Netanyahu Setting Elections – What Did He Really Mean at the U.N.?

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu announced that he will call early elections – “as quickly as possible” – way ahead of the scheduled end of the current parliamentary term in October 2013.  Israeli political commentators believe that the parliament, the Knesset, will dissolve itself as elections are set for sometime in January.

On TV and radio, the official reason given by Netanyahu was the failure of his coalition to agree on a national budget.  Our recent article in Newsday (the daily newspaper based on Long Island, New York) suggested that he wants to solidify his majority – so that he can claim the mandate to make fateful decisions, such as perhaps attacking Iran to disrupt or stop its nuclear program.

The URL for the article, which appeared in Sunday’s newspaper, is: http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/opinion-is-israel-still-bluffing-about-attacking-iran-1.4078992

Here is the text of the article:

Opinion: Is Israel still bluffing about attacking Iran?

By YOSSI MELMAN AND DAN RAVIV

When Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, used a red marker to draw a line at the United Nations in New York recently, the world thought it was seeing a warning of possible war against Iran — if that country enriches uranium beyond that red level to weapons-grade.

Now that the prime minister has returned home, it turns out that his message was also part of Israel’s domestic politics. Netanyahu is almost certainly going to reap the dividends of his carefully worded, expertly delivered speech by calling early parliamentary elections. Political sources expect that this coming February, he will consolidate his ruling coalition and win a fresh four-year mandate — just in time for fateful decisions concerning Iran and relations with the United States.

In some ways, his UN speech and his controversial use of a cartoon bomb to represent Iran’s nuclear program can be seen as a white flag of surrender. His new timetable suggests Iran will amass enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb by spring or summer of 2013, and that is a tacit confirmation that he has been bluffing.

The leader, nicknamed Bibi, and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, were thundering for years that they might have to attack Iran at any moment — because soon it would be too late. Many world leaders believed them and prepared for the worst-case scenario. The French embassy in Tel Aviv, for example, prepared a contingency plan to evacuate tens of thousands of French-Israeli citizens this past summer in case of a war. We found ourselves among a very small group of analysts who tried to explain that the B&B duo — Bibi and Barak — were bluffing and had no intention of ordering the Israeli air force to bomb Iran; certainly not this year.

Netanyahu’s new timetable is a tacit surrender to the Obama administration’s view that no military strike is necessary right now. B&B thus revealed that they were merely rattling sabers, with no intention of using them against Iran.

They might feel compelled to engage in some more bluffing in 2013, but the expected election campaign in Israel has already injected a measure of discord between Netanyahu and Barak, who leads his own small political party. Barak clings to the slim chance of winning a substantial number of seats in the Knesset.

Yet the big winner in the voting is far more likely to be Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party. His warnings of war have frightened many Israelis, but one result is that more of them will vote for an apparently strong leader at a time of unprecedented insecurity.

As for delaying any likelihood of a military strike against Iran for another two or three seasons, some of Netanyahu’s cabinet ministers are highlighting their optimistic view that “Tahrir Square-type” protests are starting to break out in Iranian cities. Perhaps there is some validity in their hope that Iran’s government will feel extremely hard-pressed to have damaging sanctions lifted, so it will make a deal to freeze or reverse its nuclear work.

Israel’s “red line,” where the risk of triggering a regional war might be deemed necessary, was clarified by the prime minister’s speech. Saying that he was relying on published reports by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Netanyahu said that if the Iranians continue with their steady pace of uranium enrichment, then within six to eight months they will have 250 kilograms of 20 percent, or “medium-enriched,” uranium. If this amount is further strengthened to 93 percent, it will yield enough highly enriched material for one nuclear bomb.

At least it is clear, now, that Israel is insisting that Iran be stopped before it produces 250 kilograms of the medium-enriched uranium. Netanyahu noted the American position that intelligence agencies would be able to detect a quick rush by Iran to high enrichment and assembling a bomb. Yet the Israeli leader suggested it would be too dangerous to rely on spies to give sufficient warning.

Friction with the Obama administration thus persists. The American president has devoted as much energy to restraining Israel as he has to stopping the Iranians. Relations with Washington may also suffer because of the widespread perception that Netanyahu would prefer that his old friend Mitt Romney win the White House.

Yet as long as Obama is determined that Iran not become a nuclear power, he and Netanyahu will probably find that they can get more done by working together. The United States and Israel have already cooperated — more than ever, according to officials on both sides — in covert projects aimed at slowing Iran’s nuclear progress. Sources told us that the Stuxnet computer virus, which caused havoc in one Iranian enrichment facility, was a product of such secret cooperation.

The Israeli prime minister can point to even broader benefits from his saber rattling. The world is paying far more attention to Iran’s nuclear program. Negotiations with Iran may again be attempted, and Netanyahu will be pleased if harsh sanctions hurting the Iranian economy are further tightened.

In 2013, we expect that Netanyahu will deploy his Cicero-like rhetorical talents to keep suggesting that war is inevitable — a sequel to the B&B bluff. He appears to hope that the United States and other countries will be convinced that if Israel is about to attack Iran, they might as well join in to make a more effective job of it.

If Netanyahu does win the election he is now expected to call this winter, there are more impacts for the Middle EastBarack Obama, if he is re-elected, may be tempted to relaunch American efforts aimed at Israeli-Palestinian peace. Mitt Romney indicated, elsewhere in the surreptitiously recorded “47 percent” talk, that he feels little or no hope for progress on that front. Either way, a politically strengthened Netanyahu would be in no mood to bow to American pleas for concessions. He would continue to point to Iran as the top priority; and, along with the dangerous unknowns of pro-democracy upheavals in the Arab world, he would reject taking risks by rushing toward a rickety agreement with the Palestinians.

What’s the true Netanyahu plan for dealing with Iran? Sabotage and covert action apparently continue. Sanctions may trigger unrest inside Iran. And, it is and has always been Israel’s hope that the United States will be the one to lead a military strike, if necessary, to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program.

Yossi Melman, a Tel Aviv-based journalist and analyst specializing in intelligence, and Dan Raviv, a CBS News correspondent in Washington, are co-authors of “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars.” They blog at IsraelSpy.com.

October 9, 2012

Five-Star Reviews From Amazon Buyers Of ‘Spies Against Armageddon’

Readers who have bought Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars occasionally post reviews at Amazon.com, and so far all 11 are rating the book 5 stars out of a maximum 5.   Here is a sampling of the latest:

Spies Against Armageddon, Israel spy, covert operations, stuxnet, kidon, mossad5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, Thrilling, Thought-Provoking, August 4, 2012

By Larry Constantine “AKA Lior Samson”

Raviv and Melman’s Spies Against Armageddon is not the first history of Mossad and the Israeli clandestine services, but it is far and away the best and most readable. By dumping strict chronology while sticking to history, Raviv and Melman tell a more engaging and exciting story that makes it easier for readers to connect the dots and make sense of who and what are connected in a complex narrative. Written in a highly readable but disciplined style, this book is both a comprehensive resource and a thrilling read. Much of the story has been told before, but even familiar capers are enriched by insider insights and fresh details that bring the politics and practice of secret operations alive. Of particular note are up-to-the-minute disclosures, including confirmation of the German BND involvement in the cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz. The authors go beyond mere recounting of facts to delve into the reasons and intentions behind operations. Their treatment of all sides of the issues and all players is impressively well-balanced. Triumphs and screw-ups are presented with equal candor. Theirs is neither a knee-jerk defense of Israel’s positions and actions nor an unduly critical attack. As a writer of thrillers about clandestine operations, I wish I had the benefit of this remarkably rich source earlier. Highly recommended for absolutely anyone interested in the Middle East or in the role of clandestine ops in the modern world–which should mean just about everyone.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book!, August 6, 2012

By daniel michael

An absolutely incredible book. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Israeli history and/or espionage in general. Very well researched and filled with great stories. Although this book is non-fiction, it is written in a very entertaining narrative that will surely keep you interested. Despite the book being over 350 pages, it goes by very quickly (I read it in a weekend). The book is split up into chapters, all covering different themes and periods of history; it makes it very easy to stay focussed and aware of everything going on.

As someone already familiar with the history of the Mossad, this book contained tons of stuff I had never heard about before. Regardless of your familiarity with the various Israel intelligence services, the book is sure to contain new information for you. Although I suspect that this book will more popular with zionists, it really is accessible and made for everyone. No bias – no hidden agenda – just the history of the Mossad (or atleast what has been accessible to the outside world).

Reading this book makes me curious about all the other stuff that goes on that the public has no idea about.

 

August 13, 2012

Expert on Stuxnet, Cyberwarfare Aimed at Industry, Points Out Links to German Firm in ‘Spies Against Armageddon’

There is a burgeoning industry in trying to trace the beginnings of a new phenomenon in international conflict: cyberwarfare.  Ralph Langner, a German expert in security for industrial systems, has an active blog that discusses a broad range of intriguing clues: Who launched the first significant attack on a foreign country’s mechanized control systems, and how did they do it?  Here’s what Langner writes:

spies against armageddonIn a new book titled Spies against ArmageddonDan Raviv and Yossi Melman report some previously unknown details about Operation Olympic Games. The authors support David Sanger’s reporting that Siemens built the complex instrumentation and control systems in Natanz (and, as an aside, also acknowledge the role of INL in Stuxnet’s development). However, different from Confront and Conceal, Raviv and Melman report that Siemens cooperated with Israel and the US in the development of the worm in an arrangement facilitated by the German BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst). Quote: “The directors of Siemens may have felt pangs of conscience, or were simply reacting to public pressure, as newspapers pointed out that it was Iran’s largest trading partner in Germany.” (Page 10)

If Raviv and Melman are correct, it would support our hypothesis from Oct 7, 2010 that the United States and Israel didn’t act alone but with the help of a Third Man – with German nationality. It’s not very difficult to imagine that the German government might have given the Munich-based corporation some incentive and legal immunity for helping to cripple the very same systems that they reportedly had installed and maintained for the Islamic Republic. For decades, Siemens enjoyed an intimate relationship with the BND simply because of their telecommunications business. A conscious involvement in the operation could also explain the bizarre tidbit that back in August 2010, Siemens’ top management gave direct order to the company’s own CERT to stop analyzing Stuxnet.

As a side note, the fact that considerable detail on this operation of historical proportions was leaked can now be explained easier by keeping in mind how many different organizations were involved: Pentagon, NSA, CIA, US Department of Energy (INL, ORNL), HaMossad, Aman (Israel Defence Force Intelligence Service), BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst), plus employees of a private company (Siemens). Our earlier estimate that around fifty people would have been involved now appears like a gross miscalculation.

Credits to Larry Constantine for pointing out Spies against Armageddon.

August 4, 2012

Yossi Melman on ‘London And Kirschenbaum,’ A Top Israeli Talk Show

Yossi Melman, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, has been discussing the book and its revelations in the Israeli media, where he is well-known from his years with the Haaretz newspaper and now with the website Walla.co.il.

On a recent episode of one of Israeli TV’s top talk shows — London and Kirschenbaum – Melman was talking about the Hebrew-language edition of the new book, Milkhamot ha-Tzlalim (which means “The Shadow Wars”). Moti Kirschenbaum is pictured above.

To watch the talk show (in Hebrew), please note Yossi Melman is interviewed starting in the 38th minute of the 49-minute program: 

Click here to watch video.

July 24, 2012

Spies Against Armageddon: a White House Must-Read?

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.

spies against armageddon, jefferson flanders, dan raviv, yossi melmanThe 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’ 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

‘Spies Against Armageddon,’ In Hebrew, Comes To Israel’s Bookstores

Spies Against Armageddon, the new history of Israel’s intelligence community published in English on July 9, is about to be available in Hebrew.

Spies Against Armageddon, Hebrew, Yossi Melman, Dan RavivYediot 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

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

The Guardian Highlights Revelations and New Approaches in ‘Spies’

This article  is by Julian Borger, the diplomatic editor of the British newspaper, The Guardian.  He runs a Global Security Blog, and this was posted on July 11, 2012 after Mr. Borger purchased Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars from Amazon.co.uk for his Kindle::

mossad, israel spy, spies against armageddon, covert operations, Iran nuclearThe series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists since 2010 has long been believed to be the work of the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, but most of the speculation over the issue suggested that the Israelis sub-contracted the dirty work to Iranian rebel groups like the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) or Jundullah.

A new book by respected Israeli and American journalists called Spies Against Armageddon says the Mossad would never have farmed out the job to outsiders. The killings of the four scientists and the attempted murder of a fifth, were “blue and white” operations, the Mossad parlance for Israeli.

[F]or such a sensitive, dangerous, and daring mission as a series assassinations in Iran‘s capital, the Mossad would not depend on hired-guns mercenaries. They would be considered far less trustworthy, and there was hardly any chance that the Mossad would reveal to non-Israelis some of its assassination unit’s best methods.

The Mossad unit carrying out the assassinations is called Kidon, or Bayonet, which was infiltrated into the country by various routes

The Mossad also enjoyed fairly safe passage in and out of Iran by going through nations where the security services were cooperative – including the Kurdish autonomous zone of northern Iraq…Obviously, Israeli operatives travelled using the passports of other countries, including both bogus and genuine documents. …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 authors, Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv, also have more detail than I have seen anywhere else on Mossad efforts to smear Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It fed suggestions he was in the Iranians’ pocket to the Mubarak regime, to little effect, so it dreamed up other dirty tricks.

One such plan was to penetrate his bank account and deposit money there that he would not be able to explain. The psychological warfare department then would spread rumours to journalists that ElBaradei was receiving bribes from Iranian agents. In the end, that did not occur.

These assertions, like most of the claims in the book, are not backed up by quotes, even anonymous ones, or by any other kinds of references. The style of the book is to state such things as facts and we have to take it or leave it. Raviv refers to the style, also used by Bob Woodward, as ‘synthesis’. The grounds for the claims are largely the reputations of the authors. Melman, in particular, is a doyen of Israeli national security experts, until recently on the liberal Ha’aretz newspaper, and is widely respected. My guess from reading it that the former Mossad boss, Meir Dagan, is a primary source.

Still, there are a lot of blurry edges in the book. It implies that the blast in a missile base near Tehran in December 2011 which killed the godfather of the Iranian programme, Major General Hassan Moghadam, was the work of Mossad, but Melman conceded this was purely supposition. There are also a lot of references to Iranian weaponisation work in the present tense, though all the evidence presented points to past activity.

Just as interesting as the claims about Mossad’s activities in Iran is the way the authors refer to Israel‘s own nuclear programme. Under Israel’s policy of ambiguity, Israeli journalists are not supposed to confirm the existence of the arsenal, and every time they refer to it they have to add a formulaic phrase like ‘according to foreign reports’ or some such. In ‘Spies Against Armageddon’, there is some token effort at euphemism. For example, in the following section, the word ‘potential’ stands in for ‘bombs':

Generating electricity without relying on imported coal and oil could be valuable, but developing a nuclear potential was even more important: It would make Israel an unrivalled force in the Middle East. It could be the ultimate guarantee of the Jewish state’s continued existence.

But in the following passages, the taboo is tosed out altogether:

Implicit in Ben-Gurion’s vision was an Israeli monopoly. Wherever and whenever deemed necessary, Israel would do what was necessary to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East. That unique and unspoken mission would be at the core of crises more than half a century later..

Most of the prime minister’s scientific advisers also feared that Israel could trigger a dangerous nuclear arms race. They loved research, but not weaponry. Seven of the eight IAEC members resigned in protest in late 1957.

Avner Cohen, author of The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb drove a large bulldozer through the policy of deliberate ambiguity, or amimut, and Spies Against Armageddon appear to have benefited from the lighter censorship.

Raviv said that the entire text was submitted to the Israeli military censor and approved with only very minor amendments. I understand, however, that in the Hebrew version of the book, the usual formula of ‘according to foreign sources’ will be reintroduced.

From the outside it seems a bizarre and arbitrary practice, but the government shows no signs of abandoning it. A former deputy Mossad chief, Ilan Mizrahi, was in London yesterday and I asked him about it. He said: “Yes I think amimut is corroding, but I still think it is a good policy.”

July 12, 2012

Veteran Reuters Correspondent in Middle East Gives Rave 5-Star Review to Spies Against Armageddon

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.

 He gives the book 5 stars out of a maximum 5 and writes:
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.

July 11, 2012

Advance Praise For ‘Spies Against Armageddon’ by Dan Raviv And Yossi Melman


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

Spies Against Armageddon often reads like a thriller, but it’s non-fiction. These two world-class journalists take us to places we’ve never been before…. I learned so much reading this book.  I know you will, as well.”

            – Wolf Blitzer, CNN Anchor
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bob schieffer, israel spy, spies against armageddon, iran nuclear“Wonderful.  Great sourcing, and it reads like a thriller.”

          — Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s Face the Nation

james woolsey, israel spy, spies against armageddon, covert operations“Raviv and Melman have redefined the gold standard for nonfiction about intelligence.”

          — James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence
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“Buyer beware: Once you crack the cover of Spies Against Armageddon, you won’t be able to put it down.”

         — Daniel Silva, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fallen Angel
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“The revelatory research amassed in SPIES AGAINST ARMAGEDDON is nothing short of stunning…. Highly recommended!”

         – Douglas Brinkley, historian, author of Cronkite
July 11, 2012

“Spies Against Armageddon” Revelations Spark Global Coverage

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:

Spies Against Armageddon

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

Who has really been killing those Iranian scientists?
Salon (blog)
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 
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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
Just International
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
Eurasia Review
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 
GlobalPost
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

Raviv Interviews About ‘Spies’ On WCBS News Radio In New York

CBS News correspondent Dan Raviv—co-author, with Yossi Melman, of the new book Spies Against Armageddonsat down for an interview with Steve Scott about Israeli covert operations, Iran’s nuclear capabilities, cyberwar, Stuxnet, and other pressing subjects covered in the book.

dan raviv, spies against armageddon, covert operations, israel historyClick here for the complete interview.

Click here to buy the book.

July 9, 2012

Charles Grodin Returns To Interviewing: Quizzing Dan Raviv On Israeli Espionage, Middle East

In a series of interviews about Spies Against ArmageddonCharles 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.


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#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)

PLAY VIDEO

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#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)

PLAY VIDEO

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#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)

PLAY VIDEO

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#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)

PLAY VIDEO

 

July 1, 2012

Friends In Deed: Will Israel, U.S. Be Tested By Iran Nuclear Crisis?

by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman

We’re only ten days away from publication of our new book, Spies Against Armageddon — a fresh, vibrant, and up-to-date history of Israel’s espionage and security agencies. How does the Mossad work its apparent magic?  What about Aman, the even larger military intelligence agency?  And do they have operatives — Israelis willing to take the amazing risks — going in and out of enemy countries, including Iran, almost at will?
Friends In Deed, Iran Nuclear, Yossi Melman, Dan RavivThose questions, and many others, are covered in Spies Against Armageddon.    And, here’s an early note: Please watch CBS This Morning — on CBS TV from 7:00 a.m. on Monday, July 9th, when the book will be featured — one of us chatting with Charlie Rose, Erica Hill, and Gayle King.But here’s a word about our Friends In Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance 1948-1994 – a new e-book that’s just hit the e-book selling sites, such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook

We hope you’ll find the price is right at $2.99, for a big book full of characters who constructed the amazing and unexpected alliance.  To quote ourselves:

 

As is said of ancient Rome, the alliance between the United States and Israel was not built in a day.

Indeed, there was no guarantee that this unique partnership would ever be built at all. It pairs two countries that are separated not only by five-thousand miles of land and sea but by other obvious disparities. One nation is a giant superpower in the Western Hemisphere and the other, a tiny country in the Middle East. One has a quarter-billion people, while the other just celebrated reaching the 5 million mark. One extends from ocean to ocean, but the other could be contained in the State of New Jersey. The United States is rich in resources, while Israel has managed to make do with little. They have vastly different historical memories, which have led them down contrasting courses of experience and behavior.

Presented with these building blocks, it would have seemed difficult to imagine combining them into a partnership. Yet the relationship between the United States and Israel has come to be one of the strongest, if strangest, in history. It cannot be explained by one single event, personality, or motive. Rather it is the product of unexpected occurrences and dramatic coincidences forming a foundation on which dreamers, leaders, and ordinary people have added their intentional deeds.

Books on U.S.-Israel relations have fallen into three broad categories: historical accounts that chart the chronological progress, mainly dwelling on diplomatic developments; texts that narrowly focus on a single aspect of the relationship, such as the Jewish factor or strategic cooperation; and descriptions riddled with bias that search for evil motives and conspiracies.

 

Ours is an effort to explain the multilayered, patchwork-quilt nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship in a balanced and clear-sighted fashion. We try to tell the story in its chronological progression, particularly in Chapters 2 through 13. In the more recent period, powerful themes became apparent, so that Chapters 14 through 22 take a thematic approach to history. To avoid interrupting the narrative, we occasionally place relevant material, including letters from presidents, in the notes.

 

The major events, including the early days of American interest in the Middle East, are included as guideposts and turning points. So are the key components of the alliance: the common Judeo-Christian heritage, Christian fascination with the Holy Land, guilt and sympathy over the Nazi Holocaust, strategic motives, and democratic values—in addition to domestic politics, for while only two or three of every one hundred Americans are Jewish, their influence is greater than their numbers would suggest.

 

But even these explanations are insufficient. The alliance is more than the sum total of events and components. There are traits to be identified and patterns to be deciphered, connections to be exposed and new stories to be told.

 

All these, however, cannot be isolated from the people involved. Some famous but others unrecognized, they have contributed their efforts and ideas to constructing the alliance—at times according to a blueprint, at others improvised through personal initiative.

 

This is not a Hollywood romance or a fairy tale. The relationship has had its moments of happiness, but it contains anger and sadness as well. Sentiments have often clashed with hard interests. The basic trust has been colored by a measure of misunderstanding and suspicion, and as in some families there also have been scandals.

 

One important aspect of the friendship cannot be ignored: The United States has many allies, and Israel has only one. Israel is quite important to a few Americans, but of only occasional interest to most. To all Israelis, on the other hand, the United States is extremely important.

 

The alliance that has resulted from these unique circumstances is a broad relationship, extending from international politics to military affairs, from intelligence cooperation to financial ties, from showbusiness to Jewish learning to Christian pilgrimages.

June 30, 2012

Where To Find ‘Spies Against Armageddon’ By Dan Raviv And Yossi Melman

By Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman

We’re thrilled to have received some questions at SpiesArmageddon@gmail.com and through Twitter where we are @SpiesArmageddon—including folks asking where the book can be ordered.  Well, official publication date is July 9, 2012, so no one’s supposed to have our book until then.  But it can be ordered now!
Spies Against Armageddon

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

In the new world of publishing, including websites that have truly transformed the books industry, the roll-out of a new product is not perfectly predictable.  But, to let you in on the process, here is the state of play.

First, we don’t mind sharing with you the decision by Levant Books, and we agree, to dispense with the expensive hardcover book stage.  We believe there are some urgent issues and revelations in our book, and we wanted to make it available as widely, affordably, and quickly as we could.  So Spies Against Armageddon will be a paperback right away—and an ebook, in all the various forms of ebooks.

 

At Amazon.com the paperback of Spies Against Armageddon can now be pre-ordered, for delivery on the publication date: http://amzn.to/MyVmTQ

 

We expect that the ebook version for Kindle will also be at Amazon, any day now.

 

At BN.com our book is now available as an ebook for the Nook, and we hope you will find $7.55 to be an attractive price: http://bit.ly/MsYwqY .

 

An interesting ebook site called eBookPie.com has our book, readable on most any computer or smartphone, at: http://bit.ly/LqInPn

 

You will also see there our previous book, about U.S.-Israel relations, called Friends In Deed.

 

Another ebook site we can recommend is Kobo, which has a strong following in Europe.  Our books are at:  http://bit.ly/Opocrf

 

Thank you for your interest, and as authors we are finding the new world of publishing quite interesting.  We hope you’ll see us in the media, discussing Israeli espionage, the West’s confrontation with Iran’s nuclear program, and other Middle East issues, starting around July 9.
June 27, 2012

VIDEO: Time Is Right For Book On Israel Covert Operations

Why is this a good time to publish (and read) Spies Against Armageddon?   The world is now facing a major challenge: Iran’s effort to become nuclear.  Israeli intelligence, together with other Western agencies including the CIA and MI6, are trying to delay Iran’s efforts.

This book provides insight and information on how the world is coping with this issue by covert action.  There is also diplomatic action, and the imposition of economic sanctions.  Behind the scenes, there are secret operations, and the Israelis in the Mossad and Aman are playing a major role in them.  (Yossi Melman, award-winning co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, speaks from Tel Aviv.)

June 21, 2012

Spy Museum To Host Program on Israeli Covert Operations, Spies Against Armageddon

One of Washington DC’s most popular tourist attractions — the International Spy Museum  (link: SpyMuseum.org)  — is about to focus on Israel’s unique and innovative intelligence community,
dan raviv, spies against armageddon, every spy a prince, israel spyDan Raviv, the CBS News correspondent–co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars–will be the lecturer at the International Spy Museum for a lunchtime program on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.  Raviv plans to highlight some of the main points in the new book, officially published just the day before his lecture appearance.  He will be taking questions, as well.
One of the highlighted topics will be what he and Yossi Melman have been able to find out, for Spies Against Armageddon. a full twenty-two years after their history of Israel’s intelligence community, Every Spy a Prince, became a national best seller for four months.
Raviv will be taking questions from the audience at the Spy Museum, and for those unable to attend — all around the world — video of the program will be posted afterward at SpyMuseum.org and also at IsraelSpy.com.
Tickets to the lecture are free.  The program begins at 12 o’clock noon.
June 16, 2012

Archive: Does It Matter Who Gets Credit For Stuxnet?

From TabletMag.com, October 5, 2010:

By Yossi Melman

A year and a half ago, the German engineering giant Siemens won a contract to supply the Israel Airports Authority with a new conveyor system worth $50 million. The deal raised eyebrows inside and outside Israel. For years, Siemens had been the largest German trade partner with the ayatollahs in Iran, providing them with sophisticated hardware and software for key industrial plants, including oil rigs, gas pipelines, and refineries, to the tune of over one billion euros. Occasionally, it was reported that some of the Siemens equipment and “dual use” components had found their way to Iran’s nuclear installations. Why was the Israeli government allowing one of its state-owned authorities to do business with Siemens?

stuxnet, cyberwar, spies against armageddon israel spyComplaints about the dubious deal were brought to Uzi Arad, the national security adviser who, together with his boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rarely misses an opportunity to sound alarms over the threat of Iran destroying the Jewish state with a second Holocaust. Arad shrugged the situation off, explaining that the matter was neither under his watch nor part of his turf; instead it was for the Ministry of Finance. But that ministry also did nothing.

The Siemens deal was interpreted at the time as a typical Israeli bureaucratic entanglement—or an example of official Israeli hypocrisy. But with the discovery of Stuxnet, the malicious software—a “worm”—that was eating and damaging Iran’s nuclear computers and slowing down at least two key installations (the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and the nuclear reactor at Bushehr), a third possibility suggests itself: a hidden connection between the Israeli intelligence community and a German company that was selling advanced machinery to Israel’s most dangerous adversary.

More Context

The Stuxnet attack on Iran is a new development in the evolution of cyberwarfare

Spy vs. spy intrigue between the CIA and Israel, centered around the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv

Computer experts agree that the Stuxnet worm was created by a powerful, resourceful, and technologically skillful organization—and not by freelance hackers. The worm contaminated Siemens control software that was sold by the company to Iranian civilian projects but somehow found its way into its nuclear sites despite U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The major question is how the creators of Stuxnet did it. There are a few possibilities. One is that the intelligence agency behind the attack recruited a Siemens programmer who sold his secrets for financial gain or for other reasons. Another explanation could be that Siemens, suffering from a degree of liability and guilt—Germans perpetrating a second Holocaust—willingly cooperated with Israeli intelligence, which in return offered Siemens a way out of being implicated if and when the worm was discovered.

This last seems to be the least plausible scenario, since the German corporation admitted that 15 of its customers have been affected—including chemical and power plants and production facilities. Five of the 15 companies affected have their headquarters in Germany, while the others are based in the United States, other Western European countries, and Asia. But even if Siemens itself didn’t cooperate, it’s also possible that the BND—Germany’s foreign espionage agency, which is a strong ally of both the Israeli Mossad and the CIA and is a partner in the battle against Iranian nuclear program—was somehow involved in the operation.

Whatever the facts are, Siemens has invested extensively in Israeli high-tech and industrial companies.

According to computer security experts, the worm managed to penetrate the Siemens software and find its way into Iran via Taiwan. Two and a half years ago, the writers of Stuxnet broke the security protections of two Taiwanese firms and planted the worm on their equipment. One, JMicron, is a small and relatively unknown company. The other, Realtek Semiconductors, is large and fairly well-known in its field. A few months later, both the Mossad and the CIA filed complaints to the Taiwanese government that Iranian agents had penetrated the market and acquired 100 transducers, which were secretly shipped to Tehran. The transducers, an essential component for operating centrifuges in Natanz, were originally manufactured in Europe and then sold to a company in Taiwan, which then sold them to Iran’s defense ministry.

Can it be that the complaints about the transducers were a decoy to divert attention from the original Mossad or CIA break-in via Taiwan? In the dark world of secret intelligence operations, characterized by disinformation and webs of lies, everything is possible.

There could be, however, a simpler version of what happened.

Iran’s intelligence minister said on Saturday that authorities had arrested several “nuclear spies” who were working to derail Tehran’s nuclear program through cyberspace.

Without saying how many people had been arrested or when, Heydar Moslehi, the intelligence minister, was quoted on state television’s website as saying Iran had “prevented the enemies’ destructive activity.” He added that intelligence agents had discovered the “destructive activities of the arrogant (Western powers) in cyberspace, and different ways to confront them have been designed and implemented.” Behind Moslehi’s vague words was the suggestion that the enemies of Iran had planted the worm using the techniques of classical intelligence work: recruiting Iranian agents and providing them with the malicious software.

If indeed Israeli intelligence independently (or in a joint operation with its U.S. counterpart) is behind this unique and unprecedented cyberattack, they will never admit it. These are the rules of the espionage game. You spy, you steal secrets, you bug phone lines, you plant viruses that sabotage, and you even kill, but you never take the responsibility, even if you are caught red-handed. A worldwide search is now under way for clues to the identity of the creators and spreaders of the worm.

Last week the New York Times reported the discovery of the word “Myrtus” in the Stuxnet code, which corresponds to the Hebrew word for the Bible’s Queen Esther. The article noted that the Book of Esther describes “the Jews preempt[ing] a Persian plot to destroy them.” The computer security firm Symantec analyzed another data point about the worm. It found the digits 19790509. This is thought to be an infection marker, which, if set correctly, allows infection to occur. The digits appear to point to the date of May 9, 1979.

While a variety of historical events occurred on May 9, 1979, one of them, according to Wikipedia, is that “Habib Elghanian was executed by a firing squad in Tehran sending shock waves through the closely knit Iranian Jewish community. [Elghanian] was the [president of Tehran’s Jewish society] and the first Jew and one of the first civilians to be executed by [Iran’s post-revolutionary] Islamic government. This prompted the mass exodus of the once 100,000 member strong Jewish community of Iran which continues to this day.”

These explanations have an anecdotal value. When you plan such an operation, you check and recheck and double check each digit and each letter. Israeli and U.S. intelligence are not so sloppy as to leave behind such clumsy fingerprints. If they wanted to engage in a mind game, they would have done it in a more amusing and sophisticated manner.

The evidence pointing to Israel remains circumstantial. Israel is threatened by Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, continues to talk about the need for history to wipe the Jewish state from the face of earth. Israelis fear—rightly or wrongly—that once Iran has nuclear weapons, Israelis might be victims of a nuclear attack. The Israeli government has attempted to mobilize international diplomatic pressure on Iran and utilize friendly intelligence agencies to collect data on Iran’s nuclear program. Since Meir Dagan was appointed as head of Mossad eight years ago and assigned to coordinate Israeli efforts, Iran’s nuclear program has topped Israel’s list of intelligence priorities.

Israel has recruited top agents among the upper echelon of Iran’s nuclear scientists and directors. Alone and together with other international espionage agencies, Israeli intelligence has been trying to sabotage Iranian facilities in order to slow down progress toward a bomb. Iran’s uranium enrichment complex is the prime target for any future Israeli or U.S. military assault. A glimpse into the shadow war against the Iranian nuclear program was provided in the sections of James Risen’s 2006 book State of War, in which he detailed joint Mossad and CIA plans to sabotage the electrical grids leading to Iranian nuclear sites—plans that failed to materialize.

Over the past decade, Mossad and CIA planners successfully set up front and dummy companies all over the world with the aim of gaining the trust of Iranian purchasing networks and then selling them flawed components—a method known in intelligence parlance as “poisoning” enemy systems. So, why not try to “poison” Iranian systems further by planting malicious worms?

Israeli intelligence was one of the first in the world to understand the importance of computers and to apply them for military-intelligence use. Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad agent who specialized in covert operations and served as a chief adviser to several prime ministers, told me that already in the late 1970s he realized the significance of the evolving Internet and the virtual world for intelligence-gathering operations. Since then, Israel’s unit 8200 of the military intelligence branch—the equivalent of the National Security Agency in the United States—has been at the forefront of military efforts into technological attacks. Unit 8200 pioneered sigint (signals intelligence—listening to, intercepting, and deciphering enemy communication lines), elint (electronic intelligence), visint (visual intelligence—the collection of data and imagery from satellites and reconnaissance flights), and, in the last decade, netint.

Netint is the art of using cyberspace for intelligence purposes: You engage and try to recruit enemy agents by emails and chat rooms, send coded messages, “poison” computers. A few months ago, General Amos Yadlin, the commander of Israeli Military Intelligence, gave a public lecture at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. His topic was the changing nature of intelligence in the 21st century. The virtual world, he said, is important to the daily work of intelligence in two ways: defending one’s secrets and assaulting the enemy. His lecture was delivered long before the world learned about Stuxnet.

 

 

June 14, 2012


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