12 Apr 2021 (WSJ/Washington Post/NYT)
Iran said saboteurs caused a blackout at the country’s main nuclear-enrichment plant, accusing the alleged culprits of attempting to derail informal talks with the US on reviving a 2015 nuclear accord that could pave the way for rolling back sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Tehran didn’t disclose any details about the electrical malfunction at Natanz, which it said took place Sunday, or the extent of any damage it caused. Nor did Iranian authorities say who they thought might be responsible, though Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic agency, said Iran reserved the right to retaliate. He called the incident an act of “nuclear terrorism” amid heightened tensions over the tentative discussions on Iran’s nuclear program.
Israeli media, quoting what they described as Western intelligence sources, said Israeli intelligence agency Mossad had orchestrated a cyberattack at the Natanz site, causing severe damage.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a classified Israeli operation, said that the explosion had dealt a severe blow to Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and that it could take at least nine months to restore Natanz’s production.
Israeli officials declined to respond to the reports that Israel was behind the alleged attack at Natanz. In Washington, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council declined to comment.
The Washington Post reported Biden administration officials were quick to say the United States had nothing to do with the weekend incident, which caused a blackout that damaged centrifuges at the Natanz facility.
“The United States was not involved in any manner,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, and the administration has not been “given any indication about a change” in Iranian participation in negotiations over reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement among world powers and Iran that began last week in Vienna.