A fire broke out in an Iranian shipyard on Wednesday. This is just the latest in a series of fires and explosions that are have hit the country, many at sensitive sites, in recent weeks.
The fire on Wednesday occurred in a shipyard at the southwestern port of Bushehr about 430 miles from Tehran. It damaged seven ships, according to local news reports. No casualties were reported. Firefighters battled the flames which produced thick black smoke as videos on Iranian television showed. The official IRNA state-run news posted still photos of the fire.
The shipyard is not far from the Iranian nuclear reactor in Bushehr.
Officials are investigating this latest incident. Many think it might have been a cyberattack, aimed at destroying the site. But even that is subject to debate and whether a potential cyber-attacks would have been perpetrated by Israel or the United States or by local resistance groups.
On Sunday, Iranian authorities reported that a petrochemical facility in Mahshahr was hit by an explosion and fire that was characterized as minor. Authorities said that firefighters had the fire out in 10 minutes. The fire was blamed on an oil leak.
And on Monday, Iranian authorities responded to yet another explosion at a gas storage tank facility in Mashhad. One tank exploded and six others caught fire in that incident. Investigators are searching for the cause of the fire.
On July 2, a large fire sparked in a nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz. The facility housed the newest generation of centrifuges for the Iranian government. The Natanz facility consists of a fuel enrichment plant and is considered Iran’s largest gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility. It first came online in 2007.
The incident had security and nuclear analysts speculating whether it was a serious setback for Iran’s nuclear program and what exactly was damaged in the explosion and resultant fire. Iranian authorities have given conflicting reports on the way the events occurred, with some claiming that it was an accident, but others claiming it was a deliberate act of sabotage.
The Atomic Energy Agency of Iran reported that an incident took place at the site but claimed it was an accidental explosion that occurred in one of the sheds under construction at the site. Yet, IRNA news quoted officials that were saying that the “Zionist regime and the U.S.” were crossing red lines, implying that they were conducting cyber attacks.
A local group calling themselves the “Cheetahs of the Homeland” claimed responsibility for the attack. But nothing is known of them or if they truly exist.
In late June, 19 people died in an explosion at a medical facility north of Tehran. The Iranian authorities blamed the explosion on a gas leak.
In another incident on June 26, a huge explosion occurred in or around Iran’s Parchin military base. Parchin is a known nuclear weapons program site where the Iranians have been conducting high-explosives and warhead design and testing.
The Iranians claim that the explosion, which could be seen from Tehran some 25 km away, happened in a gas farm, and not in a nuclear facility as reported by the state-run Fars news agency.
Many analysts believe that there have been far too many incidents in a small window of time for them to be merely a coincidence. Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), spoke with Fox News and pointed toward non-state operations.
“The tempo and tenor of the recent explosions in Iran have been unusual. There is evidence of a concerted campaign underway to thwart Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
“The more Iran advances its nuclear program in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the greater the likelihood for additional strikes. Additionally, Tehran is distracted by the coronavirus and economic problems. The public is increasingly disenchanted with the regime’s ability to govern the country. The conditions are ripe for additional kinetic activity.”