Mystery deepens: Third Iran fire in a week damages centrifuge facility

Mystery deepens: Third Iran fire in a week damages centrifuge facility

My, but Iran must have a lot of defective “industrial gas tanks” lying around. A week after Iranian officials tried to explain away a massive explosion at Parchin as a civilian-area accident, a large fire at Natanz might prove more difficult to dismiss. Natanz, like Parchin, is a site where the US alleges that Iran has performed work on their nuclear-weapons program, and experts believe that uranium-enriching centrifuge work might have been the target this time:


Iran says there has been an “incident” at one of its nuclear facilities.

Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi did not give details of what happened at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

But he said the incident took place in a building that was under construction, and that there were no casualties or concerns about contamination.

The governor of Natanz city was later quoted by Tasnim news agency as describing the incident as a fire.

Don’t be so sure that it didn’t involve the underground centrifuge operation, experts tell the Associated Press:

U.S.-based analysts have told The Associated Press that they believe a fire at an Iran nuclear site struck a new centrifuge production facility. …

Two analysts say they believe the fire struck the production, based on a photo released by Iran, the site of the fire and satellite images.

They are Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security. Both study Iran.

Even without knowing for sure what damage took place, the two explosions/fires in a week make for quite a coincidence. Er, make that three, according to the count at the Jerusalem Post:

Three mysterious incidents, linked by explosions – at least two of them at secretive nuclear and weapons facilities – have rocked Iran in the past week. All three have been reported by Iranian media with various excuses about how they are less serious than they appear, that they are being investigated and that there is no major story to tell.

On June 25, a massive explosion, seen many miles away in Tehran, burned a hillside near a missile complex at Khojir. On June 30, a medical center suffered a fire in Tehran, killing at least 18 people. And on July 2, an incident at Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility was mentioned by the country’s official media, without elaboration. Officials claimed that only a shed was damaged. In each case, officials appeared to try to get ahead of the story by obfuscating about the seriousness of the incident or why it took place at a sensitive facility.

This leads to key questions about why so many explosions or incidents have affected key aspects of Iran’s military-industrial complex. Rumors posted on social media and elsewhere online have suggested not only a cover up but also allegations of a “cyber” attack or other concerns about how these incidents unfolded. Iran alleged a cyber attack harmed Shahid Rajaee port in May, in the wake of an Iranian cyber attack on Israel.


The medical-center fire is an intriguing addition to this list. How did a fire at a medical center end up killing 18 people? That raises some questions about what kind of medicine took place there, or perhaps more to the point, what precisely was being researched. Was it part of “Iran’s military-industrial complex,” or maybe more precisely, a more significant part of it than otherwise thought?

These could still be simply coincidences, but that’s not how it looks, and the official response from Iran is even more suspicious. Normally the mullahs would blame everything right up to bad weather on the US and/or Israel, let alone anything that impacts their weapons or missile systems. Instead, Tehran has gone out of their way to deny that anything other than accidents are in play in these three fires/explosions. That in itself should raise eyebrows.

Keep an eye out for further “coincidences.” Iranians in the streets didn’t buy the industrial gas tank explanation for Parchin, and they’re not going to buy this explanation for Natanz, either. One has to wonder whether these are the results of external actors, or whether this might be a new campaign from internal groups hoping to undermine the regime and its Revolutionary Guard. If that’s the case, the “coincidences” might not be finished yet.

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Jazz Shaw 12:01 PM on November 29, 2023