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Iran nuke-site blasts confirmed, sabotage suspected

The European intelligence community and the U.S. government have received corroboration that explosions rocked Iran’s nuclear facility at Fordow, but are unclear if they were due to mechanical failure or sabotage, WND has learned.

The Jan. 21 explosions killed at least 76 people and injured scores more, said one source, who later told WND that many rescue and security personnel were sickened by radiation poisoning in the aftermath of the disaster.

Certain European countries in the 5-plus-1 talks with Iran over its illicit nuclear program had demanded inspection of Fordow before any agreement might arise from the negotiations held last month in Kazakhstan, a source within the European intelligence community said. The 5-plus-1 countries are the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

As part of those talks, Iran was offered the chance to “halt activity” out of Fordow and take steps to ensure that any restart of activity would take time, allowing for the eventual easing of sanctions as a face-saving exit for Iran, the source said. President Obama at a recent White House meeting with Jewish American leaders quoted a Chinese proverb in his dealings with Iran about building a “golden bridge” for the opponent to retreat.

The European countries in the 5-plus-1 were more aggressive in the talks than their American counterpart, the source said. Knowing that Fordow had taken a hit, they told the Iranian delegation that just agreeing to halt activities at Fordow wasn’t good enough, he said. The Europeans demanded an inspection of the site before finalizing any agreement that would ease some sanctions. The Iranians, for their part, used the gambit that Fordow was still operable to get a better response from the West, but they have yet to allow any inspection after the incident.

WND reported exclusively on Jan. 24 that explosions rocked Iran’s nuclear facility at Fordow on Jan. 21, with updates on Jan. 27, 29, 30, 31, and Feb. 3, 6, 13, 23 and 24. The blasts at first trapped 219 workers, including 16 North Koreans. One of the fatalities was a North Korean.

Iran denied the incident and within days the White House said it had no corroborating information and did not find the WND report credible. The International Atomic Energy Agency backed Iran’s denial based on what it called its “observation,” although after the release of its Feb. 21 report, it was clear its inspectors had not been at the site since December. WND’s source said that the IAEA had requested to see the site but was turned down by Iran. Then it asked for a written response but none was given, so it relied on Iran’s verbal response that no incident had taken place.

Fordow fuel enrichment plant - DigitalGlobe image on day of reported explosion, Jan. 21, 2013

A source with long-standing national security ties reported back to WND after attending a recent social event in the U.S. with people who are informed on international security matters. He claimed one of the attendees said reports from associates in Iran confirm something extraordinary happened at Fordow.

The source further said the denial of a Fordow catastrophe by authorities here and abroad focuses on saying there was no “explosion,” while not ruling out an industrial breakdown triggered by a Stuxnet-like cyberattack. The North Korean contingent in Iran may have delivered the trigger in software/hardware newly linked to Fordow’s closed system.

WND reported on Jan. 29 that 36 North Korean technicians and military officers arrived in Tehran Jan. 15 and 17, and 16 of them carried new equipment to Fordow to start an operation on cascades.

The source for that report, a high-ranking member of the security forces at Fordow who originally reported the explosions, told WND that many Iranian scientists working for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran know of the incident but do not dare talk. He said some of the scientists have privately speculated the new equipment delivered to Fordow was bugged and disrupted the operation of the centrifuges, ultimately creating an explosive chain reaction.

Gen. Morteza Ghorbani

The Islamic regime believes it was sabotage and many Iranians have been arrested, the source said, adding there has been minimal activity at the site since late February after the initial rescue mission.

The Ministry of Defense, which oversees Iran’s nuclear program, has assigned two top commanders, Gen. Morteza Ghorbani and Gen. Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi, to oversee all security for the country’s nuclear program. Both are major figures within the regime on intelligence and counterintelligence.

Iran has yet to refute the Feb. 24 WND story that released some of the names of the dead in the explosion, and its media is in a total news blackout about any activity at Fordow. The next 5-plus-1 talks will be held on the expert level in Turkey on March 17-18 before both sides reconvene in Kazakhstan on April 5-6.

Gen. Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week criticized the West for not offering enough concessions in recent talks. This is while, the source said, the regime is trying to complete its nuclear bomb program at several secret sites.