On January 24, the Washington-based World-Net-Daily news site ran a report captioned “Sabotage? Key Iranian nuclear facility hit!” It was written by Reza Kahili, who claims to have served the CIA Directorate of Operations as an undercover spy in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The report said an explosion deep within Iran’s underground Fordo enrichment facility had destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel 90 meters underground on Jan. 21. He pointed out that it occurred the day before the Israeli election.
Fordo is important because of the 2,700 high-grade centrifuges enriching uranium to the 20-percent level installed deep underground.
The report may have been conjured up from a true story which debkafile’s Iranian sources released last July that unknown saboteurs had temporarily disabled the Fordo facility by blowing up the high-tension wires providing it with electricity. Some publications sought to present that incident as a rehearsal for the big assault on Jan. 21.
The sensational non-explosion at Fordo
Although unconfirmed, it spread like wildfire across Western and Middle East media far and wide. Tagged on was the comment that the Israeli Mossad or the CIA must have managed to pull off a covert operation to sabotage the vital core of Iran nuclear weapons program. Since it would take Iran two or three years to rebuild the destroyed plant and another year to resume enrichment work up to the 20-percent grade, its nuclear weapons program had been set back four years. Therefore, the US and Israel could drop any plans for a military attack to preempt Iran’s nuclear bomb drive.
This even brought forth a sigh of relief that the troubling Iranian nuclear issue was finally put to rest.
The British Sunday Times, known for its sources in British intelligence, and the prominent German newspapers Die Welt and Der Spiegel, both of which nourish ties with German intelligence, expanded on the original report with extra details.
They made such a big impression that White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked about the Fordo “explosion”,” was careful not to deny it outright but only to say “we” have no such information.
Not until Monday, Jan. 28, did he admit: “We have no information to confirm the allegations in the report and we do not believe the report is credible. We don’t believe those are credible reports.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and intelligence sources checked the report when it first appeared and soon discovered that no explosion had occurred at Fordo on the 21st of the month.
Had 240 nuclear scientists and technicians really been trapped deep underground, the two roads leading to the facility’s entrance and exit would have been crowded with rescue and ambulance teams, field hospitals, and heavy earth-moving equipment for reaching the trapped men.
The story never stood up to scrutiny
However, nothing of the kind was registered on satellite photos of that day from the vicinity of Fordo. Traffic flowed freely and normally to and from the site with no sign of anything resembling disaster response teams, although some sources claimed new Iranian security roadblocks had sprung up on the routes to the enrichment facility.
Finally, after Tehran belatedly denied any explosion at Fordo on Jan. 28 as “Western propaganda,” Gill Tudor, the UN nuclear agency’s spokesman in Vienna, confirmed that Tehran’s denial was “consistent” with IAEA observations.
Film that agency inspectors collected every two weeks from cameras monitoring activity in the facility’s three underground centrifuge chambers confirmed that nothing out of the ordinary had happened there.
The big question is how was it possible for well-informed Western politicians and intelligence officers to be led up the garden path by a sensational report of dubious credibility which was never verified?