By: Michael Smith
Source: The Sunday Times
A senior officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has emerged as the father of a nuclear programme that western intelligence services believe is aimed at producing a warhead capable of devastating any city in the Middle East.
Ostensibly a lecturer in physics at Tehran’s Imam Hussein University, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi is seen as the Iranian equivalent of A Q Khan, the scientist who led Pakistan’s nuclear weapons race with India.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition of groups opposed to the regime in Tehran, was the first to identify Fakhrizadeh, 47, as one of the leading figures in Iran’s nuclear programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also named him as the man it would most like to interview about the programme, adding that despite repeated requests the Iranian government has refused access.
Intelligence shown to IAEA representatives last month included documents from an Iranian laptop computer. It named Fakhrizadeh as the man in charge. A personnel list had Fakhrizadeh at the top of the organisation running the programme, while other documents showed him setting budgets for research and laying down rules on how much of their work the project’s scientists could discuss with colleagues.
It backs up suggestions that Fakhrizadeh is the head of “Project 111”, an Iranian attempt to produce a nuclear warhead capable of exploding at 2,000ft and causing devastation over a wide area.
The material on the laptop obtained by US intelligence suggested a warhead would be designed to fit Iran’s Shahab-3 missile. Israel is seen as the most likely target.
European officials were surprised when the US National Intelligence Estimate said last December that Iran had stopped working on a design for nuclear weapons in 2003. Although there is some evidence of a pause after the invasion of Iraq, other analysts believe the programme has resumed.
Simon Smith, Britain’s permanent envoy to the IAEA, said, “Certainly some of the dates that the secretariat was presenting in there went beyond 2003.”