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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Qazvin (Qazvim)

Qazvin (west of Tehran), was said to be one of Iran's major chemical weapons facilities, along with the facilities located at Damghan (believed to be the primary production facility), Esfahan and Parchin. Qazvin was also the commercial center of the surrounding agricultural region. The province lies to the north-west of Tehran on the main road between Tehran and Tabriz. The Silk Road, the ancient trade route between the East and the West, used to pass to Turkey via Qazvin and Tabriz. The area was populated by a mixture of Ádharí Turks in the villages and predominantly Shi'ite Persians in the towns. Qazvin also had textile and flour mills, and wine was produced there. The city was founded in the 3rd century AD, and a mosque, now in ruins, was built there by Harun ar-Rashid in the 8th century. Among Qazvin's many historic relics were the Jame Mosque, dating back to the Seljuq period and boasting the largest "mihrab" of any mosque in Iran. Qazvin was damaged by Mongol invasions in the 13th century. Very fine carpets were produced there up to the late 1930s, when Qazvin ceased making carpets.

Like Damghan, Qazvin was built as a pesticide plant, and the facility was reported to have been completed between November 1987 and January 1988. The facility was reportedly built by a group that included German companies Lurgi Metallurgie GmbH, Bayer AG, and BASF (formerly of VEB Bitterfeld), Ciba-Geigy of Switzerland, and an unidentified Yugoslav company. The purpose of the facility was the production of the general purpose pesticide Amiton, an extremely lethal compound banned in many countries, and a Schedule 2 under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) Iran was said by US intelligence, until 2003, to continue to upgrade and expand its chemical warfare production infrastructure and munitions arsenal, which was believed to include blister, blood, choking agents, and nerve agents. India was reported to be assisting in the construction of a major new plant at Qazvim to manufacture phosphorous pentasulfide, a pesticide component, but also precursor for nerve gas. The participation by Pesticides India came after the pullout of the German-led consortium after domestic pressures in that country, though they denied the plant they built could be used in the production of chemical weapons.

The major earthquake that occured in Iran in June 2002 was thought to have damaged or possibly even destroyed the Qazvin facility. There were also reports that the Revolutionary Guard Corps, in charge of all of Iran's special weapon activities, rushed to the facility following the disaster to assess the damage.

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 Qazvin and elsewhere in Iran.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:42:33 ZULU