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Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program

Exposing the mullahs’ nuclear weapons program- An unrelenting untold undertaking by the Resistance

 

Overview

Procuring or obtaining nuclear weapons is a key pillar of the Iranian regime’s survival strategy. The Khomeini regime initially declared it will not pursue nuclear energy, reflected in its decision to abandon work on the nuclear program including Bushehr nuclear power plant, already under construction by German firms at the time of the Shah.

However, once the mullahs realized that a young and vibrant society and a burgeoning democratic opposition represented a serious challenge to their backward rule, they changed course and sought nuclear weapons technology as an insurance policy against their eventual downfall.

Keenly aware of their inability to lead Iran and manage the surging force of a liberated population from monarchic oppression, the medieval mullahs sought to divert the freed energies of a repressed society. They instigated war by fomenting strife in neighboring countries under the banner of exporting the revolution. That of course was a euphemism for the export of terrorism and warmongering to the rest of the Middle East region. They instituted absolute repression under the banner of religious authority inside Iran. They began to plan for nuclear weapons capabilities to insure their survival. These three pillars were necessary to maintain a grip on power, as theorized by the regime’s key officials.

The regime also sought nuclear weapons to exert its hegemonic designs on neighboring countries and blackmail foreign interlocutors to secure economic and political concessions and force acceptance of their rule.

Iran is rich with vast oil and gas reserves as the cheapest form of energy. Some experts say that there are untapped oil and gas reserves that would suffice for the next 300 years. By all assessments nuclear fuel is not cost-efficient in Iran that sits on an ocean of oil and natural gas, belying regime claims to merely seeking peaceful nuclear energy.

Another testament to the mullahs’ quest for the bomb has been their active concealment of their nuclear program from the eyes of the international community for nearly two decades.

When intelligence reports began to arrive from the networks of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Iran that the regime was actively seeking nuclear bombs, the Iranian Resistance was faced with a historical task: to prevent an aggressive, virulently sectarian and repressive religious fascism from obtaining nuclear weapons capability, and saving Iran, the region, and the world from the horrors of such a scenario.

Indeed, were it not for the Iranian Resistance’s stunning revelation of Natanz uranium enrichment site and Arak Heavy Water facility in August 2002, and subsequent revelations, which unveiled the extent to which the regime’s clandestine nuclear weapons work had advanced, and which triggered inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and ensuing measures by the United Nations Security Council, the mullahs would have had the bomb by now and the fate of the Middle East and the world would not be the same.  

 

The history

The Iranian regime started its drive to nuclear weapons in 1983. For the past three decades, the Iranian resistance has seen it as its patriotic duty and responsibility to prevent the mullahs from nuclear weapons. The issue of the mullahs’ secret nuclear weapons program and the resistance’s unrelenting campaign and activity to expose it to the world has been one of the least realized aspects of the Iranian resistance’s endeavors.

From the onset it was evident to the Resistance that this program that was pursued by the mullahs with astronomical costs to the detriment of the Iranian people is unpatriotic and has no objective but to blackmail and threaten the region and the world, and to expand religious fascism’s reach.

The campaign to expose the mullahs’ nuclear weapons program campaign required devotion of considerable resources by the Resistance and given that it was one of the most tightly held secrets of the regime, obtaining and corroborating information about it and exposing it entailed huge risks.

The Resistance, relying on the network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) inside Iran, and its vast network of sources in the Iranian regime’s various civilian and military entities, has been scrutinizing the regime’s nuclear program from various aspects since 1991.

Over a quarter of a century, MEK has made more than one hundred revelations of secret sites, projects, procurements, and key figures involved in the regime’s nuclear program, with the specific purpose of thwarting the regime’s nefarious designs, and often in the face of incredulity and annoyance by world powers seeking accommodation with the regime. That is of course until overwhelming evidence corroborated the Resistance’s warnings.

MEK information on various aspects of the nuclear project, including enrichment, weaponization, and missile delivery systems, indicates that Tehran has worked systematically on the various stages of enrichment, weaponization, warheads, and delivery systems. In other words, Iran has been preparing itself to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Deception, concealment, lying, destroying and tampering with evidence, stage-managing, fabricating stories and creating false narratives have all been consistent features of the Iranian regime’s handling of its nuclear program, whether with regard to the Iranian people or the international community.

As part of the three decades long endeavor, on several occasions, particularly in critical junctures, when the mullahs tried to deceive the international community in general and the IAEA and to continue their project in a different scheme and at the same time gain concessions from the international community, the Iranian resistance was able to prevent the regime from doing so by exposing their scheme and plot.  

In other words, the Iranian Resistance, as its patriotic duty, has played an instrumental and unmatched role in preventing the main state-sponsor of global terror from obtaining the most dangerous weapon and as such has done a great service to global peace and tranquility.

 

Highlights and key dates:

 

  • In June 1991, during a trip to Washington, DC, Mohammad Mohaddessin, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, exposed that Iran has begun working on a nuclear weapons.[1] He revealed that the regime’s preliminary nuclear facilities is located in Mo’alm Kalaye (northern Qazvin 120 Kilometers northwest of Tehran.) The top-secret project was code-named “Great Plan” (also known as the “Alamout Plan”) and its initial budget was $200 million. According to the resistance information, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) relocated the local inhabitants to clear the area for construction of this site. The Iranian resistance made several other revelations in 1992 and exposed other plans of the regime.

 

  • In October 1992, the Iranian Resistance revealed that the Iranian regime had bought three nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan. According to the information obtained from inside the Iranian regime the warheads were paid for but have not been delivered yet. The Kazak Ambassador to Washington (who was in charge of its nuclear program in 1992) in an interview on November 2, 1996 confirmed that the regime had attempted to buy nuclear weapons but the shipment was stopped prior to the delivery.

 

 

Arak heavy water facility
  • On August 14, 2002, in a press conference in Washington, the NCRI revealed the existence of two secret sites (uranium enrichment site in Natanz and plutonium-producing heavy water facility in Arak) and details of the regime’s nuclear activities, which had remained secret for 17 years. Information on the Natanz included the existence of two 25000 square meter underground halls. Eventually upon the insistence of the IAEA, the Iranian regime was forced to show the two sites to the IAEA and the big secret of the mullahs’ nuclear program was exposed. The revelation was a game changer in the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

 

 

Uranium enrichment site in Natanz
  • The NCRI exposed the Kala-Electric site in Abali in Tehran Province on February 20, 2003. This site was functioning under the guise of a clock manufacturing company and was used for secret testing of assembled centrifuges. Iranian regime changed the building's entire appearance to hide its true nature. After months of pushing, when IAEA gained access to the site Particles of highly enriched uranium were also found at the site, prompting many questions about the nature of the mullahs’ nuclear program.

 

Kala-Electric site in Abali in Tehran Province
  • The NCRI exposed the Iranian regime’s research on using Laser for a weaponization aspect of the nuclear program on May 27, 2003. The researched was conducted at Lashkarabad site in the vicinity of Karaj (west of Tehran). IAEA inspectors verified this when they visited the site on June 2004. The regime was eventually forced to stop the work at Lashkarabad.

 

  • In a December 20, 2005 press conference in Paris, a secret nuclear facility and an underground tunnel used for nuclear projects in the vicinity of Qom (central Iran). Mohammad Mohaddessin provided details including that the construction work had been started in 2000 by a specialist engineering division of the IRGC. The revelation of this secret site, Fordow, was announced by Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, and Nicolas Sarkozy in a joint press conference on September 25, 2009 after the regime realized the site had become known and acknowledged its existence to the IAEA.

 

Fordow secret site
  • During 2003 and 2005, the NCRI identified at least 15 individuals and entities who played significant roles in the regime’s nuclear and missile programs. This comprised 70 percent of the 22 individuals and entities that were added to the sanctions list by UN Security Council resolution 1737, which was passed on December 23, 2006.

 

  • The NCRI exposed the research and work on a nuclear warhead in Nouri Industries of Hemmat Missile Industrial Group, in a press conference in Brussels on February 20, 2008. The IAEA subsequently made some documents public to member states including presenting a video clip of re-entry vehicle of Shahab-3 ballistic missile. That corroborated the regime’s work on nuclear warhead.

 

  • In September 24 2009, in a press conference in Paris, the NCRI exposed a site and a center, involved in research and production of the explosion system of an Atomic bomb. The site and the center belonged to the entity responsible for research in atomic bomb implosion and explosions is called “Research Center for Explosion and Impact,” ((Markaz-e Tahghighat va Tose’e Fanavari-e Enfejar va Zarbeh, known by its Farsi acronym as METFAZ). The entity was affiliated to the Ministry of Defense. The site that was developing high-explosive detonators for use in atomic bombs and manufacturing components for these detonation systems is located in East of Tehran on the banks of Jajrood River and adjacent to Sanjarian village, was called Snajarian.

 

Research Center for Explosion and Impact-METFAZ
  • In a press conference in Washington, on April 21, 2017 it was exposed that METFAZ, has moved its main experiments to a new location that was secret until then. The new location, with the codename “Research Academy” (Pazhouheshkadeh) is located at the plan 6 of Parchin site (East Tehran).

A joint study of Institute for Science and International Security and Foundation in Defense of Democracies on May 7, 2019, in a study of “Shock Wave Generator for Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program” confirmed the 2009 revelation of the NCRI and also stated that “it was able to confirm via satellite imagery analysis that the NCRI identified site at Parchin is a high explosives research and development and manufacturing site.”

 

Key entity in charge of designing and researching on weaponization aspect of the nuclear project

 

At the core of a nuclear weapons project is the weaponization aspect. In the course of the past three decades the Iranian regime has constantly tried to hide this aspect, its key figures, researchers and facilities from the eyes of the international community. The revelation of this aspect of the program had given away the true nature of the nuclear program and had blown away the regime’s façade that it is a civilian nuclear project.

 

As such it has prevented the access of the IAEA to its key experts and has always kept their identity secret. In light of the nature of this aspect, it has always been controlled by the IRGC and has been under tight counter-intelligence regimes. While, in the course of the past three decades, the entity has gone through several structural changes and has used various covers and pretexts, its mission and key players have remained intact.

In the meantime, the Iranian resistance has constantly tried to obtain and expose the weaponization effort of the regime and has been to deliver devastating blows to the regime.

This entity began its work under the name of “Physics Research Center in late 1989. A few years later it was renamed as Amad Plan.

  • On May 15, 2003 the NCRI revealed the Lavizan-Shian site in Tehran. This was the headquarters of clandestine weaponization aspects of the regime’s nuclear project. There, 17 types of experiments on various aspects of Weapons of Mass Destruction were carried out.

 

May 15, 2003 the NCRI revealed the Lavizan-Shian site in Tehran

This was a devastating blow to the regime’s nuclear weapons project. Over the years the scope of this blow and its consequences was better understood. According to the resistance information, the Nuclear Committee of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) chaired at the time by Hassan Rouhani had predicted that the IAEA would certainly visit the site and would find out about the secret nuclear weapons activities there. Therefore, the committee decided to demolish the site, which was operating for 15 years. Subsequently regime relocated the research facilities, razed the whole site and even the dirt of the site as deep as several meters was removed. When the IAEA inspectors got access to the site on June 2004, they faced a totally razed place.

 

Lavizan site before and after revelation
  • In April 28, 2004 in a press conference in Brussels, the National Council of Resistance of Iran exposed the existence of Amad Plan and some of its key officials and researchers. Several the key players of the weaponization effort of the regime were exposed for the first time in that press conference. In the revelation, the resistance exposed Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an IRGC senior officer who has been the key figure in the weaponization effort. The IAEA has for years requested to interview Fakhrizadeh for his unique role in the nuclear weapons program, but the regime has vehemently rejected this request.

 

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
  • In a press conference in Paris on November 17, the Iranian Resistance exposed that the weaponization project that was under the command of the Ministry of Defense, was transferred to a new site called Shian-Lavizan 2 or Mojdeh (the name of the street it was located) and provided specifics about the new venue. The new center called "The Modern Defensive Readiness and Technology Center" (MDRTC) was chaired by Mohsen Fakhri Zadeh, one of the highest-ranking nuclear experts. During the press conference more than two dozen of the Iranian regime’s experts involved in the various aspects of the weaponization effort, including Fereydoon Abbasi, another senior officer of the IRGC and a key player in the weaponization effort were revealed. This was just a couple of days after the clerical regime had reached an agreement with EU3 regarding its nuclear program in Paris and Europe had agreed to provide a range of concessions to the Iranian regime for suspending enrichment of uranium. A few years later in a secret speech Rouhani boasted that he had duped the West and had used the opportunity to complete other aspects of the nuclear cycle.

 

Mojdeh site
  • Another scheme that the Iranian regime used universities and its experts and professors in weaponizing project. The Iranian resistance first exposed this scheme in a press conference in Brussels on February 20, 2008, the Iranian Resistance uncovered the command center for production of nuclear weapons was located to Mojdeh site. Subsequent to the revelation, Fakhirzadeh’s office was moved to Malek Ashtar University, adjacent to Mojdeh site connected with a pedestrian bridge. Malek Ashtar University is part of the Defense Ministry Fakhrizadeh functioned as the vice president of the University and head of its Pardis. In a front-page story on March 11, 2008 of the Washington Post, the NCRI revealed that that nuclear weapons design work persists has migrated to universities and schools. According to the information, several of Fakhrizadeh’s deputies were reassigned to nuclear departments at ostensibly civilian schools such as Shahid Beheshti University, also in Tehran.

 

  • The National Council of Resistance of Iran in July 2011, exposed that the existence of a consolidated entity to work on the weaponization aspect of the nuclear project. The entity was called the “Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research” (Farsi acronym: SPND). The IAEA confirmed the changes in the weaponization section over the years as well existence of SPND in its major report on Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program in November 2011. The US State Department put the SPND on its sanctions list for its role in proliferation of WMD on August 29, 2014.

 

Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research-SPND
  • Subsequent to several revelations on relocation of SPND and its cover, on October 2013 and September 2014 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the regime announced its existence and provided some public cover for its operation.

 

  • In a press conference in Washington, on April 21, 2017, it was established that SPND and its seven subdivisions have been fully functioning after implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. During this conference it was exposed that one of the SPND subdivisions, the unit responsible for conducting research and building a trigger for a nuclear weapon, called the Center for Research and Expansion of Technologies for Explosion and Impact (Markaz-e Tahghighat va Tose’e Fanavari-e Enfejar va Zarbeh), known by its Farsi acronym as METFAZ, has moved its main experiments to a new location that was secret until then. The new location, which is identified in SPND’s internal communications with the codename “Research Academy” (Pazhouheshkadeh) is located at the plan 6 of Parchin site.

 

Exposing the relations between two nuclear programs of the regime and their inter relations

In the course of 25 years or so, the Iranian Resistance on 2017 established that two systems have been fully functional. One is an overt program, civilian in nature that includes the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), universities and academic institutions. The second is a military program that is clandestine and concealed.

Consequent to extensive research and review by the Iranian Resistance, the relationship between the two programs has become clear. Contrary to the original, classic perception, the two systems do not function as parallel systems. Rather, they resemble two concentric circles, working in tandem. The military aspect of the program has been and remains at the heart of Iran’s nuclear activities.

The civilian sector of the program has systematically provided a plausible logistical cover for the military sector, and acts as a conduit for it. The results of the research, training, accomplishments, and advancements of the civilian program have been directed to the military, which has ultimately benefitted from all such achievements. As a case in point, on the April 28, 2004 press conference in Brussels, the NCRI revealed that the military sector has recruited some 400 experts trained by the civilian sector.

The military sector has gone through changes in name, location, and reorganizations over the years. However, it has never halted its work, and key figures in the sector have remained unchanged. To control information and prevent leaks, in addition to making use of past experience, specific companies affiliated with or belonging to the IRGC or the Defense Ministry have carried out the construction of the sites involved in the nuclear project.

 An important feature of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program is that several sites and centers where nuclear related activities are conducted are situated in sprawling military complexes that also house scores of tunnels and silos. This not only makes IAEA access to these locations more difficult but makes it possible to relocate these centers and projects to other locations within the vast military complex. As such, if it becomes necessary to relocate a project or center, it can easily be moved to a different silo or tunnel within the parameters of the military site. This makes pinpointing the exact location of nuclear research and activities more challenging, and reduces the chance of exposure. The civilian sector has provided a plausible cover, by establishing nuclear energy projects at the universities. Resources and research can be used on the one hand, and their experts and talented individuals trained and recruited on the other. It has also provided a conduit for procuring dual-purpose technology and equipment that is ultimately used in the military section.

It is very telling that scores of authorities and senior officials of the two systems have exchanged positions and responsibilities over the years. It has been common practice to utilize scientists and researchers in the civilian side for the military program, and to lend staff from the military side to the civilian sector to increase proficiency and expertise by utilizing each other’s facilities and centers. As such, universities affiliated with IRGC and the Ministry of Defense, Imam Hossein University and Malek-Ashtar University, have played an important role as a bridge between these two programs.

A review of the military sector’s methods in obtaining essential equipment and devices revealed that on several occasions even the postal addresses of universities and academic centers affiliated with the civilian nuclear project have been used for procurement purposes. Some entities at the highest levels of the Iranian regime, including offices and centers affiliated with the President’s office, have been involved in smuggling or skirting sanctions to obtain illicit or dual-purpose equipment for these projects.

 

Direct role of the IRGC in the nuclear weapons program

The nuclear weapons program from its inception was conducted under the command of the IRGC and was supervised by its top brass. From the inception, a special section within the IRGC was assigned the task of overseeing scientific research and of securing nuclear technology for military use.

During the years while the project was pursued by the Ministry of Defense, the top commanders of the MOD were IRGC generals.

During the 1987 visit to Iran of Pakistani nuclear scientist, who ran a secret international smuggling network of nuclear technology and equipment, at least on two occasions he was met by three commanders of IRGC. The head of the IRGC delegation was Mohammad Salami, who was the director of the IRGC research. Salami who rose to the rank of Brigadier General, became the Director of Defense Research and Education of the MOD.

IRGC Brigadier General Ali Hosseini-Tash is one of the most prominent officials involved in the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program. In his position as the head of the research section of the Ministry of Defense and as Deputy Minister of Defense, from February 2004 until September 2005, he oversaw AMAD.

In a press conference held in May 2004 in Paris by Mr. Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the Iranian Resistance revealed his role for the first time. Mr. Mohaddessin said that Amad was functioning under the supervision of Ali Hosseini-Tash. Hosseini-Tash reported these activities directly to Ali Shamkhani, the then-Minister of Defense.

In February 2005, the NCRI revealed that the Iranian regime has worked on production of a neutron initiator by using Polonium 210 and Beryllium. This project was handled by Dr. Nasser Ehsani in Malek Ashtar University affiliated with MOD and under the supervision of Hosseini-Tash.

Parchin site was one of the most important locations used by AMAD. Saeed Borji, a confidant of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and an explosives expert, was a key director of this center. He was in direct contact with the Ukrainian expert Vycheslav V. Danilenko, who oversaw the construction of explosive chamber(s) used in Parchin. Borji was the head METFAZ, a subdivision SPND. When Parchin was being used for these experiments, Hosseini-Tash directly supervised the organ that worked on weaponization.

In his memoirs, entitled “National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy”, published in 2011, Hassan Rouhani wrote that Hosseini-Tash took part in the meetings of the nuclear committee of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) from 2003 to 2005. He wrote on page 141: “Regarding the nuclear committee located at the secretariat of the SNSC and the organs that should play a key function, I mentioned previously that several months before I took over, this committee was active in the secretariat and members of the committee were selected by the leaders. Dr. Ali-Akbar Velayati (Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative), Dr. Kamal Kharrazi (Foreign Minister), Hojjatolislam Ali Younessi (Minister of Intelligence), Admiral Ali Shamkhani (Defense Minister), Dr. Hosseini-Tash (Deputy Minister of Defense), Gholamreza Aghazadeh (head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran), and I (secretary of SNSC) were members of this committee.”

It is noteworthy that while from each ministry only one official took part in the meetings, two officials from the Ministry of Defense, Hosseini-Tash and Shamkhani, were present. This was because of Hosseini-Tash’s direct role in the nuclear issue.

In a report on the agreement between the International Atomic Energy Organization and the Iranian regime on the disclosed side agreement for an investigation of the Parchin nuclear site, the Associated Press reported on August 2015 that the proposed signatory for Iran is listed as Ali Hosseini Tash, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for Strategic Affairs.

Ali Hossein-Tash

The backgrounds of some key figures in the Iranian regime’s nuclear program are telling regarding the role of IRGC in the nuclear weapons program. During the formation and advancement of the nuclear program, these characters functioned interchangeably within the military and/or the civilian sectors, depending on specific needs of the program.

Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani is one of these individuals. He enrolled in the IRGC at its inception. He received his MS in nuclear physics in 1987 and his PhD in 2002 and is an expert in laser technology. As such, he has been involved in the project of enriching uranium, using lasers. Abbasi has been one of the key figures in the military section, where he has played an active role from the inception of the weaponization headquarters. He has been active in recruiting suitable individuals for the military nuclear project since the early 1990s. By his own acknowledgment, his real rank in the IRGC is “general.” He became a member of the faculty of the Physics Department of Imam Hossein University in 1993 and was named Dean of the Physics Department. But according to the state-run media, he rarely showed up at the university and evidently spent most of his time in another venue, i.e. the headquarters for the weaponization of the nuclear project. He became the head of the civilian sector, the AEOI on February 13, 2000, a post he held until August 2013.

Fereydoun Abbasi Davani

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi (known as Dr. Mohseni within the regime), the current head of SPND has a similar background. He is an IRGC Brigadier General and has played various roles in the nuclear weapons program.

 

International acknowledgment of the role of Iranian Resistance in exposing Tehran's clandestine nuclear project and veracity of its revelations

 

·                     

President, George W. Bush, White House Press Conference, March 16, 2005

 

"Let me review the bidding on this, …Iran has concealed its -- a nuclear program. That became discovered, not because of their compliance with the IAEA or NPT, but because a dissident group pointed it out to the world, and -- which raised suspicions about the intentions of the program… And as a result of those suspicions, we came together with friends and allies to seek a guarantee that they wouldn't use any nuclear program to make weapons."

 

  • Iran: Mixed Signals on MEK, Newsweek, April 11, 2005

 

At a March 16 press conference, the president said Iran's hidden nuclear program had been discovered not because of international inspections but "because a dissident group pointed it out to the world." White House aides acknowledge that the dissident group cited by the president is the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)."

 

"Remember, this all started when they -- we found them enriching uranium in an undeclared fashion. And it happened because somebody told on them. It was an Iranian group that brought forth the information."

 

  • Vice President Dick Cheney, December 6, 2007, interview with Politico Magazine:

"The reality is that if you go back to a few years ago, Iran had two programs. They had one program to enrich uranium that was headquartered in Natanz, which was covert until it was disclosed in about 2002, if you remember, by political opposition figures inside Iran. And Iran at that point acknowledged, yes, they do have an enrichment program at Natanz. And after that it was subject to IAEA inspection."

 

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, interview with Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2005

 

"It was a dissident group that exposed Natanz."

 

  • The New York Times, January 5, 2010:

In 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group, revealed that Iran was building a secret underground nuclear plant at Natanz that turned out to be for enriching uranium. Enrichment plants can make fuel for reactors or, with a little more effort, atom bombs.

Satellite photos showed the Iranians burying two cavernous halls roughly half the size of the Pentagon. Estimates put the thickness of overhead rock, dirt and concrete at 30 feet — enough to frustrate bombs but not to guarantee the plant’s survival.

The disclosure of Natanz set off the West’s confrontation with Iran. Two years later, the International Atomic Energy Agency found to its surprise that Iran was tunneling in the mountains by the Isfahan site, where uranium is readied for enrichment. “Iran failed to report to the agency in a timely manner,” an I.A.E.A. paper said in diplomatic understatement.

Then, in late 2005, the Iranian opposition group held news conferences in Paris and London to announce that its spies had learned that Iran was digging tunnels for missile and atomic work at 14 sites, including an underground complex near Qum. The government, one council official said, was building the tunnels to conceal “its pursuit of nuclear weapons.” The council further charged that Mr. Ahmadinejad and the tunneling association were providing civilian cover for military work and acquisitions.

The council’s assertions got little notice. Some Western experts saw them as overstated. Some questioned the council’s objectivity because it sought the government’s overthrow. Perhaps the biggest impediment was a suspicion of defectors at a time when the American invasion of Iraq was proving to be based in part on Iraqi dissidents’ false claims about Saddam Hussein’s unconventional weapons.

United Nations atomic inspectors did check out a few of the tunnels at Isfahan, but not at Qum because the plant was on a military base and thus off limits for inspection without strong evidence of suspicious activity…

Frank Pabian, a senior adviser on nuclear nonproliferation at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, strongly disagreed. “They’re right 90 percent of the time,” he said of the council’s disclosures about Iran’s clandestine sites. “That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but 90 percent is a pretty good record.”

In 2007, the council announced that Iran was tunneling in the mountains near Natanz, the sprawling enrichment site. Satellite photos confirmed that.

And Qum became a vindication, though belatedly, in late September, when President Obama, flanked by the leaders of France and Britain, identified “a covert uranium enrichment facility” being constructed there.

 

  • The New York Times, May 27, 2003:

An Iranian opposition group said today that it had evidence of two previously undisclosed uranium enrichment facilities west of Tehran. The group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella for Iranian opposition organizations, said the facilities were discovered by the People`s Mujahedeen, a resistance group that brought the Natanz plant to the attention of international weapons inspectors. “This organization has been extremely on the mark in the past,” said a senior United Nations official who is familiar with the situation in Iran, adding, “They are a group that seems to be privy to very solid and insider information.”

 

 

[1] Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, :Bejing’s Tehran Connection,” The Washington Post, June 26, 2991.

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