The Qatar-based al-Jazeera news network published a 2012 cable allegedly from the Mossad, which said that Iran was not building a nuclear bomb, a statement that appears at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments a month earlier at the UN.
But sources in Jerusalem said the two assessments were not contradictory.
The cable, which was sent by the Israeli intelligence agency to South Africa’s State Security Agency in October of that year, said that at the “bottom line,” Tehran had not begun work to build a bomb, but was “working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment reactors.”
Still, the enrichment activities undertaken by the Iranian scientists would cut the time needed to construct a nuclear weapon, should it be given the directive, the Mossad cable reportedly said.
The Iranian scientists’ activities “will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given,” it said.
The assessment appeared to contradict statements issued by Netanyahu just a month earlier, in a UN address on Iran’s nuclear program. Holding the now-famous chart with markers of 70 percent enrichment, and the “red line” at 90%, Netanyahu had said that “by next spring, by most at next summer at current enrichment rates [Iran] will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage.”
At that “final stage,” Iran will have produced weapons-grade uranium, Netanyahu said.
Sources in Jerusalem said Monday evening that the Mossad cable and the prime minister’s remarks did not contradict one another, the Ynet news site reported. They did not elaborate further, but the statement appeared to confirm the authenticity of the correspondence attributed to Mossad.
Also among the revelations from the documents acquired by Al Jazeera: In October 2012, Mossad estimated that Iran had 100 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20%.
Iran expanded that stockpile in 2013, but then agreed to neutralize or destroy the material under an agreement with the P5+1 group of nations.
The documents, which spanned briefings and analyses by South Africa’s State Security Agency from 2006-2014, also included correspondences with the CIA, MI6, FSB, the Iranian spy agency and agencies of several other Middle Eastern states. The files ranged from confidential to top-secret, according to al-Jazeera.
A selection of the leaked files, published by Al Jazeera in collaboration with the British Guardian newspaper, “offered an unprecedented insight into operational dealings of the shadowy and highly politicized realm of global espionage,” Al Jazeera said in a preview of the publication on its website.
The Qatari news channel said that only a selection of the leaked spy documents would be published, while others “have been saved for future broadcast — ones that needed further contextualization,” and that “hundreds will not be revealed.”
The aforementioned Mossad report appeared to reinforce a New York Times report from 2012 that quoted a former senior US intelligence official to the effect that Israel’s spy agency agreed with US assessments that Iran’s nuclear weapons program “hadn’t been restarted.”
“Their people ask very hard questions, but the Mossad does not disagree with the US on the weapons program,” the anonymous official told The New York Times in March 2012. “There is not a lot of dispute between the US and Israeli intelligence communities on the facts.”