Attack On Natanz Nuclear Facility, Iran

On the morning of April 11th, Iranian nuclear officials declared that the nuclear facilities had encountered an attack that sparked a fire reaching a central centrifuge. The day before the hit, President Rouhani of Iran unveiled brand new centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility which would contribute to further processing of enriched uranium.

The strike, which caused no casualties, also comes soon after the U.S. government declared its willingness to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the Obama administration and rejected altogether by Trump. Diplomatic efforts aimed at renewing the JCPOA look to pressure Iran into agreeing to limit its production of enriched uranium and to halt its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions.

Taking into consideration the rivalry between the two regional superpowers and Israel’s national security interests (i.e. restricting Iran’s nuclear program), Iranian officials are accusing Israel of being responsible for what they have identified to be “nuclear terrorism.”  A few months prior, the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist, engendered the same conjecture on the part of Iran.

In the hours following the attack, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi called upon the international community to condemn acts of nuclear terrorism. Salehi added that the attack was carried out by “opponents of the country’s industrial and political progress, who aim to prevent development of a thriving nuclear industry.” U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials confirmed that Israel had a role to play in the outbreak in Natanz. It is estimated that it would take up to nine months for the facility to recover from the strike, which could potentially weaken Iran’s bargaining power at the negotiating table with the United States.

Other instances of Israeli attacks on Iranian assets have been recorded in recent weeks. For instance, there were reports of a mine attack on an Iranian freighter associated with support towards the Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as multiple airstrikes in Syria targeting groups linked with Iranian proxies.

The attack on Natanz adds fuel to fire in the context of the geopolitical rivalry between the two regional giants, and further impedes on the prospect of peace in the region. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to mention that restraining Iran and its nuclear program is a priority and a massive challenge that threatens Israel’s national security.