As Jonathan noted, the recent explosions in Iran — one at a missile base on November 12th, the other yesterday near Istafan — hold out hope that the nuclear program can be delayed through sabotage. But it’s unclear whether the explosions are actually the result of internal or foreign sabotage, as opposed to accident or incompetence as the regime rushes forward with its various weapons programs; and more importantly, it’s unclear whether the regime itself knows their cause. But the cause might not really matter. Even if one or more of the incidents was an accident, the perception that the country’s most sensitive installations are vulnerable to sabotage could impel the regime to respond.
Consider the fact that the Isfahan explosion happened yesterday evening and within hours a rocket barrage was fired from Lebanon into Israel, and that as we speak the British embassy in Tehran is besieged by a student chapter of the Basij, a thuggish regime militia. It’s hard to believe that these measures are not a form of retaliation, a reminder that the regime will not sit idly as its prized missile and nuclear sites are attacked. The message seems to be clear: Tehran blames outside powers for the explosions.
One of the foremost dangers now is that the Iranian government, by virtue of its unique combination of paranoia, conspiracy-mindedness, and technological malfeasance, could retaliate against the West in response to an instance of its own ineptitude. It simply may not matter who or what is making things explode — we could end up in a scenario where the Iranians provoke a confrontation with the U.S., Israel, or Britain in retaliation for what is in fact their own inability to conduct their rocket and nuclear programs without making mistakes, or their own inability to secure sensitive facilities against internal opposition.