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Opinion | The Guard Base Explosion and the Question of Culpability

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

16 Nov 2011 20:47Comments
13900823131136578_PhotoL.jpgPreoccupation with internal repression weakens Iran's national security.

[ opinion ] As reported here, there was a huge explosion on Saturday at a military base about 30 miles west of Tehran. Official reports stated that the facility, controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was a conventional munitions depot. According to other reports, however, missiles were stored there, a conclusion supported by the white smoke that could be seen after the explosion, indicative of phosphorous-based materials that are used in rockets' solid fuel.

Officially, the Revolutionary Guards insist that the explosion resulted from an accident during the transfer of munitions, and not sabotage. An article published by Tabnak, the website close to Major General (ret.) Mohsen Rezaei, the former top Guard commander, claims that any allegations about the blast not being accidental emanate from the "Zionist regime [Israel]." But there is increasing evidence that Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, in collaboration with its Iranian agents, may have been behind the explosion. As noted here, shortly after the blast, a reliable Israeli source told Richard Silverstein, who writes an influential blog about Israel and its relations with the outside world, that Mossad, and quite possibly the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MKO, also referred to as the MEK in the Western press), were responsible. Since his original report, Silverstein has posted further discussions of the evidence in support of these allegations; see here for his latest.

A Western intelligence source told Time, "Don't believe the Iranians that it was an accident," adding that other sabotage is being planned to impede Iran's ability to develop and deliver a nuclear weapon. "There are more bullets in the magazine," the official says. The Guardian quoted a source "with close connections to the Islamic Republic" who blamed the explosion on Mossad.

Perhaps most important are the statements that have been made by several top Revolutionary Guard commanders. The explosion killed Major General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, who is considered a key architect of the Iranian missile program that was founded in 1983, in particular surface-to-surface missiles, in which Iran is now self-sufficient. The Guard commanders have paid tribute to General Moghaddam, while referring to the culpability of Iran's enemies and, implicitly, Israel.

Brigadier General Abbas Khani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' air defense system, told IRNA, the state news agency, that Iran "owes its missile capability and deterrence to Moghadam." He added, "As the result of the efforts of martyr Moghadam, our missile capability reached such a level that we were able to hit the heart of Baghdad [during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s]," and that Iran's "enemy" always wanted to identify and eliminate Moghadam.

In his eulogy, published by Farda News, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a brigadier general and former commander of the Revolutionary Guard air force, wrote, "Martyrdom was Hassan's right, but news of it was shocking. Martyr Moghaddam was unknown even in the Sepah [the Guards], but our enemies knew Hassan better than us." An anonymous conservative blogger wrote, "It happened, that which should not have happened. General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, they were looking everywhere for you to make you a martyr, and they finally did it."

Brigadier General Hossein Alaei, one of the most important Guard commanders during the war with Iraq and the first top commander of the Guards' navy when it was formed in 1985, wrote in a eulogy published on the website Tabnak, "Hassan spent his entire life in Sepah. He was always preparing himself to confront the threats by the United States, and was sure that he has endowed the Sepah missile force with the necessary power to react in a timely manner, and has helped the country reach self-sufficiency.... Following the recent threats [by Israel to attack Iran], he was naturally preparing himself when he was killed and finally joined his martyred comrades."

Major General Saeed Haj-Ghasemi, a former commander of the Guards' ground forces, told the conservative website Raja News that Moghaddam "was always threatened by counterrevolutionaries, the hypocrites [the MKO], and foreign intelligence agencies." He added, "It would have been a pity had he passed away due to natural causes.... He deserved martyrdom." Another former commander of the Guards' ground forces, Major General Mostafa Izadi, wrote in the hardline newspaper Kayhan that Moghaddam was the founder of the Guards' artillery and missile forces that "have shaken the back of the Zionist regime." Brigadier General Mohammad Hedjazi, deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, said, "The enemies were always afraid of the name Major General Moghaddam. The Sepah generals are not afraid of martyrdom; their greatest dream is to become a martyr."

Moghaddam is the second key person in Iran's missile program to have been killed. In July 2001, Colonel Ali Mahmoudi Mimand, referred to at the time as the father of Iran's missile program, was found dead in his office with a bullet in his head.

The explosion this weekend and the recent assassination of several key nuclear scientists are directly linked with the struggle for democracy in Iran. While the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence unit are preoccupied not with protecting the nation against foreign attacks -- which should be their main task -- but with the arrest, imprisonment, and torture of human rights, women, and labor activists, journalists, university students, and political figures, a foreign intelligence service such as Mossad and its Iranian collaborators find ample opportunity to kill whomever they perceive as a threat.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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