Israeli officials were advised not to share intelligence with Trump’s White House

Donald TrumpAmerican intelligence officials allegedly warned their Israeli counterparts not to share intelligence with Washington once Donald Trump becomes president of the United States. The reason was that, according to the US officials, there was no guarantee that the intelligence would not be leaked to Russia. There was also the danger, they claimed, that the compromised intelligence would end up in the hands of Russia’s ally Iran, a regional adversary of Israel. The claim was made on Thursday by Ronen Bergman, senior political and military analyst for Israel’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

According to Bergman, the American intelligence officials spoke in depth with their Israeli counterparts during a recent meeting between the two sides. He did not give details about the time and location of the meeting, so as “to protect the sources of the report”, he said. During the meeting, the US officials allegedly “voiced despair” over Trump’s electoral victory and his apparently poor relationship with the US Intelligence Community. They also suggested that Israeli intelligence officials should “be careful” when sharing intelligence with the White House or the US National Security Council, which is chaired by the president. The reason was that the intelligence —including sources and methods— might end up in the hands of the Kremlin, they said, and from there to Israel’s regional adversaries, such as Iran —and presumably Syria, though Bergman does not mention that.

The American officials further recommended that the Israelis wait until a clearer picture emerges of the alleged connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. It was also implied during the meeting that Trump may be subject to blackmail by Moscow and forced to reveal sensitive information relating to America and its allies, including Israel. According to Bergman, the Israelis are concerned about the Trump-Russia controversy and there are even some in Tel Aviv who raise fears of exposure of information given to the US by the Israeli intelligence community “over the past 15 years”. There has been no comment on the subject from Israel or Trump’s transition team.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 January 2017 | Permalink

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Mossad identified Hamas drone expert as principal target ‘years ago’: expert

Mohamed ZaouariDespite persistent silence from Tel Aviv, commentators there seem increasingly convinced that Israeli spies were behind last week’s killing of an aviation engineer who worked for the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The man, Mohamed Zaouari, 49, was a Tunisian national who had spent over a decade creating an innovative aerial drone program for the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip. He was reportedly shot dead outside his home in east-central Tunisia by an unidentified group of assailants carrying guns equipped with silencers. A statement issued on Saturday by the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, blamed Zaouari’s killing on the Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency.

Writing for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the veteran security correspondent Ronen Bergman said on Monday that Israeli spies had identified Zaouari “years ago” as a potential target. Bergman claims that Israeli intelligence agencies monitored Zaouari “as soon as he left Tunisia for [the Syrian capital] Damascus” over a decade ago. Eventually, the Israelis began to see Zaouari as a major contributor to efforts by Hamas and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah to develop unmanned aerial vehicle programs. Through constant surveillance, Israeli intelligence was able to confirm that Zaouari was in regular contact with other Palestinian and Lebanese technical experts. The latter allegedly included Hassan Lakkis, a leading Hezbollah commander, who was one of the Shiite militant group’s primary weapons procurer and developer. Lakkis was killed on the evening of December 3, 2013, outside his home in Beirut, in circumstances that appear to be similar to last week’s killing of Zaouari in Tunisia.

Bergman argues that, if Israeli intelligence was indeed behind Zaouari’s killing, he was targeted because he was seen “as an increasingly dangerous element” and the Israelis believed that his death would cause Hamas “considerable damage”. The decision to target him in a distant location like Tunisia bore considerable risk, says Bergman, given that Zaouari was almost certainly aware that he was under threat from rival intelligence agencies and was taking precautions. Additionally, as the Mossad found out in the aftermath of the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in 2010, the world is now “filled with cameras and biometric systems” that make covert operations dangerous. Consequently, these types of high-risk operations are reserved for principal targets whose removal will subtract strategic abilities from Israel’s adversaries. Bergman notes that, if Zaouari was killed by Israeli operatives, his death will mark one of the first major operations by the Mossad under the new leadership of Yossi Cohen, who was appointed as head of the secretive agency a year ago.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 December 2016 | Permalink

Israel has long list of assassination targets, says analyst

Hassan Lakkis By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The assassination of Hezbollah commander Hassan Lakkis in Beirut, on December 3, sent shockwaves across the Middle East. Lakkis was in charge of advanced weapons planning for the militant Shiite group that controls large swaths of Lebanon. He was killed around midnight local time outside his house in the Lebanese capital, when at least two gunmen opened fire at close range, shooting him several times in the head. Shortly afterwards, Hezbollah openly accused Israel for the murder, while the Jewish state strongly rejected the allegations. But veteran Israeli intelligence commentator Ronen Bergman, who is senior analyst for Israel’s highest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, has little doubt that Israel was behind the attack. In an article published on Thursday in Foreign Policy, Bergman suggests that Lakkis was one of many individuals on an extensive assassination list maintained by Israel’s intelligence agencies. The list is believed to include “leading figures” in what Israeli military and intelligence planners call “the Radical Front”. This term comprises two national governments, namely those of Syria and Iran, as well as leading officials in three militant organizations, Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The longtime Israeli commentator says that the “Radical Front” assassination list was initially compiled in 2004 by Israeli covert-action agency Mossad. Interestingly, its authors did not focus on the political or ideological leadership of targeted organizations. Rather they concentrated upon “the people who handled the details and the translation of strategy into actual practice”. Many of those placed on the list were individuals with “advanced operational, organizational and technological capabilities”, says Bergman. He goes on to list several victims of Israel’s assassination campaigns, including Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah, who died in a massive car explosion in Syrian capital Damascus on February 12, 2008. At the time of his assassination, Mughniyah headed Hezbollah’s security apparatus and was among the organization’s most senior intelligence officials. Another victim mentioned by Bergman is Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman, who had been appointed by Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad as Special Presidential Advisor for Arms Procurement and Strategic Weapons. Read more of this post

Israel wiretapped PLO head office in Tunisia: report

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence was able to intercept the conversations of senior Palestinian leaders in Tunisia in the months leading to the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to an article published Monday by a leading Israeli newspaper. Veteran security correspondent Ronen Bergman wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth  that sophisticated listening devices were planted in the office of Mahmoud Abbas. Today, Abbas, known also as Abu Mazen, is the President of the Palestinian National Authority, based in the occupied West Bank. But in 1993 he was Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), serving under its founder and Chairman, Yasser Arafat. At that time, the PLO was headquartered in Tunisian capital Tunis, where it had relocated in 1982 after it was driven out of Lebanon during Israel’s invasion. Bergman said that the operation, codenamed GOLDEN FLEECE, was authorized by Shabtai Shavit, who was at the time Director of the Mossad, Israel’s primary covert-action agency. The operation, considered one of the Mossad’s most important and secret at the time, was carried out by a Palestinian agent who had been recruited by Israeli intelligence. The agent, described by Bergman as a “man within the PLO leadership”, was allegedly affiliated with Fatah, a Palestinian political party that has traditionally formed the largest faction within the PLO. The agent allegedly managed to plant at least two eavesdropping devices at the personal office of the PLO’s Vice Chairman, one in his office chair and one inside one of the desk lamps in the room. Bergman says that, on the day the devices became operational, Shavit held an emergency meeting to inform the Mossad’s senior commanders about their existence. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #715 (Israel edition)

Dan MeridorBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israeli Deputy PM says “attack on Iran won’t help us”. In this interview conducted at Israel’s embassy in London, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Dan Meridor, says that “an attack on Iran wouldn’t add anything to [Israel’s] security”. He adds that “it’s possible that we have to use force”. But, he notes, “I don’t think Israel should use the military option. I don’t agree with some of my colleagues who support a military strike”. Compare that with the last time he spoke about this issue.
►►Analysis: Beware of faulty intelligence on Iran. The experienced Israeli intelligence correspondent Ronen Bergman argues that the decision to attack Israeli militarily “will be driven to an extraordinary extent by intelligence reports” produced by Washington and Tel Aviv. For this reason, he argues, “even a slight intelligence gaffe could have an outcome of historic proportions”. Furthermore, he calls on America and Israel not to rely on “scraps of information […] as the basis for action against Iran”, insisting that “a miscalculation could be the worst possible outcome”.
►►Israeli spy Pollard back in prison after hospitalization. Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a letter to United States President Barack Obama last week urging him to consider granting clemency to convicted spy Jonathan Pollard based on his ill health. The White House rejected the appeal and now Pollard, who was convicted in 1987 for selling classified US government information to Israel, is back in prison.

Analysis: Why is Israel so chatty about a possible strike on Iran?

Ronen Bergman By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
This past Sunday, Israeli intelligence expert Ronen Bergman published an extensive cover story in The New York Times Magazine, titled simply: “Will Israel Attack Iran?”. He answers his question in the affirmative, saying that “after speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012”. Bergman, who a year ago wrote an excellent, well-informed account of the Mahmoud al-Mabhouh assassination, sees a “small and ever-diminishing” window of opportunity to stop the looming war.  But he says that few in Israel believe that the United States administration of President Barack Obama is willing or able to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran. Instead, the predominant sentiment in the Jewish state is that “only the Israelis can ultimately defend themselves”, he writes. But the intense discussion about a possible Israeli attack on Iran begs a critical question, which is asked by Laura Rozen, Senior Foreign Affairs Reporter for Yahoo News. She asks, why are Israeli leaders so chatty on the topic? One would think that, by being so vocal about their intentions, they risk losing a major strategic advantage that Israel’s military has relied on in the past: namely the element of surprise. In her search for an answer, she did what good reporters usually do: she actually picked up the phone and called Bergman in Israel. A condensed version of their interesting discussion is provided here. In it, she queries the Israeli intelligence expert about the widespread view that, if Israeli planes were indeed preparing to strike Iran, Tel Aviv would be very discrete about it. Bergman’s response is somewhat convincing; he says that most Israeli statements on the subject are “not meant for Israeli ears” —though they often reverberate inside Israel. Read more of this post

New clues in extensive recount of al-Mabhouh assassination

Ronen Bergman

Ronen Bergman

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The current issue of US-based magazine GQ contains what must be the most extensive account in English of the 2010 assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Written by Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman (author of The Secret War with Iran), the piece contains several new clues about the targeted killing of al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official, in a luxury hotel in Dubai last January. One new element that stands out in Bergman’s account is that, two months prior to his assassination, al-Mabhouh survived a poisoning attempt by the same team of Israeli operatives, again in Dubai. The Hamas official fell ill, but recovered fully. Bergman also claims that the operation to target al-Mabhouh, which must have lasted several months or even years, involved the use of an elaborate Trojan horse virus that was implanted on al-Mabhouh’s computer, and allowed Mossad operatives to monitor his email correspondence. It was through this method that the Israelis became aware of al-Mabhouh’s itinerary during his fatal trip to Dubai. Read more of this post