Iran searches for culprits following Natanz nuclear facility attack
“Necessary measures are being taken to arrest the main agent of the disruption in the power system of the Natanz complex,” said an Intelligence Ministry official.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held Israel responsible for the attack, linking the incident to Israel’s desire to disrupt ongoing talks in Vienna aimed at restarting the Iran nuclear deal.
“The Zionists want to take revenge on the Iranian people for their success in lifting the cruel sanctions, but we will not allow this and we will take revenge for these actions from the Zionists themselves,” said Zarif to state media.
US officials who spoke to The New York Times said that the independent internal power system at the underground facility, which powered the centrifuges, had been completely destroyed and estimated that it could take at least nine months before enrichment could resume.
Iran's International Atomic Energy Agency ambassador in Vienna, Kazem Gharibabadi, took to Twitter to claim that enrichment continued at Natanz.
“Replacement process of the damaged centrifuges including with the same machines with more capacity has immediately begun,” Gharibabadi said.
At a press conference on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back against any notion that the United States was involved in the attack.
“We have seen reports of an incident at the Natanz enrichment facility in Iran. The United States had no involvement, and we have nothing to add to speculation about the causes,” said Psaki.
The head of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Mojtaba Zolnour, held Israel responsible for the attack, but added, “but we also don’t see the US as innocent.”
Israel believes that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear bomb, accusations that Iran have denied, insisting that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
Iran’s nuclear programme has been subjected to a number of attacks, including an explosion last July at a warehouse where centrifuges were being developed. In November, one of Iran’s top nuclear scientists, Brigadier General Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated by a Mossad unit who ambushed his car.
The incident at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility occurred while the US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was visiting Israel to underline Washington's support for Israel, regardless of the outcome of talks with Iran.