Time for another mysterious explosion near a key Iranian military facility

posted at 6:47 pm on November 28, 2011 by Allahpundit

Two weeks ago one of the founders of Iran’s ICBM program had his ticket to paradise punched, now this. I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too.

But we’re probably both wrong.

Less than two weeks after a mysterious explosion destroyed an Iranian missile base near Tehran, the Islamic Republic’s official news agency Fars reported Tuesday that a loud blast was heard in the city of Isfahan at 2:40 pm local time, but later removed the report…

Iran’s uranium conversion plant is located just outside Isfahan – one of the country’s largest cities…

In a curious turn of events, shortly after the initial report was published, the item was removed from the [Fars] news agency’s website, which is affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guard.

Hours later, conflicting reports began to surface, the deputy governor of Isfahan province telling Iran’s Mehr news agency that there was no report of a major explosion in the province.

Isfahan’s deputy mayor confirmed to Fars that the city had been rocked by a huge explosion. Then, after that report was quickly blacked out, he turned around and told Mehr it was all a big fat lie. (That happened two weeks ago too when the brother of the assassinated Revolutionary Guard commander copped to the fact that he was working on ICBMs and then had it hushed up.) So what happened? Mossad infiltration? Undetectable CIA super-drone? The wickedly insidious hand of Stuxnet II at work? Iran’s already admitted that its computers have been infected, you know. Or was it some sort of fiendishly clever Iranian psy op designed to convince the west that it needn’t attack because Iran’s nuke program is already being sabotaged by some shadowy heroic outfit?

The smartest take I’ve seen on this is from our own J.E. Dyer, who argues that it’s none of the above:

[T]here are good reasons to doubt that the uranium conversion facility – the main operational component of the Iranian nuclear network in Esfahan – was being targeted. The UCF converts yellowcake to usable forms of uranium, including uranium hexafluoride, or UF6, the compound that is then enriched up the road at Natanz. Causing a big explosion at the UCF would risk releasing the UF6 into the atmosphere, and creating some amount of hydrofluoric acid, a toxic compound that forms when UF6 comes in contact with humidity in the ambient air. It takes a lot of UF6 to generate widespread contamination, but that’s what the UCF at Esfahan has: a lot of UF6…

Of equal importance is the fact that this facility is not a high priority for a set of limited attacks. Iran already has enough enriched uranium for several nuclear warheads; attacking the Esfahan UCF doesn’t buy time against weaponization. I very much doubt the UCF was attacked, and it is very unlikely that it suffered an accidental explosion. (The UF6 stored there could not have caused a blast like the one reported.)…

One thing these sites have in common is that they store lots of fuel. A blast of the size reported, which was heard in several places throughout Esfahan and broke windows in some (unspecified) areas of it, was probably caused by a fuel depot explosion.

In other words, not only would a strike at Isfahan not stop the bomb but hitting the enrichment plant would be tantamount to chemical warfare. No one’s going to escalate to that point unless it’s absolutely necessary, and not even the Israelis claim that it’s absolutely necessary to strike just yet. So whodunnit? Dyer, citing Michael Ledeen, thinks it was local dissidents waging war against the Revolutionary Guard from within. The MEK would be an obvious suspect, especially if the targets really were fuel or ammo depots rather than some more sensitive facility requiring greater sophistication to be penetrated. (An Iranian paper claimed today that the explosion happened in a street near the city’s military academy.) But if all that’s true, how to explain this Time mag piece from November 13 reporting on the explosion that killed the missile commander? Quote:

It is an assumption a Western intelligence source insists is correct: the Mossad — the Israeli agency charged with covert operations — did it. “Don’t believe the Iranians that it was an accident,” the official tells TIME, adding that other sabotage is being planned to impede the Iranian ability to develop and deliver a nuclear weapon. “There are more bullets in the magazine,” the official says.

The powerful blast or series of blasts — reports described an initial explosion followed by a much larger one — devastated a missile base in the gritty urban sprawl to the west of the Iranian capital. The base housed Shahab missiles, which, at their longest range, can reach Israel. Last week’s report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had experimented with removing the conventional warhead on the Shahab-3 and replacing it with one that would hold a nuclear device. Iran says the explosion was an accident that came while troops were transferring ammunition out of the depot “toward the appropriate site.”

Western intel has every incentive to tout Mossad as the culprit since it’ll stoke Iranian paranoia, but Iran has other missile bases and other missile experts. Taking one guy out won’t cripple their program and the resulting security crackdown by Iran might spoil more important sabotage that’s in the works. If it’s Mossad and/or the CIA, why take a risk on operations like this that don’t actually do much to stop Iran’s nuclear capability? You’re showing some of your cards for no great gain.

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Blue wire, blue wire, damn it!

ThePrez on November 28, 2011 at 6:53 PM

I guess we’ll just have to wait until the NYT exposes the whole operation on page 1.

Chip on November 28, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Another possibility: Iran’s fuel storage infrastructure is just awful.

amerpundit on November 28, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Bond…

James Bond…

(cue theme music, pour martini and hop into bed with impossibly gorgeous woman)

turfmann on November 28, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Hitting them in a weak spot from time to time works for me.

pedestrian on November 28, 2011 at 6:57 PM

what did MacGruber do?/

ted c on November 28, 2011 at 7:01 PM

One way to attempt to prevent an attack is to move your real facilities to places underground, create “explosions” that “destroy” the old facilities (that you have moved out of anyway) and report that your top personnel have been killed so they are now off the radar of the West. It would be fairly easy to create the appearance of sabotage when in fact it might be controlled demolition.

In other words, I don’t believe anything I read on the Internet.

crosspatch on November 28, 2011 at 7:02 PM

why take a risk on operations like this that don’t actually do much to stop Iran’s nuclear capability?

Iran has been attacking Israel through its proxies for decades. What makes everyone believe it is only about Iran’s nuclear goals?

Rode Werk on November 28, 2011 at 7:02 PM

Hey, do you remember the Hunt for Red October? Wasn’t the plot line that an “accident” waxed the submarine when it was actually a crafty coverup for a defection? I wonder if that Revolutionary Guard commander defected and the explosion was a coverup. I know, cloak n’ dagger, but all other things as AllahP and JE Dyer suggest point to “why?” regarding this facility, these circumstances etc.

ted c on November 28, 2011 at 7:05 PM

Moreover, who of all people could be enticed to defect other than some missile guy, a nuke expert, or a Revolutionary Guard commander? Intel agencies of both the Israelis, the US, Brits, all of them would offer mucho dinero and help craft an “ooopsie!” plan to hatch the thing. Don’t be surprised when all other arrows point to i don’t knows-ville.

ted c on November 28, 2011 at 7:07 PM

I hope it wasn’t Mossad, because if that’s all they can hit, Iran’s security at critical sites is better than we think.

OldEnglish on November 28, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Speaking of security lapses, it appears our very own Big Sis has another hot potato.
http://pjmedia.com/blog/stonewall-napolitano-dhs-still-silent-on-mohamed-elibiary/

a capella on November 28, 2011 at 7:10 PM

The Washington Post ran two pictures – before and after – of the missile site that had the mysterious explosion.

The place was almost wiped off the map: Iranian Missile Site Images.

Amazing.

SteveMG on November 28, 2011 at 7:10 PM

Well, let,s see… 7th-century savages trying to master 21st-century technology.
What could go wrong? ;)

n0doz on November 28, 2011 at 7:11 PM

let,s

After all, if a 21st-century geek can’t master a 19th-century keyboard, the savages don’t stand a chance.

n0doz on November 28, 2011 at 7:13 PM

Another possibility…

Seven Percent Solution on November 28, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Wake me up when the Mullahs and Aquavelvajerkoff’s villas meet a similar fate with them at home.

Joe Mama on November 28, 2011 at 7:18 PM

Hey, do you remember the Hunt for Red October? Wasn’t the plot line that an “accident” waxed the submarine when it was actually a crafty coverup for a defection? I wonder if that Revolutionary Guard commander defected and the explosion was a coverup. I know, cloak n’ dagger, but all other things as AllahP and JE Dyer suggest point to “why?” regarding this facility, these circumstances etc.

ted c on November 28, 2011 at 7:05 PM

Someone needs to ask Alec Baldwin his whereabouts at the time of the explosion.

And the bomber can be found navigating the Penobscot River right about now.

turfmann on November 28, 2011 at 7:26 PM

Rove Netanyahu you magnificent bastard!

mizflame98 on November 28, 2011 at 7:26 PM

If these truly are accidents and not deliberate acts, it seems to me that they’re likely evidence of Iran trying to accelerate or rush the production of their nuclear program. At least the delivery part of it. I.e., ballistic missiles.

Which means – just a guess now – that they’re closer to having a weapon ready and they’re now focusing on the means of delivering it.

Or perhaps they’re rushing the program out of fear of an Israeli attack.

Maybe all that talk of an attack has spooked them.

SteveMG on November 28, 2011 at 7:33 PM

ted c on November 28, 2011 at 7:05 PM

Intiguing.

But if true, it’ll be a while before the details are released.

listens2glenn on November 28, 2011 at 7:36 PM

I’m thinking taking out more than a few of the top mullahs would be more productive and beneficial!

GFW on November 28, 2011 at 7:39 PM

If it’s Mossad and/or the CIA, why take a risk on operations like this that don’t actually do much to stop Iran’s nuclear capability?

You answered that before you asked it.

Western intel has every incentive to tout Mossad as the culprit since it’ll stoke Iranian paranoia.

Whether we’re involved or not involved, we are involved **secret crusading/Zionist hand gesture**

Axe on November 28, 2011 at 7:43 PM

Seven Percent Solution on November 28, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Nice!

Thanks for the link.

listens2glenn on November 28, 2011 at 7:45 PM

I am waiting for the next time Iran test fires its surface to surface missiles. My guess is that it will go off course and kill all the mad mullahs. You have to remember that the Iran does not make its own microchips.

SC.Charlie on November 28, 2011 at 7:55 PM

Well, let,s see… 7th-century savages trying to master 21st-century technology.
What could go wrong? ;)

n0doz on November 28, 2011 at 7:11 PM

This. The islamic “inshallah” mindset does not go well when playing with nuclear bombs or their components. That mindset, impossible to remove in that culture, is going to lead to spectacular failures.

AZfederalist on November 28, 2011 at 8:58 PM

Golly Gee, who would have done such a thing? I hate to see this happen to anyone.

Dollayo on November 28, 2011 at 9:01 PM

OldEnglish on November 28, 2011 at 7:08 PM

No site is ‘untouchable’, it’s just a question of how many assets you want to burn to make it happen.

It all comes down to ‘what do I need to do?’ and the will to make it happen.

CPT. Charles on November 28, 2011 at 9:14 PM

I guess we’ll just have to wait until the NYT exposes the whole operation on page 1.
Chip on November 28, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Underneath election polling results

One way to attempt to prevent an attack is to move your real facilities to places underground, create “explosions” that “destroy” the old facilities (that you have moved out of anyway) and report that your top personnel have been killed so they are now off the radar of the West

crosspatch on November 28, 2011 at 7:02 PM

Were all the flag burners in Pakistan? What they need is a ‘No-Nukes Here’ sign, visible from Google

entagor on November 28, 2011 at 9:25 PM

I’m thinking taking out more than a few of the top mullahs would be more productive and beneficial!

GFW on November 28, 2011 at 7:39 PM

Yep.

BallisticBob on November 28, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Space-launched kinetic weapon.

jaime on November 28, 2011 at 10:34 PM

I blame fracking./

Buy Danish on November 28, 2011 at 10:39 PM

The Washington Post has aerial pics

Dollayo on November 29, 2011 at 3:38 AM

FLASHBACK 2009: The Boeing Company, industry teammates and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency on Aug. 10 successfully completed the Airborne Laser’s (ABL) first in-flight test against an instrumented target missile, achieving a historic milestone.

Apparently, the target doesn’t have to be airborne for this to work, huh.

Terp Mole on December 1, 2011 at 9:45 AM