Former Iran official describes alleged US sabotage of nuke program

The former head of Iran's nuclear program is laying out in detail how the U.S. and other intelligence agencies allegedly carried out a constant campaign of sabotage against his country.

According to Fereydoon Abbasi, who spoke to an Iranian newspaper, the U.S. would prevent companies from sending equipment to Iran -- but would then put that kind of equipment on the black market, having ensured it would actually damage Iranian operations. He claims the U.S. would find out, via the U.N. nuclear agency, what parts Iran was trying to get and from whom, and plant everything from viruses to explosives on the equipment.

"They would pressure that country or company not to transfer the parts or equipment to Iran, or would allow them to do so [only] after sabotaging [the parts]," he told the Iranian daily Khorasan. "For instance, if it was an electronic system, they would infect it with a virus, or plant explosives in it, or even alter the type of components, in order to paralyze [Iran's] system."

The interview was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.

"They opened the channels that they personally control, in order to provide Iran with equipment that would also benefit them," Abbasi reportedly said.

Abbasi claimed this is how the U.S. got the Stuxnet virus into Iran. "They planted it in equipment that Iran purchased," he said.

Stuxnet was the computer virus that is credited with slowing Iran's nuclear program for months.

U.S. officials have never commented on any involvement in that operation, but leading nuclear expert David Albright -- a former weapons inspector and now head of the Institute for Science and International Security -- says such sabotage operations are obviously and necessarily happening.

"Iran is going out and buying these things illegally for sanctioned programs that the U.N. Security Council says have to stop -- therefore, the western intelligence agencies are taking steps to ... make it harder for Iran to succeed in operating those sanctioned and banned activities," he said.

In the newspaper interview, the former head of Iran's nuclear program also admitted that Iran has repeatedly lied about its nuclear program -- purely because of the risk of sabotage, implying Iran would otherwise be honest.

Peter Brookes, of the Heritage Foundation, says that argument is nonsense.

"He's trying to build a case for what they did for their deception, their disinformation. But the fact of the matter is if Iran had been truthful about their nuclear program all along, we wouldn't have these problems, then we wouldn't be discussing these issues," he said.

Talks between Iran, the U.S. and other nations are ongoing. But if diplomacy fails, it appears both sides are still prepared to play a higher-stakes game of industrial espionage and subterfuge.