Outgoing Mossad chief signals Israel behind Iran nuclear attacks

Israel's new head of Mossad Yossi Cohen attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on January 10, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 11 June 2021

Outgoing Mossad chief signals Israel behind Iran nuclear attacks

  • The comments by Yossi Cohen offer an extraordinary debriefing by the head of the typically secretive agency
  • In July 2020, a mysterious explosion tore apart Natanz’s advanced centrifuge assembly, which Iran later blamed on Israel

DUBAI: The outgoing chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service has offered the closest acknowledgment yet his country was behind recent attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear program and a military scientist.
The comments by Yossi Cohen, speaking to Israel’s Channel 12 investigative program “Uvda” in a segment aired Thursday night, offered an extraordinary debriefing by the head of the typically secretive agency in what appears to be the final days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule.
It also gave a clear warning to other scientists in Iran’s nuclear program that they too could become targets for assassination even as diplomats in Vienna try to negotiate terms to try to salvage its atomic accord with world powers.
“If the scientist is willing to change career and will not hurt us anymore, than yes, sometimes we offer them” a way out, Cohen said.
Among the major attacks to target Iran, none have struck deeper than two explosions over the last year at its Natanz nuclear facility. There, centrifuges enrich uranium from an underground hall designed to protect them from airstrikes.
In July 2020, a mysterious explosion tore apart Natanz’s advanced centrifuge assembly, which Iran later blamed on Israel. Then in April of this year, another blast tore apart one of its underground enrichment halls.
Discussing Natanz, the interviewer asked Cohen where he’d take them if they could travel there, he said “to the cellar” where “the centrifuges used to spin.”
“It doesn’t look like it used to look,” he added.
Cohen did not directly claim the attacks, but his specificity offered the closest acknowledgement yet of an Israeli hand in the attacks. The interviewer, journalist Ilan Dayan, also seemingly offered a detailed description in a voiceover of how Israel snuck the explosives into Natanz’s underground halls.
“The man who was responsible for these explosions, it becomes clear, made sure to supply to the Iranians the marble foundation on which the centrifuges are placed,” Dayan said. “As they install this foundation within the Natanz facility, they have no idea that it already includes an enormous amount of explosives.”
They also discussed the November killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist who began Tehran’s military nuclear program decades ago. US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe Iran abandoned that organized effort at seeking a nuclear weapon in 2003. Iran long has maintained its program is peaceful.
While Cohen on camera doesn’t claim the killing, Dayan in the segment described Cohen as having “personally signed off on the entire campaign.” Dayan also described how a remotely operated machine gun fixed to a pickup truck killed Fakhrizadeh and later self-destructed.
Cohen described an Israeli effort to dissuade Iranian scientists from taking part in the program, which had seen some abandoned their work after being warned, even indirectly, by Israel. Asked by the interviewer if the scientists understood the implications if they didn’t stop, Cohen said: “They see their friends.”
They also talked about Israel’s operation seizing archival documents from Iran’s military nuclear program. Cohen said 20 agents, none Israelis, seized material from 32 safes, then scanned and transmitted the documents before successfully sneaking them out.
“It was important to us that the world will see this, but this thing should also resonate with the Iranian leadership, to tell them, ‘Dear friends: One, you have been infiltrated. Two, we are (watching you). Three, the era of ... lies is over,’” Cohen said.
Media in Israel operate under a decades-old policy that requires journalists to clear stories involving security matters through military censors. That Cohen’s remarks apparently cleared the censors suggests Israel wanted to issue a new warning to Iran amid the Vienna nuclear negotiations.
Iran has repeatedly complained about Israel’s attacks, with Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi warning as recently as Thursday that the incidents “not only will be responded decisively, but also certainly leave no option for Iran 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 over the comments by Cohen, who was replaced by former operative David Barnea. Cohen in the interview acknowledged he might one day seek the prime minister’s office himself.


Biden to host Israeli President Rivlin on June 28 — White House

Updated 31 min 32 sec ago

Biden to host Israeli President Rivlin on June 28 — White House

  • Rivlin will visit shortly before he is due to end his seven-year term in July

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden plans to host Israel’s new president, Reuven Rivlin, at the White House on June 28, the White House said on Saturday.
“President Rivlin’s visit will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel and the deep ties between our governments and our people,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Rivlin will visit shortly before he is due to end his seven-year term in July.
Isaac Herzog was elected the country’s new president this month in elections that marked the end of the era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu era in Israel.
The role of president is largely ceremonial but also meant to promote unity among ethnic and religious groups.
The government changed after last month’s fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza also touched off rare mob violence among the Jewish majority and Arab minority within Israeli cities.
“President Rivlin approaches the end of his term, this visit will honor the dedication he has shown to strengthening the friendship between the two countries over the course of many years,” Psaki said.


Israel says Iran’s Raisi extreme, committed to nuclear program

Updated 19 June 2021

Israel says Iran’s Raisi extreme, committed to nuclear program

  • Foreign minister Yair Lapid calls Iran's new president the 'butcher of Tehran'
  • Says Ebrahim Raisi is committed to the regime’s nuclear ambitions and to its campaign of global terror

JERUSALEM: Israel on Saturday condemned Iran’s newly-elected president Ebrahim Raisi, saying he was its most extreme president yet and committed to quickly advancing Tehran’s nuclear program.
“Iran’s new president, known as the Butcher of Tehran, is an extremist responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iranians. He is committed to the regime’s nuclear ambitions and to its campaign of global terror,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Twitter.
A separate statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Raisi’s election should “prompt grave concern among the international community.”
Israel’s new government, sworn in on Sunday, has said it would object to the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and its arch-foe, Iran.
Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Toeing the policy line set by the administration of Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the foreign ministry said: “More than ever, Iran’s nuclear program must be halted immediately, rolled back entirely and stopped indefinitely.”
“Iran’s ballistic missile program must be dismantled and its global terror campaign vigorously countered by a broad international coalition.”
Raisi, a hard-line judge who is under US sanctions for human rights abuses, secured victory as expected on Saturday in Iran’s presidential election after a contest marked by voter apathy over economic hardships and political restrictions.


Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU

Updated 19 June 2021

Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU

  • The meeting comes amid the sixth round of indirect talks between Washington and Tehran
  • These formal meetings are usually an indication that the latest round will be adjourned

PARIS: Parties negotiating a revival of the Iran nuclear deal will hold a formal meeting in Vienna on Sunday, the European Union said on Saturday.
Iran and six world powers have been negotiating in Vienna since April to work out steps for Washington and Tehran to take. The United States withdrew in 2018 from the pact, under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of many foreign sanctions against it.
Sunday's formal meeting comes more than a week after this round of talks resumed and is an indication that the talks are likely to be adjourned.
Officials over the week have indicated that differences remain on key issues.
"The Joint Commission of #JCPOA will meet on Sunday, June 20," Mikhail Ulyanov Russia's envoy to the talks said on Twitter.
"It will decide on the way ahead at the #ViennaTalks. An agreement on restoration of the nuclear deal is within reach but is not finalised yet."
The remaining parties to the deal - Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union - meet in the basement of a luxury hotel.
The US delegation to the talks is based in a hotel across the street as Iran refuses face-to-face meetings, leaving the other delegations and EU to work as go-betweens.
Since former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran has embarked on counter measures, including rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, a potential pathway to nuclear bombs.


UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia

Updated 19 June 2021

UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia

CAIRO: The United Arab Emirates will suspend travelers from entering the country from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Namibia on national and foreign flights from Monday, June 21, Emirates News Agency (WAM) said on Saturday.
WAM said the restrictions would also include transit passengers, with the exception of transit flights traveling to the UAE and bound for those countries.


Amnesty accuses Iran’s newly-elected president of ‘crimes against humanity’

Updated 19 June 2021

Amnesty accuses Iran’s newly-elected president of ‘crimes against humanity’

DUBAI: Amnesty International released a report Saturday saying that Iran’s newly elected leader Ebrahim Raisi is involved in crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and forced disappearances.

The report, which came out a few hours after Raisi was named the winner of the Islamic republic’s presidential election, denounces his rise to presidency instead of undergoing investigation.

Citing Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard, the report said: “Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”

“In 2018, our organization documented how Ebrahim Raisi had been a member of the ‘death commission’ which forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret thousands of political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran in 1988. The circumstances surrounding the fate of the victims and the whereabouts of their bodies are, to this day, systematically concealed by the Iranian authorities, amounting to ongoing crimes against humanity.”

The report also said: “‘As Head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi has presided over a spiralling crackdown on human rights which has seen hundreds of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and members of persecuted minority groups arbitrarily detained.

Dressed in a black turban and cleric’s coat, Raisi casts himself as an austere and pious figure and an corruption-fighting champion of the poor.

Critics charge the election was skewed in his favor as strong rivals were disqualified, but to his loyal supporters he is Iran’s best hope for standing up to the West and bringing relief from a deep economic crisis.

Raisi is not renowned for great charisma but, as head of the judiciary, has driven a popular campaign to prosecute corrupt officials.

Raisi is set to take over from moderate Hassan Rouhani in August.

(With AFP)

 

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