Iran accuses Israel of launching drone attack on weapons facility


Permanent Representative of Iran Amir Saeid Iravani at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on December 14, 2022.

Yuki Iwamura | Afp | Getty Images

Iran’s government is accusing Israel of carrying out a drone strike on a weapons factory near the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

The strike, which took place on Saturday night, caused an enormous explosion and subsequent fire whose images were publicized on Iranian state television, although Tehran claimed that the damage was minimal and there were no civilian casualties.

Iran’s United Nations envoy Amir Saeid Iravani placed the blame on Israel in a letter to the U.N.’s secretary general, writing that “primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible” for the attack.

“Iran reserves its legitimate and inherent right to defend its national security and firmly respond to any threat or wrongdoing of the Zionist regime wherever and whenever it deems necessary,” Iravani wrote, referring to Israel. “This action undertaken by the Zionist regime goes against international law.”

Israel has not commented on the allegations, but reporting by the New York Times about the attack cited unnamed senior intelligence officials as saying that the strike was the work of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. CNBC could not independently verify the report.

If true, the attack is the latest incident in a long-running shadow war between arch-enemies Israel and Iran. Iran in recent years has accused Israel of launching sabotage attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, assassinating nuclear scientists, deploying cyberattacks and carrying out air strikes on Iranian military personnel in Syria.

A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran.

Raheb Homavandi | Reuters

Israel, for its part, openly says it will strike targets in Iran if diplomacy fails to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program or missile development, but has a policy of not commenting on strikes. Isfahan is a major center for missile production.

Iranian nuclear activity is a topic of rapidly growing concern for Israel, the West and Iran’s Arab Gulf neighbors. Iran last year announced it was enriching uranium at 60% purity, just one technical step away from bomb-grade material. Natanz, a key uranium enrichment facility in Iran, is also in Isfahan province.

The country has been ramping up its nuclear development ever since former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed economically painful sanctions on Iran. The deal was meant to place limits on the nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.

The attack comes against the backdrop of heightened Western anger toward Iran for supplying lethal drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine. Tehran insists that the drones were sold to Moscow before the war. The weapons are being used to devastating effect on Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure and civilian areas.

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