A frightening confirmation came recently that Iran has been working on a nuclear weapon, according to a report published by the International Atomic Energy Agency — the UN watchdog — on November 8.
It was the most detailed report so far about any military dimension of Iran’s nuclear programme. The IAEA a few days after publication underscored how serious it was.
Yukiya Amano said: “I have this information and assessment; I must alert the world. This is my duty as Director General.”
Iran denies the assertions in the report, insisting its programme is entirely for civil energy. Western powers are not convinced, and launched new sanctions.
There have been violent attacks in Iran lately. In 2010 several nuclear scientists in Tehran were murdered. The Islamic Republic blamed opposition groups it said were directed by agents of Israel.
The battle of wills has also been conducted far from the public view, all but invisibly, through cyberattacks. Also last year, the new computer virus Stuxnet targeted the centrifuges that spin nuclear material at Iran’s enrichment facilities. Tehran accused the US and Israel of this attack, while saying its prized Bouchehr plant had not been affected. The Iranians have since had to fight off other cyberattacks.
An explosion at their Bid Ganeh missile base a few days ago may have been another strike at Iran. At least one high-ranking officer in the Revolutionary Guards was among the many killed, in what Tehran said was an accidental detonation. Israeli media said the Mossad secret service was behind it — an attempt at provoking some sort of response.
So far the Iranian government has refrained from reacting openly, thereby averting a dangerous escalation, not falling into traps some say have been laid for it. If Iran did launch an armed response, it is feared that Israel could use this as justification for air raids on Iran’s nuclear centres, with unpredictable global consequences.