Iran Rattled By Attack On Nuclear Site, As Reactions Continue
The Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Tasnim News Agency in an editorial on Monday urged President Hassan Rouhani to halt Vienna talks with world powers. Tasnim alleged the United States had cooperated with Israel in Sunday’s purported Israeli attack on Iran's Natanz enrichment facility.
In an editorial headlined "Repetitive Policy of Terrorism in Iran and Talks in Vienna: Leave Talks Under Shadow of Terrorism Mr. Rouhani!," Tasnim suggested the likely attack had required US-Israeli coordination.
"The double-pillar policy of sabotage operations in the field and call for talks is one of the relatively old policies of the Americans and Zionists on the Iranian nuclear issue," Tasnim wrote. The agency suggested that for the Iranian government to allow such “terrorist acts” to be “costless” would strengthen an Israeli-US desire to “get points at the negotiation table.”
The incident comes amid talks in Vienna between Iran and world powers focused reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Israel and some Gulf Arab states reject the expressed wish of the Biden administration to resuscitate the deal, which former President Donald Trump abandoned, and lift the draconian sanctions Trump imposed on Iran.
While the Jerusalem Post claimed on Monday that the attack had been long planned, its timing resonates with recent suggestions from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel would “take matters into its own hands” and would not respect a renewed JCPOA. As evidenced by the Tasnim article, it also strengthens the arguments of opponents of the JCPOA in Tehran.
Meeting with the parliament's National Security Committee Monday morning to report on the Vienna talks, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif moved to pour oil on troubled waters. Flatly contradicting the arguments used by Tasnim, Zarif claimed the incident strengthened Iran's position in the Vienna talks, which will resume on Wednesday.
Iranian authorities have confirmed damage to the power distribution system of the Natanz facility. Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Monday confirmed damage to IR-1 centrifuges.
The New York Times on Sunday reported(link is external) that two US intelligence officials briefed on the damage had said that there had been a large explosion at Natanz that destroyed the internal power system supplying the underground centrifuges. This appears to be corroborated by a tweet on Sunday from Mohsen Rezaei (Rezaee) expressing concern over security at the plant.
"Isn't the occurrence of fire at Natanz nuclear facilities, only less than a year after the previous explosion, a sign of the seriousness of infiltration?" wrote Rezaei, who is Secretary of the Expediency Council, a body that arbitrates disputes between different government bodies.
Other Iranian officials and media share this unease. "This incident …during Iran's efforts to force western powers to lift sanctions can highly raise suspicions of sabotage and infiltration," parliament's Energy Committee Spokesman Malek Shariati tweeted shortly after Rezaei the incident was officially announced.
Only hours after the incident the Jerusalem Post reported Mossad involvement in what they claimed was a cyberattack. Netanyahu appeared to refer to the Natanz incident(link is external) on the same day when he said "the fight against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament" was a "giant mission" for the Israeli security forces.
Netanyahu’s reference looked like confirmation that Israel was behind a purported cyberattack just after the launching of advanced centrifuges that would speed up Iran's enrichment rate. Israel's Public Broadcasting Corporation's Kan radio also took what it called an "unusual step" of claiming that the Mossad had played a central role.
A series of explosions and fires occurred at Iran's nuclear sites, including Natanz, and nuclear sites, including Parchin and Khojir military zones, and the Natanz enrichment facility in late June and July 2020. "The financial damages [to the plant at the Natanz facility] were significant," AEOI Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on July 6.