Thursday, May 3, 2018

How Netanyahu’s nuclear 'show' could harm Mossad

Yossi Beilin, Al-Monitor; original article contains links; see also (1)

Image from article, with caption: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defense, Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018.

On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved to the world that the Iranians had not told the truth about their nuclear weapons development when they signed the 2015 agreement with world powers on curbing the program. However, at the same time, his presentation also proved that since the signing, inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency had been right in reporting that the Iranians were implementing the agreement to the letter. If such a precise operation by Israel’s Mossad spy agency did not detect any sign of continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons, those claiming that Iran is adhering to its commitment would appear to be right. Netanyahu’s professional presentation cannot justify a US abrogation of its international commitment, with all it implies.

Exposing the incredible Mossad operation, which located Iran’s nuclear archives and moved a half-ton of files and CDs from a storage facility to Tel Aviv, contributed to the credibility of the claims Netanyahu made in his presentation. However, it did not justify exposing Israel’s direct involvement in thwarting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, after so many years of refusing to admit to such activity. The exposure — claimed a former very senior Mossad official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity — could exact a steep price from the agency, both because the Iranians would seek to quickly plug the leak and because it could endanger operatives and operational procedures. ...

Netanyahu shared the information obtained by the Mossad with various foreign entities, chief among them US President Donald Trump. The president himself is inclined to announce on the May 12 deadline that he is pulling his country out of the agreement, to the dismay of all the other signatories, some of his advisers and many in Congress (including Republican lawmakers in the Senate and House). Trump was pleased with the Israeli intelligence material and insisted that it be made public prior to the deadline for his decision in order to prove the weakness of the deal.

Not only that, the timing of Netanyahu’s show points to a dialogue between the two countries. Netanyahu likely tried to persuade Trump that a full and dramatic disclosure of the material could hamper future Mossad activity, because Iran would immediately understand that it has holes that must be plugged, and because sources on which Israel based its operation to obtain the documents could be compromised. Trump might have said that he fully understands Netanyahu’s concerns, but needs the material.

The prime minister then summoned Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and told him that he has no choice but to accede to Trump’s demand and expose the many binders and CDs that the Mossad had managed to smuggle from Iran. Cohen presumably tried to protect his agency and explain to Netanyahu that such a public display was unprecedented, that it meant making use of sensitive intelligence material for public diplomacy [JB emphasis], that it risked crippling the Mossad’s future operations in Iran and it perhaps endangered those who cooperated with the agency. However, he was hard pressed to refuse the prime minister. ...

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