Reporting by PMOI/MEK
Iran, August 31, 2021—Iranian regime president Ebrahim Raisi has replaced the long-time chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) with Mohammad Eslami, a UN-blacklisted official who previously served as Minister of Road and Urbanization.
Salehi, who had been the face of the regime’s nuclear project since 2013, played a pivotal role in the nuclear negotiations that led to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal that allowed the regime to keep key parts of its nuclear program and preserve secret pathways to atomic bombs.
Although Eslami doesn’t have the academic credentials of his predecessor, he has played a pivotal role in shaping the regime’s nuclear weapons program. Eslami has ties to Iran’s military industry, having served as a deputy minister in the Defense Ministry’s research department from 2007 to 2017. He also served as the head of Educational and Research Institute at the Defense Industries from 2004 to 2007, and as deputy chief of the Aerospace Industries Organization from 2004 to 2005.
Eslami’s also has deep ties with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the military body that oversees the regime’s nuclear program. According to revelations made by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Eslami was a veteran member of the IRGC’s research directorate, and he was one of three regime officials who, in 1987, met with A. Q. Khan, the “father of Pakistan’s nuclear program.”
According to a 2005 report by the Los Angeles Times, “In 1987, Khan and two middlemen who had helped Pakistan build its bomb had sold centrifuge components and designs to Iran, which was embarking on its own secret nuclear program. The deal was finalized at a meeting in Dubai by two of Khan’s associates and three Iranians, one of whom was identified this week by an exile group as Mohammad Eslami, at the time a top official of the elite Revolutionary Guards. It is the first known transaction in what would mushroom into the world’s largest private proliferation network.”
In 2008, the United Nations slapped sanctions against Eslami for “being engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran’s proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.”
The UN designation of Eslami was linked to his “involvement in procurement of prohibited items, goods, equipment, materials and technology.”
Fereydoon Abbasi, another blacklisted regime official who served as the head of AEOI from 2011 to 2013, praised Eslami for having “a very positive record in the fields of education, executive management at the national level and product research that led to materializing a product” and described his appointment as promising “the correct implementation of the nuclear strategies” of the regime.
Tweet by former AEOI chief Fereydoon Abbasi
The appointment of Eslami as the head of AEOI is significant for several reasons. First, he is now one of several officials who have been sanctioned for their role in the regime’s illicit activities. Second, with the departure of Salehi, the AEOI’s new head no longer has a legacy to preserve in the years of negotiation that led to the 2015 nuclear deal. This makes it easier for the regime to disown the previous rounds of negotiation and continue its breach of its commitments to the international community.
Eslami’s appointment comes at the heels of a series of moves by the regime to ramp up its uranium enrichment activities and avoiding to come clean on questions regarding the military dimensions of its nuclear program. So far, multiple rounds of negotiations in Vienna have failed to resolve the regime’s nuclear standoff and curb its nuclear ambitions.
With a government that is led by a human rights violator and a nuclear chief that has played a key role in kickstarting the regime’s nuclear weapons program, the West ought to heed warnings by politicians and experts that have underlined the dangers of showering the regime with concessions in hopes of having it respect its obligations to preserve world peace and security.