Satellite imagery released Wednesday by Israeli media outlets revealed that a previously reported Monday explosion has done significant damage to Iran’s military facility at Parchin, where the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog (IAEA) believes Iranian scientists conducted research into the development of nuclear warheads:
Satellite images obtained by Israel Defense and analyzed by specialist Ronen Solomon clearly show damage consistent with an attack against bunkers in a central locality within the military research complex at the Parchin military compound.
The locality in question is situated at the center of the compound, adjacent to another installation where, according to intelligence sources, the trials being conducted involve controlled detonation of fuzes intended to serve as triggers for nuclear devices. The locality consists of a sizable testing center and what appears to be an area with bunker-shaped structures. “Before and after” images indicate that a complete section of structures was simply eliminated by an unexplained explosion.
The area where the explosion occurred was “simply eliminated” by the blast. The images will raise as many questions as they settle. They do seemingly confirm reports – originally sourced to not always reliable Iranian dissident groups – that the explosion took place in the Parchin facility itself, rather than more generally in a military facility to the east of Tehran, which is all that Iran had acknowledged. They also give a hint as to the magnitude of the disaster, which Iranian officials had said killed two people, and which descriptions from inside the country described as blowing out windows 15 km away.
That anything at Parchin was still capable of generating such a blast – even after literally years of the Iranians actively destroying evidence of suspected nuclear work at the base – is almost certain to deepen intrigue around atomic talks aimed at forcing the Iranians to disclose their atomic activities.
Daniel Nisman, an Israel-based risk analyst who heads the Middle East-based Levantine Group, conveyed rumors about the blast:
What happened at Parchin yesterday may be more serious than initially believed. Possibly smoking-gun level.
— Daniel Nisman (@DannyNis) October 7, 2014
Israeli officials had already revealed last month that they had “highly reliable information” pointed towards full-blown weaponization work at the Parchin base.
The developments come as an IAEA team is on the ground in Tehran to seek access to Parchin as well as several other sites where the Iranians are thought to have conducted military nuclear work. The agency last month blasted Iran for failing to meet four out of five promised transparency deadlines on time. The Iranians for their part on Wednesday doubled down on their ongoing refusal to allow an IAEA nuclear expert into the country.
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