Iranian Regime’s Programs for Biological and Microbial Weapons

Press Briefing by Soona Samsami and Alireza Jafarzadeh
May 15, 2003

Weapon Program: 

  • Biological


National Council of Resistance of Iran

MR. JAFARZADEH: Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for coming today. My name is Alireza Jafarzadeh with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, U.S. representative office.

We are holding this press conference to reveal detailed information that we have received from inside Iran. And I'd like to first of all ask the U.S. representative of the National Council of Resistance, Ms. Soona Samsami, to join us and share the information with you. And then we'll be available for your questions and answers.

Ms. Samsami, please.

MS. SAMSAMI: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today we are unveiling previously unknown information on the Iranian regime's biological and microbial weapons program. The command headquarters of the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran obtained this information through its sources within the Iranian clerical regime.

The PMOI has put that information at the disposal of the NCRI Committee on Defense and Strategic Research, thus enabling us to share this information with you today.

We are pleased that it is consistent with its responsible conduct and deep commitment to prevent the Iranian regime from carrying out its clandestine WMD programs, which is then a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.

  1. The activities of the clerical regime with respect to acquiring biological weapons began in 1985, during the Iran-Iraq War. In 1985 and 1986, the regime established a secret research complex in Teheran's Pasteur Institute to work on toxic fungus and microbial substances. The center succeeded in producing toxic fungus, including aflatoxin. At the same time, similar research was being undertaken at Vira Laboratory under the supervision of Mr. Gholamhossein Riazi. In subsequent years, as the regime succeeded in mass production of microbial material, it moved the production centers to a military facility. Centers such as Pasteur Institute are now being used for research purposes.
  2. Under then-President Rafsanjani, these activities took on new dimensions in the 1990s. The regime originally imported (fermenters?) from European countries, particularly France and Switzerland. Due to international restrictions and major needs on the part of the regime, domestic production of fermenters was put on the agenda.
  3. In June 2001, a plan called Comprehensive National Microbial Defense Plan was adopted by the Supreme National Security Council chaired by Khatami. A senior cleric, Hassan Rowhani, the SNSC secretary, personally pursued the implementation of this plan and reported directly to Khamenei, the supreme leader. In addition to the principal members, the relevant ministers and competent officials from the armed forces command headquarters also took part in that SNSC meeting. The Comprehensive National Plan for Microbial Defense is prepared in four pages and kept in the secretariat of the SNSC. It contains an introduction and specific task of each ministry. On the basis of this plan, the biological weapons capacity of the regime must be increased three-fold in the next two years.
  4. The biological weapons activities are centered around the following elements:
    - Anthrax, produced at the Revolutionary Guard Imam Hussein University in Teheran;
    - Next, aflatoxin, also produced at the Imam Hussein University;
    - Production of microbial bombs using anthrax;
    - Pproduction of microbial bombs using smallpox virus;
    - Production of microbial bombs using typhoid fever;
    - Production of microbial bombs using high dosage of aflotoxin;
    - Production of microbial bombs using plague microbes;
    - Production of microbial bombs using chloromicrobes.
    - Genetic cloning or alteration is being carried out at Malek Ashtar University, which is headed by Maqsudi, the head of Center for Scientific and Growth Technology.

Agencies involved in the Plan

The Armed Forces Command headquarters, the Ministry of Defense, the Revolutionary Guard Joint Command headquarters, the Revolutionary Guard Imam Hussein University and Ministry of Intelligence and Security are involved in acquiring and stockpiling of microbial weaponry.

New Warhead Directorate

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander, Nasser Toqyani, is in charge of the directorate pursuing weapons of mass destruction in the Armed Forces Command headquarters. He is coordinating the biological activities of all relevant organs. Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chairman of the Joint Command headquarters, takes part in these meetings.

Special Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Industries in the Ministry of Defense

A special organization dubbed Special Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Industries has been set up in the Ministry of Defense. This entity is also involved in chemical and biological activity. Brigadier General Seyyedi is in charge of this organization. His predecessor was named Dr. Abbass-pour, who had been appointed by Rafsanjani. This organization is in charge of arming the regime with microbial and chemical bombs and has been strengthened during Khatami's presidency. The organization is also responsible for procuring technological needs of microbial and chemical weapons as well as chemical and microbial bombs. A number of foreign microbial weapons experts from China, North Korea, India, Russia are cooperating with the Ministry of Defense of the Iranian regime. A number of them have been hired by this organization.

The Biological Research Center of Special Industries Organization is located at Shahid Meisami, Martyr Meisami complex on Special Karaj Highway, 27 kilometers near the steel factory.

During the Khatami's presidency, the Ministry of Defense formed a new biological weapons center to expand biological bomb. That was called Malek Ashtar University and is based in Lavizan Shian Technological Research Center. Dr. Maqsudi heads this center, which is the most important research center for biological WMD.

Imam Hussein University has been a bio-technology section which works on microbial bombs with aflatoxin. Major investments have been made in this university to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological and missile warheads. Students are given foreign scholarships to study abroad and use western technology.

The Revolutionary Guards' Baqiyatollah Research Center, affiliated with the Guards' Baqitollah Hospital, is another Revolutionary Guard Baqiyatollah center which works on microbial bombs. Dr. Karami is the head of this center. He's a member of the Guard Corps Imam Hussein University scientific staff and has been working on biological weapons for 18 years. He is also a member of the national body of Biological Weapons Disarmament Convention and travels to Geneva regularly.

The Revolutionary Guards Joint Command headquarters has started new activities dealing with microbial weaponry. Brigadier General Abroumand is heading the activities and organized them in different committees.

At the Ministry of Intelligence, the directorate to access weapons of mass destruction is run by Asgari. Its task is to steal foreign technology on WMD, especially biological weapons. The directorate has planted its spies on foreign countries.

Next, the Research Center for Direct Biotechnology is headed by San'ati. This center does not directly work on microbial bombs, but it's used as the research supplement for biological weapons and actively works with Malek Ashtar and Imam Hussein University, as well as the Guards' Baqiyatollah Biological Research Center.


  1. On the basis of the decisions reached by the Supreme National Security Council, the regime intends to increase the number of experts in biological field from current 3,000 to 11,000 in the coming years.
  2. Dr. Maqsudi, head of Centers for Science and Technological Growth of the Biological Research Center of Malek Ashtar, affiliated with the defense industries, are in charge of mass production of biological weapons.
  3. Dr. Mirza'i. He supervises all Defense Ministry plans on biological weapons. He has been active in this field since the 1980s.
  4. Dr. Hossein San'ati. He is the head of the National Center for Genetic Technology and Growth Technology. He has been working on biological weapons since the war and, along with Mirza'i and Karami, are known as the architect of the regime microbial bombs. San'ati has allocated the capabilities of the National Center for Genetic Technology and Growth Technology to the development of microbial bomb and is using this center as cover.
  5. Gholamhossein Rizai. He is among the founders of the regime's weapons-of-mass-destruction program. Due to his age, he has become the dean of the university, but actively advises the regime.
  6. Dr. Mirza Khalil Bahmani. He has been working on defensive and offensive plans at Imam Hussein University.
  7. Dr. Toula'i. He is an expert on biotechnology and works at the Ministry of Defense and Biological Research Center at Imam Hussein University.

And I would like to tell you very good news that they have gained an updated information on what I just mentioned and on continuation of what I said. And since it's in Farsi language, I ask my colleague, Mr. Jafarzadeh, as he just got the info, translate for you, you know, at this moment. Please.

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, as we just got this information that basically deals with a new agency or a new organ that, in addition to what Ms. Samsami shared with you earlier, also deals with the biological and microbial weapons program of the Iranian regime. It's called the Sina Industry, S-I-N-A, Sina Industry, that are concentrated on production of the biological materials.

The head of this Sina Industry is Dr. Yousefi. This is a center that was previously named Vira Laboratories -- Vira Laboratories. This is one of the most important biological and chemical laboratories of the Iranian regime. This basically was used as a front, as a cover for doing their research and their activities on biological weapons under the cover and the name of medical research.

In this center, the Sina Industry Center, the microbial tests are done on animals. This is a center that has been active since the early '90s. The previous head of this laboratory was Dr. Riazi, Gholamhossein Riazi. You mentioned the name earlier. And his deputy was Dr. Yousefi, who is now heading the Sina Industry.

During the time of presidency of Khatami, obviously the regime has escalated their efforts in the field of weapons of mass destruction, particularly in the field of biological weapons. And as a result, the organizational structure of the Defense Ministry went through significant changes to be able to comply with the rising demands of Iranian regime in this field. And they formed -- they call it Special Industry Group headed by a brigadier general whose name is -- the Revolutionary Guards' brigadier general, Farmanesh, F-A-R-M-A- N-E-S-H. So that's the purpose.

Now, what they do in the Special Industry Group, which deals with different aspects of what they need for their biological weapons program, and depending on the issue and the subject, they have distributed the work in different centers and industrial places in the country. I give you -- I name a few for you.

One is the Milad Industry, M-I-L-A-D, Milad Industry that is located in Mard-Abad. The second one is called Be'ethat Industry, Be'ethat Industry, that is located in the city of Qom. And the next one is Sard-Shimi Industry or Sard Chemical Industry, which is located in Shiraz, which is located in the central part of the country.

The next one is Raja-Shimi Industry, which is located in Malard, near Karaj, which is west of Teheran.

The next one is Shahid Salehi Industry, which is also located in the city of Qom.

Next is the Shahid Meysami Industry that Ms. Samsami referred to earlier, which is located close to Karaj; and then the Sina Industry itself, which is located in Karaj, and then the Valasr Industry, Valasr Industry, that is located in Teheran.

Just to give you an idea, Dr. Yousefi, given the extensive many years of working first under Dr. Riazi and then in other parts, he has really concentrated and moved all the experience he had had to this Sina Industry now. In other words, the Sina Industry is now a consolidation or concentration of all the experiences that the regime had built over the years, both in biological and chemical weapons program.

Now, this is the additional information we had just gotten. And we'll -- if you have any questions that you'd like to ask, please.

Q Did you notify any international agencies that specialize in weapons of mass destruction about your findings here? Secondly, more importantly, do you have any documents, any photographs, video, to back up so many of the accusations that you've made here?

MR. JAFARZADEH: What was your first part of your question? I didn't quite get it.

Q You've laid out these accusations. Have you notified IAEA or any of the other international agencies that specialize in weapons of mass destruction programs in different countries?

Q Can you repeat the question? We didn't hear it.

Q Okay. Have you notified any international agencies about your accusations here? And then, secondly, more importantly, do you have any video, any documents, official documents from the regime there in Iran to back up your accusations here?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Yes. What I'd like to say, that the information we have gotten here -- as you know, usually the National Council of Resistance of Iran does share such information with the proper international bodies that deal with different issues, whether it's nuclear programs or the biological weapons program.

So that has been the case.

Now, as far as the documentation is concerned, first of all, contrary to like the nuclear weapons program that you need a real large site that's difficult to hide or difficult to move around, that we were able to give specific details last time, and the regime was not able to hide it.

In the case of chemical and biological programs, when you deal with very, very small elements, mostly in laboratories, mostly in cases that could be easily covered under the cover of research, medical research and activities, therefore you have to rely on specific hard-core information that comes from within the Iranian regime that know what they are doing, know what the plan is, and know where they are starting and where they are heading. This is where that information has come. This is the same sources that the Iranian Mujaheddin have used in the past, which is placed within, you know, significant sources within the Iranian (clerical ?) regime that have provided this information. And these are the very same type of sources that have provided this information to the Mujaheddin, and they relayed it to us.


Q Terry -- (inaudible) -- Fox News. When you came forward with some information about Netan (ph) to the U.S. government, it became very widely circulated and widely cited by the U.S. government. Have you already given this information here, this information with the U.S.? And what was their response? Do they give it a large degree of credibility? And, secondly, you mentioned foreign countries helping Iran in this effort. And one of those countries was definitely Russia, where Secretary Powell just went, and one of his missions was to try to talk Russia out of providing Iraq with such technology. What share of the Iranian -- of the program came from Russia?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, first of all, I can tell you that the information has been available to the proper places within the government, the U.S. government. And, second, I think the last time in the case of Netan (ph) in Iraq it took a while before others could basically confirm what we had revealed. It took practically months. I don't know how long it's going to take with this new information, but certainly this is very, very serious, given the nature as you saw, the seriousness of the program that we urge attention to this matter.

Q On Russia?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Say it again?

Q On Russia?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, in terms of the Russian involvement, we know that they have been involved in this program. I am not privy to the details of their involvement, but maybe if we get more information I can share it with you. But certainly they have been involved.


Q Carol Pearson (ph) with Voice of America. In what state have the microbes and another thing to have a delivery system. Do you have information on a delivery system?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Yes. Well, actually the delivery system, the Iran regime has been working on it for a long time. They have had a range of missiles available to them. The earlier versions of Shahab, or even less sophisticated kinds of the missiles they have had for a long time. But the more advanced kinds are the Shahab 3 and the Shahab 4 with a range of 800 miles, and the next closest 2,000 miles, which basically -- in the case of Shahab 3, they have already test- fired. They have already -- have it already in their hands, capable of delivering it. So depending on their mission, on where the targets are, they have a range of options already available to them in delivering these bombs. Please, you were first.

Q (Off mike) -- with Reuters. Is there any evidence you can share with us to support the details -- (inaudible) -- ?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, actually as I said, given the nature of the sources that we have, that's the way we conducted it in the previous cases, whether it was the nuclear weapons program of the Iranian regime, whether it was the missile program that we were basically first to say that they had test-fired it. And after weeks others were able to confirm it. And also in terms of the terrorist network of the Iranian regime, we were first in this town who said Iran was behind the Khobar Tower bombing. We gave the name of the brigadier general of the -- (inaudible) -- force, how much -- (inaudible) -- that was involved. And later it was confirmed. We were the first who said that the Jewish community center bombing in Argentina was done by the Iranian regime. We gave the details. Now it's a known fact. And a series of other examples. And that's why this is where it comes -- rather than relying on papers and charts or things like that, we are relying on the human resources coming from within the Iranian regime, especially if it's biological, microbial weapons program that it is very, very difficult to pin it down to documents, as we said.

Please, John?

Q Has the regime successfully weaponized any of the substances you listed?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Yes, they have. In fact, there were I think six different kinds of weapons they had been working on, and as Ms. Samsami said, it was the microbial bombs and using different kinds of biological materials. One is using anthrax. The other one smallpox virus. The next one is typhoid fever, and -- (inaudible) -- aflatoxin and plague.

Q So you are saying they can use these now as weapons?

MR. JAFARZADEH: I can tell you this: that if they decide right now to use these biological microbial weapons, they can use it in a very, very deadly manner that could inflict heavy and widespread human damages. So I think, you know, this really needs attention, especially with all the details we provided here, given locations, names of the Iranian regime scientists who are working, the exact site and location and the addresses that we provided today that are obviously operating under different covers and laboratories. The same way in Iraq in the nuclear program it was used under the cover of industrial use, or the Netans (ph) that was covered under eradicating desert project. These sites that we gave with all the details and the addresses and locations today, and also the specific names of the regime scientists needs a very, very serious attention. We urge everybody to do that.


Q (Off mike) -- Financial Times. Can you bring us up to date with the activities of Mr. and Mrs. Rajavi and what is happening the elements of the (MKO ?) who surrendered their weapons in Iraq?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Yes, I can -- first of all, as far as the status of the Iranian Mujaheddin in Iraq is concerned, I think it's been very open, widely reported in the media, and also the United States Central Command, and also commanders on the ground -- and I refer yo to that. Perhaps I can quote you from the CENTCOM news release dated May 10th, that was put out by the CENTCOM. It's available on their website as well. And I quote this part that I think would answer your question. It says the Cobra Base -- the dateline is that of Cobra Base, Iraq. It says, "The "V Corps has accepted the voluntary consolidation of the Mujaheddin-E-Khalq's forces, and subsequent control over those forces. This process is expected to take several days to complete. When finally accomplished, the peaceful resolution of this process between the Mujaheddin-E-Khalq and the coalition will significantly contribute to the coalition's mission to set the conditions that will establish a safe and secure environment for the people of Iraq. Previously, V Corps was monitoring a cease-fire brokered between the Mujaheddin-E- Khalq and the Special Forces elements. The Mujaheddin-E-Khalq forces have been abiding by the terms of this agreement, and are cooperating with coalition soldiers."

I'd like to also make a reference to a couple of other statements that are available to the media, some quotations in the Los Angeles Times, and also other wire agencies. The Major General Ray Odierno, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, did an interview right after concluding his talks with the leaders and the commanders of the Iranian mujaheddin, and he said, and I quote, "I would say that there should be the cooperation should lead to a review of whether they are still a terrorist organization. This is the French news agency quoting General Ray Odierno.

He said it's clear to me they are passionate about their beliefs, and they believe in a democratic Iran. I probably didn't quite understand that when I began this process. Also, later Captain Josh Felker, who is the spokesman for the Army, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, who said, the Mujahedin-E-Khalq was never fighting coalition forces. In other words, the emphasis on the fact that throughout the whole process -- before the war, during the war, throughout the time of the negotiations and so far until now, the Iranian resistance, the mujaheddin did not participate. They were not a party to this war. They did not fire a single bullet against the coalition forces, as we can see has been admitted by the commanders there.

Therefore that's the latest I can tell you about the status of the mujaheddin. Please?

Q Sorry. On Mr. and Mrs. Rajavi?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, I don't know -- so your question was about --

Q Can you bring us up to date on --

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, as far as Mr. and Mrs. Rajavi is concerned, they are continuing the efforts that they have been doing for the past two decades, which is leading a resistance movement, leading a movement that is fighting for freedom and wants to eliminate the fundamentalist rulers of Iran, and they are continuing to do so.


Q If the mujaheddin has been pretty much disarmed the base of operation in Iraq, will they be leaving Iraq and setting up a base elsewhere?

MR. JAFARZADEH: One thing I can tell you about that -- first of all, I think the most important element, as the mujaheddin has stated repeatedly, number one is a safe and secure environment in Iraq, which is in fact in line with the goals and objectives and ideals of the Iranian resistance, because given the geopolitical significance of Iraq and what it really means for the fundamentalist rulers of Iran, they are the mullahs ruling Iran are doing every effort possible to take advantage of the situation, to exploit the Iraqi situation, to export their fundamentalism, not just in terms of ideas but actually sending their own Revolutionary Guards, Ministry of Intelligence agents, as well as clerics into the Iraqi territory with the intention of taking control of the situation with the intention of establishing a sister Islamic republic in Iraq, which is I think contrary to the interests of anybody, and directly opposite -- diametrically opposite to that is the position of the Iranian mujaheddin who are an anti- fundamentalist force stationed there who act as a counterbalance against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, against the foreign interference of the Iranian regime.

Therefore, as far as the principles of the mujaheddin are concerned, as they have stated, based on the two principles of independence, as they have been all throughout these years, and noninterference in the internal affairs of Iraq, they will continue their activities so long as their safety and security is guaranteed.

And I tell you if it was not for the efforts of the Iranian mujaheddin who have been countering, who have been fighting, who have been trying to neutralize the influence and the deadly, ominous impact of the fundamentalists, it would be very possible for the fundamentalist rulers of Iran to practically swallow Iraq, especially now that the situation is absolutely ripe for their ominous objectives.

MS. SAMSAMI: (Off mike.)

Did you refer to the issue of surrender? I think I missed that. She mentioned that to me. Just to remind you, this situation for the mujaheddin forces is not absolutely a situation of a surrender, as has been stated by the commanders on the ground, including Major General Ray Odierno, the 4th Infantry Division commander who said, and I quote from Agence France Presse, who said it is not a surrender. It's basically as the CENTCOM has said, it's the consolidation, voluntary consolidation of the forces. So that's the latest status.


Q I want to go back to the weapons program for a second. Basically, do you think -- (off mike) -- or export it to any kind of terrorist organization? -- (Off mike.)

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, obviously I think experience of the past 22 years has shown that the Iranian regime has not missed an opportunity in terms of exporting their fundamentalism and terrorism, using target groups, using organizations in different parts, as well as their own forces. You know they have been providing funds, money and resources, including weapons, conventional weapons, to a number of groups and organizations. And obviously, especially when it comes to biological weapons programs, it is a lot more feasible to transfer and to put at somebody else's disposal. I can assure you they would not miss an opportunity to do that.

Q (Off mike)?

MR. JAFARZADEH: No, we don't have anything that would refer to specific transfer as of now. Please. You were first. And then you.

Q (Off mike)?

MS. SAMSAMI: Well, of course as we did earlier, the number of experts and number of people that are hiring to expand the program has gone from 3,000 to 11,000, so you can imagine the extent of activities that are increasing and advancing in this area. But if you want further -- you can elaborate.

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, it's really difficult to come up with the exact quantity when it comes to an expansive program that pretty much covers different parts of the country and also such a secret program. But our sources have confirmed that if decided today, the Iranian regime is capable of delivering deadly blows and inflict massive casualties, human casualties.

You were next please.

Q Is there any information on where or how -- (off mike)?

MS. SAMSAMI: You know, I think I already named the countries that are actually helping the Iranian regime. If you remember earlier, I named the countries. If you want, I can repeat that. Russia, India and what's the other country?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Korea and China.

MS. SAMSAMI: Yeah, China and Korea, North Korea.


Q How does your organization feel about the fact that the U.S. government is now engaged in talks with the Iranian government in Geneva, and that's seen by many to have the opening to a thawing of relations and to establishing diplomatic relations. And also the State Department said as recently as this week that simply -- (inaudible) -- information and what's going on peaceably in northern Iraq is not enough to get NCRI off the terrorist list.

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, as far as U.S.-Iran relations is concerned and the suggestions you just made, as far as the Iranian regime's demands are concerned, first of all this has been the number one demand and the first and the last demand of the Iranian regime from all their counterparts in the past few years that would want to seek the Iranian opposition, the mujaheddin, being sacrificed as a precondition to improving relations. And therefore any concessions made to the Iranian regime would further make them really bolder in that regard as Senator Brownback in his statement just a couple of days ago that he put out. He criticized this kind of an approach that would further embolden the Iranian regime first pursuing their terrorist activities.

And but as far as the details on how far they've gone, what the details are and so on, I think you should direct that question to the United States government, because I am not privy to that kind of information.

As far as the designation is concerned, as you know many members of Congress both on the House and the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, consistently over the years, ever since the designation took place in October '97, which in fact was meant as a good-will gesture of the previous administration to curry favor with Khatami, who had just taken office as the regime's so-called moderate president. And the members of Congress and the opponents of this designation have stepped up their efforts, both because Khatami's so- called moderation has badly failed; second, because when it comes to the recent realities in the region, which is the conduct of the Iranian mujaheddin, the fact that there were not a party to this war, they did not fire on the U.S. forces - in other words, there is absolutely no foundation whatsoever for any such designation. Instead you hear from your own generals on the ground who are emphasizing that this designation is invalid, inappropriate. It should be removed, because from now on, particularly from now on this designation will act as an obstacle for further enhancing peace and security in the region, particularly in the case of Iraq. And that's why there is increasingly more and more opposition and voices being raised by not only members of Congress but others who are questioning this whole designation, that have been repeatedly stated by different officials of the previous administration, whether it was Mr. Martin Indyk, the then assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, or other officials who insisted that the terror label against the mujaheddin was not based on what they had conducted, rather it was a political decision to curry favor with Teheran.

Q Is there a hand-out of the report?

MS. SAMSAMI: Yes. If anyone is interested to have a transcript of what I explained, you can sign your e-mail, and in like an hour the whole transcript will be sent from our office to you directly, so you can work on the text. Thank you very much.

Agencies of the Iranian Regime Involved in Bioweapons Program