Israel appears to increasingly wage a secret campaign inside Iran to target key assets and facilities. The security services are likely recruiting and mobilizing non-Israeli agents and operatives to carry out these high-risk sabotage missions.
Mossad may rely on domestic dissidents, anti-regime Iranians living abroad, and possibly members of other nationalities who can enter or travel in Iran with relative ease. The recruitment and handling process of such agents remains shrouded in secrecy, but operatives are believed to receive some of their training in Israel.
A mysterious strike this week targeted a production facility of centrifuge components near Tehran. Iranian officials initially said that the attack was thwarted, but later reports indicated that the incident significantly harmed Iran’s nuclear project.
The assault damaged a unique facility that currently has no substitute in Iran, military analyst Alon Ben-David said. This seriously undermined Tehran’s capacity to produce new centrifuges, he wrote in Maariv daily.
The ongoing sabotage operations are slowing down Iran’s progress and will make it harder for the regime to advance toward nuclear breakout in the coming year, Ben-David said.
The assault was carried out by drones according to some sources, who concluded that the remote-controlled strike was launched from Iranian territory. The drones were likely smuggled into Iran and activated by foreign nationals recruited by Israel, military journalist Yoav Limor wrote in Israel Hayom daily.
Notably, outgoing Mossad chief Yossi Cohen recently claimed that an earlier operation to steal Iran’s nuclear archive was carried out by a large team of non-Israelis.
As always, it is difficult to know with certainty whether Israeli agents operate on Iranian soil. According to previous reports, Mossad women from Israel were deployed for missions inside Iran.
Israeli proxy war vs. Iran?
The latest attack, if indeed carried out by Israel, is the first ordered by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett since taking office. The operation suggests that Israel will continue to take strong steps under the new PM, but it could also signal a more dramatic move: The start of an all-out proxy war against the Iranian regime.
As it turns out, Bennett already toyed with the idea years ago as a cabinet member, journalist Ben Caspit reported. At the time, he discussed with his advisers Iran’s proxy attacks on Israel and wondered whether Israel should adopt the same approach.
“Why don’t we attack the head of the octopus instead of its arms?” Bennett reportedly asked his aides. “Why shouldn’t every explosion in Israel prompt something similar exploding in Iran?”
The bold attack on Iran’s centrifuge factory could be a sign that Israel may be shifting to a more aggressive policy. Intelligence expert Ronen Bergman wrote in Yediot Aharonot daily that Bennett may have approved the strike after outgoing PM Netanyahu ruled it out.
Bergman noted that a complex assault of this type would take long months to prepare and could carry serious military and diplomatic implications. For those reasons, Netanyahu may have decided not to strike, the veteran journalist estimated.
However, as Iran’s nuclear program advances dangerously, Prime Minister Bennett may now be ready to escalate Israel’s sabotage operations. Notably, new Mossad chief David Barnea also hinted recently that the spy agency plans to launch more secret missions in Iran.