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Iran Declines to Reveal Explanation for Mysterious Nuclear Facility Hearth

Iran Declines to Reveal Cause of Mysterious Nuclear Facility Fire

(DUBAI, United Arab Emirates) — An internet video and messages purportedly claiming accountability for a hearth that analysts say broken a centrifuge meeting plant at Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear website deepened the thriller Friday across the incident — at the same time as Tehran insisted it knew the trigger however wouldn’t make it public attributable to “safety causes.”

The a number of, completely different claims by a self-described group referred to as the “Cheetahs of the Homeland” included language utilized by a number of exiled Iranian opposition organizations. In addition they centered virtually solely on Iran’s nuclear program, seen by Israel as a hazard to its very existence.

The disparate messages, in addition to the truth that Iran specialists have by no means heard of the group earlier than, raised questions on whether or not Natanz once more had confronted sabotage by a overseas nation because it had through the Stuxnet laptop virus outbreak believed to have been engineered by the U.S. and Israel. Tehran’s response to this point reveals Iranian officers are more and more taking the chance severely.

“Whether it is confirmed that our nation has been attacked by cyberattacks, we’ll reply,” warned Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali, the top of Iran’s navy unit accountable for combating sabotage, based on a report late Thursday by the Mizan information company.

Iranian officers have sought to downplay the fireplace, which erupted early on Thursday, calling it solely an “incident” that affected an “industrial shed.” Nonetheless, a launched photograph and video of the positioning broadcast by Iranian state tv confirmed a two-story brick constructing with scorch marks and its roof apparently destroyed. Particles on the bottom and a door that appeared blown off its hinges advised an explosion accompanied the blaze.

Two U.S.-based analysts who spoke to The Related Press, counting on launched footage and satellite tv for pc photographs, recognized the affected constructing as Natanz’s new Iran Centrifuge Meeting Heart. A satellite tv for pc picture on Friday by Planet Labs Inc., annotated by specialists on the James Martin Heart for Nonproliferation Research at Middlebury Institute of Worldwide Research, reveals what seems to be injury carried out to half of the constructing.

Iranian nuclear officers didn’t reply to a request for remark from the AP on the analysts’ findings. Nonetheless, the semiofficial Tasnim information company quoted the spokesman of Iran’s Supreme Nationwide Safety Council as saying authorities know the reason for the fireplace.

“Resulting from some safety issues, the trigger and method of the accident will likely be introduced on the acceptable time,” Keyvan Khosravi reportedly stated on Friday, with out elaborating.

The Worldwide Atomic Vitality Company stated none of its inspectors have been at Natanz on the time of the fireplace and “that the situation the place the incident occurred doesn’t include nuclear supplies.”

Earlier than information of the fireplace grew to become public Thursday, the BBC’s Persian service says its journalists obtained emails from the self-proclaimed “Cheetahs of the Homeland” claiming an assault at Natanz.

A video claimed the group included “troopers from the guts of regime’s safety organizations” who wished to cease Iran from buying a nuclear weapon. Iran lengthy has maintained its atomic program is for peaceable functions. Nonetheless, the IAEA has stated that Iran “carried out actions related to the event of a nuclear explosive gadget” in a “structured program” by means of the top of 2003.

The video and one written assertion additionally referred to Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as “zahhak,” a monster in Persian folklore. However the tone throughout the messages clashed, with one utilizing terminology typically related to Iran’s Mujahedeen-e-Khalq exile group, or MEK, and the video seemingly exhibiting Iran’s Shiite theocracy as worse than the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The video additionally included elements of the nationalist tune “Ey Iran,” which reformists and opposition teams each sing.

The MEK group stated it was not liable for the fireplace. Its assertion described the blaze as a “response to the nuclear challenge of the spiritual fascism ruling Iran, which has bothered the Iranian individuals (with) solely poverty, repression, terrorism and conflict.”

The workplace of the shah’s exiled son, Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, stated he “doesn’t have any contact with this group” that claimed the fireplace. The AP obtained no response to an electronic mail despatched to 1 tackle related to the “Cheetahs of the Homeland” statements.

The purported group’s title, “the Cheetahs of the Homeland,” additionally struck some as odd, on condition that “cheetahs” is a nickname for Iran’s nationwide soccer membership. Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist who works with The New York Instances and printed a e book on the Mossad titled “Rise and Kill First,” questioned why an Iranian opposition group would title itself that.

“It’s extremely unlikely {that a} critical opposition motion would use such a reputation, which might be precisely what the individuals who got here up with it, have been aiming individuals to assume,” Bergman wrote Friday on Twitter in English, with out elaborating. He additionally tweeted an analogous message in Hebrew.

Suspicion over the incident instantly fell on Israel, together with in a commentary printed by Iran’s state-run IRNA information company Thursday.

Meir Javedanfar, an Iran lecturer on the Interdisciplinary Heart in Herzliya, Israel, who seen the “Cheetahs of the Homeland” video, stated any home group that managed to penetrate Iran’s closely guarded nuclear services could be unlikely to danger being captured by distributing such a video. He stated “it’s tough to know” if Israel’s Mossad or one other overseas intelligence company produced the video.

“It might be a overseas intelligence company, with the intention to sow discord in Iran … or possibly it’s a false flag by the Iranian regime with the intention to crack down,” Javedanfar stated.

The video did, nevertheless, name it the Kashan nuclear website, reasonably than Natanz. Kashan is a close-by metropolis as soon as dwelling to a big, historic Jewish neighborhood. Iranians uniformly name the nuclear website Natanz.

Destroying a centrifuge meeting facility may drastically impression Iran’s means to more-quickly enrich better quantities of uranium, which might be a purpose for both Israel or the U.S.

Iran had begun experimenting with superior centrifuge fashions within the wake of the U.S. unilaterally withdrawing two years in the past from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear cope with world powers. Nonetheless, it took years for Iran to excellent its first-generation IR-1 centrifuge off designs it bought from Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan’s black market community. It’s unclear if Iran has one other similar-size meeting facility.

The truth that the Natanz fireplace additionally comes lower than per week after an explosion in an space east of Tehran that analysts imagine hides an underground tunnel system and missile manufacturing websites additionally raises suspicions.

The Texas-based personal intelligence agency Stratfor stated both incident may “have been the results of a home group appearing with or with out overseas assist, or the results of a U.S. or Israeli cyber assault.”

“If there’s a marketing campaign by the USA, Israel and/or native teams in Iran underway, then Iran is prone to finally reply in variety, doubtlessly in opposition to Western targets within the Persian Gulf,” Stratfor warned.


Related Press writers Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.