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Mossad head to visit US next month to meet White House officials — report

Yossi Cohen may meet Biden during trip, will likely push against Iran rapprochement in talks with CIA chief, US national security adviser, TV report says

Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)
Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)

The head of the Mossad spy agency, Yossi Cohen, is reportedly finalizing a trip to the US scheduled for the second half of February to meet with senior officials in the Biden administration.

Cohen is set to meet US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, CIA chief William Burns and possibly US President Joe Biden, according to a Friday Channel 13 report.

He would likely be the first Israeli official to hold face-to-face meetings with the new administration and would be one of only a few senior officials from any country to visit the White House during the early days of the new administration, which maintains strict coronavirus precautions that limit most in-person interactions.

Channel 13 noted that a Cohen meeting with Biden would be noteworthy because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to do so, and typically the first official meeting with a US president is reserved for heads of state.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have talked with their new US counterparts since the administration took office, but Netanyahu and Biden have yet to speak.

Cohen is likely to focus on Iran during the trip. Biden has said he will rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, if Iran first returns to its terms. The move is strongly opposed by Israel and other US allies in the Middle East.

US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House on January 25, 2021. (Jim Watson/AFP)

Cohen, one of Netanyahu’s most trusted colleagues, will likely be tasked with pushing back on the new administration’s plans.

The Trump administration imposed punishing sanctions on Iran, crippling its economy, after withdrawing from the nuclear accord in 2018.

Biden officials argue that the sanctions have not stopped Iran from enriching uranium in violation of the deal. Iran has regularly breached the terms of the agreement in recent weeks.

However, the White House has pledged to consult with Israel regarding its plans to re-enter the accord and has stressed that Washington and Tehran are far from reaching a point of agreement.

A Channel 12 report this week said that if the US moves to rejoin the agreement, Cohen will present several demands that Israeli officials believe to be crucial: that Iran halt the enrichment of uranium; stop producing advanced centrifuges; cease its support of terror groups, especially Hezbollah; end its military presence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen; stop terror activity against Israeli targets overseas; and grant international inspectors full access to its nuclear program.

Cohen has led the Mossad for the past five years, including overseeing a 2018 Mossad operation that smuggled a trove of material from a warehouse in Tehran that exposed details of the regime’s rogue nuclear program from before it signed the 2015 deal.

Netanyahu publicly revealed the haul in April 2018, saying it proved “Iran lied” when denying it was working toward nuclear weapons during its negotiations with world powers.

Cohen was in the US earlier this month and met with former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo days before his tenure ended.

Netanyahu next week is slated to name a special envoy tasked with leading the government’s policy toward Iran as the new administration in Washington gets settled, Channel 13 reported Friday, adding that Cohen’s name has been among those being considered by the premier.

Biden is set to name Robert Malley as his special envoy to Iran. Malley is a former aide to president Barack Obama who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal. His appointment has set off alarm bells for Iran hawks in Washington, who fear he will be too conciliatory toward the regime, and not supportive enough of Israel.

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