by Ryan Mauro
The International Atomic Energy Agency has just released what is being called “the most damning report ever published” by the U.N. watchdog. The evidence in the report shows that Iran has a secret enrichment program, is simulating nuclear explosions, working on nuclear triggers, and developing a nuclear warhead. The report even says that Iran has made preparations for an underground nuclear test.
The IAEA report focuses on the Parchin military base 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran. The base has hundreds of buildings, tunnels and bunkers and IAEA inspectors are not allowed to visit. It is here that Iran is carrying out tests to simulate nuclear explosions. In 2003, one large test of high-explosives was done to assist with the development of a nuclear warhead that can be fitted onto a Shahab-3 ballistic missile. There is a chamber designed for a test of up to 70 kilograms of high explosives, a suitable amount for a nuclear explosion.
Iran has obtained the designs for a nuclear weapon and is actively working on a warhead. As of 2006, it was working on neutron initiators, often referred to as the “nuclear trigger” for setting off a nuclear explosion. There is no civilian application for this device. In 2008 and 2009, Iran was researching how to make the core of a warhead where the bomb fuel is stored. There have also been computer simulations of nuclear explosions. A Russian scientist named Vyacheslav Danilenko taught the Iranians how to develop nuclear triggers, test nuclear weapons and develop a warhead from 1996 to 2002.
The IAEA also discloses Iran’s “Green Salt Project,” a secret uranium enrichment project hidden from U.N. inspectors. The program’s objective is to acquire uranium in order to create the nuclear warhead. The underground Fodor site near Qom, which was revealed in 2009, is part of this project. The mountain-based site is designed to hold 3,000 centrifuges, far from what is necessary for a domestic energy program but enough for nuclear bomb production. The report says at least 412 centrifuges have been installed there and it also houses a stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
Iran is even preparing for an underground nuclear weapons test. The IAEA has obtained Iranian government documents in Farsi discussing the necessary logistics for such a test. One document from 2008 mentions the existence of a 400 meter shaft about 6 miles from the “firing control point.” The report concludes that Iran could make a nuclear bomb in the matter of months.
The IAEA’s revelations come shortly after a former member of the Revolutionary Guards who spied for the CIA, Reza Kahlili, brought renewed attention to reports that Iran already has a nuclear arsenal.
Yossef Bodansky, who served as the Director of the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare from 1988 to 2004 and authored “Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America,” presents the most detailed account of Iran’s alleged acquisition of nuclear weapons. In his book, “The High Cost of Peace,” he alleges that in the summer of 1991, the Iranian regime ordered its intelligence service to scour the former Soviet Union to search for nuclear weapons. It made contact with officials in Kazakhstan, and the Iranians sent a delegation to the country in early September.
The Kazakhs agreed to provide disassembled nuclear weapons and a team to help reassemble them after their arrival in Iran. The deal was finalized in December 1991, with Iran agreeing to purchase two 40-kiloton nuclear warheads, one aerial nuclear bomb for a MiG-27 and one 152-mm nuclear artillery shell. These weapons arrived in Iran and became operational by mid-1992. The aerial bomb was stored at the Shahid Babai Base in Isfahan. Bodansky claims that the Iranians envisioned using it in a nuclear suicide attack on a U.S. carrier by a North Korean-trained pilot. The two warheads went to a base in Lavizan in Tehran.
According to an account in Ken Timmerman’s “Countdown to Crisis,” Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major-General and future presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai led the delegation to Kazakhstan. His story likewise states that the weapons were disassembled and brought to Tehran, but that key parts were missing. The Iranians reached out to North Korea for help in filling the gaps, which proved more difficult than anticipated to fill.In August 2006, FrontPage Magazine published an interview with a Danish official named Regnar Rasmussen who worked at the Central Police Department on immigration and criminal investigations. He told Jamie Glazov that in November 1992, he met with a high-level official from an unnamed former Soviet republic. The official told him that in the autumn of 1991, the Iranians made a deal with the president of Kazakhstan to obtain nuclear weapons, believing it would help them make their own. He expresses his certainty that exactly three warheads were purchased for $7.5 billion, though Rasmussen concedes that may be an exaggeration.
Rasmussen said that the warheads were transported by train to Makhachkala in Dagestan, and then driven to Turkey using trucks. The Iranians took control of the three trucks at the Turkish city of Dogubeyazit and brought them to Tehran through the Bazargan border post in northwestern Iran. Rasmussen says that an Iranian soldier saw the warheads in Lavizan and later defected to Israel. He notes that as early as April 1992, the British newspaper, The European, was reporting that a top-secret Russian intelligence report stated that at least two nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan had gone to Iran.
Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym for an Iranian Revolutionary Guards member who spied for the U.S., says he was asked by the CIA around this time to locate an Iranian scientist who could confirm the acquisition, as Iranian delegations had been visiting nuclear sites in the former Soviet Union. Kahlili says that Russia confirmed that three nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan had gone missing and that the Vice President of German Federal Intelligence Service confirmed that two bombs had gone to Iran. There were also reports that four 152-mm nuclear artillery shells were bought by Iran as well, he says.
In 1998, the Jerusalem Post reported that Iranian government documents from 1991 and 1992 stated that two nuclear warheads from a former Soviet republic were obtained by Iran and were being maintained by Russian scientists at Lavizan. However, GlobalSecurity.org comments, “it is probable that these claims are in fact incorrect. These reports are almost certainly the product of efforts by the Israeli government to pressure the United States into stronger trade sanctions on Russia.”
Bodansky takes the story one step further. He writes that in the fall of 1992, Iran purchased an additional four 50-kiloton nuclear warheads from Kazakhstan. In December 1992, a conversation was recorded between an Iranian diplomat in Geneva and a senior diplomat in central Asia about the deal. The former asked if “the guys who wanted to buy a few warheads…completed their task in the best manner possible.” The official in central Asia replied in the affirmative, but said technical difficulties delayed the transfer. Bodansky says the warheads were shipped to North Korea instead.
Kahlili says that the intelligence about this nuclear transfer is apparently still being taken seriously. He says that Mathew Nasuti, a former U.S. Air Force captain that served as an advisor in Iraq, was told in a briefing at the State Department that it was “common knowledge” that Iran got nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. Another intelligence officer and recipient of the Bronze Star, Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, told Kahlili that his sources confirmed that Iran had two “workable nuclear warheads.”
If the story isn’t true, it’s still possible that Iran has developed nuclear weapons on its own using secret uranium enrichment sites. After all, Iran already has enough enriched uranium for at least three bombs and would only need six months to enrich its uranium to bomb-grade levels. During a meeting with a high-level Iranian defector in March 2005, Ken Timmerman was told about five secret enrichment sites, including one that supposedly contained Shahab-3 ballistic missiles and 15 nuclear warheads—“not material for fifteen warheads, but actual warheads,” he wrote in his book.
The defector learned about it from someone at the site in 2004. To verify his claim, he told Timmerman look at satellite images of the area before construction began in 2002. He described how the site was built in detail, pointing out that a housing development where 50 North Korean technicians live nearby. There’s a swimming pool to store the irradiated nuclear material and 200 Revolutionary Guards missile soldiers reside at the site, the defector claimed. Timmerman checked with his intelligence sources and they saw exactly what the defector described.
If Iran doesn’t already have atomic weapons, then we may be living in the final moments of a world without a nuclear-armed Iran.Ryan Mauro
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