Former Mossad head Yossi Cohen acknowledged in an interview with Haaretz on Sunday that Iran has been enriching more uranium since the American withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Cohen was interviewed by Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn at the Haaretz-UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center conference on Israeli National Security. When the two discussed former US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s encouragement of such a step, Benn noted that ever since that step, Iran has been enriching more uranium than before. Cohen replied, “That’s true.”
Cohen was asked about the fact that several of his predecessors, such as former Mossad chiefs Ephraim Halevy and Tamir Pardo, criticized Netanyahu for pushing Trump to withdraw from the deal. Cohen, as Mossad chief, oversaw an operation in 2018 to get ahold of Iran’s nuclear archive, which helped convince Trump to withdraw from the deal.
“We had shown the Americans and the world that Iran lied all the way to the deal,” Cohen replied. “Iran wasn’t coming clean on many issues that were hidden from the world.”
With regard to operations that the Mossad reportedly conducted deep inside Iran during his tenure at the helm of the agency, Cohen said, “You can damage and slow down their capabilities. Everything that we, according to foreign press reports, did in Iran, was to make sure that they keep enough of a distance in terms of capabilities.”
He added, however, that the main problem remains Iran’s leaders’ intentions, which cannot be changed by clandestine activities.
Cohen also said that he is skeptical that an agreement will emerge from the negotiations that are about to begin in Vienna because Ebrahim Raisi, the recently elected president of Iran, is “not the same face of Iran that [his predecessor] Hassan Rouhani was. He is much more extreme in his regional views, and I’m not sure Iran will agree to a deal.”
Cohen described the negotiations as “motion with a lot of emotion,” but with only a small chance for actual success.
Despite the assessments of some former senior officials that it is now too late to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state, Cohen said that “it’s never too late. We have to adapt, in our minds, to the statement that Israel will never let the Iranians hold a military nuclear capability.”
Responding to a question about Israel’s ability to carry out a military strike against Iran by itself, Cohen said, “I think Israel should have the ability to fight this aspect alone, like we did twice in the past in Iraq and Syria.”
The interview with Cohen comes ahead of the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers on November 29.
Iran has demanded that the US lift sanctions imposed on Iran as part of the nuclear talks and also reassure Iran it will not abandon the deal again.