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US scholar says Natanz attack aimed to undermine nuclear talks

American scholar Richard A. Falk

American scholar Richard A. Falk believes Israel was behind the recent act of sabotage at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, saying the attack aimed to derail efforts to revive a landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and major world powers.

“Israel is responsible for this attack on Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz,” Falk, an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the author or co-author of some 20 books, said in an interview with Press TV.

He said Tel Aviv “would certainly have issued an immediate and convincing denial” if it were not behind that “perverse and reckless” move.

The Natanz nuclear site was hit by an attack on April 11 which Iran called “nuclear terrorism” and a “war crime”. The attack targeted the electricity distribution network of the Natanz enrichment facility and caused a blackout.

Following the attack, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of its plan to start enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, under which 1,000 advanced centrifuges will be installed at the site.

The most obvious explanation of the attack is an expression of Israel’s opposition to the Vienna talks aimed at returning the US to participation in the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as JCPOA or the P5+1 Agreement, especially as there were disclosures that talks were ‘constructive,’ with optimism about setting the stage for direct negotiations between Iran and the US to resume soon, Falk said.

The talks began early this month with the participation of the remaining parties to the JCPOA, namely Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, while excluding the US, which unilaterally left the deal three years ago.

Falk described as “reasonable” the call by Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), on the international community as well as the IAEA to deal with the “nuclear terrorism” that targets Iran’s facilities.

The American professor said the call points to the failures of the IAEA to act as a responsible international institution.

“Iran has long been victimized by Israeli nuclear terrorism without any appropriate international response against such serious wrongdoing,” he said.

“A condemnation of the attack as an instance of ‘nuclear terrorism’ would constitute an important step by the IAEA to establish its credibility,” Falk said.

“For  the IAEA and Washington to refrain from criticism of the Natanz attack plays into Israel’s hands, particularly if allowed to disrupt the gaining momentum toward ending sanctions and restoring US membership in JCPOA.”

Commenting on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s remarks in which he warned the US that neither sanctions nor acts of sabotage can serve as leverage in negotiations, Falk stressed that Tehran cannot be intimidated.

Iran has been subjected to “unlawful sanctions and coercive threats for decades, and yet has withstood these unlawful encroachments on its sovereign rights”, he said.

“I see no indications that Iran will be intimidated on this occasion to any greater extent than in responding to past provocations,” he said, stressing that “Iran has shown its subtle understanding of how to respond without itself being dangerously provocative”.

Falk said the administration of Joe Biden is focused on taking steps to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a rapid end and restore the American economy as quickly as possible.

The Biden administration, Falk said, seems “eager to avoid being accused by pro-Israeli sentiments in Congress and within the Israeli Lobby of neglecting Israeli concerns about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program”.

“In effect, there exist cross-cutting pressures that make it difficult to predict how the United States leadership will respond. So far, its failure to distance itself from the Israeli provocation is a disturbing indication that it will again allow its policy to be pushed in dysfunctional directions so as not to displease Israel’s militant supporters.”

Richard Falk is a leading international law professor, activist and author dedicated to peace and justice. His political memoir titled 'Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen Pilgrim' has recently been published in the US.

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