If Israel caused the blackout, it further escalates tensions between the two nations, already embroiled in a shadowy conflict across the Middle East.
“To thwart the objectives of this terrorist movement, the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to seriously improve nuclear technology on the one hand and lift oppressive sanctions on the other,” Salehi said, according to state television.
He added: “While condemning this desperate decision, the Islamic Republic of Iran stresses the need for a confrontation between international bodies and (the International Atomic Energy Agency) against this nuclear terrorism.”
The IAEA, the United Nations body that monitors Tehran’s atomic program, said earlier that it was aware of media reports of the Natanz incident and had spoken about it with Iranian officials. The agency did not specify.
Sunday’s developments also complicate efforts by the United States, Israel’s main security partner, to enter into the atomic deal aimed at limiting Tehran’s program so that it cannot use nuclear weapons. As news of the blackout emerged, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin landed in Israel on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Natanz’s electricity has been cut through the facility, which includes aboveground workshops and underground enrichment rooms, civilian nuclear program spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told Iranian state television.
Salehi’s comments on state television did not explain what had happened at the facility. However, Natanz has been the target of sabotage in the past. The Stuxnet computer virus, discovered in 2010 and widely regarded as a joint US-Israel creation, once disrupted and destroyed Iranian centrifuges in Natanz amid an earlier period of Western fears about the Tehran program.
Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion at his state-of-the-art centrifuge assembly plant in July, which authorities later called sabotage. Iran is rebuilding this facility at the bottom of a nearby mountain.
Israel, Iran’s main regional enemy, has been suspected of carrying out the attack as well as launching other assaults, as world powers negotiate with Tehran in Vienna over its nuclear deal.
Iran has also accused Israel of killing a scientist who launched the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier.
Several Israeli media reported on Sunday that a cyber attack caused the power outage in Natanz. Public broadcaster Kan said Israel was likely behind the attack, citing Israel’s alleged responsibility in the Stuxnet attacks ten years ago. Channel 12 TV cited “experts” as believing that the attack shut down entire sections of the facility. None of the reports contained sources or explanations of how the outlets came to this assessment.
“It’s hard for me to believe it’s a coincidence,” Yoel Guzansky, senior researcher at the Tel Aviv Institute for National Security Studies, said of Sunday’s power outage. “If it’s not a coincidence, and it’s a big one, someone is trying to send a message that ‘we can limit Iran’s advance and we have red lines.’
It also sends a message that Iran’s most sensitive nuclear site is “penetrable,” he added.
Israel has not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, although it does not generally discuss operations carried out by its Mossad intelligence agency or by specialized military units. Netanyahu has repeatedly described Iran as the main threat his country has faced in recent weeks as it struggles to retain power after multiple elections and while facing corruption charges.
Meeting with Austin on Sunday, Gantz said Israel views America as an ally against all threats, including Iran.
“Tehran today poses a strategic threat to international security, to the entire Middle East and to the State of Israel,” Gantz said. “And we will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will safeguard the vital interests of the world, of the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region, and protect the state of America.” Israel.”
The IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi also appears to be referring to Iran.
“The operations of the IDF in the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemy,” Kochavi said. “They watch us, see (our) abilities and carefully weigh their steps.”
Iran announced on Saturday that it had launched a line of 164 IR-6 centrifuges at the plant. Officials have also started testing the IR-9 centrifuge, which they say will enrich uranium 50 times faster than Iran’s first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1. The nuclear deal limited Iran to using only IR-1s for enrichment.
Since President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has abandoned all limits on its uranium stockpile. It now enriches up to 20% purity, a technical step away from weapon quality levels of 90%. Iran maintains its atomic program for peaceful purposes.
On Tuesday, an Iranian cargo ship that would serve as a floating base for Iranian Revolutionary Guard paramilitary forces off the coast of Yemen was hit by an explosion, possibly due to a limpet mine. Iran blamed Israel for the explosion. This attack is