Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Physics Research Center and Iran’s Parallel Military Nuclear Program

I have known this since the early 90s and so has everyone else.  That pimp professor Juan Cole has been pooh-poohing the idea all these years, but he's an idiot.  Even the US government, as recently as YESTERDAY still says that Iran hasn't decided whether or not to make nuclear weapons.  They are lying - but that's what they do.

We have nor reached a crossroads.  We are making war noise at Iran BECAUSE someone finally discovered they have a stockpile of nuclear weapons just like Pakistan, India, Israel and, potentially, Syria.

February 23, 2012

The Washington Post has published an article on the unanswered nuclear weaponization issues of the Iranian nuclear program. The summary below is part of a major ISIS report referenced by the Washington Post looking into the possibility of an Iranian military nuclear program parallel to the civilian one conducted by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

The Physics Research Center and Iran’s Parallel Military Nuclear Program

A key issue for the International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA) is whether Iran has a parallel military nuclear program that can provide nuclear weapons if the regime decides to build them. Understanding that issue depends critically on what Iran’s military nuclear entities have achieved already. Newly aquired information sheds light on one of Iran’s most important and least understood military nuclear organizations, the Physics Research Center, which operated in the 1990s and was later consolidated into successive military nuclear organizations. The new information also demonstrates the incompleteness and inadequacy of Iran’s declarations to the IAEA about its past and possibly on-going military nuclear efforts

By David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Andrea Stricker


Evidence obtained by the IAEA indicates that the Iranian revolutionary regime probably first made a decision to build nuclear weapons in the mid-to-late 1980s. According to information received by the IAEA and included in its November 2011 report, the Physics Research Center (PHRC) appears to have been created in 1989 as part of an effort to create an undeclared nuclear program, likely aimed at the development of a nuclear weapon. PHRC in turn may have evolved from a project at Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG) in the late 1980s that may have sought to research a nuclear warhead for a ballistic missile. In 2003, under intense international pressure, Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment programs. Based on the IAEA’s findings, Iran sought to keep its nuclear weaponization programs secret from the inspectors and took steps to better hide this program’s existence. The razing of the Lavisan Shian in 2004 site that formerly housed the PHRC was likely an attempt to prevent the IAEA from carrying out environmental sampling, a technique that had uncovered other secret Iranian nuclear activities in 2003.

Although Iran has admitted that the PHRC was related to the military and had a nuclear purpose in the area of defense preparedness and radiation detection, its actual nuclear role appears much more extensive. ISIS has accumulated from multiple sources a range of procurement information related to the PHRC. ISIS has obtained supplier companies’ information, a set of over 1,600 telexes between PHRC or Sharif University and overseas suppliers, and other information obtained from governments, IAEA reports, and the media. The information provides an extensive picture of PHRC’s wide-ranging procurement efforts in the early 1990s. Several experts retained by ISIS have assessed the information in the telexes. About 50 telexes referenced in the report’s text are found in a supplement.

The information and documents assembled by ISIS suggest that the PHRC had departments focused on a wide range of nuclear technology, including gas centrifuges and laser enrichment, radiation protection, uranium conversion, uranium exploration and possibly mining, and heavy water production. This finding supports the allegation that Iran’s Ministry of Defense was involved in many aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and the research and development of nuclear weapons.

In the early 1990s, the Physics Research Center engaged in an extensive procurement effort that included using Sharif University of Technology and other entities to assist in outfitting a nuclear program. In many cases, Sharif University appears to have been used as a front for purchases made by PHRC. Some goods could have gone to Sharif University, but the bulk of the procurements appear destined for the PHRC or its sponsors. Sharif University also housed significant relevant expertise on nuclear technology, and there may have been cooperation between Sharif University and PHRC on undeclared nuclear activities that went beyond procurement.

Iran has failed to declare all of PHRC’s activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has stated to the IAEA that the PHRC procurements were not related to a nuclear program. The information assembled in this ISIS report, however, contradicts this claim. Iran has created a cover story for the PHRC involving Sharif University that attempts to hide its true activities, including a vast number of both successful and attempted procurements for ostensibly undeclared nuclear programs.

Whatever nuclear activities PHRC pursued in the early 1990s, they appear independent of those of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in the area of gas centrifuges, uranium exploration and possibly mining, and uranium conversion. Iran should explain to the IAEA why there appears to have been a parallel, organized nuclear program.

The telexes, which mainly date to 1990-1993, do not reveal an extensive effort to research or develop nuclear weapons, commonly called nuclear weaponization. However, some procurements or attempted procurements appear aimed at equipment or technology that would be a prerequisite for such work.

What did the PHRC accomplish and was it closed in 1998, as Iran declared to the IAEA? The IAEA has suggested in its November 2011 report that PHRC instead was consolidated under the AMAD Plan. Where are the goods procured by the PHRC, and where are all the hundreds of engineers, scientists, and administrators who worked there?

Prior to Iran’s suspension of its centrifuge program in late 2003, military contractors at the 7th of Tir Facility made the most sensitive centrifuge components, namely the rotating ones, for the P1 centrifuges. In about 2001, the AEOI had ordered enough of these parts from 7th of Tir for 10,000 P1 centrifuges, slated for eventual installation at the then secret Natanz enrichment site, according to the IAEA. Perhaps, Iran’s Ministry of Defense originally intended to use this same manufacturing site and others to make 3,000 P1 centrifuges for a parallel military centrifuge plant that would use uranium hexafluoride produced by another project of this parallel effort. Many questions remain about the origin and purpose of the Gchine mine and the original intended function of the deeply buried Qom centrifuge plant discovered in 2009 by Western intelligence. Was the Qom site, now called the Fordow site, to be a military-controlled site dedicated to the production of weapon-grade uranium? With the end of the suspension in 2006, did the Ministry of Defense also resume its centrifuge plans as well and plan to install centrifuges at the Qom plant?

PHRC may have aimed to ensure that the military had a strong hand and competence in the nuclear fuel cycle and weaponization. Although the bulk of the nuclear fuel cycle competence would remain in the AEOI, the military would have gained enough to ensure that it could build a highly secretive parallel program aimed at obtaining both weapon-grade uranium and the weapon itself.

Despite all the new information, the PHRC remains difficult to fully understand. Iran should clarify PHRC’s exact purpose and accomplishments and its relationship to the IAEA’s broader question of the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear effort.

Read the full report at: The Physics Research Center and Iran’s Parallel Military Nuclear Program

The supplemental appendix of the telexes mentioned in the report can be found at: Appendix of PHRC telexes


The NSN seems to agree.  


NSN Daily Update: Rhetoric vs. Reality on Iran Policy




Amid a web of misstatements, GOP presidential candidates made several surprising assertions on Iran policy last night - offering interpretations and policy choices that were not merely factually wrong but run counter to the assessments of the military leaders the candidates have said time and again they would listen to in forming national security policy. The heated rhetoric on an issue that calls for cool thinking fails to capture what experts from across different across disciplines and political lines have said: diplomacy remains the most effective way to end Iran's nuclear program.


Conservative politicians: Iran is a madman, war is the best option; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Iran is a rational actor, current path is most prudent. Just this weekend, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former CENTCOM Commander General Martin Dempsey was asked by CNN's Fareed Zakaria whether Iran behaves irrationally or pursues its national interests. Dempsey responded, "That is a great question, and I'll tell you that I've been confronting that question since I commanded Central Command in 2008. And we are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor. And it's for that reason, I think, that we think the current path we're on is the most prudent path at this point." Regarding a military strike, General Dempsey said, "that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn't achieve their [Israel's] long-term objectives." As Clyde Prestowitz, a senior Commerce Department official in the Reagan administration and President of the Economic Strategy Institute, simply said: "A strike is a really dumb idea."


Yet last night Newt Gingrich explicitly, and Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney implicitly, questioned Dempsey's judgment - surprising statements from men who have repeatedly advocated "listening to the commanders in the field" on national security. Santorum said, "When they are going up against a dangerous theocratic regime that wants to wipe out the state of Israel, that wants to dominate the radical Islamic world and take on the 'Great Satan', the United States, we do nothing.  That is a president who must go and you want a leader who will take them on.  I will do that." Meanwhile, Gingrich said, "If you think a madman is about to have nuclear weapons and you think that madman is going to use those nuclear weapons, then you have an absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons." [VOA, 2/22/12. Martin Dempsey, 2/19/12. Clyde Prestowitz, 2/21/12]


"The choice between 'war now' or 'containment later' is a false one." Colin Kahl, of Georgetown University and the Center for a New American Security, and formerly the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, explains, "paradoxically, the most likely road to containment is the very course war proponents advocate: a near-term preventive strike on Iran's nuclear program. There are two pathways to containment. The one administration critics emphasize-that president Obama would somehow choose to 'live with' a nuclear-armed Iran-is actually the least likely. Obama has made clear that an Iranian nuclear weapon is 'unacceptable,' his Secretary of Defense has described an Iranian nuclear weapon as a 'red line,' and the administration has put in place unprecedented sanctions to pressure the regime to accept a diplomatic solution... In short, the least likely road to containment is the one being pursued by the administration."


Kahl further explains, "A second, and far more likely, path to containment is to rush into war before all other options have been exhausted. A near-term U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program would knock it back, at most, a few years. Meanwhile it would motivate Iran's hardliners to kick out International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, incentivize the regime to rapidly rebuild a clandestine nuclear program, and rally the Iranian people around that cause to deter future attacks. Consequently, in the aftermath of an Israeli or American strike, Washington would have to encircle Iran with a costly containment regime-much like twelve-year effort to bottle up Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War-and be prepared to re-attack at a moment's notice to prevent Iran from reconstituting its program. And with inspectors gone, it would be much more difficult to detect and prevent Iran's clandestine rebuilding efforts. The net result would be a decades-long requirement to contain an even more implacable nuclear foe... The result would be the worst of all worlds: an Iran emboldened to go for a bomb and a requirement for post-war containment without the international cooperation required to actually implement such a policy."


He concludes: "In short, the choice between 'war now' or 'containment later' is a false one. The war hawks want would likely be a prelude to failed containment, not a substitute for it. Fortunately, there are other options and we still have time to pursue them." [Colin Kahl, 2/22/12]


Diplomacy is the key to ending Iran's nuclear program. In a recent piece discussing the anniversary of President Nixon's historic trip to China, Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Winston Lord, Henry Kissinger's closest aide and former ambassador to China, explain, "One can imagine present applications of this diplomatic tour de force, most usefully with Iran." Similarly, Hans Blix, former IAEA director general and chief weapons inspector for the UN, said this week the priority must be "to diffuse the most acute things and prepare the road for further talks," and that the international community must convey "all our offers are on the table, not just the threats."


As Gelb has previously written, "As Western leaders back Iran into a corner and as they are locking themselves into a war policy they haven't seriously contemplated and don't really want, now is the time to offer a deal. The peace package is simple: Iran keeps its uranium facilities but with capabilities to enrich reduced to levels fit only for civilian use. Tehran also agrees to the tightest international verification procedures. The West lifts sanctions gradually as Iran complies with both reconfiguring its nuclear plants and accepts the necessary verification. For sure, President Obama has tried similar proposals before. This time, however, Iran may find that the biting economic pressures make the deal more palatable. For sure, neither I nor anyone else knows whether Iran will accept this time. But I do know this: if we don't at least try the negotiating track, a war of untold uncertainties and dangers can come upon us." [Les Gelb and Winston Lord, 2/20/12. Hans Blix, 2/22/12. Les Gelb, 1/30/12]


What We're Reading


The U.S. and North Korea resumed talks regarding the country's nuclear weapons program.


Blasts in predominantly Shiite areas killed more than 50 in Baghdad.


The UN released a report that accuses Syria of crimes against humanity.


An Afghan soldier killed two NATO soldiers amid growing protests over the burning of Korans.


British Prime Minister David Cameron said that global security hinges on Somalia's future.


Gunmekilled four policemen in the northern Nigerian city of Kano.


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke to a crowd of about 100,000 supporters ahead of the March 4 presidential election.


Former Filipino President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pleaded not guilty to election fraud charges.


Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called a leadership ballot as she finds her party engulfed in an internal battle.


U.S. military prosecutors reached a tentative plea deal with a Pakistani man accused of having worked with Khalid Sheik Mohammed.


Commentary of the Day


Luke Hunt sees Asia as the battleground between Iran and Western powers.


Clive Cook thinks Europe is on the road to disaster.


The popular Syrian blogger BSyria asks whether Aleppo, Syria's economic capital, will rise up as the bloodbath continues around other parts of the country.



The National Security Network's (NSN) mission is to revitalize America's national security policy, and bring cohesion and strategic focus to the progressive national security community. NSN works with a broad network of experts to identify, develop and communicate progressive national security policy solutions.

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