For the first time, the covert elements of an Israeli plot to undermine Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions — including the assassination of Iranian scientists — has been uncovered, Politico reports.
Based on interviews with high-ranking Israeli, American, British, German and French sources, Politico closely details what it termed the “biggest intelligence, political and diplomatic operation ever waged in order to stop a country’s project for the development of weapons of mass destruction.”
According to Politico, Israel’s anti-Iran strategy was comprised of five major tactics:
“[H]eavy international diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, support to Iranian minorities and opposition groups to help them topple the regime, the disruption of consignments of equipment and raw materials for the nuclear program and, finally, covert ops, including the sabotage of installations and targeted killings of key figures in the program.”
The strategy of containing Iran’s advancements towards developing nuclear weapons technology mainly relied on the idea that sanctions would either cause a major economic crisis that would completely derail Iran’s chances of pursuing nukes or that sanctions would weaken the government to the point that Israel-backed opposition groups could overthrow the government.
Suddenly, the protests rocking Iran earlier this year following Iran’s grave economic woes make a lot more sense in this context. Whether a result of the U.S.-Israeli plan to destabilize Iran or not, it cannot be disputed that Iran’s current economic situation, due to years of relentless economic sanctions, has led to widespread discontent with the Iranian government, which could be used to sow the seeds for a potential revolution.
According to Politico, supporting these efforts to target Iran’s nuclear program relied upon a “quadrilateral collaboration” between the CIA, the NSA, the Mossad, and the Israeli military agency known as AMAN, formalized by then-American President George W. Bush and then Israeli-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert through a cooperation pact. Politico notes that this was an unusual relationship, even for countries with ties as strong as Israel and the United States.
It should also be noted that these same agencies, including the Mossad and the CIA, have openly stated over the years that they have no proof Iran is attempting to build a nuclear bomb, even after they claimed they had discovered a secret uranium enrichment facility buried under a mountain near Qom.
Politico explains that the aspect of Israel’s strategy involving assassination of Iranian scientists was solely done by the Mossad, as according to Politico’s sources, the U.S. would not agree to participate in it. The Mossad then compiled a list of 15 key Iranian researchers as targets, and Israel went ahead with its extrajudicial assassination program using a variety of techniques, including booby-trapping motorcycles situated next to the scientists’ cars.
“These targeted killings were effective,” Politico wrote. “Information reaching the Mossad indicated that they brought about ‘white defection’ – meaning that the Iranian scientists were so frightened that many requested to be transferred to civilian projects.”
As Politico explained, assassinating scientists is illegal under American law (a disturbing act when one considers the victims of these attacks — mere academics), and the U.S. did not want to know about these plans. According to former CIA Director Michael Hayden, however, this was the one stand-alone measure Israel took that successfully put a halt to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“It was that somebody was killing their scientists,” Hayden said, according to Politico.
However, this is not the only option Israel put on the table back in 2010. According to the report, Israel strongly maintained a direct military strike option, an option that would have put the Obama administration in a precarious position, compromising the president’s bid for re-election in 2012.
“They [the Israelis] ordered the Israel Defense Forces and the intelligence arms to prepare for a huge operation: an all out air attack in the heart of Iran. Some $2 billion was spent on preparations for the attack and for what the Israelis believed would take place the day after – a counterattack either by Iranian warplanes and missiles, or by its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. The latter could use either the 50,000 missiles it had stockpiled (by 2018, Israeli intelligence estimated the number had increased to 100,000), or it could activate its terror cells abroad, with the assistance of Iranian intelligence, to strike at Israeli or Jewish targets. This is what it did in 1992 and 1994, when it responded to Israeli attacks in Lebanon by blowing up the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the Jewish community center AMIA in that city, with a massive number of casualties in both attacks.”
The strike plan never took place, of course, but according to Politico, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to use it to put pressure on the U.S. government to achieve its objectives.
Further, approximately a month ago, author Ronan Bergman released a book detailing how Israel had taken part in over 2,700 assassination operations in its mere 70 years of existence as a state. Rather than questioning the legality of such lethal operations, the mainstream media either refuses to address it or more or less outright endorses Israel’s strategy.
Ultimately, a close reading of Politico’s report shows a clear attempt to give Israel’s overbearing anti-Iran policy credit for derailing Iran’s perceived ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon, even when it has not been established that Iran was ever developing nuclear weapons to begin with.
“The series of successful operations also had an additional effect,” Politico wrote. “[O]ne that Israel did not initiate but that ended up working to its benefit: Iran began to fear that Israel had penetrated their ranks, and thus started devoting huge efforts to locating their leaks and trying to protect their personnel against the Mossad. The Iranians also became paranoid about the possibility that all the equipment and materials they’d acquired on the black market for their nuclear project—for very large sums of money—were infected, and they examined and reexamined each item over and over. These efforts greatly slowed the progress of the nuclear project as a whole.” [emphasis added]
Even when Politico appears to be critical of Israel’s strategy, the criticism does not go far enough in holding Israel accountable for its criminal actions. Take, for example, this concluding passage, which states:
“Throughout their successive histories, the Mossad, AMAN and the Shin Bet—arguably the best intelligence community in the world—provided Israel’s leaders with operational responses to every focused problem they were asked to solve. But the intelligence community’s very success fostered the illusion among most of the nation’s leaders that covert operations could be a strategic and not just a tactical tool—that they could be used in place of real diplomacy to end the geographic, ethnic, religious and national disputes in which Israel is mired. Because of the phenomenal successes of Israel’s covert operations, at this stage in its history the majority of its leaders have elevated and sanctified the tactical method of combating terror and existential threats at the expense of the true vision, statesmanship and genuine desire to reach a political solution that is necessary for peace to be attained.”
According to Politico, Israel was arguably mistaken to continue these policies at the “expense of the true vision, statesmanship and genuine desire to reach a political solution,” but there is no mention of holding Israel accountable for its grave violations of international law with the same kind of standards we see the media holding states like North Korea to (which, by the way, is not known to carry out operations on a scale that could ever rival the Israelis).