Here are two news stories from inside the Iranian Republic that didn't get much attention in the mainstream press last week.
According to a report from Iran’s state news agency, two workers were killed by an explosion and fire at a top secret Iranian military facility. One of those killed was reportedly an unnamed "nuclear expert."
The semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) also reported that the initial explosive shattered windows 12 kilometers away (about 15 miles) and the glare from the explosion lit up the night sky.
The Parchin site, located east of Tehran, has been off-limits to UN nuclear inspectors since 2005. Countries opposed to Iranian nuclear weapon ambitions have presumed that the site has some special importance to the program.
If the cause of the explosion was sabotage, it would certainly be a matter of grave concern for security. As of this time, it is too early to determine the reasons for the blast and if sabotage were involved, it is unlikely Iranian officials would publicly announce it. There was, not surprisingly, very little coverage inside Iran even though the blast and fireball could be seen by the public.
One Israeli news site notes that:
The base lies at the centre of allegations of past Iranian research into sophisticated explosives that can be used to detonate a nuclear warhead.
The possibility of a covert action was considered unlikely by some analysts since satellite images have shown the explosion occurred in a area not related to the parts that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has requested access.
The explosion, according to satellite photographs from Airbus that were analyzed by the Institute for Science and International Security, took place in a densely built region toward the southern end of the base, in an area that appeared from past photographs to be littered with bunkers.
The damage was reminiscent of pictures of a missile-development site 30 miles west of Tehran that was virtually destroyed during a test in November 2011 that killed 17 people, including Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, the leading force behind Iran’s advanced missile efforts.
Interestingly, at that time, the New York Times itself was quoting Time magazine claims- which came from unnamed sources in Washington- that the 2011 explosions were the work of Mossad.
Time magazine’s Web site cited an unnamed Western official who said the blast was the work of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. Tikun Olam, a blog on Middle Eastern politics, cited an unnamed Israeli official who said it was the work of the Mossad and the Mujahedeen Khalq, a group of Iranian exiles that has a history of killings and sabotage aimed at overthrowing Iran’s government.
A Kuwaiti newspaper stated categorically that the explosion in Parchin was an "intentional act of sabotage." According to an Israeli source, the Kuwaiti report relied on "European diplomatic sources in Washington, DC, who said that a foreign country carried out the attack in order to foil experiments in the mounting of nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles."
Truth or propaganda? Who knows? Perhaps that's what cloak-and-dagger looks like but then nothing is exactly what it seems in the Middle East.
Sabotage or not, the timing of the explosive is highly suggestive. This week the IAEA representatives had scheduled talks in Tehran with their Iranian counterparts in an effort to resolve the long-standing issues about the atomic program.
According to the Iranian news agencies, the inspectors were allowed access to other declared nuclear facilities as part of a proposed deal. However, access to Parchin was not agreed upon according to that deal worked out last November.
Until more evidence is found to the contrary, the official report will focus on some kind of accident. However, as one source noted, the Iranian regime has every reason to be paranoid of possible sabotage. The list of acts of sabotage including attacks on nuclear and missile facilities as well as assassinations of key scientists in the atomic program is extensive and well-established.
If that weren't enough to make Iranians jittery, exactly one week later as the Parchin site explosion, there was another incident.
A plane owned by the Iranian police force crashed in a mountainous area in a province bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan. All seven passengers, including the pilots and crew member,
The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that the twin-engined turbo-prop Commander aircraft went down in the mountains outside Sistan-Baluchistan's capital of Zahedan about 8 p.m., local time. The wreckage was discovered hours later in a mountainous area known as Sabzpoushan, which is close to Zahedan.
According to the reports
"..three senior police officials were among those killed, including Gen. Mahmoud Sadeqi. A colonel was also aboard the flight, but his name has not yet been released."
Gen. Mahmoud Sadeqi was the Police Deputy Chief for Investigation Affairs and was leading a team to the region to investigate the murder of four Iranian police officers.
Incidentally, Sadeqi is most likely the same Republican guard official who was sanctioned in May 2012 by the European Union for committing human rights abuses. As Colonel and Deputy of the IRGC’s Technology and Cyber Intelligence department, Sadeghi was responsible for arresting and torturing journalists and bloggers, according to the Official Journal of the European Union.
While suspicious, at this stage nobody is suggesting the crash is anything more than a tragic accident. The semi-official Fars News Agency has postulated that the crash could have been a result of technical problems, weather conditions or pilot error.
If that weren't bad enough news, a police vehicle taking 11 officers to the site of the plane crash overturned, killing one man and injuring another eight police officials. They had reportedly been sent to participate in a possible rescue operation. Now that's bad luck.
This series of accidents is on the heels of more direct attacks against the Iranian police. In June of this year, the Mehr news agency reported that unidentified terrorists murdered three Iranian police who were on patrol in the northwest of the country near the village of Taze-Abad, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the border with Iraq. Official denied it had anything to do with the war going on between ISIS and the Kurdish forces.
Altogether, it's been a bad year to be an Iranian policeman.. or a worker at a nuclear facility.