(by Jon Gambrell, Associated Press)—Iran blamed Israel on Monday for an attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges.
Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack, but Israeli media widely reported that the country had orchestrated a devastating cyberattack that caused a blackout at the nuclear facility. Israeli officials rarely acknowledge operations carried out by the country’s secret military units or its Mossad intelligence agency (similar to the CIA).
While the nature of the attack and the extent of the damage at Natanz remains unclear, a former Iranian official said the assault set off a fire while a spokesman mentioned a “possible minor explosion.”
The United States, which under President Joe Biden, is now negotiating to re-enter the Obama-brokered nuclear accord that President Trump withdrew from. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to stop the deal at all costs [as Iranian leaders refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and continually call for the destruction of Israel and “Death to America”].
Netanyahu met Monday with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, whose arrival in Israel coincided with the first word of the attack. The two spoke briefly to journalists but took no questions.
“My policy as prime minister of Israel is clear: I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel,” Netanyahu said. “And Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s aggression and terrorism.”
At an earlier news conference at Israel’s Nevatim air base, Austin declined to say whether the Natanz attack could impede the Biden administration’s efforts to re-engage with Iran in its nuclear program.
“Those efforts will continue,” Austin said. [President] Trump had pulled out of the nuclear deal with 6 world powers – a deal that was bad for the U.S. – and Iran has abandoned the limits on its atomic program set by the accord.
…In a statement, the White House said it was aware of the Natanz attack and that “the U.S. was not involved in any manner,” without elaborating.
Details remained scarce about what happened early Sunday at the facility. The event was initially described only as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls—but later Iranian officials began referring to it as an attack.
A former chief of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said the attack had set off a fire at the site and called for improvements in security. In a tweet, Gen. Mohsen Rezaei said that the second assault at Natanz in a year signaled “the seriousness of the infiltration phenomenon.” Rezaei did not say where he got his information.
The facility seemed to be in such disarray that, following the attack, a prominent nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi walking above ground at the site fell 7 meters (23 feet) through an open ventilation shaft covered by aluminum debris, breaking both his legs and hurting his head.
“A possible minor explosion had scattered debris,” Kamalvandi said, without elaborating.
Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh acknowledged that IR-1 centrifuges, the first-generation workhorse of Iran’s uranium enrichment, had been damaged in the attack, but did not elaborate. State television has yet to show images from the site, which saw new advanced centrifuges turned on there Saturday.
“The answer for Natanz is to take revenge against Israel,” Khatibzadeh said. “Israel will receive its answer through its own path.” He did not elaborate.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, warned Natanz would be reconstructed with more advanced machines. That would allow Iran to more quickly enrich uranium, complicating the nuclear talks.
“The Zionists wanted to take revenge against the Iranian people for their success on the path of lifting sanctions,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Zairf as saying. “But we do not allow (it), and we will take revenge for this action against the Zionists.”
…Officials launched an effort Monday to provide emergency power to Natanz, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear program. He said the sabotage had not stopped enrichment there, without elaborating.
Natanz has been targeted by sabotage in the past. The Stuxnet computer virus, discovered in 2010 and widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, once disrupted and destroyed Iranian centrifuges there during an earlier period of Western [opposition to] Tehran’s [nuclear weapons] program [that Iranian mullahs claim is for peaceful purposes only, but no one believes is true].
In July, Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion at its advanced centrifuge assembly plant that authorities later described as sabotage. Iran now is rebuilding that facility deep inside a nearby mountain. Iran also blamed Israel for that, as well as the November killing of a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier.
Israel also has launched a series of airstrikes in neighboring Syria targeting Iranian forces and their equipment. Israel also is suspected in an attack last week on an Iranian cargo ship that is said to serve as a floating base for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces off the coast of Yemen.
Multiple Israeli media outlets reported Sunday that an Israeli cyberattack caused the blackout, but it remains unclear what actually happened there. Public broadcaster Kan said the Mossad was behind the attack. Channel 12 TV cited “experts” as estimating the attack shut down entire sections of the facility.
While the reports offered no sourcing for their information, Israeli media maintains a close relationship with the country’s military and intelligence agencies.
In recent weeks, Netanyahu repeatedly has described Iran as the major threat to his country….
By Associated Press. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission.
1. List the who, what, where and when of the news item.
2. What is believed to be the cause of the blackout at Iran’s nuclear weapons plant?
3. a) Why didn’t Israel acknowledge the attack?
b) Why didn’t Iran provide details of the attack or damage – even initially denying the attack?
4. What did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say about Iran’s nuclear weapons program?
5. What did Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh say Iran would do about the attack?
6. What do you think about Israel’s ability to carry out this attack on Iran’s underground facility to slow/stop Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons?
7. Read the opinion “U.S. should think twice about Iran nuclear deal” and answer the questions.
While no one has outright claimed responsibility for the outage at Natanz, the New York Times reported American and Israeli intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel had played a role in the outage.
The intelligence officials told the New York Times the outage had been set off by an explosion that completely destroyed the Natanz facility’s internal power system, which supplies power to the plant’s centrifuges.
The officials also said the explosion severely hindered Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities and it could take up to nine months to restore Natanz to its full production capabilities.
Israel’s state-owned Kan News also reported that an intelligence official said the damage at the site was “extensive” and that various types of Iranian centrifuges installed at the top-secret underground center were damaged in the incident. The incident took place a day after Iran announced it had started up numerous advanced centrifuges. (AmericanMilitaryNews .com, April 12, by Ryan Morgan)
ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT:
Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation (buildup).
IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM:
- Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002. Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs. [NOTE ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT: Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation (buildup).]
- Under the United Nations’ NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom).
- Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
- The IAEA has consistently stated it is unable to conclude that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
- The IAEA issued a report on Sept. 15, 2008 that said Iran has repeatedly blocked an investigation into its nuclear program and the probe is now deadlocked.
- The U.N. Security Council has already imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance. Despite the sanctions, Iran has refused to end its nuclear program.
- A group of U.S. and Russian scientists said in a report issued in May 2009 that Iran could produce a simple nuclear device in one to three years and a nuclear warhead in another five years after that. The study, published by the nonpartisan EastWest Institute, also said Iran is making advances in rocket technology and could develop a ballistic missile capable of firing a 2,200-pound nuclear warhead up to 1,200 miles “in perhaps six to eight years.”
- The Iranian government has called for the destruction of Israel on numerous occasions. It is believed that once obtained, Iranian President Ahmadinejad would use nuclear weapons against Israel.
President Obama’s 2015 agreement required Iran to limit enrichment of uranium – which can be used for nuclear fuel or for building nuclear weapons. In exchange, most international sanctions against Iran [which were greatly hurting the economy] were removed.
President Obama and the leaders of Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France (the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear pact), claimed it was the best way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear bomb capability. Iran has repeatedly claimed its ballistic missile program has nothing to do with its nuclear weapons and is non-negotiable.
President Trump sees three defects in the deal:
- a failure to address Iranian ballistic missiles;
- the terms under which U.N. inspectors can visit allegedly suspect Iranian nuclear sites;
- “sunset” clauses under which key limits on the Iranian nuclear programme will start to expire after 10 years.
(from an April 2018 report)
- Obama bypasses Congress to broker nuclear agreement with Iran (April 2015)
- “U.S. (Trump) reimposes sanctions lifted under Obama’s Iran nuke deal” (Nov. 2018)
- “Those opposed to the end of Iran Nuke Deal: Remember Reykjavik” (May 2018)
- “U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel: ‘Iran supports terrorists’” (April 2018)
- Read how Iran’s authoritarian rulers treat their own people: “Iran regime may have killed 1,000 citizens during protests” (Dec. 10, 2019)
- In January 2020, U.S. forces killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who was the leader of the elite Quds Force, the division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that conducts spying and terrorist operations outside Iran. This U.S. military success is comparable to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Read “Iran’s Top General Is Dead. What You Need to Know” (Jan. 7, 2020)
- and “Iraq: The events that led to US killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani” (Jan. 7, 2020)
- also see “President Trump’s address to the nation on Iran” (Jan. 9, 2020) and “Many Iranians think Soleimani was a war criminal” (Jan. 8, 2020)
- “Iran’s Top Nuclear Scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh killed by 62-person hit squad” (Nov. 2020)
- “Former Obama officials accused of meetings with Iran to undermine Trump” (Feb. 2021)
Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.