Mossad, IDF ‘resisted order’ to prepare for Iran war in 2010

Ehud Barak and Gabi AshkenaziBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The heads of Israel’s army and main spy agency resisted an order issued by the Israeli Prime Minister to prepare for an all-out military attack on Iranian nuclear installations in 2010, according to a report aired today. According to Monday’s edition of Uvda (Fact), a popular investigative program on Israel’s Channel 2 television, the command to prepare for an attack was given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The two men delivered the order to a meeting of senior cabinet ministers, telling them that the Israeli military’s preparedness level would be elevated to ‘P plus’, effective immediately. According to Uvda, ‘P plus’ meant that the Israeli armed forces should prepare to take military action at a moment’s notice. However, the then-Director of Israeli spy agency Mossad, Meir Dagan, who was present at the meeting, asked to speak and, according to Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, which said it has seen the Uvda program, “came out sharply” against both Netanyahu and Barak. He told those present that elevating the military preparedness to ‘P plus’ was something that technically could only be decided at a meeting of Israel’s Political-Security Cabinet. Also known as “the inner cabinet”, the group, which consists of over a dozen Ministers and is led by the Prime Minister, is tasked with outlining and implementing Israel’s foreign and defense policy. Dagan told the two men that “only the [inner] cabinet is authorized to decide this” and warned them that they were “likely to make an illegal decision to go to war”. Dagan’s objection was later reinforced when General Gabi Ashkenazi, then-leader of the Israel Defense Forces, told the Prime Minister that the Israeli army was not ready to elevate its preparedness level to a ‘P plus’. Read more of this post

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Controversial ex-Mossad chief ‘fighting for his life’ following operation

Meir DaganBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Israeli former intelligence chief, who has been voicing strong public criticism of Israeli calls for an all-out war with Iran, is allegedly “fighting for his life” following a transplant operation in Belarus. An announcement aired late on Tuesday by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Meir Dagan, who led Israeli covert-action agency Mossad from 2002 to 2010, had undergone a kidney transplant at a hospital in Belarusian capital Minsk. Lukashenko claimed that the former Mossad strongman, who was born in Russia, had decided to undergo the operation in the former Soviet republic after consulting with him personally. The Belarusian president claimed that, prior to traveling to Minsk for the operation, Dagan had asked American, German and Swedish doctors to perform it, but that they refused, allegedly because “no one wanted to carry out a liver transplant operation on a former head of the Mossad”. According to the announcement, the former Mossad Director was operated on over a week ago and initially seemed to be doing well. However, complications soon set in and he is currently “recovering in isolation”, while it appears that his body is not receiving the transplant well. Reputable Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz said that Belarusian media had directed several queries to hospital staff in Minsk, who apparently confirmed that an organ transplant had been performed on a patient who was a citizen of Israel. But they refused to give the person’s name due to patient confidentiality rules. It is not clear why Dagan had to leave Israel in order to undergo the operation, or why he failed to notify the Israeli embassy in Belarus. Israeli diplomats in Minks told Israeli media that they had no idea about Dagan’s medical procedure or even presence in the eastern European country. Read more of this post

CBS re-broadcasts Iran comments by former Mossad chief

Meir DaganBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the few certainties in the spiraling crisis between Iran, Israel and the United States, is that Tel Aviv and Washington do not agree on how to respond to Tehran’s nuclear program. Nowhere is this lack of unity more noticeable than in the difference of opinion between the Office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the White House. Netanyahu, a leading hawk in Israeli political circles, has made it clear that, unlike United States President Barack Obama, he believes that the time for diplomacy has run out, and that Israel has no option but to consider direct military strikes on Iran. Last weekend he even took the unprecedented step of advising American voters to elect a leader willing “to draw a red line” on the issue of Iran. It is worth noting, however, that senior figures in Israel’s intelligence community seem to be siding with the US on this dispute. Leading the wave of dissention within the ranks is Meir Dagan, former Director of the Mossad, Israel’s most revered intelligence agency. In November of 2010, Meir Dagan stepped down from his post as the head of the Mossad after having led the agency for over eight years —the longest tenure of any Mossad director in history. Soon afterwards, he admonished calls by Netanyahu’s people to bomb Iran as “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard. On Sunday, September 16, the CBS flagship investigative program 60 Minutes aired again an important interview with Dagan, which was first broadcast on March 11 of this year. The timing of the re-broadcast is critical, as observers in the Middle East appear increasingly certain that an Israeli military attack on Iran is imminent. Read more of this post

Israeli intelligence insiders warn of ‘imminent’ attack on Iran

Efraim HalevyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
If Iranian government officials had a uranium centrifuge for each time a warning is issued of an impending military attack on Tehran, they would undoubtedly have a nuclear weapon by now. Warnings about such an attack are now ‘a-dime-a-dozen’. Yet it is admittedly difficult to ignore the increasing frequency with which such warnings are being issued by leading retired intelligence officials in Israel. Last week alone, two intelligence insiders, Major-General Danny Yatom and Efraim Halevy, both former Directors of the Mossad, Israel’s main external intelligence agency, said a military attack on Iran was imminent. Speaking on Wednesday, Halevy said that Israel’s threats of a military attack were “credible” and “serious”, adding that, if he were an Iranian, he would be “very fearful of the next 12 weeks”. His comments were echoed on Sunday by Major-General Yatom, who told Israel’s Army Radio that the debate among senior Israeli security officials was not over whether Israel should strike Iran, but about when it should do so. The two men spoke shortly after a similar warning was issued by Major-General Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, former chief of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate. Farkash, who is not a proponent of an all-out military operation against Iran, said that an Israeli attack would probably come “within weeks, or a couple of months”. It is worth pointing out that all three men issued their public warnings along with significant reservations about the way Israel is handing the situation with Iran. Halevy said that, in his view, “it would not be desirable for Israel to act alone” against Iran and warned of a potentially serious international backlash. Major-General Farkash reiterated his previously stated position that an open military attack on Iran at this point in time would be premature and would “ruin the legitimacy that is needed” in order to permanently stop Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #721

Yuval DiskinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US spies clash with military over outsourcing spy satellites. Members of the US intelligence community and the military are finding themselves on opposite sides regarding the future of American spy satellites. Since the US first began using satellites to collect intelligence data, the government largely relied on its own technology. But in recent years, as private companies have developed sophisticated satellites of their own, Washington has been increasingly relying on commercial sources for spy missions. Now senior intelligence officials have urged the Obama administration to move away from relying on commercial satellite imagery.
►►Israeli ex-spy criticizes plans for war with Iran. Many Israeli retired officials have criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, but the censure from Yuval Diskin, who stepped down as head of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service last year, was especially harsh. “I have no faith in the prime minister, nor in the defense minister”, Diskin said in the remarks broadcast by Israeli media on Saturday. “I really don’t have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings”. Speaking in New York, former Mossad Director Meir Dagan said simply that Diskin “spoke his own truth”.
►►Litvinenko’s widow still waiting for answers. In 2000, after Vladimir Putin became President of the Russian Federation, KGB/FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko fled with his family to the UK, where they claimed political asylum and, later, British citizenship. During his time in London, Litvinenko consulted for MI5 and MI6, worked at a corporate security agency, and wrote two books, including Blowing Up Russia, which alleged that the Russian apartment bombings of 1999 were organized by the FSB, to justify war with Chechnya and sweep Putin into power. He died in 2006 of radioactive poisoning. Six years on, Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, says she is still waiting for answers.

Interview with ex-Mossad director Meir Dagan

Meir DaganBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of Israel’s most revered intelligence agency has given an extensive interview on why he believes a military strike against the Iranian nuclear program “should be the last option” for Israel. In November 2010, Meir Dagan stepped down from his post as the head of the Mossad after having led the agency for over eight years —the longest tenure of any Mossad director. During his leadership, the Israeli intelligence agency augmented its notoriety by assassinating Imad Mughniyah, security chief of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and allegedly killing Islamic Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The Mossad is also said to have played a role in Operation ORCHARD, the 2007 Israeli air attack on what is thought to have been a secret nuclear reactor in Al-Kibar, Syria. However, when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, the 67-year-old retired spy is adamant that the military option would be a strategic error of gigantic proportions. Last year, Dagan admonished calls by hawkish Israeli politicians to bomb Iran as “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard. In an interview with Reuters news agency published on Thursday, April 5, Dagan said the word “stupid” was “a harsh expression” and “not something [he is] very proud of”. But he insisted that the military option should be last on the table, and said that it would be a mistake for Israel to lead international action against the Iranian nuclear program. Instead, the “Iranian problem” should be “left in the hands of the international community”, said Dagan. The Mossad veteran went on to identify three main problems with the military option. To begin with, he said, military action, no matter how damaging in the physical sense, “cannot disarm the core factor of the Iranian program: knowledge” about how to build a nuclear device. Second, Dagan argued that, even if a military strike managed to eliminate a considerable portion of the Iranian nuclear program’s infrastructure —which is not at all assured— it would likely cause a significant backlash. That backlash would culminate in “a regional war” that would involve simultaneous actions by non-state forces allied with Iran, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #701

Mohammed MerahBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Ex-NASA scientist gets 13 years for spying for Israel. Former US government scientist Stewart Nozette was once on the cutting edge of space exploration, but he will spend 13 years in prison for trying to sell some of his country’s most closely guarded secrets. In 2009 Nozette sought to sell classified information to someone he thought was an Israeli Mossad officer but was in fact an FBI agent in an undercover sting operation. As intelNews explained back in 2010, Nozette was not simply a Mossad agent-wannabe, but had actually passed information to Israel in the past.
►►French intel under fire over Toulouse gunman. The French government went on the defensive last week amid questions over why its intelligence service had failed to deal with Mohammed Merah. The self-confessed al-Qaeda militant died in a police assault on his flat last Thursday, where he was tracked down after murdering seven people, including three children and three soldiers, in a series of attacks. With hindsight, Merah’s past appears to make him an obvious suspect —he had at least 15 criminal convictions, some with violence, had become a radical Islamist and travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan. One press report said that in 2010 Merah forced a youth to watch videos of al-Qaeda hostage beheadings. When the boy’s mother complained, Merah allegedly attacked her, putting her in hospital for several days.
►►Ex-Mossad chief says Israel will know when Iran begins producing nukes. Former Mossad head Meir Dagan said he believes Israel will be aware when Iran moves to the stage of nuclear weapon production —for example, enriching uranium to a degree of 90 percent. Dagan said that at that stage Israel would have to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international community does not stop its program. Dagan said he believed the Israeli Air Force has the capability to significantly damage Iran’s nuclear sites, yet repeated previous warnings that such a strike will have serious repercussions.

News you may have missed #693: Israel edition

Meir DaganBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►India soon to announce Iranian role in New Delhi bomb attack. The Delhi Police has cracked the Israeli embassy car blast case and traced the conspiracy to Iranian secret agents. According to sources privy to the investigation, it has now been “conclusively established” that Syed Mohammad Kazmi, the freelance journalist recently arrested in the case, was in touch with an Iranian intelligence officer and had even visited Iran as part of the conspiracy. Sources in the Indian security establishment said that the breakthrough in the February 13 blast on an Israel diplomat’s car, will be announced by the New Delhi Police in a “day or two.” They added that another couple of detentions have been made in the case.
►►Ex-Mossad chief says Iran’s response to attack would be devastating. An Israeli attack on Iran would lead to a missile attack on Tel Aviv that would have a “devastating impact” on the ability of Israelis to continue their daily lives, Meir Dagan, former head of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, said on Monday. Dagan said that Iran doesn’t have only four nuclear sites, but it has “dozens” of them. He seemed quite skeptic over the effectiveness of an Israeli attack on Iran, saying that no military attack could halt the Iranian nuclear project. “The attack could only delay it”, he said.
►►Ex-Mossad chief says Iran regime is ‘very rational’. The Iranian regime is “very rational” and is moving deliberately in its secretive nuclear program, the former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency says. “Maybe it’s not exactly rational based on what I call ‘Western thinking’, but no doubt that they are considering all the implications of their actions”, Meir Dagan said in an interview with CBS‘ 60 Minutes that aired Sunday.

Nuclear Iran ‘not an existential threat to Israel’, says Mossad chief

Tamir PardoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The director of Israel’s primary external intelligence agency, the Mossad, has said that it would be wrong to consider a nuclear-armed Iran an “existential threat” to Israel. For years, senior Israeli politicians and American military planners have described the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran as an “existential threat” to the Jewish state. But this widespread belief is apparently not shared by Tamir Pardo, head of Israel’s revered Mossad intelligence agency. Pardo outlined his view while speaking yesterday before an audience of over 100 Israeli ambassadors and consuls general, at a conference dealing with diplomatic security issues and public affairs. Lectures at the conference, which is held annually at the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, are given behind closed doors. But Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quoted three Israeli ambassadors who attended Pardo’s talk; they confirmed that the Mossad director rejected the view that Israel’s existence would necessarily be endangered by an Iranian nuclear arsenal, and dismissed the maxim “existential threat” as a “term used too liberally”. The Israeli newspaper quoted Pardo as saying: “Does [a nuclear-armed] Iran constitute a threat to Israel? Certainly. However, if we were to claim that a nuclear weapon in Iran’s possession was an existential threat [to Israel], it would simply mean that we would have to terminate [our operations] and go home. But this is not the case. The term [existential threat] is used too liberally”. The unnamed ambassadors told Ha’aretz that Pardo’s comments did not imply that the Mossad would stop its covert war on Iran, nor that Israel would accept the prospect of a nuclear Iran as inevitable. “However, what [Pardo’s] remarks undoubtedly imply is that he does not view a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat to Israel”, they said. Pardo’s comments closely echo those of his predecessor, Meir Dagan, who last May condemned a possible Israeli attack on Iran as an act that would be “patently illegal under international law” and “the stupidest thing [he had] ever heard”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #643 (Israel edition)

Mosab Hassan Yousef

Yousef/Joseph

►►Hezbollah uncovers more Israeli spy devices. Lebanese media reported on Friday that two people were wounded in a blast that occurred in the south of the country, between the towns of Srifa and Deir Kifa. According to some of the reports, the blast targeted espionage devices which were destroyed by Israel after being exposed by Hezbollah. This is not the first time such devices have been discovered in Lebanon: see here and here for previous such incidents.
►►PLO subpoenas Palestinian who spied for Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization served Mosab Hassan Yousef, who says he is a former spy for Israeli domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet, with a subpoena in the United States last month. The Palestinian group says it wants his notes and details of his spy work for the Israeli government.
►►Analysis: The complex relationship between the Mossad and Israeli media. “Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s crusade this week against an Israeli strike on Iran took on a new dimension with his several media interviews. His campaign also reflects the Mossad’s attitude toward journalists, something along the lines of respect them, suspect them and use them. The degree shifts from one Mossad head to the next”. An enlightening analysis by veteran Israeli intelligence correspondent Yossi Melman.

News you may have missed #640

Amos Yadlin

Amos Yadlin

►►Chinese defector says Canada right to worry about spying. Li Fengzhi, a former intelligence officer for China’s Ministry of State Security, who defected to Canada in 2003, has told a conference that Canada should be concerned about relationships between senior politicians and journalists from China, saying Beijing is targeting lawmakers everywhere. He was referring to the case of senior Conservative MP Bob Dechert, who was enveloped by controversy in September over amorous e-mails he sent to Shi Rong, a Chinese government journalist based in Toronto. After the Dechert controversy broke, the journalist recalled to Beijing to meet with her superiors and has not returned to her Canadian posting.
►►More intel officials warn against airstrikes on Iran. Meir Dagan, the former head of Israeli spy agency Mossad, is not alone in warning against the possibility of Israeli attacks against Iran’s nuclear program. He has now been joined by Major General Amos Yadlin, who until recently headed Israel’s Military Intelligence directorate. Speaking at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, Yadlin doubted that airstrikes could threaten Iran’s numerous, distant and well-defended nuclear facilities. Another intelligence official, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal, also cautioned last week against any attacks on Iran, saying that “there are other non- military policy alternatives, as yet unexplored, that could have the desired result without the unwanted consequences”.
►►GCHQ challenges code breakers via social networks. Britain’s signals intelligence agency, the General Communications Headquarters, has launched a code cracking competition to help attract new talent. The organization has invited potential applicants to solve a visual code posted at an unbranded standalone website. The challenge will also be ‘seeded’ to social media sites, blogs and forums. A spokesman said the campaign aimed to raise the profile of GCHQ to an audience that would otherwise be difficult to reach.

Blast reported in Isfahan, site of major Iranian nuclear facility

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Iranian media are reporting a blast in the city of Isfahan, in central Iran, which is home to one of Iran’s most active nuclear facilities. News reports, including one from Iran’s state-operated FARS News Agency, say that the blast was heard across the city at 2:40 p.m. on Monday, and that an investigation is currently underway to determine its cause. With a population of nearly two million, Isfahan, capital of the province by the same name, is Iran’s third largest city. It is also home to one of the country’s premier nuclear research facilities, which includes a nuclear plant that produces uranium pellets for use in nuclear reactors. Intriguingly, after an initial period of silence, regional government officials in Isfahan appeared to downplay reports of the explosion. Speaking to Iran’s Mehr news agency, the Deputy Governor of Isfahan, Mohammad-Mehdi Ismaeli, said characteristically that reports of an explosion were “unfounded”, and speculated with a dose of sarcasm that “maybe someone’s water heater blew up”.  But Western reports from Iran, including one by United Press International, interpret the media attention given to the Isfahan blast as an indication of “how the country is being spooked by cover operations against its nuclear program”. Reports of the alleged blast come only weeks after a major explosion at a military base 25 miles west of Iranian capital Tehran killed 17 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps, including Major General Hassan Moqqadam. The late General was described by Iran’s state media as the “founder of Iran’s missile program” and a pioneer in the country’s missile development after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Meanwhile, the former Director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Meir Dagan, has reiterated his warnings against plans by Tel Aviv to attack Iran. Speaking on Israeli television on Tuesday, Dagan cautioned Israel Read more of this post

‘We killed Iranian scientist’ claims Israel intel source

Daryoush Rezaei

Daryoush Rezaei

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A source in Israeli intelligence has told a quality German newsmagazine that Israel was behind the recent killing of an Iranian physicist in Tehran. The 35-year-old physicist, Darioush Rezaei, was shot twice in the throat on July 23, by two men on a motorcycle, as he and his wife were picking up their four-year-old daughter from kindergarten. Iranian authorities dismissed early reports that Rezaei was a nuclear academic, saying that there had been “some confusion” about the dead man’s identity, and that Rezaei was simply studying for a masters’ degree in electronics. It later became clear, however, that Rezaei’s electronics expertise was in the use of high-voltage switching systems for triggering nuclear warheads explosions. Rezaei was the fourth Iranian physicist or nuclear expert to be assassinated since 2007, after Ardeshire Hassanpour,  Masoud Ali Mohammadi and Majid Shahriari. Another nuclear scientist, Fereydoon Abbasi, who was injured in a separate bomb attack on the same day Dr Shahriari was killed, now heads Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. There is little doubt in intelligence circles that the attacks on the Iranian researchers are part of a wider Western and Israeli covert action program that includes —apart from assassinations— sabotage and cyberwarfare. Now an article in German quality newsmagazine Der Spiegel quotes an unnamed “Israeli intelligence source” as saying that Rezaei’s July 23 assassination “was the first serious action taken by the new Mossad chief Tamir Pardo”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #543 (CIA edition)

John Rizzo

John Rizzo

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-CIA officer warns of Israeli attack on Iran. Few in the CIA are more knowledgeable about Shiite politics than Robert Baer, a veteran of the Agency’s National Clandestine Service, who spent over 20 years in the Middle East, notably in Lebanon. Last weekend, Baer spoke to Los Angeles radio station KPFK, and said that “[t]here is almost near certainty [in Israel] that Netanyahu is planning an attack [on Iran] and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he’s also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict”. Baer is not alone in issuing such warnings in recent months. Former Mossad director Meir Dagan has been echoing Baer’s concerns. ►►Campaigners seek arrest of ex-CIA legal chief. We have written before about John A. Rizzo, the CIA’s former Acting General Counsel, who has been termed “the most influential career lawyer in CIA history”. Some readers may remember that Rizzo retired hurriedly from his post in 2009, amidst fears that he could get in trouble for acting as what some observers termed “a legal enabler” of the CIA torture practices under the George W. Bush administration. Now a group of human rights campaigners in Britain and Pakistan are seeking Rizzo’s arrest for his role in justifying the CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, the legality of which is often questioned by experts. The CIA has refused to comment on the campaign to indict Rizzo. ►►Analysis: The fallout from the CIA’s vaccination ploy in Pakistan. We wrote on Monday that not everyone is amused by news that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on Osama bin Laden by running a phony vaccination program in Pakistan. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #534

MI6 HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
According to extracts from the diary of Alastair Campbell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s communications director from 2000 to 2003, officials from the MI6 intelligence agency told Blair that France and Germany aimed to “exploit his feud” with then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Gotta love European unity. In Kuwait, meanwhile, the oil state’s Al-Shahed daily quotes “knowledgeable sources”, who claim that “a lot of spy networks exploit the Kuwaiti environment” and use the country as a transit point to spy on neighboring countries. Hopefully the Kuwaitis will not emulate authorities in Dubai, which in March of last year called on all foreign spies “to leave the region within a week. If not”, they warned, “we will cross that bridge when we come to it”. In the nearby state of Israel, public opinion is still divided about former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s criticism of the Netanyahu government. As Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg notes, Dagan has “called into question the wisdom –and, privately, even the sanity– of any Israeli leader who contemplates a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities”. But why is he doing it, and could it backfire?

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