Jeffrey LewisTehran Tourists?

Let’s hope DPRK-Iran nuclear cooperation
goes as well as their football matches.

“A non-U.S. diplomat” gave Louis Charbonneau at Reuters “an intelligence report” that concludes “nuclear cooperation between [Iran and North Korea] has apparently increased significantly during the past year as seen in the arrival of an academic delegation from North Korea in Iran and the existence of” a “special secret course [at Tehran’s Polytechnic University ] to provide technological and practical information to outstanding students.”

Iran has made a serious effort to acquire foreign expertise to “make up for the massive post-revolution exodus of experienced scientists and engineers,” write Jack Boureston and Charles D. Ferguson.

Still, this report feels a little, I don’t know, speculative and the timing is suspicious. I don’t think of Charbonneau as a Sanger-esque water-boy, although he was one of two reporters who received a suspicious leak that seemed designed to torpedo EU-Iran talks a couple of months back.

I’ve seen leaks like this before. On 12 December 2003, Thomas Omestad at US News & World Report wrote a “Washington Whisper” entitled “Tehran Tourists?”:

A North Korean delegation is now secretly visiting Tehran for discussions with Iranian officials that are believed to focus on cooperation in the production of missiles or nuclear weapons, a knowledgable U.S. official tells U.S. News. The Bush administration has been watching North Korean-Iranian cooperation for some time, and North Korean scientists and technicians have previously been spotted at a town near the Caspian Sea. They are believed to be working on Iran’s development of longer-range missiles. Other officials also say the two countries–the remaining members of President Bush’s “axis of evil”—are working together on weapons of mass destruction.

A couple of days ago, Japanese officials described a recent US intelligence report to the conservative Sankei Shimbun that suggested Iran had transferred cruise missile technology to North Korea. That part made headlines in the US, but Sankei Shimbun also claimed:

According to a source well informed on Iran’s nuclear development program, it has been revealed that Iran had secretly conducted negotiations with the DPRK on the construction of a network of underground facilities for secretly promoting nuclear development and that at the beginning of this year, DPRK technicians visited a military base in central Iran, where nuclear-related activities, including inspections of centrifugal separators used in uranium enrichment, were secretly conducted. Meanwhile, the “Shahab” ballistic missile developed by Iran is said to be based on missile technology provided by the DPRK. [Emphasis mine]

Charbonneau mentions this report at the end of his article, though he doesn’t mention the similarities with regard to technicians.

I wonder if this isn’t the all the fruit of the same poison tree … perhaps a U.S. report being shopped around to US allies?