Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 7 August 2020

Iran says it has built underground missile cities along Gulf coastline

The Revolutionary Guard's naval wing talks about a 'nightmare for Iran's enemies'

President Hassan Rouhani, left, talks with his Minister of Health and Medical Education Saeed Namaki during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, on Saturday, July 4, 2020. AP
President Hassan Rouhani, left, talks with his Minister of Health and Medical Education Saeed Namaki during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, on Saturday, July 4, 2020. AP

Tehran has built "missile cities" along the Gulf coastline, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps navy said, describing them as "a nightmare for Iran's enemies".

Iran previously said that such sites exist in all its provinces, but had unveiled only three bases, none of them built along the coast.

“Iran has established underground onshore and offshore missile cities all along the coasts of the ... Gulf and the Gulf of Oman,” Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri told the Sobh-e Sadeq weekly.

It comes after an official said that a fire at the underground Natanz nuclear site had caused significant damage that could slow down the development of advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

Iran’s top security body said on Friday that the cause of the fire that broke out on Thursday had been determined, but would only be announced later.

Security officials called it an accident.

"There were no victims ... but the damage is significant on a financial level," Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said.

"In the medium term, this accident could slow down the development and production" of advanced centrifuges.

Natanz is one of Iran's main uranium enrichment plants.

"God willing, and with constant effort ... we will compensate for this slowdown so that the rebuilt site will have even more capacity than before," Mr Kamalvandi said.

The organisation had earlier released a photo purportedly from the site, showing a single-storey building with a damaged roof, the walls apparently blackened by fire and with doors hanging off their hinges as if blown out from the inside.

Some Iranian officials said it may have been the result of cyber sabotage, and one issued a warning that Tehran would retaliate against any country carrying out such attacks.

On Thursday, an article by Irna addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the US, although it stopped short of accusing either directly. Israel’s defence minister said on Sunday that it was not necessarily behind every mysterious incident in Iran.

Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions in a deal it reached with six world powers in 2015.

But it has gradually reduced its commitments to the accord since US President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed and intensified sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy.

Meanwhile, Israel yesterday launched a new spy satellite that it said would provide high-quality surveillance for its military intelligence.

It has been building up its surveillance capabilities to monitor enemies such as Iran, whose nuclear programme it sees as a major threat.

The satellite, called Ofek 16, was launched early yesterday morning from a site in central Israel on a locally developed Shavit rocket, which was used to launch previous Ofek satellites.

“We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel’s capabilities on every front, in every place,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz said.

The defence ministry called Ofek 16 “an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities”.

The first images from it will be received in about a week.

State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries was the main contractor for the project and the satellite’s payload was developed by defence company Elbit Systems.

Israel has not officially commented on the fire in Natanz, in line with its standard policy of neither confirming nor denying secretive overseas operations.

But in a speech, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said that it was Israel’s long-term strategy to prevent Iran from having the ability to build a nuclear weapon.

Without mentioning Natanz, Mr Ashkenazi said that Israel takes “actions that are better left unsaid.”

Mr Gantz, like Mr Ashkenazi a former military chief of staff, called yesterday’s satellite launch an “extraordinary achievement”.

“Technological superiority and intelligence capabilities are essential to the security of the state of Israel,” he said.

Israel, as a rule, does not confirm the number of its operational satellites.

Updated: July 6, 2020 06:32 PM

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