A large explosion set fire to an oil refinery unit in Abadan, Iran's biggest oil city, during a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday, May 24. He came to inaugurate a unit for expanding production capacity by 4.2 million liters a day. Two people were killed and 12 injured. The blast was attributed by officials to a gas leak or "a technical fault" in one of the units, without specifying whether it was the same unit Ahmadinejad was scheduled to visit. However, according to debkafile's Iranian sources, the explosion was triggered by his pushing the button to activate it that same unit, which must have been tested and run in before the inauguration ceremony to avoid any technical hitches.
A news conference was quickly staged live on state TV showing him answering questions about the Abadan refinery -apparently to put a stop to spreading rumors that he had been assassinated. He did not refer to the explosion.
The last known attack on Ahmadinejad's life was on Aug. 24, 2010 when a grenade was lobbed at his motorcade in the western town of Hamadan. Officials then said it was only a firecracker.
Our Iranian sources point to three possible parties who might have rigged the attack:
1. Abadan on the Shatt al Arb is near the Iraqi border and the route popular with Arab agents from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf moving in and out of the Iranian oil-rich rich of Khuzestan, which is the hotbed of disaffected Arab Iranians and their liberation movements.
2. Infighting at the top of the Revolutionary Guards Corps or elite regime circles, where Ahmadinejad's prestige has slipped badly over his dispute with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the division of authority.
The ayatollah's clique says the president violated the Islamic Republic's first commandment – some said even the precepts of the faith – by disobeying the Supreme Ruler. Ahmadinejad flouted his order reinstate the intelligence minister he sacked – only to be overruled by Khamenei.
The Supreme Leader's suspects that Ahmadinejad is secretly plotting to topple him. The two camps are now squaring up for a fight with the president seeking to drum up popularity by claiming he is targeted for assassination. Maybe he is.
3. A foreign clandestine agency may be responsible, possibly the same unnamed hand which for two years has bedeviled Iran's nuclear program by liquidating its leading scientists and planting the Stuxnet virus in its computer control systems.