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The UN's Gravy Train to Iran By: Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The United Nations Development Program (“UNDP”) is the largest of the UN’s bureaucratic programs, controlling as much as $5 billion of the $20 billion plus budget of the entire UN system.  The U.S. is the biggest contributor to the UNDP, with annual contributions of over $100 million.  However, since the UNDP coordinates the funding of many other UN development-related programs as well, the actual amount of U.S. funds controlled by the UNDP is much higher.  At the same time, the UNDP is one of the most scandal-ridden of the UN’s agencies, which takes some doing.   

There is simply no transparency in how the United Nations Development Program spends our money.  The UNDP has an administrative procedure that allows for cash transfers directly to governments to implement much of its programs, with some cash transfers going to some of the world’s worst human rights abusing and terrorist sponsoring states.  For example, an investigation of the UNDP’s activities in North Korea, which the UNDP first commissioned and then tried to hobble when it was getting too close to the truth, just recently concluded that the UN agency was in bed with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong II to a far greater extent than it had previously acknowledged.   

The UNDP has refused to cooperate with any truly independent audit of its activities in North Korea.  Nevertheless, even the internal investigation it permitted managed to find that at least $20 million was transferred from the UNDP directly to the North Korean regime for so-called development projects – more than twice as much as the UNDP had previously owned up to.  The report also found that the UNDP had enabled North Korea to use UN-affiliated accounts to launder money and to import dual-use technology involving items that were “controlled by the U.S. for national security and anti-terrorism reasons” without obtaining a required U.S. export license.[1]

This report follows on the heels of other troubling investigations.  One involved the UNDP’s operations in Russia, where an audit found extensive fraud at the UN office in Moscow.  Another audit of the UNDP’s global procurement practices found no real controls with respect to vetting of the firms the UNDP is doing business with.  For example, the UNDP does not ask new vendors for the identity of their owners or other corporate ties.  It does not have an effective system for cross-checking its vendors with UN terrorist sanctions lists.

In light of this scurrilous record, it is shocking to find out how much the United Nations Development Program is currently involved in supporting the rogue terrorist sponsoring regime in Iran.  The UNDP alone has been directly providing the Iranian regime with an average of $7 million per year of largesse for the last three years.  Including both the regular and extra budgetary resources of the UNDP and all of its partner UN agencies, funds and programs coordinated by the UNDP under the umbrella known as the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, the targeted amount of resources expected to be made available to the Iranian regime during the 2005 – 2009 timeframe is $177 million.[2] And this is just what the UNDP admits to in its public documents!

The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Iranian government, manages all external aid and carries overall responsibility for the coordination of the UNDP’s program in Iran.  This is the same ministry whose chief told the UN Security Council last year that no UN sanctions can make the Iranian nation retreat from its nuclear enrichment program.  The United Nations Development Program is helping to make his words come true.

While Iran flouts the current UN Security Council sanctions resolutions meant to deter its nuclear ambitions, the United Nations Development Program is actively aiding Iran to obtain potential dual-use technology.  It is doing so by enabling, in its own words, the “transfer of knowledge in science and technology through technology-based services”, programs to “improve technological capacity in industries”, and “joint international research projects”. The transfer will include “advance processing technologies and innovative system design.”[3]  There is no mention of any limitations on the types of technology eligible for transfer under the UNDP’s auspices, nor of any mechanisms that the UNDP has in place to effectively monitor whether the technology is being used by the Iranian government to enhance its military capacity or whether Iran will further share the technology with the terrorist organizations that the regime sponsors. 

For example, the United Nations Development Program, the World Health Organization and UNESCO have partnered with the Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology, an innocent sounding scientific group.  However, it turns out that, according to Iran Watch, the Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology has been listed by the Japanese government as an entity of concern for biological, chemical and nuclear weapon proliferation. It was identified by the British government as having procured goods and/or technology for weapons of mass destruction programs.  And it has reportedly acted as a front for the purchase of fungus from Canada and Netherlands for producing toxins.

The UN development bureaucrats are also moving to prop up Iran’s economy, observing in the UN Development Report on Iran cited below that the relative wealth enjoyed by the country due to its vast oil and gas reserves needs to be “translated into stronger economic performance in the long term.”   The UN development bureaucrats plan that “the UN system will lend its support to the Iranian Government” by working to improve Iran’s “economic performance and management.”  The goal is to increase Iran’s real economic growth by 8% per annum and to increase gross investment by 12.2% per annum.

To achieve these objectives, the United Nations Development Program is working hand in glove with the Iranian regime to strengthen its export, import and production capacities and to help its accession to the World Trade Organization.  The UNDP’s extensive activities on the Iranian regime’s behalf, and the hard currency being pumped into Iran’s economy by the UNDP and its affiliated UN agencies, are operating at total cross-purposes with the ongoing efforts by the UN Security Council and Western democracies to isolate Iran from the international financial community.   They are sabotaging such efforts to apply increasing pressure on Iran’s economy as leverage to induce Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment program.

Another of the ways that the United Nations Development Program has said that it intends to help Iran’s economy is to partner with its biggest carmaker, Iran Khodro, which builds cars and commercial vehicles for domestic use and for export. 

Khodro is doing fine enough on its own as the largest auto manufacturer in the Middle East, having forged lucrative partnerships with French, German and Chinese auto firms.  Over the past ten years, Khodro has enjoyed an annual growth rate of 23 percent and has been manufacturing more than 650,000 cars.

However, it is not the fact that Khodro can prosper without any help from the UNDP that is so disturbing, although the European firms that are doing business with Khodro should reconsider how their private self-interest is conflicting with their governments’ stance against the Iranian regime.  Rather, what is disturbing are Khodro’s reported links to Iran’s military and its relationships with two terrorist sponsoring rogue states, Syria and Sudan.   These nefarious links and relationships should have given the UNDP pause if it were not intending all along to undermine the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council, the United States and the European Union.

Iran’s Executive Director Manuchehr Manteqi was reportedly a Brigadier General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps during the 1990’s and has served as a senior official of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization.[4] According to Iran Watch, Khodro was listed by the German government as a risky end-user in warnings supplied to its exporters in 2004.

Khodro has publicly stated that it plans to use Sudan as a base for wide export of its products, working directly with Sudan’s defense ministry.

The United Nations Development Program hypes its ‘good governance’ agenda as a rationale for cooperating so extensively with the Iranian regime.  Improved economic conditions will go hand in hand with measures to lessen corruption and increase openness, the UNDP propagandists tell us.  The precise opposite has occurred.  There is more political repression than ever in Iran.  And when a member of the Iranian General Audit Office had the nerve recently to claim that “a mafia-style group of mullahs” is “plundering the country and sending the proceeds to foreign banks” he was promptly arrested by the secret police, presumably on orders from “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei.[5] There can be little doubt that the mullahs have their eyes on the UNDP-sponsored jackpot of $177 million flowing into Iran’s coffers.

The United Nations Development Program is aiding and abetting the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions and terrorist activities by enabling the transfer of potential dual-use technology to Iran.  And it is strengthening the statist economy with unaccountable infusions of money to the regime’s government, and ultimately to the mullahs, to do with as they wish.  

Except for the most limited form of emergency humanitarian relief, the United Nations Development Program and its partner UN agencies must be removed from Iran immediately.  Their gravy train of money, technology and knowledge transfer to the Iranian regime must be stopped.


[1] The U.N.’s North Korea Chutzpah by Melanie Kirkpatrick, The Wall Street Journal (June 12, 2008).

[2] Islamic Republic of Iran United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2005-2009 (September 15, 2004) (“UN Development Report”).

[3] Id.

[4] Military Industries in the Islamic Republic of Iran: An Assessment of the Defense Industries Organization (DIO),  Prepared for the United States Air Force Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio (May 1996).

[5] Jailed for Outing the Mullah Mafia by Amir Taheri, New York Post (June 13, 2008).



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