Within just five days, there have been three separate explosions in Iran, one of which was at an area where the Iranians were putting centrifuges into operation. All three incidents shared one common factor: the Iranian government’s explanation of them stretched credibility to the nth degree. 

In the first incident, on July 2, a large fire sparked in a nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz that housed the newest generation of centrifuges for the Iranian government.

The incident has 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. The Iranian version of events claims that it was an accident, yet, it could have been a deliberate act of sabotage.

Before (right) and after (left) pictures of the damaged facility (Belaaz).

One Middle Eastern intelligence official, who spoke anonymously to the New York Times, said that the blast was caused by an explosive device planted inside the facility and resultantly, large parts of the facility above the ground, where new centrifuges are put into operation, were destroyed. 

The Atomic Energy Agency of Iran acknowledged 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. It released a photograph that showed doors ripped from their hinges as well as a collapsed roof. Large parts of the building were blackened by fire. At the time of the explosion, 60 of the newest centrifuges, which can enrich uranium, were spinning at the site.

In an article at the IRNA news, officials were quoted as saying that the “Zionist regime and the U.S.” were crossing red lines. The Americans and Israelis did conduct a dedicated cyberattack on enrichment facilities a decade ago called “Operation Olympic Games” which destroyed over 1,000 centrifuges and set back Iran’s nuclear program by at least a year.

Many analysts believe that the evidence strongly suggests the explosion was the result of sabotage.

A group called the “Cheetahs of the Homeland” claimed responsibility for the attack. A reporter for the BBC Persian cited emails supposedly arriving “hours before any news of the incident had emerged,” according to Radio Farda. The emails however claimed that there was an attack and then a coverup; they are trying to bring attention to the coverup that they claim the Iranian government is conducting. No one knows who the “Cheetahs of the Homeland” are and up to this incident, no mention has been made about them.