Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his visit to the IRGC Aerospace Force achievements exhibition in Tehran, Iran November 19, 2023

IRGC Uses Swedish-Iranian University Ties for Military Gains, NGO Warns

Thursday, 05/09/2024

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards are exploiting partnerships between Swedish and Iranian universities to acquire research and technology for their military programs, according to a new investigation by a US-based NGO.

Unbeknownst to Swedish authorities, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) says the IRGC has full access “to all collaborative work product between Iranian universities and their international academic partners”.

The partnerships in question involve at least eight Swedish universities – among them prestigious institutions like Lund University and Uppsala University.

"It is a significant national security issue, and Swedish universities should immediately sever any partnerships with Iranian universities given the risks of such collaboration, which may appear benign on the surface but which can be misused by the IRGC and security institutions in the Islamic Republic," UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky told Iran International English.

In a letter alerting the Swedish government, UANI CEO Mark Wallace warned the country’s Education Minister that “any collaboration with an Iranian university will support the IRGC and other armed regime elements to further the Islamic Republic’s military program and the IRGC’s nefarious hard and soft power capabilities.”

The IRGC, the country’s paramilitary force, is subject to EU sanctions, and is a US-designated terrorist entity.

Letters outlining the NGO’s findings were signed by Wallace and Alireza Akhondi, a Swedish politician representing the Center Party, and were sent to the universities in question.

“Members of Parliament have summoned the Swedish education minister for questioning,” Brodsky said, adding that Swedish policymakers are taking UANI's investigation seriously.

Alongside the European Jewish Association, Europe Israel Public Affairs the UANI outlined its findings at the Swedish Parliament on Tuesday.

How the IRGC Exploits University Collaborations

Sweden, however, is not the only NATO member state, whose academic institutions have reportedly been targeted by the IRGC.

Last year, the UANI revealed that several top German universities partnered with an Iranian university linked to IRGC and Hezbollah, known for backing terrorist attacks on Israel.

Findings by the Jewish Chronicle in 2023, showed that scientists at 11 British universities helped the Iranian regime develop technology that can be used in its drone programme and fighter jets.

UANI's findings suggest that a strategic agreement was implemented in February 2021 between the IRGC and Iranian universities, exposing any collaborating academic institution to vulnerability.

The accord was implemented by the country’s Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution (SCCR) – overseen and led by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The body, which sets Iran’s policies on cultural and educational matters, including the mandated hijab, faces several international EU and UK sanctions for gross human rights violations.

The SCCR’s accord mandates the transfer of all research and academic materials' intellectual property and rights to the IRGC and other regime entities – and is reportedly enforced across all Iranian universities.

Called the "Comprehensive Act on Science and Technology in the Defense and Security Field of the Islamic Republic of Iran," its aim is to acquire defense and security sciences and technologies.

UANI says that the agreement specifies that research obtained from universities is to be used for “hostility with enemies in the path of achieving the scientific defense goals of the Islamic Revolution” – and that it may be used against Sweden.

“Given the recently obtained evidence revealed by UANI’s investigation, any partnership with an Iranian university directly benefits the IRGC and other armed elements of the Iranian regime, posing a significant threat of espionage and exploitation,” the UANI CEO said.

The academic disciplines in which the Swedish universities collaborate with Iranian counterparts, the UANI said, align precisely with the IRGC's primary focuses for defense and security, as outlined in the strategic agreement.

These areas include automated and unmanned equipment (drones), aerospace propulsion systems, artificial intelligence, advanced warfare software and military science and technology, advanced electronics, energy, and cyber electronics.

Student exchanges organized under these partnerships also raise concerns about potential exploitation by the IRGC and other regime entities for malign purposes, the UANI found.

UANI says the universities involved in these collaborations are Malmo University, University of Boras, Lund University, Lulea University of Technology, Mid Sweden University, Uppsala University, Linnaeus University, and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

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