It now seems fairly certain that Israel or its agents blew up Iran’s main nuclear fuel enrichment facility at Natanz on 2 July. A “Middle Eastern intelligence official” who told two American newspapers that Israel was behind the explosion was identified in Israeli media reports last week as Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad spy agency and a close confidant of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
After initially playing down the attack, which caused significant damage and exposed embarrassing security lapses, Iran blamed Israel. “The method Israel is using is dangerous, and it could spread to anywhere in the world,” a spokesman said, prompting fears of retaliation. Laying a possible smokescreen, a previously unknown dissident group, “Cheetahs of the Homeland”, claimed responsibility.
If Israel was involved, the attack would have been undertaken with the prior knowledge, if not active connivance, of the Trump administration. The two governments share a record of covert cyber-attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy may just have entered a new phase, with an ongoing sabotage campaign now seemingly in full swing.