Barnea says Iran was 'hair's breadth' from attack in Turkey

Mossad head: Nuclear deal won’t give Iran ‘immunity’ from Israeli operations

In 1st public speech, Barnea says spy agency won’t join ‘charade’ of emerging accord ‘based on Iranian lies,’ thwarted ‘dozens of Iranian terror attacks on Israelis, Jews abroad’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Mossad chief David Barnea speaks at the annual conference of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism Policy (ICT) at Reichman University in Herzliya on September 12, 2022. (Gilad Kavalerchik)
Mossad chief David Barnea speaks at the annual conference of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism Policy (ICT) at Reichman University in Herzliya on September 12, 2022. (Gilad Kavalerchik)

Mossad chief David Barnea on Monday said Israel would not participate in the “charade” of a renewed nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, and warn that the emerging agreement would “not provide immunity” for Tehran from the spy agency’s operations.

“The deal is based on Iranian lies. Iran has sought to build a nuclear weapon that endangers Israel’s existence. The deal will easily help them reach this goal under international legitimization,” Barnea said at a conference at Herzliya’s Reichman University, in his first public speech since becoming head of the spy agency in June 2021.

Barnea said that “even if a deal is signed, it will not provide immunity from Mossad operations.”

“We will not take part in this charade. We will not close our eyes to the proven truth. The Iranian regime will have no immunity,” he warned.

“The Iranian leadership must understand that attacks against Israel or Israelis, directly or indirectly by proxies, will be met with a painful response against those responsible, on Iranian soil. We will not pursue the proxies, but the ones who armed them and gave the orders, and this will happen in Iran,” Barnea warned.

He said that Iranian state-sponsored terrorism has continued during the ongoing nuclear talks with world powers.

“It is state terrorism, ordered by [Iran’s] leader [Ali Khamenei] and perpetrated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian intelligence organizations. It is not spontaneous; it is planned, systematic, and strategic terror,” he said.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a televised New Year speech, in Tehran, Iran, on March 21, 2022. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

“Terror is used by Iran as a substitute for diplomacy,” Barnea said. “Terror serves to help the survival of the regime, prevents any change by the Iranian public, undermines the sovereignty of its neighbors, and deters them from cooperating with Israel. Terror is used to extort countries all over the world,” he said.

“The nuclear talks are not a restraining factor in any way — on the contrary. Terror activity is expanding both on US soil and in Europe, and this is during the negotiations in Vienna,” Barnea said.

Barnea said Mossad had foiled “dozens of Iranian terror attacks against Israelis and Jews abroad” recently, in Cyprus, Turkey, Colombia, and “many other places.”

“In all of them, the perpetrators were caught in possession of the means of killing, and in their investigation, they revealed the targets,” he said.

“We stood within a hair’s breadth of harm to our people. The crosshairs were essentially already on the [targets’] heads,” Barnea said regarding the attempted Iranian attacks in Turkey.

“Thanks to the Turkish [authorities], we thwarted terrorist attacks right before the trigger was pulled,” he said.

Turkish authorities arrest an alleged Iranian cell that sought to target Israelis in Istanbul on June 23, 2022. (Screen capture/CNN Turkey)

“Attempts are being made to harm American officials on US soil,” he said, referring to alleged Iranian plans to murder former US national security adviser John Bolton and former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

“If they are not held accountable for the terrorist acts in the firmest manner, they are given a green light to continue their activities,” Barnea said.

Barnea was in the US last week to hold talks with officials on the emerging nuclear deal. He said Monday that he “presented the consequences of signing the deal” which would include 90 billion dollars Iran would gain in the first year and dozens more every year after that, which he warned would be used to fund its terror proxies.

European mediators last month had appeared to make progress in restoring the 2015 nuclear accord as Iran largely agreed to a proposed final text. But chances dimmed when the United States sent a reply, to which Iran in turn responded with a fresh demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its investigation into several undeclared nuclear sites.

On Sunday morning, a senior Israeli official said Israel does not believe that Iran and world powers will return to their nuclear deal before the November midterm elections in the US.

In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal and began reimposing biting sanctions, prompting Tehran to publicly roll back on its commitments under the agreement.

US President Joe Biden favors restoring the deal. Under the proposed agreement, Iran would enjoy sanctions relief and again be able to sell its oil worldwide in return for tough restrictions on its nuclear program.

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