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Monday, January 28, 2013

Fordow blast confirmed by Israeli security officials?

The Times of London's Sheera Frankel reports confirmation of sorts of a blast at the underground Iranians nuclear enrichment plant at Fordow:

An explosion is believed to have damaged Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility, which is being used to enrich uranium, Israeli intelligence officials have told The Times. Sources in Tel Aviv said yesterday that they thought the explosion happened last week. The Israeli Government is investigating reports that it led to extensive structural damage and 200 workers had been trapped inside.

Israel believes the Iranians have not evacuated the surrounding area. It is unclear whether that is because no harmful substances have been released, or because Tehran is trying to avoid sparking panic among residents.

The Fordow plant is buried deep underground inside a mountain near the holy city of Qom. It is thought to be Iran’s most heavily fortified facility and is regarded as impervious to Israeli airstrikes. Many of Fordow’s 2,700 nuclear centrifuges are stored hundreds of feet below ground in bunkers.

One Israeli official said: “We are still in the preliminary stages of understanding what happened and how significant it is.” He did not know, he added, if the explosion was “sabotage or accident”, and refused to comment on reports that Israeli aircraft were seen near the facility at the time of the explosion.

WND, the American right-wing website that first reported the explosion, claimed it had happened last Monday, one day before Israeli elections. The website said that Hamidreza Zakeri, a former employee of Tehran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security who now lives in exile, had confirmed that Fordow had been hit.

“The blast shook facilities within a radius of three miles. Security forces have enforced a no-traffic radius of 15 miles,” the report said. These claims could not be verified last night.

Avi Dichter, the Israeli Home Front Defence Minister, said: “Any explosion in Iran that doesn’t hurt people but hurts Iran’s assets is welcome.”

In briefings given recently to The Times, Israeli intelligence officers provided satellite imagery that showed new fortifications had been built around Fordow’s perimeter. “This is already Iran’s most heavily fortified facility,” one officer said. He added that while there were larger facilities, intelligence estimates suggested that nuclear scientists at Fordow were producing medium-enriched uranium, which could be converted to bomb grade.
This is very slight confirmation. Sheera Frenkel is not the most accurate reporter either - she herself reported a blast at an Iranian nuclear site that never happened.

Still, one of the reasons I decided to publish this story Friday morning was to get it out there, with the thin hope that Western media would confirm or deny the sensational story, which if true would be hugely important. And it has been picked up by other media outlets, albeit all of them with similar skepticism.

As I have written, the IAEA should be able to confirm or deny this the next time they are scheduled to inspect the facility; their last report about Fordow was released in November.

If the story is true, it is spectacularly important. If it is not, then Reza Kahlili and WND lose whatever credibility they still have, which gives them great disincentive to make something like this up. Adding the two up, I believe that the story was worth reporting - and following.

UPDATE: And if it is true, then we might need to consider believing Kahlili's earlier reporting on Iranian WMD's, as he writes today:


  • A secret nuclear site in Najaf Abad.
  • A list of Iranian scientists working on a nuclear bomb.
  • A secret uranium enrichment site in Khondab, where the Russians and North Korean scientists are helping with Iran’s nuclear bomb program.
  • The secret bio-weapons site in Marzanabad, where, with the help of Russia, Iran has mastered production of eight microbial agents, arming its missiles with biological warheads.
  • Another nuclear site at Bonab, where, with the help of Russians, uranium enrichment is taking place using laser technology.