The outgoing Israeli intelligence chief Mossad offered the closest recognition, but his country was behind the recent attacks on Iran’s nuclear program and a military scientist.
Yossi Cohen’s comments, addressing Israel’s Uvda investigative program on Channel 12 in a segment aired Thursday night, offered an extraordinary debriefing by the head of the typically secretive agency in what appears to be the last. days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reign.
He has also clearly warned other scientists of Iran’s nuclear program that they could also become assassination targets even as diplomats in Vienna attempt to negotiate terms to try to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. US President Joe Biden dispatched his diplomats to revive the historic agreement that his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew in 2018.
“If the scientist is ready to change careers and won’t hurt us anymore, then yes, sometimes we offer him a way out,” Cohen said.
Of the major attacks targeting Iran, none have struck deeper than two explosions in the past year at its Natanz nuclear facility. There, centrifuges enrich uranium from an underground hall designed to protect them from airstrikes.
In July 2020, a mysterious explosion destroyed Natanz’s forward centrifuge assembly, which Iran later blamed on Israel. Then, in April of this year, another explosion destroyed one of its underground enrichment rooms.
Discussing Natanz, the interviewer asked Cohen where he would take them if they could get there, he said “to the cellar” where “the centrifuges were spinning.”
“It doesn’t look like what it looked like anymore,” he added.
Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful
Cohen did not directly claim responsibility for the attacks, but his uniqueness offered the closest recognition to date of an Israeli hand in the attacks. The interviewer, journalist Ilan Dayan, also apparently offered a detailed voice-over description of how Israel introduced the explosives into the underground corridors of Natanz.
“The man who was responsible for these explosions, it becomes clear, made sure to provide the Iranians with the marble foundation on which the centrifuges are placed,” Dayan said. “As they install this foundation at Natanz’s facility, they have no idea that it already contains a huge amount of explosives.”
They also discussed the November murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist who launched Tehran’s military nuclear program decades ago. The United States and its regional ally Israel suspect Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. But Tehran has long maintained that its program was peaceful.
While Cohen on camera does not claim responsibility for the murder, Dayan in the segment described Cohen as having “personally signed the whole campaign.” Dayan also described how a remote controlled machine gun attached to a pickup truck killed Fakhrizadeh and then self-destructed.
Cohen described an Israeli effort to dissuade Iranian scientists from participating in the program, which had seen some abandon their work after being warned, even indirectly, by Israel. Asked by the interviewer if the scientists understood the implications if they didn’t stop, Cohen said, “They see their friends.”
They also spoke about the Israeli operation to seize archival documents from Iran’s military nuclear program. Dayan said 20 officers – none Israelis – seized material from 32 safes, then scanned and handed over much of the material. Cohen confirmed that the Mossad received most of the material before it was physically withdrawn from Iran.
New warning to Iran
Cohen defended Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to make the results of the operation public, going against a long-standing practice of secrecy involving Mossad activities.
“It was important to us that the world saw this, but this thing should also resonate with the Iranian leadership, to say to them, ‘Dear friends: one, you have been infiltrated. Two, we see you… Three, the era of… lies is over, ”Cohen said.
Media in Israel operates under a decades-old policy that requires journalists to clarify stories involving security issues through military censors. The fact that Cohen’s remarks seemingly obliterated censors suggests that Israel wanted to issue another warning to Iran in the context of the Vienna nuclear negotiations.
Iran has repeatedly complained about Israel’s attacks, with Iran’s Ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi warning as late as Thursday that the incidents “will not only receive a decisive response, but will certainly not leave Iran has no option, but to reconsider its transparency measures and its cooperation policy. ”.
Iran has authorized inspection of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but has threatened to halt cooperation if the nuclear deal is not revived. Tehran called on the United States to lift sanctions to return to the deal.
On Thursday, the Biden administration lifted sanctions against three Iranian government officials and two companies days before the next round of talks in Vienna.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the comments of Cohen, who has been replaced by former agent David Barnea. Cohen in the interview admitted that he might one day seek out the prime minister’s office himself.