Iran vowed Monday to “take revenge” against Israel for what Tehran claims was an Israeli operation that briefly cut electricity to the Islamic republic’s preeminent uranium enrichment facility over the weekend.
While American and Israeli intelligence sources say Israel had a role in the power outage at the enrichment facility in the Iranian city of Natanz on Sunday, Israeli has so far not officially or directly claimed responsibility.
However, Iranian state media reports claimed Monday to have identified a “culprit” behind the “sabotage” at Natanz, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made headlines by asserting that Tehran “will take revenge for these actions on the Zionists.”
Iranian officials are known to hurl threats at Israel and often refer to the Israeli government as the “zionist” regime.
The latest developments sent Iran-Israel tensions soaring just as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was visiting Israel over the weekend at a delicate moment in the Biden administration’s push to revive American diplomacy around the faltering 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
The Austin visit to Jerusalem on Sunday came amid mounting international concern over a recent surge in Israeli military strikes on Iran-backed Hezbollah targets in Syria — as well as a spike in other so-called “shadow war” attacks by Iranian and Israeli forces in waters around the Middle East — incidents that could either help or dangerously derail the Biden administration’s Iran policy.
The administration’s special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, spent last week in Vienna in talks with his counterparts from nations who were involved in the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement trying to find a path for Washington and Tehran to both come back into compliance with the deal.
While the U.S. withdrew from the deal under former President Trump in 2018, Iran has since pulled out by ratcheting up its nuclear enrichment and ballistic missile activities banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Little progress has been reported in talks so far, while concerns swirl around the uptick in clandestine clashes between Iran and Israel — Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East.
A senior Biden administration official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the U.S. government had no involvement in the sabotage.
Israeli media, meanwhile, has widely reported that a devastating cyberattack orchestrated by Israel caused the blackout, according to the AP.
CNN noted in a report Monday that the Natanz nuclear plant lost a building when a fire broke out there last July. According to the network, Natanz was also the target of the Stuxnet cyberattack in 2010, which security experts believe was carried out by Israeli and U.S. operatives.