Surprise: Iran still actively seeking nuclear contraband, says U.S. official

Like anybody is really surprised, via Reuters:

Iran has pursued a longstanding effort to buy banned components for its nuclear and missile programs in recent months, a U.S. official said on Sunday, a period when it struck an interim deal with major powers to limit its disputed atomic activity.

Vann Van Diepen, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation, said Iran was still “very actively” creating front companies and engaging in other activity to conceal procurements. …

Asked if he had seen a change in Iranian procurement behavior in the past six to 12 months, a period that has seen a cautious thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations after decades of hostility, Van Diepen replied: “The short answer is no.

“They still continue very actively trying to procure items for their nuclear program and missile program and other programs,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“We continue to see them very actively setting up and operating through front companies, falsifying documentation, engaging in multiple levels of trans-shipment … to put more apparent distance between where the item originally came from and where it is ultimately going.”

The reported supplies don’t break any rules laid out in the interim nuclear-program-curbing-in-exchange-for-sanctions-relief agreement late last year, but that’s only because they break rules already specified in a 2006 U.N. embargo banning the provision by any nation to Iran of materials related to its nuclear and missile development work. Iran has been doing this kind of thing for ages, and the interim agreement certainly hasn’t done anything to deter them.

And speaking of that interim agreement, another round of diplomatic talks between Iran and the world’s six major power players is getting started on Tuesday to hammer out a more final deal on Iran’s nuke program (which I’m sure they’ll take really super seriously). Although the Senate has momentarily abandoned their push to try and convince the Obama administration to hang the threat of further sanctions over Iran to get them to faithfully cooperate, a group of more than eighty cosigning senators just sent the Obama administration a reminder of some explicit provisions they’d like to see in any sort of forthcoming deal — the first time they’ve committed the prerequisites to writing:

If at least these conditions aren’t met, the senators warn, they’ll demand a resumption of the sanctions that President Obama has eased off — and since Iran is highly unlikely to abide by just about anything spelled out in this list, I doubt the administration is at all pleased with the missive.