Quoting American and Israeli intelligence officials, as well as technology experts, the report said that satellite images of the site post-explosion show that the base – which served as Iran's central testing facility for advanced solid-fuel missiles – was nearly completely leveled by the blast.
- US blog: Mossad behind Iran blast
Blast at Isfahan damaged nuclear facility
Op-Ed: A message from Iran
The exact circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, but US intelligence experts believe it was probably accidental, perhaps because of Iran’s inexperience with a volatile materials and dangerous technology.
The Islamic Republic itself declared the blast an accident, as well.
Isfahan nuclear facility (Archives: EPA)
According to the NYT, while some Iranian officials have hedged sabotage may be involved, it is unclear whether their assumptions are based on evidence or guesses.
Iran's nuclear program has been hit by a highly sophisticated computer worm in the past, which nearly crippled its main uranium production facility.
In recent years, several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated on Tehran’s streets, under mysterious circumstances, as well.
The cause, according to the report, is of little interest to both American and Israeli officials: "Anything that buys us time and delays the day when the Iranians might be able to mount a nuclear weapon on an accurate missile is a small victory," one Western intelligence official told the newspaper.
"At this point, we'll take whatever we can get, however it happens," he added.
As the West's concerns about the nature and magnitude of the Iranian nuclear program grow, especially in light of the recent IAEA report which suggested Tehran is already experimenting with nuclear warheads, intense surveillance efforts have been turned on suspected Iranian weapons sites.
The West currently knows about the following nuclear program facilities in Iran:
- Natanz – a uranium enrichment facility
- Qom – a uranium enrichment facility
- Isfahan – a uranium conversion Facility
- Arak – a heavy water production plant
- Bushehr – a civilian nuclear power plant
- Tehran – an experimental nuclear reactor
- Parchin – a military base for nuclear research and development
- Various uranium mines in central and southern Iran
Iran frequently accuses the United States and Israel of trying to sabotage its nuclear and weapons development programs. On Sunday Tehran claimed to have shot down an advanced American RQ-170 drone in eastern Iran.
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