Did Mossad's 2018 Iran operation pave way for 2020 explosions? - analysis

Turning the IAEA against the regime legitimizes sabotage.

Fire at shipyard in Bushehr, Iran, July 15, 2020 (photo credit: FARS NEWS AGENCY)
Fire at shipyard in Bushehr, Iran, July 15, 2020
(photo credit: FARS NEWS AGENCY)
No one knows who has caused around a dozen explosions in Iran over the last month, but if Israel is involved, it is fair to say that the Mossad's 2018 operation – seizing Tehran's nuclear secrets from under its nose – helped set the stage.
Every new development that comes out of Iran shows that whoever pulled off these attacks is getting away with them with a weak or much delayed Iranian response. This includes a parliament member disclosing new details on Wednesday about what happened at the Natanz nuclear site, devoted to advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium.
How are the 2018 and 2020 events connected?
Until the stealing of the Iranian nuclear archive in January 2018, the Islamic Republic had paradoxically managed to achieve a sort of "moral high ground" in the nuclear sphere.
Despite the ayatollahs sponsoring terrorism across the region as well as ballistic missile tests, they were technically observing the provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal – they were "in compliance."
Attacking Iran's nuclear program in this period could have been disastrous at a number of levels.
But everything changed after the Mossad operation.
At the time, some critics said it only proved that Iran had lied about its desire for five nuclear weapons in the past, but now we can see as clear as day the massive impact it has had on the future.
First, the operation pushed the US to take the final decision to exit the deal and institute a "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.
Just as importantly, it eventually turned the International Atomic Energy Agency against the regime.
Sure, it took the IAEA around a year-and-a-half to demand answers from the Islamic Republic about irregularities that the Mossad operation exposed.
But by March of this year, the agency was already demanding access to two undeclared nuclear sites and explanations about why it found illicit nuclear material at the Turquzabad site during a special inspection.
All of these issues were revealed by the Mossad operation.
In fact, sources close to Mossad director Yossi Cohen told The Jerusalem Post in September 2019 that the largest achievement of the Mossad operation was obtaining a comprehensive map of both declared and undeclared Iranian nuclear sites.
Move forward to last month, when the IAEA Board of Governors condemned Tehran for refusing to cooperate, with IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi recently implying that he might take the issue to the UN Security Council.
This was not the tune the IAEA was humming before the 2018 Mossad operation.
One of the major violations of the 2015 nuclear deal that the nuclear agency has also taken Iran to task for is its blowing past limits on using advanced centrifuges.
Advanced centrifuges were what the explosions hit at Natanz on July 2, with Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright telling the Post that three-quarters of the installations was destroyed, potentially setting the Iranians back several years.
Blowing up a dozen installations, including part of the sensitive Natanz site when the Islamic Republic was "in compliance" would have been illegitimate and the ayatollahs would have legitimately been able to isolate whoever did it and hit back with force in "self-defense."
The fact that in late July an Iranian parliamentarian is still rolling out new details about how the explosion at Natanz happened without naming anyone shows that the regime is back on its heels when it comes to the nuclear program's legitimacy.
Others, such as Iranian dissidents, the US and the Saudis, may have been involved in the recent explosions.
But whoever did it, even assuming Iran does react later, they had a major assist from the already mythic 2018 Mossad operation – that just keeps scoring benefits.