The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), an opposition group famous for exposing Iran's secret nuclear sites as early as 2002, claims that seven North Korean nuclear and missile experts were in Iran for one week in late April. The report substantiates concerns that Iran is outsourcing its nuclear weapons program to North Korea so it can cash in on a deal with the U.S.
The seven visitors allegedly had expertise in nuclear warheads and guidance systems for ballistic missiles. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has "credible" evidence that Iran has worked on nuclear warheads for its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles as late as 2003, despite the regime's denials.
The Iranian opposition group says the North Koreans stayed in an eight-story building named the Imam Khomeini Complex that is controlled by the Defense Ministry. It is located near the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Complex, which has a history of hosting North Korean scientists and is linked to the regime's nuclear and ballistic missile program. It is sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.
The NCRI says that this was the third North Korean nuclear team to come to Iran this year and that a fourth trip consisting of nine experts is planned for June.
It also claims to have specific information about a visit to North Korea in 2013 by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Fakhrizadeh is suspected of being present for a nuclear weapons test in North Korea. The NCRI revealed that he traveled via China using the pseudonym of Dr. Hassan Mohseni.
Fakhrizadeh is believed to be overseeing Iran’s work on nuclear warheads, triggers for nuclear explosions and other bomb technologies. Iran refuses to let international inspectors interview him or to have access to the Parchin site where much of his research happened.
Fakhrizadeh runs the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, a Revolutionary Guards organization that was birthed in 2011. It is the successor to a previous nuclear weapons front that was disbanded in 2003. The IAEA says that he is using some of the same personnel from his previous outfit.
"[During the North Korea visit, Fakhrizadeh, accompanied by two other SPND nuclear experts, stayed in Hotel Koryo in Pyongyang. To keep his visit secret, Mansour Chavoshi, Tehran’s Ambassador to Pyongyang, personally welcomed Fakhrizadeh and facilitated his communications and exchanges with North Korean officials. Fakhrizadeh spent only two hours in the Iranian regime’s embassy in Pyongyang and made no other visits to the embassy during this trip," writes NCRI official Alireza Jafarzadeh.
NCRI says that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Defense Ministry are also known to visit North Korea often. It is consistently reported that Iranian scientists are present when North Korean nuclear and missile tests are carried out.
It may not be a coincidence that the North Koreans have expanded their uranium enrichment program just as Iran agreed to limit its own. And just as Iran halted its plutonium reactor at Arak, North Korea restarted its plutonium reactor at Yongbyon that had been shut down since 2007. It is estimated that North Korea's nuclear weapons stockpile could increase from 10-16 bombs to 100 by 2020.
The Iranian and Syrian regimes have a history of outsourcing their nuclear work to North Korea. In 2007, Israel blew up a nuclear site in Syria that was believed to have been built by the North Koreans. A senior defector from the Iranian regime revealed that Iran had financed the $1-2 billion project.
“While [Iranian] President Hassan Rouhani talks with diplomats in Geneva about the shape of a comprehensive agreement, his weapons specialists are likely beavering away in the hills of northeast North Korea, laying the groundwork for Iran’s first detonation—or maybe its fourth,” writes Gordon Chang, an expert on North Korea.
The information about Iran's ties to North Korea further highlights the "one step back, two steps forward" nuclear strategy of the Iranian regime. As North Korea advances, so does Iran—especially if a lucrative deal allows the regime to invest its new wealth in North Korea's weapons of mass destruction programs.
If the regime curtails its nuclear activities inside Iran but continues them outside Iran, then Iran won’t have disarmed its nuclear program; it will have merely dispersed it.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.