At least three European intelligence agencies have recently revealed that the Iranian regime engaged in procurement activities last year which could have advanced its progress toward developing weapons of mass destruction. Reports of these findings come at a sensitive time, as negotiations continue in Vienna over the potential restoration of a nuclear agreement that the United States pulled out of in 2018. Those negotiations may now be complicated by increased attention to old questions about the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions.
The German, Netherlands, and Sweden intelligence reports indicate that the Iranian regime has repeatedly attempted to cultivate business contacts in highly developed states for the purpose of acquiring equipment and technical knowledge that might be applied to nuclear activities and the development of weapons of mass destruction. All reports indicate that the incidents took place in 2020.
Some Tehran apologists claim that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful because Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has issued a “fatwa“ declaring nuclear weapons to be contrary to Islam. But the sincerity and practical effect of that edict have been called into question, with entities like the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) arguing that its likely purpose was to provide cover for the regime to surreptitiously pursue nuclear enrichment and procurement activities before rushing to nuclear weapons capability.
In February, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said: “The fatwa forbids the production of nuclear weapons, … but if they push Iran in those directions, it is not Iran’s fault. Those who pushed Iran in that direction will be to blame.”
In light of his position, there is no doubt that when Alavi was delivering these remarks, he was aware of the sorts of activities identified by German, Dutch, and Swedish intelligence agencies over the course of 2020. The Swedish report noted that Iran “conducts industrial espionage, which is mainly targeted against Swedish hi-tech industry and Swedish products, which can be used in nuclear weapons programs. Iran is investing heavy resources in this area and some of the resources are used in Sweden.”