6.5 hours at 3600 degrees: How Israel swiped Iran's nuke secrets

Months after Israel revealed treasure trove of captured Iran nuclear documents, a peek inside the secret operation in Tehran.

David Rosenberg,

Netanyahu displaying captured Iranian documents
Netanyahu displaying captured Iranian documents
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Two-and-a-half months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the world in a much-anticipated live video statement, promising a ‘big surprise’ less than two weeks before President Donald Trump’s May 12th decision regarding America’s future in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal.

During his speech, Netanyahu revealed that Israel had captured an enormous treasure trove of secret documents from Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

"In 2017, Iran moved its nuclear weapons files to a highly secret location in Tehran," Netanyahu said.

"From the outside, this was an innocent-looking compound," he said. "But on the inside, it contained Iran's secret Atomic Archive locked in massive safes."

“Israel obtained half a ton of the material inside these vaults," he revealed. "55,000 pages, another 55,000 files on 183 CDs."

The files, Netanyahu claimed, proved that Iran had lied about the nuclear program it officially shelved in 2003, called “Project Amad”, which Tehran had claimed was limited to peaceful, civilian purposes.

Israel has also claimed that the information taken by Israel from the Tehran facility proves the Iranian regime has lied about its current nuclear program, and that while Project Amad was officially ended in 2003, much of the program was continued covertly the closure.

Some details regarding Israel’s intelligence gathering and document acquisition operation were leaked shortly after Netanyahu’s address, revealing that Israel had first discovered the document storage facility in February 2016, and that the mission to capture the files had been undertaken in January, after Iran began transferring top secret material to the facility.

Last week, Israel disclosed additional information regarding the operation to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

According to a report by the Times on Sunday, the operation in Tehran’s Shorabad district took place over the course of just under six and a half hours, beginning late at night on the 31st of January.

The Iranian nuclear document storage facility, which had been under close Israeli surveillance since February 2016, would be accessible for a roughly eight-hour window overnight, until the arrival of the morning shift of Iranian guards.

By 7:00 a.m., the Mossad agents were told, the guards would be on site. The Mossad instructed all Israeli operatives to be clear at least two hours ahead of the 7:00 a.m. cut-off, since the arriving guards would quickly discover what had happened and would alert Iranian security forces to search the surrounding area.

Over the course of six hours and 29 minutes, the Israeli team disabled the facility’s alarms and other security systems before breaking through two doors to reach the dozens of sealed compartments which held documents from Iran’s nuclear program.

In the time allotted, Israeli agents were able to open 32 of the safes using torches burning at temperatures exceeding 3,600 degrees, removing half a ton of files and other materials – while leaving other files the team was unable to reach before the 5:00 a.m. deadline for their evacuation.




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