Drones, bombs, spies – in Israel’s clever plan to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons
Israel has carried out three major operations in the past 18 months against Iranian nuclear sites. These attacks involved up to a thousand Mossad members and were carried out with ruthless precision using high-tech weapons, including drones and a quadcopter – and spies within the holy of holies of Tehran, its nuclear program.
As President Biden’s nuclear negotiators attempt to snatch the disaster from the clutches of defeat in Vienna, Israel is taking matters more seriously.
Last week, Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Prime Minister, switched to a new policy on Tehran: to retaliate against the aggression by Tehran-backed militias with secret strikes on Iranian soil.
This builds on the extensive capabilities that the Mossad has developed in the Islamic Republic in recent years. In February – seven months before the New York Times “broke” the same story – I described in the Jewish Chronicle of London how Israeli spies killed nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh with a remote machine gun. I can now reveal the secrets of Israel’s latest triple attack on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The tripartite sabotage effort began on July 2, 2020, with a mysterious explosion at the Iran Center for Advanced Centrifuges (ICAC) facility in Natanz, one of the ultra-secure nuclear sites dotting Iran.
At first, the Iranians were mystified. The building had apparently exploded. But how? The answer, as they say, shocked them. When Ayatollah apparatchiks were renovating the facility in 2019, Israeli agents posed as building traders and sold them building materials. These building materials were filled with explosives. A year later, they were blown up by Tel Aviv.
Although this caused substantial damage, the Natanz factory was far from out of the question. Beneath a protective 40-foot layer of concrete and iron is the inner sanctum of the A1000 underground room. Inside were as many as 5,000 centrifuges that spun day and night, minute by minute, bringing the Iranian regime closer to nuclear weapons.
The second phase of the plan has taken action. Mossad spies approached as many as 10 Iranian scientists who had access to this room and managed to persuade them to switch sides – although they led the scientists to believe they were working for international dissidents, not for Israel.
Incredibly, the scientists agreed to blow up the high security facility.
“Their motivations were all different,” a prominent Israeli source told me. “The Mossad found what they wanted deep down in their life and gave it to them. There was an inner circle of scientists who knew more about the operation and an outer circle who helped but had less information.
There remained the puzzle of introducing explosives into the fortified complex.
This has been done in two ways. First, a drone flew into its airspace and delivered the bombs to an agreed location for scientists to retrieve. Then came contraband.
“Let’s say you wanted to smuggle explosives into Natanz,” a source told me timidly. “How could you do it?” You could, for example, think about how the people who work there need to eat. They need food.
“So you could put the explosives in the truck that delivers the food to the canteen, and the scientists could pick it up once it’s inside.” Yes, you could.
The plan worked. Scientists recovered the bombs and set them up. In April, after Iran announced that it had started using advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges in the underground hall – in cheeky disregard of its nuclear commitments – the explosives were set off.
The explosion destroyed the secure power system, causing a blackout. Ninety percent of the centrifuges were destroyed, taking the facility out of service for up to nine months. The scientists instantly disappeared. All are alive and well today.
Mossad’s attention then turned to the production of the centrifuges themselves, to disrupt the regime’s attempt to restore the Natanz facility. The reticle moved to Karaj, 30 miles northwest of Tehran, where the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) is located.
In previous months, a team of Israeli spies and their Iranian agents had jointly smuggled an armed quadrocopter – weighing the same weight as a motorcycle, a source confirmed – into the country piece by piece. Now was the time to deploy it.
On June 23, the team assembled the kit and took it to a location 10 miles from the TESA factory. Officers threw it, flew it to the factory, and released the payload, causing a large explosion. Then the drone returned to the launch site, where it was taken away for reuse.
It is significant that these operations took place while negotiations were continuing in Vienna. Mossad operations were conducted without international collaboration. To use Israeli intelligence slang, the attacks were “blue and white” rather than “blue-white-and-red,” which refers to American involvement. It is also important.
In recent weeks, Axios reported, Israel has shared intelligence proving that Iran has prepared the technical ground for enriching uranium to 90 percent purity, the level required for a bomb.
As Biden’s team, saturated with naivety and a Back to the Future focused on the Obama years, vainly pursues the lower jaw in Vienna, the cynical Iranians prepare for war – and the Mossad, whose instincts are sharpened by the desire to protect their families from annihilation, try to stop them.
The contrast between Washington cuckoo cloud and post-Holocaust Jerusalem is striking. And in seven months, you might even be reading this in the New York Times.
Jake Wallis Simons is associate editor of the Jewish Chronicle. From the Spectator.