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With Natanz sabotage, will Iran’s powerful Guards finally face scrutiny?

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The recent sabotage at Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facility is just the latest setback for the country’s Revolutionary Guard, though the paramilitary force is rarely publicly criticized due to its power.

But with some of its leaders now considering vying for the presidency, the Guard’s influence and failures could become fair game.

In just over the last year, the Guard shot down a Ukrainian commercial airliner, killing 176 people. Its forces failed to stop both an earlier attack at Iran’s Natanz facility and the assassination of a top scientist who started a military nuclear program decades earlier. Meanwhile, its floating base in the Red Sea off Yemen suffered an explosion.

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Then on Sunday, the nuclear facility, of which the Guard is the chief protector, experienced a blackout that damaged some of its centrifuges. Israel is widely believed to have carried out the sabotage that caused the outage, though it has not claimed it. This satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility on April 7, 2021 (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

No one in Iran has directly called out the Guard for these failures — and that isn’t surprising. The force created after its 1979 Islamic Revolution has an extensive intelligence apparatus rivaling those of Iran’s civilian government — and it is brutal in its clampdown on dissent. Former detainees at Tehran’s Evin prison describe the Guard as running an entire ward of the facility housing politically sensitive prisoners. Local journalists can face arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment for their work.

Around the edges, however, criticism is beginning to leak out.


© The Times of Israel

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