Is This The Start Of Something Big?

Unless the Iranians are insanely careless when moving ordnance around an “ammunition depot”, it’s unlikely that an explosion of this size was an accident, especially if reports are true that this was actually a highly secret missile base, a senior Guard commander was killed and/or that two consecutive explosions occurred in two IRGC bases.

Mystery surrounds deadly blast at Iran ammunition depot

Mystery surrounds yesterday’s explosion at a Revolutionary Guard ammunition depot that was so large it was felt and heard almost 30 miles away in Tehran.

. . .

The Fars News Agency, which is connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported on Sunday that the IRGC “strongly dismissed certain baseless reports” that the explosion was “related to nuclear tests or transport of missile warheads.”

“The blast happened during the transportation of [conventional] ammunition,” said the IRGC press chief General Ramazan Sharif. Some 15 soldiers had been “martyred,” he said, dialing down initial estimates of 40, though some of the wounded were in critical condition.

See also:
Blasts hit IRGC military base in W Tehran, 15 dead
‘IRGC military base blast kills 17’
Accidental explosion at Revolutionary Guard ammunition depot kills 17 west of Iran’s capital
Iran explosion at Revolutionary Guards military base
17 killed in Iran base blast
Iran exile group claims blast near Tehran hit closely guarded missile base
Iran exile group claims blast hits missile base
Iran exile group claims blast hits missile base
Iran Exile Group Claims Blast Hits Missile Base
Iran Guards: Officer killed in blast a ‘martyr’
Iran: Dead Guard commander was missile expert
Massive explosion in Iran kills 17
17 killed in massive explosions at munitions depot near Tehran
Iran: Top Revolutionary Guard commander among those killed in blast
US blog: Mossad behind Iran blast
Israelis wonder about deadly Iranian missile-site explosion

Was this Israeli orchestrated sabotage of an Iranian test, related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program or, perhaps, a U.S. B-2 strike, based on timely intelligence? Either possibility could be a plausible explanation for what occurred. One thing’s for damn sure, if it turns out that, indeed, two separate IRGC bases were hit near simultaneously, it wasn’t an accident.

/in any case, keep the Iranian “accidents” coming, they’re much easier to sell to the international community and much less disruptive to world markets than belligerent acts of war by foreign powers

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Great Prophet 5, Can We Play Too?

Iran war games begin with new ‘ultra fast’ speed boats

At the start of three days of war games in the Persian Gulf, Iran is trumpeting the launch of a new weapon: an “ultra-fast” watercraft.

Iranian television Wednesday showed dozens of speedboats with flags flying as they raced across shimmering waters toward mock target ships, firing rockets and heavy machine guns with a fusillade that caused explosions and columns of billowing black smoke.

State-run PressTV reported that “Iran is showing off its military might” and that the “world got its first glimpse” of the boat. The annual war games were launched months earlier than usual by Revolutionary Guard, as international pressure builds on Iran over its nuclear program.

. . .

Great Prophet: the fifth sequel

Called “Great Prophet V,” the exercise included more than 300 speedboats in combination with ground forces and air units. Iranian news footage showed commandos landing on one of the target ships amid the smoke.

“The most important message from the exercises in the face of American nuclear threats is that we will strongly resist them,” said Ali Shirazi, the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei to Revolutionary Guard naval forces, according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

Military spokesman Ali Reza Tangsiri said the new “Ya Mahdi” attack boat – named after the Shiite Muslim messiah who is expected to one day return and bring universal justice – was “less detectable by radar” because of its “high speed.”

“The Strait of Hormuz belongs to the region and foreigners must not intervene in it. We want to keep it safe and secure,” Mr. Tangsiri said according to the ISNA news agency, as translated by Agence France-Presse.

See also:
Iran Begins War Games In Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz
Iran: First Day of War Games a Success
Iran begins war games in Persian Gulf oil route
Decrying U.S., Iran Begins War Games
Iran Launches War Games, Lobbies Against Sanctions
Iran Unveils Stealth Warship In Persian Gulf War Game
Iran Claims Launch Of Speed Boat Capable Of Destroying Enemy Ships
IRAN: Revolutionary Guard to conduct war games amid heightened nuclear tensions
IRGC to Test Fire Different Missiles in Naval Wargames

Great Prophet 5 looks more like a water ski show than a military exercise, nothing helicopters and Mark 75 3″ guns can’t handle. “Less detectable by radar”? I’ll bet there’s quite a few U.S. Navy radar operators laughing their asses off right about now.

/color me unimpressed, we sank their navy once, we can sink it again

Well, Well, Look What We Found

EXCLUSIVE: Iran Nuclear Scientist Defects to U.S. In CIA ‘Intelligence Coup’

An award-winning Iranian nuclear scientist, who disappeared last year under mysterious circumstances, has defected to the CIA and been resettled in the United States, according to people briefed on the operation by intelligence officials.

Award-winning nuclear physicist helped CIA spy on Iran’s nuclear program.The officials were said to have termed the defection of the scientist, Shahram Amiri, “an intelligence coup” in the continuing CIA operation to spy on and undermine Iran’s nuclear program.

A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment. In its declassified annual report to Congress, the CIA said, “Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons.”

Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early 30s, went missing last June three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage, according to the Iranian government. He worked at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University, which is closely connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, according to the Associated Press.

“The significance of the coup will depend on how much the scientist knew in the compartmentalized Iranian nuclear program,” said former White House counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant. “Just taking one scientist out of the program will not really disrupt it.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, and other Iranian officials last year blamed the U.S. for “kidnapping” Amiri, but his whereabouts had remained a mystery until now.

See also:
Defection of Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri ‘a CIA coup’
Iranian scientist defects: US covert ops hurt Iran nuclear program
Report: Nuclear Scientist Quits Iran for US
The CIA organized the escape of an Iranian nuclear scientist
Espionage helps sow seeds of paranoia in Tehran
Report: Iranian nuclear scientist defects to US
A defect(ion) in Iran’s nuclear program
Shahram Amiri
All Your Iranian Nuclear Scientists Are Belong To US

Although this is surely a nice bit of U.S. espionage, it’s highly unlikely that the defection of this one Iranian scientist yielded enough information for us to fully pinpoint the extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In fact, it’s been so long without any meaningful punitive sanctions or military action, that Iran has had more than enough time to surreptitiously disperse their nuclear research facilities to the point where any attempted military action against them would almost certainly be an exercise in futility. Iran has also had enough uninterrupted time to perfect the nuclear fuel cycle and weaponization processes. In other words, at this point, it’s highly probable that Iran’s nuclear weapons program is now unstoppable and the Iranians will eventually field a deliverable nuclear device. We’re now totally screwed by our own decades of handwringing and inaction.

/I can only pray to God that we don’t give up on our missile defense technology too, it might be our last trump card left

So Much For Any Meaningful Sanctions, Now What?

Gee, maybe Obama shouldn’t keep pissing off Chana with his “smart diplomacy”.

At U.N., China insists it’s not ‘right’ time for sanctions on Iran

China’s envoy to the United Nations said Tuesday that his government is not ready to impose tough new sanctions on Iran for defying the world body’s demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program.

“This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions, because the diplomatic efforts are still going on,” Zhang Yesui said at a news briefing at the start of China’s rotating monthly presidency of the U.N. Security Council.

The Chinese remarks underscore the challenges the United States faces in rallying international backing for its effort to punish Iran for nuclear violations. The Obama administration has been preparing a package of targeted sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian institutions it deems responsible for acquiring nuclear and ballistic-missile technology.

“It’s no secret that China and the United States look at the utility of sanctions differently,” said P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the State Department.

He said that U.S. officials would keep pressing other countries to impose “additional sanctions” on Iran’s ruling elite, but he added, “We want to do this in a way that can target specific entities within the Iranian government but not punish the Iranian people, who are clearly looking for a different relationship with their government.”

U.S. and European diplomats have acknowledged that China and Russia are likely to approve only the mildest of new sanctions. One Security Council envoy said the United States and its Western allies are planning to unveil a second round of their own sanctions against Iranian officials, including some responsible for the violent post-election crackdown on opposition movements.

Council diplomats say that China, which is expanding its commercial ties with Iran, has hardened its resistance to sanctions in recent months. Last month, it declined to attend a meeting on the nuclear crisis with the council’s four other veto-wielding powers — the United States, Russia, Britain and France — as well as Germany, citing a scheduling conflict, one of the diplomats said.

See also:
China: Now is not the time for new Iran sanctions
China Not Ready to Support Iran Sanctions
No Iran sanctions now, China says
As zero hour nears, differences emerge on sanctions
Time not right for new Iran sanctions: Chinese envoy
China dismisses Iran sanctions talk for now at UN
China dismisses more UN sanctions talk during its Security Council presidency in January
China Calls for More Iran Negotiations
Clinton: U.S. Not Closing the Door on Talks With Iran

So, Obama looks like a complete ass again because he foolishly set a December 31st deadline, which has now come and gone, for Iran to comply with demands to end its nuclear program or else. Well, as expected, Iran has not only ignored Obama’s deadline, but Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly and publicly mocked Obama’s “smart diplomacy”.

And then today, China summarily pulls the rug out from under Obama by telling him he can forget about his or else of sanctions.

/now what?

Election Day, Axis Of Evil Style

In a few hours, Iranians will go to the polls to elect their next president. Who will it be?

Will Ahmadinejad Lose Iran’s Election?

In the free-for-all of this election, Iran’s Opposition supporters have been shouting slogans they’d normally only whisper, like “death to the government.”

They are emboldened by their man, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who looks like he could actually win, reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

A 67-year-old architect and painter, Mousavi has promised to liberalize the economy, negotiate with the West over Iran’s nuclear program and give young people – especially women – more freedom.

“If Mousavi wins the election, things would change in a better way for Iran,” said one girl at a rally.

Mousavi is going into this election knowing he can count on the youth vote. Most of the people who come to his rallies are under 30 – young people who want him to deliver on the freedoms they crave.

But the real star of this campaign is Mousavi’s unofficial running mate, his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who has shattered taboos by sharing the stage with him as an equal, calling to mind another high profile political wife.

“I was active in politics long before people discovered Michelle Obama, a woman I respect,” Rahnavard said through a translator.

Her wild popularity has got the competition rattled. During Iran’s first ever Presidential debates, Mousavi accused President Ahmadinejad of leading the country to dictatorship.

Ahmadinejad countered by attacking Mousavi’s wife, holding up her resume – he said she was an academic cheat, alleging she got a PhD without taking a university entrance exam.

Even if untrue – it went down well with Ahmadinejad’s supporters – who think the President can do no wrong. They love his non-negotiable stance on Iran’s nuclear program, and pork barrel spending that benefits the working class.

He’s a hero in rural towns like Pulur high in the mountains. In the local diner, it’s unanimous – everyone’s voting for Ahmadinjad for the local improvements he’s made.

But for every fan – there’s a critic, and Ahmadinejad and his backers are clearly shaken by the ferocity of opposition.

What looks like democracy to some, looks to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard like a potential uprising.

A notice appeared last night on the Guard’s website, warning that any sign of a popular revolution would be crushed.

Iran election race tightens

The day before polls open in Iran’s presidential election, the streets are suddenly quiet again as official campaigning comes to an end, and voters prepare for what is expected to be a record turnout.

Whereas President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a sure bet just 10 days ago, the race has closed this past week, in what is clearly turning into a referendum on his four years in office.

Rivers of green have flowed through the streets, those decked out in the colors of his main challenger, former Prime Minster Mir Hossein Moussavi.

The week started with tens of thousands of his supporters forming a human chain along 17 kilometers of the main Tehran artery Vali-Asr Street.

Called out by text message and email the numbers exceeded all expectations, their ranks swelled by thousands more who joined the chain spontaneously or just lined the route to watch.

“Ahmadi bye bye, Ahmadi bye bye,” they sang. Others held up posters that said ‘NO LIARS.’ It has become the opposition slogan.

They accuse the president of lying about the shape of the economy, overseeing higher prices, higher unemployment and higher inflation over the last four years.

One woman said she came out “because we want a change, because we want freedom.”

By the end of the week Moussavi’s supporters stretched as far as the eye could see from one end of Tehran to another, in scenes not witnessed here since the Islamic Revolution swept this country back in 1979.

Wednesday night a deputy leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard posted a warning on their Web site, vowing to “crush” any attempts at a “velvet revolution” in Iran.

President Ahmadinejad also drew large crowds, but even his most fervent supporters conceded, they didn’t come close to Moussavi’s. His staunchest supporters are among the traditional, the poor and the religious faithful.

See also:
Iran’s election system
SCENARIOS: How U.S.-Iran ties might develop after election
Former US diplomat hopeful for change after Iran election
Iran’s Election Brings Desire for Women’s Rights Into Focus
Iran’s Young Women Use Their Polling Power
Commentary: Iran’s nuclear work will go on

The election on Friday should be worth watching, considering that one-third of the electorate is under 30-years-old and was therefore not born at the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In any case, I’m not sure this election will make a whole lot of difference, since the real power in Iran is wielded by the ruling mullahs, led by Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran. It’s also doubtful this election will change anything regarding what Israel and the United States are most concerned about, Iran’s nuclear program.

IAEA: Ahmadinejad election rival launched Iran nuclear program

International Atomic Energy Agency documents revealed that Iran began a secret nuclear program during the tenure of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader running against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The documents, which Iran transferred to the IAEA several years ago, show that Tehran decided in 1987 to purchase the centrifuges it is using to enrich uranium.

Mousavi, who is seen as a moderate candidate in the West, served as Iran’s prime minister between 1981 and 1989, and while that position has since been eliminated from Iranian politics, it was an executive position that was similar in nature to the current presidential role.

One of the documents revealed that the then-head of Iran’s atomic energy organization requested Mousavi’s approval for purchasing the centrifuges on the black market. Iran subsequently acquired the centrifuges through the smuggling ring of Pakistani scientist Abd al-Qadir Khan.

Anyway, this election ought to be interesting and I hope Ahmadinejad loses, just so we don’t have to see or hear the malignant dwarf anymore.

/stay tuned and pray there’s no violence