Chinese Surveillance Giant Arms Iran With Advanced Spy Tech

Congress takes aim at $400 billion CCP-Tehran alliance

The Chinese flag flies behind a surveillance camera (Reuters)
June 6, 2022

A Chinese surveillance company is providing Iran with advanced spy technology that helps the hardline regime in Tehran crack down on pro-democracy protesters who in recent weeks have taken to the streets.

Tiandy, a China-based manufacturer that specializes in surveillance technology, "is supplying Iran's Revolutionary Guard [Corps], police, and military while touting itself as an Iran-friendly alternative to other [People's Republic of China] manufacturers who do not have direct operations in Iran," according to a recent investigation by IPVM, a security group that tracks the industry. Iran and China in 2021 committed to a 25-year economic agreement worth $400 billion.

The security group's findings about the Iran-China surveillance pipeline—which likely violates U.S. sanctions—are taking on renewed significance amid nationwide protests in Iran that have threatened the hardline regime's grip on power. Efforts to quell the protests, including the use of tear gas and beatings, have failed, and Iran is capitalizing on China's mass surveillance marketplace to boost its security sector, which consists of secret police and IRGC forces. Iranian and Chinese officials touted their relationship during meetings last week centered on enhanced "cooperation in the fields of security and police cooperation," according to Iran's state-controlled media.

This relationship is generating scrutiny in Congress, with Republican senators pushing legislation that would dismantle the growing Tehran-Beijing economic alliance. Republican senators, led by Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), aim to sink a new Biden administration nuclear deal with Iran by mandating that Iran cut ties with China before it can cash in on sanctions relief that an agreement would grant. China and Iran are also running a sanctions-busting scheme that since the Biden administration took office has generated $22 billion in illicit oil sales for Tehran.

Tiandy, one of the top-four closed-circuit television producers in China and the only China-based surveillance giant to have a direct presence in Iran, inked a five-year partnership with an Iranian distributor, according to IPVM. "While other PRC video surveillance gear is available in Iran via various distributors, IPVM could not find such a direct presence from Hikvision, Dahua, Uniview," or others, the group reported.

Tiandy is believed to have direct business relations with the IRGC, Tehran's paramilitary fighting force that runs security operations within the country, as well as with local police, according to IPVM.

This surveillance technology fuels the Iranian regime's police state and was the recent target of a hack attack by dissident groups that support the anti-regime protesters.

Anti-regime forces reportedly took control of more than 5,000 security cameras around Tehran that the regime has used to monitor protesters. These forces also said they have seized 150 Iranian municipality websites and filled them with messages opposing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Tehran residents were also deluged with SMS messages stating, "Death to Khamenei and [Iranian president Ebrahim] Raisi."

Bryan Leib, executive director of Iranian Americans for Liberty, a pro-democracy advocacy group that has been supporting Iranian protesters, said it is not surprising that Iran and China would seek to boost ties "under the chaos that is U.S. foreign policy under" President Joe Biden.

"A new axis of power in the world has been formed on Joe Biden's watch: Russia, China, and Iran," Leib told the Washington Free Beacon. "From the shameful and ultimately futile attempts by U.S. Special Envoy to Iran Robert Malley to revive the disastrous Iran Deal, to apathy toward what the Chinese Communist Party has done to the world in 2020, we are witnessing a dangerous alliance of rogue states against American values of individualism and liberty."

Blackburn and seven other Republican senators last week introduced the Iran-China Accountability Act, which would prevent the implementation of any new nuclear deal with Iran until Tehran nixes its ties with Beijing. The bill is backed by Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), and Rick Scott (R., Fla.), among others.

Federal funds allocated toward the implementation of a new nuclear deal with Iran would be frozen until Tehran "terminates all agreements involving the transfer of funds from China and terminates strategic security and military partnerships with China," according to a copy of the bill. The bill also would require the State Department to produce a report to Congress detailing if Iran is living up to these requirements.

"The USA must lead by strength, and that starts with preventing another failed Iran Nuclear Deal and investing in our military to defend freedom for generations to come," Blackburn told the Free Beacon. "Instead, President Biden has emboldened the Iranian regime to develop weapons of mass destruction, as they make economic and diplomatic deals with the Chinese Communist Party. Biden's failed talks with Tehran have proven to the world the regime was never interested in stopping its nuclear weapons program."