Sanctions and the rogues' gallery

Sanctions on Iran. Seems you can’t go a day without reading someone’s pontifications on whether they’re working or not. And what you’ll read most about are the big, macro-level sanctions on Iran’s oil trade and economy, the sort of broad-brush efforts that are designed to alter Iran’s strategic calculus.

Potentially more interesting – yet grossly underanalyzed by the press – are the sanctions listings against individual Iranian officials and personnel. Particularly the people involved in nuclear stuff – we’ll leave aside the human rights violators, shipping magnates and dodgy bankers. The micro-level sanctions against individuals freeze peoples’ assets and stop them from travelling – and also (perhaps inadvertently) reveal, through the accompanying information that’s published with them, a lot about the Iranian nuclear program.

So, who’s been sanctioned, and what does it tell us?

By my reckoning there have been at least 170 Iranian individuals designated for proliferation-related activity across the various state or multilateral regimes that make public their sanctions and their reasons (that’s the UN, EU, US, Australia, Canada and Japan).

In this group of 170+, there are some people that leap out – most notably, the best known members of Iran’s nuclear family, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh ( محسن فخری زاده ) and Fereidoun Abbasi-Davani (فریدون عباسی دوانی) both made appearances in UN Security Council Resolution 1747. There’s many other notorious players too.

And a bunch of relative unknowns. Australia (Australia!) has sanctioned a few characters from the margins of Iran’s nuclear program. They’ve listed Jamshid Sabbaghzadeh - from his various online appearances we can see that he’s Ahmadinejad’s 3D movie buddy and one of the godfathers of Iran’s laser uranium enrichment research (a technology which Australia knows a bit about). Australia’s also outed Mohammad Outokesh – no reasons given, but dig around a bit and you’ll see that he’s an AEOI uranium guru whom most likely was the Iranian run out of town by the Japanese authorities for abusing their university system.

And Canada! Canada have sanctioned pretty much every Iranian who’s even so much as thought about anything remotely nuclear, and his brother, and his dog.

But back to the list. The group that’s most heavily represented in the 170 is personnel from the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (that’s the nominally civilian part of the nuclear program). There are just over 40 of these people who have made the sanctions listings in one form or another – and this is the shortlist:

Fereidoun ABBASI-DAVANI; Dawood AGHA-JANI داود آقاجانی); Houshang NOBARI (هوشنگ نوبری); Reza AGHAZADEH (رضا آقازاده); Mohammad AHMADIAN (محمد احمدیان): Massoud AKHAVAN-FARD (مسعود اخوان فرد); Amir Moayyed ALAI امیر معاید الائی)); Mohammad Hassan ALLAHDAD (محمد حسن الله داد); Behman ASGARPOUR (بهمن اسغرپور); Mohammad Fedai ASHIANI (محمد فدائی آشیانی); Abbas Rezaee ASHTIANI (عباس رضائی آشتیانی ) ; Haleh BAKHTIAR (حاله بختیار ); Morteza BEHZAD (مرتضی بختیار ); Sayed Shamsuddin BORBORUDI ; Mohammad OUTOKESH محمد اتوکش )); Dr. Mohammad ESLAMI (دکتر محمد اسلامی ); Hoseyn (Hossein) FAQIHIAN ( حسین فقیحیان ) Seyyed Hussein HOSSEINI; (سید حسین حسینی ); Mohammad IMANI (محمد ایمانی ); Mahmood JANNATIAN ( محمود جنتیان ) ; Said Esmail KHALILIPOUR (a.k.a.: LANGROUDI) (سید (اسمائیل خلیلی پور (لنگرودی); Ali Reza KHANCHI ( علی رضا خانچی); Majid KHANSARI ( مجید خوانساری ) ; Mohammad Reza Amini KHARRAZI (محمد رضا امینی خرازی ); Ali Hajinia LEILABADI ( علی حاجینیا لیلابادی ); Hamid-Reza MOHAJERANI ( حمید رضا محاجرانی ); Jafar MOHAMMADI جعفر محمدی) ) ; Mohammad MOHAMMADI ( محمد محمدی ); Ehsan MONAJEMI ( احسان منجمی) ; Mohammad QANNADI ( محمد قندی) ; Amir RAHIMI (امیر رحیمی); Amir Hossein RAHIMYAR ( امیر حسین رحیم یار ); Javad RAHIQI (جواد رحیقی); Abbas RASHIDI عباس رشیدی)); Naser RASTKHAH ( ناصر رستخاه); Mohammad Reza REZVANIANZADEH ( محمد رضا رزوانیان زاده );Jamshid SABBAGHZADEH ( جمشید سباق زاده); M. Javad Karimi SABET (جواد کریمی سابط ) ; Seyed Jaber SAFDARI ( سید جابر صفداری ); Ali Akbar SALEHI (علی اکبر صالحی); Abdollah SOLAT SANA عبدالله سولت سانا)); Ghasem SOLEYMANI قاسم سلیمانی)); Behzad SOLTANI (بهزاد سلطانی); Hamid SOLTANI (حمید سلطانی).

A bit harder to weed out within that 170 – and this is where things get rather more interesting – is a much smaller grouping of military or IRGC officials working for or around Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. These are ostensibly the most protected, most secretive, most secure personnel in Iran’s covert nuclear weapon-related work, but they’ve been laid awfully bare by the sanctions regimes. I count at least nine of them. If you bring together the accompanying text from the sanctions listings and do a bit of Googling, a fair bit can be divined, as per the below:

Name: Mohsen Fakhizadeh – محسن فخری زاده

Sanctioned by: the UN, US, EU, Australia

Sanctioned for: heading Iran’s nuclear weapons effort, obviously.

Name: Kamran Daneshjou - کامران دانشجو


Sanctioned by: the EU, Canada, Australia, Japan (Japan!)

Sanctioned for: Doing missile re-entry vehicle design work for the AMAD nuclear weapons program. Not for stealing elections or stealing words, which he also did.

Name: Seyed Amir Hossein Feghhi - سید امیر حسین فقهی

Sanctioned by: Canada

Sanctioned for: Reasons unstated. Search online and you’ll see that he’s a neutron physics guru who has worked with Majid Shahriari on what looks very similar to the sort of research that one would conduct if one wanted to initiate a nuclear explosion.

Name: Javad Al-Yasin - جواد ال یسین

Sanctioned by: the EU

Sanctioned for: Heading METFAZ, an explosives research group reporting to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and probably now part of the SPND organisation.

Name: Davoud Babaei - داود بابائی

Sanctioned by: the EU

Sanctioned for: Heading SPND’s security.

Name: Ali Akbar Motallebizadeh - علی اکبر مطلبی زاده

Sanctioned by: Australia

Sanctioned for: Reasons unstated. Again, do a bit of searching and you’ll see that he’s been outed as part of SPND and has conducted implosion-relevant research on nanodiamonds.

Name: Hossein Afarideh – حسین آفریده

Sanctioned by: Canada

Sanctioned for: Reasons unstated. Online profile tells us that he is another neutron physics guru who has worked with Majid Shahriari and Fereidoun Abbasi-Davani

Name: Abdolhamid Minuchehr – عبدل حمید منوچهر

Sanctioned by: Canada

Sanctioned for: Reasons unstated, but is another neutron physics guru who has worked with Majid Shahriari.

Name: Mohammad Sadegh Naseri - محمد صادق ناصری

Sanctioned by: EU

Sanctioned for: According to the EU, he headed the Physics Research Institute (PRI), which is part of Fakhrizadeh’s outfit. Trawl some academic journals and you’ll see that worked with Fereidoun Abbasi-Davani as well as doing research on electromagnetic weapons.

These particular designations tell us a couple of things. The first is obvious – working for Fakhrizadeh or SPND is a sure-fire way of ensuring that your next European holiday will not get much further than the airport. The second is that there’s a cohort of neutron physicists who seem to be dabbling in or closely associated with nuclear weapon-related research: many of them are alumni or currently employed by Shahid Beheshti University and most are buddies of the late Dr Shahriari (مجید شهریاری). And Canada takes a particular interest in them. So, Iranians, if you don’t fancy having your secret bank account in Winnipeg frozen, maybe steer clear of this group?

(You might ask, quite rightly, about the veracity of these listings and the sort of evidence that is behind them: I’d think that after the whole Iraq experience, governments would be a bit wary of putting less-than-solid assertions about suspect nuclear programs on the public record. Remember too that the EU is packed with some pretty doveish states who probably wouldn’t accept bald allegations about WMD from the more hawkish members. So there’s presumably some credible and compelling intelligence going on as well as what’s pretty obvious.)

Now back to the super 170: there’s another group of people in that list that is well worth pointing out. These are senior military and IRGC officials, presumably with a few more stripes on their shoulders than Fakhrizadeh:

Name: Ahmad Vahidi - احمد وحیدی


Sanctioned by: EU, Australia, the US, Japan

Sanctioned for: Being Minister of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics, crimes against baseball caps.

Name: Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi – احمد وحید دستجردی


Sanctioned by: the UN, EU, US, Australia

Sanctioned for: Used to run Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organisation (AIO), which oversees the ballistic missile program.

Name: Mohammad Eslami - محمد اسلامی

Sanctioned by: the UN, EU, Australia

Sanctioned for: Used to run the Defence Industries Training and Research Institute (DITRI), a MODAFL entity that oversaw AMAD. (DITRI was designated by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1929, weirdly, as the Defense Technology and Science Research Center.)

Name: Seyyed Mehdi Farahi - سید محدی فرحی


Sanctioned by: the EU, Canada, Australia, Japan

Sanctioned for: Used to manage Iran’s Defence Industries Organisation, makers of tanks, guns, ammunition etc. Now leads AIO. If kebab consumption was grounds for further sanctioning, Farahi would be in some trouble.

Name: Ali Hoseynitash - علی حسینی تاش


Sanctioned by: the EU, Australia, Japan

Sanctioned for: Being involved in making nuclear policy and an IRGC Brigadier General – not a good combination.

Name: Mehdrad Akhlaghi Ketabchi - مهرداد اخلاقی کتابچی

Sanctioned by: the UN, EU, US, Australia

Sanctioned for: Headed the Shahid Bakeri Industries Group (SBIG), purveyors of fine solid-propellant ballistic missiles to the discerning IRGC gentleman.

Name: Mohammad Mehdinejad Nouri - محمد محدی نژاد نوری


Sanctioned by: the UN, EU, Australia

Sanctioned for: Used to head defence research institution the Malek Ashtar University of Technology. Despite his appearance, has never appeared in a Tintin book.

Name: Mohammad Reza Movasaghnia - محمد رضا موسق نیا

Sanctioned by: EU, Australia, Japan

Sanctioned for: Heads Samen Al’Emmeh Industries Group (SAIG). They make bits for cruise missiles. Iran bought nuclear-capable cruise missiles from Ukraine back in the 1990s, minus warheads. Iran would like some nuclear warheads for their cruise missiles. You do the math as to why he’s on the list.

Name: Amir Ali Hajizadeh - امیر علی حاجی زاده


Sanctioned by: EU, Canada

Sanctioned for: Heads the IRGC Aerospace Force. If anyone’s going to hold command and control responsibility for a nuclear-armed missiles, it’d be them.

We should keep an eye on this group. I’d say it’s a fair bet that they’ve overseen nuclear weapon research; taken a keen interest in nuclear weapons; or been deeply involved in organising ballistic missile work of the type that would be very helpful for lobbing nukes westward from Iran. I suspect I’ll return to some of them in later posts as there’s doubtless more dirt to be dug up. (And of course will take requests if you have any favourites.)

So where does this leave us? I think that broadly, there’s a fairly consistent pattern of who the EU, UN, Canada et al are most interested in. Here’s my form guide as to who will be sanctioned next, should the international negotiations fall apart:

3:1 - Mohammad Reza Valvi - محمد رضا والوی

This guy is crying out for sanctioning. He’s the current head of MODAFL’s research oversight entity, DITRI. Presumably DITRI has not got any less bad since it and its former leader were designated by the UN and EU.

5:4 - Hamid Reza Asgari - حمید رضا اسگری

Senior AEOI adviser and BFF of Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator. Have you seen this guy? That’s him on the right with Soltanieh:


Asgari must be up to something evil with a combover like that.

2:3 - Gholamreza Etaati - غلام رضا اطاعتی


Frequent co-author of Abbasi-Davani and Majid Shahriari. Expert in fast neutrons, plasma focus devices and other things that you research when you’re not strictly allowed to build nukes.

2:3 - Saeed Borji - سعید برجی

Likes nanodiamonds. Co-author of Ali Akbar Motallebizadeh (who was sanctioned by Australia and is part of Fakhrizadeh’s SPND organisation.) Has appeared on David Albright’s site, which for dodgy Iranians is pretty much the scarlet letter.

3:8 - Naser Vosoughi - ناصر وسوقی

Co-author of Ali Akbar Salehi (former AEOI head) and Majid Shahriari. Monte Carlo Neutron Protocol code expert. That sort of resume speaks for itself.

I could go on with hot tips, as this is a packed race – and will welcome any of your own tips to the usual address.

Signing off.


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