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Monday, November 14, 2011

Time Magazine: Israel behind Iranian munitions explosion

Time Magazine is reporting that Israel was behind Saturday's explosion at an Iranian missile plant in which Major General Hassan Moqqadam, the leader of Iran's missile program, was killed. So what, you say. You've seen half a dozen reports claiming that, including one from YNet that I blogged on Sunday. Well, here's the thing. Every report until now relied upon anti-Israel nutjob Richard Silverstein, who almost immediately accused the Mossad of being behind it. Silverstein has gone overboard many times before, and I and many of my blogging friends have been wondering why the mainstream media seems so eager to link him. This report by Karl Vick (another reporter not known for his love of Israel) doesn't rely on Silverstein (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
For Israeli readers, the coy implication is that their own government was behind Saturday's massive blast just outside Tehran. It is an assumption a Western intelligence source insists is correct: the Mossad — the Israeli agency charged with covert operations — did it. "Don't believe the Iranians that it was an accident," the official tells TIME, adding that other sabotage is being planned to impede the Iranian ability to develop and deliver a nuclear weapon. "There are more bullets in the magazine," the official says.

The powerful blast or series of blasts — reports described an initial explosion followed by a much larger one — devastated a missile base in the gritty urban sprawl to the west of the Iranian capital. The base housed Shahab missiles, which, at their longest range, can reach Israel. Last week's report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had experimented with removing the conventional warhead on the Shahab-3 and replacing it with one that would hold a nuclear device. Iran says the explosion was an accident that came while troops were transferring ammunition out of the depot "toward the appropriate site."
In an earlier post, I wrote:
YNet reported on Sunday that blogger Richard Silverstein is accusing the Mossad of being behind Saturday's explosion in Iran in coordination with an Iranian opposition group. That may well be correct. But if it is, the West should not cry about it: The death of the head of Iran's missile operations, Hassan Moghadam will delay Iran's ability to move its operations underground and will therefore delay the necessity for an Israeli attack. (Emphasis added).
Vick agrees.
But the incident also argued, maybe even augured, against an outright strike. If Israel — perhaps in concert with Washington and other allies — can continue to inflict damage to the Iranian nuclear effort through covert actions, the need diminishes for overt, incendiary moves like air strikes. The Stuxnet computer worm bollixed Iran's centrifuges for months, wreaking havoc on the crucial process of uranium enrichment.

And in Sunday's editions, the Hebrew press coyly listed what Yedioth Ahronoth called "Iran's Mysterious Mishaps." The tallies ran from the November 2007 explosion at a missile base south of Tehran to the October 2010 blast at a Shahab facility in southwestern Iran, to the assassinations of three Iranian scientists working in the nuclear program — two last year and one in July.

At the very least, the list burnishes the mystique of the Mossad, Israel's overseas spy agency. Whatever the case-by-case reality, the popular notion that, through the Mossad, Israel knows everything and can reach anywhere is one of the most valuable assets available to a state whose entire doctrine of defense can be summed up in the word deterrence. But it doesn't mean Israel is the only country with a foreign intelligence operation inside Iran. The most recent IAEA report included intelligence from 10 governments on details of the Iranian nuclear effort. And in previous interviews, Western security sources have indicated that U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies have partnered with Israel on covert operations inside Iran. Sometimes the partner brings specific expertise or access. In other cases, Iranian agents on the ground who might harbor misgivings about Israel are allowed to believe they are working only with another government altogether.
If Israel is behind the attack, that's good news to just about everyone. Including Barack Hussein Obama.

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