Yesterday’s report here based on an authoritative Israeli source, that the explosion which rocked an Iranian Revolutionary Guard missile base and killed one of the IRG’s top commanders, was the work of the Mossad and MEK, received a flurry of attention in the Israeli media. I was cited by one of Israel’s pre-eminent intelligence correspondents, Ronen Bergman, in the Telegraph, and interviewed for two shows on Channel 10 (5PM news–7 minutes into the video, and Tzinor Layla) and the 6PM news on Channel 2. While it’s exhilarating to get ones voice into the Israeli mainstream media, it takes a lot out of you when you have to do your interviewing between 3-4AM (due to the 10 hour time difference)!
One result has been a cascade of angry, sometimes menacing comments here from the Israeli audience claiming that my report was bogus, or that I hate Israel, or that I’m fomenting war against the Jewish people. As to the first, it’s important to note that other independent sources are now coming forward confirming the substance of my source’s claim. Time Magazine’s Israel correspondent features a boastful “western intelligence source” (cf., American):
For Israeli readers, the coy implication is that their own government was behind Saturday’s massive blast just outside Tehran. It is an assumption a Western intelligence source insists is correct: Mossad — the Israeli agency charged with covert operations — did it. “Don’t believe the Iranians that it was an accident,” the official tells TIME, adding that other sabotage is being planned to impede the Iranian ability to develop and deliver a nuclear weapon. “There are more bullets in the magazine,” the official says.
Former senior Mossad officer, Gad Shimron all but confirms the agency’s involvement in this Channel 10 TV interview (at 11:20 on the video–in Hebrew).
I especially like another objection by the pro-Israel crowd: that this wasn’t an act of terror because you don’t commit terror against a military target. To which I reply: fine it’s not terror. Then let’s just call it a naked act of military aggression why don’t we, a casus belli? That’ll send us to war right now. So which do you prefer? Terror or naked act of aggression? Either one is fine by me.
In Israel, leading politicians are embracing the explosion as something like Divine Providence. When Ehud Barak was asked for comment he said obliquely, and almost obscenely (my translation is more colloquial than the one offered in the linked article):
May there be many more.
Ronen Bergman further reports today on Hassan Moqaddam, the Iranian general who died in the explosion. Aside from his key role in the development of the Iranian missile program (which included all those capable of hitting Israel, notably the Shihab III), he had played a key role in the transfer of Iranian weapons to its proxy allies. He was supposedly a special favorite of Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei. Bergman also calls him one of Mahmoud al-Mabouh’s key contacts in arms transfers to Hamas, providing it many of the rockets in its arsenal. You’d have to have been hibernating for the past half decade not to know that the Palestinian arms dealer met his untimely end at the tip of a Mossad needle in Dubai several years ago.
Further, the Syrian general Muhammad Suleiman, who served the same role of intermediary between Syria and Iran on behalf of Bashar al-Assad, was also mysteriously assassinated several years ago while relaxing at his oceanfront home. Another major part of his role was to arrange for transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah through Syrian territory. In other words, the Mossad is systematically eliminating key figures among Iran’s proxy allies who would serve to amplify any Iranian reply to an Israeli attack.
Bergman pointedly notes the only remaining figure alive who served a similar role on behalf of Hezbollah is Hassan Lekis. This is a pointed indirect warning from Israel’s Mossad to watch his back. They have his eyes on him.
Nowhere does Bergman explicitly say Mossad killed Moqqadam or inspired the missile base explosion. Perhaps he doesn’t feel able to say so if he does know due to Israeli military censorship. But there is a strong subtext here that is: we did it and here’s why we did.
Israeli media reports like Bergman’s tend to recite a litany of achievements of the murdered individual, turning him into a veritable fiend of an enemy. The implication is that in killing him they have rid the world of yet another Jew killer–and thank God for that. Bergman cites Iranian eulogies which boast that the Iranian general single-handedly enabled Hezbollah to beat Israel in Lebanon and Hamas to beat Israel during Operation Cast Lead. Any Israeli reading this will breathe a sigh of relief and harbor the lingering thought: next time they’ll lose to us because they won’t have this monster fighting for them.
No matter how evil the enemy may be (and in my opinion there is little that Iran or any of these dead men did that isn’t done by Israeli generals and Mossad killers), there is absolutely no chance of destroying him or even weakening him through such methods. For every Moqaddam, there are ten who will take his place. Yes, some may do their jobs worse than he did his. But a good number may do it better (eg. Hassan Nasrallah). And their zeal will be fortified by the memory of their martyred predecessors, just as Jewish zeal is fortified by remembrance of our martyrs. In other words, this is a zero sum game. An epic fail.
Just as an aside, I note the outrage that pro-Israel figures express against Hezbollah, blaming it for the bombings of the Israeli embassy and Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. While I will on no account countenance the murder of innocent Jews by such means, it’s important to note that these tragic events occurred shortly after Israel had assassinated Abbas al-Musawi, the Hezbollah leader who preceded Hassan Nasrallah. IF (and I note that the charges against them are only charges and not yet proven facts) Hezbollah or its Iranian ally were involved, from their point of view (though not mine) they had eminent reason to seek such revenge.
Which brings me to one of my main messages tonight: do not think that Israeli assassinations, bombings, cyberwarfare, etc. are risk-free and bear no price. There is always a price. You may have to pay it tomorrow or you may pay it next year. But you will pay it. And you don’t know what form that payment may take. It may be a tiny innocent baby in a stroller. It may be a cabinet minister. It may be a lost UN vote. But pay Israel will.
There are many foolish people in the world like Ehud Barak and Israeli commenters here who cheer these assassinations. As if the more of them that happen the less dangerous Iran will be. The less capable of destroying Israel and the Jewish people. Those who feel this way can only see an unending war to the death between Gog and Magog, in which Israel is the Force of Good and Iran the force of Evil. This may play well for the Book of Revelations and similar apocalyptic world views. But it fails in the real world.
UPDATE: I’m proud to say I ate Haaretz’s lunch on this story. They made the missile base blast their top story today referring to Time’s report (linked above) quoting a “western intelligence source” that Mossad was behind the attack. When yesterday, they could’ve had an Israeli source telling them the same thing. But it would’ve meant acknowledging my reporting, which apparently is verboten in the pages of Israel’s so-called quality liberal paper. This is typically tepid, follow-the-leader stuff, not bold, challenging reporting. It only hurts them that they shut themselves off from my contributions. Others lead, they follow.
UPDATE I: My comments in the Update above were based on the English translation of the Haaretz article which I read first. Israeli friends have sent me the original Hebrew version and it does indeed credit my work in that article (though it calls this blog, Brit Olam!). So I apologize for my overhasty condemnation. Instead I guess I blame the editor of the English edition and translator of the article, who thought my contribution wasn’t important enough to include in the English version.
The Guardian’s Julian Borger wrote two stories about the missile blast today and credited Time Magazine’s story (the second one to publish a claim of Mossad involvement) but left my original scoop out of the mix. The MSM seems to have a congenital disposition to ignore us political bloggers for some strange reason.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.