29 Nov 2010

WikiLeaks: secret Iran arms deals with Chinese companies

Wikileaks diplomatic cable disclosures suggest that Iran has been on a global mission to acquire weapons including Russian-made parts from a Chinese company, Channel 4 News can reveal.

A Chinese company offered to sell Iran weapons materials, Wikileaks cables reveal (Reuters).

The revelations, published in a mass leak of diplomatic cables to and from the United States via whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, will add to western fears about Iran’s nuclear arms capability.

But Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran’s international relationships would not be damaged.

“Regional countries are all friends with each other. Such mischief will have no impact on the relations of countries,” he said.

“Some part of the American government produced these documents. We don’t think this information was leaked. We think it was organised to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals.”

Read more: how will Iran react? Channel 4 News speaks to former UK ambassador to Iran, Sir Richard Dalton 

President Ahmadinejad’s response differs markedly from that of the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said: “Clearly we condemn the unauthorised release of classified information. The leaks and their publication are damaging to national security in the United States and in Britain, and elsewhere.

“It’s important that governments are able to operate on the basis of confidentiality of information.”


Channel 4 News has uncovered cables which suggest companies from China have been attempting to trade weapons materials with Iran.

In three of the most recent WikiLeaks cables, the United States government urgently requests action from China over potential weapon deals between Iranian and Chinese companies.

Another seeks similar action from Turkey over several weapons transactions, and one looks for continued German co-operation in preventing Iranian companies buying weapons material from traders in Germany.

The outcome of the majority of the American requests to China and Turkey is unclear from the cables.


According to one of the cables sent in February 2010, the US Secretary of State alerts the Chinese Embassy in Beijing that it has information on an Iranian company attempting to buy carbon fibre from a Chinese group.

The carbon fibre could be used to produce rocket nozzles or motor cases for missiles, the cable notes, calling the potential deal a “significant missile proliferation risk”.

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The Iranian company is understood to be a front for the Shahid Bakeria Industries Group, a company involved in Iran’s solid propellant missile programme and listed as a concern by the United Nations Security Council in a number of resolutions.

In another cable sent in February this year, the US again asks Beijing for action over a potential deal.

It writes that in December 2009, a Chinese company offered to sell gyroscopes produced by a Russian firm to an Iran organisation. The cable suggests the gyroscopes could be “diverted to missile-related end users” and would be delivered in February.

The cables request the Chinese “take measures to prevent this material being transferred from China to Iran’s missile programme”, but their outcome is unclear.

The third cable also refers to an attempt by Iran to buy gyroscopes from China. A company associated with Iran’s missile network attempted in December 2009 to buy gyroscopes from a Chinese firm. The gyroscopes “would be suitable for use in the guidance systems of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles”, the cable says.

The Chinese did agree to investigate this deal, but asked for more information over the company’s links to Iranian companies of “proliferation concern”, which the US provided.


The US also asks Turkey, via the cables, to take “all available means” to prevent export and imports of arms to Iran, saying the deals are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions over Iran, the Iran, North Korea and Syria Non-proliferation act, and possibly Turkish and US law.

The cable warns it has information on several transactions, specifically Iran attempting to procure: “Full Metal Jacket .38 calibre and wadcutter bullets; 40 mm automatic grenade launchers; 5.56 mm composite magazines (for M16 assault rifles), and 7.62 x 39 mm and 7.62 x 51 mm composite magazines from Turkey”.

“This is not the time for business as usual with Iran.” US warning to Turkey over potential weapon deals.

It also suggests “a Turkish firm may be pursuing a deal to import plastic explosives and nitrocellulose from Iran”. The US added that it was also concerned as some of the exports from Turkey may be of US origin, as Turkey received 181 MK-19 40 mm grenade launchers from the United States in 1995.

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The cable warns “this is not the time for business as usual with Iran”, reminding Turkish officials of the various non-proliferation treaties, and adds “Iran has a long history of providing arms and other military equipment to terrorist groups and that these items could easily end up in the hands of al-Qaida, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Taliban”.

It says: “This deal would harm the Turkish government’s reputation as a NATO ally…and reflect badly on the Turkish business community.”


Iranian companies have also attempted to buy weapons materials from Germany, the cables revealed.

Entities associated with the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, Iran’s primary developer of liquid-fuelled ballistic missiles and another company highlighted by the UN and US as a proliferation concern, were trying to buy testing equipment from two German manufacturers.

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In the past, German authorities had investigated these deals and ultimately prevented them, the cables show. But different intermediaries were now offering products made by the German firms to the main missile networks in Iran.

The US said it was unclear if the intermediaries had possession of the products, but requested again that Germany continued its work to prevent German companies, “even unwittingly”, as suppliers to Iran.

Where do the cables come from?

Wikileaks has sorted the cables in a number of ways, via graphs.

Below is a graph showing the most common places of origin for the cables – with the US Secretary of State predictably the top of the list.

Less predictably, perhaps, is the number two slot, going to the Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, meaning that after the US Secretary of State, the most cables were sent from this location.

Embassies in Baghdad, Iraq; Tokyo, Japan; and Amman, Jordan make up the rest of the top five senders. Wikileaks has also coded the graph to show the most secret information, with the red element of the graph the most secret, and the green the least.

For more images sorting the US embassy cables, see the Cablegate Wikileaks homepage.

The most common places of origin for the Wikileaks cables (Wikileaks.org).

Channel 4 News has been unable to independently verify the authenticity of the leaked data.