The outgoing head of the Mossad spy agency has called for Israel to ratchet up actions against Iran to teach it a lesson and deter the Islamic Republic.
Yossi Cohen’s comments at a ceremony in central Israel on Sunday came after a period in which Iran’s nuclear program has been rocked by a series of mysterious setbacks, some of which are suspected to be attacks directed or carried out by Israel.
“Activity against the Iranian regime must be stepped up so that it understands that crossing the lines will cost it immense damage,” Cohen said at a ceremony at Bar-Ilan university, where he was given an honorary doctorate.
“To succeed we need leadership and courage, willingness to act. Today’s security operation is no less important than tomorrow’s war,” he said, describing security as “the foundation that enables us to live a meaningful life.”
Cohen has led Israel’s legendary clandestine service since 2016, but is set to be replaced in the coming days by David Barnea, who was named to the Mossad post last week.
During that time, Israel and Iran have waged an intense covert war that has increasingly broken into the public eye.
A series of mysterious fires and explosions at Natanz and other nuclear facilities have been blamed on Israel, including a blackout apparently caused by a blast that damaged centrifuges there last month, as has the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last year.
The attacks have complicated US efforts to restart talks with Iran in rejoining the nuclear deal, an effort opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and called for punishing global sanctions.
Cohen, who also played a leading role in hammering out normalization efforts with Gulf states, is seen as a close confidant of Netanyahu. He is rumored to be Netanyahu’s choice to succeed him as Likud leader.