The outgoing head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service has offered close approval, yet his country was behind Iran’s nuclear program and recent attacks targeting a military scientist.
Yossi Cohen’s comments, speaking to Israel’s Channel 12 investigative program “Uvda” in a segment aired Thursday night, offered an extraordinary debriefing by the head of a typically secret agency into the final days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime.
It also gave a clear warning to other scientists in Iran’s nuclear program that they too could become targets of assassination, even as diplomats in Vienna were trying to negotiate terms with world powers to try to salvage their nuclear deal. be.
“If the scientist is ready to change careers and won’t hurt us anymore, then yes, sometimes we take them for granted,” Cohen said.
None of the major attacks targeting Iran has struck its Natanz nuclear plant more deeply than two explosions over the past year. There, centrifuges enrich uranium from an underground hall, which is designed to protect against air attacks.
In July 2020, a mysterious explosion tore apart Natanz’s advanced centrifuge assembly, for which Iran later blamed Israel. Then in April of this year, another explosion devastated one of its underground enrichment halls.
Discussing Nutanz, the interviewer asked Cohen where he would take them if they could travel there, he said “in the basement” where “centrifuges used to spin.”
“It didn’t look like it looked,” he said.
Cohen did not directly claim the attacks, but his specificity offered a close acknowledgment of Israel’s hand in the attacks. The interviewer, journalist Ilan Dayan, also offered in a voiceover a detailed account of how Israel rammed explosives into the underground halls of Natanz.
“The person responsible for these explosions, it becomes clear that the Iranians have been ensured to supply the marble foundations on which the centrifuges are placed,” Dayan said. “As they establish this foundation within the Natanz facility, they are not aware that it already contains a huge amount of explosives.”
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They also discussed the November assassination of Mohsin Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian scientist who launched Tehran’s military nuclear program decades ago. US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe that Iran abandoned that organized attempt to obtain a nuclear weapon in 2003. Iran has long kept its program peaceful.
While on camera Cohen does not claim murder, Dayan describes Cohen in the segment as “personally signed off on the entire campaign”. Dayan also described how a remotely operated machine gun for a pickup truck killed Fakhrizadeh and later self-destructed.
Cohen described an Israeli attempt to block Iranian scientists from participating in the program, which had led some to quit their jobs after warnings, even indirectly, by Israel. Asked by the interviewer whether scientists didn’t understand the effect if they didn’t stop, Cohen said: “They look at their friends.”
He also talked about Israel’s operation to seize archival documents from Iran’s military nuclear program. Dayan said 20 agents, none Israeli, confiscated material from 32 safes, then scanned and transmitted a large body of documents. Cohen confirmed that most of the material was received before the Mossad was physically taken out of Iran.
Cohen defended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to go public with the results of the operation, against the long-standing practice of secrecy associated with Mossad activities.
“It was important to us that the world sees this, but this should also resonate with the Iranian leadership, to tell them, ‘Dear friends: one, you have infiltrated. Two, we see you.. three, … the era of lies is over,” Cohen said.
The media in Israel operates under a decades-old policy that requires journalists to clear stories about security matters through military censors. Cohen’s remarks clearly cleared the censors, indicating that Israel wanted to issue a new warning to Iran amid the Vienna nuclear talks.
Iran has repeatedly complained about Israel’s attacks, with the IAEA’s ambassador to Iran, Kazem Gharibabadi, warning as recently as Thursday that the incidents “will not only be answered decisively, but certainly by Iran.” will leave no option but to reconsider its transparency measures and cooperation policy.”
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cohen’s remarks, who was replaced by former operative David Barnia. In interviews, Cohen admitted that he may one day seek the prime minister’s office himself.
Associated Press writer Karin Lobb in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.