Senior U.S. intelligence officials claim that Saturday’s drone attack in the center of Isfahan, Iran, was conducted by Mossad, Israel’s premier intelligence agency, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Saturday’s strike targeted an Iranian defense compound in the Central Iranian city of Isfahan, 400 kilometers south of Tehran. The military facility’s primary purpose was not clear, and neither was the extent of damage the drone strike caused. Nonetheless, the city with a population of more than 2 million is known as a major center of Iranian missile production, research, and development—including the Shahab medium-range missiles capable of reaching Israeli targets.
Isfahan is also the site of 4 Iranian nuclear research facilities, supplied by China. Iran’s nuclear program has long been raising concerns in Israel and elsewhere, as Tel Aviv fears that Tehran is on the verge of creating its own nuclear arsenal. However, the nuclear facilities appear to have not been the targets of the strike.
According to Iranian officials, the drones targeted an ammunition manufacturing plant but managed to do little damage before they all had been shot down by a surface-to-air defense system. This was not the first time military facilities had been the targets of foreign drone strikes in Iran, as recent years saw several similar attacks on defense compounds, including military drone factories and major uranium enrichment plants.
No country or agency had taken responsibility for the attack so far. The United States even stated on Sunday morning that it played no role in what happened. However, U.S. intelligence officials close to The Wall Street Journal claimed that the operation was conducted by Israel’s Mossad in an effort to curb Iran’s nuclear and military ambitions by demonstrating “intelligence about the locations of key sites, even those hidden in the middle of cities.”
In an official response, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said on Sunday that “a cowardly drone attack on a military site in central Iran will not impede Iran’s progress on its peaceful nuclear program.”
There is some reason to believe that Israel worked in cooperation with—or at least, with the acknowledgment of—the United States. News of the strike emerged as Secretary of State Antony Blinken began his first visit to Israel since Benjamin Netanyahu reclaimed the premiership. Moreover, CIA director William Burns also visited Israel last week, but whether the operation in Isfahan was discussed remains unclear.
Iran’s military-industrial complex threatens American interests as well, now primarily in the form of supplying drones and other weaponry to Russia to be used in the war in Ukraine. U.S. officials also believe that buying Iranian-made missiles would be the next step for Putin. Nonetheless, potential missile exports to Russia were not the cause of Saturday’s strike, officials think, but Israel’s concerns about its own security.
Some analysts also believe that Israel might not have acted completely alone. For instance, David Frum, the former speechwriter to President G. W. Bush and senior editor of The Atlantic, wrote on Twitter that the drone strike on Iran was the work of “a world coalition acting to stop Iran from supplying Russia with weapons of atrocity and genocide.”