Things Should be Getting Pretty Tense in Tehran

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Here’s your typical Iranian missile factory, near the town of Bid Kaneh west of Tehran, humming along. Until November 12, that is.

This satellite photograph (both made available by the private Institute for Science and International Security) shows what the place looks like following a mysterious November 12 blast. “Most of the buildings on the compound appear extensively damaged,” says ISIS’s Paul Brennan. “Some buildings appear to have been completely destroyed.”

Iran described the blast – which reportedly killed Major General Hassan Moghaddam, the key leader of Iran’s ballistic missile program, and 16 others – as an accident.”The blast occurred as Iran had achieved a major milestone in the development of a new missile,” Brennan said. “Iran was apparently performing a volatile procedure involving a missile engine at the site when the blast occurred.”

Mighty suspicious. The purported accident comes following the deaths of at least three Iranian scientists working on Tehran’s nuclear or missile programs in the past two years, the suspicious introduction of malicious software known as Stuxnet that has hampered Iran’s nuclear development, and mounting pressure from the U.S. and other nations determined to halt what they believe is Tehran’s final sprint toward nuclear weapons.

Then, on Monday afternoon, residents in Isfahan province in central Iran reported hearing a loud explosion that may have come from a nuclear fuel-production plant. Local authorities dismissed any link between the blast and the power plant. “Maybe somebody’s water heater exploded,” Mohammad-Mehdi Ismaeli, an aide to Isfahan’s governor, told a local news agency.

Hot (heavy) water, indeed.