Many questions remain after the mysterious explosion in Parchin Iran on Sunday October 5. 2014. Was it an accident like the Iranian regime claims or was it an attack on Iran’s nuclear program? If it was an attack was Israel involved?
In order to get some answers on those questions, I decided to interview the Iranian Middle East expert Dr. Aliraza Nourisadeh.
He gave some surprising answers.
Dr. Nourisadeh is an Iranian expat currently living in London. He heads the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London and is correspondent for Deutsche Welle, the Voice of America and al-Sharq al-Awsat. He is in contact with many people in Iran on a daily basis.
I asked Dr. Nourisadeh what exactly happened in Parchin last Sunday morning.
Nourisadeh: There has been a huge explosion that caused tremendous damage. There were casualties and lots of wounded people. The explosion caused the authorities to close down entrance roads for more than five hours. The fire that followed upon the explosion could be seen from remote areas for an more than an hour. Windows shattered in a wide area up till 15 kilometers from Parchin.
Question: what exactly exploded?
Nourisadeh: The explosion happened in the north west area of Parchin military base. In these buildings they are doing their cruise missile tests.
Q: Do you agree with the Israeli assessment that Iran was working on a nuclear warhead in this area?
Nourisadeh: They did before but not now, yes. That is the area which the (IAEA) inspectors wanted to see and where they wanted to take ground samples. So yes the Israeli assessment is correct.
Q: There were foreign news reports that suggested that Israel was involved in the incident in Parchin, do you think that’s correct?
Nourisadeh: It was an inside job, I don’t know if the people that caused the explosion were instructed by Israel or were in connection with Israel. But I do know however that such an explosion cannot happen by itself.
Q: Do you think this explosion is a setback for the Iranian nuclear program?
Nourisadeh: No I do not think it has anything to do with the nuclear program. The cruise missile program was the target.
Q: What do you think about the Iranian refusal to grant the IAEA access to Parchin ?
Nourisadeh: At the moment the main problem is not Parchin, it is what is happening in Iraq. I don’t think Parchin will remain an obstacle because they wiped out all evidence of their nuclear activities at Parchin. Iran kept Parchin as a bargaining chip. They first want to get over the other issues and then they come to Parchin.
Q: What is your comment on Kuwaiti news reports that connected the blast in Parchin with what happened on the Israel Lebanon border this week?
Nourisadeh: There was no connection. Hezbollah wanted to restore its image as a resistant movement after they saw the damage to their standing in the Arab world because of their support for Assad. I think it backfired because the people and Hariri came forcefully out against it. That was a propaganda game and they lost the game.
Q: What are the chances that there will be an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program?
Nourisadeh: Iran has no other choice than to come to an agreement. The situation in the country is so bad. Unemployment is very high . Unofficial data show that there are fifteen million unemployed in the country. The economy is on the verge of collapse. Therefor they need the sanctions to be lifted and they will make concessions at the last minute. They are bargaining because Iran doesn’t have the upper hand in Syria and Iraq anymore.
Six to seven months ago Iran could have played very strongly with the Syrian chip and with Lebanon and Iraq. Now Iran is not in such a strong position anymore. There is the Islamic State and renewed foreign involvement in the area. All of this is against Iran’s interests.
So they will come up with a solution for the nuclear issue because they want the sanctions to be lifted. If not there will be another public uprising.
Satellite images published Wednesday by ISIS and Israeli media outlets all but confirmed Nourisadeh’s description of the events. They showed what seems to be the aftermath of a massive blast, with one expert telling Israel Defense that “a complete section of structures was simply eliminated by an unexplained explosion.” At least half a dozen buildings were leveled, including some in an area near where the IAEA believes that weapons-related work had taken place.
The Jerusalem Post cited a spokesman for an exiled Iranian opposition group who said that the explosion occurred late last Sunday in a chemical industry unit that deals with the production of gunpowder and that at least four people were killed.
If Dr. Nourisadeh is right and Iran’s cruise missile program was targeted and Israel was involved in the attack it reveals something about the strategy of the Jewish state. This wasn’t the first time that a huge explosion targeted Iran’s long range missiles. The same happened in November 2011 when a huge explosion occurred at the air force base Bidganeh in Iran. This was a facility where Iran conducted tests with long range missiles such as the Sjejjil 3 intercontinental ballistic missile. Now the cruise missile program at Parchin apparently was targeted.
It could be that Israel has come to the conclusion that targeting all of Iran’s nuclear facilities has become a mission impossible. Instead Iran’s long range rockets that are able to carry a nuclear warhead have become the target alongside cyber attacks on the enrichment program.
This will not take out Iran’s nuclear weapon program but it will surely hamper the ability to carry out a nuclear attack once Iran obtains an atomic bomb.