Whatever Their Cause, the Recent Explosions at Iranian Military Bases Are a Setback for the Ayatollahs’ Race for Nuclear Weapons

On Thursday, there was a fire—apparently caused by an explosion—at the uranium-enrichment facility in the Iranian city of Natanz. The incident followed closely on the heels of an explosion at the Parchin military facility, also connected to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, and another at a building in Tehran that left nineteen dead. While Israel has not commented on any of these incidents, there are reports that it was behind at least one. A few weeks earlier, Tehran set off an exchange of cyberattacks between the two countries. Yoav Limor analyzes the situation:

Assuming the blast [in Natanz] was indeed intentional, it would be a tremendous success for the attacker: in terms of the intelligence compiled on the classified facility, knowledge of the activities taking place there, and ability to infiltrate the premises undetected to place a bomb precisely where it would cause maximal damage to the sensitive equipment. The bewildered and hesitant responses from the Iranian authorities not only indicate their astonishment that their secret installation was exposed and damaged, but also their lack of certainty regarding the attacker’s identity and how exactly he was able to succeed.

Even before all the details surrounding the alleged sabotage have emerged, it appears safe to conclude that this was the worst setback to Iran’s nuclear program since its centrifuges were incapacitated in 2010 at the same site at Natanz [by a joint American-Israeli cyberattack]. It also reveals to the world—yet again—the scope of Iran’s investment in its nuclear program as its economy buckles under U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, and its policies on these fronts are being met with increasing internal criticism.

Naturally, Tehran pointed its finger at Israel as responsible for the attack, [and] could seek revenge. The quickest way for Iran to harm Israel, if it is in fact behind the attack, is through its proxies in Syria. Although these militias have been degraded recently through a string of airstrikes attributed to Israel, . . . it remains likely that similar weapons are still in Syria or can be shipped there in relatively short order.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Iranian nuclear program, Israeli Security

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy