New Delhi: A huge explosion struck Iran’s nuclear centre at Natanz Sunday. Tehran has held Israel responsible for the act and called it an act of “nuclear terrorism”.
In episode 723 of ‘Cut the Clutter’, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta explains what might have led to the explosion and how it can further complicate the Iran nuclear peace plan it had negotiated with the US and other leading European powers.
Gupta noted that the incident comes a week after the US and Iran held their first dialogue, under the chairmanship of the British, to work out how to revive the 2015 US-Iranian peace deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which restricts Iran’s nuclear programme, in lieu of relief sanctions. Former US president Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018 saying it was a poor deal.
“Biden is committed to restoring the US-Iranian peace deal. The Iranian government wants it as it would mean the lifting of American sanctions, if it once again promises to abide by the discipline and controls on its uranium enrichment programme,” Gupta said.
Uranium — Iran’s bargaining chip
Iran’s nuclear centre at Natanz was one of the country’s most important nuclear facilities because that is where it has the largest number of the most modern centrifuges, Gupta explained.
These centrifuges run at supersonic plus speed and are used to enrich uranium. However, if these are enriched beyond a particular point, it becomes weapons-grade uranium, something that Iran has made an effort to produce for many years.
“… Iran has put all their efforts to produce weapons-grade uranium till date. No country in the western world, including Russia, China, and even India want another Islamic country with nuclear weapons,” Gupta said.
He then went on to explain that Iran essentially has only one enemy — that is Israel. “It’s not a territorial enemy. It’s an ideological enemy,” Gupta explained.
Iran flaunts nuclear technology
“To be seen to have the capability of enriching uranium is very important for Iran, it is its bargaining chip,” explained Gupta.
Despite the claim that it produces nuclear power only for energy purposes, Iran has flaunted its “progress in nuclear technology” every year on its National Nuclear Technology Day.
Gupta pointed out that the explosion at Natanz took place a day after this year’s celebration of Nuclear Technology Day, where Iran boasted about the country’s progress by showing a video of its progress on national television.
On Iran’s accusations of Israel’s involvement in the explosion, Gupta noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to do something after the “indecisive election” last month. In the March general elections, no single party won a complete majority.
“Netanyahu had his fourth election that’s been indecisive. If he loses power, he gets prosecuted in his corruption cases. He has to do something, otherwise Israel is up in the air,” Gupta said.
A successful operation
According to Iranian scientists, the attack might halt the production of uranium enrichment plants by at least another nine months. Gupta said that this is exactly what the US and other “insecure” Gulf countries have wanted.
“The US and the group of countries that signed up on JCPOA wanted to create a one year gap, minimum, between Iran being able to progress to weapons-grade uranium. It is for Iran to try and make it shorter because the shorter Iran makes it, the more insecure Israel and its other neighbours will be as it will give Iran a stronger negotiating position at (the) global platforms,” Gupta explained.
Israel sees Iran as an “existential threat” because the only country Iranians have talked of wiping out or annihilating is Israel, to establish their supremacy in the Islamic world.
Response to attack
Quoting some “western sources”, The Jerusalem Post had openly cited the intelligence service Mossad as being responsible for the attack. Following the Sunday explosion, Netanyahu said that “the struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission”.
Shedding light on how Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz restrained a journalist from questioning the US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the Iran nuclear centre attack during a press conference in Jerusalem, Gupta said, “There is no doubt left that this was an Israeli operation….You can choose to be innocent or gullible if you so prefer, but having watched this for a long time, this certainly would not have happened without America’s help”.
Given the fact that it was one of Iran’s most highly secured nuclear production sites, Gupta argued that the explosion could not have been possible without an insider’s involvement.
“This was not done through a cyber attack. An explosive device was smuggled into the facility right into that nerve centre from where it would blow out all of the power facilities in the super-secret plant,” Gupta said.
This is a very big humiliation for the Iranian government and Iranian security agency, he added.
Gupta noted that while Iran constantly talked of taking revenge, it has never made the move as yet. Even after its top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed six months ago, it failed to do anything.
However, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s call for revenge Monday against the Zionists might change the game, Gupta said.
“If they move towards a real revenge this time, it will make life much tougher also for Joe Biden who wants to move back to the JCPOA deal and that is where the complication lies right now,” Gupta said.
Watch the full episode here: