The outgoing head of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, signaled the country’s clear responsibility for a series of attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear program in an interview that seemed to have as much to do with the feverish policies of Iran. Israel than with Iran.
In a public intervention that appeared to be timed to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a Knesset vote on Sunday that could end his 12 consecutive years in office, former agency chief Yossi Cohen revealed details of operations long attributed to Israel.
These included the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and an explosion in an underground centrifuge room in Natanz.
The interview also appeared to warn other scientists of Iran’s nuclear program that they could also become assassination targets even as diplomats in Vienna try to negotiate terms to salvage its atomic deal with world powers.
“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.
In an oft-teased interview with Channel 12’s Uvda investigative show, in which Cohen admitted to some of Mossad’s operations – including the theft of nuclear-related records in 2018 – and stopped just before Claiming more, the former head of the agency denied that his “closeness to Netanyahu” and his entourage had compromised the Mossad.
Cohen’s interview comes at the end of a five-and-a-half-year term in which he has been criticized for his connections to Netanyahu, other wealthy people and the media, and the suspicion his motivations for power sometimes have. been political.
“I know that I am paying a price for my proximity to [Netanyahu]”And that” the relationship of trust that I have with the Prime Minister is very useful for the operations of the Mossad and its development “, he declared, adding:” I am working for the highest reason. I do not work for the Prime Minister.
Cohen has also been implicated over a thousands-dollar gift he received from Australian billionaire James Packer, a neighbor and supporter of Netanyahu, claiming he would return the money he took in an “honest mistake. “.
While Israel’s role in the operations has never been seriously questioned, the sometimes odd format – in which interviewer Ilan Dayan made the most sensational statements, while Cohen was more circumspect – has left the veracity of many assertions impossible to verify.
Netanyahu has for years made the issue of Iran’s security threat to Israel his signing policy, with Cohen’s intervention seemingly designed to show how far Netanyahu is pursuing that goal ahead of Sunday’s vote.
While Cohen has made more general statements regarding targeting Iran, the most sensational allegations have been provided by Dayan, in a voiceover allegedly describing how Israel smuggled explosives hidden in marble floors into the underground corridors of Natanz.
Discussing Natanz, Dayan asked Cohen where he would take explosives 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.
Picking up the story, Dayan adds, “The man who was responsible for these explosions, it becomes clear, made sure to provide the Iranians with the marble foundation upon which the centrifuges are placed.
“As they install this foundation in the Natanz facility, they have no idea that it already contains a huge amount of explosives. “
The November assassination of Fakhrizadeh, which launched Tehran’s military nuclear program decades ago, has also been discussed over the program.
US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe Iran abandoned this organized nuclear weapon search effort in 2003. Iran has long maintained that its program was peaceful.
While Cohen on camera does not accept responsibility for the murder, Dayan 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, in which some had abandoned 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. “
Cohen and Dayan also spoke about the Israeli operation to seize archival documents from Iran’s military nuclear program. Dayan said 20 officers, none of whom were Israeli, seized material from 32 safes, then scanned and transmitted much of the material.
The former spy chief confirmed that the Mossad received most of the documents before they were physically removed from Iran.
“It was important to us that the world saw this, but this thing should also resonate with the Iranian leadership, to tell them, dear friends: one, you have been infiltrated; two, we see you; Third, the era of… lies is over, ”Cohen said.