Iran became the first country in the Middle East to clone a sheep in 2006, and Iranian scientists later claimed to have cloned a goat.
The cloning program has reportedly received backing from the country’s clerics, who are said to have issued decrees authorizing the cloning of animals.
Nasr-Esfahani has said that being able to clone animals is an honor for Iran, which has been made possible thanks to “self-belief and reliance on indigenous capabilities.”
But the cloning of dogs might be more controversial than earlier efforts. Dogs are considered unclean in Islamic doctrine, and dog ownership has always been frowned upon in the Islamic Republic.
In 2007, Iranian blogger and journalist Reza Valizadeh was reportedly detained because he revealed that President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's security staff bought four bomb-sniffing dogs from Germany for about $150,000 each.
The same year, Iranian authorities launched a crackdown on dogs (though not on their owners, for a change) and impounded dogs at a so-called canine “prison” in Tehran.
There has been no comment so far on why Iranian officials are planning to clone a drug-sniffing army rather than buying or breeding the dogs the old-fashioned way.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari