German intelligence: Iran still working to acquire WMD technology

Dossier concludes Tehran has been conducting industrial espionage focused on technology and engineering companies in bid to boost missile program

Iranians gather next to a replica of a medium-range ballistic missile during a demonstration outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4, 2017, marking the anniversary of its storming by student protesters that triggered a hostage crisis in 1979. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Iranians gather next to a replica of a medium-range ballistic missile during a demonstration outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4, 2017, marking the anniversary of its storming by student protesters that triggered a hostage crisis in 1979. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Iran has been continuing its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Fox News reported Saturday, citing an intelligence report published by a German state intelligence agency.

“Iran continued to undertake — as did Pakistan and Syria — efforts to obtain goods and know-how to be used for the development of weapons of mass destruction and to optimize corresponding missile delivery systems,” said the dossier put together by the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the intelligence agency of the German state of Baden-Württemberg — the German equivalent of the FBI that operates at a state level.

The Iranian efforts were heavily focused on the southern German state, which is home to many specialized technology and engineering companies, the report said.

The Baden-Württemberg intelligence officials said they had gathered “intensive intelligence on activities of Iran’s spy agencies.”

The report said Tehran’s activities focused on trying to acquire “German software, sophisticated vacuum and control engineering technologies, measurement devices, and advanced electrical equipment for its missile program.”

The German intelligence agency said that Iran has also carried out espionage activities against government offices in Berlin as well as continuing to spy on Iranian dissidents in Germany.

The report, which was published on May 24, argued that “current worsening relations with the USA, as well as Western governments’ critical views toward Iran’s atomic program, may lead to an increase of Iranian espionage activities.”

Tehran has continued its pursuit to acquire technology for an advanced missile program, the intelligence agency argued.

In this photo released by the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), an Iranian Shahab-3 missile is launched during military maneuvers outside the city of Qom, Iran, Tuesday, June 28, 2011 (photo credit: AP/ISNA, Ruhollah Vahdati)
An Iranian Shahab-3 missile launched during military exercises outside the city of Qom, Iran, in June 2011. (AP/ISNA/Ruhollah Vahdati)

In February, the news outlet had reported that Iranian businessmen had purchased materials from a German company called the Krempel group, which were later found in the remains of what were believed to have been chemical rockets used in apparent gas attacks on Syrian civilians earlier this year.

Nonetheless, Fox News said that Berlin has not ordered a halt in trade between Krempel and Iran.

Last month, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, accused Iran of violating a Security Council resolution by conducting in January two previously unreported tests on ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

In a letter to the Security Council, Danon said a variant of the Shahab-3 medium-range missile was tested on January 2 in the region of Chabahar in southeast Iran. Three days later, he said, the country’s military launched a variant of the Scud missile from a firing range 110 kilometers northeast of the city of Kerman.

The ambassador did not cite any sources for his claims. There don’t seem to have been any reports of such activities by Iran in January. Danon and the Israeli Ministry of Defense did not reply to requests for details.

Iran has conducted dozens of missile tests in recent years in violation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which affirmed the 2015 nuclear deal and called on Iran to refrain from developing missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Iran has maintained that it never intended to develop nuclear weapons and therefore its missile development doesn’t violate the agreement. Diplomats have said the language in the resolution is nonbinding and therefore can’t be enforced with punitive measures.

This picture released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on Saturday, July 22, 2017, shows Sayyad-3 air defense missiles during inauguration of its production line at an undisclosed location, Iran, according to official information released. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

The 2015 nuclear deal saw heavy sanctions lifted on Iran in return for Tehran freezing much of its nuclear program. Having pulled out of the deal in May, the US has vowed to apply the “strongest sanctions in history” on Iran.

The New York Times reported last month that weapons researchers have identified activity at a remote secret Iranian facility that points to the covert development of long-range missiles that could potentially be used to attack the United States.

Satellite images appear to show, among other things, activity around a tunnel leading underground and evidence of powerful rocket engine tests that scorched telltale marks in the desert sand near the city of Shahrud, the report said.

The US and its allies have been demanding that Iran curb its production of ballistic missiles, which can reach parts of Europe and could soon reach the US as well. Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing such missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.

Tehran insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is nonnegotiable.

Iranian leaders have also said they are not working on missiles with a range beyond the Middle East. It has so far produced a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), putting all of Israel in range as well as much of Eastern Europe.


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