Iran in massive push for nuclear weapons
IRAN'S Revolutionary Guards are overseeing a massive expansion of the country's nuclear weapons programme in an attempt to bring forward the date when the regime can produce its first warhead, according to an Iranian dissident group.
A specialist team of 60 nuclear scientists has been seconded to a unit called the New Defence Research Organisation which answers directly to the Revolutionary Guards, the elite force under the control of Iran's supreme leader.
Having previously disclosed the existence of Iran's secret uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says it has now uncovered conclusive evidence of how the Revolutionary Guards are quietly expanding the weapons programme.
The unit, which was set up last year, has been established to work on the key areas of the weapons programme that still need to be completed before Iran can start assembling a nuclear warhead.
Last week it was disclosed that Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain's MI6, had told a select group of senior civil servants that Iran would be able to have a nuclear device within two years.
But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader who has overall responsibility for its nuclear programme, is keen for the nuclear scientists to gain the skills required to make an atom bomb. According to the NCRI, the Iranian opposition movement which claims to have a network of activists working inside the country, the headquarters of the research unit is at Mojdeh, in the Lavizan region. The unit has seven subdivisions which carry out research, including working on the fissile material used for making nuclear weapons, studying metals used to make a warhead, and developing a detonator.
Many scientists working for the unit are in contact with the underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, the existence of which was only uncovered three years ago by President Barack Obama.
Israeli intelligence officials suspect Iran has built the complex, which is deep beneath the mountains on the outskirts of the holy city of Qom, to conceal its attempts to develop nuclear weapons.
Israel's deepening concerns over Iran's nuclear programme have raised fears that the Jewish state may be planning to launch unilateral air strikes against Iran's key nuclear facilities later this year.
Tom Donilon, the US national security adviser, visited Jerusalem at the weekend for talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, amid concern that the Israelis are planning an attack.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, yesterday became the latest high-profile visitor to arrive in Jerusalem to lobby Mr Netanyahu. She has not been to Israel in two years, previously stating that she would not go until there was progress on the Middle East peace process.
State Department officials claimed that the purpose of her trip was to discuss the impact of the Arab Spring. (©Daily Telegraph, London)