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Biological Capabilities

Overview
Iran has one of the most advanced biotech industries in the developing world, and has long been recognized as a leader in Southwest Asia in the fields of vaccine research and production.

Agricultural Biotechnology: One of Iran's primary biotech focuses is research on agricultural science. In this field, Iran's research is concentrated in creating genes that produce toxins against insect pests; improving the biological resistance of plants; formulating new pesticides; improving techniques of spraying or otherwise disseminating pesticides; investigating the effects on native plant species after they have been introduced to various pests and diseases; preventing the production of mycotoxins in crops; producing plant viruses and their corresponding antiserums for an antiserum bank; and manufacturing pheromones and hormones to combat arthropods that harm Iran's agricultural industry. All of these research areas have legitimate and important uses for improving crop yields and reducing the threat to Iran's agricultural industry posed by pests and disease. However, the expertise, equipment, and methodologies involved are intrinsically dual-use, and thus could conceivably be applied for illicit purposes if so desired.

Genetic Engineering and Vaccine Production: Iran maintains three important facilities for research on combating the spread of disease. Two of these facilities, the Pasteur Institute and the National Research Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (NRCGEB), focus primarily on diseases affecting human beings, while the third facility, the Razi Institute for Serum and Vaccines focuses on diseases affecting both humans and other animals such as livestock. The Razi and Pasteur Institutes have vaccine development and production experience dating back to the 1920s, and for many years both of these facilities were recognized among the most advanced of their kind in the developing world. Today, all three facilities undertake projects requiring advanced microbiology and genetic engineering equipment and expertise that could be applied toward the production of biological weapons. For instance, the NRCGEB's research in recombinant DNA technologies, genetic engineering, and DNA vaccine production could conceivably be utilized to increase the virulence or resistance of select pathogens. The equipment for mass-producing vaccines and antiserums at the Pasteur Institute could be utilized to mass-produce biological weapons as well.

As is evident from the contents of the Persian Type Culture Collection discussed below, Iran clearly has access to many dangerous pathogens. Furthermore, Iran clearly possesses technology useful for producing biological weapons (as will be elucidated in the Facilities section of this profile). What remains unclear is whether Iran is indeed proceeding with a BW program. Like many facilities throughout the United States and Western Europe that have similar or even more advanced capabilities, these facilities are open to public scrutiny. Also, like many facilities in the West, Iran's leading biotechnology research and development facilities create valuable vaccine products that are distributed in Iran and throughout the world.

Iran's Biological Agents

Pathogens that have been weaponized by others in the past
BW Agent Type International Number Assessment Weaponization
Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) Bacterial spores RI 119
RI 120
ATCC 8705 - 
RI 181
RI 243
RI 336
NCTC 8234
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses

Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Yersinia pestis (plague) Bacteria RI 226 Possesses Unknown
Aflatoxin Toxin
Alleged possession Unknown (source: Samsami National Council of Resistance of Iran) 
Variola major (smallpox) Virus
Alleged possession Unknown
Ricin Toxin
Alleged possession Unknown

 Pathogens that could theoretically be weaponized
BW Agent Type International Number Assessment Weaponization
Bacillus cereus Bacteria RI 342
ATCC 11778 –
PCI 213
NCTC 1032 – ATCC 9334
Dth 101
CIP 78.03
Possesses
Possesses

Possesses

Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Bacteria RI 270
287
367
344
11318
164-1
212-85
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 1 Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 2 Bacteria ATCC 19112 – NCTC 5348 Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 4a Bacteria ATCC 19114 – NCTC 5214 Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 4b Bacteria ATCC 19115 Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 4ab Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 4d Bacteria ATCC 19117 Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 4e Bacteria ATCC 19118 Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 5 Bacteria ATCC 19119 Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 6a Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Listeria monocytogenes Serotype: 6b Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis Bacteria RI 273
NCTC 8315
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Salmonella enteritidis Bacteria RI 78 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella paratyphi-A Bacteria RI 437
NCTC 5702
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Salmonella paratyphi-B Bacteria RI 409
NCTC 8390
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Salmonella paratyphi-C Bacteria RI 439 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella typhi Bacteria RI 154
NCTC 786
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Vibrio cholarae (Tnaba) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Vibrio cholerae (Ogawa) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Yersinia enterocolitica Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Salmonella typhimurium Bacteria Possesses Unknown
Shigella dysenteriae Bacteria RI 366 Possesses Unknown
Shigella boydii Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Shigella blexneri Bacteria NCTC 8516 Possesses Unknown
Cryptococcus neoformans Bacteria RI 518 Possesses Unknown

Nonpathogenic agents that have been used to simulate BW agents by others in the past
BW Agent Type International Number Assessment Weaponization
Bacillus subtilis Bacteria ATCC 465
ATCC 6633
ATCC 12711 – PRL B92
NCTC 5398
NCIM 2479 – NCIB 8646 – ATCC 12711
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses

Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Serratia marcescens Bacteria Possesses Unknown
Bacillus spp. Bacteria NCIMB 11259
NRR 5350
Possesses
Possesses

Bacillus thuringiensis (Aizawai) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Alesti) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Canadensis) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Dakota) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Darmstadiensis) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Finitimus) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Galaeriae) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Indiana) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Kenyae) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Kumamotoensis) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Kyushuensis) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Morrisoni) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Ostriniae) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Pakistani) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Sotlo) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Thompsoni) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Thuringiensis) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Tochigiensis) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Tohokuensis) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Tolworthi) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Bacillus thuringiensis (Toumanoffii) Bacteria
Possesses Unknown

 Pathogens not likely to be weaponized
BW Agent Type International Number Assessment Weaponization
Corynebacterium diphtheriae Bacteria RI 191
RI 131
RI 129
Possesses Unknown
Corynebacterium renale Bacteria ATCC 10849 – NCTC 11141 Possesses Unknown
Haemophilus ducreyi Bacteria RI 263 Possesses Unknown
Klebsiella pneumoniae Bacteria ATCC 10031 – PCI 602 – NCIB 9111
NCTC 5056
Possesses


Possesses
Unknown
Mycobacterium bovis Bacteria RI 223 Possesses Unknown
Mycobacterium leprae Bacteria RI 242 Possesses Unknown
Mycobacterium tuberculosis Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Pasteurella haemolytica Bacteria RI 47 Possesses Unknown
Pasteurella multocida Bacteria RI 60 Possesses Unknown
Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacteria ATCC 12175 – RI 349
ATCC 9027
RI 327
CIP A22
Possesses

Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Proteus mirabilis (oxk) Bacteria ATCC 15146 – RI 235 Possesses Unknown
Proteus mirabilis Bacteria RI 171 Possesses Unknown
Proteus morgani Bacteria RI 455 Possesses Unknown
Proteus vulgaris Bacteria RI 234
16, SS
NCIB 8066 – ATCC 7829, 1950
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Proteus vulgaris (ox19 strain) Bacteria ATCC 6380 – RI 82 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella abortus-equi Bacteria RI 378 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella anatum Bacteria RI 20 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella ovranienburg Bacteria RI 88 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella arizonae Bacteria ATCC – 13314 – NCTC 8297 – RI 459 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella derby Bacteria RI 167 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella dublin Bacteria RI 24 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella essen Bacteria RI 54 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella gallinarum Bacteria RI 14 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella havana Bacteria
Possesses Unknown
Salmonella london Bacteria RI 261 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella moscow Bacteria RI 79 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella newport Bacteria RI 440 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella panama Bacteria RI 431 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella poona Bacteria RI 275 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella pullorum Bacteria RI 7 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella rostock Bacteria RI 80 Possesses Unknown
Salmonella sebtenberg Bacteria RI 430 Possesses Unknown
Staphylococcus aureus Bacteria ATCC 6538P
NCIB 6571 – NRRL B-314 – NCTC 6571
Bristol A 9596
ATCC 29737
Possesses
Possesses


Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Enterococcus faecalis (Streptococcus Group D) Bacteria CIP 55.142
ATCC 11700
DSM 20409
NCIB 8661
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Possesses
Unknown
Candida albicans Bacteria ATCC 10231 Possesses Unknown

 Addendum: Agents identified by alternative/unofficial sources
BW Agent Type International Number Assessment Weaponization
Variola major Virus
Possible Unknown
Botulinum toxin Toxin
Unknown Unknown
Salmonella typhi Bacteria
Unknown Unknown

Key Sources: Persian Type Culture Collection, <http://database.irost.net/>; Anthony Cordesman, "Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iran," <http://www.csis.org/mideast/reports/WMDinIran4-28-98.html>; Proliferation: Threat and Response 2001, Office of the Secretary of Defense, pp. 33-35.



 

Updated August 2003



Overview


U.S. and Hostile Powers: Iran
IAEA Board Welcomes EU-Iran Agreement: Is Iran Providing Assurances or Merely Providing Amusement?
IAEA Board Deplores Iran's Failue to Come into Full Compliance: Is Patience with Iran Running Out?
Iran and the IAEA: A Troubling Past with a Hopeful Future?
The Second NPT PrepCom for the 2005 Review Conference
WMD in the Middle East
Limiting the Use of WMD between Regional Powers: Iran vs. Iraq—Options
Treaties and Organizations
In Focus: IAEA and Iran (2005)
Iran Proliferation Page (2005)
Iran's Game of Nuclear Poker: Knowing When to Fold (2005)
FAS: Iran Special Weapons Guide (2005)
For Tehran, Nuclear Program Is a Matter of National Pride (2005)
Curbing the Iranian Nuclear Threat: The Military Option (2004)
Iran: Countdown to Showdown (2004)
Shahab-3 (2004)
A Preemptive Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences (2004)
The Role of WMD in Iranian Security Calculations (2004)
Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions (2003)
Iran, Player or Rogue? (2003)
Iranian Missiles: The Nature of the Threat (2003)
Iran and Nuclear Weapons (2000)
Iran's Nuclear Facilities: A Profile (1998)
Iran and CBW (1998)



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About This Section  CNS Experts 

CNSThis material is produced independently for NTI by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, agents. Copyright © 2003 by MIIS.

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