The IAP is back - and putting Iran's biggest university at risk of sanctions: Part II

In our last post, we revealed documents showing that in 2016, SPND used the IAP as a nom-de-plume to sign a memorandum of cooperation with Iran's oldest and most prestigious private university, the Islamic Azad University Central Tehran Branch (دانشگاه آزاد واحد تهران مرکزی).

There is a lot of evidence in there that the SPND is behind it. Let’s take a closer look:

First, the document is signed by Dr Rouhollah Ghaderi (روح الله قادری), who is described in the document as the head of the IAP. Here is Ghaderi's signature below on the contract, using a shortened version of his first name:

Iran’s shadowy defense research and innovation organization SPND is behind the Institute of Applied Physics or IAP’s MoU with Islamic Azad University Central Tehran Branch. Document signed by Dr Rouhollah Ghaderi, a long-serving senior SPND official who has been sanctioned by US Treasury

We know from authoritative sources that Dr Rouhollah Ghaderi (national ID 4579489705) is a long-time, senior official of SPND. In March 2019, the US Treasury put Dr Ghaderi under sanctions for directing SPND's Shahid Fakhr Moghadam Group (گروه شهید فخار مقدم), one of SPND's main research entities. Shahid Fakhr Moghadam has built explosion simulators and radiation and neutron monitoring and detection system for SPND, according to the Treasury.

The second factor that ties the IAP to SPND are the address and phone number on the document, which - unsurprisingly - just happen to be also used by SPND.

Helpfully for us, the contract is written on an IAP letterhead, and so it has the IAP's address, phone and fax numbers on each page. Here's an example:

Institute of Applied Physics or IAP uses same addresses, phone and fax numbers as Iranian defense nuclear research organization SPND proving that it is a front or cover for SPND
 
Let's start with that address: Mojdeh Street (خیابان مژده, also transliterated as Mozhdeh Street), off the Shahid Babaii Highway in Tehran's north-east. That small suburban street just happens to house a well-known facility owned by SPND, which was first revealed as a military nuclear research location in 2004 by an Iranian dissident group.

Here it is:

Institute of Applied Physics or IAP uses Mojdeh Street address off Shahid Babaii Highway in Tehran's north-east. Mojdeh street houses a well-known facility owned by SPND, which was first revealed as a military nuclear research location in 2004 by an Iranian dissident group
 
And a nice close-up image of the SPND site at Mojdeh Street, courtesy of Google:

Close-up image of the site at Mojdeh Street, courtesy of Google, where you can see the site of Institute of Applied Physics or IAP shared with Iranian Defense research and Innovation nuclear organization SPND
 
Check out that enormous wall at the left side of the facility! That's totally normal and not at all designed to shield SPND from visual scrutiny by the neighboring apartments. Probably doesn't stop the spy pigeons though.

And then the phone and fax numbers. It won't surprise you to learn that the IAP phone and fax numbers on that contract are also used by SPND. We know that from health and safety licensing documents released by Iran's Department of Environment, excerpted below:

The Institute of Applied Physics or IAP's phone and fax numbers on the Islamic Azad University or IAU contract are also used by Iran's nuclear research organization SPND

Helpfully for us, you'll note that the Mojdeh Street address is on that documentation too, along with explicit references to the fact that the Mojdeh site is owned by SPND.

So what is this contract between IAP and the Islamic Azad University all about?

SPND has a few desperate requirements: money, legitimacy, and access to foreign technology. For SPND, an agreement of cooperation with Islamic Azad University fulfills each of these needs. Among other things, the agreement binds IAP/SPND and IAU to collaborate on research projects of mutual interest; mandates that IAP/SPND help procure and fit out IAU laboratories with nuclear-related equipment; and enables IAP/SPND to provide employment to IAU postgraduate students. Through each of these avenues, SPND can hide behind the name of IAU in order to get funding and to procure foreign tech.

We know this because SPND has done it all before with a different university. In the early 2000s, when the IAP wanted to appear respectable, it borrowed the name of another civilian research institution, the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST - دانشگاه علم و صنعت ایران). As an example, here's a research paper authored by the martyred scientist Masoud Alimohammadi (مسعود علیمحمدی), a key member of Iran's pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, where he describes his affiliation as the "Institute of Applied Physics, IUST":

SPND borrowed the name of another civilian research institution, the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) in the early 2000s as shown by a research paper authored by martyred scientist Masoud Alimohammadi , a key member of Iran's pre-2003 nuclear weapons program

The IAP/SPND and IUST might actually still retain some friendly connections, or it could just be that the IAP likes to continue to pretend that it is affiliated with IUST. The IAP's stamp, which we saw on the contract with IAU, even has a version of the IUST torch-and-cog logo on it:


The Institute of Applied Physics or IAP's stamp, which we saw on the contract with Islamic Azad University IAU, even has a version of the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) torch-and-cog logo on it


Not subtle, guys.

One contract, one big risk.

With Washington clamping down hard with sanctions on entities involved in Iran's military and nuclear programmes, IAU is playing a very dangerous game by entering into such a close relationship with IAP/SPND. Because of that memorandum of cooperation between IAU and SPND - which is now openly available for all to scrutinize - thousands of IAU students and graduates could have their opportunities to study or work abroad jeopardized.

We're sure that IAU will want to avoid being formally designated as an entity supporting SPND's nuclear weapon-related research, and we hope that this agreement between IAU and SPND will be severed as soon as possible.

There's just one hitch with that. We suspect that an important figure behind the IAU-SPND hook-up is Amad Man and aspiring boss of SPND Dr Mohammad Mehdi Tehranchi (محمدمهدی طهرانچی), who became head of IAU's Central Tehran branch shortly after the IAU-SPND contract was signed. He's since risen to become president of the entirety of the Islamic Azad University system, overseeing tens of thousands of students across Iran.

With Tehranchi in charge, we think that the IAU-SPND connection is only going to become closer, unless IAU's students vote with their feet and wallets and shut down SPND's activities on campus.

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The IAP is Back - and putting Iran's biggest university at risk of sanctions: Part I