Mossad tries again to directly influence US diplomacy on Iran

Bennett copies Netanyahu’s controversial playbook.

 Mossad seal (photo credit: רונאלדיניו המלך/Wikimedia Commons)
Mossad seal
(photo credit: רונאלדיניו המלך/Wikimedia Commons)

Once upon a time, there was a clandestine spy organization that acted only in the shadows.

Then came the 2018 Mossad raid on Iran’s nuclear archives, and a new age of the agency openly trying to influence America’s diplomacy on Iran.

This past week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett firmly moved into Benjamin Netanyahu’s use of the Mossad in an open way to achieve strategic statecraft goals.

According to a wave of reports, arrests of multiple Iranian agents in both Europe and then Iran itself have helped crack a plot to assassinate three individuals.

One was an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, the second was a US general in Germany and the third was a French journalist.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Mossad, March 1, 2021 (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Mossad, March 1, 2021 (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

Part of the significance was that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was trying to assassinate a US general at the same time it was trying to convince the Biden administration to remove the IRGC from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.

That the Mossad would do its best to thwart the assassination is obvious; that it would broadcast to the US, Iran and the world that it had arrested a top IRGC official and interrogated him in Iran as part of thwarting the plot was foreign to the Mossad’s conduct for almost all of its existence, until the 2018-2021 Cohen-Netanyahu era.

It is clear that exposure of the Mossad operation to arrest and interrogate a senior IRGC official inside Iran was a decision pushed by Bennett, whose spin doctors say publicizing the operation was to try to influence America not to delist the IRGC as a terrorist organization, and to embarrass and disrupt the IRGC itself within Iran.

However, this could have been achieved by sending the same message to the CIA and to the IRGC in a more typical and under-the-radar manner. That means publicizing the operation was not just to influence US strategic policy on Iran; it also has political overtones at a time when Bennett is struggling in the political arena.

At the end of the day, if it turns out that Bennett successfully influenced the US not to delist the IRGC from the terrorist list in part because of having exposed this plot to assassinate a US general, many may not care what Bennett’s political motivations might have been.

In that case, the bigger question six months or six years from now will be: was blocking the US from delisting the IRGC – which might also block a return to the 2015 nuclear deal – the best way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons in the long term, or the worst?