Yes, Iran Is Hiding Its Nuclear Ambitions
In October 2020, new information emerged from sources within the Iranian regime revealing that a new center has been built to continue the work of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, despite the efforts of the international community and European Union to keep the JCPOA in effect without the U.S. On October 16, 2020, Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Direction of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) U.S. Representative, and Soona Samsami, U.S. Representative, released information about this new center, including its location and activities.
This new center was built outside of Tehran, in an area where other missile and military complexes were already located, thus providing cover for its nuclear activities. The construction of this new center started in 2012, before the JCPOA, and was continued after the JCPOA went into effect. Critical pieces of equipment for this new center were bought under the name of another country to circumvent the sanctions banning these purchases.
The Geophysics Group has been working with the SPND on tests of preliminary explosions and recording the results by seismometers. Wells have been dug so that these explosions can occur underground and thus are less likely to be tracked by other countries in the international community. The NCRI presentation exposed underground nuclear tests and underground tunnels meant to provide cover for these tests.
Plus, by locating this new center in an area that was already designated as a military complex, the regime was able to keep the identities of its personnel a secret.
The Defense Ministry of Iran, along with the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), continue to engage in secret and illicit purchases of military grade sensitive seismometers from the Russian Federation, according to reports from European countries.
The IRGC engineer, Hashemi Tabar, is in charge of the IRGC’s secret projects and was actively involved in the construction of these tunnels and secret sites related to this project. Locals are also prohibited from entering this region, which has now been cordoned off with barbed wire fencing.
High explosive testing and activities related to the Center for Research and Expansion of Technologies on Explosions and Impact (METFAZ) is linked to this new site. Another site, Abadeh, was exposed to the international community in July 2019 and the regime destroyed it to avoid any chance that its tests related to nuclear weapons were conducted. After a year of sanitization, the IAEA was allowed access to this former site in August 2020.
SPND Never Disbanded
The Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, known as SPND, is part of the Iranian Ministry of Defense and heavily controlled by the IRGC. The SPND, instead of being disbanded after the JCPOA came into effect, was expanded. This latest revelation of another new center is not surprising, especially in light of revelations from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) that began in 2011. The SPND was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of State in 2014.
Despite requests by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to interview the leader of the SPND, Brigadier General Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi, those requests have continually been denied. The IAEA has only been offered token sites to the IAEA for inspection in the years since the JCPOA went into effect. In the spring of 2017, the NCRI-US office revealed the continuation of nuclear weapon activities in the Parchin complex, a research facility outside of Tehran.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration negotiated the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with the Iranian regime in his second term. The agreement was reached in July 2015 and was between Iran and the P5+1, along with the European Union. President Donald Trump spoke against the agreement and once in office, was actively looking for a reason to pull out of the agreement.
Questions emerged about whether the Iranian regime was truly holding up their side of the agreement, although on the surface, it did appear that they were doing so. Revelations in the years that followed painted a different picture, demonstrating that the Iranian regime had continued its efforts to create a nuclear weapon, even while they presented a picture of innocence to the international community.
Despite efforts by the international community to limit the Iranian regime’s efforts to create a nuclear weapon, the SPND has not been dismantled. Instead, its work has been expanded, new sites for its work have been created, and it continues to hide the testing being done from international agencies meant to monitor these activities. As long as these activities continue to thrive, then the Iranian regime will continue to move toward a nuclear weapon. The international community must hold the regime accountable and not continue to operate under blind faith that the regime is abiding by the JCPOA or any other agreement.
Hamid Enayat is a human rights activist and writer.