Blast at Iranian ballistic missile plant ‘was caused by sabotage’, says security analyst

Blast at Iranian ballistic missile plant ‘was caused by sabotage’, says security analyst
This combo image from the European Commission's Sentinel-2 satellite shows a June 21, 2020 photo (top) of the Iran blast site and after the explosion on June 26, 2020. (European Commission via AP)
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Updated 28 June 2020

Blast at Iranian ballistic missile plant ‘was caused by sabotage’, says security analyst

Blast at Iranian ballistic missile plant ‘was caused by sabotage’, says security analyst
  • New satellite images show charred and blackened scrubland above underground site 20km east of Tehran
  • Iranian state TV said the blast had been caused by leaking gas in ‘a public area’

JEDDAH: A massive explosion at an Iranian missile plant that shook Tehran and sent a massive fireball shooting into the night sky was almost certainly caused by sabotage, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday.

The blast happened at the Khojir military explosive manufacturing and testing site in the Parchin defense industries area, in the Alborz mountains about 20 km east of the capital.

The plant, which has a hidden underground tunnel system, produces and tests artillery rockets and ballistic and cruise missiles. New satellite photos of the site showed hundreds of meters of charred and blackened scrubland.

“Although military and defense industry accidents do occur in Iran, the consensus appears to be a cyberstrike by Israel against Iran,” said Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC.

“The ongoing cyberwar between Iran and Israel is not new. Iranian cyberforces attacked Israeli infrastructure in April, specifically water and sewage treatment facilities. Israeli cyberforces retaliated the following month against Iranian facilities, military industries and ports. They attacked Shahid Rajaee Port in an attempt to shut it down.

“Although sabotage can occur from within the facility, that is doubtful. But from outside Iran, that is another story. The tactic of placing defective parts into a supply chain to create such an event cannot be ruled out either.

“To be sure, the timing of the explosion is important given continued Iranian mischief in the region.  As these tensions will probably grow in the coming months, the tit-for-tat nature of cyberwar is part of a troubled security landscape. The Khojir event is a continuation of the Stuxnex virus used 10 years ago to disrupt and deter Tehran’s military industry.”

Iranian state TV said the blast had been caused by leaking gas in “a public area,” but did not explain why the incident was handled by military officials rather than civilian firefighters. The explosion on Friday appeared to have struck a plant operated by the Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, which makes solid-propellant rockets, said Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said Khojir was the “site of numerous tunnels, some suspected of use for arms assembly.” Large industrial buildings at the site visible from satellite photographs also suggest missile assembly.

The US Defense Intelligence Agency says Iran overall has the largest underground facility program in the Middle East. Such sites “support most facets of Tehran’s ballistic missile capabilities, including the operational force and the missile development and production program,” the DIA said in 2019. 

Iran’s missile and space programs have suffered a series of explosions. The most notable was in 2011, when a blast at a missile base near Tehran killed Revolutionary Guard commander Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam and 16 others. Authorities officially said the blast was an accident, but conducted secret interrogations on suspicion that Israel was behind it.


Egypt’s 14-fold population rise in 135 years a ‘national problem’: Govt. minister

Updated 03 December 2020

Egypt’s 14-fold population rise in 135 years a ‘national problem’: Govt. minister

Egypt’s 14-fold population rise in 135 years a ‘national problem’: Govt. minister
  • The rise had impacted on each individual’s share of education, health, and available resources, affecting overall demographics: minister

CAIRO: Egypt’s 14-fold population increase between 1882 and 2017 had created a “national problem” that required urgent attention, a government minister has said.

Deputy Minister of Health and Population Tarek Tawfik revealed that over the 135-year period the number of people living in the country had shot up from 6.7 million to 94.8 million.

The rise had impacted on each individual’s share of education, health, and available resources, affecting overall demographics, he added.

“(The population increase) is a national problem that needs to be solved through the collaboration of efforts between all the ministries, governmental, and non-governmental institutions, and the civil society,” Tawfik said.

He pointed out that the Egyptian National Population Council was currently drafting public policy documentation in collaboration with The American University in Cairo (AUC) aimed at resolving some of the country’s population-related issues.

Plans in the pipeline included awareness campaigns on family sizes, food and water security, and sustainability.

The council’s former rapporteur, Dr. Amr Hassan, said that a family planning project due to be launched early next year, would help to cut the birth rate in Egypt by 1 million.

Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Leslie Reed, AUC President Francis Joseph Ricciardone, and Tawfik recently launched the Strengthening Egypt’s Family Planning Program (SEFPP) youth competition, part of a $31 million initiative previously signed with the USAID to improve population health results.

Al-Mashat said that improving general healthcare, reproductive health, and family planning services were key to achieving economic empowerment for men and women.

She pointed out that the SEFPP youth competition was aimed at paving the way for the implementation of new and effective solutions to the issues and involved the Egyptian government, educational institutions and universities, youth, and civil society organizations represented by the USAID.

The program was designed to tackle the over-population problem through innovative techniques, developing youth ideas on family planning schemes, and raising awareness throughout the country.