An Iranian steel plant near Yazd, whose dedication was attended by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad only six months ago, suffered a major explosion that killed seven, including “foreign nationals” as reported in Iranian media and Haaretz. The plant was built by Russia and is reported to be dedicated to military production. The foreign nationals who died may’ve been involved in the construction of the facility or the industrial processes carried out there. Haaretz reports they may’ve been North Koreans, and notes that the factory is reported to include a “closed military zone” whose purpose isn’t clear. All of which makes the following information relevant.
Haaretz reports that western intelligence sources claim that North Korea is supplying Iran and Syria with special types of steel necessary to produce advanced missile designs and upgraded centrifuge equipment:
North Korea has supplied Syria and Iran with a special kind of steel used to upgrading missiles and building centrifuges for uranium enrichment, the German newspaper Die Welt reported over the weekend…The material, called maraging steel…is prohibited to countries under sanctions such as Iran…
Iran is trying to obtain the steel through its clandestine purchasing networks around the world. The steel would enable Tehran to construct modified centrifuges, which would in turn allow it to enrich higher quality uranium at a faster speed.
Haaretz doesn’t connect these stories but Ynet does saying that what Iran claims was an explosion of ammunition caused the damage to the plant.
My Israeli source says the explosion was deliberate sabotage by the Mossad with inside help from the MEK. Further, he says it was part of a long string of such events planned by Israeli intelligence and that this black ops program will continue. Smadar Perry, a Yediot reporter reports that “experts” have informed her that the explosion was a “deliberate mishap,” though she doesn’t delve into who might be the author (this would certainly be information under military censorship).
Today, Israeli minister Bogie Yaalon, a former IDF chief of staff and known nationalist hardliner offered a particularly bleak foreign press briefing in which he said that Israel did not support the MEK’s U.S. campaign to be removed from the U.S. terror list:
Israel distanced itself on Monday from efforts by exiled Iranian organisation MEK, which has helped expose Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme, to be removed from the U.S. terrorism blacklist.
The Mujahedin-e-Khalq’s well-funded outreach to the Obama administration has won bipartisan support in Washington at a time of widespread speculation that Israel and Western allies are stepping up sabotage in Iran, possibly using local dissidents.
Asked during a briefing for foreign reporters whether Israel backed the MEK’s campaign, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said: “No. We don’t consider it an asset, and we are not interfering in the internal affairs of Iran.“
I’m trying to ascertain in greater detail what Yaalon said on this subject. But from what’s written above Yaalon appears to be distancing his country from support of MEK’s attempt to be delisted by the U.S. Either he’s saying Israel wants nothing to do with the entire issue of MEK including its campaign to be removed. Or he’s saying Israel doesn’t want MEK delisted with the implication being if their role in terror acts inside Iran were ever exposed, it would embarrass Israel (and it’s U.S. ally).
This string of terror attacks inside Iran should give policymakers in Washington great pause in reviewing the MEK petition. While the group may’ve stopped attacks against U.S. targets, I believe it is up to its eyeballs in terror attacks inside Iran. While it may be true that we support such terror attacks (whether the CIA is involved in any way in this campaign remains to be seen), it would look awfully bad for us to clear them of these charges and then find out later that they’re still the terrorists their critics have accused them of being all along.
Yaalon’s other chilling statement concerning Iran was quoted on Dan Williams Twitter feed:
#Iran regime must face choice: “to have the bomb, or to survive.”
This ominous threat points out just how completely divorced the two sides are from each other. Israel threatens attack and regime change if Iran doesn’t give up its nuclear program. While Iran sees a potential nuclear weapon as a sure-fire means of protecting it from precisely the sorts of existential threats posed by Israel. We appear to be continuing on the road to war.
The question is whether this black ops campaign by Israeli intelligence in collaboration with a known international terrorist entity will succeed. That depends on what the goal is: if it is to delay Iran’s progress toward an alleged nuclear weapon, that may succeed. But if it is to have any significant impact on denying Iran this weapon should it determine that is its goal, the answer is that it must fail. Not only will it fail, but when full details of the campaign become known as they likely will in time, it will harm Israel’s reputation to have dallied with tyrannical cultists like MEK.
If the purpose is to lead to a full-scale military attack on Iran by testing the reaction of the world community to the terrorism that precedes it–well, that’s precisely why I write this blog. To raise a voice against any escalation in violence that could lead to far worse violence. This covert campaign against Iran will not succeed and should be opposed by all who seek a real rapprochement between the sides and resolution of the issues around Iran’s nuclear program. I fear however, that Israel believes such a solution is neither possible nor does it want one. Rather, it wishes an all-out confrontation with Iran that will deliver a blow that will sink that nation’s ambitions to be a regional power. The reason Israel seeks this outcome is that it refuses to countenance any competitor threatening its own hegemony.
The U.S., as it so often has during the Obama presidency, stands aside and plays no useful role in lessening tension or negotiating a way out of the crisis. This will lead to terrible damage down the line when the almost inevitable military conflict happens and we have even less options than than we do now to ameliorate the situation.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.