Agents of Israel’s spy agency Mossad smuggled hundreds of kilograms of paper and digital files on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program out of the Islamic Republic with Iranian agents “on their tails,” Hadashot television news reported Tuesday night, based on briefings by Israeli officials.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed the operation Monday as he displayed the trove of documents in a presentation aimed at proving that Iran has lied about its covert atomic weapons program.
The operation required an expansive operational infrastructure within Iranian territory, Hadashot reported.
The warehouse storing the files was located in the Shorabad suburb in southern Tehran, in an industrial area. Mossad discovered the warehouse in February 2016, and had had the building under surveillance since then. Before arriving at the site, the secret archives had been moved by Iranian authorities several times in a bid to keep their whereabouts a secret.
In late January of this year, Mossad agents received pinpoint information pointing them to certain safes in a specific container inside the warehouse. The team then broke in, removed the files and transferred them to a secondary location.
From there a complex extraction operation began.
According to Hadashot, Iranian officials realized that information had been taken before the files were out of the country. Mossad agents managed to smuggle the data out of Iran with authorities “on their tails,” searching for them.
According to a New York Times report Monday, agents broke into the building, took the documents and moved them back to Israel that same night.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz on Tuesday said the operation was unprecedented in Israel’s history.
“When the idea of the operation was first presented, I did not believe they could achieve it,” he told the Ynet news site. “They did something unprecedented here. They took tons of authentic documents here — and brought them here.”
The warehouse was maintained by the Revolutionary Guard’s Intelligence Organization, formed in 2009 by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and headed by cleric Hossein Taeb.
Hadashot Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari said Western officials now believe a reckoning is in store for Taeb and other officials under whose watch the top secret files were taken.
Channel 10 News’s Arab affairs correspondent Zvi Yehezkeli said Tuesday Iranian authorities had launched a wave of arrests following Netanyahu’s exposé, and that those responsible could face execution.
Hadashot further reported that though Israel was anxious to provide the data it has obtained to the US, Europe and other allies, its most important audience may be the International Atomic Energy Agency. Israeli leaders are intent on demonstrating to the atomic watchdog the depth of Iranian deception, and to reveal to them the infrastructure of lies upon which Tehran based its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.
Hadashot said that the decision to publicize the contents of the intelligence heist was taken at a meeting involving Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Mossad head Yossi Cohen, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, and head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Tamir Hayman.
All reportedly agreed that the data should be publicized with “as much noise as possible.”
Netanyahu on Monday night appeared on TV to present the file trove, saying it was a vast archive of Iran’s own documentation demonstrating that Tehran worked to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal and brazenly lied to the international community about it — facts which, the prime minister claimed, totally undermined the legitimacy of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.
US President Donald Trump has until May 12 to decide whether to pull the US out of that deal.