Wider War Opening in Middle East?

I have to wonder, with reports this morning of a missile being fired near Iran’s Russian-built nuclear plant:

“A powerful explosion was heard this morning on the outskirts of Dailam in the Bushehr province. Witnesses said the missile was fired from an unknown plane 20 km (12 miles) from the city,” Iran’s Arabic language Al-Alam said.

There was no immediate reaction from Iranian officials over the blast, Al-Alam said. The report was not carried in Persian media in Iran.

Iran’s Russian-built 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor, its only nuclear power plant, is due to start operating in Bushehr province in late 2005. Dailam is about 100 miles from the nuclear power plant.

U.S. stock futures fell sharply following the news.

No doubt. Whether it was the U.S. or Israel, I suspect Russia won’t be too happy with whoever is responsible.

A report from Dubai, however, quotes someone in the Iranian government as saying the blast could have been caused by an empty fuel tank falling from an Iranian Air Force jet.

Yeah, right.

Here’s DEBKAfile’s take:

Explosions over S. Iranian town of Deylam south of Bushehr may have been caused by Iranian warplanes firing missiles at unidentified aircraft intruding airspace over Persian Gulf site – military sources in Gulf. Oil prices shoot up by more than a dollar past $48 per barrel.

Israeli sources deny involvement in purported missile attack over Deylam where nuclear installation due to start operating this year. Iranian TV which interrupted broadcast to break news of explosion now suggests it was caused by falling fuel tank detached from plane

Incident follows announcement of Iranian-Syrian common front “to face threats.” Iranian VP Aref said in Tehran after talks with Syrian PM al-Otari: We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats.

Hmm. We just recalled our ambassador to Syria, and things are pretty tense there now after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Diplomacy blog New Sisyphus offers context:

This development is significant in two respects. First, it is a sign that worsening relations between Syria and the United States have left the “behind-the-scenes” stage and have moved squarely into the “active confrontation” stage. Second, it appears to us that USG believes that Syria was directly involved in the bombing, either as actor or facilitator.

The Great Ophthalmologist (Syrian president Hafez Assad)has been gambling for months that he can bleed the U.S. in Iraq at little cost. To date, that gamble has paid off. With the Bush Administration facing domestic and international opposition to the Iraq War, Syria’s government has apparently drawn the not entirely unreasonable conclusion that the U.S. either cannot or will not make Syria pay a cost for its more or less open support for terrorism in Iraq or for its occupation of Lebanon. (Note to the Left: there is an unjust, illegal “occupation” of land in the Middle East, and the name of that land is Lebanon).

We trust that the patience of President Bush is running to an end. No other act, except maybe for strikes on Iran, would signal our seriousness at changing the chess board in the Middle East than military strikes aimed at Syria’s command and control infrastructure. The illusion of Syrian invulnerability must be broken if Syria is ever to have incentive to change its ways.

The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from [being] a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
Isaiah 17:1

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