The bombshell revelations by Iran's parliament-in-exile, the National Council of Resistance (NCRI), about a working nuclear warhead development facility and a new command and control center for Iran's nuclear bomb-making only two days before the release of the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proved to be a major blow to the ruling Ayatollahs in Tehran.
In a news conference in Brussels on February 20, 2008, Mohammad Mohaddessin, the Chairman of the NCRI's Foreign Affairs Committee, announced that in April 2007, the Iranian regime's nuclear project entered a new phase. For the first time, a command and control center, known as Mojdeh site, was established to head up the drive to complete a nuclear bomb. A development facility called the "Field for Expansion of Deployment of Advanced Technologies" was set up in the Lavizan 2 site (see satellite imagery).
Mojdeh site is managed by a scientist named Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi. A nuclear physicist attached to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), Mahabadi reports directly to the defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najar. Many of the activities at the site are disguised as part of the IRGC's Malek Ashtar University, which acts more as the support center doing research and development of weapons for the Mojdeh site than a university.
Working on and coordinating activities on a neutron initiator; producing Polunium-210 and Beryllium for the trigger for an atomic bomb; casting and machining of uranium metals; research on the fissile material needed for the production of a bomb; laser enrichment of uranium; and research on high explosives, radiation detection, and protection against radioactive materials are among the activities carried out at the Mojdeh site.
The secret facility to make nuclear warheads is located at Khojir, a Defense Ministry missile site southeast of Tehran. This is a vast, 120-square kilometer area southeast of Tehran. It is riddled with various facilities and tunnels dedicated to nuclear and missile projects (see satellite imagery).
Khojir is heavily secured military area. Construction of secret military sites in this location began in 1989. This location works primarily on the manufacturing of missiles such as Shahab 3. However, new, detailed information reveals that Tehran is building nuclear warheads at this site. The project was codenamed 8500 and nicknamed the Alireza Nori Industry (see satellite imagery). The warheads are being designed for installation on Shahab 3 missiles, the most advanced version of which has a range of 2,000 kilometers.
In its February 20 news conference, the NCRI announced that the full details of the latest information obtained by the Resistance network inside Iran had been provided to the IAEA.
The Tehran regime's reaction to last week's timely revelations demonstrated what a blow it had been dealt. Ahmadinejad's anguish was evident in his remarks to the state-run news agencies about this latest political defeat resulting from the opposition's devastating disclosures: “The nuclear issue in its new form began in the beginning of the summer of 2002, when [the Iranian Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK)], published a report on the Natanz and Arak nuclear sites. The International Atomic Energy Agency got involved… and resolutions were adopted one after the other.”
Then on Monday, Mohammad Khazee, the Ayatollahs' ambassador to the United Nations, dedicated almost his entire interview with journalists to complaints about the decisive role the main Iranian opposition has played in exposing the Ayatollahs' nuclear sites.
Simon Smith, the chief British delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said earlier this week that based on information presented by the IAEA to the IAEA's 35 board member nations, Iran may have continued work on nuclear weapons past 2003, the year U.S. intelligence reports indicated such activities had stopped. Earlier, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said there was no doubt that Iran had the scientific know-how, the technical capacity, and the industrial capability to develop nuclear weapons at some future point.
The NCRI's crucial revelations last week establish that the Ayatollahs' regime has indeed expedited its nuclear weapons activities, and that the IRGC has assumed command of a much larger segment of the nuclear drive. The United Nations Security Council should waste no time in adopting a decisive resolution to address Tehran's persistent violation of prior UN Security Resolutions. At the same time, a growing number of members of Congress from both sides of the isle believe that sanctions should be coupled with political pressure. The best option? Reach out to the Iranian opposition and remove all restrictions against them as they heighten their efforts to implement fundamental change in Iran.
Alireza Jafarzadeh is the author of The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis (Palgrave: February 2008).
Jafarzadeh has revealed Iran's terrorist network in Iraq and its terror training camps since 2003. He first disclosed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.
Until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran's parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of "The Iran Threat" (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org, and is on twitter @A_Jafarzadeh.