Secret Dutch mole aided Stuxnet attack on Iran's nuke program – report

The Dutch were in a unique position to deliver key intelligence about Iran’s activities to procure equipment from Europe for its illicit nuclear program and about the centrifuges themselves.

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September 2, 2019 22:32
3 minute read.
Stuxnet virus

Stuxnet virus 150. (photo credit: Courtest)

An Iranian mole recruited by Dutch intelligence was the US and Israel's key to installing the Stuxnet virus on Iran's nuclear centrifuges in Natantz, according to a report Monday by Yahoo News, citing foreign sources.

Neither the Mossad, nor former Mossad agents or US intelligence agents reportedly involved in operations regarding Iran at the time, had commented to The Jerusalem Post on the report by press time.

The Stuxnet virus ruined around 2,000 Iranian centrifuges, delaying its uranium enrichment plans by as many as a couple of years according to analysts. 

Many say that this additional time bought by multiple rounds of sabotage in the 2008-2010 time frame provided pressure and space to get the Iranians to negotiate over their nuclear program, eventually resulting in the 2015 nuclear deal.

The report said that according to multiple sources, the courier behind the intrusion into Natanz, whose existence and role had not been previously reported, was a mole recruited by Dutch intelligence agents at the behest of the CIA and the Mossad.

An Iranian engineer recruited by Dutch intelligence agency AIVD, noted four intelligence sources in the report, provided critical data that helped the US developers target their cyberattack code to the systems at Natantz.

That mole then either inserted a USB flash drive with the virus onto Iranian systems (since the systems were not connected to the internet) or manipulated another person working at Natanz into doing so.

The report said that two of the three participating countries along with the central players – the US and Israel – were the Netherlands and Germany. It said that the third is believed to be France, although UK intelligence also allegedly played a role.

It has been previously reported that Germany contributed technical specifications and knowledge about the industrial control systems made by the German firm Siemens, which were used in the Iranian plant to control the spinning centrifuges. The report said that France is believed to have provided similar intelligence.

But, the Dutch, according to the report, were in a unique position to deliver key intelligence about Iran’s activities to procure equipment from Europe for its illicit nuclear program and about the centrifuges themselves.

This was because the centrifuges at Natantz were based on designs stolen from a Dutch company in the 1970s by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who used them for Pakistan’s nuclear program, and in order to help Iran and Libya.

Over the course of years of negotiations, the CIA and the Mossad convinced the Dutch and their operative to cooperate and be their man in Natantz as they developed the cyber weapon that would make history.

Later rounds of cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear program did not require the operative's physical presence in Natantz, but his initial intelligence and physical presence provided the basis for Stuxnet's success.

Another important aspect of the Dutch operative eventually losing access to Natanz was that it may have been a factor that led the Mossad, against US advice, to reportedly act more aggressively with the Stuxnet virus in later stages.

When confronted with the difference of opinion between the Mossad and the CIA on the later uses of Stuxnet, one former Mossad operative has told the Post that those criticizing Israel for over-aggressiveness were usually not as directly threatened by Iran’s nuclear program.

But the new details about the Dutch mole’s loss of physical access provides a new window into why later rounds of cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program might have been exposed – and not only because of aggressiveness.

Physical access to Natanz may also have helped cover the cyberattack’s tracks in ways that a pure external cyberattack might be more easily exposed.

Another fascinating aspect of the report, was that the Dutch mole failed to infiltrate Natanz with one straw company before succeeding with another straw company, reportedly with guidance from the Mossad.

It was unclear why the sources who made the new revelations were coming forward now.

Often such new revelations come to influence current events, when a key actor retires and wants credit or when an operative dies, such that revealing his activities will no longer put him in danger.

It was unclear how this revelation might influence the ongoing current nuclear standoff between the US, Israel and Iran.

There are recent tensions between the Netherlands and Iran with the Dutch accusing Iran of involvement in attacks in 2015 and 2017. There are also ongoing internal battles within the EU about how to view Iran.


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