Israel appeared to confirm claims that it was behind a cyber-attack on Iran’s main nuclear facility, which Tehran’s nuclear energy chief described as an act of terrorism that warranted a response against its perpetrators.
The scale of the attack, which Iranian officials said caused a power failure, is not yet known. The nature of the attack is also unclear
The apparent attack took place hours after officials at the Natanz reactor restarted spinning advanced centrifuges that could speed up the production of enriched uranium, in what had been billed as a pivotal moment in the country’s nuclear program.
The head of Iran Atomic Energy Agency said a blackout at the underground Natanz site, the country’s main enrichment facility, was caused by those “who intend to prevent our nuclear industry’s development”.
Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, urged the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to take action against the perpetrators of the attack. He confirmed that a “terrorist attack” had damaged the electricity grid of the Natanz site. The IAEA said it was aware of the reports but declined to comment further.
The unexplained shutdown is thought to be the latest in a series of exchanges between the two arch-enemies, who have fought an extensive and escalating shadow war across the Middle East over more than decade, centred on Iran’s nuclear programme and its involvement in matters beyond its borders.
Clashes have more recently been fought in the open, with strikes against shipping, the killing of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist, hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian proxies in Syria, and even a mysterious oil spill in northern Israel, which officials there have claimed was environmental sabotage
The development comes at an important time for the Iran nuclear agreement, with the biggest effort under way to rescue the landmark deal since Donald Trump abandoned it almost three years ago.
Negotiations in Vienna last week were an attempt to bring the accord “back to life” after US President Joe Biden said Washington was prepared to rejoin if Tehran came back into compliance.
No direct talks between officials from Washington and Tehran are believed to have taken place but the presence of both countries at the same venue was seen as an important step.