The December 12 seizure in Bangkok of a Georgia-registered llyushin ll-76 cargo aircraft carrying 35 tons of arms, which global arms monitors say was bound for Iran, and the trials of two arms dealers seeking to smuggle components for fighter jets and missiles to Iran have exposed how Tehran has been stepping up its clandestine procurement of arms. This has coincided with growing confrontation between the West and the Islamic Republic over its controversial nuclear program and its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, and Tehran's preparations for possible war with Israel, or the United States--or both. The Ilyushin's deadly cargo included rocket-propelled grenades, two mobile multiple rocket launchers capable of firing devastating broadsides of 240mm rockets, and components for surface-to-air missiles, all valued at around $18 million. Mikhail Petukhov, the Belarussian pilot who served in the Soviet air force for 20 years, said he understood he was carrying heavy equipment for oil drilling operations--a familiar cover in the arms-smuggling business. The Il-76 is a workhorse aircraft, designed to carry heavy machinery and land on rugged airstrips in remote regions--which makes it perfect for gunrunning. The seizure at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport uncovered a paper trail of documentation through a web of phony companies and fake addresses from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, to New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates that the gunrunners used to mask their movements and make it difficult for investigators to trace their illegal cargoes.