Message: Who knows what might happen if there’s another unexplained explosion at a top military facility.
Recent explosions have added to the growing sense of paranoia within Iran, with the regime fearing it will be the target of a surprise military strike by Israel or the US…
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader, issued a directive to the heads of all the country’s military, intelligence and security organisations to take all necessary measures to protect the regime.
Gen Jaafari responded to this directive by ordering Revolutionary Guards units to redistribute Iran’s arsenal of long-range Shahab missiles to secret sites around the country where they would be safe from enemy attack and could be used to launch retaliatory attacks.
In addition, the Iranian air force has formed a number of “rapid reaction units”, which have been carrying out extensive exercises to practice a response to an enemy air attack.
I’m in the unusual position here of wondering if, for once, their paranoia is justified. If you missed the NYT story in Headlines this morning about that mysterious boom at an Iranian missile base a few weeks ago, read it now. So massive was the explosion, allegedly, that “the base was almost completely leveled in the blast.” And these weren’t just any missiles: They were solid-fuel.
Missiles powered by solid fuels rather than liquids have no need for trucks to fill them with volatile fluids, and can be fired on short notice, making them hard for other nations to destroy before they are launched. That would add to Iran’s ability to protect its nuclear sites from an Israeli strike — a subject of renewed debate in Israel in recent weeks — because Iran could threaten to retaliate before many of its missiles were struck. Solid-fuel missiles are also easier to hide. For those reasons, modern militaries rely on solid fuels for their deadliest missiles.
In other words, this is just the sort of thing you’d want to snuff before launching an attack. Coincidentally, the other mysterious explosion in Iran recently — in Isfahan, near one of their nuclear facilities — also allegedly hit the bullseye by damaging a storage unit of the uranium conversion plant there. Israeli intel officials told the Times of London that blast was no accident; U.S. officials told the NYT that the other blast at the missile base probably was an accident, caused by Iran’s mishandling of the solid-fuel components. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe the U.S. or Israel could sneak a bomb into the base so huge that it managed to level the entire compound. On the other hand, c’mon. An accident, at a top missile facility, just as tensions are peaking? Nobody gets that lucky.
The other cause for justifiable Iranian paranoia is the fact that one of our most secret drones was either shot down or crashed there near the border with Afghanistan. And yes, it is a fact, not propaganda: Senior U.S. officials and military officials confirm that the drone’s in Iranian hands. This isn’t an attack model but a surveillance model, one so stealthy that the White House used it to watch Bin Laden’s compound deep inside Pakistan and unbeknownst to ISI. The bad news is, China’s own drone program should get a quickie boost once Iran starts sharing technological secrets gleaned from the crashed model. The good news is, according to Danger Room, the drone is already outdated thanks to “systems now moving into an operational role [that] are scores of times more effective than the [RQ-170] Sentinel’s full-motion video.” Not an intel coup, in other words, but its mere presence over Iran is one more reason for them to be on edge.