Israel’s Mossad Destroyed IAEA Equipment in June Op at Iran’s Karaj Nuclear Facility - Report
19:07 GMT 13.09.2021 (Updated: 17:24 GMT 15.01.2023)
During a press conference on Monday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi told reporters that the June attack on Iran’s nuclear research facility in Karaj had damaged some of the agency’s equipment.
On June 23, Iranian media reported a “sabotage attack” against a nuclear facility in Karaj by a quadcopter drone, which they said only caused damage to the roof. There were no injuries to staff or other equipment due to already-tight security precautions. Karaj’s Center for Agricultural Research and Nuclear Medicine is a civilian facility operated by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), but unconfirmed reports spread by Israeli media suggested the attack had targeted a secret site for manufacturing centrifuges used to refine uranium.
Tehran has blamed the attack on the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, which has committed numerous other operations inside Iran, including the April 2021 cyberattack against the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility and the November 2020 assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, one of Iran’s seniormost nuclear scientists.
“We still need to see the degree of a gap” of lost data, Grossi said on Monday about the Karaj attack, noting it wasn’t clear yet how badly it had impacted the agency’s mission. The incident is highly ironic, as Israel has accused Iran of attempting to develop a nuclear weapon and the IAEA’s reporting on Iranian nuclear activities is hailed as an indispensable monitoring tool of the Iranian nuclear program. Tehran has denied it has nuclear weapons ambitions.
The IAEA, which answers to the United Nations, is tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance with international agreements like the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal set strict limits on the quality and quantity of nuclear material Iran could produce. However, Tehran stopped holding to the JCPOA after the US unilaterally withdrew in 2018 and reimposed the economy-strangling sanctions the JCPOA had removed as part of the deal.
Some of those limitations Iran has stepped back from include maximum limits on the purity of refined uranium and the overall weight of uranium the country stores, as well as deals that allowed IAEA inspectors access to certain facilities without prior announcement of an inspection.
Grossi said he didn’t expect Iran to return to JCPOA compliance before talks with the US had yielded a path to both nations returning to the deal as a whole. The negotiations have made slow progress since resuming earlier this year in Vienna, Austria, after US President Joe Biden took office.
The IAEA chief arrived in Tehran over the weekend at the invitation of the new government of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative who was sworn in last month. After Sunday talks with the new AEOI chief, Mohammad Eslami, the two agencies released a joint statement saying the IAEA would be allowed to service its equipment and replace its storage media at Iranian nuclear sites.
“The memory cards are sealed and kept in Iran according to the routine … New memory cards will be installed in cameras. That is a routine and natural trend in the agency's monitoring system,” Esmaili said. However, he did not say if Tehran would release copies of older recordings.
On Monday, Grossi also said that Iran would continue to deny the agency access to electronic data dating back to February 24, when the country restricted its cooperation with the IAEA, until a return to the JCPOA is negotiated.