Whatever Their Cause, the Recent Explosions at Iranian Military Bases Are a Setback for the Ayatollahs’ Race for Nuclear Weapons

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.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Iranian nuclear program, Israeli Security

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy