by Dan Raviv in Washington
Presidents Obama and Shimon Peres review Israeli troops at Ben-Gurion airport (White House photo)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, answering some questions in public with President Barack Obama alongside in Jerusalem, emphasized that Israeli and U.S. intelligence assessments of Iran’s nuclear program do not differ. But there’s a differing sense of what “the timing” means to each country.
Somewhat surprisingly deciding not to disagree with his American guest on how long it might take for Iran to build nuclear bombs, Netanyahu said: “If Iran decides to go for a nuclear weapon, then it’s true it will take them about a year.” But he added that Iran’s uranium enrichment can reach a dangerous, unacceptable level even without a bomb being designed and constructed.
Netanyahu made a point of thanking Obama for saying in public that they have instructed their teams to negotiate a new ten-year security cooperation agreement. Their talks, behind closed doors, almost certainly included secret cooperation on many levels — including covert activities that the Mossad and the CIA have done together to retard Iran’s nuclear program.
Obama has begun a three-day visit to Israel, meant to counter the impression that many people had that he does not like the Jewish state. At Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport and then in Jerusalem, Obama repeatedly stressed his commitment to Israel’s security as the nation of the Jewish people.
March 20, 2013
by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman
One of the most important debates on the world scene has gone silent. For more than a year, commentators and politicians worldwide had been discussing: How can Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program be stopped, and should Israel be stopped from bombing Iran?
The power of election scheduling is hugely impressive. In both the United States and Israel, political considerations have dwarfed what seemed until recently the most urgent, pressing strategic questions on Earth.
With Americans voting November 6, and Israelis having their national election on January 22, the debate is mute.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has been an enthusiastic saber-rattler, does not see any advantage in thundering about Iran’s nuclear program right now. His most recent big statement came at the United Nations in New York in late September, when he held a cartoonish diagram of Iran’s bomb-making progress but truly illustrated a time line that seems to delay any military action until mid-2013.
However, if Netanyahu finds that his opponents start bashing him over failures – or harsh realities – in the providing the social and economic needs of Israelis, the prime minister may well wish to change the subject. To portray himself as the only true tough guy in town, he would probably start beating the war drums again. That could occur anytime before January 22.
The defense minister in his lame duck cabinet, Ehud Barak, is leading his own small political party and has changed his tone on Iran. Barak is more obvious now in his reluctance to see Israeli warplanes and missiles strike Iran, but in truth Barak will say almost anything for political advantage — so one does not know what he would do, in the remotely possible scenario that he might return to the post of defense minister.
One man who might have kept the Iran debate alive is Meir Dagan. After serving as Mossad director from 2002 to 2010 and re-directing the priorities of Israel’s foreign espionage agency – featuring secret, daring sabotage and assassination missions inside Iran — Dagan became surprisingly vocal on the subject of Iran’s nuclear program.
In December 2010, just before his departure from the Mossad, Dagan invited Yossi Melman and a few other Israeli journalists for an unprecedented briefing at the agency’s headquarters north of Tel Aviv. The spy chief claimed credit for delaying the Iranians’ work on uranium enrichment and bomb development. And Dagan clearly spoke out against the military option, quite specifically against plans being laid by Netanyahu and Barak.
Within months, Dagan was speaking more frequently about how “stupid” it would be for Israel to launch air force sorties and missiles at Iran. In 2012, he was interviewed in English on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and warned that Iranian retaliation would make daily life unbearable in Israel. Dagan said Iran’s leaders are “rational,” in a way, suggesting that they could be persuaded to halt their nuclear work.
The implicit message also was that more covert action could continue to be effective: anything from assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists (actions which our book Spies Against Armageddon clearly ascribes to the Mossad) to cyberwarfare such as the Stuxnet worm which damaged computer-controlled uranium centrifuges in Iran. (Our book reported that the cyberwarfare, probably including more computer viruses, was and is a joint U.S.-Israel project.)
Dagan, as luck would have it, has been diagnosed with liver cancer. According to people close to him, he sought diagnosis and possible treatment at the Sloane Kettering cancer center in New York City. Apparently a liver transplant was recommended, but no donor was available. He found the same dead end in Germany and in India.
In Israel, where naturally a former chief of the Mossad would have some VIP priority (as much as anyone might), no donor was available. Medical policies in Israel discourage liver transplants for any patient older than 65, because senior citizens are not generally likely to benefit — or survive — for long after a transplant. Dagan is 67 years old.
An appropriate donor (meaning a “match” who had very recently died) was located in Belarus. Dagan flew to that former Soviet republic, without any public announcement, for the liver transplant. For some reason, the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko, considered to be Europe’s last dictator, decided last month to reveal that the former Mossad chief was in that country recovering from a transplant.
Sources in Israel said Dagan was “struggling for his life,” and indeed liver cancer is almost always extremely serious and recovery from a liver transplant uncertain. Dagan has returned to Israel and is hospitalized in a medical center with guards and almost no publicity.
People close to him continue to be very worried. Four weeks after the surgery, they say he is not showing good signs of recovery. They describe his condition as “stable” but add that he still battling to survive.
He might have been a powerful voice, during an Israeli election campaign when fateful decisions demand to be discussed. Although not running for parliament, he would have spoken out against the notion of Israel bombing Iran, Meir Dagan is, however, unavailable.
Behind the scenes, Israel’s military and intelligence agencies are surely preparing for all possibilities — for any orders that any Israeli prime minister might issue to them.
We know this is a perennial statement, but here goes: Something big has to happen in 2013, in one direction or another. Either Iran will give in to the sanctions and military threats and suspend its uranium enrichment, or the United States – whether under Barack Obama or Mitt Romney – will exercise its military might.
Those are the two possibilities most mentioned by Israelis, but they know that Israel may conclude in 2013 that it has to go it alone and do what it can to damage Iran’s nuclear program.
November 4, 2012
The New York Times has a scoop in the Sunday paper: “U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks.”
The dispatch, datelined Washington, says there have been “intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term” in 2009. Helen Cooper and Mark Landler write that talks, after America’s Election Day, “could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.”
[The White House, on Saturday night, issued a denial: "It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections." The statement from the National Security Council spokesman adds that, while efforts for "a diplomatic solution" continue through the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council + Germany), the Obama Administration has "said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally."]
Several Iranian dissidents living in exile have claimed, in recent weeks, that a deal has already been reached — for Iran to freeze or suspend its uranium enrichment in some verifiable way, in exchange for a cancellation of the harshest economic sanctions against Iran.
One of those Iranians, using the false name Reza Kahlili, says he was a Revolutionary Guards member who spied inside his native country for the CIA. (U.S. officials do not dispute the essence of the story in his book, A Time to Betray.)
“Kahlili” has been distributing an on-line article he wrote that suggests Iran could soon announce it is stopping uranium enrichment — in an effort to ensure an election victory for Barack Obama. This, he said, was the result of secret talks in an Arabian Gulf country. [Saturday night, in an e-mail, Kahlili said the Times story is confirmation of what he has been writing.]
Kahlili’s prediction of an October Surprise has not seemed to pick up much traction among think-tank scholars and others who track Western efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
At an appearance this past week at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Peace in Washington, a former chief of Israel’s foreign intelligence service — the Mossad — said the West should be talking with Iran. Efraim Halevy, the Mossad director from 1998 to 2002, said the best wars are the ones that are won without firing a shot. Halevy suggested that Iran’s leaders must be persuaded that having nuclear weapons would be “more dangerous to them” than to anyone else.
Halevy suggested that “red lines,” demanded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are not conducive to diplomacy. He also said Iran should not be told repeatedly that its nuclear ambitions are an “existential threat” to Israel — because then you are telling your enemy that if he sticks with his current plan, he will be able to defeat you.
Halevy, 78, expressed confidence that Israel will find solutions and countermeasures to whatever a hostile Iran may develop.
An official response to the report that direct talks are being planned came from Israel’s ambassador in Washington — Michael Oren — who told The New York Times that Israel has not been informed of any negotiations in the works. Oren also expressed concern that Iran would use talks to “advance their nuclear weapons program.”
October 21, 2012
by Dan Raviv
The head of Iran’s delegation at the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna is boasting that Iran “sometimes” gives “false information” to the IAEA.
In the logic of Fereydoun Abbasi Davani (see Haaretz’s story at http://bit.ly/PCTLMR), the U.N. agency shares intelligence with spies from Israel, the United States, Britain, and other nations — and one result was the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran. Therefore, Iran started lying, “to protect our nuclear sites and our interests.”
Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Golda Meir: He was willing to let her have nukes; the U.S. stopped asking.
Now, on the one hand, a cynic could point out that the history of Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear arsenal — told, in unique detail, in our book — included plenty of untruths and half-truths. As we write, after Richard Nixon became president in 1969, the United States more-or-less stopped asking Israel what it had built at the French-provided Dimona nuclear reactor.
Still, the fact is that the Middle East accustomed itself to the general belief that Israel has a potent nuclear force. While no one seems to know precisely why Israel has it — or, as a more precise question — when the Israelis might possibly use nuclear weapons — the region does not seem to fear that “the Jews” will drop an A-bomb on anyone on some sort of whim.
Israel’s leaders, on the other hand, study the official and religious declarations of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and they fear that Iran might feel moved one day to destroy the Jewish state. Really? Even though the blast and the fallout would surely kill many, many Muslims — Palestinians and others?
Most Israeli strategists conclude: Probably not. Iran would more likely use a nuclear arsenal for blackmail purposes — or as a kind of “umbrella” for aggressive political initiatives and support for terrorism and upheavals in various countries.
Yet Israelis don’t seem willing to take that chance, to base their lives or deaths on the whim — or religious doctrines — of Iranian leaders. All Israelis? Some Israelis? Most Israelis? It’s hard to tell, and Israel is the kind of country where 100 average citizens hold at least 125 contradictory opinions.
The decision, on whether to tolerate an Iranian drive to create nuclear bombs or instead go to war, rests with the prime minister in Jerusalem. Right now, that is Benjamin Netanyahu. He won’t choose to tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.
And when Iran boasts that it is lying about the nuclear program, while that is no surprise to Israel and its intelligence services, the prevarications and inventions provide further justification for a hard line by Israel.
September 22, 2012
By Dan Raviv
No one familiar with the history of modern state of Israel can think of a situation as extreme as the choice facing the Jewish state’s leaders now: whether to order their air force to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities — distant, well protected, and partially underground — so as to delay the suspected Iranian nuclear bomb program for a year or two.
[Israel's president, Shimon Peres, now 89 years old]
Senior figures in Israeli politics — as well as, more privately, in the military and in intelligence agencies — must feel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are close to a decision: because opponents of an airstrike are stepping up their rhetoric to warn that it would be a terribly dangerous thing to do.
This week, the president of Israel — Shimon Peres, with a long history of involvement with secret projects such as Israel’s own nuclear capability — marked his 89th birthday with a very provocative interview, apparently defying Netanyahu and Barak. Peres said that he puts his trust in President Barack Obama’s declaration that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire or make nuclear weapons.
“I am convinced this is an American interest. I am convinced (Obama) recognizes the American interest and he isn’t saying this just to keep us happy. I have no doubt about it, after having had talks with him,” Peres told (Israel’s) Channel Two television.
“Now, it’s clear to us that we can’t do it alone. We can delay (Iran’s nuclear program). It’s clear to us we have to proceed together with America. There are questions about coordination and timing, but as serious as the danger is, this time at least we are not alone.”
A flurry of comments by Israeli officials and media reports over the past week have put financial markets on edge by appearing to suggest an attack could be launched before the U.S. presidential election in November.
An unidentified top “decision maker”, widely believed to be Barak, told Haaretz newspaper last Friday that Israel “cannot place the responsibility for its security and future even in the hands of its greatest ally”, a reference to the United States.
Peres said in the interview that he did not believe Israel would launch an attack on Iran before November.
As president, Peres, 89, has little political power in Israel. But he has won the respect of many Israelis while serving in the post and his opposition to any unilateral action poses an additional challenge to Netanyahu.
A political source close to Netanyahu issued an angry response to Peres’ comments shortly after the president’s interview was aired.
“Peres has forgotten what the role of Israel’s president is. He has forgotten that he made three major mistakes in regard to Israel’s security … his greatest mistake was in 1981 when he thought bombing the reactor in Iraq was wrong and, to the fortune of Israel’s citizens, Prime Minister Begin ignored him,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
On Friday night, also on Israel’s Channel Two, a former general who served as defense minister — and, for a short time this year as a deputy prime minister to Netanyahu during a failed attempt to govern with a very broad coalition — warned more explicitly against attacking Iran at this time. Shaul Mofaz seemed to be speaking as though Netanyahu and Barak might order an attack at any time, perhaps ignoring the reported, private appeal by Obama to Israel’s leaders not to attack — thus sparking a possibly global crisis — before America’s Election Day in November.
[Retired general, Shaul Mofaz]
Again, we quote Reuters, which reports that Mofaz warned against starting “a disastrous war”:
[He] said on Israeli television he thought Israel was “planning a hasty, irresponsible event”.
As a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet for two months, Mofaz was privy to deliberations on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Naming both Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, he said he was “very worried at what they are preparing”. He added: ”I hope very much we don’t reach such a war because it would be a disaster.”
Days after he quit the cabinet late in July in a dispute about military conscription policy, Mofaz, who heads the centrist Kadima party, cautioned he would not back any Israeli military “adventures”.
His comments echoed those of other former Israeli security officials who have spoken against any unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, with some saying such an assault could spur Tehran to speed up uranium enrichment.
August 18, 2012
By Orlando Radice (TheJC.com
), August 17, 2012
In 2004, during the Second Intifada, Israeli intelligence officers invited two journalists to a cafe to discuss corruption stories involving Yassir Arafat, with a view to smearing the then-Palestinian Authority leader.
As the conversations got going, a third, uninvited journalist dropped in to the café on a tip-off that the meeting was taking place.
Excited by the possibility of taking part in Mossad psychological warfare, he offered to pose as a foreign writer who would seduce and sleep with Afarat’s wife, Suha, in order to extract secrets from her.
Although Mossad declined this particular offer, this tale of espionage-sleaze is just one of many James Bond-worthy episodes in Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, a colourful new history of the history of the intelligence agency by journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman.
The book was a “pure journalistic endeavour”, says Mr Melman. “I didn’t have to swear allegiance to any intelligence agency,” he says, although the book had to be submitted to Israel’s military censorship authority.
Spy-glamour aside, Spies Against Armageddon has a serious aim: to dispel myths about Mossad, the spy agency that inspires the greatest number of conspiracy theories in the world.
On the Munich Olympics murders in 1972, the widely-held view, as disseminated by books and at least two films, was that Mossad embarked on a global vengeance mission against those who carried out the attacks.
The book argues that Mossad targeted Palestinian cells not as revenge but as part of long-term strategy to disrupt the PLO terror infrastructure in Europe.
The proof of this, Mr Melman says, was that two of those assassinated post-Munich were only indirectly involved in the Olympic attack. They were, however, key players involved in ongoing operations against Israel.
“Most of Mossad’s work is in intelligence gathering. Only five per cent are special assignments, and very few of those involve killing,” Mr Melman says.
A case in point was Wolfgang Lotz, who joined Mossad in the early 1960s and was one of the agency’s true 007s. He almost certainly assassinated no-one – his skill was in using his “convivial nature” and “passion for women and wine” to work his way into Egyptian high society and extract defence secrets from generals. Using a tiny radio hidden in a riding boot, he telegraphed reports to Tel Aviv.
As John le Carré noted, the best spooks do not kill their enemies – they make friends with them.
August 18, 2012
Adding to the drama discussed at length in Spies Against Armageddon, the United States is planning to turn up the heat on sanctions against Iran, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times.
“Scrambling on an issue that has been gaining visibility in the election campaign,” the newspaper reports, “House and Senate leaders prepared for a final vote this week on legislation that adds penalties on Iran’s energy, shipping and financial sectors.
“Separately, the administration announced an executive order that penalizes a Chinese bank and an Iraqi bank that have helped Iran evade international sanctions. The order also expands sanctions for the purchase of Iranian petrochemical products.”
July 31, 2012
By Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman
On the frequently tense edges of the alliance between the United States and Israel, a weekend of public statements and purposeful leaks is muddying the waters: Are the two countries cooperating, in confronting Iran’s nuclear program? Are the two countries actually at odds, with distrust outweighing friendship?
A wave of claims and revelations comes just hours after President Barack Obama signed a pledge, passed by Congress, to help Israel militarily, and at the same time that Republican candidate Mitt Romney was landing inIsrael for a high-profile visit aimed at winning votes in the U.S. among Jews and evangelical Christians who care about Israel.
The first indication of a new leaks campaign was a long investigative report by the Associated Press, reporting that Israel’s intelligence community routinely spies on CIA officers based at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv – breaking into their secure equipment boxes and even one CIA man’s refrigerator – and conducts espionage in the United States.
On Saturday night, officials in the Jerusalem office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who was preparing to meet with his long-time acquaintance Romney on Sunday – denied the AP story about break-ins as “a lie.”
The AP report, by the investigative team of Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, leaves the impression that Israeli espionage in the U.S. has continued even after the arrest of Jonathan Pollard as a spy for Israel inWashington in November 1985.
Our Israeli sources indicate, however, that there is a vast difference between Israeli behavior now and during the pre-1985 period. They insist emphatically that no part of Israel’s intelligence community is recruiting Americans or other people to be spies inside the United States. They are obeying, they say, what the AP article calls the “Friends on Friends” framework of their relationship with Washington: that “friends don’t spy on friends.”
July 29, 2012
Spies Against Armageddon co-author Dan Raviv appears on the John Batchelor Radio Show On ABC Radio.
Listen here to Part One:
BatchelorShow Raviv Part1 19july12
Listen here to Part Two:
BatchelorShow Raviv Part2 19july12
July 22, 2012
Silva, on NBC’s Today, about Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman: “No one knows more about the Mossad than these two guys.”
On the NBC Today Show on Tuesday morning, as bestselling thriller writer Daniel Silva was discussing his brand new book, The Fallen Angel
– again featuring his fictional Israeli intelligence officer and assassin, Gabriel Allon — NBC’s Matt Lauer asked Daniel to name his three favorite books for this summer.
The authors of Spies Against Armageddon
, Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, were as surprised as anyone at what Daniel Silva said in the last minute of his appearance on Today. He named Dan and Yossi and told Matt Lauer: ”I write about fictitious Israeli intelligence officers. They write about the real thing. No one knows more about the Mossad than these two guys.”:
It was part of a series on the Today Show called “Sizzling Summer Reads.”
And, from the Today Show website, here are Daniel’s responses
, when asked for his favorite books to read this summer — and one of the non-fiction books he mentions is near and dear to this blog’s heart:
We took the opportunity to ask New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva, whose new thriller, “ The Fallen Angel ” arrives in stores this week, about his choices for this summer’s sizzling reads for three specific criteria: a book for the beach, a book for a rainy day and a book for under the covers. Check out the titles he selected.
At the beach
“The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln” by Stephen Carter (Knopf)
“It’s great alternative history by a great American novelist and legal scholar who also happens to be a great friend.”
For a Rainy Day
“The Quality Instinct: Seeing Art Through a Museum Director’s Eye” by Maxwell Anderson (American Association of Museums)
Anderson is the Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “Max will take you behind the scenes of a museum and teach you how to look at pieces of art and understand why they’re important, why they’re worthy of being displayed on a museum’s wall.”
Under the Covers
“Spies Against Armageddon” by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman (Levant Books)
“I write about fictitious spies, but Dan and Yossi write about real Israeli operatives. These two journalists know more about the Israeli intelligence community than anyone.”
July 18, 2012
Independent Review By Jefferson Flanders
Veteran journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman have authored a compelling new book, Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, that should become required reading for President Barack Obama and his National Security Council.
The White House has abandoned “nation-building” and opted for a “small footprint” strategy of special operations missions and drone attacks in the Middle East. If this is the direction for American foreign policy in the region (at least for the short-term), there’s a lot to be learned from the Israeli experience and Spies Against Armageddon offers a deeply researched account of how Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies operate when confronting threats to the Jewish state.
Take, for example, the sensitive topic of state-sponsored assassination (covered in detail in Chapter 22 of Spies Against Armageddon). It is a practice frowned upon by the international law community (which considers assassinations of suspected terrorists to be “extrajudicial killings”), but one that has been employed by the Mossad in its fight against terrorism.
Historically American political leaders have been queasy about endorsing assassinations and confronting the difficult legal and moral questions they raise, especially when the targets are far from armed conflict zones. After the revelation of CIA involvement in assassination plots in Cuba, Vietnam, the Congo and elsewhere, President Gerald Ford signed an executive order banning assassinations in 1976. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush Administration relaxed prohibitions against “targeted killings” arguing that they were a form of self-defense*. Predator drones began firing Hellfire missiles at Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Obama has dramatically expanded these drone strikes, making them the central tactic in American counterterrorism efforts.
In fact, Obama’s enthusiasm for, and acceleration of, “drone wars” has disturbed many of his liberal supporters. The revelation that Obama himself reviews the “kill list” of targeted terrorists, and decides their fate, has been an unsettling image for many. In his Esquire piece “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama,” Tom Junod directly challenges the President’s current direction: “You are the first president to make the killing of targeted individuals the focus of our military operations, of our intelligence, of our national-security strategy, and, some argue, of our foreign policy.” Junod adds: “Since taking office, you have killed thousands of people identified as terrorists or militants outside the theater of Afghanistan. You have captured and detained one.”
In contrast, Spies of Armageddon argues that the Israelis take a more restrained approach to targeted killing. They prefer the scalpel to the hammer. Raviv and Melman note that:
- The Israelis are very selective in their use of assassination as a foreign policy tool, despite the public perception (aided by movies like Munich) that they rely on hit squads. Raviv and Melman claim that since the creation of Mossad in the early 1950s “it has been involved in only a few dozen killing operations—certainly fewer than 50.”
- Their targets tend to be key operational players in terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, or technical support people (bomb-makers, nuclear scientists). Spies Against Armageddon made headlines around the world in reporting that it was Mossad agents, not Iranian rebel groups, responsible for the killings of Iranian nuclear scientists.
- They don’t go after top political figures.
- They won’t, and don’t, kill Israeli citizens.
In contrast to this selectivity, the drone programs operated by the U.S. military and the CIA have been aimed at thousands of militants in an increasing number of countries. Drones have been employed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. And most disturbingly, President Obama and his surrogates have claimed the authority to kill American citizens deemed to be terrorists without judicial review or due process. Attorney General Eric Holder has argued that administrative due process is enough—a bizarre position for the nation’s top legal official to take.
It’s not hard to see why the Obama Administration has turned to drones to counter Islamic jihadism. It avoids the costly, and unpopular, use of American combat troops in the Middle East. It does keep Al Qaeda and the Taliban off balance. And it does protect Obama politically from right-wing attacks that he is soft on terrorism.
Yet it doesn’t appear that policy makers have thought through the practical, legal, and moral issues surrounding their reliance on targeted killing. The Obama Administration’s position on targeting American nationals without judicial oversight is a terrible one, arrogating to the President the “power of kings” to kill his subjects). There’s also the question of how long this approach can be sustained. Boston University’s Andrew Bacevich, for one, has questioned this continuing “whack-a-mole” approach: “How many Hellfire missiles do we launch from drones before the last violent Islamic radical is either dead or decides that the cause is futile and puts down his arms and goes home?”
These aren’t easy issues to address. Spies Against Armageddon makes it clear that within the Israeli government there is a continuing debate over the limits of action and the ethical boundaries for intelligence agencies in a democratic state. It’s heartening to know that such debates are taking place in Jerusalem. We can only hope that they are happening in Washington as well.
*Lethal force may be employed in self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
Copyright © 2012 Jefferson Flanders Twitter @JeffersFlanders
July 18, 2012
Spies Against Armageddon, the new history of Israel’s intelligence community published in English on July 9, is about to be available in Hebrew.
Yediot Books in Israel is publishing a translation of the book — with the title, Milkhamot ha-Tzlalim: ha-Mossad v’Kehilat ha-Modiin, by Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv.
The title translates literally as “The Shadow Wars: The Mossad and the Intelligence Community.”
Articles based on the book will be featured in one of Israel’s top selling Israeli daily newspapers, Yediot Ahronot, which is affiliated with the publisher.
Israelis have, of course, read a lot about the espionage and security agencies tasked with protecting the Jewish state; but the new book by Melman and Raviv will reveal new stories — some from as far back as the 1950s, and others concerning Syria and Iran making new headlines now.
The new book in Hebrew is expected to be in bookstores all over Israel starting Monday, July 16.
In English, Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars
will be available at bookstores and is already sold through this site
and at Amazon.com and other on-line bookselling sites — as a paperback and in all e-book formats.
July 15, 2012
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.
July 12, 2012
The first review by a reader who has read Spies Against Armageddon has been posted at Amazon.com by Alan Elsner, who covered Israel for many years for the British news agency Reuters.
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.
July 11, 2012
Revelations in the new book by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, Spies Against Armageddon, are literally spanning the globe via coverage from news sources, media outlets, and bloggers around the world.
Here’s a sample from Google News:
israel spy, covert operations, Dan Raviv, Yossi Melman, Spies Against Armageddon
Who has really been killing those Iranian scientists?
Now, in a book published last Saturday, CBS reporter Dan Raviv and former Haaretz correspondent Yossi Melman claim that the assassinations between 2010 and 2012 are the work of none other than Mossad itself. Spies Against Armageddon. Writing in …
See all stories on this topic »
|Spies hit Iranians, book says
Columbia Daily Tribune
… published today, authors Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman say Israeli operatives have killed at least four Iranian nuclear scientists, including targeting them with operatives on motorcycles, an assassination technique used by the Israeli spy service …
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|Inside Israel’s super-secret intelligence agency
This article is adapted from “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars” (Levant Books), a new book detailing the history of the Israeli intelligence community by CBS News national correspondent Dan Raviv and Israeli journalist Yossi Melman.
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|Book: Israel agents behind killings of Iran scientists
Oman Daily Observer
The book, Spies Against Armageddon, by veteran journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman and out in paperback yesterday, says the Israeli operatives killed five Iranian scientists working for the country’s nuclear programme between 2008-12. Although the …
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|Israel Behind Assassinations Of Iran Scientists, Claims Book
Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars by Dan Raviv of CBS News and Yossi Melman, a Ha’aretz analyst, states that Mossad has undertaken several terrorist missions in Iran that targeted nuclear scientists in order to curb the country’s …
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|“Spies Against Armageddon” book says Israel’s Mossad killed Iranian nuclear …
Written by CBS News’ Dan Raviv and prominent Israeli commentator and Ha’aretz analyst Yossi Melman, “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars” details various missions undertaken by Mossad to target Iranian nuclear scientists, the authors …
July 10, 2012
WTOP Newsradio 103.5 FM, the top commercial radio station in Washington DC, interviewed CBS’s Dan Raviv, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars. The anchor, Nathan Hager, asked why Iran announced that it arrested dozens of Iranians, accusing them of involvement in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran. Raviv, reporting that Israeli Mossad assassins carried out those attacks, added that Iran’s government is probably trying to distract from its many problems — and take the opportunity to lock up dissidents and others in official disfavor.
The 4-minute radio item can be heard here:
Dan Raviv tells WTOP: “The methodology used… the assassins getting away with it, not caught…without a trace. They wouldn’t use locals for something like that. And the Iranian regime is almost certainly arresting people, in order to cover up: just getting back at dissidents and minority groups that the regime doesn’t like…. As for blaming German, French, and British intelligence, that’s Iran lashing back for the new sanctions, in which Europe is no longer buying Iranian oil. All of this is aimed, of course, at stopping Iran’s nuclear program — a huge priority for Israel, and a big priority for President Obama, too.”
July 8, 2012
A Discount for Readers of IsraelSpy.com
israel spy, covert operations, Dan Raviv, Yossi Melman, Spies Against Armageddon
If you click the Levant Books link under the book cover of Spies Against Armageddon and order the paperback book — just released — there is a $1.00 discount for readers of IsraelSpy.com.
On checkout fill in this discount code: KM5ZHY89.
July 7, 2012
In the July 5 edition of a Paris-based newsletter read by intelligence professionals in many countries, an item in Spies Against Armageddon that resonates with historical irony is featured.
The item, in the subscription-only IntelligenceOnline.com
, says: “Yitzhak Hofi, who headed the Mossad 1974-82, was personally present in France under a fake identity when a Kidon (Bayonet) commando unit destroyed two steel cores destined for Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor… This is one of many revelations in Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars
, by U.S. journalist Dan Raviv and Israeli investigative newsman Yossi Melman (Levant Books, orders on the site www.IsraelSpy.com
“Twenty-two years ago, the journalists wrote a benchmark book on Israeli intelligence named Every Spy a Prince (Houghton Mifflin).”
The mission that destroyed important components that were going to be shipped from France to Iraq in April 1979 is one of many covert operations by the Mossad that created a foundation for what Israeli intelligence continues to do, to enforce a secret Israeli decision to preserve a nuclear monopoly: Israel may have its unacknowledged nuclear arsenal, but it will not permit anyone else in the Middle East — certainly not a hostile nation — to have nuclear weapons.
July 5, 2012
In a series of interviews about Spies Against Armageddon, Charles Grodin questions the book’s co-author Dan Raviv about the history of Israeli intelligence. In a brief way, it is Chuck Grodin’s return to interviewing.
Grodin — perhaps best known as an actor who starred in the hit movies Midnight Run (with Robert De Niro), The Heartbreak Kid (with Cybil Shepherd) and two Beethoven films (with a St Bernard dog) – had a nightly talk show on CNBC in the mid-1990s. He is a radio commentator, the author of several best-selling books, and an activist for prison reform and other issues.
#1. In the first of their four chats about Israeli intelligence, Charles Grodin asked Dan Raviv whether he – and his co-author Yossi Melman – endanger Israel in any way by writing a book about the Mossad and the other Israeli security agencies. (runs 2:54)
#2. In the second of their four chats about Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, the book’s co-author Dan Raviv and interviewer Charles Grodin turn back to the late 1970s, when Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat broke every conceivable taboo by visiting Israel and launching peace negotiations. Dan covered the peace talks for CBS News. This conversation underlines America’s important role in helping Israel achieve peace with Egypt and, later, with Jordan. (runs 2:20)
#3. In the third of their four conversations about Israel’s security agencies, Charles Grodin asks Dan Raviv – co-author of Spies Against Armageddon – about Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear arsenal. Why does Israel have nuclear weapons? They discuss Israel’s intention of maintaining not only nuclear ambiguity, but also nuclear monopoly – not letting Iran or Syria develop the world’s most dangerous weapons. (runs 3:35)
#4. In their fourth chat about Israeli intelligence, interviewer Charles Grodin asks Dan Raviv – co-author of Spies Against Armageddon – about the Mossad’s reaction to the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Did Steven Spielberg get it wrong, in his movie, “Munich”? Chuck Grodin also asks whether Israel totally trusts the United States, in the spirit of Barack Obama’s statement this year, “I’ve got Israel’s back!” (runs 2:57)
July 1, 2012
By Dan Raviv
Michael Adler, longtime journalist in Europe who covered the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for years, has just scored a scoop in Moscow. He’s gotten a lot of inside information from Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov, about the latest talks about Iran’s nuclear program: Iran on one side of the table, the United Nations “Permanent 5″ plus Germany on the other.
In his latest article
, Adler confirms that the latest round in Moscow was a failure. The Russian diplomat says Iran has to have its negotiation—suggesting cultural stereotypes of the bazaar merchants who can’t be happy without haggling. Thus one cannot expect Iran to accept, all at once, a “confidence-building measure” or a packaged solution suggested by others.
Ryabkov also mentions to Adler that American officials are “not particulary optimistic about all this.” That assessment may add weight to our feeling — not quite a prediction, but a possible outcome — that the United States (not Israel) may be the one to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities one day. In the meantime, sabotage by the U.S. and Israel almost surely continues.
June 27, 2012