At the edge of the desert in North Khorasan province in northeast Iran, near the country’s largest deposit of bauxite, sits an aluminum production complex that the government has publicly hailed as a key part of its efforts to boost output of the metal.
But the site near the city of Jajarm is also home to a secret facility set up by Iran’s elite security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, that has been producing aluminum powder for use in its missile program, according to a former Iranian government official and documents relating to the facility he shared with Reuters.
Aluminum powder, derived from bauxite, is a key ingredient in solid-fuel propellants used to launch missiles.
Iran started producing the powder for military use more than five years ago, according to the former official, who from 2013 until 2018 was head of public relations and also parliamentary affairs envoy in the office of the vice president for executive affairs, which at the time oversaw some economic policies.
The ex-official, Amir Moghadam, said he visited the little-known facility twice and that production was continuing when he left Iran in 2018.
Iran’s production of aluminum powder for use in missiles, which hasn’t previously been reported, was developed amid international sanctions designed to block the country’s efforts to acquire advanced weapons technology.
The United States and allies view Iran’s missile capabilities as a threat to the region and the world.
Reuters reviewed more than a dozen documents relating to the aluminum powder project and people involved, dating from 2011 to 2018.
One is a letter addressed to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from a Revolutionary Guards commander whose brother has been described by the Iranian state as the father of Iran’s missile program.
In the letter, Mohammad Tehrani Moghadam described the Jajarm facility as a “project to produce missile fuel from metal powder” and said it played a significant role in “improving the country’s self-sufficiency in production of solid fuel for missiles.” The letter is undated but appears to be from 2017, based on references to events.
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