The United States says it wasn't involved in the apparent cyberattack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility on Sunday, which Tehran has described as “nuclear terrorism” carried out by Israel.
“The US was not involved in any manner,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said when asked on Monday. “We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts.”
Unnamed intelligence officials who spoke with The New York Times and were briefed on what was described as a deliberate explosion said the blast has impacted Iran’s ability to enrich uranium. They estimated it could take at least nine months to repair the damage and resume enrichment at the site.
The attack, which occurred hours after Iranian scientists had activated advanced centrifuges at the underground facility, comes as the Joe Biden administration seeks to reenter the Iran nuclear deal that his predecessor withdrew from in 2018. Washington and Tehran last week conducted indirect talks in Vienna aimed at resolving the standoff over which country should make the first move to come back into compliance.
The latest attack could complicate those talks. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran will “take revenge against Israel” for the attack on Natanz.
“Israel will receive its answer through its own path,” Khatibzadeh said, without elaborating.
Israel has not confirmed involvement in the Natanz incident, but public broadcasting corporation Kan reported that the Mossad played a major role. The power outage, which came the same day Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Israel, is the latest attack on Iran blamed on the Jewish state.
Speaking to reporters alongside Austin on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon on his watch.
“Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s aggression and terrorism,” Netanyahu said at Israel's Nevatim air base.
The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Israel since late 2019 has struck at least a dozen Iranian vessels carrying oil to Syria. Israel was also suspected in a series of mysterious explosions that targeted civilian and military sites across Iran last summer, including a blast that caused a fire at the Natanz facility. Iran also blamed Israel for the November 2020 assassination of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Last week, an Iranian ship believed to be used for covert purposes was damaged off the coast of Yemen. An unnamed American official told The New York Times Israeli forces had attacked the ship and then notified their US counterparts.