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Iran Gas Pipelines Explode in Act of Sabotage, Officials Say – WSJ

The blasts on Wednesday happened amid elevated Mideast tensions. Photo: Reza Kamali Dehkordi/Associated Press
Iranian officials call Wednesday’s blasts a terrorist attack but didn’t blame anyone for the incident. The blasts on Wednesday happened amid elevated Mideast tensions. Photo: Reza Kamali Dehkordi/Associated Press

Aresu Eqbali and Benoit Faucon, WSJ

EnergiesNet.com 02 15 2024

Iranian officials said two explosions struck natural-gas pipelines in the country early Wednesday, calling the blasts a terrorist attack, which comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.   

Sabotage caused the blasts, which ruptured gas pipelines in the provinces of Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari and Fars, disrupting supply in parts of the country, according to the Iranian oil ministry’s official Shana news service. The pipelines are part of the country’s gas supply grid, taking gas from Asaluyeh, a hub for Iran’s offshore South Pars gas field. 

No group has claimed responsibility for the explosions on Wednesday. Arab separatists in southwestern Iran have claimed attacks against oil pipelines in the past, but rarely in other areas. Accidents occur regularly in Iran’s industry, which is struggling from poor infrastructure and maintenance after decades of mismanagement and sanctions. 

The damage on Wednesday was limited and supply disruptions were contained by diverting gas from other provinces to the affected areas, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji said, according to state media. He said the supply was stable and the repair work would be completed soon.  

Officials said gas meant for industrial use was diverted to households, which forced factories in some areas to stop work on Wednesday. 

Owji, while speaking to state TV, compared the attack to a series of mysterious and unclaimed attacks on gas pipelines in 2011. Those attacks occurred around the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, which Iran marked on Sunday this year. 

The blasts took place with the Middle East on edge because of the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas—an Islamist militant group that has moved closer to Iran in recent years. Tensions are high between the U.S. and Israel on one side and other Iranian-backed militant groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen on the other.

Iran faces a range of potential security threats, including from militant opposition groups, Sunni extremists and separatist organizations at home. Armed opposition groups, some based in exile, have waged a long campaign against the Islamic Republic. A 2018 attack on an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military parade was initially claimed by Arab separatists who later denied responsibility. Islamic State extremists later claimed responsibility.

Last month, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for a pair of bombings that killed dozens of people, dispelling suspicions that Israel might have been behind the attack amid worries of a broadening regional conflagration. Islamic State, a hard-line Sunni group, considers Shiite Muslims, which make up a majority of Iran’s population, to be apostates.

Write to Benoit Faucon at benoit.faucon@wsj.com

Appeared in the February 15, 2024, print edition as ‘Sabotage Caused Iran Pipeline Blasts, Officials Say’.

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