A large explosion rocked Iran’s capital for the third time in three weeks, according to a New York Times report.
Though the exact site of the Thursday night explosion remains unspecified, analysts have reason to suspect "sabotage," the Times reported, due to its proximity to military and training institutions. Iranian officials issued conflicting statements on the explosion, which caused power outages in the surrounding area. The mayor of a nearby town asserted the explosion originated "at a factory making gas cylinders," while a member of the Iranian parliament said the power outage derived from problems at a local power station.
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The incident is the latest in a series of explosions occurring near Iranian military sites between midnight and 3 a.m. since June. The first two transpired near Iran’s largest missile production facility and near the centrifuge of a nuclear base. Though the exact cause is unclear, intelligence analysts speculate that other countries looking to curb Iranian ambitions may be conducting sabotage while Tehran deals with internal crises, including the coronavirus pandemic.
"That all of this is a mere coincidence is unlikely, and the events indicate that somebody, somewhere—and it is anyone’s guess who that is and where—has not forgotten Iran, even amid the world’s preoccupation with corona, America’s turbulent domestic situation, and Israel’s debate (much less intense over the last week) over annexation," a recent Jerusalem Post editorial said.
Iran has struggled to remain stable in recent months as American and Israeli policy, as well as the pandemic, ravage key military and financial institutions. The Trump administration doubled down this week on an Iranian arms embargo after U.S. forces apprehended a vessel carrying an Iranian arsenal to Houthi rebels. In January, a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian military strategist and commander of the elite Quds force Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Soleimani was the architect of Iranian "fifth column" terror networks and helped develop strategies to attack U.S. soldiers and diplomats.
Domestically, Iran’s economy struggles to recover from mismanagement of the coronavirus. A recent Foundation for Defense of Democracies report highlighting Iran’s failed containment of COVID and the American "maximum pressure" sanctions campaign noted that "the economic crises triggered by the pandemic and amplified by government mismanagement and corruption have exacerbated discontent and fissures."