A fire at Iran’s main nuclear fuel enrichment site caused significant damage, setting back the country’s nuclear program by months, the government acknowledged on Sunday, after initially saying the destruction was minor.
A Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode said Israel was responsible for the attack on the Natanz nuclear complex on Thursday, using a powerful bomb. A member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was briefed on the matter also said an explosive was used.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing sensitive intelligence and operational topics.
Suspicion in Iran has focused on Israel and the United States, which have sabotaged the nuclear program in the past and have vowed to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In the past, Israel and the United States have used cyberattacks to damage Iran’s nuclear program, but that has been ruled out as a cause in this case, the Revolutionary Guards member said.
Though there was no way to verify its involvement independently, Israel’s intelligence network has shown its ability to strike in the heart of Iran, breaking into a warehouse in Tehran in 2018 and stealing half a ton of secret records documenting Iran’s nuclear project and spiriting them out of the country. Many of these records were given by Mossad, the Israeli spy agency, to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with many new clues of where Iran might be hiding forbidden equipment and raw material.
If the damage at Natanz was an attack by a foreign power, it reinforces Iran’s vulnerability as its economy is strangled by sanctions imposed by a hostile Trump administration and its population is ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. [Continue reading…]