AS the Iran nuclear deal unravels, a series of mysterious incidents have been occurring at several sites linked to the Islamic Republic’s atomic programme. The most significant of these was at a facility in Natanz last week, which hosts a complex that produces centrifuges. In what has been termed an ‘accident’, Iranian officials have said there was no loss of life, “but damage is significant on a financial level”. Moreover, there have been reports in the international media which claim that dissidents within the Iranian security services may be behind the incident. Due to the sensitivity of the matters concerned, it is very difficult to ascertain the facts, though two possibilities emerge: that of an industrial accident, and sabotage carried out either by Iran’s foreign adversaries, internal opponents of the regime or a combination of hostile forces.
If it is indeed an industrial accident, then Iran must consider re-evaluating and scaling down its nuclear activities, for the sake of its own people. It is a fact that Tehran has been battered economically by US-backed sanctions, while it struggles to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. If proper operation of nuclear facilities cannot be carried out due to financial constraints, the Iranian administration must do whatever it takes to minimise the chances of future accidents in the country. However, there is also a strong possibility of sabotage. In the past, America and Israel have been known to launch cyberattacks against Iran’s atomic facilities causing considerable damage, while a number of Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated, with suspicion falling on Mossad. If it is indeed true that hostile powers are sabotaging Iran’s nuclear programme, then they are playing a very dangerous game. The fallout from an attack on a nuclear facility can be catastrophic, especially for civilians living in the immediate vicinity, which is why such devious activities must be halted immediately, and all sides must work to salvage whatever is left of the nuclear deal.
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2020