A series of fires and explosions at or near Iran's nuclear sites have drawn suspicion of outside — or possible inside — sabotage, and Iran has vowed retaliation if it can prove it.
But that might be harder than splitting the atom.
The United States and Israel are the two major outside suspects, and the two could even be working together, experts say.
"Although many are asking the question, was this a cyber-attack or physical sabotage, the answer could be 'both.' The most likely suspects are the U.S. and Israel working in tandem," David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSec and a former NSA and Marine Corps cyber-intelligence expert, told Fox News. "Both countries have very sophisticated cyber warfare units and significant capabilities when it comes to cyber-kinetic attacks."
Journalists for BBC Persian reported receiving emails June 30 from a group claiming to be anti-government, underground dissidents and calling themselves "Homeland Cheetahs" that claimed credit for the earliest attacks. But the group had never been heard of before, and is possible a ruse, BBC Persian noted.
The attacks began three weeks ago, and appear to be mostly physical attacks, though a cyber element may be involved. They have included a major nuclear enrichment facility that was sabotaged earlier this month.
"If it's concluded that a regime or a government had a hand in the incident, directly or indirectly, the Islamic Republic will respond decisively," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a press briefing in Tehran on Monday. The July 2 explosion at the Natanz nuclear site "didn't have much impact" on activities there or the country's nuclear program, Mousavi said.
The blast caused "significant damage" to an open-air structure that was used to store measurement equipment, authorities have said, without giving detail.
The New York Times has cited intelligence officials as saying the U.S. and Israel assess the blast has set back Iran's nuclear program by as much as two years.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, had said the cause of the explosion could not be disclosed due to "security considerations."
Experts told Fox Tehran, reeling from the COVID-19 outbreak and financial issues, is also suffering from intelligence gaps and likely has little means to fight back despite its threats.
"Tehran has not yet retaliated for the Natanz explosion. (But) I would expect to see an uptick in Iranian cyber operations against the U.S., Israel, and our Mideast allies like Saudi Arabia, but I don't expect a serious conflagration," Kennedy said. "The Iranians have suffered a major setback to their nuclear program and their domestic security. They've been badly embarrassed. And the truth is, they may not know the full extent of what happened in that attack. They also don't know what else is coming."
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.
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