|Iran criticizes U.S. group monitoring compliance with sanctions||
TEHRAN – Iran has criticized United Against Nuclear Iran, a privately financed advocacy group founded by former American diplomats which keeps a long-distance technological eye on compliance with the sanctions imposed on Iran by the West over the country’s nuclear program.
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s United Nations mission, noted that the group’s founders had “worked within or were close to the U.S. government” and that Iran considered it “counterproductive and contrary to the policy announced by the new administration in early 2009, which purportedly sought to diplomatically interact with Iran,” the New York Times reported on Sunday.
In a statement, Miryousefi said the formation of the group, taken in the context of other hostile American actions including cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and unilateral sanctions, “convinced Iran that the U.S. does not mean what it says.”
According to the New York Times, the latest effort of the group, based in Midtown Manhattan, is its maritime monitoring system, which it says provides a new level of scrutiny of compliance with the sanctions imposed on Iran.
Martin House, the monitoring system’s director and lead analyst, said it used publicly available satellite transmissions from ship transponders, including data on speed, identity, direction, and destination, and correlated the information with other navigational data and computer algorithms. He said the system created vessel behavior profiles that could identify questionable activities even if the transponders were temporarily turned off.
Some maritime experts said the group’s monitoring system could also misidentify innocent activity as suspicious behavior. The transponders that commercial ships are required to use to signal their location, for example, can sometimes appear to be switched off in areas where reception is poor, which is sometimes the case in the Red Sea.
United Against Nuclear Iran’s monitoring system, called Minerva (an acronym for Marine Intelligence Network and Rogue Vessel Analysis) is one of many tools used by the group in an increasingly aggressive campaign.
Registered as a nonprofit tax-exempt advocacy organization, the group relies on private donations and fund-raising to operate, according to its Web site. The group’s officials declined to identify the donors but said its annual budget was about $1.5 million.
Obama administration officials declined to say whether the group’s maritime surveillance had assisted the administration’s efforts to punish Iran sanctions evaders. “We take information from a lot of different sources,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the subject’s delicacy. “Sometimes it’s useful, sometimes less so, but we’re not sorry to have it. I don’t look at it necessarily as a nuisance.”
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