The departing head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service has hinted at possible Israeli involvement in recent attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and on an Iranian scientist, though he stopped short of directly claiming responsibility.
The statements to Israel’s Channel 12 by Yossi Cohen, broadcast late on June 10, included phrasing that suggested that other Iranian scientists working on Iran’s nuclear activities could be targeted for assassination.
The appearance by the outgoing chief of Mossad coincides with what are likely to be the waning days of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule with a confidence vote set for June 13 in a broad coalition that would topple the country’s longest-serving head of government.
The detailed descriptions of possible covert operations also come with the United States and other world powers negotiating a possible return to the 2015 nuclear deal that Washington abandoned three years ago.
Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which Western governments fear is aimed at a capacity to make nuclear weapons, and ongoing U.S. sanctions to punish Tehran are at the center of those efforts. Iran claims its nuclear ambitions are only for civilian uses.
Cohen offered a seemingly detailed description of Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility and the damage inflicted on it by at least two separate explosions there over the past year.
The TV station’s interviewer, Ilana Dayan, also painted a detailed narrative of events suggesting Israel or its agents had snuck explosives into the underground halls of Natanz.
“It doesn’t look like it used to look,” Cohen said of “the cellar” where “the centrifuges used to spin” at Natanz.
Cohen also discusses the killing in November 2020 of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist widely credited with beginning an alleged military nuclear program decades ago that U.S. intelligence and the UN atomic watchdog say was abandoned in 2003.
“If the scientist is willing to change career and will not hurt us anymore, then yes, sometimes we offer them” a path out of harm’s way, Cohen said.
The interviewer, Dayan, described Cohen as having “personally signed off on the entire campaign.”
The U.S. government said on June 10 it had removed sanctions on three former Iranian officials and on two companies previously involved in trading Iranian petrochemical products.
The move quickly raised questions about whether they were related to efforts to revive Iranian and U.S. compliance with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that traded sanctions relief for curbs on Iran’s most sensitive nuclear activities.
President Joe Biden took office in January vowing a return to that agreement, which Israel has long opposed.