Proliferation Press Brings Back an Old News-Cycle
Rhetorical Escalation: The Imposition of US Sanctions on Chinese Companies accused of aiding Iran's Weapons Program and its Implications on the India Nuclear Deal and the Iranian Nuclear Dilemma
On June 13 the United States has banned all American companies and individuals from doing business with four Chinese companies and one American company. Why? Alleged aid to Iran's weapons program by aiding in missle design. (Note: from all the articles I've read the proper count is four total industries, three Chinese and one Chinese Represenative in America.)
This action comes as no great shock:
all companies are repeat offenders. Yet, the actual imposition on sactions has brings with it 1) the expected Chinese response, 2) the US delivery and 3) timing.The Sactioned Companies China Daily
and Aviation Now
provide us with the details of the action. The three Chinese companies are Beijing Alite Technologies Company Ltd, LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd and Great Wall Industry Corporation. The US-affiliated company is California-based GW Areospace International, the American representative for China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC).
Upon going to the web-site of CGWIC, one finds the following note:"CGWIC is a responsible and credible state-owned company in China with its business scope focusing on international commercial launch services and the import and export of aerospace products, etc. During the past decades, CGWIC has conducted twenty-four international commercial launch missions and six piggyback missions, launching thirty satellites. Commercial satellites successfully launched by CGWIC cover more than 100 countries and regions in Asia, Europe, America and Australia, providing telecommunications services to 75% of the world population. Nine out of twelve geo-stationary satellites successfully launched provide direct services to Asia. CGWIC’s mission is to bring benefits to the humankind with space technology."
It goes on to demand that the sanctions be reversed and all finanical losses incurred be covered by the US government.
So what do all these companies have in common? They are all Chinese-owned and do business in Iran. Furthermore, as stated before, all of these companies are repeat offenders of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. Looking to the US State Department's list
of past activations of the 2000 Act, one finds that CGWIC was sanctioned in September of 2004, Bejing Alite in December 2004, and LIMMT in December 2005 for simliar activity.
Before we try to figure out the reason behind the recent rhetorical escalation (from sanctions being posted within dry US State Department notices
to the US Teasury's bold press statement
), what is the Iran NonProliferation Act of 2000?National Export Controls & the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000
This bill basically serves as a supplement to the expired 1979 Export Administartion Act (introduced by Adalai Stevenson). This bill sought to formally gave the President the powers to curtail trade that was deemed dangerous to national security.
The 1979 Act was an update to an 1969 act, which followed the progenitor-- the 1949 Export Control Act. While the focus has shifted from fighting communism to fighting terrorism, the goal of all the acts are the same: to keep dangerous materials out of the hands of enemies of the United States, while maximizing the amount of trade that could be done.
Disputes between these competing goals are intense, perhaps ensuring that the 1979 Act would be renewed in 2001, only to expire the following year. In its wake, President Bush has kept the Act in force through Executive Order while Congress has explicitly delegated the executive powers in the case of Iran (the Iran NonProliferation Act of 2000).
The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000
, with the proper exceptions, allows the President to slap sanctions on companies or individuals that aid Iran in proliferation activities (both missile development and nuclear development). There is a review process, but only after the sanctions are levied and all violitions are able to be classified. This bill, coming before the first expiration of the Export Adiministration Act, showed the intense concern of Congress to Russian activity within Iran. The bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously, forcing then President Clinton to include a prohibition on aiding missile programs as well as nuclear technology.
While such a protocol is understandable when dealing with the proliferation activities of countries such as Russia and China, its easy to see how this Presidential power can be used politically. The Iran Nonproliferation Act failed to achieve the goal of many in 1979, best articulated by George Schultz to construct "rules instead of authorities - rules that we can read; rules that are predictable." In regards to an overall reauthorization of export controls, a 2001 attempt to reauthorize the bill by Congress succeeded, only to expire in 2002. In 2004 another reauthorization attempt failed to get a floor vote. As such, any imposition of sanctions comes with the expected response: foreign consternation at breaking unwritten rules.The Chinese Response
China, unsurprising, has responded to this recent, bundled and country specific imposition of sanctions quite negatively. Denying any improper conduct, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu Press stated on June 15:"The U.S. wrong practice severely undermines our non- proliferation cooperation and will not benefit the development of bilateral relations...We require the U.S. side to change their practice and abandon completely the wrong practice of sanction and pressure." (Global Security)The Timing and Current Implications
Why did the United States release these stories in the press a month ago? Two potenial factors: the India nuclear deal and the Iranian nuclear row.
On the India nuclear deal, China now stands as the last, major impediment to clearance. With the recent G-8's decision to tacitly endorse
the deal, China (the lone P-5 member not represented at the G-8) is left, along with Scandivanian countries and New Coalition Nations such as Ireland. Associating China with illict proliferation activities itself on the run-up to the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting makes any Chinese 'lecturing' ineffectual. Furthermore, it helps show that a rules-based proliferation strategy on the part of the United States, while perhaps preferred, does not reflect the reality of other nations proliferation activities.
On the Iranian front, its clear that the purpose behind this media-blitz was to make it harder for China to oppose sanctions for Iran. In light of the June 6th package offered to Iran, this story highlights the US effort to push all P-5 members of the United Nations to get tougher with Iran. For Russia, the answer has been more clear-cut: offer another nuclear package
On both these issues, the recent Lebanese crisis makes Chinese opposition to US goals considerably more difficult to effectively voice. On the Indian front, its now not only accused of aiding Iran's programs but must deal with heightened evidence of Iran's terrorist connections. The US position of making an exception for India (a recent victim of terrorist attacks), while still going against the global 'norm' of non-proliferation, becomes easier to swallow.
In regards to the Iranian dilemmna, it seems the net-result of the Lebanese crisis is 1) to harden negative views of Israeli actions and 2) diminish the view of Iran as a responsibile nation. As such, Chinese (and Russian) opposition to sanctioning Iran-- or giving full diplomatic pressure to respond to the June 6th deal-- becomes more and more difficult to sustain.
While such a reading may suggest the success of using export controls as political weapons to aid the American counter-proliferation agenda, nationally based (and perhaps selective) enforcement of counter-proliferation laws seems to erode the norm of proliferation. Using these counter-proliferation tools to push for the success of an India deal, seems only to further encourage nuclear competition between the great powers. As such national security agendas may be succeeding on particular points (ensuring regional allies recieve much wanted technology), but failing to stop the main problem: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.General News Sources
"U.S. Freezes Chinese Space Company Assets over Iranian Missile Aid"; Aviation Today
"President's Address"; Great Wall China Industry Corporation;
"2001 Export Administration Act Passes Senate', Includes Bennett Amendment";
"US to dangle nuclear deal in exchange for Russia's help on Iran"; Yahoo News
"China: US Sanctions Undermine Non-Proliferation Cooperation"; Global Security http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/china/2006/china-060615-voa01.htm
"Washington sanctions on China Fims 'Irresponsible'"; China Daily
"Treasury Designates U.S. and Chinese Companies Supporting Iranian Missile Proliferation"
"Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000" (a history of its use); US State Department
Sources on Export Controls
"2004 Foreign Policy Controls." Bureau of Industry and Security, US Department of Commerce;
RL30169: Export Administration Act of 1979 Reauthorization; CRS Report
"Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000." (text of law);
"Clintion Signs 'Iran Nonproliferation Act' "; Arms Control Today.
"The Export Administration Act (S.737 - H.R.4034) " (archival discussion of orginial 1979 act); Heritage Foundation
"Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992 (50 U.S.C. 1701 note)"; US State Department