May 16, 2021

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US May Have Received ‘Veiled’ Notice of Alleged Israeli Attack on Iran’s Natanz, Claims Report

Despite the recent alleged attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility that Tehran blamed on Israel, United States and Iranian officials seem intent on resuming nuclear talks this week in Vienna, reports Politico.

The indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington, dedicated to bringing back the US into the Iran deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), after then-president Donald Trump unilaterally scrapped it in 2018, started on 6 April.

Amid tensions sparked by Sunday’s Natanz incident, there has been no indication that indirect talks scheduled to resume later this week, likely Wednesday, in Vienna, could be derailed, writes the outlet.

On Sunday morning, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) reported that the Natanz facility had suffered an incident involving its electricity distribution network, with the AEOI chief Ali Akbar Salehi referring to it as “nuclear terrorism.”

© AP Photo / Atomic Energy Organization of Iran
This photo released on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. Iran announced on Monday that had started gas injection into a 30-machine cascade of advanced IR-6 centrifuges in Natanz complex

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that Iran believes Israel was behind the recent power outage at the Natanz nuclear facility, with the country’s security services claiming they had established the identity of a person, said to be still at large, involved in the attack.

However, there are no indications in intelligence reports that Israel could have coordinated such an operation with the US, and Tel Aviv was unlikely to have notified Washington ahead of the alleged attack, the outlet cites American sources as saying.

Another source reportedly warned that despite plans for an Israeli attack possibly not widely known in US government circles, this does not rule out that there might have been a ‘veiled’ notification at some level.

​Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has since vowed revenge on Israel but acknowledged that the blackout would not prompt Tehran to pull out of the talks.

“The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions.… We will not fall into their trap… We will not allow this act of sabotage to affect the nuclear talks.… But we will take our revenge against the Zionists,” Zarif was quoted as saying in Iranian media reports.

US officials also denied Washington’s role in the alleged attack.

“The US was not involved in any manner. We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.”

Psaki underscored US readiness to keep negotiating the deal and seeking “the diplomatic path forward.”

Natanz ‘Attack’ Sparks Speculations

As previously similar incidents have shown, Israel typically refrains from comments on its intelligence services’ operations abroad. Accordingly, it has neither publicly admitted nor denied playing a role in the blackout at the Natanz nuclear facility.

On Monday, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing sources, that the alleged attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was plotted “long before” the start of the Vienna talks, and sought to weaken Tehran’s negotiating position at the meetings.

Earlier reports by US and Israeli media suggested that the Natanz incident was the result of a “terror attack,” and that Israel’s Mossad intelligence service was involved.

© AFP 2021 / HO
A handout picture released by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization on November 4, 2019, shows the atomic enrichment facilities Natanz nuclear research center, some 300 kilometres south of capital Tehran.

The report suggested the incident would set back Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities dramatically and
The developments come after just last week the Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed that an Iranian cargo vessel, the MV Saviz, has been targeted in the Red Sea.

Saviz vessel

Tehran considered its traditional adversaries, the United States and Israel, as well as their allies in the Middle East, to be linked to the incident, said Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Abu Al-Fadel Shkarji.

Iran also blamed Israel for a spate of earlier attacks, including an explosion last summer that destroyed a centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility.

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago, was also attributed to Israel by Tehran.

​The Israeli government has vocally opposed the Biden administration’s efforts to return the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Tel Aviv has argued that the JCPOA failed to do enough to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 7 April indicated that his country would not feel itself bound by a revived agreement, as he made remarkss during the opening ceremony of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem’s Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, reported The Jerusalem Post.

Referring to the indirect talks that commenced on Tuesday in Vienna between the US and Iran mediated by officials from the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, he said:

“A nuclear agreement with Iran is again on the table, but history has taught us that agreements like this with extremist regimes are worth as much as garlic peel…To our best friends I say – an agreement with Iran which paves its way to nuclear weapons that threaten us with destruction – an agreement like this will not bind us.”

‘Shuttle Diplomacy’

As the Joe Biden administration seeks to act on its campaign pledge to return to the JCPOA, senior diplomats involved in the talks were cited on Friday as hailing the positive initial steps in two working groups designed to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord.

With remaining signatories to the deal engaging in ‘shuttle diplomacy’ between the sides, one working group was cited as focusing on how to unravel the maze of economic sanctions imposed by Washington that are ‘inconsistent’ with the terms of the nuclear deal, according to The New York Times.

Another working group was studying how Iran could return to the limits on enriched uranium and the centrifuges to produce it under the terms of the deal. After Washington had exited the accord, Tehran had taken several steps against denuclearisation, such as enriching uranium to 20 percent purity.

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