Testing Times Part II: The CTBTO’s SPND saboteurs

CTBTO saboteurs

Redline has talked about the CTBTO recently. But like the neverending story this goes on and on and on.

SPND’s role in Iran’s engagement with the CTBTO was a tightly held secret - until now. Today, Redline is revealing a number of SPND officials who have spent the past decade exploiting, subverting and sabotaging one of the world’s most important international treaties.

So without further ado, here are four Iranian men who will probably never, ever attend another CTBTO conference:

  1. Mohammad Sabzian (محمد سبزیان)
  2. Alireza Aghamohammadi Sendani (علیرضا آقا محمدی)
  3. Mohammad Hassan Zahmatkesh (محمد حسن زحمتکش)
  4. Keyvan Alipour Haghighi (کیوان علی پور حقیقی)

Mohammad Sabzian (محمد سبزیان)

Mohammad Sabzian is one of the most frequent Iranian attendees at CTBTO meetings. Sabzian’s research specialty is air monitoring of radioisotopes and noble gases - a method used to detect vented gases from nuclear explosions, and one of the tools used by the CTBTO’s international monitoring system to detect nuclear tests.

Sabzian is probably flying on platinum thanks to all his CTBT-related trips: here’s one of his presentations from 2011, and another from 2013.

Judging by those presentations, you might think that Sabzian has a benign, scholarly concern in actually improving the CTBTO’s global network of radionuclide monitors.

Sabzian group

Search for Sabzian’s research in Farsi, however, and a very different picture emerges: one that reflects the fact that he is not just a covert member of SPND, but is possibly working against the CTBTO’s global monitoring effort. Just take this paper he wrote

It’s from the Iranian Journal of Defence Policy, published by the IRGC’s Imam Hossein University. Yes, the very same Imam Hossein University that is the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps equivalent of West Point. Yes, the very same Imam Hossein University where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh used to give a weekly lecture.

Now check out Sabzian’s self-declared affiliation on that article:

Sabzian article

That’s Malek Ashtar University, MODAFL’s very own learning institution for Ministry of Defence officers - which would make Sabzian a MODAFL employee. And that’s also the very same Malek Ashtar University that briefly hosted Fakhrizadeh’s organisation back in 2008.

It doesn’t take a leap of analytical imagination to work out that Sabzian is probably part of SPND. If your Farsi is ok, check out the content of that article. In it, Sabzian describes the CTBT’s international monitoring system as - I quote - a “threat” to the Islamic Republic. It’s a highly surprising argument from someone whose public posture is supposedly supportive of that very system. I don’t think he’ll be very popular over drinks at future CTBT meetings. If he makes it out of Iran again, that is.

Alireza Aghamohammadi Sendani (علیرضا آقا محمدی)

An old hand at the CTBTO, this one. Aghamohammadi’s involvement with Iran’s military nuclear research goes back to the days of Shahid Hemmat. That’s the pre-Physics Research Centre nuclear weapons effort that elements of Iran’s military had underway in the early 1990s.

Aghamohammadi, unsurprisingly, is also a former IRGC member. His specific interest in the CTBT appears to be learning about secure ways of working with fissile material; ensuring that if glove boxes leak, that they aren’t giving away indications to CTBT sensors. That’s where his MSc in metallurgy and applied physics comes in handy.

Mohammad Hassan Zahmatkesh (محمد حسن زحمتکش)


Mohammad Hassan Zahmatkesh is one of SPND’s radiation safety experts As you can see for yourself, he’s been to at least one CTBTO side meeting under the auspices of Shahid Beheshti University. That’s not a brilliant cover for Zahmatkesh to have used given the number of SPND employed neutronics physicists who are alumni of SBU.

Keyvan Alipour Haghighi (کیوان علی پور حقیقی)

Haghighi completed his MSc at Amir Kabir University of Technology (دانشگاه صنعتی امیرکبیر) in 1996. He’s been an SPND representative at a number of CTBT events, but that’s not stopped him from bad-mouthing the treaty back at home. In 1999, for example, Haghighi published an article titled: “Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Inconsistent with the National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Inconsistent, huh? Good luck with getting another trip to Vienna.

attendees picture

So where does that leave us? I’d say the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (وزارت امور خارجه) has some decisions to make. Iran can’t continue attending CTBT meetings with any credibility when its delegations are dominated by wannabe nuclear weapon scientists who are determined to undermine the treaty at every opportunity.

Time to set straight this Watergate.

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