July 6 (UPI) -- There are strange goings-on in Iran. On June 25, there was a massive explosion near the Parchin military weapons development complex, east of Tehran.
The blast sent a fireball spiraling into the air, turning the skyline bright orange for several seconds. The fire could be seen from Tehran, where the force of the explosion shook residential buildings and led to many exchanges on social media, with people asking each other if they had seen the fireball and heard the two consecutive booms.
The Iranian regime's defense ministry quickly issued a statement claiming the huge blast was caused by a leaking gas tank and that there had been no injuries. Brig. Gen. Davoud Abdi stated that the ensuing fire had been brought under control and added: "Our colleagues are present on the ground and investigating the incident carefully."
Hours after the explosion, the state television station showed a video clip of charred buildings with twisted metal structures and what appeared to be ruptured holding tanks, claiming that this was the scene of the explosion. However, military analysts in the West swiftly countered the Iranian position, questioning whether in fact the explosion had been the result of sabotage, given the importance of the Parchin complex and its close association with the regime's secret nuclear program.
According to Fabian Hinz, a senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif.: "Parchin is basically the largest military explosive manufacturing site in Iran. They produce artillery rockets there and had tests related to nuclear weapons designs before 2003."
But the head of emergency services in Tehran briefed reporters that there had been no immediate requests for ambulances to the scene of the explosion. He added that medical aid was, nevertheless, on standby. The theocratic regime's strident denials of a major incident have certainly fueled speculation that the true nature of the disaster at Parchin has been obscured.
Afghon Ostovar, a scholar at the Naval Postgraduate School, said that given Iran's sensitivity about the base, "it's easy to smell a possible cover-up." He added: "It could have also been an accident at a military site, possibly involving fuel for ballistic missiles. A third possibility, of course, is that it wasn't an accident but rather a form of sabotage."
Now there has been a second major incident at a nuclear site. Behruz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, acknowledged that there had been an incident in "one of the industrial sheds under construction" at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in Isfahan Province.
Once again, the regime's spokesman claimed that there had been no fatalities and no radiation contamination, stating that there had been a fire that was quickly extinguished. However, U.S.-based analysts again identified the burned building as a centrifuge assembly workshop, where the mullah's regime controversially produces enriched uranium, which can be used for reactor fuel and for nuclear weapons.
Under the terms of U.S. President Barack Obama's flawed nuclear deal signed in 2015, regular inspections by the IAEA were limited to the Natanz site. Access to other sites, and in particular to military sites controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, were prohibited under the terms of the deal.
Natanz, Iran's main underground nuclear facility with over 19,000 operational centrifuges, was first revealed to Western intelligence agencies by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main democratic opposition group, in 2002. Until that point, it had been a closely guarded secret by the Iranian regime. In February 2015, the MEK revealed another secret site called Lavizan-3 in a military base in northeast Tehran's suburbs. Again, this had been entirely hidden from Western inspectors.
Following U.S. President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal and his reimposition of tough sanctions on the regime, the mullahs have begun the enrichment of weapons-grade uranium in open defiance of the nuclear deal, the remnants of which are still being adhered to by China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
After a previous massive explosion at Parchin in 2014, international observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency requested permission to visit the site, but this was denied by the regime. The IAEA was finally allowed back onto the site a year later, when inspectors discovered empty buildings and clear signs that machinery had been removed. The most recent explosion is a clear indication that the site is back in full production.
The lies and denials about the two huge explosions in the past 10 days point to the sinister conclusion that advanced missile and nuclear weapons development is underway at Parchin and Natanz. The Iranian people no longer trust announcements from the theocratic, fascist regime. The ludicrous denials for several days following the shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner exposed the mendacity and deceptions of the mullahs. Their claim that only 10,500 have died from the coronavirus pandemic while the true figure is known to be in excess of 65,000, has further enraged the Iranian population, who are sick of their lying, thieving and murdering government.
Of course, rumors of the involvement of U.S. or Israeli intelligence services behind the explosions are rife. An email received by the BBC's Persian service claimed that dissidents in an organization called the "Homeland Cheetahs" had been responsible for both explosions, stating that they had staged the attacks above ground so that they could not be denied.
Whatever the truth is, it will never be revealed by the mullahs. They fear the dire consequences of either admitting a major breach of security that enabled foreign agents or dissidents to infiltrate key nuclear sites, or admitting the incompetence of their military experts who allowed two huge blasts to take place in the space of 10 days. This is a regime in turmoil.
Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.