Israeli drone attack on Iranian weapons factory was phenomenal success - sources

The Islamic Republic claimed that the drone attack had failed and only cause minor roof damage.

 An explosion is seen at an Iranian missile and drone test at the 17th Great Prophet drill in Iran. (photo credit: Ali Yeghane Lari/Mehr News Agency)
An explosion is seen at an Iranian missile and drone test at the 17th Great Prophet drill in Iran.
(photo credit: Ali Yeghane Lari/Mehr News Agency)

Despite Iranian claims, the Israeli drone attack on Iran at Isfahan was a tremendous success, according to a mix of Western intelligence sources and foreign sources, The Jerusalem Post initially reported on Sunday morning.

Several hours later, The Wall Street Journal came out with a similar report, stating that Israel and the Mossad were behind the attack, citing US officials.

There were four large explosions at the military industry factory, documented on social media, against a facility developing advanced weapons. The damage goes far beyond the “minor roof damage” that the Islamic Republic claimed earlier Sunday and has falsely claimed in past incidents.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which came amid tension with the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity and supply of arms for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as months of anti-government demonstrations at home.

Iran's response matches responses to similar incidents

Iran’s foreign minister said the “cowardly” attack was aimed at creating “insecurity” in Iran. Their defense ministry said the explosion caused only minor damage and no casualties. The extent of the damage could not be independently confirmed.

 Focus on Iran, the Iranian flag in crosshairs (Illustrative). (credit: Akbar Nemati/Unsplash, DAVID YAPHE)
Focus on Iran, the Iranian flag in crosshairs (Illustrative). (credit: Akbar Nemati/Unsplash, DAVID YAPHE)

Hours after the report, Iran intensified its threats against Israel, despite pretending that the attacks had failed.

Israel is playing mum, but most Western intelligence and Iranian sources have credited the Mossad with similarly successful attacks against Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in July 2020, a different Natanz nuclear facility in April 2021, another nuclear facility at Karaj in June 2021 and with destroying around 120 or more Iranian drones in February 2022.

Few organizations globally, besides the Mossad, are believed to possess the advanced and surgical strike capabilities displayed in the operation.

Multiple large drones with significant amounts of explosives were involved and hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy.

In each of the prior incidents, Tehran tried initially to pretend that the attacks failed and only acknowledged the extent of the damage when satellite photos or other evidence broke into the public sphere, outflanking their denials.

It is still unclear whether the advanced weapons damaged related only to conventional warfare, or might have nuclear relevance, such as for use in ballistic missiles or explosives which can be used for both conventional and nuclear weapons.

Isfahan has been used on and off for various nuclear issues as well as non-nuclear military issues.

Iran even at one point told the IAEA that some of the nuclear activities being carried out at the Karaj nuclear facility until June 2021 had been moved to Isfahan.

The WSJ noted that there was an Iranian aerospace facility nearby, which could also be utilizing dual-use items for space launches and nuclear weapons, used for escaping and reentering Earth’s atmosphere.

Speculation centered around whether the attack was meant to set back Iran’s advanced drone program or a new program, such as the development of hypersonic missiles, with Russian help.

Hypersonic missiles fly so fast and have such advanced maneuverability that many experts believe they could penetrate all of Israel’s air defenses.

Another theme raised during the day was that the US and the CIA may have been involved this time.

Experts noted that the US and Israel just spent an entire week conducting military exercises around attacking targets, such as Iran, so carrying out such an attack immediately after these exercises could be meant to send a message as to their seriousness.

They estimated that the visit of CIA Director William Burns to Israel just before the attack was evidence of a need for a special face-to-face meeting between the CIA and Mossad chiefs preparing the attack.

The US has adopted a more aggressive tone with Iran since it provided drones to Russia in the war with Ukraine and has demonstrated even more impatience recently with Tehran’s failure to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Reuters contributed to this report.