Foreign Policy’s Mark Perry reports the astonishing story that Mossad agents posing as CIA operatives recruited Iranian Sunni dissidents affiliated with Jundallah to engage in acts of terror inside Iran
Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives — what is commonly referred to as a “false flag” operation.
…The [CIA] memos also detail…field reports saying that Israel’s recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel’s ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.
…They were stunned by the brazenness of the Mossad’s efforts.
“It’s amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with,” the intelligence officer said. “Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn’t give a damn what we thought.”
I’ve been reporting for some time that the Mossad has been doing this with the MEK, which has assassinated Iranian scientists and bombed Iranian missile bases. Le Figaro also wrote that Israeli intelligence recruited Iranian Kurds inside Iraqi Kurdistan to engage in sabotage within Iran. Now, Perry’s story confirms an Israeli anti-Iran terror Trifecta.
I published a post here some time ago based on a Wikileaks cable in which Meir Dagan confirmed to Nicholas Burns the broad outlines of the above plan. The Israelis operate under the mistaken impression that by playing on the natural internal dissension among ethnic groups inside that country that it can subvert both Iranian stability and the current regime.
This is similar to the CIA’s tactics throughout the 1960s and later in Cuba, by which we tried mightily to bring down Castro through invasion, assassination attempts, and airline bombings. You can see how well that turned out.
I think it can and should be argued that such outside intervention by nations already viewed by the native population as hostile to their country’s interests, only serve to reinforce internal cohesion. They rally citizens around a repressive regime by focussing fear and paranoia on an external enemy. This is why it would a terrible idea for the U.S. to be seen to intervene publicly on behalf of the Iranian Green Movement and why the current black ops war against Iran fueled by both the U.S. (indirectly, see Stuxnet) is an even worse idea. It’s a typically ham-handed operation displaying all the subtlety of a jack hammer on a New York street.
I haven’t even begun to talk about the outrageous abuse of the U.S.-Israel alliance in this Jundallah operation. The Israelis had to adopt a false flag identity because they’re hated in the Arab world even more than Americans. So Israel likely recruited Israeli-Americans or native Israelis with excellent language skills in American English to pose as CIA agents. As an American-Jew, this aspect of the operation makes my blood boil. Americans in Israel already have a reputation of being settler hardliners, if not outright Jewish terrorists. Do we need to become known as well for betraying our American roots by becoming fake CIA spies in the Arab world?
What particularly upset the CIA operatives who discovered this Mossad dirty game was that the Israelis essentially didn’t care. They pursued their own interests without any sense that they needed to have any concern for the betrayal our own national interest:
“The report sparked White House concerns that Israel’s program was putting Americans at risk,” the intelligence officer told me. “There’s no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we’re not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians.”
…[Under] Obama…U.S. intelligence services have received clearance to cooperate with Israel on a number of classified intelligence-gathering operations focused on Iran’s nuclear program, according to a currently serving officer. These operations are highly technical in nature and do not involve covert actions targeting Iran’s infrastructure or political or military leadership.
“We don’t do bang and boom,” a recently retired intelligence officer said. “And we don’t do political assassinations.”
…Israel’s activities jeopardized the administration’s fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was coming under intense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah. It also undermined U.S. claims that it would never fight terror with terror, and invited attacks in kind on U.S. personnel.
Though President Bush, when he discovered the Israeli operation was enraged, there was enough pro-Israel sentiment within the administration (Cheney, Feith, Wurmser, Perle, Wolfowitz, et al.) that the U.S. never confronted Israel about it:
In the end,” the officer noted, “it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat.” Even so, at least for a short time, this same officer noted, the Mossad operation sparked a divisive debate among Bush’s national security team, pitting those who wondered “just whose side these guys [in Israel] are on” against those who argued that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Another element to consider in the Mossad strategy behind this operation is that getting the U.S. associated with it, even in a fraudulent way would advance their interest. They could then argue, you’re already implicated, why not just take the plunge and go all the way on this? There is a slippery slope in military-intelligence activities. Once you go part way, it’s that much easier to persuade someone to go all in. Perry’s article makes clear that Israeli intelligence made such proposals regularly to their U.S. counterparts who, if they can be believed, uniformly rejected them.
One thing that you have to learn about Israel is that it is like the school bully in pursuing it’s interests. If you don’t confront it aggressively when such red lines are crossed, Israel understands from this that silence equals consent. From there, they will further test the limits by pushing that red line as far as they can in their direction.
One of the few times the U.S. pushed back was in the case of Jonathan Pollard, when the egregiousness of the betrayal of U.S. intelligence secrets to Israel and the transfer of much of that data to the Soviet Union caused a severe backlash inside the Reagan administration. Neither Bush nor Obama seem to have the spine of Reagan officials like Caspar Weinberger or George Schultz, who lobbied successfully for severe punishment of Pollard. While Pollard is still in prison, do you think it would prevent Israel from recruiting another Pollard from within U.S. intelligence if it could?
Final note: I just realized that some particularly astute Foreign Policy editor displayed an image with Perry’s story of Israeli soldiers standing before an Israeli flag. If you combine this image with the article title, False Flag, the editor made a particularly acute visual pun.