The New York Times reported on Thursday that US and Israeli intelligence officials have been monitoring the construction of a vast tunnel network at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, which the US views as Tehran’s latest effort to build nuclear facilities that can’t be targeted by Israel.
The report said that attacking the new facility would require the largest bunker-busting bomb the US has in its arsenal, which Israel doesn’t possess. But US officials said they weren’t “especially alarmed” about the facility since construction will take years to complete.
The Times report said the officials believed the new facility is meant to replace a centrifuge facility Israel blew up in April 2020, although it’s not clear what attack the report is referencing. In July 2020, Israel targeted an Iranian centrifuge facility in Natanz that was hit by a major explosion.
In response to the report, Behrouz Kamalvandithe, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that Tehran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the new construction even though it’s not obligated to do so. He also said Iran informed the IAEA when it relocated a nuclear facility that was hit by an Israeli drone attack in July 2021 from Karaj, Iran, to Natanz.
The Times report hypes up claims that Iran is close to developing a nuclear bomb even though Iran has not attempted to enrich uranium up to the 90% needed for weapons-grade. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem like the US is very concerned about the new construction.
The report comes amid stalled talks between the US and Iran to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. In a sign that the Biden administration has given up on the negotiations altogether, the Biden administration on Thursday ramped up sanctions on Iran, a move Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said undermines potential talks.