Sustained covert operations campaign by U.S. agencies and its allies have delayed Iranian program
From 2005 onward, various intelligence arms and the U.S. Treasury, working together with the Mossad, began a worldwide campaign to locate and sabotage the financial underpinnings of the Iranian nuclear project. The Mossad provided the Americans with information on Iranian firms that served as fronts for the country’s nuclear acquisitions and financial institutions that assisted in the financing of terrorist organizations, as well as a banking front established by Iran and Syria to handle all of these activities. The Americans subsequently tried to persuade several large corporations and European governments — especially France, Germany and Britain — to cease cooperating with Iranian financial institutions, and last month the Senate approved sanctions against Iran’s central bank. In addition to these interventions, as well as to efforts to disrupt the supply of nuclear materials to Iran, since 2005 the Iranian nuclear project has been hit by a series of mishaps and disasters, for which the Iranians hold Western intelligence services — especially the Mossad — responsible. According to the Iranian media, two transformers blew up and 50 centrifuges were ruined during the first attempt to enrich uranium at Natanz in April 2006. A spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Council stated that the raw materials had been “tampered with.” Between January 2006 and July 2007, three airplanes belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards crashed under mysterious circumstances. Some reports said the planes had simply “stopped working.” The Iranians suspected the Mossad, as they did when they discovered that two lethal computer viruses had penetrated the computer system of the nuclear project and caused widespread damage, knocking out a large number of centrifuges.
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.