Dutch intelligence warns of Iran's continued quest for weapons of mass destruction

Findings follow security reports from other European countries about Iranian espionage on their soil

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Iran is seeking technology in Europe that it needs to develop weapons of mass destruction, Dutch intelligence says.

A report by the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands said that these efforts continued last year.

The findings come after a German intelligence agency last month said Tehran was turning to Europe in its quest for weapons of mass destruction.

Sweden also accused Iran of carrying out industrial espionage aimed at products that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Iran denies seeking weapons of mass destruction and is involved in talks in Vienna aimed at restoring the nuclear limits it agreed to in 2015.

But the Dutch report casts new doubt on Iran’s denials, naming it as one of the countries being monitored by a Dutch intelligence unit for trying to get its hands on weapons technology.

“Countries such as Syria, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea tried, including in the past year, to acquire such goods and technology in Europe and the Netherlands,” the report said.

“The unit carried out intensive investigations in 2020 into several networks that played a role in this.

“These networks are very active, and use all kinds of middlemen and transporters in European countries.”

In the past year, Dutch intelligence efforts succeeded in “frustrating and stopping numerous acquisition attempts,” the report said.

The 24-page document accuses Tehran of monitoring its expatriate population in the Netherlands and of gathering intelligence on regime critics.

In addition, Iran was named on a list of countries that carried out cyber attacks in the Netherlands.

Iran's ambitions in the spotlight as Vienna nuclear talks continue

Last month, Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Bavaria, a German state, likewise named Iran as one of several countries trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.

It said the Iranian intelligence services remained active in Europe even after they were implicated in a bomb plot in Paris.

The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Revolutionary Guard Corps Intelligence Organisation and the Guards’ elite Quds Force were named on a list of foreign spies active in Germany.

MOIS operative was identified as the plotter behind a thwarted bomb attack on an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in 2018.

Guests at the event included former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and several British MPs.

In Sweden, an annual security report published in March accused Iran of industrial espionage.

This was “mainly targeted at high-tech Swedish industry and Swedish products which could be used in nuclear weapons programmes”, the report said.

The intelligence findings come against the backdrop of the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna.

Under the 2015 deal, sanctions were lifted on Iran in exchange for limits on Tehran’s nuclear activity. These constraints were designed to prevent Iran from developing an atomic bomb.

But sanctions returned after former US president Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in 2018, and Iran subsequently started breaching the limits under the pact.

US President Joe Biden’s administration wants to restore Iran’s compliance with the deal. Iran demands that all sanctions must be lifted first.

Last month, Iran began enriching uranium to 60 per cent, well above the deal's 3.67 per cent limit.

A purity of about 90 per cent would be needed for a nuclear bomb, although Iran insists it is not seeking one.

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