A rumoured cyber attack carried out by Mossad, Israel's official spy agency, destroyed legacy IR-1 centrifuges at Iran's underground nuclear facility located in Natanz. The IR-1 is the workhorse of Iran's uranium enrichment programme and around 15,000 of such centrifuges are deployed at the Natanz facility.
The incident took place on Sunday and according to US officials who spoke to The New York Times, led to a huge explosion at the Natanz facility that crippled the internal power system supplying the IR-1 centrifuges. The sabotage was, according to the officials, carried out by Mossad as part of a series of attempts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb that could be used primarily against Israel.
The explosion at the Natanz facility took place hours after Dr Hassan Rouhani, the President of Iran, unveiled IR-6 centrifuges which, he said, featured ten times the production capacity of IR-1 centrifuges. Launching a number of nuclear initiatives, Dr Rouhani said Iran is pursuing a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes and that "pursuing a destructive weapon that could be a big threat to a large society is basically forbidden in Islam and our jurisprudence."
The extent of damage caused by the explosion was so significant that according to officials, it could take at least nine months to restore operations at the Natanz facility, delivering a big blow to Iran's uranium enrichment programme. Iran's Foreign Ministry has termed the attack as a "bold act of nuclear terrorism on Iranian soil".
"There has been no casualty or contamination reported, but it could have very much resulted in a catastrophic situation. So it can be considered under the category of crimes against humanity and the Israeli regime has been doing that for many years. Iran definitely reserves all rights to respond under Article 51 of the UN Charter," said a Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
"The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions. They have publicly said that they will not allow this. But we will take our revenge from the Zionists," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
The covert attack on the Natanz nuclear facility also takes place months after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, considered the father of Iran's military nuclear programme, was assassinated in broad daylight, allegedy in an operation coordinated by Israel. In July last year, another incident destroyed an above-ground centrifuge assembly plant in Natanz.
In October 2019, the United States also reportedly conducted secret "cyber operations" against Iran in retaliation to drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities in September that year. According to Reuters, the cyber operation was aimed at reducing Iran's ability to spread propaganda and was launched after four cruise missiles hit the Khurais oilfield in Saudi Arabia, reducing the country's oil production capacity by half.