Third Mysterious Blast in Three Weeks Rock Iran

July 10, 2020

by: Ilse Strauss

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Google maps screenshot of the Natanz nuclear development facility in Iran

Friday, 10 July 2020 | The sound of yet another major explosion tore through western Tehran in the predawn hours this morning, bringing the tally of mysterious early-morning blasts rocking Iran to three in three weeks.

As the pall of the blast settled over the Iranian capital and widespread power outages plunged surrounding areas into darkness, international media again raised the question that has dominated news headlines for almost a month: is Israel behind the series of disasters at sensitive sites in Iran in an attempt to sabotage Tehran’s nuclear ambitions?

The details of this morning’s explosion are still vague, and the exact location remains unclear. However, an Iranian military expert told the New York Times there are a number of facilities that could be the target of sabotage in the area, including two underground facilities, an unidentified military production site and a chemical weapons research site. Al-Arabiya pinpointed the location as missile depots belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iranian officials offer conflicting reports in an apparent effort to deflect from the speculation of sabotage. An official told Al-Jazeera the explosion was part of a tunnel-digging project in the area and thus was deliberate. A mayor from a nearby town downplayed the blast as an “explosion at a factory making gas cylinders,” while a member of Parliament chose to shrug his shoulders, claiming there was no explosion. The large-scale blackout, he said, was due to a glitch at the local power station.  

Despite Iran’s official version, the timing and context of this morning’s blast makes it nearly impossible to ascribe it to human error, coincidence or happenstance.

On Tuesday, a major explosion rocked a factory south of Tehran. An official ascribed the eruption to “workers’ negligent handling of oxygen tanks,” adding that it was “so powerful that the walls of a factory nearby were also totally destroyed.”

On Saturday, a fire tore through a power plant after a transformer exploded, and hours later, a petrochemical center suffered a chlorine gas leak after a pipe in one of the tanks ruptured. Last Thursday, a suspicious explosion targeted Iran’s Natantz nuclear facility. Israeli television reports claim the Natantz explosion gutted a laboratory that develops advanced centrifuges to enrich the uranium required to develop nuclear weapons, pushing Tehran’s nuclear program back by up to two years. And a week before that, a large blast tore through a military complex that defense experts say holds an underground tunnel system and a missile manufacturing center.

According to a Kuwaiti newspaper, an Israeli war plane struck the military complex, while the New York Times and the Washington Post say a large bomb planted by Israeli operatives caused the Natantz blast. The Post also quoted a Middle East official calling the explosion at Natantz a “wake-up call” to deter the powers-that-be in Tehran from forging ahead with their nuclear ambitions.

So, is Israel responsible? Iran certainly seems thinks so—at least as far as the Natantz blast is concerned. Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei publically admitted that the explosion at Natanz explosion was no accident—and that Iran holds Israel responsible.

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Rabiei also called on world powers to rally around Iran to protect it from tiny Israel. “The international community must respond and set limits to these dangerous actions by the Zionist regime.”

If Israel masterminded the series of disasters that have the Iranians’ nuclear plans unraveling at the seams, Jerusalem is not saying so. 

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed repeatedly that Israel will stop Iran from going nuclear. Perhaps Israel is making good on that vow.

Posted on July 10, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, July 10, 2020)

Photo Credit: @2020 CNES / Airbus, Landsat / Copernicus, Maxar Technologies, Map data @2020