On Sunday, August 29, Iranian state-run media reported that President Ebrahim Raisi appointed former Roads Minister Mohammad Eslami as the new director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Eslami replaced nuclear scientist Ali Akbar Salehi.
Sixty-four-year-old Eslami is taking over as the chief of Tehran’s nuclear department while he reportedly lacks significant experience in the field of peaceful nuclear energy. Instead, he has a longstanding background in the military while he had reportedly played a pivotal role in shaping Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.
He already served as the head of Iran’s Defense Industries Training and Research Institute and as deputy defense minister responsible for research and industry.
Furthermore, on August 26, 2005, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed that Mohammad Eslami has been a veteran member of the research directorate for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who reportedly headed its delegation in meetings with Abdul Qadir Khan, the father of the Pakistan atomic bomb who ran an extensive smuggling network, in 1986 and 1987, when the Iranian nuclear program was in its early stages.
Eslami claims that he holds degrees in civil engineering from Detroit University of Michigan and the University of Toledo, Ohio. However, there are no details of his experience in the nuclear filed. He also served as Transport and Urban Development Minister in Hassan Rouhani’s second cabinet.
He was also one of the planning boards of Bonyad-e Mostazafan Va Janbazan (MFJ) [The Foundation of Underprivileged and Veterans] for three years. Mostazafan is one of the pillars of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s economic empire.
In September 2019, the Eghtesad Online website revealed that “the Mostazafan Foundation alongside three other economic cartels, including Astan-e Quds Razavi, Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, and The Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) possesses 60 percent of Iran’s total wealth.”
In 2008, the United Nations sanctioned him for “being engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems,” AP reported. “The U.N. linked the blacklisting to his ‘involvement in the procurement of prohibited items, goods, equipment, materials, and technology.’”
At a time when rolling electrical blackouts have plagued the country, state-run media and Tehran’s apologists abroad describe Eslami as a savior. However, his military background has added to speculation over his real task, which is finalizing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weapon-making project, according to observers.
For years, Iranian officials claim that they pursue nuclear science for peaceful reasons such as generating electricity. They persist on this ambiguous pretext while the country sits on an ocean of petroleum, in addition to possessing great rivers, including Karun in the southwest, Sefidrud in the north, Zayandehrud in the center of Iran, and many others. Furthermore, the government can procure necessary power through reversible resources.
Indeed, the theocracy ruling Iran has squandered billions of dollars on nuclear projects. For years, they covered up their nuclear activities until August 2002 when the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran exposed their clandestine sites in Isfahan and Markazi provinces.
Moreover, the Iranian government has a longstanding record in attempting to obtain nuclear weapons in any possible way. In 1981, the newly religious state decided to chart a path to obtain nuclear weapons and the associated technology.
At the time, Mohammad Hossein Beheshti—one of the closest clerical confidants of Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah Khomeini—told the country’s nuclear research managers that Iran’s policy is to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Later, in his letter following the ceasefire in the eight-year war with Iraq, Khomeini frankly declared his decision for making nuclear weapons. “If we had 350 brigades, 2,500 tanks, 3,000 artillery, 300 fighter planes, and 300 helicopters as well as the capability to build a significant amount of laser and nuclear weapons—which were needed for the war at the time—then, God willing, we can conduct offensive operations,” Khomeini wrote in July 1988.
Tehran also attempted to purchase warheads from former countries of the Soviet Union. For instance, the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq revealed that the Iranian government tried to purchase three nuclear warheads from Kazakhstan in 1992.
“It was determined that the purchase of these warheads was agreed upon during a visit to Iran in 1992 by Kazakhstan’s Transportation Minister Mr. Aishin Kari and it was agreed upon that Iran would pay for them in cash,” the MEK exposed.
Indeed, the Iranian government was able to easily achieve nuclear science and generate electricity. However, the government’s nuclear ambitions brought uncountable costs to the people of Iran. In July 2014, speaking to Sharq daily, Hossein Mousavian, a former member of the Islamic Republic’s negotiating team, revealed parts of the irrational expenses of the nuclear field.
“An American research institution had estimated the nuclear project cost around $400 billion. Nonetheless, the nuclear project’s direct and indirect expenditures are estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars,” Mousavian said on July 6, 2014.
Back in May 2014, Mohammad Jahromi, the former Labor Minister, criticized the government for delaying negotiating with the West. “The nuclear case has brought more than $160 billion of disadvantages to the country. Geneva negotiations should have been carried out 18 years ago,” Jahromi said in an interview with Sharq daily on May 18, 2014.
Also, former head of the Expediency Discernment Council Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani had already declared, “We gave $60 million to the Chinese, but they abandoned the project and left.”
All the while, Iran is one of the countries that benefit from 300 shining days with high solar radiation, which enables the country to produce clean energy. For instance, the building of the Bushehr Nuclear Plant took more than 35 years, which cost at least $22 billion, while it generates less than 800 Mega Wat of electricity.
On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates built a solar plant with 1,200 Mega Wat within two years, which cost nearly $2 billion.
Iran’s annual electricity consumption is around 85,000 Mega Wat. To produce such an amount of electricity, the Iranian government needs to invest only $140 billion on solar cell farms. However, the ayatollahs have squandered hundreds of billions of dollars on futile projects.
Indeed, no one doubts about Tehran’s real purposes through the secret advancing of its nuclear sites and enriching uranium up to weapons-grade purity. World powers attempted to curb the ayatollahs’ nuclear-weapon-making projects through a ‘comprehensive plan.’ However, the Iranian government exploited economic incitements to accelerate weaponizing its atomic projects.