With Donald Trump out of office and Joe Biden desperately trying to strike a deal with Iran, the mullahs are ramping up their nuclear program. Thus on Saturday, with great fanfare, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, unveiled the centrifuges designed to produce enriched uranium needed for nuclear weapons.
Israel had other ideas. It responded by crashing the electrical grid at Iran’s Natanz facility, where the centrifuges are located.
Iran at first described the blackout as an accident. However, Israel disputed this claim. According to the Jerusalem Post, the government acknowledged that the damage was caused by a cyber attack carried out by Mossad. The Natanz facility has been targeted by the Israelis on several occasions in the past.
Here is the public statement by the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF):
The IDF’s actions throughout the Middle East are not hidden from our enemies’ vision, who are observing us, seeing our capabilities and carefully considering their next steps. By virtue of clever operational activities, the past year was one of the most secure years that the citizens of the State of Israel have known. We will continue to act, combining power and discretion, determination and responsibility – all of this to guarantee the security of the State of Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said this:
The struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission. The situation that exists today will not necessarily be the situation that will exist tomorrow.
Iran now agrees that the event at Natanz was sabotage by its enemies (“terrorists,” it calls them), not an accident.
How much damage did the electrical blackout at Natanz cause? It’s not clear. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization acknowledged that the attack damaged the site’s electrical grid and caused a “serious disruption.” Israeli officials said the attack was more serious than Iran was letting on, and local outlets reported the power outage caused severe damage.
The attack occurred while U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was in Israel, pledging (for whatever it’s worth) an “enduring and ironclad” American commitment to Israel.
We don’t know the Biden administration’s view of the cyber attack. It should be pleased because, if anything, successful attacks on Iran’s attempts to step up its nuclear program provide leverage to Team Biden as it tries to negotiate with the mullahs.
Iran’s unveiling of the centrifuges can be viewed, at least in part, as an attempt to increase its leverage. Damaging the facility in question can therefore be viewed as offsetting that leverage to some degree. In theory, the more difficulty Iran thinks it will confront in developing nukes, the more likely it is to agree not to develop them in exchange for concessions. (The value of such an agreement is a separate, but key, question.)
But Democratic administrations, and even an occasional Republican one, tend to view Israel as an obstacle to whatever they are trying to accomplish at the moment. Typically, they want Israel to stand quietly on the sidelines while America, posing as the adult, makes all manner of concessions.
The attack on the Natanz facility shows that, at least as long as Netanyahu is in charge, Israel will not be sidelined, regardless of how eloquently Biden’s officials pledge to take care of their ally. Rather, Israel will continue to thwart, as best it can, Iran’s nuclear designs.