On Thursday, there was a fire—apparently caused by an explosion—at the uranium-enrichment facility in the Iranian city of Natanz. The incident followed closely on the heels of an explosion at the Parchin military facility, also connected to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, and another at a building in Tehran that left nineteen dead. While Israel has not commented on any of these incidents, there are reports that it was behind at least one. A few weeks earlier, Tehran set off an exchange of cyberattacks between the two countries. Yoav Limor analyzes the situation:
Assuming the blast [in Natanz] was indeed intentional, it would be a tremendous success for the attacker: in terms of the intelligence compiled on the classified facility, knowledge of the activities taking place there, and ability to infiltrate the premises undetected to place a bomb precisely where it would cause maximal damage to the sensitive equipment. The bewildered and hesitant responses from the Iranian authorities not only indicate their astonishment that their secret installation was exposed and damaged, but also their lack of certainty regarding the attacker’s identity and how exactly he was able to succeed.
Even before all the details surrounding the alleged sabotage have emerged, it appears safe to conclude that this was the worst setback to Iran’s nuclear program since its centrifuges were incapacitated in 2010 at the same site at Natanz [by a joint American-Israeli cyberattack]. It also reveals to the world—yet again—the scope of Iran’s investment in its nuclear program as its economy buckles under U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, and its policies on these fronts are being met with increasing internal criticism.
Naturally, Tehran pointed its finger at Israel as responsible for the attack, [and] could seek revenge. The quickest way for Iran to harm Israel, if it is in fact behind the attack, is through its proxies in Syria. Although these militias have been degraded recently through a string of airstrikes attributed to Israel, . . . it remains likely that similar weapons are still in Syria or can be shipped there in relatively short order.