A satellite view of Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant. (GOOGLE)

March 15, 2022

Iran has arrested an Israeli-linked group that was planning to target its key Fordo nuclear facility later this month, Iranian state TV reported on Monday.

State TV said the group had been planning to target the underground nuclear site ahead of the Iranian new year, which begins on March 20.

The arrests were carried out by the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), it said, adding that further details will be released later.

An employee at Fordo “had been given cash and a laptop to carry out the act of sabotage at the site” but was arrested “before he could carry out the mission,” the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Fordo is buried deep inside a mountain to protect it from potential airstrikes. It is located some 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the Iranian capital Tehran.

Iran has in the past accused Israel of targeting its nuclear sites and of killing its nuclear scientists – allegations that Israel has neither denied nor confirmed.

The IRGC claimed responsibility on Sunday for missile attacks against what it described as Israeli “strategic centers” in Iraq’s northern Kurdish regional capital of Erbil.

Negotiations between Iran and world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal were paused last week following a last-minute demand by Russia. It remains unclear when the talks will resume.

Moscow wants written guarantees from the US that Russia’s economic and military cooperation with Iran would not be harmed by Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine after the 2015 deal is revived.

Russia is a participant in the negotiations in Vienna aimed at restoring the deal, along with Iran, China, Britain, France and Germany. The US is participating indirectly in the talks due to Tehran’s refusal to negotiate directly with Washington.

The Vienna talks, which began in April 2021, aim to bring Iran back into compliance with the deal and facilitate a US return to the agreement. The deal offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Washington withdrew from the deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, reimposing sweeping economic sanctions on Tehran. Iran responded by breaching many of the deal’s restrictions, including a 3.67 percent cap on the purity to which it could enrich uranium.

Tehran, which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, has since started enriching uranium up to as high as 60 percent purity – a big step closer to the 90 percent required for weapons-grade material.

A collapse in the Vienna talks could lead to more isolation for Iran and even military conflict. Israel has previously warned it would use force should diplomacy fail to slow down Iran’s fast-advancing nuclear program.

Al Arabiya

About Track Persia

Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.