EXCLUSIVE: Mossad recruited top Iranian scientists to blow up key nuclear facility

90 per cent of the plant's centrifuges were destroyed, putting the complex out of action for up to nine months


Mossad recruited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to carry out a covert operation which blew up one of the regime’s most secure nuclear facilities earlier this year, the JC can reveal.

Up to 10 scientists were approached by Israeli agents and agreed to destroy the underground A1000 centrifuge hall at Natanz in April, though they believed that they were working for international dissident groups.

Some of the explosives they used were dropped into the compound by a drone and quietly collected by the scientists, while others were smuggled into the high security facility hidden in boxes of food on a catering lorry. The ensuing destruction caused chaos in the highest echelons of the Iranian leadership. It demolished 90 per cent of the centrifuges at the nuclear plant, delaying progress towards a bomb and putting the key complex out of action for up to nine months.

The new details are among astonishing secrets of three connected Mossad operations that took place over an 11-month period of sabotage in Iran. The first two, in July 2020 and April 2021, targeted the complex in Natanz using explosives, while he third, in June this year, took the form of a quadcopter assault on the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA), in the city of Karaj, 30 miles northwest of Tehran. The full details are published for the first time by the JC today.

Other revelations include:

  • Mossad spies hid explosives in building materials used to construct the Natanz centrifuge hall as long ago as 2019, then triggered them in 2020:
  • Agents sneaked an armed quadcopter, weighing the same as a motorbike, into Iran piece by piece, and used it to launch missiles at the TESA site in Karaj in June:
  • The three operations were planned together over an 18-month period by a team of 1,000 technicians, analysts and spies, as well as scores of agents on the ground:
  • The three-part assault on Iranian nuclear infrastructure was carried out by Mossad acting alone – known in Israeli intelligence circles as a ‘blue-and-white operation’ – and not jointly with the United States, dubbed ‘blue-white-and-red’.

It comes amid mounting anxiety that Tehran is cynically playing for time as it resumes negotiations in Vienna while pressing ahead with building a nuclear weapon.

In recent weeks, Israel has shared intelligence with Western allies suggesting that Iran is preparing to enrich uranium to 90 per cent purity, the level required to produce a nuclear bomb, Axios reported.

This raises the spectre of a major Israeli air assault on Tehran’s nuclear plants, should both negotiations and sabotage prove insufficient to halt the programme.

This week, the JC has reported that Israel is embarking on a new policy of launching covert attacks on Iranian soil in retaliation for its meddling in the region, meaning that further undercover operations are in the pipeline.

The team of scientists carried out the sabotage in April this year, while the nuclear negotiations with the West were underway in Vienna.

The measures were needed in order to access the underground A1000 centrifuge hall at Natanz, which housed up to 5,000 centrifuges and is protected from air assault by 40 feet of concrete and iron.

Hours after Iran declared that it had begun to use advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges at the site, in blatant breach of the 2015 nuclear deal, the bombs were remotely set off.

The blast destroyed the independent and highly secure internal power system that supplied the centrifuges.

It caused a power blackout in the heavily fortified complex.

“The scientists’ motivations were all different,” a source said. “Mossad found out what they deeply wanted in their lives and offered it to them.

“There was an inner circle of scientists who knew more about the operation, and an outer circle who helped out but had less information.”

After the explosion, the scientists responsible were spirited away to a safe location. The source added: “All of them are very safe today.”

Iran named a suspect – 43-year-old Reza Karimi – and claimed to have issued an Interpol ‘red notice’ for his arrest. So far he has not been found.

The explosion left a crater so large that one Iranian official fell into it while examining the damage, injuring his head, leg, arm and back.

Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, the head of the Iranian parliament’s energy committee, grudgingly acknowledged to Iranian state television after the attack that the plan was “rather beautiful”.

This was the second of a three-part Mossad operation targeting Iran’s ‘fissile material project’, which is the industrial process of enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.

The first attack had come on 2 July 2020, with a mysterious explosion inside the Iran Centre for Advanced Centrifuges (ICAC) warehouse at Natanz, central Iran, a key hub in Tehran’s network of nuclear plants dotted around the country.

The orchestration of the blast was audacious. A year earlier, Israeli spies posing as construction wholesalers had sold Iranian officials building materials to be used in the centrifuge hall.

Unbeknownst to the Iranians, the materials had been filled with Mossad explosives. They were built into the hall and remained in place all year. Then, when the time was right, Israel’s spymasters had pushed the button.

Mossad’s brains behind this attack – whom we are not naming – also led a similar operation in the early Nineties, the JC has learnt, in which a desk filled with listening devices was sold to Mahmoud Abbas’ PLO office in Tunisia, providing the Israelis with a stream of audio intelligence.

“The Iranians have always known that Israel has infiltrated their supply chains, but they are powerless to do anything about it,” a source told the JC.

The warehouse had been used to precisely calibrate centrifuges, a vital part of a complex process of producing a nuclear weapon.

The blast caused major damage, destroying a significant quantity of hardware and dramatically degrading the country’s nuclear programme. According to Iranian reports, nobody was injured.

The third and final act in the three-part drama came in June this year. Mossad’s attention now turned to the production of the centrifuges themselves, in order to delay the replacement of the equipment it had damaged in the first two attacks.

Over the preceding weeks, an armed quadcopter drone, weighing the same as a motorcycle, had been smuggled into the country piece by piece by agents.

The target was the TESA complex in Karaj, the most important factory to build the centrifuges – including advanced centrifuges – for the enrichment plants.

On June 23, from a location 10 miles away from the TESA factory, a joint Iranian and Israeli team launched the drone, flew it towards the facility and fired, partly destroying it.

The drone was then piloted back to the team on the ground, who spirited it away to be used again.

The revelations underline Israel’s capacity for striking at the heart of the Iranian regime’s most secret and strongly fortified sites, bolstering the Jewish state’s insistence that if necessary, it will take unilateral military action to prevent the theocracy from achieving a bomb.

Richard Pater, Executive Director of Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom), said: “Unlike in the previous rounds of talks, Britain is currently holding the strongest line. This is very much appreciated by Israel, as there is a sense that the Americans are so desperate to return to the deal that they would be too soft.

“However, it is quite clear that Britain and the rest of the international community still sees negotiation as the most effective track to rein in Iranian ambitions.

“Israel is not convinced that this will be enough, and also doubt that more problematic partners, like Russia and China, will be able to hold same line.

“Therefore, the credibility of the threat from Israel needs to be enhanced, reiterated and reimposed, as part of a dual effort to put real pressure on Iranians.

“In terms of geopolitics, that is the message that these operations are sending to the international community.”

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