Exclusive: Will satellite material from the attacked Iranian facility be blocked?



It looks like certain U.S. satellite imaging services withheld high-resolution images of the Iranian nuclear facility in Karaj on June 23, which Tehran eventually accused Israel of.

Although services like Maxar provided high resolution images of the Natanz nuclear facility within a few days of their July 2020 attack, almost a month after the Karaj attack, they did not.

Industry circles are reluctant to draw conclusions – there are always unpredictable technical problems in the image area – but considered the lack of high-resolution images to be very unusual for so long after the attack.

Maxar was contacted but did not respond to the problem.

One reason US companies may withhold such images could be that their main customer is the US government, which may even informally send certain “shutter control” signals.

Why all of this would happen is even more speculative, but one reason could be to help the Islamic Republic keep the appearance of minor damage to its nuclear program.

The US wants to sign an agreement with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, and part of the yes with the regime could be various face-saving measures.

If the ayatollahs want to present the deal to their public as from a position of strength rather than despair, they may want to cover up the severity of the damage to the Karaj nuclear facility.

In view of what actually happened in Karaj, the extent of the damage to the Iranian nuclear program is still controversial.

However, a review of Iran’s conduct in this and similar cases from low-resolution images and knowledgeable sources suggests that significant damage has been done.

On June 23, Iran attempted to downplay the attack, saying there had been a failed attempt for most of the day until the evening the Jerusalem Post first reported, based on knowledgeable sources, that the attack had caused great damage.

Other media outlets, including the New York Times, later reported a variety of details about the attack.

By June 27, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, had told the Post that low-resolution images showed damage to a corner of one of the buildings in Karaj.

However, hours later, Albright said the images were inconclusive.

On June 29, Albright said additional low-resolution images appeared to show damage to the far west end of a building that makes bellows for advanced centrifuges.

In mid-July, Albright said the roof was back on the building. He expressed his frustration that there weren’t any high-resolution US images from the time the roof was removed that would have allowed a clear view of the damage inside.

Albright also said in mid-July that a picture taken by French company Airbus showed that there may have been a fire inside – an episode that likely could have destroyed vital equipment, materials and centrifuge components.

Although Iran claimed on July 6 that only the roof was damaged, the Islamic Republic of both the Karaj and Natanz cases prevented inspectors from investigating the damage in real time.

Tehran’s narrative of limited damage to the roof is also less believable because it came from their original lie that there was no damage at all.

In addition, Iran recently restricted the IAEA’s access to Natanz, apparently to cover up the fact that the facility is even more damaged and that the pace of uranium enrichment has been significantly reduced.

Finally, the Islamic Republic’s amended July 6 narrative appeared to be in response to reports of images produced by Intel Lab.

The images taken on June 26th showed a small dark spot on the roof of the building that was not present in the June 21st images.

Up until July 1, pictures showed how the roof was dismantled as part of the cleaning process.

After all that, no clear conclusions can be drawn yet.

However, it is very likely that Karaj’s attacker did serious damage and that Iran and possibly US video companies are trying to downplay him.



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