In the past several weeks, a series of mysterious explosions have erupted in the Islamic Republic. At least some of them caused damage to military sites related to the Iranian nuclear program. It appears possible that these were covert attacks by Tehran’s adversaries to slow its progress toward obtaining a bomb. Considering Israel’s previous, similar efforts to stop its enemies from obtaining such arms—most notably the daring raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981—Benny Avni writes:
“Israel’s attack on Osirak was a major mistake,” the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Hans Blix, told me a while back. Blix, a Swede, had then just ended his stint as top United Nations arms inspector in Iraq. While Israel’s storied Operation Opera destroyed Saddam Hussein’s atomic plant in 1981, he said, it then motivated the Iraqi strongman to renew vigorously efforts to obtain a bomb, a headache for the non-proliferation community.
There is, though, a counter argument, one that is highly relevant right now. [Namely, that Iraq never acquired a nuclear weapon]. The pursuit of a bomb by the Assad clan at Syria ended similarly, never to be rebuilt, after Israel, in 2007, bombed its nascent nuclear facility in Deir ez-Zor.
The recent explosion [at the Iranian city of] Natanz reportedly delayed the advanced centrifuge project by at least two years. The project . . . would have given Iran the ability to produce up to four bombs a year. [But] Iran might rely on the older generation of centrifuges while it tries to reinstate faster enrichment capabilities. Yet as the past attacks on Iraqi and Syrian facilities show, and contrary to Blix’s objection to non-proliferation by military means, destroyed facilities are hard to rebuild.
Read more on New York Sun: https://www.nysun.com/foreign/covert-strikes-on-iran-see-success-where/91196/