A Time Magazine report revealed on Friday that Israeli intelligence services have scaled back their covert operations inside Iran.
According to senior security officials who spoke to the magazine, operations have been reduced in areas such as high-profile missions, including assassinations and detonations at Iranian missile bases, as well as in recruiting spies inside the Iranian nuclear program, and efforts to gather on-the-ground intelligence.
The report further states that according to one official, the reductions have caused “increasing dissatisfaction” inside the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Another official credits the reduced activities to the reluctance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the official says is worried about the outcome of the operations being discovered.
According to Time Magazine, Iranian intelligence already cracked a cell trained and equipped by the Mossad. Western intelligence confirmed that the detailed confession of Majid Jamali Fashid over the January 2010 assassination by motorcycle bomb of nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Mohmmadi was genuine, and blamed a third country for exposing the cell.
The magazine also states that a new U.S. reluctance to turn a blind eye to said assassinations may be a thing of the past. After the killing of nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan in January, the United States “categorically” denied involvement in the death and issued a condemnation.
Scaling back covert operations against Iran carries costs, Time Magazine said, especially as Iran hurries to disperse its centrifuges into facilities deep underground. In one intelligence finding, an Israeli official says Iran itself estimates that sabotage to date has set back its centrifuge program by two full years. The computer virus known as Stuxnet is only the best known of a series of efforts to slow the Iranian program.
That effort involves a variety of governments besides Israel, involving equipment made to purposely malfunction after being tampered with before it physically entered Iran, says the report. The setbacks have prompted Iran to announce it would manufacture all components of its nuclear program itself – something outside experts are highly skeptical Tehran has the ability to actually do.