Yossi Cohen stepped down as the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency last week. During his time as spy chief, Cohen oversaw multiple covert Israeli attacks inside Iran, including the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed last November.
While it’s no secret Israel is responsible for these attacks, Israel does not officially take credit for them, and officials usually give vague statements about such incidents. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Cohen, while still remaining vague, gave the clearest admission that Israel killed Fakhrizadeh and sabotaged Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.
Cohen began his time as Mossad chief in 2016. While Israel has killed several Iranian scientists, mostly between 2010 and 2012, only Fakhrizadeh was slain under Cohen’s watch. The ex-spy chief did not admit to killing Fakhrizadeh but confirmed that the Iranian scientist “was a target for [intelligence] gathering for many years.”
During the TV program that aired Cohen’s interview, the interviewer, journalist Ilana Dayan, gave voiceovers that shared more detail about Mossad operations that were likely approved by Israel’s military censors. Dayan said of Fakhrizadeh’s killing: “Yossi Cohen cannot take responsibility for this action, but his personal signature is on the entire operation.”
Dayan asked Cohen if Israel ever warns Iranian scientists it claims are involved in Tehran’s nuclear program before killing them. “If the scientist is willing to change career and will not hurt us anymore, then yes, sometimes we offer them” a way out, Cohen said.
Cohen also discussed Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, which has been the target of multiple covert Israeli attacks. Most recently, the facility was hit by an explosion in April, when indirect negotiations between the US and Iran to revive the nuclear deal began, a clear attempt to sabotage the talks.
Again, Cohen did not admit to the Natanz attacks but gave a description of the facility that made it clear Mossad was familiar with it. Dayan asked Cohen where he would take them if they could travel to the facility. “To the cellar. Because that is where the spinning centrifuges are located. Those that used to spin. Nowadays, the cellar doesn’t look like it used to,” he said.
Another voiceover from Dayan shared new details about the Natanz incidents. She said Israel made sure a marble foundation that was used to support the centrifuges was packed with explosives, something the Iranians were unaware of. “As they install this foundation within the Natanz facility, they have no idea that it already includes an enormous amount of explosives,” she said.
While Cohen is gone, his replacement David Barnea has warned that more covert attacks against Iran are coming. “The Iranian program will continue feeling Mossad’s might. We are well acquainted with the nuclear program and its various components, we know personally the factors that operate in it and also the forces that drive them,” Barnea said at his swearing in ceremony last week.