Agents see evidence of Iranian nuclear network

Thursday - 6/17/2010, 10:10am EDT

JJ Green, National Security Correspondent

Click below to hear the report

Download mp3

Recent reports have emerged that Iranian agents are using the port of Dubai to smuggle sophisticated electronics. The foreign counterproliferaton official says, with certainty, the smuggling operations go well beyond Dubai.

"We have seen them try to use UAE (United Arab Emirates), Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, to name a few other countries."

U.S. counterproliferation agents, while toeing a very thin political line, seem to corroborate the official's statement.

"We see a number of trans-shipment points around the world. It is correct to say that Iran does not exclusively use Dubai," says Timothy Gildea, a special agent in the Counterproliferation Investigations Unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement department.

"They will evolve their transshipment practices. If one area becomes elevated and law enforcement is focusing on that (area), they will move it (their smuggling operation) around as required to get that equipment to their country," Gildea says.

The most damning allegation comes from the broad selection of items that are being smuggled that list Iran as their final destination. Clark Settles, chief of the Counter Proliferation Investigations unit, says the variety of items leaves little doubt of Iran's true intentions.

"If they were just acquiring items for uranium enrichment and not a lot of the other items that they've attempted to acquire -- from missile guidance, to triggered spark gaps that are used to detonate nuclear weapons -- if they were just trying acquire one thing and not the other, then argument would hold some water," says Settles.

Counterproliferation experts say Iranian agents' smuggling operations include parties who aren't aware they are doing anything illegal.

But Settles says most of those arrested are very clear about what's going on.

"In an undercover capacity, we act in every role - as the shippers, the freight forwarders, the buyers, the sellers - to really delve into these networks to prove that they are not innocent individuals that are being duped by the Iranians or by somebody else."

"They know exactly what they're doing. They're doing it for profit or they work for those governments or those terrorist groups."