Iran making progress on nuclear facility deep underground
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reports from the Pentagon on worrisome progress being made on deep underground Iranian nuclear facility.
JERUSALEM—Iranian dissident hackers have allegedly claimed they penetrated the servers of the office of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, revealing on Monday highly sensitive data about an increased security zone around the underground nuclear facility Fordow, northeast of the holy city of Qom.
The hacktivist group, Rise to Overthrow, claimed as part of the trove of documents secured that the head of security for Iran’s Fordow Fuel Enrichment Facility wrote there is a need for “around 149 Hectares of national provincial lands of Qom” for Fordow due to “increasing threats by foreign agents.”
Fox News Digital viewed a number of the documents leaked by Rise to Overthrow in connection with the Islamic Republic’s reportedly illegal atomic program.
According to Iran experts, Theran is moving at pace to develop nuclear weapons, including the development earlier this year of near-weapons grade uranium that can be used for atomic bomb.
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This Dec. 11, 2020, satellite photo by Maxar Technologies shows construction at Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility. Iran has begun construction on a site at its underground nuclear facility at Fordow amid tensions with the U.S. over its atomic program. (Maxar Technologies via AP)
The November 2021 letter, which was sent to the chairman of the General Directory for Economics and Finances for Qom province, outlines the new security measures for Fordow. The letter is listed as “confidential.”
The letter said, “In the light of increasing threats by foreign agents against the Iranian Nuclear Organization, especially nuclear enrichment facilities, in order to increase the protection factor in answering orders from security authorities following their visit to this complex, (…) modification of protection circles of the Shahid Ali-Mohammadi site according to guidelines and standards for physical protection was programed by the directorate for protection and security of the Iranian Nuclear Organization.”
It is unclear who the “foreign agents” are referenced in the letter. The clerical regime in Tehran calls the Fordow plant “Shahid Alimohammadi Enrichment Plant, Fordow” to remember the nuclear scientist, Shahid Masoud Alimohammadi, who was assassinated by a motorcycle bomb in 2010.
The hacker group claimed it seized 120 internal servers of the presidential organization, including the central databases of the Executive Office of Islamic Republic’s President. Rise to Overthrow added that it gained access to more than 1,300 computers of the presidential institution’s internal network.
Fox News Digital sent press queries to Iran’s U.N. Mission and its foreign ministry but did not receive a response before publication.
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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, addressed while standing next to commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, left, and Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, during a military parade marking Iran’s Army Day anniversary near the Imam Khomeini shrine in the south of Tehran, April 18, 2023. Raisi said, we will destroy Haifa and Tel Aviv if Israel takes ”the slightest action” against Iran. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The dissident group known in Persian as GhyamSarnegouni, translated as “Rise to Overthrow,” said it posted photographs of the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and Raisi with red crosses over them on websites linked to Raisi’s office. The same photographs were also sent to email recipients that are part of the president’s office.
The slogans “Death to Khamenei and “Hail to Rajavi” also appeared on the websites linked to the President in the emails. Maryam Rajavi is the head of the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Rajavi’s photograph along with her husband Massoud’s picture adorned the Persian, Arabic and English websites of the president’s office. Massoud is also a leader of the NCRI but has not been seen publicly for over 20 years.
Maryam Rajavi’s photograph, along with her husband Massoud’s picture, reportedly adorned the Persian, Arabic and English websites of the president’s office. (NCRI)
According to the opposition news organization Iran International, Raisi’s office said the “official website of the president” was not down due to a cyberattack. Iranian regime-controlled said Raisi’s website was not accessible for several hours on Monday and experienced disruption.
Fox News Digital reported in early May that Rise to Overthrow hacked the servers of Iran’s foreign ministry and leaked a trove of data.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, deptury director of the Washington, D.C., office of the NCRI, told Fox News Digital that Rise to Overthrow is not part of the NCRI but “sympathetic” to the NCRI goal of “toppling the regime.”
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An Iranian military truck carries surface-to-air missiles past a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a parade on the occasion of the country’s annual army day on April 18, 2018, in Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran “does not intend any aggression” against its neighbors but will continue to produce all the weapons it needs for its defence. (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
Jafarzadeh said “The NCRI first disclosed the presence of the Fordow underground enrichment facility near Qom in a 2005 Paris press conference, following our earlier revelation of the Natanz site in 2002. These revelations are pivotal, as they underscore the regime’s dual strategy: rapid expansion of Fordow and accelerated enrichment operations coupled with protracted, diversionary negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency. This approach is clearly designed to mislead the agency and forestall the referral of their nuclear case to the U.N. Security Council.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is slated to meet on June 2 to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. It is unclear if the new finding of an expanded security barrier around Fordow will be on the IAEA’s agenda.
The Jerusalem Post reported in April that Israel’s foreign ministry is coordinating with France to push the IAEA to take a more robust stance against Iran’s regime at the June meeting. Israel’s foreign minister Eli Cohen said he met or spoke with his counterparts from the U.S. and France, Germany and Great Britain to convince the IAEA to take “immediate steps” against Tehran.
Jafarzadeh said “The appropriate response” to the Islamic Republic’s “deceit, denial and duplicity is the activation of the Security Council resolutions, comprehensive sanctions imposition, unrestricted inspections and cessation of all enrichment activities. The abandonment of appeasement in favor of firmness will yield effective outcomes.”
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The Biden administration has swept away former President Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to stop Iran’s alleged illicit nuclear weapons program. The Biden White House has been seeking to revive the controversial 2015 Iran nuclear deal that could provide Tehran with enormous economic sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its atomic program.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on Israel, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Europe for Fox News Digital. Benjamin has contributed articles to The Wall Street Journal, The Jerusalem Post, Foreign Policy, Haaretz, Forbes and The New York Post. You can follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.