Wikileaks cables: Iran sought Czech weapons-making machinery via Turkey


Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reportedly show that the Czech Republic was warned by the United States against selling machine tools they feared could find their way to use in the Iranian nuclear programme. Specifically, it claims that in the search for weapons-making machinery, Iranian companies have attempted to bypass Czech export controls by buying through a Turkish partner.

While Kovosvit itself sells other items to Iran, it says the machinery in question, listed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, is sold only to its Turkish partners, who they do not expect to resell it. Asked to comment on the matter, the Czech Foreign Ministry set a precedent for how it will likely confront future Wikileaks cables, saying only that it would say nothing at all regarding information from unauthorised internal communication between the Czech Republic and the US administration.

There is much to be expected from the US diplomatic cables regarding the Czech Republic, particularly as far as the years-long episode of heated debate over missile defence cooperation is concerned. But the first more significant Wikileaks cable dealing with Czech-American diplomacy, and reported on by the Norwegian paper Aftenposten, regards US concerns over a Czech trading partner in Turkey, a business it says may connect with the Iranian arms industry. Aftenposten, which claims to possess all of the yet-unreleased diplomatic cables, writes that Iran in recent years has tried to buy equipment and material for nuclear reactors and missiles from more than 350 companies in more than 30 countries. One route suggested in a cable from the US embassy in Prague is by obtaining numerically controlled machine tools produced by the Czech company Kovosvit MAS and sold throughout the world. The US cable posits that in November of 2009 an Iranian tyre mould manufacturer bypassed Czech export controls by attempting to purchase high quality milling machines sold by Kovosvit MAS and required for rocket manufacturing via the company’s Turkish representative, Ak Makina - a business that also represents major corporations such as Hyundai – Kia for a vast region from Ukraine to Saudi Arabia that includes Iran. The cable warns that Ak Makina may be hiding its resale of specialised machinery banned by arms agreements to Iran from Kovosvit MAS, and notes that the Turkish company has in the past cooperated with an Iranian company producing rocket fuel. Ak Makina told the news website that while it has previously dealt in export, it does not do so now, and has not sold the machines in question in the period since the date of the cable.