New sanctions, same old SPND

The public revelation of Iran's atomic archives continues to cause ripples, with the United States Treasury the latest government authority to delve into the documents pinched from under the nose of Iran's intelligence agencies. On 22 March, the Treasury released an extensive list (here and here) of sanctions designations targeted directly at SPND (سازمان پژوهشهای نوین دفاعی), the Iranian military research organisation responsible for curating (and losing) the extensive records of Iran's pre-2003 nuclear weapons programme. 

This news must have been a real blow to scientists and other staff working at SPND, many of whom are already upset by stressful working conditions under Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Now they will find their freedom to travel, to publish and to speak academically, as well as their future work prospects,(even more) severely limited. These sanctions basically mean that SPND and its employees can forget about ever getting a bank account with anything bigger than the local hawala. And the US Treasury will be looking to use these new powers to seize SPND's money wherever it can, particularly in financial jurisdictions outside Iran.

There will be growing money worries at SPND, we're sure of that. This is especially so because the sanctions target SPND's web of front companies, including Puya Electro Saman, aka Pulse Niru Industries (شرکت صنایع پویا الکتروسامان نیرو) (, Kimiya Pakhsh Shargh (KPS) (کیمیا پخش شرق) ( and Pardis Medical Pioneers aka Paradise Medical Pioneers (شرکت پیشگامان پزشکی پردیس) ( Each of these companies can kiss goodbye to its foreign customers, and just hope that any money in transit abroad makes it back to Iran before it's seized by a zealous compliance officer in a bank somewhere like China or Dubai.

KPS, closely linked to SPND front-man Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, brags on its website that it has “highly educated and competent staff along with adequate pecuniary capability”. We’re not sure that these “adequate" capabilities are going to be enough to save them from their imminent pecuniary problems! SPND may argue that the sanctions don’t matter, but we’re sure that these companies will start to go bust very quickly as soon as their suppliers and customers pull out of deals.

It raises the question for us of why someone would choose to continue working in SPND or one of its front companies? At Redline we value our life/work balance! We have to say that we’d walk out the door asap if our job meant a collapse in our quality of life and future prospects.

That’s not to say that the Treasury designations haven’t caused delight here at Redline HQ. We’ve never been a fan of Fakhrizadeh’s shambolic organization and we look forward to using the listings to uncover even more evidence of nuclear-related bad-behavior by SPND and its associates. We bet that the designations haven't gone unnoticed by SPND itself, either. These sanctions are clear evidence that SPND is still under the spotlight, and that it's being closely scrutinised from all quarters. This includes in Iran itself. We wonder how Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the IRGC's intelligence services enjoyed sifting through the counter-intelligence implications of all those SPND-related names being out in the public domain? Probably not very much. And that's on top of all the cleaning up the intelligence services have had to do after SPND lost control of the archive itself. There's not going to be a Nowruz card from MOIS to Sanaye Street next year, we're sure of that.

On the upside for Iran, the new sanctions mean that SPND has finally got a publication in a top-tier scientific journal! Well, sort of Science, one of the world's best research publications, has released a nice, brief article noting the sanctions and SPND's role in Iran's former nuclear weapons programme. Given that nothing truly happens until it gets published in Science or in Nature, I guess this makes it official - Iran had a nuclear weapons programme, and SPND's members were deeply involved. We'll be citing that reference from now on.

As always, Redline is doing its best to add some value to the quest to lay bare SPND's inner workings. On that front, we've created an up-to-date organisational chart of SPND, its subordinate departments, front companies, and key officials.

Can we suggest that you print it out and stick it on your wall?



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