Hours after the Commander-in-Chief of the Republican Guards, Major-General Hossein Salami, unveiled a coronavirus detector at a ceremony in Tehran, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Medical Education said that the new device did not have ministry approval.

Kianoosh Jahanpour, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, announced that the coronavirus detector was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration even as it was unveiled at a ceremony with camera from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and with praise from Salami and the Basic Forces commander Gholamreza Soleimani.

Salami described the device, called "Mustaan", as a purely Iranian-made device developed by Basij researchers and other “elites” that could detect the coronavirus in five seconds and at a distance of 1.5km over a 100 meter radius. The Basic commander, Soleimani added that "While the device looks simple, it uses state-of-the-art technology. Using a magnetic field and a bipolar virus inside the device, any point within a radius of 100 meters that is infected, will be detected by the antenna of this device which is placed in front of that point, and then the infected point is defined within five seconds."

Soleimani also spoke about how the device was developed. “The Basij organization has now put all our scientific research resources on the coronavirus issue. We received ideas from across Iran and one of the best was this device that we are introducing today with this innovative and scientific team."

Most attendees at the ceremony wore face masks and one came forward to try the virus detector. The test subject held in one hand a small satellite dish and, in the other, a small device with a long antenna. The device looked like a toy. A second attendee stood in front of the machine, holding a package which was claimed to contain coronavirus. Nevertheless in the official video of the ceremony it was unclear whether or not the device detected any traces of coronavirus.

Social media commentators later said that the device had been seen previously – when it was claimed to be able to detect smuggled fuel. The commentators named one Kambiz Golshani as the inventor of the device.

Golshani was last seen in the 2017 news stories regarding the installation of devices claimed to be able to detect smuggled fuel in Iran’s border regions. And indeed Golshani was the same person demonstrating the coronavirus device this week. The 2017 pictures show him holding the same device as he stood in front of buses that were crossing the border into Iran.

IranWire is unable to verify whether the device had any success in detecting smuggled fuel two days ago. Nevertheless – it has now been repurposed by the Revolutionary Guards to detect coronavirus and Salami has hailed it as an "astonishing scientific phenomenon."

But apparently the device has not been just a smuggled fuel detector and a coronavirus detector. In January of this year, the Ofogh Network, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards and the Owj Cultural Organization, told the stories of three Iranian inventors in a documentary called Iron Inventor. One of the inventors was Kambiz Golshani – and in the film we see the same device being used to track underground water near Lake Urmia in Azerbaijan province.

Golshani, who is originally from the Urmia region, claims in the film that if salt water is poured into the membrane of the device, it will identify the groundwater around the lake at a depth of up to 300 meters. 

The Urmia version of the device was first unveiled in 2015 – in the presence of the provincial governor as a Member of Parliament – as a way to save Lake Urmia which was fast drying out. IranWire is again unable to verify whether the device helped in efforts to save the lake.

The narrator of Iron Inventor, meanwhile, also claims that Golshani used the same device to identify copper deposits around the city of Saveh, southwest of Tehran, although evidence for this claim is again unavailable.

Golshani also complains that young inventors in Iran are not supported – even as he has promoted the same device on several occasions to meet a range of needs. The issue becomes even more ironic when we see that a similar device, promoted in 2013 by a British man, Jim McCormick, was claimed to be able to detect bombs and explosives in countries such as Iraq and Lebanon before being exposed as a fake.

Media reports in 2013 described the device as having a “long rotating antenna and plastic handle” and as bearing a “striking resemblance” to a $20 golf ball detector. The modified version was marketed by McCorick for US$7,000. He was later sentenced to 10 years in prison by a British court.

Experts said during McCormick’s trial that the antenna on his device was hardly different from a nine-inch nail in terms of performance. Golshani’s device seems to fare no better. Photographs of the device being used to detect coronavirus in a hospital show it yielding no useful results. But the Revolutionary Guards consider it to be an emerging and unique technology.

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