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Biden Admin Funded Research With Prof At Sanctioned Iranian University

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The Biden administration funded a research project involving an Iranian scientist from a university associated with Iran’s illicit nuclear program, according to findings by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).

Mohammed Hasan Ravanji, a professor at Tehran-based Sharif University of Technology (SUT), collaborated on this research project, which received funding from the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.

Late March, UANI, a US non-profit opposing Iran’s nuclear program, raised concerns over this collaboration with the Iranian university, which faces sanctions over its links to Iran’s nuclear and military activities.

In a letter addressed to several US government officials, including Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy, UANI highlighted a co-authored paper resulting from the collaboration between a researcher from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sharif University’s Ravanji.

The Iranian university, close to the regime, faces multiple sanctions by the US and other Western nations – including financial sanctions imposed by the EU and UK for helping Tehran develop ballistic missile technology.

The letter by UANI also says that SUT and its affiliates are subject to what’s known as “secondary sanctions” – which target third-party entities that engage with them, including international partners.

Iran International has not independently seen evidence that the research project contravenes any US sanctions or breaks any laws.

“We are sure that you agree that a national laboratory of the US Department of Energy should not be cooperating with such entities or their researchers/employees—under any circumstances,” UANI CEO and former US Ambassador Mark Wallace wrote in the letter.

Andrea Stricker, Deputy Director of the FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program, who researched Sharif University’s role in illicit procurement for nuclear programs, expressed her concern about the US government funding institutions of a key adversary.

“While recognizing the benefits of scientific collaboration, it is crucial for DOE and Congress to evaluate whether these efforts could potentially compromise bilateral security realities,” Stricker told Iran International.

Adding to concerns over the collaboration, was Republican Senator Joni Ernst, who questioned Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing last week.

Ernst highlighted her concern and questioned whether US taxpayer dollars were used for the research project.

Under questioning, Granholm stated, “I’m not familiar with this grant,” and separately stated that US taxpayer funds generally should not be directed towards sanctioned countries or entities.

Earlier this year, the Guardian reported on academics in the UK, Australia and the US collaborating on research related to drone technology with the same Iranian university.

“The collaborative research was described by one security expert as having direct military applications, while another called it potentially ‘very dangerous’,” the report read.

Separately, the Iranian diaspora has long called for Western universities to stop accommodating academics and scientists who they say have served and continue to normalize Iran’s dictatorship.

One such case is that of Iranian academic Hossein Mousavian, who is currently a Middle East Security and Nuclear Policy Specialist at Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University.

Mousavian, a former spokesman for the Iranian nuclear negotiating team and a former senior staffer for the regime’s Supreme National Security Council, is subject of an inquiry by the US House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce who suspect him of advancing Iranian interests.

Led by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), a group of 12 Republican committee members authored a letter to Princeton University, expressing concerns about Mousavian’s influence on campus. They highlighted his attendance at Qassem Soleimani’s funeral and his appearance on Iranian state TV as reasons for their apprehension.

Last month, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) in the US also echoed the calls for Princeton University to discharge the services of the former Iranian government official.

Mousavian has repeatedly denied the allegations made against him.