The Jerusalem Post

Is footage of attacked Iran nuke facility being blocked?

Tehran blames Mossad for hitting Karaj on June 23

- • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

It is starting to look like certain US satellite imagery services may have withheld high-resolution images of Iran’s nuclear facility at Karaj on June 23, which Tehran eventually blamed on Israel.

Although services like Maxar provided high-resolution images of the Natanz nuclear facility within several days of its being hit in July 2020, nearly a month after the Karaj attack, they have not done so.

Industry sources are cautious about drawing conclusion­s – there are always unpredicta­ble technical issues in the field of imagery – but viewed the absence of high-resolution images so long after the attack as very unusual.

Maxar was contacted but did not respond regarding the issue.

One reason it is possible that US companies might withhold such images could be that their primary customer is the US government, and it could, even informally, send certain “shutter control” signals.

Why all of this would be

occurring is even more speculativ­e, but one reason could be to help the Islamic Republic preserve the veneer of mild damage to its nuclear program.

The US wants to cut a deal

with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to return to the Joint Comprehens­ive Plan of Action nuclear deal, and part of getting to yes with the regime may be various face-saving measures.

If the ayatollahs wish to present the deal to their public as occurring from a position of strength and not desperatio­n, they might want to cover up how badly the Karaj nuclear facility was damaged.

In terms of what actually happened at Karaj, the extent of the damage to Iran’s nuclear program is still under debate.

However, a review of Iran’s conduct in this and similar cases of low-resolution imagery and of knowledgea­ble sources leans toward the conclusion that major harm was caused.

On June 23, Iran tried to

play down the attack and said there had been a failed attempt nearly all day, until

The Jerusalem Post first reported, based on knowledgea­ble sources, that evening that the attack had caused major damage.

Other media, including

The New York Times, later reported a variety of details about the attack.

By June 27, Institute for Science and Internatio­nal Security president David Albright had told the Post

that low-resolution imagery showed damage in a corner of one of the buildings at Karaj.

However, hours later Albright said that the imagery was inconclusi­ve.

On June 29, Albright said that additional low-resolution imagery seemed to show damage at the far west end of a building used to manufactur­e bellows for advanced centrifuge­s.

By mid-July, Albright said that the roof was back on the building. He expressed frustratio­n that there was

high-resolution

imagery from the time period when the roof was off, which would have allowed a clear look at the damage inside.

Albright also said in mid-July that an image from the French company Airbus showed that there may have been a fire inside – an episode that likely could have destroyed key equipment, materials and centrifuge components.

Although on July 6 Iran claimed that only the roof was damaged, in both the Karaj and Natanz cases, the Islamic Republic has prevented inspectors from surveying the damage in real time.

Also, Tehran’s narrative of limited damage to the roof is less credible because it came after its original lie that there was no damage at all.

Further, Iran recently cut back IAEA access to Natanz, seemingly to cover up that the facility is even more heavily damaged, and that its uranium enrichment pace has been substantia­lly reduced.

Finally, the July 6 changed narrative by the Islamic Republic seemed to be a response to reports about images produced by Intel Lab.

Images taken on June 26 showed a small dark spot on the roof of the building that was not there in images taken June 21.

By July 1, images portrayed the roof as being dismantled as part of cleaning.

After all of that, there are no clear conclusion­s to be drawn yet.

But there is a strong likelihood that the attacker of Karaj caused heavy damage, and that Iran, and possibly

US imagery companies, are looking to play it down. •

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