 1998 Executive Order on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the United States is banning exports to and from these entities, as well as US Government procurement from and assistance to these entities. Relevant notices to this effect will appear shortly in the Federal Register.

The Clinton Administration is taking these actions as part of its ongoing, high-priority effort to combat the threat to US forces, allies, and interests posed by Iran's aggressive pursuit of WMD and their delivery systems. These penalties apply only to the aforementioned entities, not to the Russian Government or Russia as a whole. These steps complement the Russian Government's efforts to enforce its laws and international commitments relating to non-proliferation and export controls.

The United States will continue to work with Russia to strengthen controls on such exports and to enforce compliance with the laws, policies, and international agreements on such transfers. The United States will continue to urge the Russian leadership to take aggressive steps to curtail the flow of sensitive technology to Iran from Russian entities in violation of the Russian Government's laws and policies."

The Russian Government was affronted by the move. Speaking on 13 January, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov argued: "Using force and exerting sanctions against our organizations is counterproductive for Russian-American relations, which we consider very important." A Foreign Ministry statement (13 January) said that the development "can only complicate Russian-American relations. Any attempts to speak to us in the language of sanctions and pressure are absolutely unacceptable..." Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev, also speaking on 13 January, described the sanctions as "merely a pretext," adding: "It remains to ponder - a pretext for what? These centres could not have handed over such technologies, because they do not posses them in full measure... [T]here is a system of control over the non-proliferation of missile-nuclear technologies in Russia, and this control is dependable." On 14 January, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) issued a statement reading: "We hope that such a situation is the result of a misunderstanding, and, perhaps, defective work of the American special services..."

The Russian Parliament was equally outraged. Communist Leader Gennady Zyuganov told reporters on 13 January: "The United States imagines itself a policeman who has the right to dictate its will not only to nations, but to single universities, scientific laboratories and labour collectives." On 15 January, the Lower House of Parliament, the Duma, unanimously adopted a resolution expressing "its indignation in connection with the United States' groundless introduction of sanctions..."

On 11 December, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani insisted that Iran no longer stood in need of outside assistance in developing its missile programme: "Missile production has truly become a local technology in Iran... Despite their [US] efforts, it is out of their hands now, thank God, because we have reached the level we needed to get to... Iran is today a proper missile producer which does not need any country - not China, not Russia, and not others. We started from scratch, sometimes using parts or technology from outside... We have also used Western technology, including our scientists who have studied in America itself."

Reports: Iran says US can't curb its missile capacity, Reuters, 11 December; Trade penalties against three Russian entities, Statement by the Press Secretary, The White House, 12 January; Sergeyev denies Iran getting Russian missile/nuclear secrets, Itar-Tass, 13 January; Russia criticizes new US sanctions, Associated Press, 13 January; Russia rejects US claim of Iran nuke links, Reuters, 13 January; Russia angry over US Iran criticism, Reuters, 14 January; Russian Duma indignant over US Iran moves, Reuters, 15 January.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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