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News | Report: Guard General Killed in Blast Was Testing New Ballistic Missile

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

20 Nov 2011 00:45Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

MoghaddamFuneral.jpg12:45 a.m., 29 Aban/November 20 In an interview with the newspaper Iran, which supports Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohammad Tehrani Moghaddam -- brother of Major General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, the Revolutionary Guard officer considered the founder of the Guards' artillery and missile program, who died along with at least 16 others in a massive explosion last Saturday -- said that his brother was testing a new ballistic missile when he was killed. In the interview, Moghaddam, himself an officer in the Revolutionary Guards, or Sepah, said,
He did many things [for the Guards]. One of them was a high-technology system that he himself invented and made it indigenous [so that Iran could produce it]. He founded Sepah's Organization of Self-Sufficiency Jihad and his innovations gave our country a ballistic missile. We are among the few countries in the world that have such technology. In his recent speech, the Supreme Leader said that the response to a threat [against us] is a threat [by us]. One of the the things that General Moghaddam was doing was developing the ballistic missile for which he lost his life. He lost his life when the latest test was being done on the missile. Sepah had intended to present this innovation to the world when that accident occurred. He succeeded, spilling his own blood, to make this technology indigenous and make us the owner of this technology that, God willing, will soon bear fruit. Martyr Hassan had many successes, but I am allowed to speak about only some of them.

Last Wednesday, Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, chief of staff of the armed forces, had obliquely referred to the new weapon system: "The killing of General Moghaddam will postpone by only two weeks the presentation to the world of the results of the research he was carrying out.... [It] will be a big blow against the U.S. and the Zionist regime [Israel]." Another Guard officer said a few weeks ago that Iran was working on the development of new weapons, largely in secret, because it did not want the United States and Israel to learn about them until the time was right.

Just a few hours after the interview with Mohammad Tehrani Moghaddam was published, Fars, the news agency run by the Revolutionary Guards, reported that he had denied telling Iran about the ballistic missile. Fars quoted him as saying, "Even we were not aware of the work that General Moghaddam was doing. What Iran has reported about ballistic and intercontinental missiles is something that it has done on its own, as I did not tell Iran anything about them. I have contacted Mr. Naeemi, the managing editor of Iran, complaining about it publishing something on its own and attributing it to me. I have also sent a letter to Iran denying it, which I asked them to publish."

At the same time, disagreement continues over the number of people killed in the explosion. Originally, it was announced that 27 people had been killed and 23 injured. Then Lieutenant Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, head of the Guards' public relations department, declared the accurate figures to 17 and 16, respectively. On Friday, the funeral of Reza Nadi -- reported by various sources as the 37th person killed in the explosion -- was held in his home town, Khodabandeh, in northeastern Iran. An unnamed Guard official told ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, that there is no contradiction between the initial estimate and the later numbers, because some of the injured people may subsequently have passed away.

While the Guards have denied that the explosion was the work of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, Guard officers continue to accuse foreign powers of being behind the explosions. In addition to what what was already reported by Tehran Bureau, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, an ultra-hardline Guard officer and commander of the Basij militia said, that "Israel is not at the level of capability to carry out such operations," but also that "in recent years the Zionists [Israel] attempted many times to assassinate this martyr [General Moghaddam], but all the teams that they sent were identified and destroyed. If there was one of their operatives in that accident, he would have done it the next day, because there would have been many important officials there the next day." Naghdi was referring to a meeting that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has with top military commanders on the occasion of Eid-e Ghadir, the day Shiites commemorate the Prophet's declaration of his cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali, as his successor. On the same occasion last year, Khamenei spoke to over 100,000 members of the Basij, along with high-ranking armed services officials.

Iranian armed forces continued their four-day-long maneuvers in the eastern part of the country, during which new equipment -- produced in Iran -- for the Iranian air defense system is being tested. A military spokesman said that 1,000 monitors have been following the maneuvers.

***

The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency approved a new resolution concerning Iran's nuclear program, "stressing once again its serious concern that Iran continues to defy the requirements and obligations contained in the relevant IAEA Board of Governors and UN Security Council Resolutions," and expressing "deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military Dimensions." The board noted "the letters by the Iranian side to the Director General dated 30 October 2011 and 3 November 2011 where Iran expressed its readiness to cooperate with the Agency, and reiterating the Board's view that such cooperation is essential and urgent" and urged "Iran once again to comply fully and without delay with its obligations under relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, and to meet the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors, including the application of the modified Code 3.1 and the implementation and prompt ratification of the Additional Protocol." The board expressed "its continuing support for a diplomatic solution, and calls on Iran to engage seriously and without preconditions in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, while respecting the legitimate right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with the NPT [Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty]." Thirty-two members of the board voted for the resolution, while two countries, Ecuador and Cuba, voted against it and Indonesia abstained.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's permanent representative to the IAEA, told ISNA, "Before the recent Board of Governors meeting, Iran had invited the deputy director-general [for safeguards] to enter negotiations with Iran, but the invitation was rejected by the director-general. We must study the new request." Soltanieh also reported, "Fortunately, despite the pressure by the U.S. and Europe, all the [nuclear] projects suggested by Iran were approved by the committee of technical projects cooperation, and were then approved by the Board of Governors." Iran had proposed eight projects covering industrial and medical applications, nuclear safeguards, and the Bushehr reactor. Regarding the Parchin facility, where Iran has been producing conventional ammunition since the 1950s, about which the latest IAEA report made allegations, Soltanieh said, "[Olli] Heinonen [former IAEA deputy director-general for safeguards] said on the second day of visiting Parchin [in 2005] that...'the issue [of alleged high explosive experiments] is closed' and this was conveyed to the Board of Governors."

After the approval of the new IAEA resolution, Soltanieh said, "We will not stop enriching uranium even for a second," and that Iran will not take part in a conference on nuclear disarmament in the Middle East, to be held next week. Soltanieh also accused IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano of endangering the lives of Iran's nuclear scientists. In a letter to Amano, Soltanieh said, "The international community is witnessing the ugly phenomenon of assassination of Iranian nuclear experts and scientists by terrorist groups. Publicizing the names of Iranian nuclear scientists makes them a target of assassination by terrorist groups as well as intelligence agencies of the U.S. and Israel."

Meanwhile, Britain, France, and Germany issued a joint statement on Friday, declaring that Iran has developed the necessary expertise to make nuclear weapons and charging that the Islamic Republic is openly breaking the international treaty banning their development. The statement, issued at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna right before the Board of Governors meeting, appeared to be an attempt to influence the board's debate. "This latest IAEA report paints a very disturbing picture," German Ambassador Ruediger Luedeking told the board on behalf of the three countries. "That would be a blatant violation of the non-proliferation regime," he added.

A U.N. General Assembly resolution deploring the alleged assassination plot against the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, in which Islamic republic officials were implicated by the U.S. Justice Department, was adopted by a vote of 106 to 9, with 40 countries abstaining. The text, drafted by Saudi Arabia and cosponsored by 50 nations, expressed its "deep concern at the assassination plot, and encouraged Member States to take additional steps to prevent, on their territories, the planning, financing, sponsorship or organization of terrorist acts, and to deny safe haven to those who engaged in such activities."

Venezuela's ambassador to the U.N. said during the debate that the international community was being "sold" the idea that Iran had endorsed the assassination plot, even though no hard evidence had been provided. He said that he was struck by the fact that the statements of condemnation stemmed from the same intelligence sources that had alleged that Iraq had held weapons of mass destruction and fabricated "lies" to promote the military interests of one country's "imperial power." Through the resolution before the assembly, the pretext of terrorism was again being used to unfairly stigmatize a sovereign country, he said.

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