Yossi Cohen’s comments, speaking to Israel’s Channel 12 investigative show “Uvda” in a segment aired Thursday night, offered an extraordinary report by the head of the typically secretive agency in what appears to be the latest days of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He also gave a clear warning to other scientists in Iran’s nuclear program that they too could become assassination targets even as diplomats in Vienna try to negotiate terms to try to salvage their atomic deal with world powers.
“If the scientist is willing to change careers and he won’t hurt us anymore, then yes, sometimes we offer them” an outlet, Cohen said.
Among the major attacks targeting Iran, none have gone deeper than two explosions in the past year at its Natanz nuclear facility. There, the centrifuges enrich the uranium from an underground room designed to protect them from air attacks.
In July 2020, a mysterious explosion ripped apart Natanz’s advanced centrifuge assembly, which Iran later blamed on Israel. Then, in April of this year, another explosion destroyed one of its underground enrichment rooms.
When asked about Natanz, the interviewer asked Cohen where he would take them if they could travel there, he said “to the basement” where “the centrifuges used to spin.” “It doesn’t look like it used to be seen,” he added.
Cohen did not directly claim the attacks, but their specificity offered the closest recognition yet of an Israeli hand in the attacks. The interviewer, journalist Ilan Dayan, apparently also offered a detailed description of how Israel introduced the explosives into Natanz’s underground corridors that Cohen did not question.
“The man who was responsible for these explosions, it is clear, made sure to supply the Iranians with the marble base on which the centrifuges are placed,” Dayan said. “As they set up this table inside the Natanz facility, they have no idea that it already contains a huge amount of explosives.”
He also mentioned the November assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist who started Tehran’s military nuclear program decades ago. US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe that Iran abandoned its organized effort to search for a nuclear weapon in 2003. Iran has long maintained that its program is peaceful.
While Cohen on camera does not claim the murder, Dayan in the segment described Cohen as “personally signed throughout the campaign.”
Cohen described an Israeli effort to dissuade Iranian scientists from participating in the program, which had seen some abandon their work after being warned, even indirectly, by Israel. When asked by the interviewer if scientists understood the implications of not doing so, Cohen said, “Come see your friends.”
Iran has repeatedly complained about Israel’s attacks, and Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi warned on Thursday that the incidents “ will not only be responded to decisively, but will certainly leave Iran no choice but to reconsider. its transparency measures and cooperation policy. ”
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cohen’s comments, who was replaced by former operative David Barnea.