So coolly confident are Iran’s leaders of their ability to manipulate the West into giving them as much diplomatic rope as they need to reach their nuclear goal that they are willing to parade most, though not all, the heads of their nuclear program for all the world to see.
All the same, not everything is displayed by the canny rulers of the Islamic republic.
On Aug. 27, two days after the public inauguration of a new heavy water plant in the town of Arak, supreme ruler Ali Khamenei held a secret ceremony at an unknown location to confer commendations and $10,000 cash prizes on a small group of Iranian and foreign nuclear scientists.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly can name the two Iranians as Dr. Mohammad Hossein Faribod and Eng. Abbas Termei-Pour, who took their prize money in Iranian currency. The foreign recipients were Anatoli Kiyankin from Ukraine, Son Yen Sun from North Korea and Chin Shangchun from China.
They were honored for their role in completing three key projects: the Natanz nuclear projects including the uranium enrichment center; the Esfahan plant for converting uranium to UFC gas and the heavy water plant at Arak.
The three foreign scientists use false names and travel on fake documents to throw foreign intelligence agencies off their track – whether to lean on their governments to withdraw from participation in Iran’s nuclear program, or to harm them personally. They return to their home countries periodically to report to their superiors and see their families. At home, they revert to their real identifies. Iran rewards the scientists and their governments handsomely for their services, which are granted under nuclear cooperation contracts between their governments and Tehran.
A brazen honors ceremony
Another secret recipient of the supreme ruler’s commendation and prize was an Iranian company by the name of Mesbh Energy.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal that this firm is one part of a group engaged solely in procuring equipment, technology and components for the manufacture of high-speed P-2 centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
Our Iranian sources add that to accelerate the enrichment process, Tehran set up two groups of companies for obtaining spare parts, technical know-how and materials. The first is indirectly owned by the government; the second also includes private firms. They are paid a sum plus commission according to their success in filling the industry’s requests. If they fail, it is at their own expense.
Just a few minutes after Khamenei’s private award ceremony ended, Tehran television aired a public award ceremony led by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He handed out badges of honor to the heads of Iran’s nuclear industry lauding them as national heroes of the Islamic Republic.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly listes some of Iran’s outstanding nuclear executives after digging up some of their backgrounds:
Gholamreza Aghaazadeh, Director of the Nuclear Energy Agency
A former oil minister, Aghaazadeh is one of the few prominent officials of revolutionary Iran who is not a political figure. He is directly responsible to Khamenei for the overt and clandestine aspects of the national nuclear program.
A pragmatist rather than an extremist, he is close to former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. Thanks to his outstanding ability as a manager of nuclear projects, administrator and technocrat, he has served in key government posts for more than 15 years under two presidents as different as the reform-minded Mohammed Khatami and the bigoted Ahmadinejad. Aghaazadeh stays clear of international diplomacy on the fate of the Iranian program, which is led by National Security Adviser Ali Larijani.
Jaafar Mohammadi, Technical Adviser to the Nuclear Energy Agency
The dossiers carrying Mohammadi’s name in the files of American, European and Israel intelligence services are thicker than that of any other Iranian nuclear official.
The shadowy wheeler, dealer and intriguer behind the nuclear program, he too is formally in charge of overseas equipment procurement. In practice, he runs the undercover import of illicit equipment often from shady sources. The project leaders and scientists tell him what they need and he gets it for them by hook or by crook, either directly or through the 2,000 agents, most Iranians but also several hundred foreigners, which he runs often in harness with Iranian intelligence. A tireless globetrotter, Mohammadi calls several times a month on his contacts in Beijing, Pyongyang, Moscow and several towns in Germany.
Western intelligence sources have named him as the undercover figure whose contacts with Abdel Qadar Khan, the Pakistani head of a nuclear black market, brought the Iranian program the centrifuges for uranium enrichment and the technology for their manufacture. Mohammadi performs the same services for Iran’s illicit missile industry, getting hold of forbidden technology and hiring scientists and engineers capable of wedding a nuclear warhead to ballistic missiles still under development.
Halen Bakhtiar, Mohammadi’s Senior Deputy
The only woman holding down a high-ranking job in Iran’s nuclear program, Bakhtiar helps her boss locate and select foreign firms and parties able to meet the requirements of nuclear projects and adapt the equipment to those needs.
Mohammad Ghannadi-Margheh, Head of Nuclear Research Institutions
Ghannadi-Margheh studied nuclear science in Germany and graduated from US universities. He acts as the lead troubleshooter of the nuclear and missile programs. It is up to him to find solutions at home or abroad for breakdowns, hitches, faults and mishaps and keep production running smoothly and steadily towards the goals approved by Iran’s national leaders.
He can call on a string of research institutes for help, led by the Central Tehran Institute, which specializes in problems associated with uranium enrichment and another research center in Arak which deals with snags cropping up in heavy water production.
Morteza Behzad, Director-General of the Institute for Centrifuge Technology
Behzad is another linchpin of the nuclear program. His current assignment, with associates, is to transform the limited manufacture of top-speed P-2 centrifuges into mass production, the goal being 40-60,000 centrifuges per year. His failure to achieve this great leap would leave Iran short of enough enriched weapons-grade uranium for a strategic stockpile of nuclear bombs.
Jabar Safdari, Director- General of Natanz Enrichment Installations
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources report that Safdari performs the essential function of liaison between Iranian research institutions and the nuclear engineers and technicians working on the practical applications of the scientists’ researches and ideas.
Safdari, who is of Arab descent, works with Morteza Behzad and Jaafar Mohammadi, Technical Adviser to the Nuclear Energy Agency, in building a mass production line for P-2 centrifuge machines.
Hamid-Reza Mohajerani, Deputy Directory of the Company for Uranium Processing
A technical man, he is in charge of keeping all the installations running without interruption.
Sovlat-Thana, Director General of the UCF Factories, Isfahan
This official, whose given name is unknown, has a key function in the program revealed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly as consisting of four sections:
1. Mining uranium in the Saghand mines, which are located in central Iran near Kashan.
2. Grinding and pulverizing the uranium rock in a factory in Kashan.
3. Converting the powder to gas at an installation in Isfahan which Sovlat-Thana manages.
4. Transporting the gas in tanks from Isfahan to Natanz and streaming it to the centrifuges for enrichment up to weapons grade.
Ali Haj-Nia, Head of Construction at the Arak Heavy Water plant
He works with Ghannadi-Maragheh, the troubleshooter in charge of nuclear research Institutions.
Abbas Rashidi, in Charge of the 164-Centrifuge Series at Natanz
Rashidi is credited with overcoming the serious technical difficulties confronted by the scientists and engineers developing a P-2 centrifuge version capable of faultless operation. Our intelligence sources report that Rashidi is on the verge of completing a second P-2 model. He is also finishing a series of tests to ensure that the first model of which Iran produced 164 pieces will mesh smoothly with the new model. According to our information, the Rashidi team is in the last stages of these tests. The coordinated operation of the two versions of the same centrifuge will enable Iran to go into mass and relatively inexpensive production of P-2 centrifuges.
Housang Novbari, head of the Enrichment Combine
Novbari is also deputy director of construction at Natanz and a first-class technical executive.
Hamid-Reza Mohajerani, Dep. Dir. Of the Company for Uranium Processing
He is the senior assistant of Housahng Novbari.
Ali Fadee, Head of Planning at the Uranium Processing Plant in Kashan
Fadee is responsible for the initial stage of uranium processing as it comes from the Saghand mines and before it is sent on to Natanz.
Seyyed Amir-Moayed Alaee
Alaee holds a top secret post in Iran’s nuclear program. Western intelligence has very little information about his background or current position. It is conjectured that he is in charge of the Iranian intelligence blanket thrown over the nuclear projects to block penetration by hostile agents. If that is his job, Alaee would be Chief of Iranian Nuclear Counterintelligence.