The AP published a major story about breaches of U.S. security by Israeli intelligence over the past ten years. The report emphasized alleged tampering with CIA communications gear and intrusions into the private residence of CIA officers based in Israel. But it buried what is an even more interesting, previously unknown story.
The CIA had cultivated a highly place Syrian scientist who worked in that country’s chemical and biological weapons program. The spy was reporting to the U.S. about which pathogens the Syrians were experimenting with. Because of increased intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, the former decided to share the information. It was promptly leaked by Israeli officials to the media, possibly in order to pressure Syria to drop the program entirely.
Instead, the Syrians used the media report to expose the spy in its midst. Shortly before he disappeared (likely murdered) he told his CIA handler that he was being pressured by Syrian military intelligence. It is totally characteristic of Israel to pursue its own national interests to the exclusion of all other considerations, including protecting the identity of major intelligence asset of an ally like the U.S. Hell, there are instances in which Israeli intelligence officials have betrayed the assets of other Israeli intelligence units. Witness Ashraf Marwan, who was ground to dust by the rivalry between the then-chiefs of the IDF intelligence and Mossad.
One of the aspects of this story that is revealing is that despite the fact that Israel professes not to spy on the U.S. and agreed not to recruit U.S. assets in Israel, it violates those promises routinely. It did so in the case of a female CIA officer who maintained a relationship with an Israeli foreign ministry official who introduced her to his “uncle.” He turned out to be a Shin Bet agent. This happened well after the most egregious instance of such recruitment, the Jonathan Pollard case. He stole the U.S. war plans against the Soviet Union, which were later given to the Soviets in return for the freeing of several major Jewish refuseniks.
At the CIA’s Near East desk, which handles U.S. counter-intelligence operations in the region, Israel is one of the least trusted intelligence services. Given the history outlined above, this isn’t at all surprising.
Channel 10’s intelligence correspondent, Gil Tamari, offered an explanation (Hebrew–at 15:05 mark) for the timing of this story and motivation for the leaks in it. Given that Barack Obama has been upgrading cooperation between Israeli military and intelligence agencies and their U.S. counterparts, there are elements within the U.S. intelligence community who are reminding Obama and the American public that Israel is not an ally who should be trusted with the crown jewels. They’re saying that if you do so, you will likely end up with another Jonathan Pollard episode and a huge layer of mud on your face, not to mention the serious damage that would ensue for our own national and intelligence interests. Given my own reporting on this general subject, I’d say that the warning is apt and should be heeded.
Yossi Melman, continuing his role as a faithful stenographer for Israeli intelligence, casts doubt (Hebrew) on the AP report in this Walla story:
The [AP] investigation relied on former U.S. intelligence officers, but their reliability has been cast into doubt due to the extreme sensitivity with which Israel treats relations between the two countries.
Do you see any credible evidence in that statement that confirms Melman’s claim? Similarly, Netanyahu’s office has called the report “lies.” Which is rich coming from an Israeli leader who is much more familiar and comfortable with lies than truth.
On a related, but slightly different subject, Andrew Exum published a recent report that chronicled a growing disconnect between the Israeli and U.S. militaries. He characterizes the differences thus:
In the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. military officers were eager to learn lessons from the Israeli military’s experiences in Lebanon, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and the Palestinian Territories. Israelis portrayed Arab armies as intractable foes, while Americans still largely bought into the idea that the IDF was the finest army, pound-for-pound, in the world.
But then came Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past decade, U.S. military officers have experienced years more combat than their Israeli contemporaries over the same period of time, and they soon grew cynical about the Israelis’ experiences and combat performance. Israeli portrayals of Arabs began to ring hollow for U.S. officers, and just as some Israelis began to view U.S. counterinsurgency operations in Iraq as dangerously naive, U.S. military officers increasingly grew to consider their Israeli peers arrogant and actually quite ignorant of the Arabs living next door. For the next few decades, it is important to note, these generations of officers will comprise the senior leadership of the U.S. military…
For many [U.S. officers]…the disastrous Israeli combat performance in Lebanon in 2006 confirmed what some had already suspected: that the IDF, despite its braggadocio, was no longer a comparable military organization to the U.S. military. Based on my interactions, U.S. military officers were more likely than other Americans to look unfavorably on the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, and some expressed outright hostility toward the IDF.
…In 1990…2% of the officer candidates in the IDF identified themselves as religious-nationalist…By 2012, however, that percentage had climbed to 42%.
…Senior U.S. military officers do not [generally] subscribe to millenarian interpretations of Christianity that stress the importance of Jewish claims to the biblical territory of Israel. So it will be interesting to see what happens to military-to-military ties when the senior ranks of the IDF are filled more by religious settlers than by secular Israelis…
The U.S. military will…find less and less in common with an IDF convinced of its need to occupy the Palestinian territories ad infinitum. Sadly, that dilemma is not one that a few more officer exchange programs will fix.
Andrew Exum said: “the disastrous Israeli combat performance in Lebanon in 2006 confirmed what some had already suspected: that the IDF, despite its braggadocio, was no longer a comparable military organization to the U.S. military.
I wonder what the US military thinks of the highly successful Operation Cast Lead where the ratio of combatants killed was 100 to 1 in Israel’s favor.
I would say the US thinks what any logical human thinks – the 100:1 ratio was due to superior and quantity of weaponry and not to the superior combat skills.
And is war “success” measured by the number of casualties inflicted to the other side? If so then one ought re-write history and state that nazi Germany beat the Russians.
A war is “won” if it acheives the objectives that were stated at the outset. Cast lead was to destroy Hamas, stop the missiles from Gaza to Israel and return Gilat Shalit. Looks to me like 3-0 to Hamas on that one.
It just wasn’t the failure to achieve any of the stated mission objectives of the invasion, which is damning enough. Cast Lead was presaged by nearly 3 years of supposedly intensive retraining of the IDF, which in the aftermath of C/L proved a complete failure. C/L did far greater damage by reaffirming the results of Lebanon II. All the propaganda and bullshit in the world can’t hide or change the outcome.
Israel chose not to destroy Hamas. Israel chose to humiliate Hamas on the battlefield, which, in the Arab world, is worse than military defeat.
Nothing more exemplifies the stupidity that reigns supreme within the Israeli mind than joel’s above comment. I don’t have the quote, but paraphrasing King Saud; ‘you can kill an Arab, but never humiliate one,’ because a humiliated Arab will dedicate the rest of his/her life seeking retribution. Israeli racism and tactics of humiliation are like adding nitrous oxide to gasoline, super fueling resentments & hatreds in perpetuity. There are many reasons why Arab Palestinians will never cease their resistance to Israeli domination, but the tactics of humiliation rank as a major driver.
If humiliation was the policy goal of the Israeli government and not the stated objectives, than their failure is many magnitudes greater. Worse, as Andrew Exum’s article makes crystal clear, US military experiences in the M/E have turned false, mythic beliefs in the IDF into cynicism, professional contempt & disgust within the leadership ranks of the US military regarding that same IDF.
Deïr Yassin says
Joel – like all Israeli ring-wingers – is a specialist on “the Arab Mind” (cf. a best-seller by Israeli ‘anthropologist’ Raphael Patai). It’s really racism in it’s purest sens.
Tell us about the IDF heroes holing up twelve to a bathroom and soiling themselves in terror when faced with a foe with the means of fighting back in 2006 Lebanon.
An Aug. 4 piece by Con Coughlin in the Telegraph noted that – “Although Hizbollah has refused to make public the extent of the casualties it has suffered, Lebanese officials estimate that up to 500 fighters have been killed in the past three weeks of hostilities with Israel, and another 1,500 injured.
I wonder if any Hezbollah fighters shit their pants before they died?
Chet can find out for us please?
Richard Silverstein says
I find you offensive in the extreme. You are moderated. Now go shit THAT in your pants. Talk like that again & no further comments of yours will appear here.
Richard Silverstein says
Hezbollah both humiliated AND defeated the IDF In Lebanon, which is the ultimate humiliation for the Israeli psyche. Such racist Orientalist nonsense.
How is that humiliation going to work to Israel’s advantage? It makes an implacable foe more implacable.
“Cast lead was to destroy Hamas, stop the missiles from Gaza to Israel and return Gilat Shalit” – you don’t really buy into this shit, do you?
Cast Lead was meant to kill Arabs in large numbers, all the rest was excuses for foreign consumption. Israeli public wanted to see Arab blood aplenty and that’s what they got.
I have to tell you Yankel, if “Arab blood aplenty” is what drives Israeli strategy and tactics than they are a doomed people. The current level of violence exacted against Palestinians within and without Israel falls way short of the means of suppressing, let alone annihilating a conquered people.
The only certain methods of stealing lands from its indigents is genocide and/or ethnic cleansing. Prior to the 20th century these means to an end were commonly employed by practically every state at one time or another, including the US in dealing with its native populations. But since the end of WW II these practices have been labeled odious and in universal disrepute by the international community.
Another factor weighing in the calculus of Israel’s unilateral cease fire and withdrawal from Gaza was global outrage over civilian casualties due to the profligate overuse of ordnance or deliberately targeted, using Palestinians as human shields, interfering in humanitarian efforts, shooting up ambulances, mosques, residences and what little remained of Gaza’s economic infrastructure, etc.
As much as Zionists bluster, global opprobrium remains a powerful sanction against the only methods that can actually secure Palestinian lands as Samaria and Judea. The violence and killing perpetrated by Israel falls far short of the mark, and paradoxically will ultimately wind up destroying Israel, not the Palestinian people.
I completely agree but — you talking about Israeli strategy and tactics driving the Cast Lead massacre — it seems you fail to comprehend it was driven by the need to quell internal political pressures rather than by strategic national interests.
I am narrowly addressing the blood lust that your remark “Arab blood aplenty” implies of the Israeli public. Your right that there were other internal, political factors underlying the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008/09, such as the former PM Olmert’s need to change the domestic discussion of corruption charges to another venue as one example.
Israels real “strategic national interests” lie in the two state solution, not executing a senseless chevauchée into Gaza, or oppressing Palestinians in the W/B and discriminating against Arab/Palestinians within the Green Line.
The demographic bubble becomes a bomb when the bulk of the Palestinians finally dump the PA and the two state solution, for full civil liberties and rights of citizenship within a one state or bi-national context. A consequence of this forever war is that Palestinians are getting smarter, not dumber. They are beginning to recognize that armed resistance is a secondary and subsidiary undertaking to the main effort. Culturally that’s been a hard lesson for them to learn, but one that’s sinking in.
That means HAMAS must slave itself to a far greater purpose and goal than being Israels prison guards in the open air ghetto Gaza has become. Zionist think this is impossible, but much has come to pass once formerly thought absurd or preposterous to their skewed powers of reason. When that day arrives the bells will begin tolling for Zionism in Palestine.
Richard Silverstein says
Hey, we agree on something again!
That 100 to 1 ratio is massively weighted with civilian kills. There were few combats between HAMAS fighters and the Israeli IDF during Cast Lead. HAMAS had improved its fighting capabilities by Iranian support & training and absorbed ‘lessons learned’ and fighting tactics from Hezbollah. During the 3 week Israeli invasion HAMAS was waiting in their defensive redoubts for that decisive, final battle that never came.
These few combats were engagements between HAMAS recon teams (3 to 5 men) and IDF units, whose IDF commanders were surprised by the skill sets and discipline of HAMAS fighters. The turkey shoot days when several hundreds of Palestinians would get all worked up and suicidally charge into walls of steel and lead are over.
During the last week of Cast Lead the IDF finally turned its attention to Gaza City where HAMAS was holed up. After a few exploratory advances the Israelis suddenly declared a unilateral cease fire and began withdrawing from Gaza. This can’t be blamed on pressure from the US administration, especially the ‘shrub’ who had lost all patience and was demanding the Israelis finish off HAMAS in Gaza City. Later it was learned the Israeli government balked at the causality estimates they would have to suffer to effect “a knockout blow” to HAMAS. In others words do a Falujah, which the Israelis promptly ran away from.
Richard Silverstein says
The IDF’s pathetic performance during Cast Lead and even worse performance in Lebanon were part of Exum’s and the U.S. military’s evaluation of Israel’s military record.
The murder of 344 children is hardly an impressive undertaking no matter how “efficiently” the executioners carried out the sentence.
The US has accumulated experience throughout the region while fighting as hard as Israel and for a much longer period. In the same time frame, Israel smashed up civilians, jailed civilians, bulldozed homes and dumped death on innocents in Lebanon…not exactly military confrontations.
This is not a startling transformation in US military attitudes regarding today’s Israeli IDF, which is glaringly not the armed forces of their fathers as Lebanon II demonstrated. And though Cast Lead was trumpeted as a glorious victory it proved the vaunted IDF has become a garrison/occupation military only competent at oppressing & slaughtering unarmed civilians and destroying infrastructure.
The IDF can’t fight. And the Israeli people are infinitely far worse than Americans when it comes to KIA’s and wounded, with the whole country verging towards paralysis when the first troop dies. Any of the battles the US military fought in Iraq are beyond the capabilities, fighting skills and will of the IDF and the Israeli people. The Israelis in Cast Lead had their chance to prove their fighting skills similar to the US military in the battles for Falujah, but when it came to finally engaging HAMAS fighters in their redoubts in Gaza City the IDF ran away.
The US does not wage wars against permanent enemies. If we can’t beat them we either make allies out of them or seek normalized relations, no matter how long it takes (Axis powers, China, Vietnam, Russia and now Arab countries). For 60 years + the Israelis have failed miserably at crushing the Palestinians, who have only become stronger “at all the broken places” and more determined to resist. Israel has created a permanent enemy from within, forever.
Fred Plester says
The US Army has reached the same conclusion the British Army reached about the IDF in Beirut, in 1982, sure to be controversial in these pages: “A third rate army honed on tenth-rate opposition.” (That’s what The Guardian printed at the time, omitting any Catterick Patois.)
America’s best ally in the Middle East, though no US politician would admit this, is the Customer of Qatar.
Not because of the military force or expertise his army can supply, which is reasonably proficient but not large, but because he actually does diplomacy and is very good at it. Israel’s concept of diplomacy would make Reggie Kray blush.
Israel is first in the queue for new American military technology and appears willing to sell all of it to China, with a little help from a Mr Reitman. If your hand is constantly being bitten it may be time to quit feeding the beast.
The story of this Syrian scientist calls to mind the story of Israel’s best ever (known) mole, Eli Cohen, an Israeli spy who managed his way deep into Syria’s highest echelons in the early sixties.
Irresponsible media release by Israeli security establishment betrayed him to a public hanging in Damascus.
You assume the Syrian scientist’s death. For his poor soul’s sake I hope he is…
Daniel F. says
Bibi is bluffing Barack about attacking Iran so Barack sends in the boys to snoop.
Somebody wants to show the CIA boys that they are being watched and that their snooping is not welcomed (as the FBI would do in the U.S. but the F.B.I. might not stop at rearranging things in their refrigerator) ……..so business as usual in the cloak and dagger world.
Richard Silverstein says
Can you point to any such incident of the FBI engaging in such intimidation of Israeli spooks? If not, your claim is nonsense.
Daniel F. says
The F.B.I. does not need to intimidate Israeli spooks or others for that matter ( and rearranging food in the refrigerator is more of an Israeli thing…..but watch out!! they might return and replace the food with tastier alternatives….let the Americans taste real Israeli cooking!!….not that bland store bought food and leftovers from the take-away )
The F.B.I. investigates suspicious activity and acts within it’s mandate against perpetrators when illegal activity is found to exist ( arrest, expulsion, ect)…..simple and straightforward and may they be blessed for the good work that they do in making America a safer place for honest people.
Israeli security services do not enjoy the same freedom of action against American spooks in Israel,they cannot bite the hand that feeds Israel, by arresting it’s agents,but they might try to make their work more difficult, slow them down a bit……..lest they find out before November that Bibi is bluffing.
The Assad family took over via martial law and have never loosened. Their grip is the same as Mubarak’s — propped.
Syria has been in secret relations with Zionists for years. Turkey is not Israel’s enemy either, whatsoever — the Flotilla was long ago and that was a fraud. You think the 2nd largest army in NATO is going to put up with a punk country going 100 miles out to international waters with a 1000 man navy to execute their ACTIVISTS (live…basically)?
Russia will not leave whether or not Assad goes. The CIA is divided into two parts: the patriots and the embedded NWO.
The record is clear — Israel cannot be trusted and is a very poor ally to the US in many respects. I think this is fundamentally what is meant by the “special relationship.” I say this because even I, with no responsibility for the lives of others (other than my own family) know enough from the record not to place much reliance in anything, any plan, intell, or what not issued by the Zionist State. If I have enough instinct to be this distrustful, surely full-time US military chiefs would keep Israel (and its “assistance”) at arm’s length.
Here is the official FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency briefing on Jonathon Pollard and only some of the truth, Richard. Pollard was a MASSIVE problem. As bad as the Rosenbergs, maybe even worse. Yes, the initial proliferation was awful, but let’s also consider that Russia had the other half of the Nazi scientist contingency.