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Constraining Iranian Nuclear Scientists
March 18, 2020

On March 16, in response to the Iranian regime’s unacceptable nuclear escalations, the Department of Commerce is imposing restrictions on five Iranian nuclear scientists by adding them to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List. These five individuals were involved in Iran’s pre-2004 nuclear weapons program (the “Amad Plan”) and continue to be employed by the regime to this day.  After work on the Amad Plan was stopped, Iran continued to preserve its Amad-era records and its cadre of nuclear weapons scientists, including these individuals. The Department of Commerce’s Entity List contains foreign persons who are subject to specific export licensing requirements.

As the world learned from Iran’s Amad-era records, unanswered questions remain regarding Iran’s undisclosed past nuclear-related activities, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.  Today’s new listings by the Department of Commerce reaffirm the importance of demanding a full and honest accounting from Iran of its past nuclear-weapons-related activities.  The Acting IAEA Director General reported in November 2019 that the IAEA is currently investigating the detection of chemically processed uranium particles at an undeclared location in Iran, and that “the presence of nuclear material particles is an indicator of possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” Iran must be fully transparent with the IAEA and the international community.

The individuals added to the Commerce Entity List (along with their dates and places of birth) are: Aref Bali Lashak (September 19, 1963, Nowshar, Iran) served as a senior expert within the AMAD plan, Sayyed Mohammad, Mehdi Hadavi (September 22, 1963, Tehran, Iran) was a project supervisor during the AMAD plan, Kamran Daneshjou (July 5, 1957, Damavand, Iran) served as the head of AMAD plan project 111 (which according to the IAEA was an effort to modify a Shahab-3 re-entry vehicle to house a probable nuclear device); Mehdi Teranchi (July 5, 1956, Tehran, Iran) served as project supervisor in AMAD subproject 3/30 (which was in charge of nuclear explosive testing); Ali Mehdipour Omrani (April 16, 1973, Tonekaban, Iran) served as senior expert in AMAD subproject 3/11 (the project simulation group in charge of nuclear weapons design).

Individuals working for Iran’s proliferation-sensitive programs should be aware of the reputational and financial risks to which they expose themselves.  Iran’s scientists and technical experts have two paths: they can use their skills pursuing work on projects that do not pose a proliferation risk, or they can work for Iranian organizations pursuing proliferation-sensitive activities, with the financial and reputational risk such work entails.

Iran’s recent escalation of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities underscores the serious challenge the Iranian regime poses to international peace and security.  The time is now for the international community to stand together against Iran’s nuclear extortion.  If the world is concerned with Iran’s behavior now, it should consider how Iran would behave with a nuclear weapon.