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Annals of Israeli Blacks Ops: Lebanon, Iran Continued

Lots of explosions big and small today in different parts of the region.  In Isfahan, there was a major blast at a facility that stores uranium gas which centrifuges use in the enrichment process for Iran’s nuclear program.  Damage to this plant could cause heavy delays in its ability to further refine the nuclear fuel necessary to produce a nuclear weapon (if it is producing one).

Unlike in past similar instances, my Israeli sources could not confirm Mossad involvement in today’s mishap (which doesn’t mean there wasn’t, it only means he didn’t receive any information about it).  But the explosion sounds exceedingly similar to past such events at Iranian bases (it would be the third such one in the past year).

Iran missile base explosion

Nov. 12th Iran missile base blast damage

Ronen Bergman, writing about today’s Isfahan incident and the recent missile base explosion, added extensive detail about how Mossad might’ve caused such sabotage in the latter case:

The Iranians believe the hand of the Mossad was involved with the help of Iranian opposition forces [the MEK].  The Iranians believe the target was not the actual facility but Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, who supervised IRG missile research and development.  In their evaluation, the operation succeeded beyond what the Mossad had anticipated.  This occurred because the attackers used an enormous quantity of explosive material in order to destroy the entire office building in which Moghaddam was located.  This caused damage to the fuel tanks and other explosives located there which caused an even greater explosion.

Lots of odd bits to parse here.  First, I don’t find it credible that Ronen Bergman knows what the Iranians believe about any of this, unless the Mossad is telling him what they’re hearing from official Iranian sources via covert surveillance.  Rather, I believe the above is what the Mossad itself is likely to have told him happened.  Of course, Bergman can’t expose his source so he couches the passage in terms related to what Iranians believe, rather than what Israeli intelligence believes.

Second, as to the claim that the MEK managed to infiltrate the complex with a massive amount of explosive material, it simply beggars belief.  How could they have penetrated one of the most closely guarded facilities in the Iranian military?  I suppose the MEK could’ve rigged a vehicle in the manner of a car bomb and brought it into the base and exploded it next to the office building in question.  If so, what an amazing lapse on the part of the IRG!  At any rate, we either have a massive security breach exploited by the Mossad and MEK or we have a story that raises more questions than it answers.

The Institute for Science and International Security proposes a different scenario, which may be equally plausible:

ISIS learned that the blast occurred as Iran had achieved a major milestone in the development of a new missile.  Iran was apparently performing a volatile procedure involving a missile engine at the site when the blast occurred.

This would tend to imply that the explosion was an accident resulting from a highly dangerous procedure involved in development of a new Iranian missile prototype.  Though it might still be possible to sabotage such a missile engine test.

Returning to Bergman, he doesn’t say that the Mossad was responsible for the Isfahan explosion (as he does for the blast that killed Moghaddam two weeks ago), but he implies that it was.

Moving to Lebanon, yesterday Lebanese militants fired at least four rockets into northern Israel.  Haaretz says the IDF doesn’t believe Hezbollah was responsible but that a Palestinian-affiliated “global jihad” splinter group was responsible.  This description is so vague as to be almost meaningless.  But this is par for the course for Israeli intelligence and I don’t necessarily believe anything they say about who’s responsible.

This was the first such fire in a very long while.  There must’ve been a significant motivation for the group to have violated the ceasefire in place since the 2006 war.  I can think of only two possible reasons: one, the militants may be flexing their muscle, perhaps at the behest of Iran as a warning to Israel of what it has in store if it attacks Iran; two, my report last week that IDF military intelligence tricked Hezbollah into taking a booby-trapped Israeli drone into a south Lebanon arms depot of theirs, where the Israelis promptly detonated it setting off an explosion reported by the Daily Star.

If this is indeed something like what did happen, Hezbollah would be exceedingly pissed off and a response of firing a volley or two of missiles into northern Israel wouldn’t be at all surprising.  And in response to that, if the IDF wished to soothe relations with the group it could release a statement that its own aerial surveillance found no evidence of any explosion at any Hezbollah arms depot in the south.  This would in effect be telling the Lebanese militia that Israel didn’t cause any explosion.  And this indeed is what happened with Alon Ben David at Channel 10 (Hebrew) and Jerusalem Post reporting that IDF drones could find no evidence of any damage to the Hezbollah base in question.  Of course, Ben David makes an allowance for the fact that the drone may not have examined the correct location of the explosion and only photographed where the IDF THOUGHT it occurred.

Though a few troubling thoughts about this story remain: if there was no explosion, then Israel and Hezbollah would know this and there would be no need to fire missiles or deny that there was an explosion.  If there was an explosion, then Hezbollah would know this and an Israeli denial would ring hollow.

I really don’t know what to make of it all.  But one thing is for sure, my well-connected source was told by likely Israeli intelligence operatives that Israel caused this explosion.  Then a few days later after Lebanese militants rained down missiles on Israel, other intelligence sources told Israeli media a different story.  It’s a strange, dark and dangerous world Israelis have made for themselves.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • pfft November 29, 2011, 12:31 AM

    Lots of mysterious explosions going on in iran lately. Such tragedy, they should be more careful.

    • Richard Silverstein November 30, 2011, 12:04 AM

      Go back to Debka where you belong. You’re now moderated & will be banned if you violate the rules further.

  • b November 29, 2011, 12:37 AM

    “In Isfahan, there was a major blast at a facility that stores uranium gas which centrifuges use in the enrichment process for Iran’s nuclear program.”

    I wonder how you can write that. There is no official or even unofficial statement from any serious source with regard to this. It is pure speculation. The Uranium Conversion Facility is some 7 to 10 miles away from the city. A boom heard in the city might have come from anywhere.

    And isn’t it funny that ISIS confirms my take on the missile test explosion? And that the IDF just like me is calling the “drone into weapon depot” story bunk?

    • Anonymous November 29, 2011, 2:42 AM

      “I wonder how you can write that. There is no official or even unofficial statement from any serious source with regard to this. It is pure speculation. The Uranium Conversion Facility is some 7 to 10 miles away from the city. A boom heard in the city might have come from anywhere.”

      Its true that this hasnt been reported in the mainstream media. However Richard have a source.
      Also, if its true, that is – if the explosion 1. Did occur and 2. If it occured in Ishafan enrichment center and caused by 3. Israel. Well then Iran would not admit that such thing have happend, because thats a blowback and putting Iran in embarrasing position where Israel toying with Iran and set off bombs every now and then.

      • b November 29, 2011, 3:36 AM

        “However Richard have a source.”

        And he writes above that his “source” did confirm nothing on this issue:

        And then there is this: Deputy Isfahan Gov. denies news on speaking of heavy sound in city

        Deputy Governor of Isfahan in Political Security Affairs and Monday night denied news broadcasted on some news lines on spread of a heavy sound in city, quoted on his behalf.
        Deputy Isfahan Gov. denies news on speaking of heavy sound in city
        Mohammad-Mahdi Esma’ili added in a phone talk with IRNA, ‘I have had no interview with any media today (Monday morning) in that respect and the broadcasted news on my behalf if sheer lies.’
        He meanwhile stressed that the Isfahan Governorate would pursue the matter at the judiciary.
        Meanwhile, the Public Relations Manager of Isfahan Fire Department Mas’oud Anayeb, too, while rejecting the news broadcasted on the horrendous noise in Isfahan, said, ‘So far the Fire Department has received no news in this respect.’

        “Iran would not admit that such thing have happend [sic]”

        When its nuclear scientists were killed Iran “admitted” to that and accused Israel of murdering them. Iran “admitted” that Stuxnet destroyed some of its centrifuges. Why would Iran behave different in any other case?

        I suggest it behaves different because there was a genuine accident at his missile test site not an Israeli sabotage act. And in Isfahan, nothing happened at all.

        People who feverishly believe otherwise seem to believe in Israeli superiority. That is just wishful thinking.

        • Zam November 29, 2011, 4:11 AM

          All these explosions in such a short time can’t all be accidents, the Iranians are denying further acts of sabotage because they don’t want to appear impotent.

        • Anonymous November 29, 2011, 4:12 AM

          “When its nuclear scientists were killed Iran “admitted” to that and accused Israel of murdering them. Iran “admitted” that Stuxnet destroyed some of its centrifuges. Why would Iran behave different in any other case? ”

          Because Iran have never said they would wage an all out war just because their scientists are killed. If in fact Israel is behind this sudden bombings Iran cant do nothing because they got no obvious proof that Israel is behind it and therefore, does not dare to act, they dont know exactly who is behind it and therefore wont act. I think Iran only would act against Israel if Israel carry out a operation like Osirak in 1981 or in Syria 2007 because then they got proof that Israel is behind it. That would give them a flagrant casus belli (even though Iran sure already have a casus belli to strike Israel after assassinations, sabotage, nuclear threat, war threats stemming from Israel).

          It seems that you try to white-wash possible israeli involvement. I suggest you use ockham’s razor. With that being said there is alot pointing for an israeli involvement.

        • Richard Silverstein November 30, 2011, 12:34 AM

          If you’d read my posts more regularly you’d have read how I addressed this point specifically. First, Iran can blame assassinations of scientists on Israel ecause these are overt acts of murder. It can blame Stuxnet on a computer virus (though it has not specifically blamed either Israel or the U.S.). But it cannot explicitly blame Israel for the explosions unless it can come up with very explicit evidence blaming Israel which it evidently doesn’t have yet. Not to mention, Iran isn’t stupid. If it blames Israel for these explosions there will be massive pressure fr Iranians to respond in kind. For Iran to do so would be disastrous as this would be the causus belli Obama & Bibi & others would be looking for to attack Iran.

          So now you claim that the photos Sheera Frenkel was shown of the damage to the Isfahan facility & which she described in her report were fakes? And the claims she heard fr senior Israeli intelligence were fraudulent as well? And be careful w. yr answer here because you just said that the very same Israeli intelligence sources were reliable when their drone images allegedly showed NO explosion in south Lebanon.

          Further ISIS very clearly did NOT agree with yr claim that the the explosion 2 weeks ago was “an accident.” It merely stated that the explosion occurred as a result of the testing of a missile engine. It did not say whether this was caused by accident or by sabotage. You should learn to be more careful than you are. It is possible that ISIS’s description might mean there was an accident. But sabotage can also cause the explosion of a missile engine. Ronen Bergman says the explosion was caused by explosive material introduced to the site & he says it was a Mossad operation. Do you have better sources than he? Of course you don’t.

          You once again err in claiming I believe in Israeli superiority. I don’t. Claiming anything else is a lie. I don’t like liars especially when the lie concerns my own views.

    • Richard Silverstein November 30, 2011, 12:08 AM

      You mean none other than every serious western media outlet. I wrote a post tonight about Sheera Frenkel’s Times of London story which affirms based on her Israeli intel sources that the explosion not only happened, but was sabotage (likely Mossad). Go fight with them.

      Since you’ve violated my specific editorial direction, your future comments will be moderated. Once again, if your goal is to ridicule my views go do it elsewhere. YOu’re not going to use my comment threads to pursue yr own agenda here.

    • Richard Silverstein November 30, 2011, 12:11 AM

      Isn’t it also interesting that you call me a dupe of Israeli intelligence yet when IDF military intelligence posts an unsupported claim about the Hezbollah arms depot explosion, all of a sudden Israeli intel is a kosher source. You’re a friggin’ hypocrite.

  • A November 29, 2011, 2:50 AM

    Another thought…Hizbullah-related / inspired action to goad Israel into a sharp response takes heat off Syria as it massacres its own people.

    Chances are it was all of the above written by RS, my suggestion, and more wrapped into one “neat” package.

  • Fred Plester November 29, 2011, 3:41 AM

    Damage looks rather diffuse for a “massive amount of explosive” to me.

    It’s more like the industrial estate in Hemel Hempstead that ws “Total-ed” by the Buncefield oil terminal explosion (The Fuji Film factory really was blown clean off its foundations).

    You’ve got more than a truck-load of explosive’s worth of damage, but no yawning crater. Damage to a fuelled-up rocket, or cryogenic fuel stores, would have done it, though.

    This was what the .50″ calibre sniper rifles developed for the USMC were originally intended for: to puncture rockets whose structural integrity depended on fuel pressure. General battlefield use developed from there.

    But an explosively-formed penetrator device would do it as well (from closer range) and that would many times easier to smuggle in than a .50″ rifle, let alone a truck bomb.

    The very widespread destruction in the above picture came from harnessing energy that was already on site.

    Fuel-air detonation in the air ABOVE the NW corner, I think. Nearest structure is reduced to an outline, rather like the Fuji Film factory was.

    IF (quite a big if) it was a rifle and not a smuggled device, it would have been fired from outside the secured perimeter. The Americans have developed a rifle with MUCH more accuracy and a bit more range than the .50″.


    I’ve seen film, somewhere, of a demonstration which must have involved the very low-drag bullet, which the wikipedia article is sceptical about. Something unusual is done to the shank of the bullet to reduce barrel friction and vibration, to; there’s a very slightly concave profile to the shank, so it only fully engages the rifling at top and bottom of the shank.

    Since the bullet is monolithic bronze (not “brass”) there might be little or no trace to be found after a fuel explosion and intense fire.

    The detonation wouldn’t necessarily be directly over where the fuel was released from.

  • PersianAdvocate November 29, 2011, 11:58 AM

    The Israelis continue to play every game but Chess against an Iranian government that has an entire horde of Iranian Kasparovs as a brain trust. They appear to think that Iranian strategy and thinking would be similar to Saddam’s impulse/gut reactions, such that they can trigger reaction B by providing stimulus A. What they don’t realize is that the Iranians have already pre-empted this strategy decades ago and employed a counteracting methodology.

    All of these news reports indicate one thing: Israel’s manipulation of Western media is in its death throes — at least its effects are. Not because the media owners have changed — they’re the same six people, but because the people, by increasing numbers of great significance, have a deep mistrust of the media. They can clearly see the lies and when connected to past events where the media has lied (running up to Iraq, etc.) for them, the proper seed of doubt is planted.

    I don’t believe there was espionage here, although the supposed admission, whether implied or explicit, is ironic in and of itself: this was clearly an act of terror against a Sovereign state.

    I do believe that military disasters occur regularly. Many friendly deaths have occurred both in the US and in Israel from similar stories. These attempts to claim a false omnipotence by Israel are clearly maneuvers to embolden the Iranian regime. But, again, this relies completely on an improper calculus: that when given Stimulus A, the Iranians will react like Pavlovian dogs. No, Iran will not retaliate through Hezbollah. Iran has reach inside Israel far beyond anything Shin Bet thought possible. Corrupt politicians make anything possible for foreign countries. :)

    Iran has already retaliated, and I am not pointing to the Eliat rocket attacks. I’m pointing at Israel being on fire and Netanyahu having to beg Turkey to pee down his throat. It occurred only a week after Iran’s nuclear scientist was assassinated. I am a big proponent of analyzing world affairs by way of stepping back and looking at the timeliness of events and the calendar from a top-level. Coincidences? Ha!

    • Shai November 29, 2011, 12:43 PM

      These attempts to claim a false omnipotence by Israel are clearly maneuvers to embolden the Iranian regime.

      Iran has reach inside Israel far beyond anything Shin Bet thought possible.

      A. Empty, baseless rattle
      B. Also slightly ironic given your first statement, don’t you think?

      • Fred Plester November 29, 2011, 12:59 PM

        If sabotage, possibly a more competent power at work here than Mossad or the IDF. Doesn’t look like a truck bomb, so a lot of the sources are wrong.

    • Israel Advocate November 29, 2011, 9:27 PM

      Your analysis of the explosions in Iran may be right, yet there is no denying that Iran and Israel are on a colision course that could result one of these days in an all out explosion. The same way you say not to undersestimate Iran’s power, Iran should not underesimate Israel’s. Iran is much larger, yet Israel is competent and if pushed to the wall, does not hesitate to attack.

      • PersianAdvocate November 30, 2011, 2:24 PM

        I like your name :) Yours should be “Israeli Advocate” (with the i) if you meant to emulate mine. I don’t necessarily advocate for any race (Persians/Aryans/Iranians). I’m a lawyer and Iranian by heritage.

        I’m not very creative with names is the root of this issue. I agree, I think every nation has a certain pride and dignity that should not be humiliated or else they will be expected to defend themselves. I want Israel and Iran to be mutual allies in human progression rather than petty conflicts over things that can be worked out by friends.

        Our problem is that our leaders can’t be friends. Our people can.

        • Israel Advocate December 1, 2011, 6:03 AM

          This makes much more sense, since the Israeli and Iranian people have had warm relationship in the past. I support “real politik” in which each nation recognizes the strenghs of the other and knows the dangers of an all-out entanglement. Having said that, I still think that a nuclear bomb in the hands of Ahmedinejad and the Ayatollahs could be an extreme danger to Israel’s existence and therefore has to be stopped with economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.

          • Richard Silverstein December 1, 2011, 12:38 PM

            Fair enough. But you must realize that Iran views an Israeli bomb as just as much an existential danger to itself. Besides, Iran has other regional enemies as well from which it would like to protect itself.

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