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Iran can’t ignore Israel’s threat to retaliate in ‘heart of Tehran’

Mossad Director David Barnea's threats to eliminate senior Iranian terror elements cannot be ignored by the Islamic Republic, say observers in Israel.

Mossad Director David Barnea speaks at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism's World Summit on Counter-Terrorism at Herzliya's Reichman University, Sept. 10, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/TPS.
Mossad Director David Barnea speaks at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism's World Summit on Counter-Terrorism at Herzliya's Reichman University, Sept. 10, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/TPS.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at:

The powerful warning delivered to the Iranian leadership last week by Mossad Director David Barnea cannot be ignored by the regime, according to observers in Israel.

On Sept. 10, during a remarkable speech to the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University, Barnea stated that Israel would target those who dispatched terrorists to kill Israelis around the world, including policy makers who authorized such attacks.

Former Israeli National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror told JNS that Barnea’s message “will certainly reach the highest echelons in Tehran, because someone very senior will have to make the decision regarding whether to ignore the threat and risk a situation in which terrorists are eliminated… on Iranian soil in general and in Tehran specifically. That is not a simple decision.”

During his presentation, Barnea displayed slides showing command structures of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the IRGC Quds Force and the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

“I would like to take advantage of this podium to state that any harm done to any Israeli or Jew in any way whatsoever, and I mean in any way whatsoever, via proxy or Iranian alike, will elicit a response against the Iranians who dispatched the terrorists and the policy makers who authorized the terror units to carry out the plots, from the bottom all the way up to the top. I mean what I say. The price will be exacted from TRI [“Terrorist Republic of Iran”] deep inside Iran, in the heart of Tehran,” said Barnea. “The Iranian regime is no longer able to deny its involvement, and most importantly, it has no immunity.‎”

Ahead of his departure for the United States on Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu used similar language, stating, “I heard the threats from an official of the Iranian regime today; I suggest that he not threaten us. He and this regime need to know that we will respond forcefully to any attack on our people and our citizens.”

According to Amidror, for Israel to issue such messages publicly, and with such bluntness, was nothing short of extraordinary.

“It seems that they’ve [Israel] had enough, and that after tens of foiled attacks it’s clear on the Israeli side that one day the Iranians could succeed, and that it’s better to try and stop them this way, through verbal deterrence, than to be dragged into combat on the streets of Tehran,” said Amidror.

However, he added, Barnea also likely knows with a high degree of certainty that the Mossad can make good on its threats.

“If Iran does not stop its massive terror attack, Israel will have no choice but to respond, and forcefully,” said Amidror.

During his speech, Barnea said that “Iran has persisted unceasingly in pursuing terror using proxy teams tasked with attacking Israelis and Jews and hunting down Iranian dissidents living abroad, media people, and anyone perceived by the Iranian regime as a threat.”

He added, “This past year alone, we have worked together with our partners in the Israeli intelligence community and worldwide to disrupt 27 teams that have tried to mount attacks in Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. The plots being pursued by these teams were orchestrated, masterminded and directed by Iran. Each plot disrupted has involved terrorists, weapons and a target.”

He also warned that “we are witnessing a significant increase in attempts to attack Jews and Israelis worldwide, and as we speak, we continue to track Iranian and proxy teams to prevent them from killing Jews and Israelis. Terror has become a cheap and legitimate weapon in the hands of the Terrorist Republic of Iran, or TRI.‎”

IDF Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segal, an expert on Iranian strategic issues who is today Chief Information Officer at Acumen Risk – Intelligence and risk management, said that Iran has struggled to mount effective responses to significant actions targeting its senior officials. Threats of reprisal for the deaths of Hezbollah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh, Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, nuclear scientists and Quds Force members in Syria “remain unfulfilled,” stated Segall.

“Iran’s intelligence agencies have faced stern criticism for the success of Israeli intelligence operations inside Iran, including the targeting of individuals and high-value security and military assets,” he said.

In recent months, friction between Iran and Israel has been expanding, Segall assessed.

“Several factors are driving this escalation, including Iran’s advancements in its nuclear program and a growing Iranian push to encircle Israel through terrorist activities. Of particular note is Iran’s focus on developments in the West Bank and its accelerated efforts to integrate Israeli Arab communities into its agenda. All of this is part of a broader Iranian strategy aimed at achieving the ‘unity of the fronts’ with participation from various members of the so-called ‘resistance camp,’” said Segall.

“Additionally, the construction of an airport in South Lebanon has sounded alarm bells,” he added, referring to a recent disclosure by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of an Iranian-Hezbollah UAV base some 12 miles from the Israeli border.

“On the Iranian side, there’s a belief that Israel is increasingly meddling in Iran’s domestic affairs,” said Segall. Iranian authorities are suspicious of Western intelligence agencies’ involvement in the widespread protests that erupted in Iran following the death in Iranian police custody of Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, 2022, he added.

Meetings between Israel’s intelligence minister and Iranian opposition figures, coupled with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent encounter with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the son of Iran’s former shah, have only exacerbated these concerns, he noted.

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