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Ex-Mossad chief: Israel targeted nuke program ‘in the very heartland’ of Iran

Yossi Cohen says spy agency carried out ‘countless operations,’ warns Tehran is seeking to ‘encircle’ Israel with proxy terror groups

Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen speaks at an event in Switzerland marking 125 years since the First Zionist Congress, August 29, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger)
Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen speaks at an event in Switzerland marking 125 years since the First Zionist Congress, August 29, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger)

Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said Monday that Israel carried out “countless operations” against Iran’s nuclear program when he led the spy agency.

Speaking in English at an event in Switzerland marking 125 years since the First Zionist Congress, Cohen also hit out at the emerging nuclear accord between Iran and world powers.

“During my term as Mossad director, countless operations were conducted against Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.

“Without going into too many details, I can tell you the Mossad had many successes in the fight against Iran’s nuclear program,” Cohen said. “We operated around the world and on Iranian soil itself, in the very heartland of the ayatollahs.”

He noted the operation to snatch the Iranian nuclear files, which he said showed “clear evidence” Tehran lied about the military dimensions of its atomic program.

Mentioning the ongoing nuclear talks, Cohen said Israel “will continue to do whatever needs to be done” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms if a deal is signed.

“We can never allow a regime that calls for our destruction to get its finger on the nuclear trigger,” he said.

An Iranian flag flutters at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant on November 10, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

“Iran seeks to encircle Israel, from Gaza in the south to Lebanon and Syria in the north. It funds, trains and arms terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, enabling them to shoot thousands of rockets at Israel’s civilian population,” Cohen said.

“This fanatical regime must never obtain the ability to accelerate its weapon of mass destruction that would be used against the Jewish state,” he added.

Iran and the United States have traded written responses in recent weeks on the finer points of the roadmap to revive a 2015 accord, which would see sanctions lifted against Iran in exchange for it restricting its rapidly advancing nuclear program. Prime Minister Yair Lapid has slammed the emerging deal, saying the negotiators are letting Tehran manipulate the talks.

The 2015 deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to guarantee that it could not develop a nuclear weapon — something Tehran has always denied wanting to do.

Enrique Mora, a leading European Union diplomat, second right, attends a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, third left, in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2022. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, setting the stage for years of rising tensions.

EU-coordinated negotiations on reviving the deal began in April 2021 before coming to a standstill in March and picking up again in August. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it believes diplomacy is the best way to resolve the crisis.

Israel has long opposed the deal, arguing that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, and has published intelligence it says reveals the Iranian weapons program. Iran has denied any nefarious intentions and claims its program is designed for peaceful purposes, though it has recently been enriching uranium to levels that international leaders say have no civil use.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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