Redline turns one: Hits and memories
Happy birthday us! It’s been a year since Redline went live, and in the absence of a party, it’s time for some reminiscing.
Our mission was to go deep inside the heart of Iran’s nuclear weapon research complex. We’ve focussed our efforts on the entity known as the Organisation for Defensive Research and Innovation (سازمان پژوهش و نوآوری دفاعی or سپند/SPND), a covert military lab where the holdovers from Iran’s pre-2004 nuclear weapon programme have coalesced.
And it’s turned out that there’s much that can be found out about SPND and other parts of this secretive world, if you know where to look. Here’s some highlights from what we’ve learned over the past year:
1. Iranian nuclear submarines: crazy, but not going away.
Iranian lawmakers spent a good few months back in 2013 threatening to enrich uranium to 60% (that’s uncomfortably close to weapons-grade). They needed it, you see, to fuel a fleet of nuclear submarines! And that pretext for higher enrichment, while ludicrous, hasn’t died. Expect to hear the nuclear submarine idea re-floated (sorry) if the Joint Plan of Action falls through.
2. Siblings say the darndest things.
So Iran’s Supreme Leader had this secret programme to build an ICBM capable of targeting the continental United States, and all was going very well. Until the secret programme’s main facility exploded. And then the brother of the dead mastermind behind that programme accidentally told the world just what his mastermind brother had been up to. (Erm, building an ICBM!)
3. The Fakhrizadeh family empire just keeps getting bigger (at least on paper).
Stealing money from Iran’s Ministry of Defence (وزارت دفاع) has proved mildly profitable for the head of SPND, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who’s created a series of front companies in order to handle all that cash. At last count, he was selling CCTV equipment at Fakhr Imen-e Shargh (فخر ایمن شرق), IT security services at Novin Pardazeshgaran (نوین پردازشگران), and general commercial conglomeration at Sayna Holdings. What next - alcohol-free breweries? Aged care facilities? Who knows where the empire might expand to. And keep an eye out also for Mohsen’s sons Hani (هانی فخري زاده), Mahdi (مهدي فخري زاده) and Hamed (حامد فخري زاده): they’re sure to have some exciting adventures in the next year.
4. Iran has been abusing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation for years.
Why had nobody picked up on this one before? As we exposed, Iran’s Ministry of Defence (وزارت دفاع) has spent the past decade sending spies to conferences of the global Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation. And SPND provides the spies - its experts attend all the while learning how to circumvent the CTBTO’s global test detection infrastructure in order to conduct nuclear weapon-related experiments in secret.
5. They might have a new building, but they’re the same SPND.
Perhaps tired of having its HQ ogled by armchair satellite imagery analysts, SPND made a move from its old accommodation at Mojdeh Street (خیابان مژده) to a big new campus on Sanaye Street (خیابان صنایع). Presumably there’s still a lot of solitaire being played while SPND employees wait for the long-promised money to come in from Tehran.
6. Making explosive systems for nuclear weapons is (unsurprisingly) very dangerous.
Just ask the late Darioush Rezaeinejad (داریوش رضایی نژاد), whose involvement in explosive design work for Iran’s military did not end well for him. His colleagues in METFAZ presumably learned a lesson from Darioush’s death, but they’ve still not been able to hide their facilities
7. Redline works in mysterious ways.
So after we called out Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s predecessor Seyyed Abbas Shahmoradi on his bad graphic design skills, Shahmoradi has hired a designer to overhaul his private laser company ARA Research (شرکت آرا پژهش). And the results are surprisingly good! Check them out here How’s that for impact?
8. When you’ve got big metal balls, they just keep swinging.
Suspected AMAD head metallurgist Seyyed Mohammad Mehdi Hadavi (سید محمد مهدی هادوی) was another Redline exposure. We outed him as the candidate most likely to have been responsible for engineering prototype metal pits (yep, balls) for Fakhrizadeh back in the pre-2004 hell-for-leather nuclear weapon programme. Exposure doesn’t seem to have slowed him down - it looks like Hadavi is now heading up research at MERC (پژوهشگاه مواد و انرژي), a premier Iranian materials research centre. Check out his new photo too - smouldering! That’s those big balls in action.
9. The Iran problem is not fixed just yet.
For all of Iran’s conciliatory steps over the past year, there are still an awful lot of insanity in the top tiers of Tehran. We outlined the hardliners, Machiavellians and flip-floppers in Iran’s nuclear decision-making hierarchy. And the hardliners haven’t gone anywhere while the diplomats have been talking in Vienna.
10. Tarh Andishan: its nice to meet you.
You know you've done something right when Iranian hackers attack your website. Fear not guys we recovered. Sadly these hackers hid themselves about as well as AMAD did.
11. Bridgewires: are they explosive?
Exploding Bridgewire detonators, a departed scientist and his successor. We outlined how Dr Rezaeinejad's work has been continued by Dr Mojtaba Dadashnejad. Hello to the IAEA and perhaps you should interview?
And the winner is… space cat.
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