Iran claims sabotage of Iran Atomic Energy Organization failed – explainer

Despite Iranian claims, both in July 2020 and April 2021, the Islamic Republic initially lied to the global media in trying to downplay sabotage operations.

A sabotage operation against one of the buildings of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) in Karaj, near Tehran, failed and caused no damage or casualties on Wednesday morning, according to Iranian media.

The incident is under investigation by Iranian authorities. According to Iran’s Mehr News Agency, a quadcopter was used in an attempt to sabotage a building at the AEO, but failed and was eventually shot down.

Earlier in the day, the Iranian ILNA news agency reported that a drone attack targeted the Barakat Pharmaceutical Industries complex in Karaj, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine, but subsequently removed the report from their website.

ILNA editor Fatemeh Mahdiani tweeted that the report was removed after a security agency called the news agency and informed them that the target was the AEO building located next to the Barakat complex, and that no damage had been caused.

The alleged attack comes as negotiations continue in Vienna between Iran and world powers in an effort to renew the Iran nuclear deal. Israel has warned that, if need be, it would carry out military operations to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon.

Iran said on Wednesday that Washington had agreed to remove all sanctions on Iran’s oil and shipping, and take some senior figures off a blacklist.

In April, an alleged Israeli attack was reported at the Natanz nuclear complex, reportedly destroying thousands of centrifuges. Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, the former head of the AEO, announced after the attack that it was the fifth such attack on the Natanz nuclear site within 15 years.

Despite Iranian claims, both in July 2020 and April 2021, the Islamic Republic initially lied to the global media in trying to downplay sabotage operations of key nuclear facilities at Natanz.

In both cases, Iranian officials initially claimed that the damage was minor and a routine accident.

These officials only admitted that Iran’s centrifuge program for enriching uranium was massively set back several days after the two Natanz incidents when The Jerusalem Post and others reported the real full extent of the damage.

Both operations were attributed by foreign sources to the Mossad, which the Post was able to verify.

The update regarding the AEO facility comes at a sensitive time for Tehran.

On one hand, it comes as the negotiations in Vienna between the US, Iran and world powers just finished a sixth round of discussions to resolve the nuclear standoff, with no new meetings yet scheduled.

Leaks from all parties to the negotiations suggest that the sides could reach a deal between now and mid-August when a new Iranian administration takes power.

However, there are clearly still differences between them, and this latest incident could either undermine Iran’s negotiating position or undermine trust between the parties – regardless of who might be responsible.

In addition, Ebrahim Raisi was just declared the winner of Iran’s presidential race on Saturday and he has been giving speeches and trying to project a powerful image on the world stage.

This latest incident could undermine his efforts to roll out his aura of strength – or could empower him to clean out political rivals from the outgoing administration.

The incident also comes just days after Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant underwent an emergency shutdown.

The AEO reported that a technical defect led to the power plant being temporarily shut down and disconnected from the national electricity grid, according to the Iranian Fars News Agency.

The organization stated that the plant would be reconnected to the electricity grid in a matter of days.
As of Tuesday, repairs at the Bushehr power plant were still ongoing.

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