Before the Talks with Iran: U.S. and Israel Were Close on Sanctions and Sabotage, but Not on Assassinations (FLASHBACK)

[This is an adaptation from Chapter 1, “Stopping Iran,” in the history of Israeli espionage, Spies Against Armageddon by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman.  We pick up the story somewhere around early 2008.]

Israeli and American intelligence agencies evaluated the sanctions and determined that they were too soft.  The assessment was that only stronger, crippling sanctions might have some effect on Iran’s leadership.

It seemed that the kind of steps required would include a ban on buying Iranian crude oil and its byproducts.  China and Russia refused to lend a hand to that effort.  Sanctions thus were not hobbling the determination of Iran’s leaders to keep up their nuclear work.

Meir Dagan on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” 2012

The Mossad concluded that more drastic measures were needed.  Mossad director Meir Dagan’s battle plan called next for sabotage.  That took various shapes.  He encouraged joint planning and, eventually, joint operations on the Middle East’s clandestine fields of battle.

A CIA suggestion was to send a physicist, a Russian who had moved to the United States, to Iran to offer his knowledge to the Iranian nuclear program.  The caper was ridiculously mishandled when the CIA altered a set of nuclear warhead plans that the physicist was carrying, but neglected to tell him.  The Iranians would have received damaging disinformation.  Unfortunately for this scheme, the ex-Russian noticed errors and told the Iranians that something was flawed.  He simply did not know that the CIA wanted him to keep his mouth shut and pass along the materials.

Despite imperfect penetrations at first, the entire concept of “poisoning” both information and equipment was attractive; and the Mossad, the CIA, and the British kept doing it.  These agencies set up front companies that established contact with Iranian purchasing networks.  In order to build up trust, they sold Iran some genuine components.  But at a later stage,  they planted – among the good parts, such as metal tubes and high-speed switches – many bad parts that damaged Iran’s program.

The results of this international sabotage began to show.  Iran found itself having trouble keeping control of the equipment that it had bought from overseas.

The peak of these damage operations was a brilliantly innovative computer worm that would become known as Stuxnet.  Though its origin was never officially announced, Stuxnet was a joint project by the CIA, the Mossad, and Aman’s technological unit.  The malicious software was specifically designed to disrupt a German-made computerized control system that ran the centrifuges in Natanz.

The project required studying, by reverse engineering, precisely how the control panel and computers worked and what effect they had on the centrifuges.  For that purpose,  Germany’sBND– very friendly to Israel, in part based on a long habit of trying to erase Holocaust memories – arranged the cooperation of Siemens, the German corporation that had sold the system to Iran.  The directors of Siemens may have felt pangs of conscience, or were simply reacting to public pressure, as newspapers pointed out that the company was Iran’s largest trading partner in Germany.

For a better understanding of Iran’s enrichment process, old centrifuges – which Israel had obtained many years before – were set up in one of the buildings at Dimona, Israel’s not-so-secret nuclear facility in the southern Negev desert.  They were nearly identical to the centrifuges that were enriching uranium in Natanz.

The Israelis closely watched what the computer worm could do to an industrial process.  The tests, reportedly conducted also at a U.S. government lab in Idaho, took two years.

Virtual weapons of destruction such as Stuxnet can conceivably be e-mailed to the target computer network, or they can be installed in person by plugging in a flash drive.  Whether hidden in an electronic message or plugged in by an agent for the Mossad, the virus did get into the Natanz facility’s control system sometime in 2009.  Stuxnet was in the system for more than a year before it was detected by Iranian cyber-warfare experts.  By then, it was giving the centrifuges confusing instructions, which disrupted their precise synchronization.  They were no longer spinning in concert, and as the equipment sped up and slowed repeatedly, the rotors that did the spinning were severely damaged.

The true beauty of this computer worm was that the operators of the system had no idea that anything was going wrong.  Everything at first seemed normal, and when they noticed the problem it was too late.  Nearly 1,000 centrifuges – about one-fifth of those operating at Natanz – were knocked out of commission.

Iranian intelligence and computer experts were shocked.  The nuclear program was slowing down, barely advancing, and falling way behind schedule.  Stuxnet, more than anything else, made the Iranians realize they were under attack in a shadow war, with hardly any capability to respond.

In late 2011, they announced two more cyber-attacks.  One virus, which computer analysts called Duqu, showed signs of being created by the same high-level, sophisticated hackers who authored Stuxnet: U.S.and Israeli intelligence.

If that were not enough, like the Ten Plagues that befell ancient Egypt, the Iranians were hit by yet another blow – this time, a lethal one.  Between 2007 and 2011, five Iranian scientists were assassinated by a variety of methods.  One supposedly was felled by carbon monoxide from a heater in his home.  Three others were killed by bombs, and one by gunfire: four attacks by men on motorcycles.  That was a method perfected by the Mossad’s Kidon unit.

It was noteworthy that the United States flatly denied any involvement.  American officials even went so far as to publicly criticize the unknown killers for spoiling diplomatic hopes, because the chances of negotiations with Iran became slimmer after every attack.  The Americans, in private, said that they were chiding Israel.

July 13, 2015

At Least 2 Mossad Spies were Held in Israeli Prisons: One Committed Suicide, and Now Some Details on the Second Man — a World Exclusive

A Mossad man who was convicted by an Israeli court and has been secretly imprisoned for about ten years – with Israeli authoritiespreventing any details from being published – was accused of treason, because it was charged that he transmitted secrets to a “foreign power”.

Referred to by security-agency insiders as “Prisoner X2,” the man was an importantoperative in the Israeli espionage agency that specializes in secretive and dangerous foreign missions.   Authorities felt certain that his actions endangered his Mossad colleagues.

The man, who cannot be named due to the official information blackout on the case, has been imprisoned for approximately a decade.  While the precise prison sentence is still a secret, it is  suggested that the term could be reduced by one-third because of the inmate’s “good behavior” in captivity.

Prisoner X (Zygier) - We cannot show you X2

Prisoner X (Zygier) – We cannot show you X2

Hundreds of people were questioned during the investigation of X2’s alleged treason.  The investigator who was assigned to the case considered it the toughest investigation of his career.  The traitor’s motive, to the extent that authorities understand it, remains a secret: Money? Anger at his Mossad commanders? A personal problem with other secret agents?  A desire to damage his homeland, Israel? Severe depression?

The mere existence of X2 became known when journalists started asking questions about another Mossad man who was being held in secret.

Known to some of his jailers only as “Prisoner X,” he hanged himself in a high-security isolation cell in Israel’s Ayalon Prison (near the city of Ramle) in December 2010.  He turned out to be Ben Zygier, a Melbourne-born Jew who moved to Israel, became an Israeli citizen, and was recruited into the Mossad.  Zygier, according to sources, was part of an Israeli espionage team that was based in Europe, from where it penetrated Iran.

Security officials say it was a mistake to hire Zygier, because the Australian did not have the stability and discretion needed to be a spy.

An Australian radio journalist, Raphael Epstein, has written a book about the case, Prisoner X, and reports that Zygier, while working for the Mossad, gave secrets about the agency to an Iranian businessman, probably working for his country’s security services.  Zygier and the Iranian were both studying at Monash University in Melbourne in 2009.

The phrase “Prisoner X” has been used for decades in Israel, mainly to refer to employees of security agencies (including the Mossad) who broke the rules and were arrested and imprisoned.  Publicizing those cases was banned, with officials claiming that censors and court-issued gag orders were protecting secrets that might damage Israel.  Critics say that banning publication in a free country is really aimed at protecting the reputations of government and security-agency officials.

As revealed and discussed in our books – the best-seller Every Spy a Prince and the current and updated Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars – previous men imprisoned in the 1950s and ‘60s and identified only as “X” included Mordecai Kedar, who murdered his Jewish supporting contact in Argentina, and Avri El-Ad, who betrayed his colleagues in an Israeli-run spy ring in Egypt.

In the 1980s, a Soviet spy – Professor Marcus Klingberg, who had been deputy director of Israel’s secretive biological weapons research lab – was tried and imprisoned in complete secrecy.

Held under false identities, these prisoners were permitted to have visits from family members and defense attorneys, but nothing could be said in public about the men and their crimes.

Israeli officials did not intend to reveal the existence of Prisoner X2 and still are not permitting his name to be verified or published.  A mistake in coordinating between court officials and Malmab – the Defense Ministry unit that deals with internal security – led to a failure to erase a reference to a second inmate held in secret from a report on Zygier’s death written by an investigating judge.

The official view that was revealed is that X2 was “a traitor who endangered the lives of his clandestine-operations colleagues.”

As our updated and revised Spies Against Armageddon says, at the end of Chapter 22 entitled “Assassins”: “Activists who press for greater openness wondered if hushing up Zygier’s case – and the more serious one – was aimed at guarding Israel’s security, or the Mossad’s image?”

A revised edition of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman’s history of the Mossad and the other Israeli security agencies – updated for events in Israel, Iran, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere since 2012 – is published March 2, 2014.

February 27, 2014

A Deal to Implement “The Deal” with Iran: Now Israel Will Use Its Best Spies to Monitor Iran — Checking for Cheating, Plotting More Sabotage

On Sunday (January 12), Iran, the United States, and the European Union announced agreement on a deal to implement the major, perhaps historic, deal to slow the Iranian nuclear program.

It cannot be a terrific sign that it took six weeks to agree on ways to do what the negotiators agreed to do — but the test truly begins now. Within six months, a wider and more binding agreement needs to be reached — or the entire structure of “negotiations over nukes” may fall apart.

Israel’s government remains deeply skeptical of Iran’s willingness to freeze or reverse its nuclear ambitions. (It’s not only a cynic who would point to historical precedents — some of them revealed in our book, Spies Against Armageddon — in which Israel lied, even to the United  States, about Israel’s nuclear weapons project.)

So what will the Israelis 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 with the shadowy reputation of being masters of assassination — Kidon (Hebrew for “Bayonet”) — is also masterful at infiltrating enemy countries for dangerous reconnaissance. Kidon operatives will likely be tasked again with missions inside Iran. 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, kidon, spies against armageddon, israel covert operations, Iran nuclear

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.

[It was a team headed by Kidon that murdered a Hamas senior man in a hotel in Dubai in January 2010. That time, many of them were seen by video security cameras. Some senior Mossad executives admit that was a damaging error, but others pointed out to us that none of the Israelis has been caught or identified — and in the modern hi-tech world, they added, cameras can rarely be avoided entirely.]

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.

January 12, 2014

‘Spies Against Armageddon’ Now ‘Latest Literary Sensation In Tehran’ — N.Y.Times Says So

[Repeat of a blog item from July 2012]

Revelations about assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists by Israel covert operatives in the new book Spies Against Armageddon, by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, are roiling Iran, according to  journalist Artin Afkhami writing in The New York Times.

israel spy, spies against Armageddon, iran nuclear“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.”

The authors of the new book available here in print and ebook form are in fact Raviv, a CBS News correspondent; and Melman, a respected Israeli reporter on intelligence for decades. The headline: “Tehran Abuzz as Book Says Israel Killed 5 Scientists.”

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.”

December 6, 2013

New Details of Major Assassination by Israel: How the Mossad Got Hezbollah’s Mughniyeh

The Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar has published its own investigation into how Israel’s Mossad was able to assassinate Imad Mughniyeh, the highly elusive “defense minister” of Lebanon’s Shi’ite Muslim militia Hezbollah.  The killing took place in February 2008, after a decades-long manhunt by Israel, the United States, and other Western countries which had felt the sting of Hezbollah skyjackings and other terrorism.

The newspaper confirms the notion that Mughniyeh and other Hezbollah men lowered their guard and were relaxed while in Damascus, believing that they were beyond Israel’s reach. The report suggests that Mughniyeh was walking alone, when a car bomb exploded:

On the evening of 12 February 2008, Mughniyeh had just finished a meeting with some of the most senior Palestinian leaders in the Syrian capital of Damascus. They had discussed ways to develop the capacities of the Palestinian resistance inside Palestine, and Gaza in particular.

 Around 10:15 pm, Mughniyeh left his apartment building in the Kfar Sousa neighborhood of Damascus. He came down alone and started to walk toward his car, which was parked in an area of about 800m2 that was used as a parking lot outside a cluster of buildings.

The explosion was heard around 10:20 pm. Some people rushed to the location, including those Mughniyeh was seeing in the apartment. It turned out that when Mughniyeh had stepped out of the building’s main gate, a 2006 silver Mitsubishi Pajero 4×4 parked nine meters away exploded, killing him alone, on the spot.

The Lebanese newspaper continued with new details of a Syrian employed by the Israelis:

The Mossad recruited a Syrian expat who visited his country often, and asked him to move to Damascus to provide logistics for the operation. The agent provided a villa to hide the vehicle and affix it with explosives, in addition to accommodations for the group that carried out the operation.

He rented the villa in an upscale suburb of Damascus (“Assad Villages”), located to the northwest of Kfar Sousa, and asked an ironsmith to separate the car entrance from the pedestrian entrance with an iron net on three sides, making it look like a cage and blocking the entry to the villa from that location.

A while later, the agent went back to Syria and bought a Mitsubishi Pajero 4×4, after knowing that several similar makes visited the targeted location often. In addition, Mughniyeh sometimes drove the same make. The execution team used a different model, Mitsubishi Lancer, due to its popularity in Syria in general.

The Pajero, now parked in the villa, was equipped with explosives in its trunk door. It was later discovered that, in addition to the explosives, the bomb contained metal pellets that can cause extensive damage to the target instantaneously. The device was similar to several bombs used by Israel to assassinate resistance leaders in Lebanon and abroad.

The investigators and people close to the file are very secretive about the implementation team. But there are indicators that show that they were not Syrian citizens and that they had travelled in and out of the country to implement the operation.

In the early afternoon of 12 February 2008, one of the implementers drove the Pajero, equipped with explosives in its trunk door, and parked it outside the building frequented by Mughniyeh.

At dusk, the team of four individuals took the getaway Lancer and, after making sure that the construction workers had left the building under construction next to Mughniyeh’s building, three of them went upstairs to observe the parking lot, the target, and the vehicle with the explosives.

They chose an apartment on the sixth floor. One of them surveyed the area with binoculars, another was charged with detonating the explosives, and the third was for protection. The fourth waited in the getaway car parked at the back of the building close to the fence.

Right before 10:20 pm, Mughniyeh exited the building and, as soon as he reached the well-lit lot nine meters away from the Pajero, the bomb was detonated and he was killed instantly. The implementing team left the building and headed toward their getaway car.

They immediately drove toward the Mazzeh highway where they parked the car on the side of the road and left behind some items for distraction. The investigations showed that the implementing team faced a problem while escaping, which led them to leave the car and use another to escape to an unknown location.

 

Imad Mughniyeh’s funeral in Beirut, 2008

Here is what the book Spies Against Armageddon says about the Mossad finding and killing Imad Mughniyeh — on pages 301-302:

   For Israeli intelligence, the most important target in Hezbollah was not Nasrallah. It was his “defense minister,” Imad Mughniyeh. He had been the Mossad’s most wanted man—and also on the FBI’s official list—for many years. Israel tried to kill Mughniyeh numerous times…

He was very elusive. Knowing he was a target, he changed his face, he changed his safe houses often, he changed his vehicles, and he barely traveled: only to Damascus, Syria, and to his masters in Iran. Until Dagan became the Mossad chief, those locales were out of bounds for Israeli assassination operations.

In the end, the Mossad showed that it could be patient as a hawk waiting for its prey. Waiting and watching, for one mistake. One opportunity.
That came in February 2008 in Damascus.

Syria was a dangerous place for Mossad operatives. The government had a large security apparatus, unusually adept at spying on its own people. Foreigners, too, were under constant watch. When the Mossad wanted to operate in Damascus, it would be highly unlikely that Israelis would pose as citizens of a Western country—the usual technique in most places. It would be wiser to melt into Syrian crowds on the streets. And a Kidon team managed to do that.

The Mossad had done it, in fact, four years earlier in Damascus. Izzedin el-Khalil, a senior operative in the military wing of Hamas—the Palestinian Islamic movement—was killed by a bomb planted under his car in September 2004. That was an important operational landmark. For the first time, the Mossad proved that it could execute a lethal mission in a front-line enemy capital other than Beirut, even in such a tightly controlled police state as Syria.

That mission gave the Kidon unit a great deal of confidence that it could carry out such strikes under the most challenging conditions imaginable. That was fully in accord with the undeclared motto of the Mossad, that everything is do-able.

Piecing together humint and telephone intercepts, Israeli intelligence managed to learn a great deal about Mughniyeh’s private life and tracked his movements, finally aware of his post-plastic surgery appearance. They took advantage of two human weaknesses, quite uncharacteristic for a master terrorist on the run.Spies Against Armageddon, israel spy, covert operations, dan raviv, yossi melman

First, hosted by Syrian intelligence in one of its guest apartments, and in constant contact with Iranian “diplomats,” Mughniyeh felt totally comfortable in Damascus. Living for decades with the assumption that he was an assassination target, he must have craved a place to feel safe. He let down his guard when in Syria, moving around with full self-confidence and no fear.

He also permitted himself to do, in Damascus, what he did not do at home in Lebanon: fool around with women. That, too, meant that he was literally a man about town, in moving cars more than a cautious man would be. Spies for the Mossad took note of routes that he repeatedly took.

A Kidon team, acting with great care in an enemy capital, managed to plant a bomb in or on Mughniyeh’s Japanese four-wheel-drive vehicle on February 12, 2008. The terrorist’s career ended with a blast. His body parts were scattered, but no one else was killed.

This was a triumph for the men and women of Israeli intelligence. They had accomplished the nearly impossible. Their feeling was similar to the satisfaction Americans would enjoy, three years later, when Navy Seals found and killed Osama bin Laden.

February 21, 2013

20th Anniversary Soon of Ill-Fated Israeli Plot to Kill Saddam in Iraq

Spies Against Armageddon details a highly unusual and complicated plot by Israel to enter Iraq

Saddam Hussein, later overthrown by the Americans and hanged

and assassinate Iraq’s then-president Saddam Hussein.  He was considered a dangerous foe, and he had attacked the Jewish state with missiles that terrified Israelis — at the same time that an American-led coalition was pushing Saddam’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991.

Here is an excerpt from our Chapter 22, “Assassins,” which also has a lot of information about assassination missions conducted by Kidon (Bayonet), the ultra-special operations unit within the Mossad:

As the Gulf War was raging in early 1991, Saddam Hussein showered the Jewish state with 39 Scud missiles.  Israeli leaders refrained from retaliating, because of restrictions imposed by the George H.W. Bush administration, and they felt humiliated.  They believed that they somehow had to strike back – not simply for the sake of face-saving but to restore deterrence, always a key part of Israeli defense.

IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, a lover of special operations, concocted yet another plan that was truly unprecedented: a plot to assassinate the leader of a foreign country.  The target would be Saddam, and the plan would involve Israeli soldiers penetrating deep into Iraq.  Barak brought the idea to Defense Minister Moshe Arens.  They were both very frustrated by America’s handcuffing of Israel.  Arens okayed the preparations.

Israel, except for one case, had never before considered killing the leader of a country.  The exception was Egypt’s Nasser.

As a general rule, Israel’s own leaders concluded long ago that if they started down the path of targeting the leaders of states, it would change the rules of the game.  The Middle East conflict would be even uglier, and the tactic could backfire.

Therefore, heads of state were out of bounds – even during the heyday of extreme hatred and state-sponsored terrorism.

This deviation, trying to eliminate Iraq’s dictator, was justified by the notion that he had violated two taboos: His missile strikes tried to hit Dimona; and he had targeted the largest of civilian targets, Tel Aviv, the icon of modern Israel.

Still, there was a great deal of hesitation on the Israeli side.  Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had replaced Shamir and now also held the defense ministry portfolio, was reluctant. 

Rabin found support in his skepticism from the Mossad chief, Shabtai Shavit, who succeeded Nahum Admoni in 1989.  Rabin and Shavit concluded that it would be nearly impossible to get close to Saddam for a short-range hit by Kidon teams.  They also knew that the Iraqi dictator rarely went out in public and often sent out body doubles instead.

Rabin gave Barak a green light only to practice the plan being developed, but without promising an okay for its final execution.  

The plan, codenamed “Bramble Bush,” called for finding a day that President Saddam would be making a public appearance outdoors.  Mossad and Aman collection units – which had the use of Israel’s first reconnaissance satellite – worked hard to keep track of Saddam’s schedule and movements.

Iraqi agents working for the Mossad provided the information that he would be attending a ceremony to inaugurate a new bridge over the Tigris River.  The agents found a hotel that, while quite distant, would have a clear shot at the ceremony site. 

A few Sayeret Matkal commandos were selected to be flown secretly into Iraq by helicopter, and agents would pick them up and drive them to that hotel.  On a pre-chosen balcony, they would have a newly developed shoulder-fired missile dubbed “Beyond the Horizon.”  Plans were made for alternate locations, as well.

On November 5, 1992, a year and a half after the Gulf War ended, the chosen commandos gathered at a large army training base in the Negev Desert for a dress rehearsal.  In the audience sat the top brass of the Israeli military, including Barak, Aman chief Uri Saguy, and many intelligence officers.

Almost incredibly, considering their long track record of stunning successes, a fatal mix-up occurred.  A missile that was supposed to be a harmless dummy, for what trainers called “a dry run,” was mistakenly the “wet run” missile.  It exploded within a group of Sayeret Matkal soldiers, killing five of them. 

The tragedy for Israel’s secretive commandos put an end to the plan titled Bramble Bush.  Details started to leak out, as this accident was so major that censorship could not keep a lid on it.  Non-Israeli newspapers reported that commandos died while planning to kill Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon.  Within a few months, it became known that the intended target was Iraq’s Saddam. 

Prime Minister Rabin had never given the green light for the assassination mission, and the idea was dropped.  Israel, since then, has not gone after national leaders — not even Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who publicly advocated wiping Israel off the map.

 

October 2, 2012

How Do Israelis in Mossad’s Ultra-Secret Kidon Unit Get into Iran and other Enemy Countries?


Dan Raviv, CBS Overnight, Spies Against Armageddon, covert operations, israel spy

Dan Raviv, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, was questioned about Mossad methods — going back sixty years, and right up to the crises of today, such as Iran — on the CBS News overnight TV show, “Up To The Minute.”

The host is Terrell Brown.  He and Dan chatted for 5 minutes.

The spot is part of continuing coverage of the book, including interviews by Charlie Rose on CBS and Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

WATCH VIDEO HERE.

 

September 10, 2012

‘Spies’ Co-Author Raviv On Lars Larson Talk Show

On his nationally syndicated radio show, conservative talk host Lars Larson asked Dan Raviv — co-author of Spies Against Armageddon — whether Israel might bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities this Fall.  Here’s part of Raviv’s answer:

 

Israel intelligence, israel covert operations, Dan Raviv, spies against armageddon

Raviv on LarsLarson Part1 14aug12

 

“Yeah, it’s not a good feeling, but it might have a good outcome: if Iran’s nuclear program can be shut down.  You’d favor that.  I’d favor that.  Americans would favor that.  But it’s a very tough mission.  Israel’s not anxious to do it.  In many ways, Israel’s been sending a signal — to the U.S. government, especially — saying, please ‘You take care of this, but you’ve got to promise you will.’

 

“And frankly, no one is promising absolutely.  So Israelis say, ‘We’re the people who are threatened the most by Iran’s nuclear program, and we might have to act.  And we’re sorry, Mr. Obama, we might not even wait ’til November 6th…”

 

Larson asked if it’s legitimate for Obama to ask Israel not to act until after Election Day.  And he also asked Raviv about the fact that the United States keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv, rather than moving it to Jerusalem:

 

Raviv on LarsLarson Part2 14aug12

 

Raviv noted that while candidates have spoken of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, to recognize that city as Israel’s capital, even Mitt Romney may well decide — if he is elected president, but then takes advice from the State Department and other agencies — to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv.

August 15, 2012

Nuclear Crisis Deepens In Covert Espionage War Between Israel, Iran

The Summer Olympics in London aren’t over yet, but knock-on-wood there haven’t been any significant security issues.  While Israeli officials have accused Iran and its terrorist allies of “warfare” against the Jewish state, the Mossad was not predicting any attacks at the Olympics.

 (below: Israel’s Olympic team at the opening ceremony in London)

 

This year, however, Israel’s government says “excellent intelligence” has prevented attacks on Israelis in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Thailand, and other countries.  In a litany of Iranian and Hezbollah sins, Israeli officials – to get the attention of Americans – always include the plot, alleged by federal prosecutors, in which an Iranian agent based in Texas was planning to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador by bombing a restaurant in Washington, DC.

 

The Olympics do always remind Israelis of their countrymen — 11 Israeli athletes — murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Games in Munich, Germany, in 1972.  But Israeli analysts did not feel that Iran or the radical group it finances, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, had similar aims at the London Olympics.  Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization – disguising its role in 1972 by having the attackers call themselves Black September – had concrete reasons to try to grab the world’s attention at the Olympics.  The PLO felt that no one was doing anything to help the Palestinians, five years after Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War.

 

Western intelligence agencies do believe that Hezbollah and agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) are plotting more attacks against Israelis – after the rare, but shocking, success by a suicide bomber in Bulgaria last month that killed five Israeli tourists.

 

The Iranians, however, are more likely to select low-profile, soft targets.  They have no need to confront the massive, multi-layered security mounted by the British army, among others, in London.

 

“It is a one-sided attack,” Israel’s President Shimon Peres insisted to CNN recently. “Israel is not threatening Iran.”  He refused to comment on statements, from high-level sources familiar with Israel’s campaign against Iran’s nuclear program, that Israeli operatives have been committing acts of violence inside Iran.  Specifically, the sources said, Mossad operatives – in the espionage agency’s special operations unit called Kidon (“Bayonet”) have assassinated at least four nuclear scientists in Tehran in the past three years.

 

The Mossad’s intention was to intimidate other scientists, so that they would shun the nuclear program.  Peres would say only that Israel has a right of self-defense, and “our policy is prevention.”  He seemed to be referring to possible retaliation for terrorist strikes such as the one in Bulgaria, but his words apply equally to what Israel’s intelligence community is doing inside Iran.

 

Well-placed sources have also pointed out an extra concern that Mossad’s Kidon (Bayonet) unit faces when it operates in Iran: the need to stay far away from Iran’s Jewish minority.

 

Kidon – somewhat comparable to America’s Navy Seals who found and killed Osama bin Laden last year – managed, over the decades, to infiltrate into several enemy capitals.  In Damascus, Syria, in early 2008, Kidon operatives planted a car bomb which killed the Hezbollah military chief, Imad Mughniyeh.  He had been on America’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists since the mid-1980s.

 

According to officials who have revealed a little bit about Kidon, it is a highly secretive group – its operatives never using their real names, not even around Mossad colleagues – that keeps to itself and might seem to be beyond the reach of the spy agency’s standard rules.

 

Yet the Kidon unit respects a strong, if unwritten, regulation: not to use local Jews as spies or saboteurs in their home countries.

 

There are approximately 25,000 Jews still living in Iran, long after most fled in the wake of the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  Despite what some published reports have suggested – in part misreading hints in our book about transportation routes and safe houses – the Mossad has not used them in sabotage and assassination missions in Iran.

 

Israeli spies may well feel conflicted, however, because much of their work has involved protecting or rescuing Jews.  Ever since declaring independence in 1948, the nation took upon itself the responsibility of being not only a Jewish democratic state, but the homeland for Jews anywhere on the globe.

 

Intelligence agency chiefs have always felt obliged to be guardians of their brethren, far and wide. This self-appointed duty can put Jewish communities in a delicate situation, as their governments and neighbors may accuse them of dual loyalty.

 

Two units of Israel’s intelligence community – Nativ, which specialized in helping Soviet Jews, and Bitzur, part of the Mossad – organized Hebrew education, self-defense, and secret emigration to Israel.  The Israelis learned – at a painful cost of seeing Jews tortured and executed in Egypt and Iraq in the 1950’s – not to use local Jews as spies inside what the Mossad calls “target countries.”

 

In Iraq, in late 1951, around one hundred Jews who had agreed to spy for Israel were arrested – and two were hanged.  In Egypt, dozens of young Jews – involved in an Israeli sabotage campaign aimed at humiliating then-President Gamal abdel Nasser – were rounded up in 1954. Two members of the group were hanged, and six others were given harsh prison sentences.  An Israeli intelligence officer, Max Bennett, committed suicide in an Egyptian jail cell.

 

In any Arab country where Jewish citizens were accused of spying for Israel, life quickly became intolerable for the entire Jewish community.

The Mossad felt that this applied to every nation on earth, not only Arab lands, and agency directors decided to avoid putting local Jews in sensitive situations anywhere. There were minor exceptions: A Jew might be used for a little bit of logistical advice or assistance – a low-level relationship which the Israelis referred to as being a sayan (“helper”) – but never to act as an agent or a spy in their own home country.

    There was one glaring violation of the rule, and it has roiled United States-Israel relations for 27 years: the arrest in Washington of Jonathan Jay Pollard, a civilian who abused his job in U.S. Naval Intelligence to procure secret documents for Israeli handlers.  It turned out that the Mossad did not run Pollard.  He had offered his services to an Israeli military officer, and it was a special unit of the defense ministry in Tel Aviv that accepted Pollard’s offer.

 

The head of that unit, known as Lakam (a Hebrew acronym for Science Liaison Bureau), was Rafi Eitan, an unusually adventurous Israel intelligence operative whose career included the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960.

 

Eitan gambled, by running an American Jew as a spy; and it was the American spy who lost.  Pollard was sentenced to life in prison.  Other American Jews working in the defense and intelligence fields immediately found themselves under suspicion of disloyalty.  Eitan, however, turned out fine: Lakam was disbanded, but he got a cushy government-sponsored job and later served as a cabinet minister.

 

The bitter Pollard experience only strengthened the Mossad’s resolve not to use Jewish locals as spies.  Thus the agency carefully avoids contact with Jews living in Iran.  Yet Israeli officials say privately that they will continue to act in innovative, secret ways against Iran’s nuclear program – because that is far preferable to having all-out war break out.

August 7, 2012

Israeli Readers Fascinated By New Covert ‘Spies’ Details

 

Spies Against Armageddon: Israel’s Secret Wars has details previously unknown even to news junkies in Israel — a country heavily populated with news junkies.  Readers of the weekend magazine in the newspaper Ha’aretz are reading an adaptation of the book’s chapter about the destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor by Israel’s air force — preceded by covert action on the ground inside Syria — five years ago.
Here is the article in Hebrew:  http://www.haaretz.co.il/magazine/1.1792377
Here are before-and-after satellite photographs of the Syrian building — a reactor project being built in cooperation with North Koreans — in a dossier released by the CIA in April 2008:
August 4, 2012

Reviews for ‘Spies’ Keep Popping Up at Amazon.com

Always appreciated, some book buyers were kind enough to post their reviews at http://amzn.to/MX6zKU and you’re all invited to do the same.  Here are the latest:
Spies Against Armageddon, Israel spy, covert operations, stuxnet, kidon, mossad

5.0 out of 5 stars History that reads like a thriller!, July 24, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Spies Against Armageddon (Paperback)

This is the way history ought to be written; exciting, well researched, brilliantly organized, and accessible to the general public. Other reviews have provided a detailed summary of the book. Be assured that you will not be overwhelmed with the details but intrigued by the events. I highly recommend this book for content and an intriguing peak into the world of spying. The authors should be praised for their willingness not only to provide a cogent history of Israeli spying, but to make critical judgments about the events that are so complex and controversial. Wonderful book….

5.0 out of 5 stars Such a exciting and easy read, July 24, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Spies Against Armageddon (Paperback)

This book had been recommended to me and I thought it was going to be a boring and “too much detail” book… WAS I WRONG… I typically like historical fiction but I couldn’t put “Spies” down. I’ll admit that I even read it at work on my iphone…
Kudos to Raviv and Melman.

5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, couldn’t put it down, July 18, 2012

Being very familiar with the history of the Israeli intelligence services, I found this book to be a trough of new, fascinating information. I highly recommend it to any one who is interested in espionage and Middle East affairs.

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and thrilling account of history of Mossad, July 9, 2012
This review is from: Spies Against Armageddon (Paperback)

This detailed and exciting account of the history of the Israeli secret services, including the Mossad, the Shin Beth and others less well-known to the public, should be required reading for anyone interested in the history and politics of the Middle East. It is even more relevant because its opening chapter deals with the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis and Israel’s clandestine efforts to derail and delay the Iranian nuclear program.

The book clearly benefited from detailed interviews the authors conducted with leading players, some now deceased. The authors themselves are a winning team of a well-known Israeli reporter and a veteran American correspondent (full disclosure, I was a reporter in Israel for several years in the 1980s and knew one of the authors quite well.)

Starting with the founding of Israel in 1948, the book runs through some well-known episodes such as the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann from Argentina to stand trial in Jerusalem. But there are many other vignettes that were unknown to me — and I consider myself something of a professional student on Middle Eastern history. There is a comprehensive account of how Israel built its own nuclear program with help from France and others. The story of how Israel managed to persuade an Egyptian Air Force pilot to defect, bringing with him his top secret Soviet plane, could be the subject of a fantastic movie all by itself. Thus, Israel became the first Western nation to acquire a Soviet MiG-21 and it was a treasure trove for U.S. intelligence.

In another chapter, the authors describe Israel’s success in protecting its civilian aircraft from hijackers and bombers — and America’s refusal to imitate some of the Israeli techniques despite repeated warnings. Had our leaders listened, we may have averted 9/11.

The authors show that contrary to popular opinion, the Mossad has generally been reluctant to kill its adversaries. It preferred to threaten and deter them if possible, with assassination a last resort. But they state unequivocally that Israel has been behind the murders of several Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years.

There is also a vivid and full account of the decision to destroy a Syrian nuclear plant in 2007. I had no idea before reading this account how close the Syrians were to developing a weapon. Their graphite reactor would have gone operational and started to produce plutonium within weeks had the Israelis not taken it out in September 2007.

The Mossad and especially the Shin Beth are not perfect. They have made major blunders — such as failing to anticipate the start of the Yom Kippur War. The Shin Beth fell victim to excessive brutality against Palestinians in the territories and mishandled the two Intifadahs. Israel has made strategic decisions, such as invading Lebanon in 1982, that produced short-term success and longer-term disaster.

But what comes across to me most vividly in this book is the resourcefulness, courage and sheer inventiveness the men and women of these services have so often displayed. Israel is still at war, surrounded by enemies who wish to destroy it. These secret services are on the front lines. Often, what they do averts greater threats through their ingenuity.

Since its early days, Israel has developed a doctrine of not relying on others for the defense of the nation. This doctrine comes out of the painful lessons learned during the Holocaust. But the Iranian crisis is testing many long-held beliefs and assumptions, confronting policy-makers and especially the Prime Minister, with one of the most agonizing decisions any Israeli leader has ever faced.

This book will make readers more aware of the stakes, the opportunities and the dangers.

July 26, 2012

Egypt Buries Ex-Intel Chief Suleiman But What About Mossad, Israel?

By Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman

General Omar Suleiman, who had been one of the most powerful men in President Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship in Egypt, was buried today in Cairo – in a highly ceremonial procession, attended by political and military VIP’s who somehow survived the upheavals that led to Mubarak’s downfall last year and this year’s election of a Muslim Brotherhood president.

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The newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, did not attend the funeral; but he did show enough respect for the Old Guard to send a presidential representative to the funeral.

Suleiman’s flag-draped coffin was paraded through some of Cairo’s streets, and the entire affair was handled with honor.  Morsi was most likely showing that he does not plan – at least not right away – to tear up all of Egypt’s recent traditions, including those of the proud military.

Yet, as Suleiman’s coffin disappeared into the Egyptian soil, one had to wonder if Egypt’s mutually cooperative relationship with Israel was also being buried.

Omar Suleiman had been head of Egypt’s military intelligence since 1991 and then head of the General Intelligence Service, including significant secret-police functions, since 1995.

After 9/11, he was reported to be in charge of Egypt’s cooperation with the CIA’s “rendition” program, as al-Qaeda suspects were routed through Egypt for detention and interrogations.

Suleiman certainly was the Mubarak regime’s principal liaison with Israel.  While President Mubarak, along with most Egyptian politicians, may have played a bit of an Arabist by frequently criticizing Israeli policies – especially Jewish settlements and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.  Suleiman, however, was tasked with being pragmatic – with no reason to get bogged down with protests and policy disagreements.

Israeli intelligence leaders, in the past twenty years or so, all had personal relationships – usually quite friendly, and not merely cool and correct – with General Suleiman.

During Mubarak’s final two weeks as president – desperately clinging to power in February 2011, as Tahrir Square in Cairo throbbed with huge crowds of Egyptians demanding the dictator’s downfall – he made Suleiman his vice president.  Whatever that was meant to convey to the various power centers in Egyptian politics, it did not work.

Mubarak resigned and was arrested – considered likely, after his trial and conviction, to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Suleiman was apparently too clever for that, as he spirited himself out of the country.  Only after he died, this past week at age 76, was it revealed that he was being treated in an unnamed American hospital – and this long-time ally of the United States intelligence and defense communities died in the U.S.

Just one of many interesting connections between Israeli intelligence and Suleiman was the fact, we reveal in our book, that when Israel wanted to get the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency to get a lot tougher toward Iran, the Israelis secretly turned to Suleiman.

The Mossad – notably based on research from its Nabak unit (an acronym for Neshek Bilti Konventzionali, Hebrew for “Non-Conventional Weapons”) – gave Suleiman a dossier full of examples and evidence, as the Israelis saw it, that IAEA director-general Mohamed elBaradei was close to Iran and perhaps even controlled by Iranian intelligence officers who had senior positions at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Because elBaradei was a former Egyptian diplomat, the Israelis hoped that Mubarak’s government could rein in the IAEA chief’s behavior.  General Suleiman was handed the file, but apparently Cairo’s government could not or did not change what elBaradei was doing.

The Mossad was so concerned about elBaradei’s leanings – with his practically ignoring, they felt, evidence that Iran was making rapid progress in a secret nuclear bomb program – that they came up with a plot to force him out of his United Nations-sponsored job.

Israel’s foreign intelligence agency prepared to make money transfers into elBaradei’s personal bank account – and those unexplained deposits would be made to look like bribes from Iran.  For various reasons, the Israelis did not go through with that particular gambit, but it was seriously considered and showed the depth of concern about elBaradei’s perceived bias.

With General Suleiman now dead and buried, any historian can only hope that far more complete stories will come out regarding how he cooperated with the United States and Israel in projects – large and small – in the Middle East.

When the U.S. and Israel regret the loss of Hosni Mubarak – as life in the region was a little bit easier for them with a compliant and generally friendly president in Cairo – they are mourning the loss of a lynchpin figure, Omar Suleiman.

 

July 22, 2012

‘Spies’ Authors Return To Scene Of Israeli Intelligence

By Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman

We think we have some important stories to tell, and thus we returned to the subject of Israeli espionage. Our first effort in that field was a book in 1990 titled “Every Spy a Prince.” Twenty-two years later, in our new Spies Against Armageddon, we spoke with more people and got more stories — about recent events, but also new details about important operations going back to the beginnings of the Jewish state in 1948.

israel spy, spies against Armageddon, iran nuclearWe are not surprised that the news media put their focus on our description of Israel’s covert activities aimed at stopping — or at least slowing — Iran’s nuclear program. Many of those were accurate, if brief, summaries of what we reported: notably, a news article by the Associated Press on July 8, 2012.

We had mixed feelings, therefore, when The New York Times gave our book significant attention on July 11. The headline atop a full column on Page A8 said: “Tehran Abuzz as Book Says Israel Killed 5 Scientists.”

Several of our friends said there is no such thing as bad publicity when one has written a book and it is just out, and the project thrives or languishes depending on how much attention it can get, yet the wording of the Times article would lead newspaper readers to think we were accusing Jews in Iran — where approximately 25,000 still reside — of participating in secret Mossad missions, including assassinations.

The article says that our book contains the “assertion” that five scientists were killed in Iran “by operatives, most likely of Persian Jewish heritage, employed by Mossad …”

We do not want to attack the reporter. We feel, however, that while the main thrust of his article turned out to be reporting what the news media in Iran are saying about our book, he himself distorted what we wrote. We are not suggesting that it was intentional, but there were some exaggerations and too much certainty — whereas we were cautious in suggesting what might be true about covert Mossad operations in Iran.

In a carefully worded passage on Page 14 — in our first chapter, “Stopping Iran” — our book says: “The Mossad also had a human treasury: Tens of thousands of ex-Iranians now lived in Israel. Iranian Jews had fled, especially just after the 1979 revolution, and many of their children also were well acquainted with the Persian language and customs. Individuals who were brave enough — and then selected and trained by the Mossad — could move back to Iran and secretly serve Israel.

“Israeli operatives inside Iran were available for all kinds of espionage and even, if and when the time came, for pinpointing targets for air strikes.”

We were not reporting that the assassins in 2007-2012 were Persian Jews returning to their homeland. We said that the Mossad “could” call upon the repository of ex-Iranians as well as other Israelis in the secret agency.

The Times article also mentioned “the book’s assertion that the assassins were all Mossad agents who used agency safe houses maintained inside Iran since the era of the shah.”

Again, we carefully report in our book that the Mossad has had safe houses in Iran since pre-1979 days, but we don’t report that all the assassins stayed in such houses.

The key paragraph on Page 13 of our book speaks of “possibilities.” We do not claim to know or to reveal how the assassins traveled or where they stayed:

“Naturally, no one in Tel Aviv was talking about any operational details of how Israelis entered and left Iran — or where they stayed while inside the Islamic Republic.

“There were many possibilities. Obviously, Israeli operatives traveled using the passports of other countries, including both bogus and genuine documents. That fact had been inadvertently revealed several times, over many years. In addition, the Mossad continuously maintained safe houses in Iran, dating back to the pre-1979 years under the Shah. That was an investment in the future, typical for Israeli intelligence.”

The Times article then caused some discomfort to some Persian Jews in the United States — and we heard from some — when it stated that our book contains “assertions about the assassins’ nationalities or religious beliefs …” We never discuss their religious beliefs. Yes, their nationality is Israeli. We do report that, and we explain that against the background of Mossad operations that penetrated enemy countries in decades past.

Our book treads carefully on some very sensitive territory, but we would like to think that we got the balance right. It is the historian’s job to tell readers what happened and to set it in context — and as historians of the espionage world, we further endeavor not to endanger anyone by revealing too many details.

Let us be clear, and we have written about this elsewhere and will continue to do so: Israel’s Mossad does not use local Jews as agents, saboteurs or assassins. Bitter lessons were learned more than half a century ago in Egypt, Iraq and other countries, where early operations by Israeli intelligence sometimes did use local Jews— and, if caught, the individuals were hanged, and their entire communities suffered official retribution from the Arab regime.

The use of Jonathan Pollard, an American with a high-level security clearance in U.S. naval intelligence, as a spy for Israel was an aberration. The Mossad would not have hired him. It was a separate agency, Lakam (the Science Liaison Bureau), that ran Pollard — who is now serving a life sentence for an operation that most Israeli officials and intelligence professionals believe was a mistake.

The Mossad, we believe, would have known not to put the important American Jewish community in peril — not the least, American Jews working in U.S. defense and intelligence jobs — by employing Pollard.

Original article.

To read the Associated Press and New York Times articles mentioned above, visit:


Dan Raviv, a CBS News correspondent based in Washington, and veteran Israeli intelligence reporter and commentator Yossi Melman are co-authors of the new “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars.” They also wrote the best seller “Every Spy a Prince.” They blog at IsraelSpy.com  . A version of this article appeared in print in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.

July 19, 2012

‘Spies Against Armageddon’ Now ‘Required Reading’

As readers worldwide receive their copies of Spies Against Armageddon, the new history of Israel’s intelligence services by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, reviews are beginning to appear.  The first one at Amazon.com, unsolicited by and unbeknownst to the authors, is written by a former Reuters correspondent who was based in Israel for a long time, Alan Elsner.

Here is what Elsner wrote:
Spies Against Armageddon, israel spy, covert operations, dan raviv, yossi melman

israel spy, covert operations, Dan Raviv, Yossi Melman, Spies Against Armageddon

This detailed and exciting account of the history of the Israeli secret services, including the Mossad, the Shin Beth and others less well-known to the public, should be required reading for anyone interested in the history and politics of the Middle East. It is even more relevant because its opening chapter deals with the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis and Israel’s clandestine efforts to derail and delay the Iranian nuclear program.

The book clearly benefited from detailed interviews the authors conducted with leading players, some now deceased. The authors themselves are a winning team of a well-known Israeli reporter and a veteran American correspondent (full disclosure, I was a reporter in Israel for several years in the 1980s and knew one of the authors quite well.)

Starting with the founding of Israel in 1948, the book runs through some well-known episodes such as the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann from Argentina to stand trial in Jerusalem. But there are many other vignettes that were unknown to me — and I consider myself something of a professional student on Middle Eastern history. There is a comprehensive account of how Israel built its own nuclear program with help from France and others. The story of how Israel managed to persuade an Egyptian Air Force pilot to defect, bringing with him his top secret Soviet plane, could be the subject of a fantastic movie all by itself. Thus, Israel became the first Western nation to acquire a Soviet MiG-21 and it was a treasure trove for U.S. intelligence.

In another chapter, the authors describe Israel’s success in protecting its civilian aircraft from hijackers and bombers — and America’s refusal to imitate some of the Israeli techniques despite repeated warnings. Had our leaders listened, we may have averted 9/11.

The authors show that contrary to popular opinion, the Mossad has generally been reluctant to kill its adversaries. It preferred to threaten and deter them if possible, with assassination a last resort. But they state unequivocally that Israel has been behind the murders of several Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years.

There is also a vivid and full account of the decision to destroy a Syrian nuclear plant in 2007. I had no idea before reading this account how close the Syrians were to developing a weapon. Their graphite reactor would have gone operational and started to produce plutonium within weeks had the Israelis not taken it out in September 2007.

The Mossad and especially the Shin Beth are not perfect. They have made major blunders — such as failing to anticipate the start of the Yom Kippur War. The Shin Beth fell victim to excessive brutality against Palestinians in the territories and mishandled the two Intifadahs. Israel has made strategic decisions, such as invading Lebanon in 1982, that produced short-term success and longer-term disaster.

But what comes across to me most vividly in this book is the resourcefulness, courage and sheer inventiveness the men and women of these services have so often displayed. Israel is still at war, surrounded by enemies who wish to destroy it. These secret services are on the front lines. Often, what they do averts greater threats through their ingenuity.

Since its early days, Israel has developed a doctrine of not relying on others for the defense of the nation. This doctrine comes out of the painful lessons learned during the Holocaust. But the Iranian crisis is testing many long-held beliefs and assumptions, confronting policy-makers and especially the Prime Minister, with one of the most agonizing decisions any Israeli leader has ever faced.

This book will make readers more aware of the stakes, the opportunities and the dangers. (photo of Alan Elsner, now with The Israel Project in Washington DC)

July 17, 2012

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Interviews Dan Raviv About ‘Spies Against Armageddon’

Spies Against Armageddon co-author Dan Raviv talks with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room about Israeli intelligence, covert operations, cyberwar, and other details from the book, available for purchase now in ebook and print formats.

spies against armageddon, israel spy, wolf blitzer, covert operations

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 12, 2012

Raviv Tells Charlie Rose About Israel Spy Games On ‘CBS This Morning’

Spies Against Armageddon co-author Dan Raviv sat down for an extended interview with Charlie Rose for CBS This Morning that you can see here. You can buy the book here.

 

Dan Raviv, Charlie Rose, spies against armageddon, israel spy, covert operations

 

Dan Raviv, Charlie Rose, spies against armageddon, israel spy, covert operations, Iran nuclear

 

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July 12, 2012

French Blog Says Iran Insulted By ‘Spies’ Claim About Iran Nuclear Scientists

This blog, in French (part of the Le Monde newspaper website), reports that official Iran is insulted by the contention in Spies Against Armageddon that the Mossad has assassinated several Iranian nuclear scientists on its own.

spies against aramageddon, israel spy, covert operations, dan raviv, yossi melmanIt says we report that the Israeli operatives had no local help.  Putting aside whether that is precisely what was said in the book, this blog by journalists who specialize in Iranian affairs says it calls into question whether the arrests, trials, and hangings in Iran are legitimate.  No Israelis have been caught.

July 11, 2012


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