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Proliferation case study series: electronic furnaces from South Africa

Documents recently leaked in South Africa reveal an attempt by Iranian entities to acquire a furnace and control equipment from a South African firm. These documents – alleged correspondence between the UK Secret Intelligence Service and their South African counterpart – state that the furnace was destined for SBIG, an Iranian entity responsible for aspects of Iran’s UN-prohibited ballistic missile programme.

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There are several key aspects of this case that are worthy of note. First, while the exact nature of the furnaces involved in the deal is unavailable, it is very unlikely that the goods being sought were controlled by the Missile Technology Control Regime or other key export control regimes. Second, it does not appear that the South African firm knew that they were dealing with an entity of proliferation concern because of the use of front companies in Iran. Third, this case highlights the global nature of proliferation threats: in this case the Iranian procurers targeted South Africa, which is not commonly thought as a significant source of proliferation.

The full case study can be downloaded below.

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