This posting contains several articles rising questions about the quality of Israeli intelligence-gathering and use.
1) NY Times: Some Syria Missiles Eluded Israeli Strike, Officials Say, July 2013;
2) Guardian: Israeli intelligence ‘intercepted Syrian regime talk about chemical attack’;
3) Global research: Fabricating WMD “Evidence”: Israeli Covert Operation inside Syria to “Track Chemical Arsenal”;
4) Ha’aretz: Netanyahu wants to turn the Israeli intelligence failure over Bulgaria into an excuse to strike Iran July, 2012;
5) JNews: Iraq, Iran, and Israeli intelligence misconceptions, February, 2011;
6) BBC: Israelis ‘misread’ Iraqi threat, December 2003;
7) Notes and links;
A mother searches for her child amongst the dead in Arbeen Town, Damascus. Photo by AP
Some Syria Missiles Eluded Israeli Strike, Officials Say
By Michael R. Gordon, NY Times
July 31, 2013
WASHINGTON — American intelligence analysts have concluded that a recent Israeli airstrike on a warehouse in Syria did not succeed in destroying all of the Russian-made antiship cruise missiles that were its target, American officials said on Wednesday, and that further Israeli strikes are likely.
Israel carried out an attack on July 5 near Latakia to destroy the missiles, which Russia had sold to Syria. While the warehouse was destroyed, American intelligence analysts have now concluded that at least some of the Yakhont missiles had been removed from their launchers and moved from the warehouse before the attack.
The officials who described the new assessment declined to be identified because they were discussing classified information.
Israeli officials have said that they do not intend to enter the civil war in Syria, but that they are prepared to prevent sophisticated weapons from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, which has joined the war to support President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and which controlled the warehouse where the missiles were stored.
American and Israeli naval officials consider the missiles to be a serious threat to their ships.
After the Israeli attack, the Assad government sought to hide the fact that the missiles had been missed by setting fire to launchers and vehicles at the site to create the impression of a devastating blow, according to American intelligence reports.
The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment. Israel has a longstanding policy of silence on pre-emptive military strikes.
Another factor that could lead to a military response by Israel is the continuing flow of weapons to the Assad government, some of which Israel fears may make its way to Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.
Russia, American officials say, recently sent SA-26 antiaircraft missiles to Syria, and it is also believed to be sending technical experts to help set up the system.
The Russians have also recently delivered two refurbished Mi-24 Hind helicopters to the Russian naval base at Tartus, Syria, for use by the Syrian military.
Russian officials have insisted that they are merely fulfilling old weapons contracts. But even the old contracts have involved the transfer of sophisticated arms.
In addition, American officials say that the transfer of Yakhont missiles to Hezbollah by Syria would violate an “end user agreement” that the Russian missiles would not be provided to third parties.
The July 5 attack near Latakia was the fourth known Israeli airstrike in Syria this year.
Providing new details, American officials said that it had been carried out by Israeli aircraft that flew over the eastern Mediterranean, fired air-to-ground missiles and never entered Syrian airspace. The route of the Israeli aircraft led to some erroneous reports that the attack had been carried out by an Israeli submarine.
In addition to targeting the Yakhont missiles, Israel carried out an airstrike in late January aimed at another system provided by Russia: a convoy of SA-17 surface-to-air missiles that Israeli officials believed were destined for Hezbollah.
Iran’s arms shipments are also a concern for the Israelis.
In May, Israeli warplanes conducted two days of airstrikes that targeted, among other things, a shipment of Fateh-110 missiles — mobile surface-to-surface missiles that had been provided by Iran and flown to Damascus, Syria, on transport planes that passed through Iraqi airspace.
The Fateh-110 missiles, which the Israelis feared were also intended for Hezbollah, have the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon.
Iran has sent members of its paramilitary Quds force into Syria, under the supervision of Maj. Gen. Hossein Hamdani, a senior officer of the force who is in charge of operations in Syria and oversees Iran’s arms shipments to Hezbollah, according to American intelligence officials. Hezbollah’s attempt to acquire weapons is supervised by Shaykh Salah, a senior official in charge of the militia’s operations in Lebanon, according to American officials.
Iran has also pressed Iraqi Shiites to join the fight in Syria in support of the Assad government. That includes about 200 members of the Badr Corps, Iraqis who were supported by Iran during Tehran’s long war against Saddam Hussein, and who later returned to Iraq after he was ousted from power, American officials say.
The support of Iran and Hezbollah for the Assad government, and Israel’s military interventions, reflects how the conflict has drawn in outside powers.
Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming the Syrian rebels, and Congress recently dropped objections to a proposal by President Obama to provide training and light arms to them.
Information passed to US by Israeli Defence Forces’ 8200 unit, former official tells magazine
By Harriet Sherwood,agencies/ Guardian
August 28, 2013
A team of United Nations inspectors have resumed their second day of investigations at the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, as western leaders moved towards military action in response to the Syrian regime’s reported use of chemical weapons against civilians.
The UN team left their Damascus hotel early on Wednesday after the operation was suspended on Tuesday following a sniper attack on its convoy on Monday.
The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime’s deployment of chemical weapons – which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action – has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported.
The 8200 unit of the Israeli Defence Forces, which specialises in electronic surveillance, intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons, an unnamed former Mossad official told Focus. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.
The 8200 unit collects and analyses electronic data, including wiretapped telephone calls and emails. It is the largest unit in the IDF.
Israel has invested in intelligence assets in Syria for decades, according to a senior government official. “We have an historic intelligence effort in the field, for obvious reasons,” he said.
Israel and the US had a “close and co-operative relationship in the intelligence field”, he added, but declined to comment specifically on the Focus report.
Senior Israeli security officials arrived in Washington on Monday to share the latest results of intelligence-gathering, and to review the Syrian crisis with national security adviser Susan Rice.
In northern Israel, a military training exercise began on Wednesday in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory that has been occupied by Israel since 1967. There have been numerous incidences of mortar shells and gunfire landing on the Israeli-controlled Golan over the past year, prompting return fire by the IDF on occasion.
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, was due to convene the security cabinet on Wednesday to discuss impending US military intervention in Syria. Officials are assessing the chances of Syrian retaliation against Israel following US action.
An unnamed senior Syrian army officer told the Iranian news agency Fars: “If Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire and such an attack will, in turn, engage Syria’s neighbours.”
Israel was “prepared for every scenario” and would respond forcefully if necessary, Netanyahu said after the meeting.
Later, Benny Gantz, the Israeli chief of staff, said: “Those who wish to harm us will find us sharper and firmer than ever. Our enemies should know that we are determined and ready to defend our citizens by any action necessary, against any threat and in any scenario we will face.”
The likelihood of Syrian retaliation depended on the scale of the US attack, said military analyst Alex Fishman.
“If it is decided to fire several dozen Tomahawk missiles at military targets, there is a chance that the Syrians will succeed in containing the attack, presenting the offensive as a failure and praising the staying power of the army and the Syrian people; however, if it is decided to fire hundreds of missiles and significantly harm its strategic assets, the Syrian need for an act of revenge will heighten,” Fishman wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth.
“The formula is simple: The more threatened the Syrian regime feels, the greater the chance that it will fire at its neighbours,” he added.
Meanwhile, demand for gas masks and protection kits from the Israeli public continued to rise. The Israeli postal authority said telephone inquiries had increased by 300% and queues had formed outside distribution depots.
According to a report in Ma’ariv, Israel’s home front command is grappling with the problem of providing gas masks to men with beards, extremely common among ultra-Orthodox Jews. A special mask, which can accommodate a beard, is available but the high cost means it is only distributed to men over 65 or whose beards are for health reasons.
“Men who grow beards for religious reasons will have to shave in the event of a chemical attack,” Ma’ariv reported.
Israel is conducting a covert cross-border operation directed against Syria in liaison with NATO and the Pentagon. After looking for a “smoking gun” in Iran earlier this year, Israeli special forces are now “tracking” Syria’s “stocks of chemical and biological weapons”, according to The Sunday Times.
By Julie Lévesque, Global Research
December 11, 2012
Israel is conducting a covert cross-border operation directed against Syria in liaison with NATO and the Pentagon.
After looking for a “smoking gun” in Iran earlier this year, Israeli special forces are now “tracking” Syria’s “stocks of chemical and biological weapons”, according to The Sunday Times.
“The cross-border operation is part of a secret war to trail Syria’s non-conventional armaments and sabotage their development. ‘For years we’ve known the exact location of Syria’s chemical and biological munitions,’ an Israeli source said, referring to the country’s spy satellites and drones. ‘But in the past week we’ve got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations.’” (Uzi Mahnaimi and Lucy Fisher Israel tracks Syria’s chemical arsenal, The Sunday Times 9 December 2012.)
Everyone recalls the WMD hype prior to launching the war on Iraq. It turned out that the Iraqi WMD threat was an outright fabrication.
Those involved in the Iraq WMD propaganda ploy are now applying their skills with a view to fabricating a WMD pretext to intervene in Syria. According to a report from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, “Israelis ‘misread’ the Iraqi threat”. In 2003, the BBC wrote on the report’s findings:
Israeli intelligence miscalculated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein […] This contributed to the “false” picture painted by US and British services […]
“Israeli intelligence was a full partner with the US and Britain in developing a false picture of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction capability,” said the author of the report, retired Brigadier General Shlomo Brom.
“It badly overestimated the Iraqi threat to Israel and reinforced the American and British belief that the weapons existed.”
“From now on, when we present serious data on other countries, like Iran for example, who will treat us seriously?” Israel Radio quoted Israeli left-wing parliamentarian Yossi Sarid as saying. (Israelis ‘misread’ Iraqi threat, BBC,December 5, 2003)
In late March 2012 The Sunday Times reported that “Israel is using a permanent base in Iraqi Kurdistan to launch cross-border intelligence missions in an attempt to find ‘smoking gun’ evidence that Iran is building a nuclear warhead.” (Israeli spies scour Iran in nuclear hunt, The Sunday Times,March 25, 2012)
There is no evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons, even US intelligence agencies agree on that. Global Research ran a story on the Israeli covert op, potentially fabricating WMD evidence in relation to Iran. What is now unfolding in relation to Syria’s alleged WMD is a rerun of previous attempts to funnel fabricated evidence into the news chain:
Western sources told the Times Israel was monitoring “radioactivity and magnitude of explosives tests” and that “special forces used Black Hawk helicopters to carry commandos disguised as members of the Iranian military and using Iranian military vehicles”. The sources believe “Iranians are trying to hide evidence of warhead tests in preparation for a possible IAEA visit”. (Cited in Report: Israeli soldiers scour Iran for nukes, Ynet, March 25, 2012)
The number of Israeli intelligence missions focussing on the Parchin military base in Iran has increased in the past few months, according to the article. During that period, Tehran has been negotiating with the IAEA which had requested to visit Parchin. According to Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, both parties had agreed in early February that the visit would take place in March. (Gareth Porter, Details of Talks with IAEA Belie Charge Iran Refused Cooperation, IPS,March 21, 2012)
The IAEA requested to visit Parchin in late January and late February, after having agreed to a visit in March. The IAEA thus requested to visit the military complex exactly at the same time Israel was intensifying its secret operations to allegedly search for a “smoking gun”. (Julie Lévesque, Fabricating a “Smoking Gun” to Attack Iran? Israeli Spies Disguised as Iranian Soldiers on Mission Inside Iran Global Research,March 27, 2012)
Israel’s covert operation in Syria is part of a longstanding intelligence agenda directed against the Damascus government. According to intelNews:
[…]Israel’s covert activities against the Syrian government’s chemical and biological arsenal go back almost 30 years. Reputedly, some of the more recent such activities may have involved the targeting of Russian scientists.
Although Russia routinely denies it, it is believed that Syria’s non-conventional arsenal was significantly augmented in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the help of Russian retired general Anatoliy Kuntsevich […]
Interestingly, Kuntsevich died suddenly in 2003 onboard a flight from the Syrian capital to Moscow. It was widely speculated at the time that the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, may have played a role in the Russian general’s sudden death. In 2010, another retired Russian general, Yuri Ivanov, who had served as Deputy Director of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, died in unclear circumstances […]
According to reports in the Israeli press, the former GRU official was on his way to a meeting with Syrian intelligence officers when he went missing. Israel has never acknowledged having played a part in Ivanon’s death, but many suspect that Tel Aviv had been targeting the two Russians for quite some time. (Joseph Fitsanakis Israel special forces conducting cross-border operations in Syria, intelNews.org, December 10, 2012.)
This interpretation of events is plausible since targeted assassinations of foreign scientists by Israeli secret services have been acknowledged in the past:
The reduction [of Israel’s covert operations in Iran] runs across a wide spectrum of operations, cutting back not only alleged high-profile missions such as assassinations and detonations at Iranian missile bases, but also efforts to gather firsthand on-the-ground intelligence and recruit spies inside the Iranian program, according to the officials. (Karl Vick, Mossad Cutting Back on Covert Operations Inside Iran, Officials Say, TIME, March 30, 2012, quoted in Julie Lévesque, “Running Short of New Targets: Israel’s Secret Service is “Cutting Back on Assassinations” in Iran, Global Research, April 17, 2012.)
While Israel’s secret operation in Syria could conceivably also target Russian scientists, it should be understood that its ultimate objective is to reinforce the intense propaganda campaign pertaining to Syria’s chemical arsenal. This leak in The Sunday Times could be part of the ongoing psychological operation against Syria, with a view to building a pretext for waging a preemptive war on Syria.
Since the beginning of the armed insurrection in March 2011, the US and its allies alongside the Western mainstream media have been blaming the Syrian government for committing atrocities directed against civilians, including the Houla massacre. According to independent media reports as well as the testimony of witnesses on the ground, these atrocities were committed by the US-NATO sponsored opposition forces.
The Syrian government has been demonized to such an extent by the mainstream media that if an attack were to occur, public opinion could easily be led to believe, without evidence, that the Syrian government is responsible for crimes against its own people.
This is a perfect context for a false flag operation or intensive propaganda involving chemical weapons. These allegations based on fake WMD evidence directed against the Syrian government could be used once again to pressure the UN Security Council to give NATO a “legal mandate” to intervene in Syria under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine.
CNN recently reported that the US and “some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.” The Syrian government expressed its concerns in a letter to the UN:
What raises concerns about this news circulated by the media is our serious fear that some of the countries backing terrorism and terrorists might provide the armed terrorist groups with chemical weapons and claim that it was the Syrian government that used the weapons […] (Quoted in John Glaser, US Defense Contractors Training Syrian Rebels to Handle Chemical Weapons, Antiwar.com, December 10, 2012.)
ANALYSIS: The prime minister is trying to turn the failure to prevent the deadly attack into an accomplishment – two hours after the fact he was saying ‘all signs lead to Iran.’
By Amir Oren, Ha’aretz
July 19, 2012
A burned out bus in Burgas, Bulgaria following a terrorist attack on July 18. Photo by REUTERS
The attack in Burgas is a failure for Israeli intelligence. This is not an accusation, but a fact of life that is part of the difficult reality of constantly fighting terrorism and the nations and organizations that support it.
That there are successes and failures are the nature of such a struggle; though there are more gains, the few failures come at a price.
Had the Israeli intelligence – aided by local services – not failed in exposing and foiling the plot, the Counter Terrorism Bureau (which is part of the prime minister’s office) would have issued a travel warning under the name “Bulgaria,” to be disseminated worldwide.
Barring such a warning, and with no heightened security in Burgas, it is safe to assume that those who planned and executed the attack managed to conceal their activities – intelligence gathering ahead of the operation, training a suicide bomber or an operative to plant the explosives, and smuggling weapons.
Israel is not alone in these kinds of failures. The intelligence and security apparatus surrounding Bashar Assad – who knows he’s being targeted – has been breached (even if it only his aides who have been hurt.) A suspicious, professional and counter-intelligence savvy man such as Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, who was snared precisely the same way Syrians managed to assassinate Bashir Gemayel thirty years ago.
If the core of Assad’s struggling regime is breached – by one of it own loyalists – one can’t blame Israel for detecting a breach in its security net – what proved to be a lethal hole – in a foreign country.
And yet Benjamin Netanyahu, for his own reasons, is trying to turn the failure into an accomplishment. Two hours after the attack, he was saying that “all signs lead to Iran.”
Naturally, this is a well-founded suspicion; but from a prime minister – as opposed to a commentator – one expects a little more proof. And until he has proof, Netanyahu is talking about a worldwide pattern “in recent months” and the 18th anniversary of attack on Jewish community in Buenos Aires (which did not justify, in his eyes, a heightened alert concerning terror attacks). The conclusion: “This is an Iranian terror attack.” The aspiration that follows: “Israel will react forcefully to Iranian terror.”
Even if Netanyahu’s wish comes true, and evidence to Iran’s responsibility is found, it would not justify moving beyond the shadow war of what appears to be mutual terror attacks and onto a big war, the one that according to Ehud Barak would only take the lives of 500 Israelis – all in all, Burgas times 70.
Netanyahu and Barak are eager to deploy IDF forces on an attack mission targeting nuclear facilities in Iran. They lack a convincing excuse, since the Iranians have not yet decided whether to manufacture nuclear weapons, and U.S. President Barack Obama is busy with other things until November – issues that could only be sidetracked by the sounds of explosions in the Persian Gulf.
Mitt Romney, who Netanyahu’s benefactor Sheldon Edelson wishes to usher into the White House, looks like he’s going to lose. An Israeli-Iranian war, one that would pose significant economic threats – is the last hope harbored by Obama’s rivals.
Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz and his contingent, recently exiled from the coalition, are itching to redeem themselves after being exposed as vulnerbale, by scratching away at Netanyahu’s and Barak’s steadfast political support.
The impending Knesset recess, however, leading up to the elections which will take place in early 2013, is likely to instill Barak and Netanyahu with renewed strength.
There will be much temptation to create a serious of incitements and counters, and during the third phase, after an Iranian retaliation for an Israeli retaliation, the jets will take off for the east.
If it happens quickly, Netanyahu and Barak will be spared having to deal with two bothersome events set for August, the second evacuation of some thirty people from Migron, and the first IDF call up for ultra-Orthodox conscripts.
Heightened American activities near the Persian Gulf, and military policy, like sending National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and General James Mattis of “USCENTCOM” or central command, for talks with senior officials in Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region, show that Obama is not subscribing to the doctrine of keeping quiet until the elections.
Talks that took place on Wednesday night between Barak and his American counterpart Leon Panetta, who is scheduled to visit Israel and the Middle East, did not necessarily calm the government.
Further talks are expected between Obama himself, or one of his agents, Vice President Joe Biden, or Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and Netanyahu.
Officially, talks of condolences over Burgas. In reality, a warning about Iran.
As in Lebanon in 1982, Iran is a war looking for an excuse. The “Belli” is ready; It only needs the “Causus.” Netanyahu and Barak must not be allowed to find them in Burgas.
By Eyal Clyne, JNews Blog
February 20, 2011
No one, not even intelligence agencies, can know everything about the enemy. It would have been understandable if the Israeli intelligence had got a few things wrong about Weapons of Mass Destruction that Saddam Hussein actually possessed. But to tell us that WMD existed “in very high probability” when in fact they had no evidence, suggests anything from negligence to deliberate collusion. So how should we respond to what we’re told about Iran’s WMDs? And shouldn’t we be concerned when intelligence agencies say estimates are exaggerated?
I. Baghdad – Tel-Aviv
As I watched UK’s ex-PM Blair testifying in January to a national committee investigating the war in Iraq, I was reminded of my childhood traumas in greater Tel-Aviv during Gulf-War-I. To this day I miss a heartbeat every time the sound of a passing motorcycle reminds me of the wailing war sirens that urged us from our beds in the middle of the night to take refuge, like all Israeli families at the time, in our anti-chemical shelter. Ours was in my parents’ bedroom where we waited anxiously for hours for the unknown.
When Bush-II dragged the US and the UK into another war in Iraq, I – by then an officer in the Israeli Army – shared most Israelis’ fear of Saddam and was also deeply affected by the horror of 9/11. When Bush and Blair confidently stated that Saddam’s WMDs threatened us, and Israeli intelligence said the same, I didn’t care too much that the UN did not support military action, or that some intelligence officers and agencies (mostly in the Air Force) had different views. I just feared the return of the horror. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, I was angry when we learned – together with the rest of the world – that Iraq had no WMDs. It did not even have any long-range ballistic missiles that could have reached us.
II. Israel’s involvement in Gulf-War-II
At the time, Israel was not merely an onlooker. I don’t know to what extent our intelligence services influenced the pro-war agenda, but I remember clearly that friends who were intelligence officers were instructed to devoutly seek proof of the existence of WMDs and feed it to our international partners. Our military officials argued argued passionately to the Knesset and the public that Iraq surely had such weapons. “With near certainty” the Israeli media quoted them repeatedly as saying, encouraging Western forces to attack.
As late as April 8, 2003, three weeks into the four-week-long war, when the Coalition forces were in almost complete control of Iraq, the Israeli Chief of Intelligence was still asserting to the members of the Knesset’s Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defense that, “In a very-high probability, there are WMDs [in Iraq]”.
The ‘experts’ told us things would be much better for us after the war, with “the dictator at the heart of the system forcibly replaced” (the same model they had in mind when they led us to the fiasco of Lebanon-War-I). And our media did nothing to challenge them.
Today we know that these confident assertions were based on no evidence. They were wishful thinking used to justify the Coalition investing an immense amount of money and people in an unjust war, resulting in a bloodbath of hundreds of thousands of dead and millions wounded, and it’s not over yet.
III. Israeli Intelligence legacy of wrong estimations
Once the truth became known, the Knesset appointed a Committee of Inquiry (click to read the nonconfidential section of its final report, in Hebrew, in PDF format) to investigate the origin of the WMD assumptions. Why had our intelligence services advocated mass defensive operations in Israel and supported US misconceptions and military actions?
The committee found that long-standing excessively confident assessments based on almost zero evidence were simply taken for granted. It made recommendations which have been ignored, according to Reserve Colonel Dr. Shmuel Even, an ex-intelligence-officer who is currently a researcher in the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel-Aviv University (Hebrew, PDF) .
Dr. Even describes many previous confident but false strategic assessments made by Israeli intelligence, which resulted in huge expense, thousands of Israeli deaths, mass hysteria, and ended with several investigations, such as those following the war in 1973, the massacre in Sabra and Shatila, Libya’s nuclear program, and Hezbollah’s capabilities in Lebanon-War-II (2006). Time and again investigations pointed to serious misconceptions and organizational flaws, but their recommendations were never implemented.
Other errors included failing to understand that neighboring countries were ready for war with Israel in 1966-7 and in 1973, or to predict the outbreak of the first Intifada (in the latter, preconceptions were so strong that when the uprising did eventually occur, it was mistakenly believed to be merely a “transient wave of protests”). They did not anticipate the Hamas victory in the PA elections, nor its takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Most recently Israeli intelligence totally misread Egyptians’ (and others’) gathering political anger and democratic aspirations. The stereotypes that shaped these estimations were dramatically undermined and exposed by the crucial role of women and moderates in these uprisings. The possibility of such developments never crossed their minds despite several defiant voices that pointed to them as a possible scenario. (I too mentioned this possibility ten months ago in my Hebrew blog, not aware then of a study that had predicted it two years earlier). Even during the sixth day of demonstrations in Egypt, three days after the Egyptian army had already chosen not to stop the protesters, Israeli ‘experts’ still believed that “the Mubarak regime is not lost”.
IV. Iran’s WMDs
This is why I am now worried that my government may not be telling the (whole) truth about Iran. This time I want to hear and examine alternative views, particularly as these are being voiced not merely by conspiracy theorists, but by IAEA specialists, and most importantly, by some intelligence agencies themselves.
This is crucial at a time when Wikileaks has revealed details about some regional leaders (leaders note, not citizens) who push to attack Iran.
Also thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that American officials have joined the departing Head of Mossad in the belief that the Israeli sense of urgency is an exaggeration. After all, in 2003 they foresaw a nuclear Iran in 2007, in 2007 they said 2009, and later they said 2011. Now they’re saying it’s actually 2015. So, is it really always that urgent, or are they crying wolf because, like in any other country, in Israel too some have other intentions and interests?
Furthermore, Prof. Avner Cohen reminds us that, according to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Intelligence too is not at all sure that Iran has a military nuclear program.
Maybe most conclusive, to date, according to the unanimous estimation of all separate American intelligence agencies, there is no evidence that Iran produces, or plans to produce, nuclear weapons – a view supported by UN experts in Iran.
President Bush-II described in his recent book how this assessment by US agencies enraged political partners. Another source reported that political pressure was applied behind the scenes to delay and even alter such professional assessments.
Now, this reminds me far too vividly of the Iraq saga. Here too, we have no evidence to support the claims we hear about Iran. The same Israeli officials and “experts”, in the military, media, and the political system, who spoke so confidently about the situation in Iraq then, continue to comment in the news, to serve in the Intelligence and to lead our army. Never mind that they never apologized for promising us, without batting an eyelid, that we would find smoking barrels in the heart of Baghdad, or that our regional situation will significantly improve; and never mind that they showed no regret for the countless people who died or lost their health, love-ones, or homes, simply for the greed of some Americans; but to hear the same individuals who deceived us about Iraq then, saying today that Iran will have WMDs, suggests that we citizens must be suspicious about things that the government and media insist are self-evident.
Naturally, as an Israeli, the Iranian question bothers me greatly, but when only last month I learned that the Israeli PM rebuked the leaving head of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad for daring to tell reporters that “Iran will not reach a bomb in the next few years”, and that “an Israeli attack would be disastrous”, I could not avoid wondering – how short can our memory be?
I know some will insist we must be ready for the worst. But Gulf-War-II teaches us that it is as bad to overestimate as it is to underestimate. Alarm and counter-threats create tension, conflict and danger. We never only respond to reality, we also create it. We spent a fortune on false premises, distributing millions of gas-masks, drafting reserve forces, interrupting civil routines, vaccinating, drilling, putting the air force on high alert. Even in the last stages of the war, when the Iraqi military was almost nonexistent, the military kept us in a state of fear, telling us that “the Iraqis have at least another 50-100 long-range ground-to-ground missiles” (although they didn’t have any to begin with).
Finally, we should honestly ask ourselves: Will we ever believe Iran, even if they agree to all our demands? Because if we are going to insist on action whatever Iran does, then this is not about them but about our own fears. Maybe they have already made that decision as many already assess, and our war-mongering – and possibly theirs too – is based on old, false intelligence.
Are we sure that this time it’s really different, or is it once again the west’s Orientalist imagination and our phobia of calamities?
 Some have tried to place the blame on the lies of one Iraqi defector, but we all know that a single source is never sufficient to support intelligence, and was certainly not enough to sustain “with almost certainty” the specific claims of various types of weapons allegedly possessed by Iraq.
 Last week a new estimation was finally reported, and it is indeed less conclusive this time. Haaretz was quick to publish the story in Hebrew with a misleading headline, reading “American National Intelligence Estimate: Iran returns to its military nuclear program; an opposite assessment of the one from three years ago, which then ruled that Iran halted its military nuclear project in 2003”. Sadly, this was the product either of amateur journalism or of an attempt to attract Israeli mainstream readers, since the text itself paints a completely different picture, almost the opposite. First, as The Washington Post writes, the 2007 report is not reversed: “The new assessment does not entirely refute the 2007 report’s most controversial finding, which held that Iran’s leaders had halted nuclear weaponization research in 2003”. Moreover, as the Washington Post and South Africa’s Times Live note, the new report is inconclusive (to say the least) regarding the very existence of a nuclear military program,: “The current assessment says that Tehran likely resumed some nuclear weapons research, but does not conclude that it has a full program to build an atomic bomb”; it even notes that “the slow and scattered nature of the effort reflects renewed debate within the government over whether to build a bomb”.
Eyal Clyne is an Israeli researcher of society in Israel-Palestine. He focuses on the conflict and other Israeli political issues. Some of the posts on his Hebrew blog appear also in English and elsewhere, and some of his pieces for JNews are also cross-posted with other sites.
December 05, 2003
Israeli intelligence miscalculated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, an Israeli think-tank has suggested.
This contributed to the “false” picture painted by US and British services, said the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.
The country’s secret services could lose their credibility over the issue, Israeli politicians have warned.
Six months after the end of major hostilities, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.
“Israeli intelligence was a full partner with the US and Britain in developing a false picture of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction capability,” said the author of the report, retired Brigadier General Shlomo Brom.
“It badly overestimated the Iraqi threat to Israel and reinforced the American and British belief that the weapons existed.”
“If Israeli intelligence had argued Iraq did not have capabilities and there was no real threat, it would have had some effect,” he said.
Senior Israeli politicians have expressed fears that the findings will have an impact on the perception of the country’s secret services.
“From now on, when we present serious data on other countries, like Iran for example, who will treat us seriously?” Israel Radio quoted Israeli left-wing parliamentarian Yossi Sarid as saying.
The 1,400-member Iraq Survey Group has been looking for evidence of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction – a key justification for the war.
British and American leaders have come under increasing pressure over the intelligence cited in the run-up to the war.
Notes and links
Powers of Mossad and Shin Bet
The known successes if Isrel’s secret agencies have largely been in subverting its neighbours’ access to nuclear power, preventing knowledge about its own nuclear power and the kidnapping or assassination of individuals. See
Jabari held draft of truce agreement when assassinated, assassination of Ahmad al-Jabari, November 2012 UPDATE,
Wikipedia’s Operations conducted by the Mossad and many of the posts by Richard Silverstein on Tikun Olam.
It is impossible to list the legion of conspiracy theories about the miraculous powers of Mossad. Here are just a few.
9/11 was in fact an inside job by the Israeli Mossad, and top rogue agents of the CIA, Before It’s News, May 2013. Just one of very many posts alleging Mossad involvement in the destruction of the twin towers.
Was Mossad behind the Alps murders? , Daily Mail, Ooctober 2012
Mossad’s Most Dastardly (Alleged) Plots. Foreign Policy, January 2011
The Mossad Role in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy, Michael COllins Piper, AfroCubaweb