News & Politics

Mysterious Fires and Explosions Rock Iran

(Twitter screenshot @FAEZEH_96)

According to the Iranian government, the nation has hit a spot of bad luck in recent months. An explosion damaged hundreds of centrifuges at their main enrichment facility of Natanz in April, causing a significant drop in nuclear fuel production. Iranian ships operating in the Persian Gulf experienced mysterious explosions and fires. Prominent Iranians are dropping dead in the streets — sometimes after being shot or blown up but sometimes for no apparent reason.

Just bad luck, says the Iranian government. Meanwhile, Israel remains quiet.

Then, on Wednesday, Iran’s largest warship — the Kharg — suffered an apparent explosion and fire. It sank off the Iranian coast near the Gulf of Oman. A short time later, a massive fire broke out at an Iranian refinery just south of Tehran.

Bad luck? Or deliberate sabotage?

We shouldn’t dismiss the notion that incompetence, ignorance, and stupidity played a role in the tragedies yesterday. Iran is, after all, a third-world country and its command-and-control systems have been found wanting in the past. But if it is sabotage, Iran knows it and is getting very nervous.

Israel, as is their policy, is staying mum. But if Israel was responsible, this is a significant escalation. The Kharg is a vital part of the Iranian navy serving as both a platform for helicopters and a resupply vessel. Iran currently has nothing to replace it.

“For the regular Iranian navy, this vessel was very valuable because it gave them reach,” the Center for Naval Analysis’ Mike Connell told the AP. “That allowed them to conduct operations far afield. They do have other logistics vessels, but the Kharg was kind of the most capable and the largest.”

The refinery disaster won’t make things any better for citizens dealing with a rickety oil industry that, despite sitting on an ocean of oil, can’t maintain consistent fuel supplies as it is.

The Iranian government, as usual, is denying the facility was sabotaged.

CNN:

The head of Tehran’s Provincial Crisis Management Office said that “a leak at a liquid gas pipeline at the facility sparked the fire,” Reuters reported. The cause of blaze will be investigated, Mansour Darajati added, according to Reuters.

No casualties have been reported at the scene, Shaker Khafaei, the head of public relations of Tehran Oil Refining Co., which runs the refinery, told state news agency IRINN. Khafaei also ruled out the possibility of sabotage.

The report claimed that “Some 18 tankers of the refinery caught fire,” leading to questions about safety at the facility, that so many tankers could catch fire and that it could get so out of control.

Allahpundit has a unique take.

This might very well be one strategy to counter Iranian military strength in the region. Put that together with Netanyahu’s apparently pending exit from office, and the Kharg might have been a very convenient target for a Bibi valediction to Tehran.

Or it could have just been incompetence and/or failure. The IRGC hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory of late. One has to think, however, that the ambiguity in this sinking might be strategic in itself.

Is the Kharg fire Netanyahu’s swan song? It’s an appealing idea to entertain, but even if there’s proof, Iran would never disclose how loose and incompetent their internal security truly is.