Tag Archives: Sabotage

Iran blames Israel for sabotage at Natanz site as U.S. begins talks to re-enter nuclear deal

Iran blamed Israel on Monday for a sabotage attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges, an assault that imperils ongoing talks over its tattered nuclear deal and brings a shadow war between the two countries into the light.

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack. It rarely does for operations carried out by its secret military units or its Mossad intelligence agency. However, Israeli media widely reported that the country had orchestrated a devastating cyberattack that caused a blackout at the nuclear facility. Meanwhile, a former Iranian official said the attack set off a fire.

The attack further strains relations between the United States, which under President Joe Biden is now negotiating in Vienna to re-enter the nuclear accord, and Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to stop the deal at all costs. Netanyahu met Monday with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, whose arrival in Israel coincided with the first word of the attack.

At a news conference at Israel’s Nevatim air base Monday, where he viewed Israeli air and missile defence systems and its F-35 combat aircraft, 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. The previous American administration under Donald Trump had pulled out of the nuclear deal with world powers, leading Iran to begin abandoning its limits.

‘We will take revenge’

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 its 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 also set off a fire at the site and called for improvements in security. In a tweet, Gen. Mohsen Rezaei said that the second attack at Natanz in a year signalled “the seriousness of the infiltration phenomenon.” Rezaei did not say where he got his information.


This photo released Nov. 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/The Associated Press)

“The answer for Natanz is to take revenge against Israel,” Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said. “Israel will receive its answer through its own path.” He did not elaborate.

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 facility. However, 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 seven metres through an open ventilation shaft covered by aluminum debris, breaking both his legs and hurting his head.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif 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 Zarif as saying. “But we do not allow (it), and we will take revenge for this action against the Zionists.”

Previous target of sabotage

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 enrichment had not stopped there, without elaborating.

The IAEA, the United Nations body that monitors Tehran’s atomic program, earlier said it was aware of media reports about the blackout at Natanz and had spoken with Iranian officials about it. The agency did not elaborate.

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 fears about Tehran’s program.


This photo released July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows a building after it was damaged by a fire at the Natanz facility. Authorities later described the mysterious explosion as sabotage. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/The Associated Press)

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 neighbouring 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.

“It’s hard for me to believe it’s a coincidence,” Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, said of the blackout. “If it’s not a coincidence, and that’s a big if, someone is trying to send a message that ‘we can limit Iran’s advance and we have red lines.'”

It also sends a message that Iran’s most sensitive nuclear site is penetrable, he said.

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U.A.E. says it will show ‘restraint’ following tanker sabotage

The United Arab Emirates will show restraint after attacks on oil tankers off its coast and is committed to de-escalation during a “difficult situation” caused by Iranian behaviour in the region, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said he would not speculate about who was behind Sunday’s sabotage acts on four vessels near Fujairah emirate while an investigation was underway and due to be completed within days.

“We need to emphasize caution and good judgment. It is easy to throw accusations but it is a difficult situation, there are serious issues and among them is Iranian behaviour,” he said, mentioning concern about Iran’s missiles and regional policy.

“We will actually with our partners also be deliberate in considering our response, what to do about it, how to deal with it,” he said, adding that the United States and France are helping with the probe.

France has a naval base in Abu Dhabi.


The U.A.E.’s tanker A. Michel after the Sunday incident. The U.A.E. said Wednesday it will exercise restraint in its response and said it is committed to de-escalation. (Satish Kumar/Reuters)

A U.A.E. official had told Reuters that Saudi Arabia and Norway were also involved. A Norwegian-registered oil products tanker was among the vessels hit, along with two Saudi tankers and a U.A.E. fuel bunker barge.

Iran has distanced itself from the attack off Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz. U.S. officials believe Iran encouraged Yemen’s Houthi group or Iraq-based Shia militias to carry out the attack, two U.S. government sources said on Wednesday.

Gargash said the attack took place in U.A.E. territorial waters but declined to comment on whether the OPEC producer and regional trading hub was beefing up security after the incident.

Sanctions are ‘biting’

Saudi Arabia shared the concerns of its fellow Sunni Muslim ally that Shia Iran has for a long time been undermining stability in the region, he said, and the United States’ commitment to its allies in the region is “very strong.”

“U.S. sanctions on Iran are biting, and biting in a very effective way,” Gargash said.

The attacks took place against a backdrop of U.S.-Iranian tension following Washington’s decision this month to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and to beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats.


Saudi tanker Al Marzoqah was damaged along with a second Saudi vessel. (Satish Kumar/Reuters)

Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. back the sanctions against Iran, a fellow OPEC producer but regional foe. After the United States ended sanctions waivers that had allowed some nations to continue importing Iranian crude, Washington said Riyadh and Abu Dhabi would help compensate for any shortage in oil supply.

Tehran has called the U.S. military presence “a target” rather than a threat, and said it would not allow its oil exports to be halted.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that “extremist individuals” in the U.S. government were pursuing dangerous policies and that Tehran is not seeking confrontation.

“On Iran, it doesn’t really help to hear foreign minister Zarif trying to offer a moderate voice with regards to Iran’s intentions,” Gargash said. “We have been bullied by Iran, we have seen aggressive Iranian actions in the region. So his words are very hollow in that sense.”


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Russian Investigators Suggest ISS Damage Could Have Been Sabotage

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Astronauts scrambled last week to find and patch a small hole in the International Space Station (ISS) that threatened to leak the station’s atmosphere into space. The crew eventually discovered a tiny puncture in the Russian Soyuz capsule docked to the station. The hole was first identified as a micrometeoroid puncture, but now that’s looking less likely. Russia suggests this damage was caused either accidentally or on purpose by human hands. Did someone try to sabotage the ISS?

Authorities are adamant that the six-person crew of the ISS was not in danger at any point as they hunted for the leak. The hole caused a drop in cabin pressure, which is still something you want to address even if it’s not imminently deadly. Astronauts patched the hole with a special type of bonding tape and the crisis was averted. Since the damage was in the Russian module, Russia was tasked with the investigation.

At first, everyone seemed content with this explanation — after all, there are many thousands of space junk objects scattered around Earth that could have made a hole that size. But now Russia has called the micrometeoroid cause into question. Russia’s Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin said on a televised appearance that the damage is not consistent with an impact. He said the hole was from a drill, and that it appears the drill wavered, leaving scuff marks around the hole. NASA deleted the images it posted publicly with the micrometeoroid explanation attached, but they do look sort of like drill holes to the uninformed.

International_Space_Station

As for whether or not this is a case of sabotage, that depends on how exactly the hole got there. A Russian firm called Energia manufactured Soyuz capsules for the government, and employees in the past have made mistakes that led to similar damage. In one instance, a technician drilled through the hull and attempted to hide the damage with epoxy. However, the damage was detected pre-flight, and the worker was fired.

Some have wondered if a resident of the ISS caused the damage by accident or on purpose, but it’s more likely this hole was present since the capsule was on the ground. It flew to the ISS in June carrying three passengers: Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev, Germany’s Alexander Gerst, and the Serena Auñón-Chancellor of the US. Russian operators did not detect any issues at the time, but the hole may have been patched and later failed in orbit. NASA says it is withholding judgment until the Roscosmos investigatory committee completes its work.

Now read: Boeing and SpaceX Might Not Be Ready for Manned Flights in 2019Floating IBM Robot Ships Out to International Space Station, and International Space Station Soon to Be Coldest Place in Known Universe

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