The Islamic Republic of Iran has been trying for years to illicitly acquire in Europe various components for its military industry of weapons of mass destruction. The sale of these materials, components, and knowledge, including when they are defined as enabling “dual use” applications, are regulated in the EU and in Germany. Oversight of this issue is based on relevant lists of various criteria that are made public by the governments and the EU. For example, the EU outlines its restrictive trade measures against Iran.
European intelligence services are tracking these deals and their purchase routes, and this report is based on reports published by agencies in the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany during the first six months of 2023.
It is noteworthy that media outlets in the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany have largely not reported on their countries’ intelligence findings about Iran’s illicit nuclear proliferation activities in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany.
In one telling example of the Iranian regime’s illicit nuclear weapons proliferation activities, the Swedish Security Service said in its annual report, published in February 2023, that “Iran engages in industrial espionage, which is mainly aimed at the Swedish high-tech industry and Swedish products that can be used in nuclear weapons program.”
Since 2015, and even before, open European intelligence reports and news articles have revealed that the Iranian regime has consistently sought to obtain technology for its illegal nuclear program and ballistic missile apparatus. Below we present translations of sections from the most recent trove of published intelligence reports from the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden about Iran’s efforts to purchase technology for programs for atomic, biological, and chemical (ABC) weapons of mass destruction.
The 2022 report of the Netherlands General and Intelligence Security Service (AVID), released in April 2023, frequently mentions illicit Iranian proliferation activities.
“The AIVD and MIVD [Security Service and Military Intelligence, respectively] succeeded a number of times in preventing Russia and Iran from acquiring Dutch knowledge or technology for their nuclear weapons programs.”
“Last year, Iran proceeded with its nuclear program. The country continues to increase stocks of 20% and 60% enriched uranium. By means of centrifuges, this can be used for further enrichment to the 90% enriched uranium needed for a nuclear weapon.”
“Iran is further ignoring the agreements that were made within the framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). And by deploying increasingly more sophisticated uranium enrichment centrifuges it is enlarging its enrichment capacity. This brings the option of a possible [Iranian] first nuclear test closer.”
“In 2022, the counterproliferation unit continued its investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The focus was on the current situation, but it also examined which generals of the Syrian regime are responsible for poison gas attacks in the past. In 2022, the unit also continued research into biological weapons programs of several countries of concern, including Russia and Iran. Additional focus was on recent developments in biotechnology and its possible consequences for the development of new types of biological weapons.”
“In 2022, the unit succeeded a number of times in preventing Russia and Iran, among others, from procuring materials, technology, and (applied) scientific knowledge in the Netherlands that they could have used for their nuclear weapons programs. It concerned, among other things, high-tech products that play an important role in the modernization of weapons of mass destruction. The AIVD has issued official communications in this regard to the government and to financial institutions.”
The report adds: “Financial institutions play a role in this because Russia, but also other countries of concern, are devising increasingly complex constructions to circumvent export controls and sanctions. To this end, they establish front companies in European countries, among other things, and devise financial constructions to conceal the origin of the financing.”
“Iran’s theoretical knowledge in the nuclear field is known to be sophisticated. But due to sanctions, Iran encounters difficulties in conducting experimental research. Iranian researchers and students come to the West to gain practical knowledge and skills, at universities of technology in the Netherlands. In 2022, UCP efforts prevented an Iranian scientist, who was associated with a sanctioned institute, to acquire relevant (applied) knowledge at a Dutch university of technology. That knowledge could have been of use in Iran’s nuclear weapons program. If necessary, the AIVD will also investigate new developments in the field of weapons of mass destruction.”
The Swedish Security Service released its 2022-2023 situational assessment report in February 2023.
The report states: “Iran engages in industrial espionage, which is mainly aimed at the Swedish high-tech industry and Swedish products that can be used in nuclear weapons program.”
“Foreign powers have a great interest in the Swedish research and industry, and Sweden is at the forefront in a variety of fields connected to military abilities. The security police see how technology acquisition is increasingly important to Russia, China and Iran. The covert acquisition of technology and knowledge by these countries takes place daily with the aim of increasing their own abilities.”
“Authoritarian states strengthen their positions The threat from foreign power is high. Russia, but also China and Iran, still constitute the largest security threats to Sweden. Authoritarian states have in the latest the years become increasingly offensive in their actions. They act aggressively and use all of society’s resources. The threat picture is affected because authoritarian states collude at a higher level.”
“Swedish technology as products with dual uses and critical cutting-edge products for both civilian and military use is of interest to Iran. Iran procures both technology and knowledge through illegal methods, and develops its own ability through Swedish universities and research institutions.”
“Iran – a tangible security threat… conducts intelligence activities and security-threatening activities in and against Sweden and Swedish interests in the form of intelligence gathering, influencing opposition parties and through procurement activities. The Iranian intelligence services have also for a long time carried out attacks against people [in Sweden] who are perceived to threaten the stability of the Iranian regime.”
In Germany, for historical reasons, intelligence services are decentralized and each state issues its own report. In its April 2023 report, the intelligence agency for Germany’s most populous state, Nordrhein-Westfalen, defines “proliferation” as “the spread of atomic, biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction (ABC weapons) and the corresponding means of delivery (rockets and drones) or the products used to manufacture them, including the know-how required for this.”
The Federal German Intelligence Agency
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) released its national intelligence report on June 20, 2023 in Berlin. The report stated: “The authorities for the protection of the constitution were able to find, in 2022, a consistently high number of indications of proliferation relevant procurement attempts by Iran for its nuclear program.”
Under the rubric of “Proliferation,” the 2022 Federal intelligence agency report defines proliferation as follows: “The activities of foreign powers also include procuring products and knowledge for the production of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, other armaments or elements of new weapon systems.”
The report adds that the foreign powers make efforts to secure “other armaments as well as militarily applicable high technology. Such covert government procurement activities are a result of regional conflicts and endanger peace.”
The 2022 intelligence report of the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz, released June 5, 2023, states: “An important area of responsibility of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is the reconnaissance and prevention of attempts by so-called critical states which owned weapons of mass destruction and the necessary carrier technology as well as the access to the relevant know-how. Because they themselves in their development and production are often not in a position [they would like to be in], these states try to illegally obtain the necessary knowledge, products and goods using secret service methods. Such procurement attempts have been going on for years, most of all by Iran.”
The domestic intelligence agency of the German state of Bavaria released its 2022 report on April 24, 2023. It covered, among other threats to Bavaria’s free and democratic order, the Iranian regime’s illicit activities in Bavaria in 2022.
According to the report, “[t]he procurement structures of other proliferation relevant risk states like China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Syria act in the same way [as Russia] and are moving ahead greatly with their conspiratorial procurement activities.”
The intelligence report defines “proliferation” as the “illegal spread of atomic, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, or the products used for their manufacture as well as the corresponding weapon carrier systems, including the necessary know-how.”
The intelligence agency in Nordrhein-Westfalen defines “proliferation” as “the spread of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction (ABC weapons) and the corresponding means of delivery (rockets and drones) or the products used to manufacture them, including the know-how required for this.”
In the section covering proliferation of ABC weapons, the intelligence agency wrote: “At-risk states in this connection appear to be mainly Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and Russia.”
According to the intelligence report, “[o]n August 30, 2022, the Federal Public Prosecutor General brought charges against a businessman from Schleswig-Holstein before the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg. He is sufficiently suspected of violating the foreign trade law by allegedly supplying spectrometer systems and laboratory equipment intended for the Iranian nuclear and missile program.”
In another section on proliferation, the intelligence agency wrote that “In the area of proliferation, the sanctions imposed on Russia lead to covert, intelligence-led evasion and purchasing efforts. Iran also continues to seek technology for its programs.”
On October, 17, 2022, the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg announced on its website that “State security proceedings [have been opened] against a German-Iranian national for alleged violations of the EU-Iran embargo” with respect to the aforesaid case cited in the Nordrhein-Westfalen intelligence report.
Source » memri