I’m sure most readers are aware of the explosion(s) at Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility a couple of weeks ago. Strategy Page has provided more details of what apparently happened there.
Over the last week Iran went public with more details about the April 11th explosion at their Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment facility. Iran now admits the attack took place and that it did major damage to their new high-performance nuclear enrichment (turning uranium into weapons grade material) equipment. There was massive equipment failure and damage on a scale similar to the 2010 attack carried out with software designed to get into the heavily guarded Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment compound, and the computer controlled equipment there. Later analysis indicated that the deep-underground (about 50 meters, or 155 feet) plant was effectively destroyed. The target was the thousands of centrifuges that turn uranium ore into nuclear fuel or, with more effort, nuclear material suitable for a nuclear explosive. Israeli hackers got to the centrifuges in 2010 via a computer worm hack called Stuxnet. A worm is malware (hacker software) that gets into target systems via stealth and physical media like USB thumb drives. Stuxnet was released four or five years before it got to Natanz, apparently via a USB drive containing the normally invisible (to most users) malware. Once that USB drive is used on any local or Internet network connected computer, Stuxnet automatically copies itself onto all computers connected to the network. On each computer, especially industrial microprocessors that are used to control equipment, Stuxnet checked for centrifuge control software unique to the Natanz facility. When finally found in 2010, Stuxnet proceeded to modify the centrifuge control software to mimic known types of equipment failure and did so gradually. By the time the Natanz system operators discovered something was wrong, thousands of their expensive new centrifuges were damaged so badly that they had to be replaced. The 2021 attack on Natanz used a different approach, because the Iranians had spent a lot time, effort and money to prevent another Stuxnet attack.
In 2021 the Israelis first got the technical details of the Natanz electrical system as well as details of the new generation of centrifuges Iran installed there. The Israeli plan was to use explosives placed and detonated where it would shut down the primary and back-up power systems when the maximum number of new centrifuges were powered up and vulnerable to severe damage if the main power and back up power systems failed simultaneously. The explosives were placed correctly and went off on time. The result was Natanz again suffered major centrifuge loss that will take months get back into production again and over a year to completely fix.
Then there are the needed security upgrades, which are uncertain until Iran can find out more about exactly how the attack was carried out. They knew a lot of explosives had been involved but were unsure of how the attacker figured out how and were to place them without being discovered. To aid in solving that mystery Iran went public with details, and the name of a suspected key operative. Iran is looking for Reza Karimi, a 43 year old Iranian who left the country several days before the attack. There are probably other Iranians involved as well as the suspected Israel Mossad agents who came to Iran and worked with a growing number of Iranians seeking to overthrow their current religious dictatorship. The Iranians have been seeking more of these “Mossad Iranians” since the 2018 Mossad operation in the capital when a heavily protected warehouse containing top-secret documents was located by Mossad, covertly entered and half a ton of documents on the Iranian nuclear program were removed and 24 hours later showed up in Israel. Until now Iran denied that the Mossad operation took place and that the documents were real. Since 2018 Israel has allowed foreign intel and nuclear program experts to examine the documents and that led to international acceptance of the documents as authentic.
Iran is desperate to get hold of Reza Karimi and, to help with that, they televised what looked like an Interpol (international police) “Red Notice”. To obtain a Red Notice, a country must provide sufficient evidence that the suspect is indeed so dangerous that Interpol will request that the many nations that work with Interpol will accept the Red Notice and look for and arrest Karimi. The televised Red Notice could not be found on the Interpol website and so far Interpol has apparently not decided whether or not to accept the Iranian Red Notice request. There were no casualties at Natanz, many Iranians support the attack and the many Iranians living outside their homeland openly express their hostile attitude towards the Iranian nuclear program.
The two attacks on Natanz were very damaging to Iranian claims that they do not have a nuclear weapons program. In the aftermath of both attacks it become clear that Iran was using powerful new centrifuge designs to create nuclear material that was far more refined (above 20 percent) than needed for a nuclear power plant. Iran needs a lot of nuclear material refined to 90 percent to make nuclear weapons. The data Mossad made public in 2018 and the aftermath of the 2021 attack demonstrate the Iran is still seeking nuclear weapons.
Blowback in Iran
The growing number of Mossad operations in Iran has led to public criticism, often by the senior clerics who actually rule the country. There has been more of this public criticism in Iran because the government has, for decades, devoted major resources to “destroying Israel.” That effort has consistently, and often spectacularly failed, at great cost to Iran. This makes the religious dictatorship, look like incompetent and frauds because these senior clerics always insisted they were doing God’s Work. In the last few years that Work appears to be finding ways to destroy Iran via corruption, mismanagement and trying to blame it all on Israel and the United States. The latest Mossad attack made a lot more Iranians realize that the Mossad was apparently entrenched inside Iran and finding more Iranians willing to work with Mossad against projects many Iranians agreed were endangering and impoverishing Iran, and a major cause of the declining living standards and growing crackdowns by the IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guard Corps) and police. The IRGC knew that the Israelis had been successful at establishing a clandestine Mossad presence in Arab nations but thought Iranians were too sophisticated for that. That might have been the case for Iranians who trusted their government. That trust began to erode decades ago and even the IRGC, in one of its recent “actual public opinion” reports to the religious leadership, revealed that most Iranians now hated their government and many were also fed up with Islam. Which brings to the present, as Iranian leaders realize that many Iranians are willingly and effectively working with the enemy.
Iran is trying to portray itself to foreigners as the innocent victim of Israeli aggression. Iranians insist that Natanz was only producing enriched uranium suitable for power plant fuel. But recent IAEA (UN inspectors) reports describe evidence that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb and need highly (to 90 percent purity) uranium for that. The foreigners are not as easy to deceive as before but more questions are being asked about Natanz. Inside Iran the “accidental” fire at Natanz in mid-2020, described as a construction accident, is now being revisited as details of how Mossad agents inside Natanz got 150 kg of explosives into the underground complex and managed to hide them, and their remote control detonators, where they would not be found and would do maximum damage when detonated.
There’s more at the link.
Sounds like a major achievement by Israel’s intelligence services. One does wonder why the Biden administration “has informed Jerusalem of its displeasure over recent attacks against Iranian targets attributed to Israel, as well as what it called ‘boasting’ by Israel regarding these incidents“. It’s surely in the entire world’s interest to prevent a radical Islamic state, and a sponsor of terrorism worldwide, from developing nuclear weapons; and diplomacy has signally failed to achieve that. Given such a reaction, no wonder Israel is worried that “the Biden administration will rush to rejoin the [Obama administration’s] nuclear deal with Iran“. Washington’s reaction smacks of Neville Chamberlain’s surrender to Hitler, with his triumphant proclamation of “peace for our time” – only to have World War II break out the following year.
If Iran has demonstrated anything in recent decades, it’s that it is totally, absolutely and completely untrustworthy and mendacious. I think Israel’s approach has been correct; and, if Iran persists in its attempts to develop nuclear weapons, I think Israel is likely to use them on Iran first – because if it doesn’t, it knows beyond a shadow of doubt that Iran will use them against Israel at the earliest possible opportunity. Israel believes Iran’s promises to eradicate the state of Israel from the Middle East. Given Iran’s track record, I do too. Given such open, genocidal hostility, what response is possible other than a military one?