Mossad Won't Allow Iran to 'Ever' Have Nuclear Weapons, Spy Agency Chief Says

Speaking alongside Prime Minister Bennett with Vienna negotiations underway, the Mossad's David Barnea says will 'do whatever it takes' to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapon

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Mossad chief David Barnea, President Isaac Herzog, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a ceremony, in Jerusalem, last week.
Mossad chief David Barnea, President Isaac Herzog, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a ceremony, in Jerusalem, last week.Credit: Haim Zach / GPO
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Mossad chief David Barnea promised Thursday that Israel will do "whatever it takes" to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon, as talks between Tehran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal continue in Vienna.

Iran "will not have nuclear weapons, not in the coming years, never," Barnea said at a ceremony for Mossad employees in Jerusalem, alongside Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog.

Senior Israeli officials have said in private meetings over the past weeks that Israel has no option of an independent military action that would foil Iran's nuclear program, and it is unclear which potential actions Barnea may have been referring to.

Barnea added in his rare public remarks on Thursday that Iran does not need "60-percent enriched uranium for civilian purposes," or "three sites with thousands of active centrifuges, unless there is an intention to develop nuclear weapons," disputing Tehran's claim that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Earlier this week, the UN nuclear watchdog said that Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity with advanced centrifuges at its Fordow facility buried inside a mountain, a move which ignited tensions amid Vienna negotiations.

Stating that preventing Iran from developing a nuclear warhead was "Mossad's commitment," Barnea said that "together with our colleagues in the defense establishment, we will do whatever it takes to keep the threat away from the State of Israel, and thwart it in any way."

He also called a "bad agreement" between Iran and world powers an "unbearable" outcome.

Barnea took over from former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen in May. One of the major operations attributed to the Mossad over the past year, when Barnea was deputy director of the Mossad, was the daring assassination on November 27 of the head of Iran's military nuclear program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Earlier Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call to immediately terminate talks over Tehran's ongoing nuclear violations. According to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office, Bennett expressed his opposition to lifting American sanctions, which according to the Israeli premier would mean a massive flow of cash into Iran.

Blinken said at a press briefing on Thursday that it will be known in "the very near future" whether Iran intends to engage in good faith in talks to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, but that recent rhetoric did not give cause for optimism. He added that there was still time for Iran to "engage meaningfully" in the Vienna negotiations.

Blinken said his phone call with Bennett was "good and detailed" adding: "We have exactly the same strategic objectives: We are both determined to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon."

The International Atomic Energy Agency verified on Tuesday that Iran fed uranium hexafluoride feedstock enriched to up to 5 percent into a cascade, or cluster, of 166 IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow to enrich it further to up to 20 percent, the IAEA said in a statement. An IAEA report last month said Iran was operating 166 IR-6 machines there without keeping the enriched product.

On Wednesday the IAEA reported that it decided to increase the frequency of verification activities at Fordow and Iran has agreed.

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