Mossad Chief: Israel Has Eyes, Ears and 'Even More' in Iran

Yossi Cohen says Iran's economic woes are pushing people out into the streets, though protesters are faced with opposing forces

Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen in a committee meeting on June 8, 2017.
Emil Salman

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said Tuesday in a rare public appearance that Israel "has eyes, ears and even more" in Iran.

Speaking at a Finance Ministry conference, Cohen addressed the ongoing protests in Iran, saying that Iranian civilians are protesting the Islamic Republic's current economic woes "because despite high expectations from the popular [President Hassan] Rohani, he has not managed in the eyes of a large part of the population to improve the economic situation."

Cohen added that "this reality is pushing people out into the streets, but one must temper expectations. I would like to see a revolution, but the protesters are faced with opposing forces. Meanwhile, we are seeing that Iran is spending more and more on security in order to push its aspirations of spreading influence throughout the Middle East."

According to Cohen, there have been dramatic changes in the U.S. understanding of the situation in the Middle East since the beginning of President Trump's term, as well as a process of strengthening ties between Israel and the U.S.

"We see a good change that may take Israeli security interests further into account, and by doing so it will help our struggle to change the direction of Iranian influence."

He stressed the following point: "The Mossad has the obligation to obtain complete superiority in the world of espionage. We cannot be second-best in terms of manpower, in defense against cyberattacks, in espionage. We cannot be second best."

Cohen also discussed recruiting within the Mossad, and attempts to ensure equal gender representation at all ranks. "We wondered why only 25% of our commanders were women, even though at entry levels there were 50%. There is no justification for this," he said.

"We launched a portal showing all available positions and we hold many discussions, including with experts on the subject, to enact a dramatic and important move which will bring about employment diversification for anyone who can serve in leadership roles. The aim is for more women to rise in the ranks. He also mentioned that 18 people with disabilities were recruited last year.

On Sunday, the Israeli security cabinet convened for a long meeting on the situation on the Lebanese and Syrian borders. Senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, expressed concerns over developments on the northern front amid Iran's growing influence in the region

Israel is also concerned about the replenishment of the Assad regimes missile arsenal, which was almost entirely used up fighting the rebels, and the establishment of Iranian weapons plants in Syria and Lebanon.