Last week’s NIE isn’t the last word on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. According to a new book, Iran obtained nuclear weapon plans from Pakistan starting in the late 1980s. From Reuters:
“The Nuclear Jihadist,” by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, tells the story of how Pakistani engineer Adbul Qadeer Khan, the now disgraced father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, developed an intricate supply network aimed at skirting sanctions and peddling uranium enrichment technology.
Khan’s network supplied Libya, Iran and North Korea with nuclear machinery and designs. Tehran’s dealings with the network at the time are one of the main riddles the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna is trying to solve.
The book by the U.S. journalists says it was not Khan but German businessman Gotthard Lerch who persuaded Iran in 1987 to consider enriching uranium – a process of purifying it for use in power plants or weapons.
Lerch has been accused by German prosecutors of helping Khan supply Libya with restricted nuclear technology.
He and his lawyers protest innocence. Back to the story.
Frantz and Collins say a physicist from Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization visited Lerch’s office in Switzerland in 1987 to buy conventional weapons for Iran’s war against Iraq.
Lerch agreed to fill the order but insisted the Iranian watch a promotional film about his nuclear inventory. Lerch had known Khan from his days working at a German vacuum firm that sold Pakistan vacuum pumps for its enrichment program.
Several weeks later the Iranians said they were interested.
Lerch’s contacts with Iran came after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq began attacking Iranian troops with chemical weapons, which began to turn the tide of the long war against Tehran.
Lerch met the Iranians in Zurich and then arranged a follow-up meeting in Dubai where, the authors write, Iran was expected to pay $10 million as a down-payment for several Pakistani enrichment centrifuges from Khan and designs.
Among the items the Iranians received in Dubai were partial instructions for making the core of an atomic weapon. [emphasis mine]