When the Mossad broke into a warehouse in Tehran in January 2018 and came up with tens of thousands of pages of nuclear weapons planning documents dating back almost two decades, it clearly had the help of insiders. The assassination of General Suleimani, the brain of Iran’s actions in Iraq and the attacks on Americans – which were also based on intelligence, much of it given by living agents – was perhaps Trump’s most aggressive military action as president.
Natanz’s explosion occurred inside Iran’s Centrifuge Mounting Center, where the country was building its most advanced machines, designed to produce much more nuclear fuel, much faster than the old machines used until Iran dismantled most of its facilities in the 2015 agreement.
Although research on these machines was allowed under the agreement, they could not be deployed for years – and Iran’s effort to mass produce them was an ambitious effort to show that it could respond to Trump’s rejection of the agreement by accelerating.
A study by the International Science and Security Institute published Wednesday concluded that while the blast “does not eliminate Iran’s ability to deploy advanced centrifuges”, it was “a major setback” that would cost Iran years of development.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who always jumps at any opportunity to denounce the Iranian government, twice refused on Wednesday to discuss the matter at a news conference.
But it is hardly a secret within the State Department that Pompeo, who served as Trump’s first CIA director, developed a close relationship with Yossi Cohen, director of Mossad, Israel’s external spy service. The two talk frequently, making it difficult to believe that Pompeo had no idea what was coming, if it was an Israeli operation.
As soon as the strike was underway, Cohen’s term was extended for six months by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, interpreted by many as a sign of things to come, as Cohen is a veteran of operations in Iran. He was a participant important in the sophisticated series of cyber attacks known as the Olympic Games, which took nearly 1,000 centrifuges in operation at Natanz – near the site of last week’s explosion and fire – a decade ago. And as head of the Mossad, he directed the secret seizure of the secret nuclear archive.