Arsenal of Poison

Friday, July 30, 1999

It is now clear that Iran’s theocracy and its ruling mullahs have embarked on a biological weapons program that threatens not only the Great Satan, as they call the United States, but, more immediately, Saudi Arabia, where rest Islam’s holiest relics and shrines.

The shocking full picture of Iran’s drive for an arsenal of germ warfare essentials has been provided by a mujahideen intelligence network and presented publicly by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Although this information cannot be independently verified, the mujahideen informants have proven accurate in the past.

The report of Iran’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction) program comes at a time when the mullahs’ regime has been peddling a “moderate” propaganda line, adopted since the election of Mohammed Khatami as Iran’s president twenty months ago. Since he quoted Alexis de Tocqueville in an interview for the Western press, it was immediately assumed that Khatami’s election presaged a new shining day in Iran’s relations with the West. Far from it.

Immediately on his election, Khatami is said to have created a group of science and technology advisers to supervise the regime’s chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs with headquarters in the Mahsa Building in Tehran. Heading this group is Taqi Ebtekar and its director, Bahari-Pour.

Four different groups are now engaged in producing biological weapons (BW):

  1. Special Industries Organization of Iran’s Ministry of Defense with some five thousand employees headquartered in a building on Tehran’s Zartosht Street. Twenty-five Iranian scientists, some with overseas training, are working on BW. A fermenter with a capacity of one hundred liters has already been developed. Within this vessel, deadly microbes can be grown capable of creating epidemics.
  2. Research Center of the Construction Crusade, which was originally to be part of the Ministry of Defense. To avoid intelligence detection, it was decided to keep it separate from the ministry. In charge of this center is Fazlollah Vakili-Fard. The center has four branches in the cities of Esfaha-n, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Mashhad. Reportedly, it is manufacturing a fermenter designed by its scientists.
  3. Revolutionary Guard Corps research is concentrated in Imam Hossein University. Karbala’i Jafar is in charge of the project, which has produced a 40–50-liter fermenter.
  4. The Biotechnology Research Center was recently established, with five biotechnology groups at work. A woman, Dr. Nassrin Azimi, is in charge of one of these biotechnology groups.

The mujahideen sources say they have identified an additional six germ warfare research and production centers that ostensibly are purely commercial enterprises. In fact, one of these centers, the Vira Laboratory on Shari’ati Street, Tehran, with 250 employees, is concentrating on producing microbes that contaminate the soil and thus would be used to destroy an enemy’s agriculture.

Another branch, War Engineering Research Center, focuses on the lethal VX microbes. Tehran’s Pasteur Institute has a secret lab that is off-limits to most employees; it is studying the toxicity of molds that produce aflatoxin.

The biggest obstacle to Iran’s BW program is a lack of trained scientists. Solution? Hire foreign experts. In charge of such overseas recruitment is Brigadier General Mohammed Fa’ezi, who has signed up a few Russian scientists, some with one-year contracts. Currently, there are fourteen foreign specialists—Chinese, Korean, and Russian—working for the Ministry of Defense Special Industries Organization; at least four Russians are working for the defense industry; and eight Russian or Ukrainian scientists were working at the Pasteur Institute.

This BW research is part of Iran’s campaign to become the dominant Middle East power. In September 1998, Iran test-fired the Shahab 3 missile with a range of eight hundred miles, bringing every major city in the region—from Tel Aviv to Riyadh—in its gun sights. On December 10, Iran successfully test-fired a ground-to-sea cruise missile called Fajr 3. These successes were publicly praised by the “moderate” Khatami. Iran and wishful thinking are a lethal mix.