Some are suggesting that there’s more to the initial reports claiming an accident at an ammunitions dump near Tehran:
An Iranian exile group claimed Saturday that a blast near Tehran hit a missile base run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, disputing the Iranian government’s account that it occurred at an ammunition depot.
Former Mujahedin-e Khalq spokesman Alireza Jafarzadeh, citing what he called reliable sources inside Iran, said that the explosion hit the Modarres Garrison of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps west of Tehran. The group, also known as the MEK, has in the past disclosed the sites of several key Iranian nuclear installations as well as details of their operations.
Jafarzadeh, now an author and commentator critical of Tehran’s clerical regime, said the Modarres Garrison belongs to the IGRC’s missile unit and the blasts “resulted from the explosion of IRGC missiles.” He did not say what triggered the explosion.
The blast comes just days after a new report by the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency that Iran is conducting nuclear weapons-related research and follows unconfirmed reports that Israel was considering a military strike on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Iranian officials said the blast was accidental and happened when soldiers were moving ammunition at a depot west of Tehran. Officials said 17 soldiers were killed.
On a related note, Republicans in last night’s debate were speaking less than softly about Iran:
Republican candidates said the U.S. must stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, through tougher sanctions, aid to opposition parties, covert action against the country’s nuclear scientists, and a military attack as a last resort.
Businessman Herman Cain called for assisting the opposition movement to bring down the regime. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia advocated “taking out” Iran’s nuclear scientists. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said he’d order a military strike if nothing else worked.
As president, Cain said he would “assist the opposition movement in Iran that is trying to overthrow the regime” — short of providing weapons.
Cain and the other Republican hopefuls debated at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, yesterday, hosted by CBS News and the National Journal. It was their first debate focused on U.S. national security and it came less than a week after a United Nations watchdog agency said Iran was seeking to develop nuclear warheads for its missiles.
Romney said that not preventing Iran from making progress toward nuclear weapons is President Barack Obama’s “greatest failing.” He said he too would work covertly to “encourage” Iranian dissidents. Romney said it would be “unacceptable” for Iran to have nuclear weapons.
Cain said he also would put pressure on Iran by developing a U.S. “energy independence strategy.”
“By having our own energy independence strategy, we would impact the price of oil on the world market, because Iran uses oil not only as a — a means — a currency, but they use it as a weapon,” he said.
Searching for help, President Barack Obama lobbied the skeptical leaders of Russia and China on Saturday for support in keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed menace to the world, hoping to yield a “common response” to a crisis that is testing international unity.
Yet Obama’s talk of solidarity with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao was not publicly echoed by either man as Iran moved anew to the fore of the international stage — and to the front of the fierce U.S. presidential race.
Not publicly echoed… more like privately laughed at.
No confirmation as of this writing that Obama was meeting with unicorns and leprechauns later in the week as he continues his quest for a “common response”.