“The latest literary sensation in Tehran,” he writes, “is a thriller about Iran’s nuclear program that is laden with espionage, cunning and political murder. But its authors are not former Iranian intelligence operatives or Iranian military fiction writers. They are not the Iranian equivalent of Tom Clancy.”
According to Afkhami, Iranian sources regard the book “as an Israeli-written work exposing something the Israeli authorities do not want the world to know.” He writes further that Iran’s state-owned Press TV reported the Spies Against Armageddon assertion that the Kidon (“Bayonet”) unit of the Mossad was responsible for the hits “over the past five years.”
Afkhami concludes: “The question of the assassins’ nationalities has been of special interest in Iran, where a suspect in one of the attacks was hanged last month. Officials announced the arrest last month of a group of suspects, describing them as agents of what Iran calls the Zionist regime without identifying their nationalities. Though the book is unlikely to end speculation about who is responsible for the covert assassination campaign against Iran’s nuclear scientists, its assertions correspond with a longstanding assumption among many security experts in Washington’s policy circles.”
In 2006, we can reveal exclusively, a serious approach for a secret dialogue with America — using Israel as an intermediary — was made by highly placed Iranians.
Flag of the IRGC
In fact, according to a source personally involved in the contacts, they were initiated by senior officers in the IRGC — the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The approach was made to an Israeli businessman who, earlier in his career, had been an Israeli diplomat.
The message from Iran, in essence, was this: “Help us to defuse tensions and establish contact with the Bush Administration.” The Iranians said they were prepared to talk with American counterparts about all issues relevant to the two sides: Iraq and Afghanistan (where the U.S. was still prosecuting two wars), the Iranian proxies (Hezbollah) in Lebanon, and even Iran’s nuclear program.
This was around the time when Iran, according to CIA analysts, had frozen its nuclear work — apparently out of fear that America, having invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, might invade Iran next.
The Israeli who received the approach — which clearly originated with the Revolutionary Guards and thus seemed to be authorized by Iran’s Supreme Leader — referred it to the most senior levels of Israel’s government in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, after closely held consultations with senior advisors, decided not to respond.
President George W. Bush had publicly labeled Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil,” and Olmert had the impression that the Bush-Cheney Administration had no interest in starting a dialogue. Israel, simply by passing along a message that originated with the IRGC, might even anger the Americans.
The IRGC was known by American officials to be responsible for the deaths of many U.S. soldiers in Iraq, mostly by planting bombs along roads and training Iraqis to do so.
In addition, there was no reason to assume that such contacts would redound to Israel’s benefit.
(Even now, years later, Israeli strategists are far from confident that a rapprochement between the Obama Administration and the Islamic Republic of Iran would be a good thing for Israel.)
This attempt at communication, which led nowhere, underlines a strong belief in the Middle East that is rarely voiced aloud: the perception that if you want to reach and influence the United States government, the most influential channel to use is Israel.
Even among its bitter enemies, Israel enjoys the image that it highly influential in Washington, and if a high-level Israeli asks the American president to do something — even pursue a back channel with foes in Iran — it shall come to pass.
In reality, when the U.S. and Iran held a series of secret contacts this year — in the months leading up to the interim nuclear accord in Geneva last month — they did not need Israel’s help at all. And some Israeli officials complain that Obama was not quick to inform Israel, as the conversations with the Iranians continued.
There are no rumblings or indications that Israel had any role in arranging the talks in 2011 or in 2013. In fact, the sequence of events in 2006 suggests that Israel would refuse — if approached by Iran — to broker any contacts with the United States.
There is a strategic danger that Israel will have to consider, however. As Prime Minister Netanyahu’s disagreement with the Obama Administration about the interim deal with Iran is red hot and in the open, that may well weaken Israel’s omnipotent image as the most powerful broker in Washington.
That would reduce the remarkable clout that the tiny State of Israel has, in almost every corner of the world. Israel has used that tremendous asset to acquire benefits such as arms deals, Mossad espionage stations, and immensely useful intelligence cooperation in countering and tracking Arab (and Iranian) activities.
Today (December 3, 2013), a French forensics team that studied evidence from bones and other material removed from the tomb of Yasser Arafat in the West Bank declared that his death was not a result of poisoning. This apparently conflicted slightly with the Swiss experts’ finding recently that Arafat’s death was consistent with poisoning by radioactive Polonium.
By Yossi Melman (a blog post from July 12, 2012)
Israeli Officials Discussed Killing Arafat, But Prime Minister Sharon Didn’t Think It Was Worth Doing
Al Jazeera’s English-language TV service has a new documentary, alleging that there is evidence that Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned by a radioactive element, polonium-210. Naturally, people around the world paying attention to this – Palestinians definitely among them – suspect that Israel took a byproduct of its nuclear program and used it to turn Arafat into a sickly, weak man. Arafat died in a hospital in Paris in November 2004.
The Al Jazeera documentary, by an American reporter, Clayton Swisher, said the poisoning possibility is reminiscent of the slow but certain death suffered by a Russian dissident in London, Alexander Litvinenko, in 2006. An investigation discovered that polonium had been slipped into tea that he drank. British authorities suspect that a former KGB officer was sent from Moscow by Vladimir Putin to do the deed.
Now a Swiss laboratory, as seen on TV, tested some of Arafat’s clothing and detected unusually high levels of polonium: weak traces, it turns out now, but still a lot stronger than would be expected in the natural environment. The clothing was furnished to Al Jazeera by Arafat’s widow, Suha.
The Palestinian Authority says it now agrees to have Arafat’s body exhumed, so that more tests can be conducted for radioactive toxins.
In Spies Against Armageddon (Chapter 20, “Hope and Despair”), we turn to the issue of how Arafat died. And if he was poisoned, who did it: Israel? Or enemies within the PLO?
While his health was failing, in his partially destroyed presidential compound in Ramallah (on the West Bank), and then after he succumbed to whatever it was in the Paris hospital, speculation was flying high.
We reveal that the idea of killing Arafat was discussed by Israeli intelligence chiefs and the inner cabinet of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Senior officers in the army (the Israel Defense Forces) and in the military intelligence agency Aman were in favor of taking harsh action against Arafat – one way or another. The defense minister at the time, Shaul Mofaz, was overheard whispering into Sharon’s ear: “Let’s get rid of him,” meaning Arafat.
But – based on many interviews with Israeli officials, political activists, military officers, and intelligence professionals – it seems almost certain that Sharon rejected all proposals to kill Arafat or even to have elite military commandos “snatch” Arafat and expel him from Palestine.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 20, which notes that Arafat did not leave his compound in Ramallah for three years, even as Israel’s air force bombed the building:
Living in crowded conditions, with poor hygiene and no running water, Arafat’s health deteriorated markedly. European peace mediators who visited him were worried about the world icon, in his mid-70s, apparently fading away from day to day. They asked the Israelis to permit Arafat to leave, so he could get medical treatment in Europe.
The intelligence chiefs convened a special meeting on the subject in late October 2004 and debated whether to grant a favor to the Palestinian leader. On one hand, it would make Israel look kind and just. But there were objections that he was not so terribly ill, and he would probably recover and then go on a worldwide propaganda tour.
The military suggested that it could forcibly evacuate Arafat: grab him, put him on a stretcher, rush him out of the building and take him to a clinic somewhere. Prime Minister Sharon rejected that, saying the hustle and bustle might kill Arafat – and that would look terrible for Israel.
The prime minister actually sided with the softer faction that leaned toward letting Arafat go. Sharon felt that leaving Arafat – certainly a celebrity and to many in the world a hero – to die in his smashed compound, without medical treatment, would do serious diplomatic damage to Israel.
So, France and Jordan were permitted to organize the Palestinian leader’s exit: on a stretcher, in a helicopter, in a wheelchair, and then onto a French military airplane. Apparently, it was too late to save him. He died within two weeks, in November 2004, but that sparked a new, mysterious controversy. What was the cause of death? The French military doctors treating Arafat refused to specify, at least in any public statement.
Rumors swirled that Israel had poisoned him, perhaps little by little adding lethal substances to the air in his compound in Ramallah or sneaking poison into his food. There also were rumors that Arafat was gay, and it might have been AIDS that killed him.
Israeli intelligence knew of indications that Arafat – who for decades had been “married to the movement” – was not intimately interested in women. This knowledge came into play during a rare encounter between Mossad officials and Israeli journalists, a few years before Arafat’s demise.
Intelligence officers invited two journalists to a private chat, mostly about Arafat. The Mossad clearly wanted to spread scandalous stories about Arafat being corrupt.
A third journalist, who was truly an intelligence junkie, made a point of dropping into the coffee shop where the conversation was taking place and practically invited himself to join in. Excited by the possibility of taking part in Mossad psychological warfare, he offered to pose as a foreign writer who could approach Arafat’s wife Suha and get secrets from her – and he volunteered to sleep with Suha as part of an espionage escapade.
The Mossad said no, thanks. …
Israeli officials denied responsibility and said he had actually died of leukemia. They did concede that he had not gotten timely and proper treatment, because he was trapped in Ramallah by Israeli forces.
Israel said it had not poisoned its longtime foe, but it knew that many around the world would not believe the denial. [From pp. 267-268, Spies Against Armageddon]
Prime Minister Sharon thought that the downside of being accused of killing Arafat was not worth the advantages of being rid of him. Arafat already seemed to be an irrelevant leader, a spent force, whose true traits – unreliability and slippery untrustworthiness – were discovered not only by Israel, but by the international community. Quite a few senior PLO members were fed up with him, too.
After his death, one fact that added to the rumors that Arafat might have died of AIDS was his wife’s refusal to allow the Palestinian Authority to conduct an autopsy. Was she afraid that her husband’s sexual orientation might be discovered? And what made her change her mind now, appearing on Al Jazeera to demand that his body be fully examined almost eight years later? Perhaps it is worth mentioning that at the time of Arafat’s death, his wife was suspected by senior Palestinians to have hidden away vast sums of money for her own comfortable life in Europe.
Why didn’t she send some of her husband’s clothing out for tests in 2004? It certainly is possible that someone, on her behalf or the instructions of others, tainted the belongings with polonium – after reading about the Litvinenko case in London. …
Perhaps one of the mysteries of the past decade can be cleared up; but probably not. In the meantime, the real issues between Israel and the Palestinians – how to restart peace negotiations and work seriously for a compromise peace between the two peoples – are left again in a fog of distraction and disagreement.
What does a former deputy director of the IAEA think of the deal the United States (as part of the P5+1 group) reached with Iran — to restrict Iranian nuclear activities for six months, while some sanctions against Iran are eased?
“This is not a roll-back of the program. No enrichment capability is dismantled. But it is a temporary halt of many of the elements of the program,” says Olli Heinonen in an interview.
Dr. Heinonen, who is from Finland, spent 27 years at the International Atomic Energy Agency. He is credited with identifying as a danger A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani who was traveling from country to country, selling nuclear knowhow. Heinonen was also notably critical of his former boss, Mohamed elBaradei, the Egyptian who headed the IAEA for a dozen years until 2009. The hint was that elBaradei was too soft on Iran.
Olli Heinonen (photo from Harvard U.)
Heinonen, as head of the IAEA’s Safeguards department, was able to visit nuclear facilities in Iran many times. He is certainly one of the world’s leading experts on Iran’s nuclear work — and one of the few who are very knowledgeable yet able to speak openly. Heinonen, after all, is now a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
“The agreement says that Iran will not build new facilities, but I would have preferred to have a statement included that Natanz and Fordow are the only ones existing or under construction,” he says. “I also welcome the monitoring of Iran’s yellowcake production, with the understanding that the yellowcake imported or produced until now will be subject to monitoring.”
Concerns have been raised because Iran’s semi-industrial-scale enrichment capacities and its stockpile could be further enriched to weapons-grade uranium.
“Indeed. With its current inventory of 20%-enriched uranium, it would take about twoweeks inits new centrifuges to produce enough weapons-grade material for one nuclear device.
“If Iran uses 3 to 5%-enriched uranium as feed material at all 18,000 of its currently installed, old-generation IR-1 centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow, the same result would be achieved in two months.
“In terms of stockpiled enriched uranium, Iran has more than 7 metric tons of 3 to 5%-enriched uranium. This amount translates to roughly the amount of fissile material for about fourbombs.
“A more attractive route to break out for Iran is a covert route. A covert facility with 3,000 more advanced IR-2m centrifuges using 20%-enriched uranium would require less than two weeks to produce one bomb-grade amount of fissile material.”
So how long will it take Iran to producea nuclear weapon?
“Weapons-grade UF6 still has to be turned into uranium metal, components of the weapon have to be machined, and a nuclear device assembled. This would take about a month or two. At this stage, one would have a crude nuclear device — which could be delivered, for example, by a jet fighter, as was the plan of Pakistan at the time of its nuclear test in 1998.
“Obama has set, as his red line — [the limit] for Iran’s nuclear capability — a nuclear device fitted on a missile. That capability appears to be at least one year away.”
The Arak heavy water reactor, unless its construction is truly stopped, is likely to come online by the end of 2014. Would this reactor contribute to Iran’s ability to produce plutonium?
“Pakistan, India and Israel have used similar reactors to produce plutonium for theirnuclear weapons. The Arak reactor could produce more than one bomb’s worth of plutonium on an annual basis.
“Once the reactor starts operation, it becomes highly radioactive since the spent fuel it churns out will contain fission products and plutonium. Iran would also need to build a reprocessing plant to extract plutonium from the spent fuel. While there is no present indication that Iran is building such a facility, Iran did conduct plutonium separation experiments in the early 1990s.
“There may still be ways to modify the Arak reactor so that it would produce less plutonium. Since Iran has stated that the reactor will be used for the production of medical isotopes, it could be modified to a more proliferation-friendly and smaller-sized light water reactor.
“At this stage, the most reasonable way forward is to freeze the construction the IR-40 reactor, including the manufacturing of fuel and of reactor components, and to halt the production of additional heavy water pending the completion of any final agreement.
“To sum up, the measures taken by the agreement regarding Arak are good, but I would have also included the manufacturing of key components inthe deal.“
The interim deal with Iran, putting some restrictions on its nuclear work but also easing sanctions against that country, has been condemned by Israel’s government. So what will they do now? Step up the espionage.
The Mossad and other arms of Israeli espionage will be focused on Iran. Israel, even without being a direct party to the P5+1 deal with Iran, is more highly motivated than anyone else to find proof that Iran is cheating.
A unit considered highly skilled at assassinating Israel’s enemies will likely be tasked with the most difficult missions, behind the lines. Here is our portrait of the Kidon unit.
[Adapted from Chapter 22, "Assassins," in Spies Against Armageddon by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman]
Whether it is a mini-Mossad within the agency, or even a planet of its own, the fact is that operatives in Kidon (Hebrew for “Bayonet”) are obscured by strict secrecy and further protected by military censorship of the Israeli media. Yet, an accurate window into the structure of Kidon, its modes of operation, and the moods and psyches of its members can be found in the pages of a novel.
The author is Mishka Ben-David, and a thorough dossier describing the Kidon unit is nestled in a seemingly innocent book of fiction he wrote, Duet in Beirut, published in Hebrew in 2002. Ben-David, though, is not just a novelist. He was an intelligence officer. He was in the Mossad. And if that is not real enough, then consider that he was the chief intelligence officer of Caesarea, the agency’s operations department that runs combatants – Jewish and non-Jewish – who penetrate such enemy countries as Syria, Egypt, and Iran.
Mossad’s official logo
Caesarea also has, at its service for special occasions, Kidon. This “Bayonet” unit is kept small but sharp, and it recruits men and women who already have proven themselves in their military service or in other intelligence work. They are judged, through a process that includes copious psychological profiling, to have excellent self-discipline. Even more importantly, they have the skills needed for operations that are on the edge. Many of them come from special forces units, such as Sayeret Matkal and Flotilla 13.
They are trained by highly motivated instructors and work in small teams of two or four – each of them known as a khuliya (a Hebrew word for “team” or “connected link”). Although Kidon’s overall size has never been published, there are several dozen khuliyot, and the entire secretive organization is referred to as “The Team.”
They are so compartmentalized that their office is not inside the Mossad headquarters at the Glilot junction north of Tel Aviv. They hardly ever go there, and even with the very few Mossad operatives with whom they interact, they use assumed names – so as to be anonymous even to them.
In the field, they use a third name, and sometimes even fourth and fifth identities.
Their training includes almost anything one might imagine is needed for a thorough intelligence operation: surveillance, shaking off surveillance, and how to study an object – things, buildings, or even people – and memorize everything about it.
They become proficient at remembering codes and securely communicating during missions without raising suspicion. On top of conventional communication gear, this can include an agent touching her nose or pulling her earlobe, or some other form of sanitized signal to colleagues.
One of the skills is to remain cool as a cucumber in all circumstances, and not to be shaken by any unexpected interruption, question, or approach by people – never hinting that you are involved in anything unusual.
In Ben-David’s adventure novel, a female Kidon combatant and the senior man who trained her are sent to penetrate a factory in a foreign country that manufactures parts for Iran’s nonconventional weapons. They are interrupted when another Kidon team, serving as their perimeter guard, informs them with urgency that unexpected guests are arriving. The guards disperse, according to plan, and the duo know precisely where to go to meet a car that is waiting there for such an eventuality. Everyone keeps their cool. Panic is not in their lexicon.
Kidon personnel excel at the manual skills that are often required in the field: picking or breaking a lock, surreptitiously taking photographs, and planting electronic devices. They also learn to master a variety of vehicles: not only cars and vans, but also motorcycles, which have become Kidon’s vehicle of choice – almost a trademark of a team that leaves few traces.
The Team’s members are constantly practicing the use of weapons, and as wide a variety of weapons as has ever been invented. They are very good at firing pistols, often with silencers, whether while standing, running, driving, or riding a motorcycle. They know how to shape, plant, and detonate explosives, including innovatively designed bombs. They are well practiced at stabbing enemies with knives, injecting them with hypodermic needles, or administering poison by way of newly minted delivery methods. In addition, well trained in martial arts, Kidon operatives are adept at using their own hands and feet as weapons.
The description of their skills may seem torn from a James Bond novel or movie, but they are not figments of a writer’s imagination. Kidon men and women are authentic intelligence officers who are taught a wide range of crafts. It is a barely concealed fact, within the Mossad, that they are Israel’s assassins. Moreover, they are considered to be supreme intelligence officers for all seasons – not simply a death squad.
Arnon Milchan — one of Hollywood’s top movie producers — is well known as a creative Israeli who thinks out of the box. But only a few people knew that he took part in secret missions on behalf of Israeli intelligence. Shimon Peres, who now is Israel’s president, hired the young Milchan as a secret agent for defense projects.
His missions included acquiring parts and other materials for the “nuclear potential” that Israel was building. Neither Peres nor Milchan will say precisely what Israel has built — but the CIA and many other authorities feel certain that Israel has a large arsenal of nuclear weapons. This is partially thanks to the energy and creativity of the movie mogul, Milchan.
Arnon Milchan, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (from thewrap.com)
Another pillar supporting the nuclear project … was a young, ambitious Israeli—Arnon Milchan—who, years later, would be one of Hollywood’s wealthiest movie producers.
Born in 1945, Milchan inherited a small chemical and fertilizers business from his father and expanded it in the 1960s and ‘70s by winning licenses to represent such global giants as America’s DuPont. He also brokered deals for defense contractors and was paid sizeable fees.
In the late 1960s, Milchan had a key role in doing the CIA a favor in pre-revolutionary Iran. The Americans were hoping to build a large listening post there.
The Shah was among the regional players extremely impressed by Israel’s swift victory over Nasser and Arab nationalism in 1967. Thus, he was receptive to a request by Milchan and other Israelis to allow the CIA to build its listening post on Iranian soil: a billion-dollar collection of dishes, antennas, and computers to harvest electronic intelligence (elint) from the nearby Soviet Union. As part of the deal, the facility would occasionally help the Shah by turning its “ears” toward Iran’s neighbors—Pakistan and Iraq.
Milchan, who was in his early 20s, also earned commissions from American companies providing the elint equipment.
His “recruiter” for Israel’s nuclear project was Peres, who introduced Milchan to [Binyamin] Blumberg [director of secret scientific projects at an Israeli Defense Ministry unit called Lakam].
Despite a generation gap between the latter two and their different personalities—Milchan was funny and talkative, while Blumberg was quiet and monkish—they struck up a friendship. “The only times I have ever seen Blumberg smile,” said another Lakam operative, “was when he was with Milchan.”
They also got a lot of secret business done. In 1972, guided precisely by Blumberg and Israel’s atomic commission, Milchan was tasked with purchasing blueprints for centrifuges. Israeli scientists wanted to build their own devices for spinning uranium to weapons-grade potency.
That would give Israel another avenue, enriching uranium—and not only the reactor route—for making nuclear arms.
The Dimona project was mostly based around the reactor, which Israeli engineers had made much more powerful since the French initially built it. The reactor turned uranium in fuel rods into more radioactive and volatile plutonium. Plutonium bombs were typically smaller—requiring less than five kilograms of fissile material each, compared with over 25 kilograms for enriched uranium bombs. Plutonium devices were more apt to be miniaturized, to be the warheads on missiles.
So What Did Arnon Milchan Do?
Milchan was instructed to befriend a corrupt scientist at Urenco, a joint British-Dutch-German consortium that produced the centrifuges. With his charm and a lavish offer of $250,000, Milchan was successful.
As agreed, the scientist brought the blueprints to his home for a weekend and left his back door unlocked. Israelis from the Caesarea operations department subtly surrounded the house, and Mossad photographers copied the thousands of documents in a matter of hours. The scientist and his wife returned home, and on Monday he returned the documents to his office without arousing any suspicions.
Based on the drawings, Israel was able to design and build gas centrifuges. They were installed in Dimona and soon started enriching gaseous uranium hexafluoride, to produce fissile material for bombs.
Only two years later, Abdul Qader Khan would steal the very same blueprints. He was a Pakistani nuclear scientist, carrying out research at the Urenco consortium. A.Q. Khan returned home, built centrifuges, plotted the procurement of uranium, and was hailed there as “the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb.” He is even more notorious as the driving force behind notions of “an Islamic bomb,” and Khan rightly became known as the world’s biggest nuclear proliferator. He sold his knowledge to Iran, Libya, and perhaps other countries in the late 1990s.
Israel, in the meantime, kept upgrading and improving the centrifuges at Dimona to make them more efficient. Yet, the old ones also proved to be of great value. In 2008, they would serve as a test bed for the computer worm invented by a joint Mossad-Aman-CIA operation: the malicious Stuxnet virus planted inside Iran’s computers, which were controlling a Urenco-type centrifuge array. The Iranian machinery would be severely damaged, and that would be a significant setback to an enemy’s program seen as highly threatening.
In appreciation of Milchan’s success in getting Israel its own centrifuges, he was one of the very few Israelis—outside a tight circle of cabinet ministers, selected members of parliament, and senior military personnel—to be honored with a tour of the Dimona facility.
In 1973, Milchan launched a chain of business decisions that would bring Israel sophisticated triggers for nuclear bombs. These were krytrons: a type of high-speed switch, resembling the kind of cathode tubes old radios had, costing only $75 each but requiring a U.S. government license to be exported.
Milchan persuaded an engineer at Rockwell, the American defense contractor, to start a company in California. Milchan promised Richard Smyth that the new firm, Milco, would get plenty of orders. Milchan and his friends in Tel Aviv would see to that. For years, Lakam sent Milco lists—often using codewords for nuclear-related items—and Smyth was earning handsome commissions for shipping the parts to Israel.
In 1985, federal agents raided Milco and charged Smyth with illegally exporting more than 800 krytrons to Israel. Milchan, despite obvious ties to Milco, was not charged; apparently, that was because Peres, his longtime patron, persuaded Reagan Administration officials not to prosecute Milchan.
Milchan told two authors [Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman], writing a book about him, that he had not violated any American laws. He added that he had been “ordered” to cut off all contact with Smyth, who fled to Europe and could never get Milchan or Lakam to return his phone calls. Israel’s defense ministry did send Smyth money for several years.
Smyth, after almost 15 years, was located by U.S. authorities and extradited from Spain. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison, and in 2010— when he was 80—the two authors found him, practically broke, living in a trailer park in California.
Milchan continued to do very well. He produced many hit movies, dividing his time between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv and unceasingly helping Israel with its secret intelligence and defense requirements. He refused to accept any payment from Israel for his assignments on behalf of Lakam, but many of his missions were indirectly rewarding. Peres, Blumberg, and Moshe Dayan introduced Milchan to international leaders and key security officials, and he was able to make highly profitable deals with monarchist Iran, the isolated government of Taiwan, and the doomed apartheid regime of South Africa. He invested in various enterprises in Iran, which he wisely sold about a year before the Shah’s downfall in 1979.
When deals involved products delivered to Israel, Milchan put the commissions into a huge slush fund: millions in cash that Israeli intelligence could use for special assignments. Milchan controlled the checkbook.
Patriots who donated their time and energies to the cause, such as Milchan, helped Israel acquire what it needed to be an undeclared nuclear power.
Book buyers who’ve read Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars — the new history of Israeli intelligence and security agencies from 1948 ’til the present time — have posted positive reviews at Amazon.com .
Spies Against Armageddon has just gotten its 100th review on the Amazon website. Here are the three most recent reviews by buyers:
5.0 out of 5 stars Nov. 27, 2013
Well written – No BS short history of the Israeli secret services: Mossad, Aman and Shin-Bet Toren (USA) -
Well researched and well written. A real page turner, generous with the details of both the successes and the failures of the famous Israeli “Institute”, Military Intelligence and Internal Security services.
But even with a more relaxed censorship in Israel lately, some of the most exciting operations of these 3 agencies: Mossad, Aman and Shabak/Shin-Bet- the details are still veiled in secrecy.
Most Israelis are quite familiar with the short vignettes in the book – but if you don’t know much about Israel spying agencies – this book will bring you up to speed without any BS or melodrama, which unfortunately are part of so many other books dedicated to the subject.
4.0 out of 5 stars Nov. 24, 2013
intriguing, comprehensive look at Israeli intelligence agencies and operations
I read this book after reading “Gideon’s Spies” by Gordon Thomas and though I was often reading about the same incidents I was able to enjoy this book as well. The writers have a factual, explanatory approach and do a good job in connecting and uncovering many otherwise mysterious world events. If you want to know more about the Mossad and other intelligence agencies, this is the book for you!
This review is of: Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars (Paperback)
Here in Brazil, I read this amazing book. Oh, this book is even better than I thought, when I bought it!
The main great things of this excellent book are these:
1- This book isn’t just about Mossad, but also about Aman (Israeli military Inteligency) and Shin Bet( Israeli Interior Security Service).
2- This book was writen by persons that really know its subject.
3- This book is 100% unbiased. Mossad, Aman and Shin Bet mistakes are in it. The huge conquests of Mossad are in this book too.
4- This book doesn’t lost time with especulations, fakes or urban legends.
5- This book is writen in a style that you can read it like a great novel.
6- This book has a linear narration.
7- This book is 100% well organized.
8- This book clearly shows that to be linked to reality, not useless dreams, is the main commandment of any inteligence service.
9- This book shows that democracy produces better inteligence services than tyrannies. Compare Mossad with KGB or Stasi and you will see that Mossad is far better than Stasi or KGB ever were.
Israelis are endlessly fascinated by their country’s intelligence services, and when a book about the Mossad and the other secret agencies is considered credible, it sells very well.
The evidence: the “Gold Book” certificates presented to Yossi Melman — for himself and for his American co-author Dan Raviv — during a ceremony near Tel Aviv.
The certificates (Melman’s on the left, Raviv’s on the right) were presented by the Association of Israeli Publishers, marking the confirmed sale of 20,000 copies of their latest book about Israel’s intelligence community.
In English it’s known as Spies Against Armageddon. In Hebrew, the title (Milkhamot Ha-Tzlalim) translates as: The Shadow Wars.
The Hebrew-language paperback has sold substantially more than 20,000 copies, in a country with a population of only 8 million.
On Westwood One Radio, nightly talk show host Jim Bohannon — who clearly has very strong doubts about the nuclear deal the West has reached with Iran — interviewed Dan Raviv, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon.
Click the play button (arrow) to listen to the seven-minute interview.
What’s the true significance of the nuclear agreement between the United States (and its allies) and Iran?
-The military option is taken off the table. The U.S. certainly won’t strike Iran in the foreseeable future, and Israel wouldn’t dare defy America’s clear preference for a negotiated settlement.
A Strained Alliance (standforIsrael.org)
-Iran will be allowed to be de facto a military nuclear threshhold nation. The numberof months that the Iranians would need to “break out” quickly by enriching enough highly enriched uranium to build a bomb is increased by the Geneva accord — but they remain able to do it.
-The security and foreign policy posture of the United States in the region is in decline. The Obama Administration might deny that, but smart people in the Middle East feel it and know it. (See Yossi Melman’s article by scrolling down at IsraelSpy.com or jump to it here.)
-Israel will feel, more than ever, that it has to go it alone. That does not mean that a military strike on Iran is likely — far from it. But Israel is already exercising diplomatic options than might have been considered absurd in the past. These are reliably reported to include secret understandings with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations.
Israel has had time to prepare its diplomatic (and perhaps military-intelligence) repositioning. The Associated Press, in a detailed report on secret U.S.-Iran government talks this year, reveals that President Barack Obama personally briefed Israel about them when he met at the White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the end of September. Netanyahu kept the secret, but he did decide publicly to put a ton of daylight between Israel and the Obama Administration, when it came to dealing with Iran.
The national security team at the White House, knowing all day Saturday that a deal with Iran could be looming, prepared a “fact sheet”: 11 pages, in the final draft that was released after an agreement was announced after 3:00 a.m. Sunday (Swiss time) in Geneva.
John Kerry: “potentially a significant moment,” but not “an end unto itself”
The White House says Iran has agreed to restrictions on its uranium enrichment — and a halt in progress on the plutonium track to a possible nuclear bomb (using the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak). In exchange, the United States and other Western countries will ease some of the sanctions (in a “reversible” way), enabling Iran to get its hands on billions of dollars.
Secretary of State John Kerry said some may feel that this is a bad deal — but he wondered what their recommended alternative might be.
President Obama specifically said that Israel and America’s allies in the Arabian Gulf have good reasons to be “skeptical” about Iran’s intentions.
Many experts on the Middle East express very deep suspicions about Iran, its nuclear ambitions, and its limitless abilities to “play games” and out-and-out lie.
Kerry commented, in Geneva, that Iran’s actions (its “choices”) have caused instabilities and security concerns in many countries. And he said that the goal before the Geneva talks — preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — remains the “singular goal” now for the U.S. and its allies.
He also noted that the talks with Iran were “respectful,” although they were “tough.” Keep in mind that this is the first major negotiated agreement between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran since Iran released 52 American hostages in January 1981.
The deal signifies a major change in international relations, as the U.S. and Iran are working and negotiating with an apparent tone of cooperation.
The P5+1 and Iran also discussed the general parameters of a comprehensive solution that would constrain Iran’s nuclear program over the long term, provide verifiable assurances to the international community that Iran’s nuclear activities will be exclusively peaceful, and ensure that any attempt by Iran to pursue a nuclear weapon would be promptly detected.The set of understandings also includes an acknowledgment by Iran that it must address all United Nations Security Council resolutions – which Iran has long claimed are illegal – aswell as past and present issues with Iran’s nuclear program that have been identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
This would include resolution of questions concerning the possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program, including Iran’s activities at Parchin. As part of a comprehensive solution, Iran must also come into full compliance with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its obligations to the IAEA. With respect to the comprehensive solution, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Put simply, this first step expires in six months, and does not represent an acceptable end state to the United States or our P5+1 partners.
The past 3 years have seen several Middle East-related developments that might seem to have little or nothing in common:
Israel and the United States are locked in on a collision course over Iran’s nuclear program and the stalled negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Saudi Arabia, frustrated by the failure to topple the Assad regime in Syria and American efforts to reconcile with Iranian, is turning its back on the Obama administration and devoting billions of dollars to diversify its sources of military hardware.
Egypt’s military rulers, angered by Washington’s decreased military and political assistance are making overtures in the direction of Moscow and recently hosted its intelligence and military chiefs.
In the Libyan civil war the U.S. claimed to “lead from behind” – an oxymoronic phrase.
Iraq fell into the Shiite-Iranian sphere of interests after the U.S. pulled its troops out.
Another political and military vacuum is to be expected once U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan. The fragile Kabul government of President Hamid Karazi will be left at the mercy of the Taliban. More than likely, the radical and brutal Islamist movement will eventually return to power.
President Barack Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army would be a “red-line.” However, once this line was crossed the U.S. looked the other way and did nothing. Russia jumped at the opportunity, offered a diplomatic solution and emerged from the crisis as a savior.
These incidents could be seen as isolated and independent of each other, yet they do have much in common. Together these incidents are part of a geo-political earthquake taking place in the Middle East and beyond. They are symptoms and results of the shrinking American posture in the region.
The causes for the huge shift in U.S. foreign policy can be attributed to several reasons, some of them self-inflicted mistakes and others calculated risks that were deliberately taken.
In a matter of four years, America is going to be energy independent. It will either completely eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, its need for Arab oil. It is estimated that by 2016, the U.S. will be a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia and Russia.
In the decades since the Second World War, a central pillar of U.S. policy in the region was to consolidate its influence on the oil-producing countries and ensure the routes of supply. Once America is no longer dependent on oil imports, the importance of the Middle East, with regards to U.S. national interests, will undoubtedly shrink. As one senior U.S. diplomat told me: “If we don’t need Arab oil, why should we bother with them?”
As a result of his personality, background and political upbringing, President Obama is more motivated by idealism and morality than pragmatism. One must also consider his lack of experience in global affairs and shortage of world class advisers, such as Henry Kissinger (for President Nixon) Zbigniew Brzezinski (for President Carter) or even Condoleezza Rice (for President Bush).
After a decade of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, war-weary America is less and less interested in becoming involved in world conflicts. Americans are no longer willing to sacrifice their sons to spill blood on foreign fronts. They look inward and want their government to fix their own economy and not to act as the policeman of the world.
The U.S. detachment from regional issues is so evident that it is no wonder Middle Eastern nations are nervous, confused, frustrated and troubled. They realize that they will have to take care of their own national interests. They are less and less afraid of criticizing and confronting the U.S.
The void created by the shift in U.S. foreign policy has forced the Arab nations to look for new sources of military aid, new strategic alliances, and new diplomatic partners.
We are watching the decline of U.S. power worldwide, particularly in our region. Since the Soviet Union began abandoning its posts and influence in the area since the mid-1970′s, the Middle East has been dominated by Pax Americana. Washington consolidated its political influence and military presence, and it dominated the regional markets. Now those days are gone.
Just some words to consider. A few people (who watch too many episodes of “Homeland” or “Scandal” perhaps) think Israel’s strong objections to the likely nuclear deal with Iran are pre-planned with the Obama Administration.
Actually, it seems that both sides are very annoyed at each other — with the Americans (such as U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro) emphasizing that relations will be fine between the two friendly nations, but this is one of those times that they have sharp disagreements over “tactics.”
For the record, here’s the key part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks — standing in Jerusalem today (Nov. 17) with France’s President Francois Hollande — after pointing out that the two leaders had just visited Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum and memorial), and Netanyahu believes that it’s his job to prevent another Holocaust of the Jewish people:
At the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport, you said that it is better to be right and in the minority, than to be wrong with a majority. Well, I couldn’t agree with you more. The deal that is being put on the table in Geneva is not a good deal. I believe it’s a bad deal and a dangerous one.
I applaud the fact that you, personally, have taken a stance to make it tougher and firmer, but I‘m concerned, gravely concerned that this deal will go through and in one stroke of the pen it will reduce the sanctions on Iran, sanctions that took years to put in place. And in return for this Iran gives practically nothing.
Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu
Like you, François, I want to see a peaceful solution, a diplomatic solution, and like Secretary Kerry, I strongly believe that no deal is better than a bad deal. And I believe that this deal is not merely a bad deal. Look how eager, just look how eager the Iranians are, how eager they are to return to Geneva and sign the deal. Now they said that they will not demand that the agreement include a specific reference to their so-called “right to enrich.” They are already backing off of that, predictably.
They know, everyone knows, that the agreement enables them to continue enrichment, so they say, we already have the right to enrich in practice. And look who’s getting that right: a regime that brutally oppresses its own people, that directly enables and helps the Assad regime to conduct a brutal massacre of innocent civilians in Syria, a regime that plans and conducts terrorist operations across five continents. It’s clear that this agreement is good only for Iran, and that it’s really bad for the rest of the world. Iran’s dream deal is the world’s nightmare.
So today. I believe the choice is not between a bad deal and war. On the contrary. Every day that passes, Iran is placed under greater economic pressure. With patience, with determination, it’s possible to get a good deal. That means keeping the pressure and ratcheting up the pressure. Getting a deal that dismantles Iran’s military nuclear capacity, that gets them to dismantle their centrifuges and dismantle their plutonium heavy water reactor.
François, I say these things, because I can’t sit by and ignore a development that could endanger the existence of my country. And as Prime Minister of Israel I have an obligation to protect my country and to protect the future of my people. It is my duty to act in every way to protect the Jewish state from this threat. I know that you share this goal. You said so clearly, words spoken from the heart. They are sincere and real. Your support, your friendship is real. It’s sincere. You’re one out of six, but you are… You said correctly that in critical times it’s important to stand up for what is right. You have done that and I appreciate that.
There is a widespread assumption that Israel has been in close touch with leaders of Saudi Arabia, for many years, on shared worries concerning Iran.
Britain’s Sunday Times now reports that there’s an agreement already made by Saudi Arabia to cooperate with a possible Israeli military strike on Iran – a deal brokered by the Mossad (which acts as an alternative foreign ministry for Israel’s secret diplomacy — and not only an espionage agency).
No official Israeli source has been willing to confirm any details of contacts with Saudi Arabia and some other Arab nations that maintain official hostility toward Israel (and don’t officially recognize the Jewish State).
Have there been such contacts? There’s hardly any doubt of that. Would the subjects include Iran, its nuclear program, and its support for Shi’ite Muslim extremism that might undermine Sunni-led governments? Of course.
Saudi King Abdullah: Would He Plot With the Jewish State?
Would Israel and its military require some kind of pre-arranged plan for flying through Saudi airspace, perhaps even refueling and staging rescues of any downed pilots? It would not be absolutely necessary, but it would be very useful — especially if word of such a deal could be leaked, as yet another attempt to intimidate the Iranians.
It seems that the continued saber-rattling by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — loudly condemning the interim deal that seems close between Western governments and Iran — is aimed largely to make the entire world feel that Israel is so dissatisfied that it might feel compelled to attack Iran.
Putin and Netanyahu to Meet Again in Russia
Netanyahu says publicly that the world now witnesses a rare phenomenon: agreement on a vital issue between Israel and the “leading states in the Arab world.” Netanyahu gives no details, but he is likely sharing some of the clandestine facts with France’s President Francois Hollande (now visiting Israel).
Israel’s prime minister will also meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia. Their talks are scheduled for Wednesday (Nov. 20), the same day the multinational negotiations with Iran resume in Geneva.
Netanyahu has Talks Scheduled with French and Russian Leaders
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Kerry and Netanyahu in more trusting times
After coming very close to a nuclear deal with Iran, it seems that the Obama Administration would like to avoid a ton of questions — and harsh criticism, whether well based or otherwise — from “friends of Israel” in Washington.
Thus, just before embarking for Geneva last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry dropped in on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for one last strategizing chat. After coming close but failing — or declining — to finalize a deal with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Kerry flew from Switzerland to brief some of America’s Arab friends.
In the United Arab Emirates, Kerry was quoted as saying that he’s in no great rush to reach a deal with Iran. But he has been saying that a partial, first-stage deal would be better than the current situation — because Iran’s nuclear progress would be halted, at least for a while, as negotiations continue for a wider agreement.
Wendy Sherman (TimesOfIsrael.com)
Kerry sent his chief negotiator, Wendy Sherman, to brief the Israelis after the Geneva talks. Quite promptly, off-the-record accounts quoting an American official close to the talks presented the U.S. version of why Geneva failed. The “new” truth contends that the Western countries (the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany) were completely united — and it was Iran that refused to sign the deal.
The U.S. source, whoever she might be, apparently wanted to smash the impression of dissension in the Western ranks. The first story out of Geneva — somewhat encouraged by France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius — was that he refused to go aong with the proposed deal, because it wasn’t harsh enough on Iran.
Specifically, according to the first truth coming from the great Swiss city of diplomacy and espionage, Fabius was insisting that Iran had to stop construction of a heavy water reactor — which could produce plutonium, a wholly separate route to a nuclear bomb — at a site called Arak.
Israelis, especially, on Sunday were stunned to be asking: “France is our great pro-Zionist hero? The French are protecting us — and Mr. Kerry, with all his professed concern for Israel and the Jewish people, was selling us out in Geneva?”
The dramatic reactions were, almost certainly, exaggerated. But after years of hearing the Islamic Republic of Iran thunder that Israel needs to be wiped off the map, while Iran maintained a secret nuclear weapons program, who will blame the Israelis for being worried? Deeply worried, in a life-or-death sort of way.
The New York Times suggested that Prime Minister Netanyahu can do nothing but “fume.” But, by the incredible coincidence of long scheduled diplomacy and travels, he’ll have a chance to pursue his points with France’s President Francois Hollande, when Hollande visits Israel this week.
And, before the negotiations with Iran resume in Geneva next week (Nov. 20), Netanyahu has a trip to Moscow scheduled — to apply pressure on President Vladimir Putin.
In the world of clandestine diplomacy, as odd as it might seem, tiny Israel can make promises, threats, and deals that could command Putin’s attention.
Chatting with a former chief of Unit 8200 — the SigInt (Signals Intelligence) unit in Israel’s military intelligence agency Aman — I heard: “The last thing Israel should be concerned about is bugging by the U.S.”
Brigadier General Hanan Gefen added: “I am not worried at all. We are partners and share almost everything.”
Emblem of the “Intelligence Corps” of Israel’s Military
Unit 8200, to help its international liaison relationships, has given itself an English name: “Israel Sigint National Unit” (ISNU). Gefen was its commander from 1993 to 1997 and later served as a military attache in Israel’s embassy in Beijing. He is now in private business.
“Israel should be much more concerned about the improving sigint and cyberwarfare capabilities of Iran and Hezbollah,” Gefen told me. “The world should not forget that NSA surveillance [by America] is aiming at fighting global terrorism, and many countries in the world benefit from what they collect and find out.”
As for America’s problems with European nations, publicly expressing anger that the NSA eavesdropped on their leaders and kept records of their citizens’ phone calls and e-mails, Gefen commented: ”I believe that soon, when the dust settles, the U.S. relations with the European Union will be back on the track of close cooperation.”
Why do all nations — even friendly countries — spy on each other? Sometimes it’s to check on the veracity of public declarations.
Here’s a very current example: The Obama Administration declares that it won’t let Iran develop nuclear weapons, and it agrees with Israel that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
We’re not reporting — not here and now — that America’s NSA is listening in to the personal cellphones of Israeli leaders. And it is only the stuff of rumors that tiny Israel is using its mammoth electronic capabilities to monitor all sorts of secret circuits in Washington.
Wendy Sherman on Israel’s Channel 10 (from TimesOfIsrael.com)
But, as NSA officials and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have said recently: Assessing “leadership intentions” in foreign countries (whether allies or foes) has always been a significant part of routine espionage.
The kinds of statements that Israel would love to know more about include the latest — on Israeli TV — by Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs who’s been in charge of America’s team in the nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Sherman said, on Israel’s Channel 10, “Israel’s security is bedrock,” when the United States weighs how much to offer to Iran in exchange for a verifiable freeze — and vigorous inspections — of its nuclear program.
Yet she also hinted that some sanctions that were imposed on Iran might be eased soon — despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated call on the U.S. and the other 5 nations on America’s side of the table not to ease sanctions until Iran definitely stops enriching uranium.
Sherman indicated that if any restrictions on Iranian trade or travel are lifted, those concessions could easily be taken back.
As she told Channel 10: America and its partners might “offer limited, temporary reversible sanctions relief, but keep in place the fundamental architecture of oil and banking sanctions.”
The State Department official also said that Netanyahu joins America in believing that a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis would be best — because Israel, more than anyone else, would face potentially painful consequences of military action.
The Mossad, aided by the technological capabilities of the larger Aman (Military Intelligence) agency in Israel, would surely love to know with precision how Barack Obama feels about those life-or-death issues.
So far, in the 65 years of the State of Israel’s history — or, more relevantly, in what we’ve learned is a 46-year period of possessing nuclear weapons (although Israel officially refuses to confirm having them) — have Israeli authorities ever come close to using “the bomb”? Yes. Twice.
The oft-celebrated Moshe Dayan panicked, thought nuclear
One occasion, long rumored, came during the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 — this time of year, 40 years ago. That is the statutory period that permits the State Archives in Jerusalem to declassify many official papers from that period.
Egypt and Syria, in a coordinated attack on two widely separated fronts, had taken Israel’s celebrated and cocky military by surprise.
The defense minister, the eyepatch-wearing General Moshe Dayan, panicked. Other military officers and officials of the time had the clear impression that he believed Israel might lose — and losing might mean the end of Israel.
We — and some other historians — already reported that Dayan suggested “the end of the Third Temple” was nigh. Now the State Archives confirm that.
Official documents, just released now thanks to the passage of four decades, show that Defense Minister Dayan and General Rehavam (“Gandhi”) Ze’evi both hinted at the need to use “the strategic weapons.”
The declassified papers don’t use the word “nuclear,” but the meaning is clear: a very drastic step, using a weapon to that point totally hidden, to turn back the seemingly unstoppable invaders (the Egyptians, having crossed the Suez Canal and heading eastward through the Sinai, perceived perhaps as more surprisingly dangerous to Israel than the Syrians on the Golan Heights).
The papers show that Prime Minister Golda Meir and the military chief of staff, General David (“Dado”) Elazar rejected the idea of unsheathing “the strategic weapons.” Meir and Elazar were forced to resign in 1974, when an investigatory commission revealed severe mistakes made in the run-up to the 1973 war; and Elazar died of a heart attack while swimming (in 1976) at age 50.
The first occasion when a plan was developed for using a nuclear weapon was in 1967, just after Israel built its very first atomic bomb — according to sources who decline to be named but have helped establish unofficial chronologies of Israel’s secret nuclear program. Here is an excerpt from our book, Spies Against Armageddon(Chapter 11):
The scientific and technical breakthroughs that made it possible for Israel to build an atomic bomb came—by coincidence—just before the Six-Day War of June 1967. Only a few people knew that the Jewish state became the sixth country to achieve nuclear weapons capability, joining the United States, the Soviet Union, France, Britain, and China in that exclusive club.
Israel’s undeclared status nearly came into play during the three-week crisis that led up to the outbreak of war on June 5. Israeli political leaders and military chiefs were very concerned by the expulsion of United Nations peacekeepers from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. It was also impossible to dismiss Cairo’s raucous psychological campaign that claimed Arab armies would smash Israel and throw the Jews into the sea. Fears of another Holocaust were fueled by the fact that Egypt’s military had just used chemical weapons in Yemen’s civil war.
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion
Against that background, some defense ministry officials and scientists in Tel Aviv deliberated over nuclear strategy.
Ben-Gurion had insisted on developing the world’s most dangerous weapons, but no one had clearly decided when they might be used. Forty-six years later, the results of these discussions continue to be secret and, according to sources close to the participants, surprisingly ambiguous.
The emerging picture is that Rafael, the official Israeli company for developing armaments, mobilized all of its top engineers and technicians during the weeks of crisis in 1967. According to Lt. General Tzvi Tzur, a former IDF chief of staff who was then a special adviser to the defense ministry, those men and women “worked around the clock and neared total collapse” to assemble Israel’s first nuclear device.
Tzur told oral historians: “A committee of two was set up, in the days leading to the war, to connect a few wires.” This was a big bomb, not ready to be fit into a missile or even dropped from an airplane.
Around the same time, the commander of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit, Lt. Colonel Dov Tamari, was summoned to headquarters for a meeting with a general. Tamari was ordered to prepare a team of Sayeret soldiers to fly by helicopter into the Sinai. They would be carrying “a thing,” which the general did not specify.
The mission sketched out would have the troops place Israel’s first nuclear bomb and some kind of detonation mechanism on a high peak—perhaps for maximal psychological effect choosing Mount Sinai, where the Bible says Moses received the Ten Commandments. If Egypt’s army, already massing in the Sinai, were to cross into Israel and threaten Tel Aviv or other major cities, the Israelis would shock the invaders by turning the mountain into little more than rubble under a mushroom cloud.
The plan was dropped, in large part because Israel won the June 1967 war so easily.
Israel isn’t officially confirming that its air force has struck targets in Syria — but it did. Two targets were hit today (Oct.31), and that means that while the civil war is raging in Syria there have been at least five air raids by Israel.
President Assad’s Military Moves Include Transfers Israel Won’t Tolerate
Officials in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem say they are not taking sides between President Bashar al-Assad and the rebel groups — still a disparate bunch of organizations, a few apparently pro-Western but many strongly linked with al-Qaeda Islamists.
Israel’s goal in these airstrikes on targets in Syria is a matter of wider — and vital — strategy.
Unofficial (but well informed) Israeli sources say today’s strikes were aimed at stopping attempts by Assad’s regime to transfer anti-aircraft missiles to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah (the Shi’ite Muslim militia and political movement in neighboring Lebanon).
Such transfers are almost certainly coordinated by Iran, which apparently wants to surround Israel with threats. This, for the Iranians also, is a matter of high strategy: preparing for the day that armed hostilities might break out between Israel and Iran, and retaliation against Israel could take the form of tens of thousands of missiles raining down on Israeli territory from Lebanon, from the Gaza Strip, and perhaps even from Syria.
The notion is that if Hezbollah were equipped with the best Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems, then Israel’s air force would lose its domination of the Middle East skies. Certainly the IAF feels that it can fly freely over Lebanon.
In the words of a senior Israeli official, “Hezbollah getting those missiles that could threaten our air force would be a ‘game changer,’ and we’re not going to tolerate that.”
While this may appear to some as a dangerous intervention in Syrian affairs, amid the red-hot sensitivity of the civil war, it should be noted that the United States is not protesting — not even a little bit — about what the Israeli air force has been doing this year.
There’s no reason to be highly confident in the accuracy of a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper, but almost everyone in Israel hopes it’s true that definitive information about Ron Arad could come soon.
Arad was the Israel Air Force aviator whose plane crashed over Lebanon in October 1986. After ejecting by parachute, his IAF colleague was rescued; but Arad vanished.
Ron Arad in captivity – the photo that shocked and intrigued Israel in 1987
Israeli intelligence received “proof of life” messages in 1987 — including photographs of Arad as a captive. It was believed that Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims — in the Amal organization, not Hezbollah — were holding him. But, as often occurs among terrorist groups, one gang may have sold him to another, and even the mighty Israeli intelligence was unable to keep up with Arad’s movements.
Negotiations with Lebanese groups — through European intermediaries, usually — failed.
The newspaper in Kuwait, As-Siyassa, claims that Iran has now stepped forward with a meaningful offer to solve the mystery. Iran would, as part of a deal, receive definite information about four Iranians — three diplomats and a journalist — who vanished in Lebanon in 1982.
The report says if any or all of the five men (including Arad) are dead, then information will be exchanged on the location of their graves.
The recovery of missing or captured soldiers and agents is a traditional, high priority for Israel’s military and intelligence community. If Israelis die behind enemy lines, then the Jewish state makes major efforts — even, in the past, releasing Arab prisoners — to gain the release of the corpses.
Ron Arad – before he vanished in Lebanon
Unfortunately for Arad’s wife — and for many other Israelis who have campaigned to keep “Remember Ron Arad!” at the forefront of their country’s thinking — there is not likely to be any breakthrough at this time.
It’s reliably reported that the four Iranians were arrested by the Christian Phalangists — then powerful in, at least, their sector of Lebanon — and were tortured to death. Their bodies were dumped in an unmarked pit, and sometime later a building was constructed on the site.
When the last swap between Israel and the Lebanese Shi’ites of Hezbollah — closely allied with Iran — was mediated around five years ago, Hezbollah and Iran were given that information.
Hezbollah was supposed to furnish details of Arad’s fate, as part of that deal, but they gave the Israelis nothing. That is what senior Israeli security officials have revealed to us, over the years, and they add that the burden of proof — in order to receive anything in return — is up to Iran and its Hezbollah clients.