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5 Years Ago Today: NYT Reports on Secret Gore-Chernomyrdin Deal That Emboldened "Sales of Missile and Nuclear Technology to Iran"

4:15 PM, Oct 13, 2005 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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The full text of the October 13, 2000 New York Times article may be found here.

…The 1995 agreement allowed Moscow to fulfill existing sales contracts for specified weaponry, including a diesel submarine, torpedoes, anti- ship mines and hundreds of tanks and armored personnel carriers. But no other weapons were to be sold to Iran, and all shipments were to have been completed by last Dec. 31.

In exchange for the Russian promises, the United States pledged not to seek penalties against Russia under a 1992 law that requires sanctions against countries that sell advanced weaponry to countries the State Department classifies as state sponsors of terrorism. Iran is on that list.

…The Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement appeared to undercut a 1992 law, the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, known as Gore-McCain after its principal sponsors, Mr. Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, and Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican. The law was rooted in concerns about Russian sales to Iran of some of the same weapons that the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement expressly allowed.

Senator McCain said this month that he was unaware of the deal that Mr. Gore struck with Mr. Chernomyrdin, which was codified in a document stamped "Secret" and signed in Moscow on June 30, 1995. Mr. McCain said a 'strong case can be made' that the Russian delivery of arms, especially the submarine, should have triggered sanctions against Moscow under the provisions of the Gore-McCain law.

'If the administration has acquiesced in the sale, then I believe they have violated both the intent and the letter of the law,' he said

…For example, E. Wayne Merry, former director of the political section of the American Embassy in Moscow, said in Congressional hearings earlier this year that the Gore- Chernomyrdin Commission had required hundreds of hours of busywork to pad its list of achievements, racking up piles of 'taxpayer-supplied evidence of American good will regardless of Russian performance, honesty or even desires.'

And the 1995 accord, which essentially exempted Russia from American sanctions on arms deliveries to Iran, emboldened Moscow to ignore other agreements, particularly on sales of missile and nuclear technology to Iran, according to Gordon C. Oehler, who directed the Nonproliferation Center of the Central Intelligence Agency until he retired in 1998.

'It was one more of these strange deals that Gore and Chernomyrdin had that were kept from people,' said Mr. Oehler, now a vice president with the Science Applications International Corporation in La Jolla, Calif. 'If this had been disclosed to Congress, the committees would have gone berserk, absolutely. But the larger problem is, if you have these under-the-table deals that give the Russians permission to do these things, it gives the signal that it's O.K. to do other things.'

...A classified annex specifies the weapons Russia was committed to supply to Iran: one Kilo-class diesel- powered submarine, 160 T-72 tanks, 600 armored personnel carriers, numerous anti-ship mines, cluster bombs and a variety of long-range guided torpedoes and other munitions for the submarine and the tanks. Russia had already provided Iran with fighter aircraft, surface-to- air missiles and other armored vehicles.

The weapons are not the top of the Russian lines, but they are among the best in the region and bolstered a military force in Iran that continues to grow in quality and quantity....