The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has launched covert operations to sabotage Iran's nuclear progress, US intelligence sources reveal.
was arrested in Iran for relaying sensitive
information on military, defense and
research centers to Mossad
According to the report, Mossad has been using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents in a bid to delay Iran's nuclear research as much as possible.
"Disruption is designed to slow progress on the program, done in such a way that they don't realize what's happening," an unnamed former CIA officer on Iran told the daily.
"The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach," the official added.
The report also reveals that Mossad operations are not confined to Iran's nuclear program; the agency claims to have collected information on the country's missile sites.
The CIA and Mossad have, according to the ex-official, obtained confidential information, including photographs of Iran's nuclear and military sites, from European companies working in the country.
"It was a real company that operated from time to time in Iran and in the nature of their legitimate business came across information on various suspect Iranian facilities," the ex-official was quoted as saying.
The source claimed that Israel also uses "front companies" to supply Tehran with legitimate material to win Tehran's trust but have delivered faulty or defective items to "poison" the country's atomic activities.
Iranian security officials have made high-profile arrests of a number of Israeli operatives in the country in recent months.
The Iranian intelligence service in late November disbanded a Mossad subset that was spying on the country's military organizations.
The spy cell, which was tasked with gathering classified information and taking photographs of pre-selected locations, sent sensitive information to their superiors through advanced spy-ware and satellite equipments.
Another key objective of current Israeli operations is to assassinate the country's nuclear scientists, Reva Bhalla told the newspaper.
Bhalla is a senior analyst with Stratfor -- a private US intelligence company with strong government security connections.
"With co-operation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear program and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain," she said.
Former CIA counter-terrorism chief Vince Canastraro has, however, expressed doubt that the operations can change Iran's nuclear research program.
"You cannot carry out foreign policy objectives via covert operations, you can't get rid of a couple of people and hope to affect Iran's nuclear capability," he added.
In 2007, Mossad was connected to the death of award-winning Iranian nuclear scientist, Ardeshir Hassanpour.
Iranian media at the time reported that fumes from a faulty gas fire had killed the 44-year-old in his sleep.
A radio funded by the US State Department claimed, however, that there was "very strong intelligence" to suggest that Hassanpour had been assassinated by the Israelis.
Iran has denied the claims, saying that the Israeli intelligence agency is basically incapable of running such assassination operations inside Iran.
"If Mossad were capable of doing great things, it should have solved the domestic crisis of Israel," a source familiar with the issue told Fars news at the time.
Media reports nevertheless continue to report the incident as one caused by the Mossad.
The recent intensification of Israeli efforts against Iran coincides with US efforts to engage in dialogue with Tehran.
Israel has not welcomed US President Barack Obama's announcement that he would seek possible diplomatic openings with Iran in the months ahead where both sides "can start sitting across the table, face to face."
Israeli officials feel that the offer to extend Tehran a hand of peace puts any direct military action beyond reach for now.
Under former US president George W. Bush, Washington pursued a carrot-and-stick policy toward Tehran over its nuclear program. By setting the precondition of halting enrichment, it snubbed Ahmadinejad's calls for talks on the long-standing dispute.
In June, world powers offered political and economic incentives to Iran in return for the suspension of its enrichment program.
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state, has declared that Iran would never back down on its rights to uranium enrichment.
On the possibility of US talks, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has said that Tehran is waiting for a concrete request for face-to-face meetings from Washington.
President Obama, who is reportedly mulling over a response to a congratulatory letter from Iran's president on his victory in the US presidential race, has been urged to address any overture with Ayatollah Khamenei.