Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 1 November 2020

Iran sought to advance weapons of mass destruction programme: German state intelligence

State-level security agency says Tehran sought to procure goods and know-how to develop destructive weapons

File Photo: Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami stands next to the Fateh-e Mobin short-range missile unveiled on August 13, 2018. Iranian Defense Ministry via AP
File Photo: Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami stands next to the Fateh-e Mobin short-range missile unveiled on August 13, 2018. Iranian Defense Ministry via AP

Iran has looked to obtain information and items in Germany to advance its weapons of mass destruction programme, a German state intelligence agency has said.

In its 2019 intelligence report, Saarland’s Department for the Protection of the Constitution, said Iran was one of three foreign counties that had sought to advance its weapons of mass destruction programme on German soil.

“Iran, Pakistan and, to a lesser extent Syria, made efforts to procure goods and know-how for the further development of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems,” the department said in the report.

The agency, which operates under the state’s ministry of interior, said Germany remained a prime target for foreign state espionage.

As well as efforts by Iran, it named Russia, China and Turkey as foreign nations with a track record for spying operations in the European country. Ankara, in particular, it said had been “anxious to expand a secret information and influence network”.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani waits for German Chancellor Angela Merkel for their meeting on the sidelines of the general debate of the 74th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 24 September 2019 EPA
President of Iran Hassan Rouhani waits for German Chancellor Angela Merkel for their meeting on the sidelines of the general debate of the 74th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 24 September 2019 EPA

“The intelligence services of these countries are present with varying staffing levels at the respective official and semi-official representations in Germany and maintain so-called legal residencies there,” the document from the western German state outlined.

The report outlined now foreign intelligence staff, supposedly working as diplomats or journalists, would gather information, either in the open or through covert means.

These state actors would also provide support in intelligence operations carried out directly by the headquarters of the intelligence services in their home countries.

“The focus of their respective procurement activities is based on current political requirements or economic priorities," it added.

Previous reports by other state-level domestic intelligence agencies working within Germany’s federal system have, in recent years, reported that Iran has used its spy networks to advance its nuclear weapons programme.

The evidence has seemed at odds with Berlin’s continued support for the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran in which the latter pledged to give up its designs on a nuclear weapons programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

The recent Saarland report detailed how Iran had maintained a “a main focus” on “possible [nuclear] proliferation relevant activities”.

On Wednesday Tehran said it would allow inspectors in to two sites where Iran is suspected of previously storing or using undeclared nuclear material.

An evaluation of cyber attacks also showed Iranian involvement either because of the ultimate goal of the electronic espionage or its level of sophistication.

Updated: August 29, 2020 05:02 PM

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