search

Iran’s new nuclear chief was blacklisted by the UN

Mohammad Eslami, who succeeds Ali Akbar Salehi, was sanctioned for his role in ‘Iran’s proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities’

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, then-Minister of Road and Urbanization Mohammad Eslami, walks in the presidency compound, April 7, 2021, in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, then-Minister of Road and Urbanization Mohammad Eslami, walks in the presidency compound, April 7, 2021, in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president on Sunday appointed a new director of the country’s nuclear department, state TV reported, replacing the nation’s most prominent nuclear scientist with a UN-sanctioned minister who has no reported experience in nuclear energy but ties to the defense ministry.

Iran’s newly elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi chose Mohammad Eslami, a 64-year-old civil engineer who previously oversaw the country’s road network, to lead Iran’s civilian nuclear program and serve as one of several vice presidents.

He succeeds Ali Akbar Salehi, a US-educated scientist who was a key player during the years of intense international diplomacy that led to Tehran’s now-tattered 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

The deal curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, but then-president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement and reimposed crushing sanctions. Iran, in response, has gradually and publicly abandoned all restrictions on its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium.

In 2008, when Eslami served as head of Iran’s Defense Industries Training and Research Institute, the United Nations sanctioned him for “being engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran’s proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.”

The UN linked the blacklisting to his “involvement in procurement of prohibited items, goods, equipment, materials and technology,” without elaborating.

US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with top Iranian nuclear official Ali Akbar Salehi on June 30, 2015, in Vienna, Austria. (US State Department)

During the tenure of more moderate former president Hassan Rouhani, Eslami served as transportation and urban development minister.

Before joining the cabinet in 2018, he worked for years in Iran’s military industries, most recently as deputy defense minister responsible for research and industry.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi speaks before parliament to defend his cabinet selection, in the capital Tehran, on August 21, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

He holds degrees in civil engineering from Detroit University of Michigan and the University of Toledo, Ohio. Iranian media did not report details of Eslami’s experience in the nuclear field, but his engineering background speaks to the country’s renewed focus on power plant construction at a time when rolling electrical blackouts have plagued the country.

Iran is building two nuclear power facilities to supplement its sole operational 1,000-megawatt reactor at the southern port town of Bushehr, which went online with Russia’s help in 2011. Under its long-term energy plan, Iran aims to reach 20,000-megawatt nuclear electric capacity.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed