Damghan, some 375 miles to the southwest of Mashad, is among other things famous for its pistachios. It was also remowned for the minaret of the Great Mosque, and the Masjid-e-Tarikhane, the oldest Islamic structure in Iran, which is an important transition between Sassanid and Islamic architecture. Damghan, located in the Parthian district of Traxiana (later known as Khorasan) had been occupied since prehistoric times and was the original capital of the ancient province of Qumis. Pottery found in excavations near Damghan indicated that Iranians glazed pottery around 5000 years ago, 1000 years ahead of the Indian civilization and more than 2000 years ahead of the Chinese civilization.
Damghan was said to be Iran's primary chemical weapons production facility, along with the facilities located at Esfahan, Parchin and Qazvin. However, other sources concluded that claims that Iran had chemical weapons plants at Damghan and Parchin that began operation as early as March 1988 were of uncertain reliability. Iran was said in US intelligence reporting until around 2003, to have continued to upgrade and expand its chemical warfare production infrastructure and munitions arsenal, which was said to include blister, blood, choking agents, and nerve agents. Iran was estimated to have an inventory of several thousand tons of various agents, including sulfur mustard, phosgene, and cyanide agents, with a total production capacity estimated at as much as 1000 tons a year. Damghan was also the reported site of a biological weapons laboratory reportedly constructed with Russian assistance.
In 1995, Jane's Intelligence Review reported that Damghan had a number of characteristics of a chemical weapons facility. These characteristics included its isolation, road and rail access, being downwind of nearby towns, fallow fields surrounding the facility, and heavier than normal security presence. The report also claimed that Iran was loading artillery shells and possibly missile warheads (the Damghan missile facility being located nearby and on the same rail line).
After 2003, US intelligence reporting began to downplay such previous assertions, suggesting that dual-use facilities could quickly field chemical agents, but were not necessarily active in their production, and that Iran was conducting research that "may have offensive applications." Such reporting called into question the nature of the facilities at Damghan and elsewhere in Iran. Danmghan was also involved in the manufacture of agricultural pesticides.
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