Iran’s top uranium enrichment facility was hit with a major “power outage” today that resulted in the complete shutdown of the huge complex. Initial reports from Iran of the event at the Natanz nuclear plant being “unexplained” quickly turned to accusations of sabotage by Israel.
There has been no confirmation from Israel, nor will they be. Unlike other nations that often take credit for successful operations, Israel tends to remain coy about such things. The infamous “Stuxnet” cyberattack in 2010 on the same facility that destroyed over 1000 centrifuges has never been confirmed by the Israeli government, but it is widely accepted that it was a joint operation between American intelligence agencies and Israel’s Mossad. According to Jerusalem Post:
The Mossad was reportedly behind the cyberattack at the Natanz nuclear plant on Sunday that caused extensive damage to Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the security cabinet’s first meeting in two months to discuss Iran next Sunday amid increased tensions with Tehran.
Western sources quoted in Israeli media said the attack, which was initially referred to as an “accident” by Iran, was carried out by the Mossad.
Iran admitted on Sunday evening that the so-called “accident” was the result of a “terrorist” act.
The country’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency needed to deal with what he called nuclear terrorism. Iran reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators, he was quoted as saying.
The alleged attack took place on Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, one day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced to the world that they were moving forward with the relaunch of the facility. There are no reported casualties nor contamination.
Assuming this action was performed by Mossad, it raises the question of the political ramifications. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been tasked with forming a new government. If he is unable to put together a coalition of 61 Knesset Members in the next three weeks, the mandate could go to one of his opponents or a fifth election in just over two years could be called.
This move demonstrates the boldness that has been a trademark of the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history. While it’s unlikely that this was done purely as a publicity stunt, the timing is important as it shows Netanyahu is continuing to make decisions on behalf of his people despite the political strife that has engulfed the lone Middle Eastern democracy since 2019.
At an Independence Day event on Sunday with the heads of the security branches, Netanyahu said, “The struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission.”
In a possible reference to the reported Mossad operation taking the uranium enrichment machines off-line within hours of their launch, he said, “The situation that exists today will not necessarily be the situation that will exist tomorrow.”
While Iran continues to rattle its sabers and bully most of the international community, including President Biden, Israel stands athwart their nuclear ambitions. Along the way, Benjamin Netanyahu is building political stock.