Passing the Mossad torch: Can David Barnea fill Yossi Cohen's shoes?


2021-05-27 /

A list of major accomplishments during Cohen’s era, based on The Jerusalem Post’s sources and foreign sources, indicate that he’s leaving big shoes for Barnea to fill.
Of course, none of the below operations attributed to Cohen, except one, have been officially confirmed by the Mossad or Israel.
The list starts with the assassinations of major enemy weapons experts.
These included a headrest car bomb which blew up the chief of Department 4 of the Syrian Scientific Research Center on August 4-5, 2018.
Other similar high-profile assassinations have included a Hamas electrical engineering expert for designing drones and rockets on April 22, 2018, in Malaysia and a Hamas aeronautical engineer who manufactured drones and unmanned naval vessels on December 15, 2016, in Tunis.

Cohen is most known for his role in laying the groundwork for the Abraham Accords, and the agency’s taking the lead in acquiring medical equipment in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.
On January 31, 2018, he personally managed the heist of the century: the seizure of Iran’s secret nuclear archive right from under its nose.
On July 2, 2020, three-quarters of the Islamic Republic’s Natanz nuclear advanced centrifuge enrichment facility imploded.
An unknown group named the Homeland Cheetahs took credit, but the sophisticated style and audacity seemed to have Cohen’s name written all over it.
Almost immediately Iran started to build a new replacement facility at Natanz underground, to be less susceptible to physical sabotage or airstrikes.
The rebuilt version of this facility was also hit hard on April 11, 2021, with an explosion, and fingers once again pointed at the Mossad.
NBC News reported on critical aspects of Israeli intelligence involvement in tracking and targeting Soleimani.
On November 27, 2020, Iran’s chief military nuclear scientist was gunned down in a hail of bullets. Once again, the Islamic Republic looked westward toward a classified operations command center in the Tel Aviv area.
Almost all of the aggressive strikes on Iran and normalization deals happened in an era when the US supported Netanyahu and Cohen’s grand strategy of bloodying the Islamic Republic.
In contrast, no one expects the same blank check for action under the Biden administration, which already disassociated itself from the April 11, 2021, strike on Natanz.
More importantly, most analysts expect the Biden team to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in the coming weeks or months. In some sense, this relieves Israel of immediate concerns about Iran, but significantly increases future concerns.
How will Barnea handle the new context? How will Barnea help hold the accords together, and will he be able to expand them further?
BARENA has served in a wide variety of Mossad divisions, including as head of the Tsomet spy recruitment division from 2013-2019 and as deputy head of the Keshet electronic eavesdropping division.
The most important details here are probably that Barnea’s positions from 2013 to the present mean that he was involved in all or almost all of the operations which Cohen led.
He is definitely viewed as a risk-taker, in the vein of Cohen, who wants to get up in the face of Israel’s enemies.
In fact, the way organizations often operate, Barnea may have been deeper than Cohen into the details and helped to invent some of the out-of-the-box tactics that pulled off some of the Iranian and other operations.
The same is true with normalization.
Barnea may lack the same degree of familiarity with top foreign officials as Cohen has and may not have spent quite as much face time with them. But he has been intimately involved with the strategy, process and progress, such that he has the right experience to step into Cohen’s shoes on the peace front as well as the attack front.

Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of IDF Military Intelligence’s research division, discussed two alternate challenges in the changed context for Israeli intelligence with the Post.
One is the current situation in which the Islamic Republic “keeps advancing toward a nuclear program. [IAEA Director-General Rafael] Grossi even admitted the consequences... and discussed 60% enrichment” as being of major concern, said Kuperwasser.
The former IDF intelligence official noted Iran “is getting closer and achieving more capabilities from which we cannot send them back. They cannot be made to forget how to operate IR-4s, IR-6s” and other advanced centrifuge machines for enriching uranium which they were “not supposed to get to use for five more years.”
Another likely scenario is where the US and Iran cut a deal for a return to the JCPOA in the coming weeks or months.
There is a high likelihood of this happening around the June 18-24 time period. This is when Iran will hold its presidential elections and when a recent IAEA-Iran deal to extend inspections expires if US sanctions are not lifted.
Kuperwasser is concerned that, after a deal, “the international community will not pay attention and will not try to reveal” if Tehran is cheating on the deal.
He stressed that Israeli intelligence would need to double its “efforts to find the truth,” adding that “Iran does not even need to violate the deal,” if it decides to produce a nuclear weapon in 2030 when the deal expires.
Still, he said, Iran’s nuclear scientists never turned over their data or physical progress from past nuclear military dimensions.
In addition, Kuperwasser warned that a return to the nuclear deal will not stop the Islamic Republic’s “ballistic missiles from advancing, which could carry nuclear missiles without violating the JCPOA. The international community will not even follow this, because it embarrasses them” that they left this critical issue out of the nuclear deal.
He warned that Israeli intelligence “understands that a nuclear deal paves the way for Iran to get a nuclear weapon” at the end of the deal, and that Jerusalem “is not obligated by the deal and must do what we need to do to stop Iran from making a nuclear bomb.”
Kuperwasser was pressed on whether he supports more than just spying, but also Israeli intelligence covert strike operations on Iran – even at the risk of angering the Biden administration.
Though he did not want to get explicit, he clearly would not want Israel to hold back if action were needed, saying the important thing is not broadcasting in advance, but that the job of stopping the Islamic Republic from getting to a nuclear weapon needs to be done – regardless of whether by covert or overt actions or spying,
In March, former Military Intelligence chief Aharon Ze’evi Farkash told the Post that he does not believe broad military force will resolve the standoff with Iran, but at this stage says, “When everyone is trying to define their position, Israel must continue covert operations, not just in Syria – in all places.
In addition, Ze’evi Farkash said that Israel can slow down Iran and adversaries using its cyber capabilities, since “cyber has no boundaries.
Next, Kuperwasser said that Israeli intelligence would be on its own “to be on guard to stop Iran within the region,” since the US and the West would drop the issue after a return to the JCPOA. He said US statements about a “longer and stronger” deal being negotiated after the US had already lifted sanctions was a fiction – “none of this will happen.”
In addition, Kuperwasser he said that the Arab states were impressed by what Israel “did to Hamas... how we dealt with the rocket threat using anti-missile defense. It is very important for them to know how to do this – especially if the US frees up Iranian funds which could let it widen its forces” and pose a greater rocket and drone threat.
Saudi Arabia has already suffered devastating attacks from Iranian rockets and drones, and all of the moderate Arab states want Israeli help to defend against such attacks.
Of course, these multidimensional challenges are always evolving dynamically, so the only thing for sure is that Barnea has his work cut out for him.