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Iran has ‘ghost armada’ of tankers to sell oil to China to bankroll its secret nuclear programme say experts


IRAN has a ‘ghost armada’ of oil tankers that take oil to sell to China to fund its secret nuclear programme, it was reported.

The Islamic Republic is a major oil producing country but under sanctions imposed as punishment for developing nuclear weapons, the amount it can export is tightly controlled.

An Iranian oil tanker and a Panamanian vessel were detained for illegally transferring oil in Indonesian waters.

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An Iranian oil tanker and a Panamanian vessel were detained for illegally transferring oil in Indonesian waters.Credit: AP
Ebrahim Raisi is Iran's new President

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Ebrahim Raisi is Iran’s new PresidentCredit: Getty

But according to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), the country is using a variety of techniques to get around the restrictions.

The warning comes as hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s new president and fears the country is ramping up its nuclear programme.

UANI is an international not-for-profit group led by former US ambassador to the UN Mark Wallace. 

The organisation has used satellite imagery and round-the-clock tracking to monitor the illicit trade, the Mail on Sunday reports.

UANI senior adviser Sir Ivor Roberts, a former Foreign Office counter-terrorism chief, said: “The volume of black-market oil China is buying from Iran is staggering.”

Iran has doubled the number of ships sailing under other countries flags to export oil to China top 123 and the country is Iran’s main customer.

These include nations too small to be able to monitor to monitor tankers flying their flag.

Iranian vessels also use a technique called ‘spoofing’ that allows them to manipulate GPS that reports a vessel’s position so it appears to be elsewhere when it docks in prohibited areas.

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China was reportedly buying an average of 700,000 barrels of illegal Iranian oil a day up to April and ships carrying 18 million barrels are currently thought to be in the South China Sea.

Deal or no deal – What was the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and what has happened to it?

IRAN is feared to be secretly building a nuclear bomb by hiding the machinery needed to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, a new report reveals.

However, Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal – branding it “horrible” and “one-sided”.

Iran has also pledged to breach the agreement until it receives the sanctions relief it says it is owed.

The deal was an agreement between the Islamic Republic and a group of world powers aimed at scrapping the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear weapons programme.

It saw Iran agree to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium by 98 per cent.

Enriched uranium is a critical component for making nuclear weapons and in nuclear power stations and by curbing the amount Iran produce is a way to curb the number of weapons produced.

As part of the agreement, Iran also agreed to only enrich their uranium up to 3.67 per cent over the next 15 years and they agreed to reduce their gas centrifuges for 13 years.

Gas centrifuges are used to separate different types of uranium which allows specific types to then be used to manufacture nuclear weapons or generators.

Iranian nuclear facilities were limited to a single facility with only first-generation centrifuges for 10 years and other nuclear facilities had to be converted into other use.

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In addition, they were barred from building any more heavy-water faculties – a type of nuclear reactor which uses heavy water (deuterium oxide) as a coolant to maintain temperatures in the reactor.

Also under the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency was granted regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities to ensure Iran maintains the deal.

If Iran abided by the deal it was promised relief from the US, European Union, and the United Nations Security Council on all nuclear-related economic sanctions.

The agreement was reached on July 14, 2015, and the world powers signed it in Vienna.

Sir Ivor said that if only a sixth of Iran’s tankers evaded detection and completed a shipment each week it would exporting 2.4 million barrels a day.

“That gives the regime in Tehran the foreign currency it needs to build up its reserves, ramp up its nuclear programme in the face of international sanctions and pursue its terror-sponsoring agenda abroad. 

“This shadowy alliance is a challenge to the West and… has potentially huge implications for our security.”

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog recently said Iran is enriching enough uranium to make nuclear bombs.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to limit uranium enrichment to 3.67 per cent.

Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 that prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons, branding it “horrible” and “one-sided”.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the Islamic State is enriching uranium purity levels “only countries making bombs are reaching.”

 

 





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