Former Mossad chief: Iran still years away from nuclear capability

Yossi Cohen’s comments echo those made last week by Israel’s Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

Contrary to warnings that Iran could obtain a nuclear weapon within months, a former head of Mossad has said that the Islamic Republic is years away from nuclear capability as other countries won’t let them develop one.

“I think that Iran, to this day, is not even close to acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Yossi Cohen told the Jerusalem Post’s Diplomatic Conference.

“This is due to longstanding efforts by some forces in the world,” he explained.

Iran is also in a weaker position comparatively as there is “less foreign support for what [Iran is] doing than in the past,” Cohen added.

Cohen’s comments contradicted the warnings of Israel’s Defense Secretary Benny Gantz, who in August warned that Iran was “only two months away” from developing the materials required for nuclear capability, with military experts warning that it would take just a few more months to assemble them into a nuclear threat.

IDF Chief of staff Aviv Kohavi explained at the time: “The progress in the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to speed up its operational plans, and the defense budget that was recently approved is meant to address this.” July’s NIS 58 billion ($18 billion) overall defense budget for the coming year included NIS 2billion ($620 million) line for operations against Iran.

However, Cohen’s opinion aligns with that of Israel’s Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman who last week told Channel 12 that, according to most current estimations, Iran is at least two years away from a bomb.

Hayman’s comments came amid reports that Iran was accelerating toward nuclear capabilities, while stalling a renegotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, which the United States and then Iran exited in 2018.

Whatever the time frame, it is clear that Iran has its sights set on a nuclear bomb. If that is achieved, Cohen opined, Israel needs to be able to neuralise that threat on its own.

“We have to develop capabilities to allow us to be absolutely independent, doing what Israel has done twice before,” he said, referring to the bombing of nuclear reactors in Syria and Iraq.

“They should not sleep quietly in Iran,” he added.

On the JCPOA, Cohen suggested that the plan doesn’t go far enough. “In the JCPOA, the C stands for comprehensive. It isn’t comprehensive; it has to be comprehensive,” he said.

To be effective, the plan must be “completely refurbished – not only in one different subject, but completely,” he said, adding: “If it isn’t, Iran will continue to have the capabilities it has today, or even higher.”

In 2018, under Cohen’s leadership, the Mossad smuggled an archive out of Iran which revealed the existence of three previously-unknown nuclear sites.

“Unless Iran comes completely clean about their deeds in the past, a nuclear agreement should not be signed,” Cohen warned.

Touching on the subject of the Abraham Accords Cohen was effusive, calling the peace deals between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan “a majestic thing … no less than a miracle for Israel.

“I hope, I pray that this wave will continue,” he said, adding: “Modern nations have to be in touch with the Star of Israel today. That’s because we are so innovative. We believe we have to bring the smartest people around the globe working shoulder-to-shoulder with us and our tech. I believe the light of the State of Israel reaches everybody. It is known by all nations.”