Iran has called the Natanz atomic site blackout ‘nuclear terrorism’ by Israel which does not want to see a nuclearized Iran in the region –particularly in the Middle East post-Abraham Accord initiative by former President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both the leaders vowed to chart a path toward enduring peace in the region and advance open and stable order with allies. President Joe Biden wants the same but at the same time talk and renegotiate the nuclear deal with Iran.
Biden’s administration has distanced itself from the latest Israeli attack — trying to keep the incident from blowing up the push for nuclear diplomacy.
Israel is widely believed to have carried it out using cyber warfare techniques. “Doesn’t auger well for the region,” says a South Asia and Gulf analyst.
Following the attack on Iran’s facility, Netanyahu at a joint press conference with Defense Secretary on Monday said, “We won’t let Iran obtain nukes…US-Israeli cooperation is ‘crucial’ to combat threats facing both countries”.
“In the Middle East, there is no threat more dangerous, serious and pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran,” said Netanyahu.
“The Israeli cyber attack is significant for two reasons. First, if took place during the Israel visit of the US Secretary of Defense, and secondly during JCPOA negotiations. This indicates that Israel cannot allow Washington to improve its relations with Iran even at the cost of angering Biden’s Administration”, says Syed Muhammad Ali, who is the Director of Nuclear & Strategic Affairs at the Center for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS) in Pakistan, Iran’s eastern neighbor.
A former head of an Islamabad-based think tank who has been an envoy at a major capital in the Middle East alludes to ‘cyber attack instead of cross-border’ developing as a new normal. Observers agree.
“This does not auger well for peace and stability in the region” and “for nations in close proximity”. Listen:
U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed an Israeli role in the explosion –it could prevent Iran from enriching uranium for months, according to The New York Times.
Iran has vowed revenge.
This is is not the first time that Israel has been accused of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, “but this IS the first time that Israel has hinted at its involvement”, an analyst based in Asia-Pacific says.
“To save face”, he adds, “Iran may feel obliged to act in some fashion, but how far will it elect to go, when its primary interests is to revive the JCPOA with full participation of all signatory-states including Iran itself and the USA?”
According to him, “Israel, very strongly opposed to the JCPOA, will likely act to sabotage the Agreement’s full restoration, and Iran will seek to bring all participants into compliance.”
The attack once again proves that Tehran is unable to seal its nuclear program and installations from Israeli-US intel penetration.
So, I’d expect a more symbolic response which will both save face and allow the JCPOA negotiations to continue. Only if Israel acts again, will Tehran feel forced to escalate.”
According to a report by AP, Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60% purity, higher than the program ever has before though still short of weapons grade. The news agency cited an Iranian negotiator as saying on Tuesday.
“The announcement marks a significant escalation…it could result in further action by Israel…and further raise tensions across the Mideast.”
Will the development spike crude oil prices?
Toronto-based energy analyst Rashid Husain Syed with several decades of stint in Saudi Arabia says, “the possibility of a price spike in the aftermath of the Israeli hit on the Iranian nuclear installation seems minimal”. “With Iran desperately wanting an end to the oil related sanctions, strategically speaking, Tehran, does not afford to pick a war. It wants the US to get back into the JCPOA. This was the moment it was waiting for since the arrival of Joe Biden on the political scene. The moment seems to have arrived. The visit of the US Defense Secretary to Tel Aviv was reportedly to take Israel into confidence on the ongoing talks and the possible outcome. Iran cannot jeopardize all this. Secondly, the level of destruction to the Iranian plant is also not much clear. Not much is being said and reported about. The attack thus may not be a big factor in crude price movements in the near future”.
Irshad Salim, Islamabad