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Guns From Londonistan

Arming the Iranian military.

11:00 PM, Jan 15, 2009 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
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* In September of 2003 an Iranian national named Serzhik Avasappian was arrested at his hotel in Miami by U.S. Customs agents three days after his arrival from (you guessed it) London. Avasappian had told U.S. Immigration officials that was visiting this country to negotiate the purchase of "medical equipment," but rather than a pile of contracts for medical systems what the agents found in his hotel room were numerous documents -- all hidden between the mattress and box springs of his bed -- proposing the illegal sale to Iran of $750,000 worth of spare parts for the Grumman F-14 fighter.

"There are allies and then there are allies," a pilot from a NATO country lamented in the 1980s when it was revealed that although a number of German and other foreign pilots wanted to have the experience, RAF pilots were the only non-U.S. military personnel that had been permitted to fly the then-super secret Lockheed F-117A Stealth Fighter. Indeed, the "special relationship" that has existed between Washington and London for decades has never been stronger than under current programs like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

But the persistent uncovering of UK entities willing to provide the mullahs with what they need to keep missiles in development, nuclear enrichment facilities humming, and Iranian military aircraft supplied with spares is more than troubling. Add this to the 2007 scandal surrounding BAE Systems and the accusations of a slush fund of more than $100 million that supplied kickbacks to Saudi Arabia and one begins to develop troubling conclusions about the influence oil-rich Middle Eastern states exert on major British institutions.

Thus, Lloyds' long-term subterfuge on behalf of Iran is shocking but not surprising. At a minimum the bank showed unpardonable duplicity by undermining the public position the British government has tried to maintain in the war on terror. There may be no silver lining in a story that involves Iran being able to spend untold millions on its weapons procurement, but at least this UK institution's actions debunk the popular myth that it is only the U.S. that will conveniently ignore international norms of behavior for the sake of a reliable oil supply.

Reuben Johnson is a regular contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD Online.