Mohsen Fakhrizadeh creeps into the limelight
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of Iran's shadowy SPND organization, has traditionally shunned publicity. Until recently, the only glimpses that we've had of Fakhrizadeh have been from grainy photographs probably purloined by intelligence agencies.
That's all changed. We recently wrote about how we spotted Fakhrizadeh in publicly-released footage from a meeting in January 2019 of Iran's Cognitive Science and Technologies Council (CSTC or ستاد توسعه علوم و فناوریهای شناختی) - probably much to Fakhrizadeh's annoyance. Little did we realize then that Mohsen actually made at least two public appearances that month - and at the second one, he certainly wasn't hiding from the cameras.
On 5 January 2019, as an obscure Iranian media outlet reported, Fakhrizadeh signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding on behalf of SPND with the IRGC's Basij mobilization organization (مسلح سازمان بسیج سازندگی کشور) and Iran's Supreme National Defense University (دانشگاه و پژوهشگاه عالی دفاع ملی و تحقیقات راهبردی). And he was photographed doing so!
Here he is:
There were no captions identifying him, but we're sure that's Fakhrizadeh. And, as you can see from that picture, there were some heavy hitters from Iran's defense establishment also present to pass around the faux-leather folder: Ahmad Vahidi (احمد وحیدی) and Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar (مصطفی محمد نجار), both former heads of Iran's Ministry of Defense (وزارت دفاع و پشتیبانی نیروهای مسلح), and Naaman Gholami (نعمان غلامی) and Mohammad Zahraei (محمد زهرایی) of the IRGC's Basij organization.
But we're still taken by that photograph of Fakhrizadeh and his old paymasters from the SATAD/SADAT (حوزه توسعه کاربرد فناوریهای پیشرفته دفاعی) days. It's a nice visual metaphor for how Mohsen is living in the past.
Let's just hope that he concentrates SPND's efforts less on explosives, neutrons and EMPs and more on boring but useful work like improving regional electricity transmission in Zanjan. Fingers crossed for a contract renewal!