Under the eye-catching title “Why is no one talking about Iran digging a new unbombable nuke facility?” Yonah Jeremy Bob discusses the new Iranian nuclear facility deep inside the mountain at Natanz here.
Iran is developing a new nuclear threat that could be a game-changer – and which will continue to proceed regardless of whether there is a nuclear deal or not.
It is a problem that almost no one is talking about, in an area called Natanz where the Mossad allegedly blew up two different nuclear facilities in July 2020 and April 2021 respectively.
The new enormous nuclear threat is a new underground facility Iran is digging and building in the Natanz area which goes so deep under a mountain so large that it will leave the Fordow facility in the dust in terms of how difficult it would be for the IDF to strike it.
In a report, Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright wrote, “Fordow is already viewed as so deeply buried that it would be difficult to destroy via aerial attack. The new Natanz site may be even harder to destroy.”
Why no one is talking about it – other than Albright – is probably a mix of it being an issue that may not fully mature until 2023 and that there are few good options for addressing….
There is another possibility. Both the Americans and the Israelis, who are surely working furiously on possible solutions to the problem, prefer at this point to do so in the dark, without alerting the Iranians.
The faciility at Fordow was thought to be the deepest one Iran had dug, and many thought that if the Americans provided Israel with the 30,000 pound MOPS – Massive Ordinance Penetrators known as “bunker busters” – in its arsenal, it might just be possible to destroy Fordow. But it was not a given. And now there is a much more impregnable facility that Iran is building inside the mountain at Natanz.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the then-head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) stated in April 2021, “We are working 24/7 to move all our sensitive halls into the heart of the mountain near Natanz.”
However, more than a year-and-a-half after the July 2020 sabotage, the replacement facility remains undone. Salehi had also said they hoped the halls “will be ready by next year so we can move these facilities to them.”
“However, even now it is unknown if the new site will be ready for operation before 2023….
If that is true – that the new facility at Natanz will not be ready until sometime in 2023 — that gives Israel, and the U.S., whose president has pledged “Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch,” some breathing room to figure out how to keep delaying the completion of the newest Natanz facility or, ideally, how to destroy it altogether.
Albright wrote that, “near the Western tunnel portal, there is road grading, perhaps for a second Western portal, or the genesis of an access route to the top of the mountain to allow the construction of a ventilation shaft/system on the top of the mountain.”
He recommended that, “Efforts should be made to dissuade Iran from finishing this facility, or… to at least disrupt its procurements of needed equipment and raw materials,” since otherwise, the facility could “reconstitute Iran’s ability to deploy thousands of advanced centrifuges each year, once again complicating any effort to lengthen its breakout or sneak-out timelines in a nuclear agreement.”
Why has the Biden Administration not raised this matter – of the new Natanz facility – in the negotiations in Vienna? Is It because it is so desperate for a deal with Iran that it does not want to anger Tehran by raising this new issue? But what is the point of negotiating an agreement about Iran’s nuclear program that ignores the sudden appearance of a brand-new elephant in the room? Why shouldn’t Washington insist that it will not lift sanctions on Iran as long as the work at Natanz – picked up by satellite images of the site – continues? Perhaps the Americans could dramatically raise the issue in a presidential address to the nation, where Biden could say something like this:
The government of Iran is now building a massive nuclear facility some 1600 meters deep inside the mountain at Natanz, a full 50% deeper than its facility at Fordow. If Iran is truly interested only in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as it claims, why does it need to build this facility inside a mountain at all? Why go to so much trouble to hide a “peaceful facility”? I think we all know the answer to that. Iran is determined to produce a nuclear weapon. I have pledged that Iran will not acquire a nuclear bomb on my watch. That is why I have ordered our air force today to destroy the two portals – the entrances on the western and eastern sides of the mountain — so that access inside is no longer possible. And If Iran chooses to try to reopen those portals, or to create others, we will again destroy them. If we cannot reach the facility inside the mountain with our current massive ordnance penetrators, or bunker-busters, we can nonetheless prevent the Iranians from entering and exiting that facility. And we can also send bombs down into the opening of the ventilation shaft/system that goes from the top of the mountain to the facility deep within. I hope that in Tehran the message has been received, and that Iran will give up these efforts which, if renewed, will again be dealt with in the same manner. Thank you, and good night.