The New York Times reports: The large, deadly explosion at an Iran military base in Iran on Nov. 12, which Iranian authorities have called an accident that set back research work there by a few days, appears to have been far more devastating than their description suggested, according to an analysis of newly released commercial satellite images of the blast site.
The images reveal vast destruction and chaotic disarray across a sprawling complex composed of more than a dozen buildings and large structures.
The Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington, made the satellite images public Monday, along with an analysis of the damage. “It was pretty amazing to see that the entire facility was destroyed,” Paul Brannan, the report’s author, said Tuesday in an interview. “There were only a few buildings left standing.”
It was impossible to determine from the images whether the explosion had been a simple accident or an act of sabotage.
The force of the explosion was so great that it shook windows in many surrounding towns, according to Iranian news sites and witnesses quoted at the time. But no photographs of the blast damage were released by the Iranian government, which has become increasingly sensitive about its military capabilities as tensions escalate with the West over its missile and nuclear programs.
The base, set in an isolated patch of Iranian desert ringed by a security cordon, is about 30 miles west of Tehran and three miles west of the town of Bidganeh.
The explosion is already known to have killed 17 members of the armed forces, including a founder of the country’s missile program, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, presided over a vast state funeral for General Moghaddam and 16 other members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps two days after the explosion. The showy memorial service underscored General Moghaddam’s importance.
Hassan Firouzabadi, the Iranian military chief of staff, said on Nov. 16 that the blast occurred while researchers were working on weapons capable of delivering Israel a “strong punch in the mouth.” He also said their research would result in only a “short-term delay of a few days.” But it was hard to reconcile his appraisal with the obliteration seen in the satellite image.