Mapping Irans Bio Warfare Complex
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Mapping Irans Bio Warfare Complex



This paper provides a brief over-view of Iran\'s biological weapon complex and a few of the institutes which constitute it.

This paper provides a brief over-view of Iran\'s biological weapon complex and a few of the institutes which constitute it.



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Mapping Irans Bio Warfare Complex Document Transcript

  • 1. Draft Not for Publication An Analysis of Iran’s Biological Warfare Complex and Biological Weapon Infrastructure Drs. Jill Bellamy “The revolution in molecular biology and biotechnology can be considered as a potential Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). Andrew F. Krepinevich noted 10 RMAs in the history of warfare. Four elements are required for a RMA: technological advancement, incorporation of this new technology into military systems, military operational innovation, and organizational adaptation in a way that fundamentally alters the character and conduct of conflict.” 1 Bacillus anthracis2 Bacillus anthracis 1 Alexander, 192; Mangold and Goldberg, 158-63. From, Ainscough, Michael J., Next GenerationBioweapons, The Gathering Biological Warfare Storm, (eds.) Col. Dr. Jim A. Davis and Dr. Barry R. Schneider,USAF Counter Proliferation Centre, Air War College, Air University, Maxwell Air force Base, Alabama, March,2002. 2
  • 2. IntroductionWithin the field of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), and more specifically Chemical,Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) weapons, Iran’s suspected nuclear weapon programremains the focus of extensive assessment by Western and international intelligencecommunities. While recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), serve tohighlight Iran’s suspected nuclear weapon program, Iran’s biological and chemical weaponcapabilities, and the infrastructure which support this, have enjoyed far less scrutiny. Acomprehensive infrastructure analysis of any clandestine biological weapon complex includesassessment criteria both at the laboratory/facility level as well as the state infrastructure level.3Of specific significance to understanding the Iranian biological weapon (BW) complex is itsoversight by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the extraterritorial role of theQods Forces. Iran’s emerging biological weapon complex is infinitely more lethal, indiscriminateand could be easily deployed with plausible deniability, particularly against civilians by Iran’selite military forces. The convergence of Iran’s BW complex, with command and control squarelyunder the IRGC, and designation along side conventional armaments poses perhaps a greaterthreat to global security than its nuclear complex at this point.Historically, biological warfare is defined as the intentional use of micro-organisms, and toxins,generally, of microbial, plant or animal origin to produce disease and/or death in humans,livestock and crops.4 Twenty one states are suspected by US intelligence agencies of maintainingand or conducting ‘offensive’ biological weapon research. Specific characteristics of a biologicalweapon complex make it difficult to assess whether a state possesses such a program. Countriessuch as Syria, Iran, and the DPRK have extensive bio-pharma infrastructures which could supporta bio-weapon complex. Understanding the discrete networks which support and are used ascover for states developing biological weapons is critical to US and allied states’ national securityinterests. While ‘proof’ of a program’s existence may be exceptionally difficult to extract, thereremain critical points within a national infrastructure, which contribute to the probability suchprograms exist.State ‘offensive’5 biological weapon programs pose an inherently different threat than that posedby non-state-supported terrorists or organisations. Reasons for this include, but are not limitedto, the technical threshold required to produce mass casualty biological weapons, i.e., geneticengineering, dispersal technologies, weapon testing, acquisition, processes involvingweaponization, i.e,. milling and aerosolization. It is generally accepted by most bio-weaponspecialists that mass casualty biological warfare remains largely the domain of state (military)weapon laboratories. Therefore, the type of weapon developed and deployed and resulting killratios, remain distinguishing factors with regard to the technical sophistication of the weaponand not the psychological effects or possible terror it induces. This article does not address ‘bio- 3 Technical and other methods utilized for assessment criteria, which may fall outside the publicdomain has been excluded from this review. 4 Da Silva, Edgar J., “Biological warfare, bioterrorism, biodefence and the biological and toxinweapons convention”, Electronic Journal of Bio-technology, Vol.2, No.3, 15, December 1999. 5 Under the Biological Toxin and Weapon Convention, ‘defensive’ weapon research is allowed,while ‘offensive’ is illegal. The BWC bans: The development, stockpiling, acquisition, retention, andproduction of: 1.Biological agents and toxins "of types and in quantities that have no justification forprophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;" 2.Weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles"designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict." The transfer of orassistance with acquiring the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles described above.“The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) at a Glance”, Arms Control Association,
  • 3. terrorism’, nor the knowledge base or infrastructure required by terrorist organizations todevelop or maintain a weapon program. Rather, the focus is on state-based infrastructuresrequired to maintain a full scale offensive, biological weapon military complex. It traces thehistoric structure of the Soviet Biopreparat program to current networks employed in Iran today.“Any quantity of a high-consequence pathogen is strategically significant. One viable micro-organism can be cultured and weaponized with common, commercially availableequipment. This circumstance, combined with the fact that pathogens emit no energy andthus cannot be detected at a distance with currently available technology make BW agentsexceptionally dangerous.” Renolds Salerno, Sandia National LaboratoriesBiological warfare and the weapons employed are generally coveted as this is considered theultimate weapon for deniable operations. Additionally, a biological weapon program is cheaperto run and maintain than a nuclear or chemical weapon program and is often perceived to ‘levelthe playing field’ against governments which possess nuclear arsenals or overwhelminglysuperior conventional weapon capabilities. Plausible deniability also remains an enticingcharacteristic in offensive bio-weapon development and potential use. BW can be highly virulent,and when produced synthetically, whereby there are no known counter measures ortherapeutics, they can be multi-resistant to all antibiotics, they may have lengthy incubationperiods, and be highly transmissible. This substantially differentiates BW from chemical andnuclear weapons. BW may also be employed in a number of non-lethal scenarios, used on civilianpopulations, deployed as force reducers, target highly select sections of a population or location(such as water, air, or transportation systems). Understanding future BW development in orderto protect military forces and civilian populations depends to an increasing extent on our abilityto identify and interdict clandestine laboratory networks. Historic Structure of Biological Weapons and Programs Weaponized smallpoxIn 1991, Joe Esposito and the molecular biologist Craig Venter, who was at the NationalInstitutes of Health, sequenced the entire genome of the Rahima strain of smallpox; that is,they mapped its entire DNA. They found that the virus contains a hundred and eighty-sixthousand base pairs of DNA (each base pair being a step on the ladder of the molecule), andthat the DNA contains about a hundred and eighty-seven genes-making smallpox one of themost complicated viruses known. (The AIDS virus has only ten genes.)6The intense secrecy and dual-use nature that surround offensive biological weapons programsmakes it difficult to accurately assess the structure, location, research and development of suchprograms.7 Nearly any discussion of clandestine BW laboratories and resulting warfare programsbegin with a review of the massive Soviet biological weapon program known as Biopreparat.Biopreparat was run by the Soviet Union beginning in the 1920’s. It encompassed many of thesame structural characteristics a modern-day clandestine BW program contains. Notably, the 6 A Reporter at Large, “The Demon in the Freezer, How smallpox, a disease officially eradicatedtwenty years ago, became the biggest bioterrorist threat we now face”, Richard Preston. 7 Guillemin, Jeanne, “Scientists and the History of Biological Weapons”, EBMO Reports, Vol.7, 2006.
  • 4. structure was multi-tiered, with some facilities producing commercial animal and humanvaccines and other therapeutics, while simultaneously conducting research and developmentapplicable to offensive bio-weapon development. The programs were highly compartmentalizedand under the direct authority of the state security services. Although the basic infrastructure ofclandestine programs remains essentially the same, whether in Iraq, Iran, Syria or the DPRK,what has changed is the nature of the biological weapon itself. Rapid developments in the lifesciences and bio-technology have led to marked and direct consequences to critical aspectswithin clandestine biological weapons complexes.The Soviet Biopreparat program was one of the largest known biological weapon programs todate. It was spread over approximately 50 clandestine sites and employed between 50,000 to60,000 workers. Structurally, the Soviet network of facilities involved in developing biologicalweapons consisted of two primary sections: a section under military control, dating back to thelate 1920’s, and a second, top-secret program under civilian cover that was created in the early1970’s.8 The Red Army opened the first laboratories for research on pathogenic micro-organismsin 1928. BW facilities under the direct authority of the Soviet Ministry of Defence included theScientific Research Institute of Microbiology in Kirov (now Vyantka), the Centre for MilitaryTechnical Problems of Anti-Bacteriological Defense in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) and theCentre of Virology in Zagorsk (now Sergiyev Posad). These facilities were administered by the15th Directorate for Biological Protection of the MoD. The Scientific Research Institute of MilitaryMedicine in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), reported to the Military-Medical Directorate of theMoD. Vozrozhdeniye Island, in the Aral Sea, reported to the 15th Directorate and was the maintesting ground for biological agents developed at the MoD facilities. 9 Stepnogorsk Scientific and Technical Institute for Microbiology10In the early 1970’s, the Soviet authorities began creating a new network of BW facilities parallelto the military system.11 The basic structure of Biopreparat facilities included eighteen main labsand production centres, these facilities were supported by a network of other institutes andresearch centres. The list includes: Stepnogorsk Scientific and Technical Institute forMicrobiology, Institute of Ultra Pure Biochemical Preparations, Vector State Research Centre ofVirology and Biotechnology, the Institute of Applied Biochemistry, the Kirov BioweaponsProduction Facility, the Zagorsk Smallpox Production facility, Berdsk Bioweapons Production 8 Bozheyeva, Gulbarshyn, Kunakbayev, Yerlan and Dastan Yeleukenov, “Former Soviet BiologicalWeapons Facilities in Kazakhstan: Past, Present and Future”, Occasional Paper No.1, Chemical and BiologicalWeapons Non-Proliferation Project, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, June, 1999. 9 Ibid. 10 National Reconnaissance Office. 11 Bozheyeva, Gulbarshyn, Kunakbayev, Yerlan and Dastan Yeleukenov, “Former Soviet BiologicalWeapons Facilities in Kazakhstan: Past, Present and Future”, Occasional Paper No.1, Chemical and BiologicalWeapons Non-Proliferation Project, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, June, 1999.
  • 5. Facility, Bioweapons Research Facility in Obolensk, the Sverdlovsk Bioweapons ProductionFacility (Military Compound 19), Poisons Laboratory of the Soviet Secret Services,Vozrozhdeniya.12 A number of the institutes and programs to develop biological weapons had alatent component, meaning that the capability existed to manufacture and produce biologicalweapons at short notice. This remains a component of BW programs today.While structural aspects of Biopreparat are still applied to clandestine bio-weapon programs,advances in genomics, fusion toxins, proteomics, synthetic biology, molecular biology,combinatorial chemistry and our understanding of microbial structure and replication willconsiderably affect the type of weapon development from state laboratories and the networkrequired to support it.13Vials: A total of 97 vials-including those with labels consistent with the al Hakam cover stories ofsingle-cell protein and biopesticides, as well as strains that could be used to produce BW agents-wererecovered from a scientists residence.14A good example of the covert structure employed to conduct offensive BW research is that whichoccurred in Iraq. While it followed on the structure of the Soviet Biopreparat, although on a muchsmaller scale, it was perhaps more indicative of how current and future programs are integratedinto commercial research and development and the Iraq Survey Group noted a disturbinglysimilar structure within the Iraqi BW complex. UNSCOM reported the concealing of an anthrax-weapon production facility as a routine civil biotechnological laboratory at Al Hakam. This typeof façade, whereby normal research is conducted to obscure research applicable to a BWprogram, is routine in most nations with clandestine programs. Moreover, as technologyadvances, infrastructure analysis of a BW complex has become more challenging than during theSoviet era. The dual-use dilemma inherent in the inability to define what constitutes ‘offence’ and‘defense’ oriented research and development becomes more difficult to assess.15 Under theBiological and Toxin Weapon Convention ‘defensive’ research on biological pathogens, toxins andpre-cursors are allowed and legal. Efforts by the Iraq Survey Group serve to highlight theproblems of searching for a stockpile verses assessing a highly compartmentalized network andinfrastructure, although there was awareness that such compartmentalization existed. 12 Ibid. 13 A Reporter at Large, “The Demon in the Freezer, How Smallpox, a disease officially eradicatedtwenty years ago, became the biggest bioterrorist threat we now face”, Richard Preston. 14 Statement by David Kay on the Interim Progress Report on the Activities of the Iraq SurveyGroup (ISG) before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee onAppropriations Subcommittee on Defence, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Source: 15 Da Silva, Edgar, J., “Biological warfare, bioterrorism, biodefence and the biological and toxinweapons convention”, Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, Vol.2, No.3, 15, December, 1999.
  • 6. In a “Statement by David Kay on the Interim Progress Report on the Activities of the Iraq SurveyGroup (ISG) before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committeeon Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence”,on October 2, 2003, it is noted that Iraq was found to be running several compartmentalizedpathogen programs. David Kay’s interim report specifically notes:“We have not yet found stocks of weapons, but we are not yet at the point where we can saydefinitively either that such weapon stocks do not exist or that they existed before the war and ouronly task is to find where they have gone. We are actively engaged in searching for such weaponsbased on information being supplied to us by Iraqis.” Why are we having such difficulty in findingweapons or in reaching a confident conclusion that they do not exist or that they once existed buthave been removed? Our search efforts are being hindered by six principal factors: • From birth, all of Iraq’s WMD actives were highly compartmentalized within a regime that ruled and kept its secrets through fear and terror and with deception and denial built into each program; • Deliberate dispersal and destruction of material and documentation related to weapons programs began pre-conflict and ran trans to post conflict; • Some WMD personnel crossed borders in the pre/trans conflict period and may have taken evidence and even weapons-related materials with them; • Any WMD weapons or material is likely to be small in relation to the total conventional armaments footprint and difficult to near impossible to identify with normal search procedures. It is important to keep in mind that even the bulkiest materials we are searching for, in quantities we would expect to find, can be concealed in spaces not much larger than a two car garage;We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts ofequipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late2002. Let me just give you a few examples of these concealment efforts, some of which I willelaborate on later: • A clandestine network of laboratories and safe houses within Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research. • A prison laboratory complex possibly used in human testing of BW agents, that Iraqi officials working to prepare for UN inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the UN. • Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist’s home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons. • New research on BW-applicable agents, brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UNWith regard to biological warfare activities, which have been one of our two initial areas of focus,ISG teams are uncovering significant information - including research and development of BW-applicable organisms, the involvement of Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) in possible BW activities,and deliberate concealment activities. All of this suggests Iraq after 1996 furthercompartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that couldbe activated quickly to surge the production of BW agents.Debriefings of IIS officials and site visits have begun to unravel a clandestine network oflaboratories and facilities within the security service apparatus. This network was never declared tothe UN and was previously unknown. We are still working on determining the extent to which thisnetwork was tied to large-scale military efforts or BW terror weapons, but this clandestinecapability was suitable for preserving BW expertise, BW capable facilities and continuing R&D - allkey elements for maintaining a capability for resuming BW production. The IIS also played aprominent role in sponsoring students for overseas graduate studies in the biological sciences,
  • 7. according to Iraqi scientists and IIS sources, providing an important avenue for furthering BW-applicable research. This was the only area of graduate work that the IIS appeared to sponsor.Discussions with Iraqi scientists’ uncovered agent R&D work that paired overt work with non-pathogenic organisms serving as surrogates for prohibited investigation with pathogenic agents.Examples include: B. Thurengiensis (Bt) with B. anthracis (anthrax), and medicinal plants withricin. In a similar vein, two key former BW scientists confirmed that Iraq under the guise oflegitimate activity developed refinements of processes and products relevant to BW agents. Thescientists discussed the development of improved, simplified fermentation and spray dryingcapabilities for the simulant Bt that would have been directly applicable to anthrax, and onescientist confirmed that the production line for Bt could be switched to produce anthrax in one weekif the seed stock were available. Additional information is beginning to corroborate reporting since1996 about human testing activities using chemical and biological substances, but progress in thisarea is slow given the concern of knowledgeable Iraqi personnel about their being prosecuted forcrimes against humanity.”16Advances in the life sciences, weaponization procedures and increasing technologicalsophistication of delivery platforms mean a ‘stockpile’ is no longer required for an active andhighly sophisticated program to exist. In fact, it is no longer desirable given the clandestinenature and protective measures such weapon programs must now embed to counter advances ingeospatial imaging and traditional methods of intelligence collection.Today’s clandestine networks utilize the commercial bio-pharma industry as a cover and thedual-use nature generally ensures that program development remains, at best, speculative.Unfortunately, advances in life sciences mean we may no longer have the luxury of erring on theside of non-verification. We may no longer be able to simply ‘suspect’ a program exists, given thefuture of biological weapons and developments in synthetic biology. However, if we acceptmerely ‘suspecting’ a weapon program exists and hoping it doesn’t, which to some extent hasbeen the standard logic for the last twenty years, would this be accepted as the standard modelfor conventional weapons? “It’s like mines in the sea…..if you find none, can you assume thereare none? However, if you find one, or more, when will you be sure that you have found all ofthem?”17Clandestine Network Identification at the Facility LevelCompartmentalization is a hallmark of nearly all clandestine biological weapon programs. It isalso a characteristic which has historically diverted identification of said networks. It should alsobe noted that while most pharmaceutical firms are subordinate to the Ministry of Health orEducation, institutions suspected of conducting BW research are often subordinate to therespective Ministries of Defense or state security services. Laboratory scientific teams may alsobe drawn from sections of military elite as in the case of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary GuardCorps (IRGC). The interface between military and civilian institutions, a sophisticated clandestinenetwork covering thousands of facilities and under the oversight of the IRGC or any othermilitary or security section, is highly concerning. At the facility level there are often, but notalways, specific indicators of a possible BW program.The design of a production facility provides important information regarding whether the facilityis intended to produce pharmaceutical grade products or biological weapon grade materials. 18Relevant design elements include containment, purification equipment, sterilization equipment, 16 Statement by David Kay on the Interim Progress Report on the Activities of the Iraq SurveyGroup (ISG) before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee onAppropriations Subcommittee on Defence, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Source: 17 Col. Marco Hekkens, NLMARFOR. 18 Pike, John, “Biological Warfare Agent Production”, Weapons of Mass Destruction,GlobalSecurity.Org.
  • 8. and ventilation and filtration systems.19 The following statements, presented by GlobalSecurity.Org, define, at the facility and laboratory level, quite precise indicators for assessing a biologicalweapon research and development program:“The design of a biochemical processing plant is an important signal of covert biological agentproduction. Containment of the biological material during processing is of special interest. There isa clear distinction between processing materials for biological or toxin agent weaponization andprocessing protective agents to be used for countermeasures or personnel performanceenhancement. For the production of biological agents for offensive military activities, the processingcontainment requirement is to protect the environment from the agent because of its infectiousnature. For the production of biomaterials, such as vaccines, biological response modifiers,antibiotics, and anti-viral agents, for defensive military activities, the containment requirement is toprotect the processed biomaterial from contaminating materials in the environment.”20“Effectiveness of countermeasures is enhanced by achieving high levels of purity and cleanliness inthe product before it is administered to friendly personnel. By contrast, an unpurified biologicalagent that will be used in BW is generally more stable than the purified agent that is needed toproduce vaccines and biological response modifiers (BRMs). Consequently, a proliferant does notrequire a high level of purity if production is for BW use only.”21“Generation of biological agents requires fermenters or single cell production capabilities includingsmooth, highly polished stainless steel surfaces, self-containment capability, and negative pressureconditions. The primary difference between the production requirements for biological weaponsand non-military commercial purposes lies in containment and contamination. During biologicalagent production, efforts are generally made to avoid contaminating the environment with theorganism. Less concern arises about the contamination of the product. Conversely, thepharmaceutical, brewing, and biotechnology industries are most concerned about protecting thepurity and quality of the product. This concern is reflected in the nature of the sealing joints,positive or negative pressure chambers, and containment of venting systems. Utilities involvingclean steam, sterile air, and inert gas supply are most critical for containment in the processing ofbiologically based materials for human use, which must meet good manufacturing practices (GMP).Clean steam, generated from a purified water supply, must be supplied to all processing equipmenthaving direct contact with the product to ensure sterility and prevent the influx of environmentalcontaminants.”22“Steam sterilization is accomplished before product processing by direct supply to the equipment.Steam is supplied to the equipment seals (e.g., sample ports, agitator shafts, raw material additionports) during processing as a primary barrier. Equally important is the removal of collapsed steamor condensate formed on the equipment. This prevents the formation of pockets of standing water,which promote bacterial growth, and maintains the high temperature necessary for sterilization.The collected contaminated condensate can be channelled to an area for final sterilization orinactivation before it is released into the environment. Efficient steam supply and condensateremoval requires pressure regulators, pressure relief devices, venting, and the capability for freedraining of all lines.”23“Supplying sterile, inert gases to processing equipment is a method of containment. This can protectoxygen-sensitive biomaterials and prevent aerosol generation of toxic products. Inert gases, such asnitrogen, helium, and argon, are usually supplied directly to processing equipment through sterile,in-line filters, maintaining a pressurized system or providing an inert blanket over the product inprocessing vessels.”24 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid. 23 Ibid. 24 Ibid.
  • 9. “To attain a higher level of containment, many bioprocessing industries have employed greaterdegrees of automation. Potential contamination of purified product, human exposure to toxicproducts or constituents, and the risk of human error are minimized. Processing facilities make useof state-of-the-art computerized distributed control systems (ABB, Modicon, Allen Bradley Corp.),which allow automatic control, control from remote locations, and automatic data logging andtrending.”25“Another component in bio-processing is the design of ventilation within the primary and secondarybarriers of a process area. Ventilation at primary barriers (i.e., barriers separating product fromequipment operators and the rest of the processing area) is accomplished with dedicated, in-lineair/gas membrane filters. Ventilation across secondary barriers requires more complicated airhandling system design to allow for the maintenance of clean areas (rated by the number ofparticles per volume of air) and maintenance of positive or negative pressure between theprocessing area and the outside environment or between different processing areas in the samefacility. Equipment used in these designs includes high efficiency fans and high efficiency particulateair (HEPA) filters.”26“The procedure used for the actual replication of an organism is a function of the organism itself.Techniques include cell culture, fermentation, viral replication, recombinant DNA, and powderingand milling. Cell culture is necessary for the reproduction of pathogenic viruses and Rickettsiaesince they will not reproduce outside a living cell (e.g., chick embryo or tissue cultures). Single cellgrowth chambers, including fermentation, are used for the production of bacteria and bacterialtoxins, although some bacteria (e.g., plague bacteria) can also be cultivated in living animals.Recombinant DNA techniques are a preferred method to produce rare animal toxins. Because of thecomplexity of this technique, the capability is not as widespread as the others. Powdering andmilling is the technique generally used to produce BW and toxin weapons (TW) agent particleshaving diameters less than or equal to 10 mm, the size most effective for respiratory delivery.”27“Toxins and pathogens that affect animals, such as anthrax, brucella, plague, and tularemia, arewidespread. Vaccines are widely produced and administered. The issue of the need for the sametoxic agent for either BW/TW production or countermeasure vaccine production emphasizes thedual-use nature of the technologies. Indeed, initial processing of agents and processing of theirassociated vaccines only differ by a few steps (e.g., the degree of purification and the type ofcontainment used).”28Clandestine Network Identification at the State LevelSix pathogens, throughout the history of biological warfare, have been considered the mostdeadly and therefore the most suitable as weapons: anthrax, botulinium, plague, smallpox,tularaemia and viral hemorrhagic fever(s), of these, only smallpox has no other known host,but humans.While the laboratory of facility level offers significant insight into the research objectives of thegiven lab, the dual–use nature of biological weapons present specific intelligence challengeswhich other weapon classes, even chemical and nuclear, do not. Offensive biological weaponprograms typically involve both military and civilian assets, both human and veterinaryinstitutions, and a range of military, academic, and bio-pharmaceutical institutions.29 Some ofthese assets or precursors are innocuous in and of themselves, (i.e,. veterinary vaccine researchfacilities, agricultural production lines, pharmaceutical factories, down to the very pathogens andtechnologies being utilized), but taken as a whole, constitute an offensive biological weaponprogram. It therefore may be difficult to assess, but not impossible. Moreover, “it should be 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 It should be noted that with the exception of variola major (smallpox), most Category Apathogenic agents suitable for warfare are zoonotic.
  • 10. noted, that although the existence of a defensive biological weapons research capability wouldsuggest interest and expertise in the field of biological weapons, it does not imply nor confirm theexistence of an “offensive” biological weapons program alone. Nor does capability unequivocallyequate to intent.”30 BW programs with a ‘latent’ capacity or ‘crash’ programs which can bequickly activated are still ‘active’ sections of any BW program, particularly those which are highlycompartmentalized.Iran’s Suspected Biological Weapon Complex and InfrastructureSeveral state intelligence agencies and outside analysts have accused Iran of either attempting todevelop and/or of stockpiling the following agents: bacillus anthracis, botulinium toxin, ricin, T-2mycotoxin, and smallpox virus (Variola major).31 It is impossible to judge with certainty the levelof advancement in Irans alleged ability to deliver biological weapons. In the past, expertsaccused Iran of pursuing sophisticated delivery techniques for BW agents with aircraft and Scudmissiles. Reports also indicated that Iran may have attempted aerosolization of BW agents. 32With regard to Iran’s suspected biological weapon facilities, there are unconfirmed reports whichidentify a number of sites as BW sites. Iran has a growing biotechnology sector that is alreadyone of the most advanced in the developing world. 33 Iran has long been recognized as a leader inSouthwest Asia in several fields, including pharmaceutical, vaccine R&D, and agriculturalbiotechnology.34While the following facilities are noted by NTI, the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Controland the National Council of Resistance of Iran, as supporting a biological weapon program,conceivably this list constitutes only a fraction of what may be far greater and clandestinenetwork of laboratories and facilities. Only facilities with a clear biological capacity wereincluded and suspect labs such as those with ‘End User’ designations only were not included, norwere all the subsidiary businesses and firms listed as ‘associated’ with each of these institutions.A strict interpretation of biological facilities and institution was thus taken in approaching theconstruction of this list and network. Had these facilities been included, they would number inthe thousands.Amir Kabir University of Technology located in Tehran, Iran. AKU is comprised of fourteenengineering departments, five research centres, and an associate university complex located inTafresh near Tehran. In 2002, AKU and Damascus University signed a mutual scientificcooperation agreement that called for broadened scientific, educational, and researchcooperation between the universities. AKUs Biomaterials Laboratory is the largest universitylaboratory fostering research in the area of synthesis, processing, and modification of materialsfor use in biological environments. This laboratory is especially active in the area of polymericmaterials with the objective of modifying the physical, chemical, biological, and mechanicalproperties of polymeric materials to render them biocompatible. The laboratorys specificresearch areas include the design and processing of systems for controlled and targeted deliveryof bioactive agents.35 30 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Syria Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, September, 2009. 31 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011. 32 "Biological Warfare: The Poor Mans Atomic Bomb-Iran," Janes Intelligence Review, 1, March1999. 33 Office of the Secretary of Defence, Proliferation: Threat and Response, U.S. Department ofDefence, January, 2001, pp. 33-35. 34 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011. Ibid.
  • 11. Akbarieh Company, located in Tehran, Iran. Imports and distributes pharmaceutical productsand medical equipment.36Alnasim Control Company, location not noted. Identified by the British government in February1998 as having procured goods and/or technology for weapons of mass destruction programs, inaddition to doing non-proliferation related business.37Bandaran Company, location not noted. Identified by the British government in February 1998as having procured goods and/or technology for weapons of mass destruction programs in thebio-chem field, in addition to doing non-proliferation related business.38Beasat Industrial Co., located in Tehran, Iran. Listed as an entity of concern for militaryprocurement activities in an early warning list distributed by the German government toindustry in May 2007; the German government urged caution when initiating commercialdealings with this entity, and suggested that because this entity is involved with both militaryand civilian projects, civilian use must be shown by specific and verifiable evidence; producesbiotechnology-related equipment sold by the Defence Industries Organization (DIO - see separateentity record); manufactures medical, laboratory, and pharmaceutical products, includingmicrobiological hoods.39Biotechnology Institute of the Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology,located in Tehran, Iran. IROST established the "Culture Collection of Industrial and InfectiousMicroorganisms" (the Persian Type Culture Collection). The engineering group is now working toperfect production equipment, such as fermenters. The centre also coordinates the research onfermentation agents produced by the Razi Institute for Serums and Vaccines. Parts andequipment needed for the centre were imported through Dubai and Singapore. According to theNational Council of Resistance of Iran, the Biotechnology Research Centre is one of Irans mainbodies for biological weapons production.40Caspian Tamin Pharmaceutical Company, located in Tehran, Iran. Designated by the Canadiangovernment in July 2010 as an entity contributing to Irans proliferation-sensitive nuclearactivities or to its development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or their deliverysystems.41Persian Gulf Marine Biotechnology Research Centre, located Queshm (Qeshm) Island in thePersian Gulf. The institute provides training, research, and production facilities. The centre isguarded by the Pasdaran (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-IRGC).42 36 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Akbarieh Company”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control,Date Entered, 1, January, 2010, Washington D.C. 37 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Alnasim Control Company”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear ArmsControl, Date Entered, 26, January, 2004, Washington D.C. 38 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Bandaran Company”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control,Date Entered, 26, January, 2004, Washington D.C. 39 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Beasat Industrial Co.”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control,Date Entered, 3, September, 2010, Washington D.C. 40 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011. 41 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Caspian Tamin Pharmaceutical Company”, Wisconsin Project onNuclear Arms Control, Date Entered, 1, January, 2010, Washington D.C.
  • 12. Darou Pakhsh Company, located in Tehran, Iran. Listed by the British government in 2008 as anentity of potential concern for WMD-related procurement, and has had export licenses bothgranted and denied by that government; reported producer, distributor, importer and exporterof raw pharmaceutical materials and manufactured medicine in Iran; "partners" include: DarouPakhsh Holding, Darou Pakhsh Manufactory, Darou Pakhsh Distribution Company, ExirPharmaceutical Company, Aburaihan Pharmaceutical Company, Razak PharmaceuticalLaboratories, Darou Pakhsh Trade Promotion Company and Zahravi Pharmaceutical Company.43Defence Industries Training and Research Institute, located in Parchin, Iran. According to theNational Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), affiliated with Irans Ministry of Defense; accordingto NCRI, formerly involved in the nuclear and biological projects of the Ministry of Defense.44Damghan, located approximately 375 miles to the southwest of Mashhad. US intelligencesources suspect the facilities in Damghan launched operations in 1989 and were meant toproduce agents for ballistic missile warheads. According to unconfirmed reports, Damghan is thesite of a biological weapons research laboratory constructed with Russian assistance.45Davar Moharek Co., located in Tehran, Iran. Designated by the Canadian government in July2010 as an entity contributing to Irans proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or to itsdevelopment of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or their delivery systems; designationprohibits Canadian parties from providing goods or financial services to the entity or dealing inproperty held by the entity; listed by the British government in 2010 as an entity of potentialconcern for WMD-related procurement; provides maintenance and spare parts for gas turbines.46Defense Technology and Science Research Centre (DTSRC), located in Tehran, Iran. TheGerman government in 2005, noted that the DTSRC was mainly civilian institution which alsoconducts military research and development, posing a risk of scientific facilities being misused ascover addresses for military imports, and as an organization involved in the procurement ofbiotechnology equipment potentially useful in biological weapons production; identified by theBritish government (as ERI) in February 1998 as having procured goods and/or technology forweapons of mass destruction programs, in "addition to doing non-proliferation related business;"reportedly included (as ERI) in a February 1994 German Federal Ministry of Research andTechnology (BMFT) list of entities which, "because of harmless-sounding appellations having todo with research, training, or science, belie the fact that they are wholly or in part devoted tomilitary projects, and are engaged in procurement activities for these projects, with the aim ofsupplying know-how, equipment, or materials".47Tehran University Institute for Biochemistry and Biophysics Research (IBB) is located inTehran, Iran. It has 15 laboratories: Biochemistry, Biophysical Chemistry, Biophysics,Biomaterials, Bio-Organics, Cell Research, Cytogenetics, Electrophysiology, Electron Microscopy, 42 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011. 43 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Darou Pakhsh Company”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear ArmsControl, Date Entered, 31, October, 2008, Washington D.C. 44 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Defence Industries Training and Research Institute”, WisconsinProject on Nuclear Arms Control, Date Entered, 12 May, 2009, Washington D.C. 45 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011. 46 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Davar Moharek Co.”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control,Date Entered, 1, March, 2011, Washington D.C. 47 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Defense Technology and Science Research Center (DTSRC)”,Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, Date Entered, 26, January, 2004, Washington D.C.
  • 13. Genetic Engineering, Immunology, Micro-Analysis, Molecular Biology, Physical Chemistry ofMacromolecules, and Tissue Repair. Although, there is no evidence to link IBB to WMD researchand production, some people suspect that BW research is being carried out throughout Iran inlaboratories associated with Iranian universities like this one. The Tehran University of Medicineworks in close cooperation with the Razi Institute for Serums and Vaccines, another suspectedBW research centre. 48Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS), located in Tehran, Iran. Listed by the Japanesegovernment in 2007 as an entity of concern for proliferation related to biological and chemicalweapons; identified by the British government in February 1998 as having procured goodsand/or technology for weapons of mass destruction programs (specifically biological), in"addition to doing non-proliferation related business."49Industrial Development Group, location noted as ‘Iran.’ Listed by the German government in anearly warning document distributed to industry in May 2007 as an entity of concern for militaryprocurement and procurement of dual-use biotechnology equipment; the German governmenturged caution when initiating commercial dealings with this entity, and suggested that allpurchases by this entity must be assumed to serve military aims unless the contrary can beshown by specific and verifiable means.50Institute for Pestilence and Plant Disease Research, location, Tehran, Iran.Situated on a 32-hectare estate in Tehran, the institutes buildings are more than 2,200 squaremeters in area with 12 separate units. Throughout the provinces, the institute has 28 researchdepartments and 5 laboratories. Between 1961 and 1981, the institute established provincialunits in Tabriz, Urmia, Bandar-e Enzeli, Tonokabon, Gorgan, Mashhad, Varamin, Esfahan, Shiraz,Bandar Abbas, Rafsanjan, Sabzevaran, Ahvaz, Kermanshah, and Karaj.The institutes research topics include the following: • the biology, ecology, and physiology of agricultural pests, • the genes responsible for the production of insecticide toxins for the biological control of agricultural pestilence and disease, • biological resistance in plants, • formulation, effects, and residues of agricultural poisons, • techniques of spraying and testing new poisons, • the effects on cultivation and ecosystems when they are introduced to agricultural pestilence and disease, • mycotoxins (to preserve crop yields), • the production of antiserums and plant viruses and the creation of an antiserum bank, andIt should be noted that while none of these activities are different than agricultural researchbeing conducted at universities throughout the United States, all of these activities could beuseful for a BW program.51 48 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011. 49 Iran Watch, “Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS)”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear ArmsControl, Date Entered, 26, January, 2004, Washington D.C. 50 Iran Watch, “Iranian Entity: Industrial Development Group”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear ArmsControl, Date Entered, 26, January, 2004, Washington D.C. 51 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011.
  • 14. Institute for Plant and Seed Modification Research, located in Karaj, Iran. There are eightresearch divisions in Karaj, and more than 80 research facilities nationwide. The primary goals ofthis institution are to address problems related to agriculture. The Institute has specificallyestablished a biotechnology department to conduct research on genetic transformation in majorcrops, genetic analysis, and transfer of desirable genes into desirable agronomic backgrounds.52Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology, located in Tehran, Iran. IROST,includes seven research departments (electrical and computer, biotechnology, chemical,mechanical, agriculture, materials and metallurgy, and the department of technical developmentstudies). In addition, IROST also maintains research centres in Arak (a research centre and anindustrial centre), Esfahan, Tabriz, Shahrood, Shiraz, Kerman, Gilan, and Mashhad. IROST wasestablished in 1980.53Iran Sanitary & Industrial Valve (ISIV) Co., located in Tehran, Iran. Designated by the Canadiangovernment in July 2010 as an entity contributing to Irans proliferation-sensitive nuclearactivities or to its development of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons or their deliverysystems.54Marestan, located in Tehran, Iran. Identified by the British government in February 1998 ashaving procured goods and/or technology for weapons of mass destruction programs, inaddition to doing non-proliferation related business. 55Malek Ashtar University, located in Isfahan, Iran. According to the NCRI, Dr. Teimourian, headof the chemical group at the university, works with Abbas Soliemani, an engineer, and Dr. NasserEhsani on mixing beryllium with Polonium 210 for a neutron initiator; according to the NCRI, abiological weapons centre formed by Irans Ministry of Defense to conduct research on biologicalweapons; according to the NCRI, carries out genetic cloning, led by Dr. Maqsudi, head of theCentre for Scientific and Growth Technology; according to the NCRI, cloning project based in theLavizan-Shian Technological Research Centre; reportedly, according to the NCRI, houses theCentre for Genetic Biotechnology and Engineering Research (Research Centre for GeneticBiotechnology), a key facility in Irans bioweapons program.56Research Centre of the Construction Crusade (Jihad-e Sazandegi), located in Tehran, Iran.The entire Ministry has twelve different divisions and a number of organizations, directorates,offices, and companies. Research centres were established in 20 provinces throughout thecountry. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, there are four affiliated researchinstitutes in the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Mashhad that are involved in biologicalweapons research and production. According to reports by US experts and Israeli sources, thefacility near Tabriz is being used to store stocks of bacillus anthracis and botulinum toxin. TheNational Council of Resistance of Iran reports that the Research Centre is manufacturing anadvanced fermenter designed by its scientists. Directly accountable to the Majlis, the Minister ofJihad-e Sazandegi (Minister of Construction Jihad) is a member of the President of Iranscabinet.57 [Cabinet Ministers are administratively accountable to the President in Iran butultimately to the Supreme Leader – but not to the Majlis (parliament).] 52 Ibid. 53 Ibid. 54 Iran Watch, “Iran Sanitary & Industrial Valve (ISIV) Co.”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear ArmsControl, Date Entered, 2, March, 2011, Washington D.C. 55 Iran Watch, “Marestan”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, Date Entered, 26, January,2004, Washington D.C. 56 Iran Watch, “Malek Ashtar University”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, Date Entered,26, January, 2004, Washington D.C. 57 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011.
  • 15. National Research Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (NRCGEB), locatedsixteen km west of Tehran. The centre conducts research in biotechnology and the biologicalsciences. Other labs, research centres and universities in Iran outsource work on DNA primersynthesis, protein sequencing, freeze-drying and glass blowing to the centre. A series of basic andapplied research projects have been funded in molecular biology and biotechnology. Currentprojects include biotechnological production of protein-based drugs; production of monoclonaland polyclonal antibodies; Molecular genetics studies; and Studies on the agriculturalapplications of biotechnology. Of particular interest are the NRCGEBs: • Creation of a cell bank, as well as the production and storing of cell lines; • Evaluation of a recombinant DNA hepatitis B vaccine; • Product design and production of recombinant growth hormone; and • Work to create a recombinant hepatitis C vaccine.The centre also offers workshops on gene expression in prokaryotic cells, molecular biology,recombinant DNA, the use of computers in genetic engineering and molecular biology, genecopying, translation of mRNA, protein synthesis, high volume protein purification, genetransmission and expression, gene expression in eukaryotic cells, and the molecular analysis ofgene products. The Centre’s laboratories consist of two main laboratory rooms, cell and bacterialculture rooms, cold and warm rooms, dark room and photographic lab, washing and sterilizationroom, and centrifuge centre. Also at the centre are an animal house, a green house, and acomputer room. Two other main laboratories and other facilities are under construction.The laboratories are equipped with advanced equipment for research in genetic engineering andbiotechnology, including a DNA synthesizer, a DNA extractor, chromatographic systems, a proteinsequencer, orbital shakers, incubators, a PCR machine, incubator shakers, a lyophilizer (freeze-dryer), fermenters, centrifuges, a culture propagation system, microfuges, a spectrophotometer, agel-scanning system, an ultracentrifuge, instruments for DNA sequence spectroscopy, aspectroscope, a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) electrophorus, and -C 70° and -C 20° freezers. Currently underway is a pilot plan for a workstation to study recombinantproteins. The workstation equipment consists of a homogenizer, fermenters, centrifuges,preparative chromatography columns, ultrafilters, freezers, cold and warm rooms, andspecialized tanks for the preparation of buffers and culture media.58Pasteur Institute, located at the Iranian Science Centre for Biotechnology and Molecular Biologyin Tehran, Iran. The Institute was established in 1920-21 as a primary centre for researchinginfectious diseases and producing biological products, vaccines, and serums. A vaccine for poxwas the first product of the Institute. In 1993-94, Cuba and Iran signed a biotechnology transferagreement that brought Cubas recombinant DNA hepatitis B vaccine industrial productionequipment to the Pasteur institute. Once the production unit is up and running (five sections,14,000 square meters), the Pasteur institute will be able to produce 10 million hepatitis Bvaccine doses per year. This institute is the only one of its kind in Iran capable of producing newbiotechnology products in an industrial capacity.The Pasteur institute is involved in the development of new vaccines; vaccine production;research in microbiology, biochemistry, virology, medicine and epidemiology; teaching; and post-graduate training. For organizational purposes the institute is split among its production,support, and research departments. The 16 research departments at the institutes Tehranfacilities focus on biotechnology, biochemistry, infectious disease, microbiology, andimmunology. The institute also teaches in these fields. At its production facility along the Tehran-Karaj highway, the institute prepares biological products, serums, and vaccines. Examples of thevaccines produced there include BCG, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis B, and livestock anti-rabiesvaccines. The institute also produces tuberculin solutions and injection serums, anti-serums,culture mediums, and an HIV diagnostic kit. The institute is currently working on a newgeneration of vaccines for hepatitis and leishmaniasis.59 58 Ibid. 59 Ibid.
  • 16. Persian Type Culture Collection, located in Tehran, Iran, supplies Cultures to research,industrial, hospital, and educational laboratories, although the Biotechnology Institute reservesthe right to refuse requests. The PTCC does maintain a significant collection of bacteria and fungithat could be used in a biological warfare (BW) program. For instance, the PTCC maintainscultures of Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis—both of which have been weaponized by othercountries in the past. The PTCC also maintains cultures of Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes,Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Salmonella paratyphi, Vibrio cholarae, Yersinia enterocolitica,Salmonella typhimurium, Shigella dysenteriae, Shigella boydii, Shigella blexneri, and Cryptococcusneoformans. PTCC maintains cultures of Bacillus subtilis, Serratia marcescens, and Bacillusthuringiensis. While these agents are not dangerous to humans, they have been used inbioweapons programs in other countries in the past to simulate biological weapons. For instance,B. thuringiensis is very similar to B. anthracis and has been used by other countries to perfect theequipment and techniques necessary to produce and disseminate it. The first project undertakenby IROST appears to have been the cultivation, pilot production, and dissemination of B.thuringiensis. The technologies used for this project would have been directly applicable to thecultivation, production, and dissemination of B. anthracis.60In addition to these programs, the Agricultural Biotechnology department also has conductedsignificant research on species of Fusarium, fungi that attack wheat crops and produce T-2 andother trichothecene mycotoxins. In 1988 and 1989, Iranian scientists contacted Canadian andDutch research institutes in an effort to purchase strains of fusaria. These efforts were blocked bythe Canadian and Dutch governments for fear that Iran may have planned on using the fungi todevelop T-2 mycotoxin for a BW program.[1] In the years following these attempts, Russian andUS intelligence speculated that Iran maintained an active BW program focused on thedevelopment of mycotoxins.[2] However, it is unclear if these speculations were solely anextrapolation from the 1989 Canadian and Dutch purchase attempts or if the allegations rely onother classified intelligence.61Revolutionary Guards Baqiyatollah Research Centre, location not noted. According to theNational Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a Revolutionary Guards Genetic EngineeringCenter, affiliated with the Guards Baqiyatollah Hospital, which works on biological weapons;according to the NCRI, headed by Dr. Karami, a member of the Guards Corps Imam HusseinUniversity’s Scientific Staff who has been working on biological weapons for 18 years.62Razi Institute for Serums and Vaccines, located in Karaj, Iran. The Institute is considered Iransleading centre for biological research and production. It manufactures 21 human and veterinaryvaccines in commercial quantities and several other biological substances. The Institute exportshuman and animal vaccines to more than 16 countries (mostly Moslem countries) as part ofIrans humanitarian aid program. According to the director of the Institute, it produces 1.7 billiondoses of 57 types of vaccines, serums, and antigens annually. The department is currentlyattempting to create recombinant vaccines through genetic engineering, as well as developantigens and diagnostic kits for medical and veterinary labs. For vaccine production, theInstitute uses locally produced fermenters. The National Council of Resistance of Iran claims thatthere is a biological research centre at the Razi Institute, which is capable of producing “at leastthree microbes, useful for germ and biological warfare."63Sharif University of Technology Biochemical and Bioenvironmental Engineering ResearchCentre, located in Tehran, Iran. The Biochemical and Bioenvironmental Engineering ResearchCentre has three main functions: 60 Ibid. 61 Ibid. 62 Iran Watch, “Revolutionary Guards Baqiyatollah Research Centre”, Wisconsin Project on NuclearArms Control, Date Entered, 26, January, 2004, Washington D.C. 63 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011.
  • 17. 1. production of organic acids, amino acids, industrial enzymes, and single cell proteins in quantities ranging from lab to semi-industrial use; 2. biotechnology research, and 3. Graduate-level education in various areas of biotechnology.Although there is little evidence to link the centre to weapons of mass destruction (WMD)research and development, many in the West suspect that biological warfare research is beingcarried out throughout Iran in laboratories associated with Iranian universities like this one.Middle East Defense News reports that Sharif University of Technology has been used as a frontcompany to purchase the following equipment from the United States for its WMD programs:precision measuring instruments from Leybold Inficon Inc, radio spectrum analyzers from KayElemetrics Corp., VAX Computers from Digital Equipment Corp., and precision instruments for itsnuclear engineering department from Canberra Industries, Inc. The centre cooperates closelywith universities and research centres throughout the country, including Amir Kabir University,Tehran Universitys Technical College and College of Sciences, the National Centre for GeneticResearch, the Pasteur Institute, and the Razi Institute for Serums and Vaccines.64Science and Technology Group, location Tehran, Iran. The Science and Technology Group (STG)allegedly oversee Irans weapons of mass destruction programs. The National Council ofResistance of Iran (NCRI) states that this group of the presidents advisors "...oversees theregimes plans and projects in the area of biological, nuclear, and chemical weapons.” NCRI claimsthat under the supervision of the Science and Technology Group, Irans ruling mullahs have: • formed the Revolutionary Guards’ 24th Bessat Brigade for Chemical Attacks; • stockpiled huge quantities of nerve agents; • expanded biotechnology research centres and the NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) Special Industries Organization; • hired Chinese, Korean, and Russian experts under cover of research projects, and; • procured the required materials and technology from European countries through the use of dual-use technology.The NCRI claims that beneath the STG are four sections: the Defense Ministrys Special IndustriesOrganization, the Jihad Construction Research Centre, the Revolutionary Guards study centre atthe Imam Hoseyn University, and the Biotechnology Research Centre. The National Council ofResistance on Iran reports that in only one branch of the STG, the regime has already developedthree biological agents—VX (though in fact a chemical agent), aflatoxin, and Bacillus anthracis—with the help of at least 18 Russian, Chinese, and Korean experts. The same source believes thereare many more individuals working on these projects.65Samamicro Co., located in Tehran, Iran. Listed by the British government in 2008 as an entity ofpotential concern for WMD-related procurement; listed by the Japanese government in 2008 asan entity of concern for proliferation relating to missiles and biological weapons; seeks to importdual-use biotechnology equipment, according to an early warning document distributed by theGerman government to industry in July 2005; may be the same as Samamicro Ltd., which waslisted in the same document as an entity of concern for missile procurement activities.Distributes and services laboratory and research equipment from Western manufacturers,including atomic absorption equipment, FTIR spectrometers, chromatography, balances, cold,thermostatic, climatic and plant growth chambers, particle size analyzers, fermentation systems,freeze dryers, centrifuges, shakers, incubators, and glass chemical process units; distributes andservices testing and measurement products from Western manufacturers, including qualitycontrol and calibration labs, complete piezoelectric systems, stress screening test chambers,thermal shock test chambers, high pressure and high humidity test chambers, laser imagingsystems such as high speed cameras, power and energy meters, cutting machines, mounting 64 Ibid. 65 Ibid.
  • 18. presses, polishing and grinding machines, and hardness testers; managing director is Abbas PourTehrani Fard - Vahid and commercial manager is Abolghasemi - Mohsen. 66Scientific Medical Technology LLC, location Iran. Listed by the British government in 2008 asan entity of potential concern for WMD-related procurement.67Special Industries Organization (SIO), located in Tehran, Iran. Reports published in Russia,apparently based on information developed by the Russian Federal Security Service, claim theorganization is located at the Gostaresh Research Centre northeast of Tehran. A report claimedthe SIO was set up by President Rafsanjani as a 250-man agency within the Presidential Servicesin 1993 to develop chemical weapons. This agency is independent of the Council of Ministers.The SIO oversees and coordinates various scientific programs. The Biological Research Centre isthe branch dedicated to biological weapons development. The Laboratory, also located in Tehran,is another branch of the Organization.[2] Camouflaged by trees, facilities known as ShahidMeisam were reportedly built alongside the Tehran-Karaj expressway as storage sites forartillery shells filled with chemical products en route to Revolutionary Guard units. Due to laxsafety measures, a number of the 1,000 workers in the storage facilities are said to have fallen illand died. Dr. Abbas Pour, one of the presidents advisors and the head of the Vira Laboratory,was named head of SIO. Dr. Gholamhossein Riazi heads the fermenter project. According to theNCRI, the project has succeeded in producing several fermenters with a capacity of more than100 litres.[3] Brigadier General Mohammad Faezi, head of the Special Industry Training Centre,is said to be in charge of handling the affairs of the foreign specialists who have been recruited towork on Irans biological warfare program.Two Swiss firms, Bio Engineering (a subsidiary of Bayer AG) and MBR Company, had been sellingfermenters to Iran in the 1990s that were claimed to be entirely for civilian use. Companyofficials insisted that the Iranian purchasers were the Ministry of Agriculture and an entity theyidentified as MIDSPGIC Co. However, the Peoples Mujahadin of Iran (PMOI) claimed thatMIDSPGIC is an abbreviation for the Special Industries Organization of the Defense Ministry. BioEngineering was attacked two times in 1992, once at its office outside of Zurich (apparently by aterrorist group) and once at its Munich-based delivery company. Equipment destroyed in theattacks included a 15-liter lab fermenter and a 750 production fermenter, similar to those usedby Iraq for its BW program.68Vira Laboratory located in Tehran. Also known under the name of Sina Industries it operatesostensibly focusing on agriculture and medical research, but actually its main function seems tobe as the chemical laboratory of the Defence Ministry Special Industries Organisation.69Shifa Pharmed Industrial Group Company, located in Tehran, Iran. Designated by theCanadian government in July 2010 as an entity contributing to Irans proliferation-sensitivenuclear activities or to its development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or theirdelivery systems; listed by the Japanese government in 2010 as an entity of concern forproliferation relating to biological and chemical weapons; an entity that seeks to import dual-usebiotechnology equipment, according to an early warning document distributed by the German 66 Iran Watch, “Samamicro Co.”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, Date Entered, 16,January, 2008, Washington D.C. 67 Iran Watch, “Scientific Medical Technology LLC”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control,Date Entered, 30, June, 2008, Washington D.C. 68 NTI, “Biological Overview”, Iran Profile, James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at theMonterey Institute of International Studies, June, 2011. 69 Eshel, David, “Iran’s National Deterrent Weapons of Mass Destruction Program”, Defence UpdateNews Analysis by David Eshel, 4, April, 2004.
  • 19. government to industry in September 2007; manufactures antibiotics, including erythromycinethyl succinate, azithromycin, clarithromycin, and roxithromycin.70Sina Industry located in Tehran, Iran. According NCRI, "one of the most important biological andchemical laboratories of the Iranian regime"; Sina Industries is also associated with ViraLaboratory; uses medical research as a cover for its biological weapons activities; controlled bythe Organization of Special Industry (Special Industries Group), which is a subsidiary of IransDefense Industries Organization (DIO) (see separate entity records); reportedly has conducted aresearch program on producing mycotoxins; reportedly has worked on producing soil-contaminating microbes that would attack agriculture; reportedly has conducted animal testing;according to the NCRI, headed by Dr. Yousefi.71Sina Darou Laboratories Company, located in Tehran, Iran. Designated by the Canadiangovernment in July 2010 as an entity contributing to Irans proliferation-sensitive nuclearactivities or to its development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or their deliverysystems; designation prohibits Canadian parties from providing goods or financial services to theentity or dealing in property held by the entity; produces pharmaceutical products, includinginhalation aerosols; formerly known as Dopar Pharmaceutical Company; established in 1962.72Sohban Pharmaceutical Co., located in Tehran, Iran. Designated by the Canadian government inJuly 2010 as an entity contributing to Irans proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or to itsdevelopment of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or their delivery systems; listed as anentity that seeks to import dual-use biotechnology equipment in an early warning documentdistributed by the German government to industry in July 2005, but was not re-listed in 2007;develops and produces pharmaceutical products; a subsidiary of Alborz Holding; established in2004.73Conclusion“In the past 40 years, the intelligence community has had difficulty assessing intentions ofhostile nations, but has had considerably better success in accessing capabilities. In the 21stCentury, assessing capabilities may become as difficult as assessing intentions. Even afterfour years of the most intrusive arms control inspections ever implemented, the UnitedNations Special Commission did not learn of Iraqs extensive BW program until a key official(Saddams son-in-law) defected. Likewise, the International Atomic Energy Agency hadcertified Iraq to be in compliance with all treaties and guidelines just months before itsinvasion of Kuwait. Following the Gulf War, a UN inspection team discovered that Iraq waswell down the road to becoming a nuclear power. The disturbing result of its discovery wasthat Iraq was not building one or two nuclear weapons; the Iraqi program was designed tobuild more than 100.”74 70 Iran Watch, “Shifa Pharmed Industrial Group”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, DateEntered, 2, March, 2011, Washington D.C. 71 Iran Watch, “Sina Industry”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, Date Entered, 31 August,2009, Washington D.C. 72 Iran Watch, “Sina Darou Laboratories Company”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control,Date Entered, 1 November, 2010, Washington D.C. 73 Iran Watch, “Sohban Pharmaceutical Co.”, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, DateEntered, 2, May, 2011, Washington D.C. 74 The National War College, Elective Course 5994, Homeland Security, Fall 2002.
  • 20. Quds Forces ranks are believed to comprise the cream of Irans elite operations and intelligence officers. Photo / APAs expected, Iran’s biological weapon complex is far more scientifically advanced andsophisticated than Iraq’s was at the time of the Gulf War. The structure of Iran’s BW Complexincorporates the primary structure utilized by Biopreparat; however it has improved onBiopreparat in the sense that it retains a highly flexible structure, which appears to make itimpervious to ‘end-user’ designations or sanctions aimed at curbing proliferation. If oneconsiders the core infrastructure to be well established sites such as academia, militaryinstillations, pharmaceutical institutions, there remains, what appears to be a deliberate anddedicated structure established on the periphery which supports the BW complex but is notnecessarily permanent. Some evidence suggests that suppliers and subsidiary firms andinstitutions may only be used once or twice and not retained. It further appears that thisstructure insulates the BW complex from sanctions and end-user designations. As the IRGCoversees IROST, any given firm may be designated to acquire specific data, equipment; pathogensetc. do it once and never procure another piece of equipment or pathogenic agents again. Thattype of flexibility makes it an exceptional program. Western intelligence services are less capableof countering the threat posed by this weapon complex, than that of Gulf War period Iraq. This ispartially due to Iran’s infrastructure, partially to advances in weapon development (i.e,. syntheticbiology and dispersal technologies) and partially due to strict oversight of the programs by theIRGC. While the infrastructure reflects that of the former Soviet Biopreparat program, perhaps offar greater concern is the role of the IRGC and Qods Forces.75The IRGC has close ties to the foreign operations branch of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligenceand Security (MOIS).76 According to Anthony Cordesman, “The Ministry of Intelligence and Security was established in 1983 and has an extensive network of offices in Iranian embassies. It is often difficult to separate the activities of the IRGC, the Vezarat-e Ettela’at va Amniat-e Keshvar, and the Foreign Ministry, and many seem to be integrated operations managed by a ministerial committee called the “Special Operations Council” that includes the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, President, Minister of Intelligence and Security, and other members of the Supreme Council for National Defense. Other elements of the IRGC can support proxy or covert use of CBRN weapons. They run some training camps inside Iran for outside “volunteers.” Some IRGC still seem to be deployed in Lebanon and actively involved in training and arming Hezbollah, other anti- Israeli groups, and other elements. The IRGC has been responsible for major arms shipments to Hezbollah. The IRGC plays a major role in Iran’s military industries. Its lead role in Iran’s efforts to acquire surface-to-surface missiles and weapons of mass destruction 75 The Quds Force - with between 5000 and 15,000 agents and field tacticians by various estimates -sits atop the vast military and industrial network of the Revolutionary Guard, the defenders of Irans rulingclerics. The Guard effectively has a blank cheque. It controls most major programmes - including nuclear,missile development and biological and chemical weapon programs - as well as a millions strong paramilitarycorps known as the Basiji. Quds Forces ranks are believed to comprise the cream of Irans elite operations andintelligence officers. Brian Murphy, “Plot claims cast light on Iran’s shadowy strike force”,, 15,October, 2011. 76 Cordesman, Anthony, H., “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Al Quds Force, and Other Intelligenceand Paramilitary Forces”, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C., 16, August, 2007,
  • 21. gives it growing experience with advanced military technology. As a result, the IRGC is believed to be the branch of Iran’s forces that plays the largest role in Iran’s military industries. The Quds seems to control many of Iran’s training camps for unconventional warfare, extremists, and terrorists in Iran and countries like the Sudan and Lebanon. In Sudan, the Quds are believed to run a training camp of unspecified nature. Troops are trained to carry out military and terrorist operations and are indoctrinated in ideology.”77With respect to Iran’s BW complex, the role of these elite forces is critical to understand in thesame way that KGB control of the Soviet program was—and for the same reasons. The IRGCcontrols not only Iran’s nuclear complex, but its bio and chem programs as well as the Iranianmissile delivery systems, making Iran’s BW complex far more dangerous than that of othernations suspected of developing BW. Of specific and perhaps unique concern regarding Iran’sBW complex are the extraterritorial activities of the Qods Force. The Qods Force is directlytasked with liaison, training, funding, arming and logistics, among a range of otherresponsibilities related to Iran’s terror network which include, but are not limited to, support foral-Qa’eda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and terror networks in Syria, Venezuela,Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and a host of other nations. While the Qods Force operates primarilyabroad, it is subordinate to and at least nominally under the command and control of the IRGChigh command in Iran. Qods Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani also enjoys a direct,personal relationship of trust with the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as does the IRGCCommander, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari. While the Qods Force operates primarily abroad,the domestically-based IRGC network within Iran’s universities, labs, vaccine and pharmaceuticalfacilities, etc., develops Iran’s BW programs. While Iran is not known to have transferred WMD toany terrorist group yet, the closeness of its relationships with both al-Qa’eda and Hizballah, aswell as the existence of complex delivery channels for other weapons, including advanced rocketsand missiles to Hizballah, and sophisticated IEDs and EFPs to both Shi’ite and Sunni terrormilitias in Afghanistan and Iraq, give plenty of cause for concern. Al-Qa’eda has made no secret ofits long quest for WMD and Hizballah has received virtually every other advanced weaponssystem Iran has ever possessed. Were Iran to take the decision to share its BW or other WMDcapability with either al-Qa’eda or Hizballah, it is likely it would be the Qods Force that would begiven responsibility to deliver it, as it already does other weaponry which the Supreme LeaderKhamenei decides to provide it to designated terror organizations. 78Biological weapons are the ultimate deniable weapon and it would not be unreasonable toconsider that the Qods Force or other trained proxy forces (such as Hizballah) could break outand deploy biological weapons either in conjunction with conventional advanced weaponry, or incovert operations, against western targets.”79 Iran’s clandestine biological weapon complex, andits oversight by the IRGC, in addition to Iran’s support of state organized, proxy terrorist groups,make its bio-weapon programs potentially lethally dangerous in the current highly-charged geo-strategic environment.Iran’s BW programs are exceptionally well-embedded within an extensive architecture oflegitimate research, industry, and academic infrastructure. Future biological weapon programswill require far more sophisticated interdiction techniques and a critical review of the criterianecessary to identify infrastructures associated with such programs; specifically, when suchidentification must generally occur in a remote or stand-off environment. “In the British andAmerican context, the failure of the Iraq Survey Group to find Saddam’s much vaunted secretlaboratories, or his stockpiles of WMD, highlights the weaknesses of conventional collectionmethods [ ]80.” Future inspection regimes must draw on the failures of the Iraq Survey Group andsuccessive UN missions (UNMOVIC and UNSCOM). Unfortunately, rapid advances in the lifesciences are likely to enable, not inhibit, evasion of detection and interdiction technologies—afact that will not go unnoticed by Iran’s IRGC and Qods Force. 77 Ibid. 78 Clare Lopez, 13 December, 2011. 79 Ibid. 80 Kouzminov, Alexander, “Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and RussianForeign Intelligence Services in the West”, Greenhill Books, London, UK, 2005.