United Nations monitors have said that governments are not reporting new incidents of Iran violating Security Council sanctions, even though some have unfolded in plain sight.
The monitors’ claims were made in a report dated June 1, the contents of which were made public by Bloomberg news on Tuesday.
“The current situation with reporting could reflect a general reduction of procurement activities by the Iranian side or a political decision by some member states to refrain from reporting to avoid a possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations” between Iran and six world powers, said the panel of experts for the UN committee on Iran sanctions in its latest report.
While the panel found that Iran “implemented its commitments” under an interim framework easing economic sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear activities, the report raised questions about whether countries, including the U.S. and its European allies, have looked the other way on some sanctions violations, according to Bloomberg.
For example, no country reported that General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the elite Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, violated a UN-mandated travel ban despite “a number of media reports with photographs and videos” showing him in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, “reportedly organizing and training militia and regular forces in those countries.”
The report included examples of such photos, noted Bloomberg.
“This is a clear political decision not to publicize these examples of sanctions evasion in order to ensure that public reporting on this doesn’t in any way jeopardize the talks or harden congressional resolve,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has advised Congress on expanding sanctions, in an interview.
“The Obama administration has bent over backwards to try and whitewash Iranian violations both on the nuclear side and also on the sanction-busting side,” he told Bloomberg.
One country that was not named also reported that Iran tried to import a nuclear compressor illegally, the panel said, adding that it didn’t have enough time to investigate the information for this report.
Two unnamed governments informed the panel that Iran was carrying out nuclear procurement-related financial transactions through banks outside Iran that aren’t under sanctions. Iranian businessmen acquired majority shares in one of the banks in 2011, according to the report.
Bloomberg also noted that the report provides fresh ammunition for critics, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and members of both parties in the American Congress who say that President Barack Obama and America’s allies are too eager for a deal with Iran.
The report comes as Iran and the six world powers are holding ongoing discussions aimed at turning a preliminary deal into a permanent one by a June 30 deadline.
The sides made a major breakthrough at talks with Iran on April 2 by agreeing on the parameters for a final deal to scale back its nuclear capabilities, but still have a series of technical issues to resolve by the looming deadline.
The issue of the sanctions on Iran is one of the issues of contention between the sides. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has demanded that sanctions be immediately lifted when any deal is signed, while the West has rejected that demand.