TEHRAN – A drone attack targeted a military site in Iran during the night between Saturday and Sunday, in a context of tensions linked to the nuclear dossier and the war in Ukraine. Authorities said they had repelled the attack, similar to previous clandestine operations that have targeted Iranian nuclear facilities in recent years.
“A cowardly act was done today to make Iran less safe,” the foreign minister condemned Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. But “such actions cannot affect the will of our experts for the development of peaceful nuclear energy,” he added to the press. The attack was carried out around 11.30pm on Saturday, causing no casualties and causing “slight damage to the roof” of a building of a military complex in Isfahan, a large city in central Iran, the Defense Ministry said during the night.
In total, three quadricopters, drones equipped with four rotors, targeted “an ammunition production plant” located north of the city, the Irna agency specified. One of these drones, less damaged than the others, “was handed over to the security forces stationed in the complex”, according to the agency. A video widely circulated on social networks shows a large explosion at the scene and images of emergency vehicles heading towards the area.
The announcement of this attack comes in a tense context against the backdrop of a protest movement in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini in September, persistent differences between Tehran and Washington over the renewal of the nuclear deal blown up by former US president Trump and Tehran’s supplies of drones to the Russian military for the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, commented on what he called an “explosive night” in Iran: “The logic of war is inexorable and murderous. And it imposes a heavy bill on the perpetrators and accomplices,” he wrote on Twitter referring to the Tehran’s support for the Russian war against Ukraine.
Citing intelligence sources, Al Arabiya broadcaster spoke of US involvement in the attack “with the help of local allies”.
In a statement to the Mehr news agency, MP Mohammad-Hassan Assafari accused the Islamic Republic’s “enemies” of trying to “disturb the country’s defensive capabilities”. Iran has several known nuclear research sites in the Isfahan region, including a uranium conversion plant. In recent years, the Iranian authorities have accused Israel of various covert actions carried out on its territory in the form of campaigns of cyber attacks, sabotage or targeted assassinations of scientists.
The attacks particularly targeted the Natanz nuclear research sites in 2020 and 2021 and the Karaj site in the same year. In 2020, an attack, perpetrated according to Tehran using a satellite machine gun, killed a prominent nuclear physicist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
The negotiations to revive the international Iranian nuclear agreement, known by the English acronym JCPOA and concluded in 2015 between Iran on the one hand, the European Union and the six major powers on the other, have stalled after the exit unilateral agreement by the United States in 2018. This agreement was aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring atomic weapons, an objective that Iran has always denied pursuing. In April 2022, however, Tehran announced it had begun producing 60% enriched uranium at its Natanz site, approaching the 90% needed to make an atomic bomb.
Without any connection to the attack, a fire broke out at a motor oil production plant in the north-west of the country on Saturday evening, Irna news agency reported. This fire, spectacular according to the images released by the media, took place in an important industrial center.