Podcast: Amos Yadlin on the Mysterious Explosions Sowing Chaos in Iran

The Israeli general and security expert joins us to talk about what’s going on, who might be responsible, and how Iran might retaliate.

A picture taken on July 7, 2020, shows the aftermath of an explosion at an oxygen factory in the town of Baqershahr, south of Tehran. MEHDI KHANLARI/FARS NEWS/AFP via Getty Images.

A picture taken on July 7, 2020, shows the aftermath of an explosion at an oxygen factory in the town of Baqershahr, south of Tehran. MEHDI KHANLARI/FARS NEWS/AFP via Getty Images.

July 16 2020
About the authors

A weekly podcast, produced in partnership with the Tikvah Fund, offering up the best thinking on Jewish thought and culture.

Amos Yadlin served as Israel’s chief of defense intelligence and then, from 2011-2021, as executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv.

This Week’s Guest: Amos Yadlin


On June 25, 2020, an explosion rocked the Iranian military complex of Parchin. An hour later, the city of Shiraz—which houses major Iranian military facilities—was hit with a power outage. On June 30, there was an explosion at a clinic in Tehran; on July 2, the nuclear-enrichment facility in Natanz was hit; July 4 saw an explosion at a power plant in Ahvaz. In fact, every day or two since late June has brought news of a mysterious explosion somewhere in Iran.

What on earth is going on?

To understand these mysterious events, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver talks in this podcast with Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, Israel’s former chief of military intelligence and the executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Together, they examine the geopolitical backdrop of the current chaos, the strategic thinking of whoever is behind these bombings, and what this all could mean for the future of the region.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.



Excerpt (15:25-18:11)


The important factor today is [America’s] election. The Iranians are waiting for a change, hoping for a change. And I think they will do everything not to initiate a conflict, an exchange of fire, before the election. They hope very much to have another president, and they hope that a Democratic president will go back to the JCPOA, or it will be easier to negotiate a second deal―JCPOA 2.0. So this is restraining their reaction. 

If they decide to react, first of all they have to understand and to have some forensic proof of who did it―the Saudis, the Americans, the Israelis―and then they have to decide how serious the reaction will be because they want first to retaliate, and second to deter for next time. They do have a couple of possibilities, some alternatives. The first one can be breaching even more in the nuclear area―“we are not reacting against you, but we are moving our nuclear program even faster to the threshold.” If they want to react, they have to be very careful. Nobody was killed here. If they kill Americans, Saudis, Israelis, they are escalating. So the reaction has to be very measured and very precise.

They do have missiles, they do have UAVs, they can do something with their navy in the Persian Gulf. They can―and this is very much their modus operandi―use their proxies. The Iranians are very careful not to do a direct attack. They have Houthis in Yemen, they have Hizballah in Lebanon, they have Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and they know how to do terror all over the world. They are experts in that. They have done it in Argentina in the 90s, they have done it in Europe, so the manual is there. It’s not the issue of possibilities or capabilities; it’s the issue of whether, strategically, it’s good for Iran to escalate now, when Trump is still the president of the United States. They have learned their lesson from the Soleimani case. They underestimated him. He surprised them, and I think they hate surprises, so they will be very careful.




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More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, Politics & Current Affairs