Iran's problems maintaining operational centrifuges could be a result of covert sabotage by Western intelligence agencies
In May 2009, the International Atomic Energy Agency said there were 4,920 operational centrifuges. Twelve months later the IAEA stated that Iran was running only 3,936, a reduction of 20 per cent.
Iran also appears to be having difficulties on other fronts. Ivan Oelrich, of the Federation of American Scientists, said the centrifuges were only working at 20 per cent efficiency. The latest IAEA report says that 4,592 centrifuges are installed at Natanz – but are sitting idle and doing nothing at all.
Some security analysts see this as evidence of covert sabotage by western intelligence agencies. “There are signs that there has been a concerted intelligence operation which is able to debilitate and set back the Iranian programme,” says one academic, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is not foolproof. But a large number of Iranian centrifuges have crashed and up to half have had to be replaced in recent times. This success didn’t happen entirely accidentally.”
The United States also has non-kinetic options to slow Iranian nuclear progress. These include sabotage, cyberwarfare, and other intelligence operations designed to degrade Iran’s nuclear capabilities and deny Iran the resources necessary to produce a weapon. Like kinetic military options, these measures will likely only delay Iran. However, because their use entails lower costs and risks, they are more attractive policy tools.