Reprinted with permission from MondoWeiss.
Israel just bombed Iran. And no one noticed.
On July 2, 2020, two explosions erupted in Iran, and both seem to have been ignited by Israel. Neither explosion attracted much reporting, and what reporting there has been remains thin and confused.
The first report came out on the afternoon of July 3. The Jerusalem Post picked up a story from Kuwait’s Al-Jarida, reporting that a fire had broken out at Iran’s civilian Natanz nuclear enrichment site. The Kuwaiti report says that an unnamed senior source informed them that the fire was caused by an Israeli cyber attack. They suggest that Iran will need about two months to recover from the attack. Iranian officials have since confirmed that, though none of the underground centrifuges were damaged, the above ground damage is extensive, and that their centrifuge program has been substantially set back.
The second attack exploded near Parchin, at a site claimed to be a missile production facility. Citing the same Kuwaiti paper, The Times of Israel attributed the Parchin explosion to missiles dropped by Israeli F-35 stealth fighters.
The Parchin story has drawn little further attention and remains undeveloped, but the Natanz story has confusingly evolved. Though unnamed Iranian officials seemed at first to side with the cyber attack theory, some experts sided with a different theory: that the Natanz explosion was not a cyber attack but an actual, bolder physical attack. In a rare piece of mainstream reporting, The New York Times seems to confirm the physical attack theory. Relying on a “Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode,” the Times reports that the Natanz nuclear complex was not hit by a cyber attack, as it has been previously, but by a “powerful bomb.” The intelligence official added that “Israel was responsible for the attack.” The Times report supports the intelligence source by adding that a “member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was briefed on the matter also said an explosive was used.” According to the Revolutionary Guards source, it is likely that someone carried the bomb into the building.
These two attacks seem to add dropping missiles from the sky and walking bombs in on the ground to Israel’s resume of acts of war on Iran. And the resume is long.
Though Israel did not hit the Natanz facility with a cyber attack this time, it has hit it with a serious cyber attack in the past. In the past operation, Israel partnered with the United States, specifically Israel’s secret military unit 8200 partnered with the American CIA and NSA.
When a massive virus called Flame was injected into Iranian computers, it mapped and monitored the system of Iranian computers and sent intelligence back that was used to prepare for cyber war campaigns against Iran. Officials have confirmed that Flame is one part of a joint project of the CIA, NSA and unit 8200.
One of the cyber wars that Flame prepared the way for is the now famous Stuxnet. Stuxnet was a computer virus that infected Iran’s centrifuges and sent them spinning wildly out of control before playing back previously recorded tapes of normal operations that plant operators watched unsuspectingly while the centrifuges spun faster and faster until they literally tore themselves apart. The New York Times says that, according to intelligence and military experts, the Dimona nuclear complex in Israel was the testing ground for the virus. There are nuclear centrifuges in Dimona that are virtually identical to Iran’s, making it a perfect model to test the effectiveness of the virus. Stuxnet seems to have wiped out about 20% of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.
So that puts missile attacks, bomb attacks and cyber attacks on the Israeli resume of acts of war on Iran. And the cyber attack was an act of war. A NATO study has admitted that Stuxnet qualified as an “illegal act of force.” According to Stephen Cohen, after the U.S. accused Russia of hacking computers, NATO issued a statement saying that “hacking a member state might now be regarded as war against the entire military alliance, requiring military retaliation.”
But the resume is nowhere near exhausted. It also includes assassination, multiple assassinations. On January 12, 2010, Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was killed when a remote-control bomb planted on a motorcycle detonated next to his car. The investigation undertaken by Iranian security forces led to the arrest of ten Iranians who were accused of working for the Israeli Mossad. One of them, Jamali Fashi, who had a computer and cell phones that tied him both to Mossad in general and to the assassinations specifically, confessed to being recruited and trained by Mossad to assassinate Ali-Mohammadi.
In November 2010, Majid Shahriyari, was killed when motorcycle riders attached a magnetized bomb to his car. On the same day, assassins tried to kill Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani in the same way but failed when he noticed the suspicious motorcyclists and jumped out of his car. Also a scientist, Abbasi-Davani was named head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Association a few months later. He says that British spies shadowed him to gather information ahead of the failed assassination attempt.
The Iranian physicist and nuclear scientist Darioush Rezainejad was killed when two gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on him while he was entering his garage. His wife was also wounded. This was the fourth consecutive assassination or attempted assassination employing motorcyclists. According to the IAEA, Rezainejad played a key role in Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has blamed the United States, Britain and Israel for his assassination. And “a source in Israel’s intelligence community” told Germany’s Der Spiegal that Mossad was behind the assassination of Rezainejad.
In January 11, 2012, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a scientist involved in purchasing equipment for Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated when a motorcycle placed a magnetized bomb on the roof of his moving car. Thirteen people found to be working for an Israeli spy ring were arrested.
A fifth important player in the Iranian nuclear game was killed in November when a massive explosion at the military arms depot that houses Iran’s long-range Shahab missiles killed seventeen and wounded fifteen more. Included in the dead was Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a pioneer in Iranian missile development. An earlier explosion occurred at a Shahab missile base in October of 2010. Time Magazine revealed in November 2011 that a western intelligence source says that Mossad is behind the explosion.
Two senior officials in the Obama administration revealed to NBC news that the assassinations were carried out by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that spent many years on America’s terrorist list. They also confirm that the MEK was being financed, armed and trained by the Israeli Mossad and that the assassinations were carried out with the awareness of the Obama administration. The Americans, too, have secretly trained and supported the MEK.
The American assassination of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani drew tons of media attention. But Israel’s role in the assassination did not. According to an “Israeli army officer with knowledge of Israeli military assessments,” the assassination of Suleimani “did not come as a surprise” because, according to Israeli military and diplomatic analysts, “Israel had advance notice of the US plan.” Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported that “the United States informed Israel about this operation in Iraq, apparently a few days ago.” Netanyahu was the only American ally to know about the operation, having been informed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
But Israel did more than know about it. Israel participated in it. “Israeli intelligence was instrumental” in the assassination. Suleimani was killed in Baghdad when his vehicle was struck by American hellfire missiles. Israeli intelligence “confirmed and verified” informants’ information tipping the US off to which plane Suleimani was on.
In a report published on July 7, 2020, U.N. expert on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, concluded that the assassination was “unlawful” and that it was an “arbitrary killing” that was in violation of the UN charter.
That adds assassinations and political assassinations to the resume.
Economic Warfare and Isolation
The New York Times article that reports that the Natanz attack was actually a bomb adds that the sneaking of the bomb into the enrichment facility would not be the first time Israel has been able “to strike in the heart of Iran.” They add Mossad’s 2018 breaking into a secret nuclear archive in Tehran to the list of Israeli attacks in Iran. That would add another violation of Iranian territory and act of aggression to the Israeli resume if it were true. But, it’s not true.
Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the stolen archival documentation proved that “Iran lied, big time, after signing the nuclear deal in 2015,” it was Netanyahu who was lying. Olli Heinonen, the chief inspector of the IAEA at the time of the JCPOA negotiations – and not someone who was in any way soft on Iran – said that the IAEA first saw the “significant new” evidence that Netanyahu revealed thirteen years earlier in 2005. Watching Netanyahu’s revelation, Heinonen could only say, “I just saw a lot of pictures I had seen before.” Those old pictures had been carefully discredited by many experts, including Gareth Porter in Manufactured Crisis. The IAEA was finished with them by December of 2015. The day after Netanyahu’s revelation, the IAEA said that there was “no credible indications” of Iran working on a nuclear weapons program for several years before the JCPOA. As Gareth Porter has shown in many places, including The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis, the archival documents were contaminated by inaccuracies that clearly revealed that they were fabrications.
Nonetheless, when Donald Trump illegally withdrew from the JCPOA Iranian nuclear agreement, he boasted that Netanyahu’s revelation “showed that I’ve been 100 percent right.” And, citing only Netanyahu’s presentation as evidence, he pulled out of the agreement, locked Iran back into isolation and put it under economic siege: an act of economic warfare.
Though Israel did not really physically attack Iran by breaking into the Tehran warehouse, the fabrication and sleight of hand propaganda war epitomized Israel’s crucial role in massaging and pushing Trump into a maximum pressure economic war on Iran.
So, although The New York Times was wrong, it was right. The illusory event did not add another physical act of war to Israel’s resume. It added another new kind of war to the resume: missile attacks, bomb attacks, cyber attacks, assassinations, political assassinations and, now, economic warfare. How many different ways can Israel wage war on Iran before it is transparent that Israel is waging war on Iran?
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.