A sabotage operation against one of the buildings of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) caused major damage – despite Iranian denials, The Jerusalem Post learned on Wednesday night.
Although Iran has claimed throughout the day that the sabotage failed and caused no damage or casualties, the Post has been given strong indications otherwise, though it has no way to independently confirm.
The Post also reported that the attacked site was likely one of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing sites, which meant a major setback for the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons.
A 2017 Institute for Science and International Security report by founder and director David Alrbight and former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official Olli Heinonen stated that in 2011, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran revealed the location as one of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing sites, near the city of Karaj, referred to as the TABA site.
The report also said that centrifuge components are reportedly made in the three workshops at the location.
Later, in the institute's report, it warns that Iran, "may have declared only those [sites] dedicated to current manufacturing of centrifuges. Iran declared centrifuge manufacturing activities at the TABA centrifuge production site near Karaj (see figure 3). The operational status and output of this facility is not reported in the IAEA reports on Iran."
"Such flow forming and filament winding machines are used in military industries that are present in Iran, and Iran has acquired many of them. Thus, a key question is whether Iran is secretly making centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows at unknown locations, in violation of the JCPOA, and if it takes place, what the probability is that it goes without detection," said the report.
Hours after the Post report, a senior intelligence official and an Iranian familiar with the attack told The New York Times on Thursday morning that the attack targeted one of the main manufacturing centers for the production of centrifuges in Iran, known as the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, or TESA. TESA was on a list of targets presented to the Trump administration last year by Israel, according to the report.
The incident is said to be under investigation by Iranian authorities. It is as of yet unclear how exactly the attack was carried out.
The Iranian Mehr News Agency reported on Wednesday that a quadcopter was used in the attempt to sabotage a building at the AEO, but failed and was eventually shot down.
Earlier in the day, the Iranian ILNA news agency reported that a drone attack targeted the Barakat Pharmaceutical Industries complex in Karaj, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine, but subsequently removed the report from their website.
ILNA editor Fatemeh Mahdiani tweeted that the report was removed after a security agency called the news agency and informed them that the target was the AEO building located next to the Barakat complex, and that no damage had been caused.
A person familiar with the attack told the Times that the attack was carried out by a quadcopter that appeared to have taken off from within Iran, not far from the targeted site.
An informed source from the Khatam al-Anbia Joint Air Defense Base denied on Wednesday that the incident was a drone attack, telling Iranian media that it was likely an act of sabotage.
Despite Iranian claims on Wednesday, both in July 2020 and April 2021, the Islamic Republic initially lied to the global media in trying to downplay sabotage operations of key nuclear facilities at Natanz.
In both cases, Iranian officials initially claimed that the damage was minor and a routine accident.
These officials admitted that Iran’s centrifuge program for enriching uranium was massively set back only several days after the two Natanz incidents, when The Post and others reported the real full extent of the damage.
Both operations were attributed by foreign sources to the Mossad, which the Post was able to validate.
The update regarding the IAEO facility comes at a sensitive time for Tehran.
On one hand, the US, Iran and the world powers recently finished a sixth round of negotiations in Vienna to resolve the nuclear standoff, with no new meetings yet scheduled.
Leaks from all parties to the negotiations suggest that the sides could reach a deal between now and mid-August when a new Iranian administration takes power.
However, there are clearly still differences between them, and this latest incident could either undermine Iran’s negotiating position or undermine trust between the parties – regardless of who might be responsible.
In addition, Ebrahim Raisi was declared the winner of Iran’s presidential race on Saturday and he has been giving speeches and trying to project a powerful image on the world stage.
This latest incident could undermine his efforts to roll out his aura of strength – or could empower him to clean out political rivals from the outgoing administration.
The incident also comes just days after Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant underwent an emergency shutdown.
The IAEO reported that a technical defect led to the power plant being temporarily shut down and disconnected from the national electricity grid, according to the Iranian Fars News Agency.
The organization stated that the plant would be reconnected to the electricity grid in a matter of days.
As of Tuesday, repairs at the Bushehr power plant were still ongoing.