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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran has up to 4 nuclear bombs

u>Jerusalem Post 09 April 1999 By STEVE RODAN

JERUSALEM (April 9) - Iran received several nuclear warheads from a former Soviet republic in the early 1990s and Russian experts maintained them, according to Iranian government documents relayed to Israel and obtained by The Jerusalem Post.

The documents, deemed authentic by US congressional experts and still being studied in Israel, contain correspondence between Iranian government officials and leaders of the Revolutionary Guards that discusses Iran's successful efforts to obtain nuclear warheads from former Soviet republics.

"At this point, we can't say for certain whether these are genuine," a senior Israeli source said. "But they look awfully real."

A US government consultant said he is certain of the authenticity of the documents. "They are real and we have had them for years," he said.

The documents appear to bolster reports from 1992 that Iran received enriched uranium and up to four nuclear warheads from Kazakhstan, with help from the Russian underworld.

A detailed account of the Iranian effort, released on January 20, 1992, by the US Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the House Republican Research Committee, asserted that by the end of 1991 there was a "98 percent certainty that Iran already had all [or virtually all] of the components required for two to three operational nuclear weapons [aerial bombs and SSM warheads] made with parts purchased in the ex-Soviet Moslem republics."

"I didn't give these reports credibility at the time," said Shai Feldman, director of Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. "It seemed like the kind of information that the Iranian opposition put out. There were specific queries made and everybody said there was no evidence of a warhead transfer."

But congressional sources and Israeli officials said Congress has been alarmed by the continuing reports of Russian aid to Iran's nuclear and nonconventional program. The sources said that they are drafting legislation to stop the effort.

In one Iranian document obtained by the Post, dated December 26, 1991, the deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards tells Atomic Energy Agency head Rezi Amrullahi that "two war materiel of nuclear nature" had arrived from Russia and were being held by the guards.

At the bottom of the document is a handwritten rebuke from a senior Iranian intelligence officer asking both officials not to write and send such documents to avoid leaks.

In another document, dated January 2, 1992, a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards official quotes an engineer identified as Turkan as saying that the nuclear warheads are being stored in the Lavizan military camp in the Teheran area. The engineer says that the warheads contain flaws in the safety mechanism and he is waiting for Russian experts to arrive and repair them.

An April 3, 1992, document discusses the production of a solid fuel missile prototype, called Zalzal 300, completed in Lavizan which was soon to be ready for launch. US congressional experts said the Zalzal is a modification of the Chinese M-11 missile.

The US government consultant said the Iranian government correspondence relayed to Israel is only a small portion of the hundreds of documents about the Iranian effort to obtain nuclear materials, including four nuclear warheads for the North Korean-developed No-Dong missile.

The documents were obtained as US envoy Robert Gallucci held talks here with government and intelligence agency leaders on Russian aid to Iran's ballistic missile program.

"The government acts on priorities and at the top is the Iranian missile program," an Israeli official said.

Israeli officials said that both Jerusalem and Washington agree on the amount of progress achieved by Iran in developing a missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers, which is able to reach Israel. The disagreement is about whether Russia supports the technology transfer to Iran and whether Moscow is capable of stopping the flow.

Israeli sources are said to have been impressed with Gallucci, who replaced Frank Wisner as US President Bill Clinton's envoy to Moscow on the Iranian missile issue. A senior official said Gallucci's appointment reflects the Clinton administration's intention to intensify a campaign to stop the Russian aid to Iran's missile program.

This Israeli assessment, disputed in defense circles, has led to a decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to shelve efforts to lobby Congress to pass sanctions against Russia, the official said. He said Israel's friends in Congress have asked Netanyahu's government for advice and were told that Jerusalem was giving the White House more time to achieve results.

"So, Congress wants to go forward and not us," the official said. "Certainly, we aren't pushing Congress. It doesn't mean that we won't do so in the future."

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