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Ex Chief: Israel Behind Iran Attacks   06/11 06:12

   

   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The outgoing chief of Israel's Mossad 
intelligence service has offered the closest acknowledgment yet his country was 
behind recent attacks targeting Iran's nuclear program and a military scientist.

   The comments by Yossi Cohen, speaking to Israel's Channel 12 investigative 
program "Uvda" in a segment aired Thursday night, offered an extraordinary 
debriefing by the head of the typically secretive agency in what appears to be 
the final days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rule.

   It also gave a clear warning to other scientists in Iran's nuclear program 
that they too could become targets for assassination even as diplomats in 
Vienna try to negotiate terms to try to salvage its atomic accord with world 
powers.

   "If the scientist is willing to change career and will not hurt us anymore, 
than yes, sometimes we offer them" a way out, Cohen said.

   Among the major attacks to target Iran, none have struck deeper than two 
explosions over the last 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 tore apart Natanz's advanced centrifuge 
assembly, which Iran later blamed on Israel. Then in April of this year, 
another blast tore apart one of its underground enrichment halls.

   Discussing Natanz, the interviewer asked Cohen where he'd take them if they 
could travel there, he said "to the cellar" where "the centrifuges used to 
spin."

   "It doesn't look like it used to look," he added.

   Cohen did not directly claim the attacks, but his specificity offered the 
closest acknowledgement yet of an Israeli hand in the attacks. The interviewer, 
journalist Ilana Dayan, also seemingly offered a detailed description in a 
voiceover of how Israel snuck the explosives into Natanz's underground halls.

   "The man who was responsible for these explosions, it becomes clear, made 
sure to supply to the Iranians the marble foundation on which the centrifuges 
are placed," Dayan said. "As they install this foundation within the Natanz 
facility, they have no idea that it already includes an enormous amount of 
explosives."

   They also discussed the November killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian 
scientist who began Tehran's military nuclear program decades ago. U.S. 
intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe Iran 
abandoned that organized effort at seeking a nuclear weapon in 2003. Iran long 
has maintained its program is peaceful.

   While Cohen on camera doesn't claim the killing, Dayan in the segment 
described Cohen as having "personally signed off on the entire campaign." Dayan 
also described how a remotely operated machine gun fixed to a pickup truck 
killed Fakhrizadeh and later self-destructed.

   Cohen described an Israeli effort to dissuade Iranian scientists from taking 
part 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 talked about Israel's operation seizing archival documents from 
Iran's military nuclear program. Dayan said 20 agents, none Israelis, seized 
material from 32 safes, then scanned and transmitted a large portion of the 
documents. Cohen confirmed that the Mossad received most of the material before 
it was physically taken out of Iran.

   Cohen defended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to go public 
with the results of the operation, going against a long-standing practice of 
secrecy involving Mossad activities.

   "It was important to us that the world will see 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.. Three, the era of ... lies is 
over,'" Cohen said.

   Media in Israel operate under a decades-old policy that requires journalists 
to clear stories involving security matters through military censors. That 
Cohen's remarks apparently cleared the censors suggests Israel wanted to issue 
a new warning to Iran amid the Vienna nuclear negotiations.

   Iran has repeatedly complained about Israel's attacks, with Iran's 
ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi warning as recently as Thursday that 
the incidents "not only will be responded to decisively, but also certainly 
leave no option for Iran 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 over the comments by Cohen, who was replaced by former 
operative David Barnea. Cohen in the interview acknowledged he might one day 
seek the prime minister's office himself.

 
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