miércoles, junio 17, 2009

Cuba and Iran: A Bioterrorism axis.

By Manuel Cereijo.*
Since 1990, Cuba and Iran have cooperated in the development of weapons of massive destruction. Dr. Miyar Barruecos, physician, very close to Castro, has been the force behind the throne in this alliance. Dr. Luis Herrera, from the CIGB, and one of the main scientists in the development of the CIGB and the biological weapon programs in Cuba, has been the operator, the facilitator, in the massive and huge cooperation between Cuba and Iran.
Cuba finished, May 2001, the construction of a Biotechnology Center in Teheran. Cuba served as the source of technology, selling of equipment, and project management for the Center.
Iran has bought the best fruits of the CIGB, recombinant protein production technologies in yeast and Escherichia coli, as well as the large scale purification protocols for both soluble and insoluble proteins synthesized in or excreted by them.
Cuba obtained from Iran, for the turnkey project $550 million dollars. The Center has over 80,000 square meters, and a working area of 65,000 square meters. The Center has facilities such as:
A biotherium, barrier zones, white rooms, for research with sensitive and lethal bio agents, mass spectrometers, infrared and ultraviolet electron and scanning microscopes, gamma counters DNA synthesizers. Also, and very important, downstream fermenters, drying and milling machines, centrifuges, which can guarantee research and development of bioweapons, such as bacteria and virus agents. The process of weaponizing anthrax, for example, can be done at these facilities. A few grains of the freeze-dried bacteria are kept in a stopper vial. Then, a small amount of a nutrient medium is put into the vial. A mother culture is created. With tiny pipettes, the mixture is drawn out of the vial and a small amount is transferred into several slightly larger bottles. The bottles are left to incubate in a thermostatic oven for two days. This process, up to this point, is very similar to the one to make a vaccine. A seed stock in a standard vial will swell to billions of microorganisms after 48 hours, but it will take weeks of brewing to produce the quantities required for weaponization.
Once the culture emerges from the oven, it is siphoned off into large flasks. The flasks are taken into a special room, where they are connected to air-bubbling machines, which turn the liquid into a light froth. The bacteria then grow more efficiently. Each new generation of bacteria is transferred into larger vessels, until is vacuum pressure into fermenters. The substance is incubated for two days in the fermenters, until it reaches maximum concentration. At this stage, the process is passed through a centrifuge to be concentrated as much as thirty times further. However, we do not have a weapon yet. The pathogen has to be mixed with special additives to stabilize it over a long period. Then, the weapon is ready.
Smallpox virus can also be produced at the Center. Tissue cells are obtained from animals or humans. The tissue is kept alive outside its natural habitat in cell lines and stored at very precise temperature. Cells are obtained from the kidneys of green monkeys or from the lungs of human embryos. A special combination of amino acids, vitamins, salts, and sera, distilled with de-ionized water, is crucial for the process.
Iran can use these technologies to create bioweapons of massive destruction. Iran, with Cuba’s assistance is capable of producing a bacteria known as Pseudomonas. The pathogen is not usually lethal to humans, but it is an excellent battlefield weapon.
Sprayed from a single airplane flying over enemy lines, it can immobilized an entire division or incapacitate special forces hiding in rugged terrain otherwise inaccessible to regular army troops-precisely the kind of terrain in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and similar terrorist regions.
Besides Cuban scientists, at least there are about ten scientists from the Biopreparat Russian Center working in Iran. The New York Times reported in December 1998 that the Iranian government dispatched a few scientific advisors attached to the office of the presidency in Moscow to recruit former scientists from the Russian program.
In May, 1997, more than one hundred scientists from Russian laboratories, including Vector and Obolensk, attended a Biotechnology Trade Fair in Teheran. Iranians visited Vector, In Russia, a number of times, and had been actively promoting exchanges. A vial of freeze-dried powder takes up less space than a pack of cigarettes and is easy to smuggle past an inattentive security guard.
The Soviet Union spent decades building institutes and training centers in Iran and Cuba. For many years, the Soviet Union organized courses in genetic engineering and molecular biology for scientists from Cuba and Iran. Some forty scientists from both countries were trained annually.
In 1997 Russia was reported to be negotiating a lucrative deal with Iran and Cuba for the sale of cultivation equipment including fermenters, reactors, and air purifying machinery from Cuba to Iran, using Russian brokers.
It is estimated that Cuba receives approximately $ 250 million/year from Iran since July 2001 for the technical assistance to operate the Center, and for the supply of essential materials and instruments.
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