The Obama Administration has expressed concern about the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s regime against rebels and civilians, but the United States is not believed to have done anything in response.
Israel, on the other hand, is sending a strong message that it is watching — carefully keeping an eye on everything going on in the chaos of Syria’s civil war — and Israel won’t tolerate the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, in Lebanon, that would strengthen the Lebanese Shi’ites in future clashes with Israel.
One thing you can’t hide — even in the Middle East, a region full of secrets — is a series of loud bomb explosions on a mountain overlooking the capital of an Arab country.
Thus we have the impressively large fires — and the occasional large blast — on Jebel (Mount) Qassioun, which overlooks the Syrian capital. For decades, its slopes have been known as a place to relax at airy cafes and restaurants. But during the civil year that has raged for over 27 months, the Syrian military is believed to have stationed more elite troops on the mountain. It also has broadcasting towers for state-run TV and radio.
According to reports quoting Syrian TV, Israeli missiles struck — but this is apparently referring to another location in the Damascus suburbs where a military research center is located. That center was bombed in February, in an aerial strike which Israel has not officially confirmed. Syrians say that Israel is attacking from a distance, without sending planes into Syrian airspace. That assertion could not be confirmed with Israeli official sources.
Israel has not formally confirmed it struck any targets in Syria — not early Sunday morning, and not on Friday morning — but sources did say that President Bashar al-Assad’s military was again planning to transfer “game-changing” powerful offensive missiles to the Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon — so Israel decided that it had to stop that.
Is Israel intervening in the civil war — trying to help rebels topple the Assad government? That seems doubtful, as Israel politicians and intelligence analysts have not settled on any particular rebel faction which they like. But Syrian TV said the attacks by Israel prove that the “terrorists” (the rebels) are agents of Israel.
There was not a word of criticism from the Obama Administration, which for days has faced the issue of striking somehow at the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons against rebels and civilians. Israel’s leaders recently said that they are highly concerned about the possibility that Syria’s chemical weapons are out of their locked arsenals and, as one official put it, “on the move.”
On Thursday, shortly before the targets in Syria were struck, Netanyahu is known to have had a long, strategic discussion with the ministers in his “security cabinet.” Several of them have thin experience with national security affairs, as they had no government experience until joining the coalition formed after this past January’s election.
Visiting Costa Rica, President Obama — continuing his solidly pro-Israel tone since his visit to Israel in March — told an interviewer: ”What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria. They are very close to Lebanon.”
Dan Raviv, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, was questioned about Mossad methods — going back sixty years, and right up to the crises of today, such as Iran — on the CBS News overnight TV show, “Up To The Minute.”
The host is Terrell Brown. He and Dan chatted for 5 minutes.
The spot is part of continuing coverage of the book, including interviews by Charlie Rose on CBS and Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
Dan Raviv, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, was invited to join a panel of experts at the Potomac Institute in the Washington, DC, area on Wednesday. An audience that included current and former security officers, retired heads of State Department counter-terrorism, and journalists heard presentations — including Raviv’s.
Raviv put together a list of basics that almost surely would be included in any Israeli advice to security planners at the Summer Olympic Games getting underway this weekend in London:
What’s the Israeli role in Olympic security?
Israeli experts are often consulted, because Israelis have acquired a lot of experience. Sadly, that’s because Israelis have frequently been attacked by terrorists. Also, Israel’s security and espionage agencies have developed strong counter-terrorism strategies.
Most dramatically and sadly, of course, is the fact that 40 years ago — at the Summer Olympics in Munich — 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists. (The terrorists called themselves Black September, but that was really just a disguise for Yasser Arafat’s P.L.O.)
What would Israel’s advice of expertise be?
There are the basics: Observe people arriving in the UK at ports and airports. Be alert for anything unusual, anything amiss.
Observe the crowds arriving at Olympic venues.
(It is not fashionable to admit, but Israel does use “profiling” : where people who look like Middle East terrorists might be subject to more interrogation or surveillance — but above all what the Israelis are looking for is someone acting in a suspicious way. They are “profiling” people’s actions : their travel patterns, for instance, and whether they seem evasive when answering a few simple questions. That’s why security guards at Israel’s airports — and before you board any flight to Israel — do question every passenger.)
Prepare good perimeter security, including CCTV and other observation systems. Have armed officers in the crowds, many of the officers in plainclothes.
Be aware of how to “shoot back.” Carefully choose your weapons, and have well-trained officers who know to shoot accurately.
Have a plan for crowd control, in case something terrible does happen.
Have a place prepared to bring any criminals or terrorists: every Olympic venue ought to have a place prepared as a jail or brig, to hold someone until the police can take them away to more secure locations.
Does Israel expect an attack at the London Olympics? Do you?
One of the Sunday newspapers had a big headline saying there’s a danger of an attack by Iranians or the Hezbollah radicals from Lebanon who are financed by Iran. That report said Israelis could be the targets.
But I don’t think Iran or Hezbollah have any strong reason to carry-out an attack on the Olympics. Hezbollah would prefer to hit a “softer” target — without so much security. They also prefer to be somewhere with a lot less police and military presence: thus leaving what experts call “a low signature,” trying — as in the suicide bombing in Bulgaria this month that killed 5 Israelis and a local bus driver — to leave very few clues.
I’m afraid that Hezbollah and Iran probably will keep trying to attack Israeli targets, and those usually would be civilians. Attacks were foiled recently in Thailand, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and even in Bulgaria early this year. That was a result of good intelligence — Israel’s “Mossad” working with the C.I.A. and other Western agencies.
But intelligence agencies cannot be perfect. They cannot pretend to be a kind of “insurance company” protecting every tourist who travels in the world.
Israel is determined to use covert action to stop — or slow down — Iran’s nuclear program. So a pattern of tit-for-tat violence may well continue.
But I don’t expect it to happen at the Olympics.
The danger, in London, is more likely from a lone wolf. Think, for instance, about the attacker in the cinema in Colorado last week (who killed 12 people). At the Olympic venues themselves, of course, we don’t expect anyone to approach with heavy guns and body armor.
But authorities, during a high-profile time in London, should keep their eyes open — everywhere in the British capital, and perhaps everywhere in Europe.
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:
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.”
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.
#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)
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.)
There’s no country like Israel. Its population is only around 6 million, yet Israel is in the headlines all the time.
And there’s nothing like Israeli intelligence. Soon after independence in 1948, the leaders decided that they needed the best intelligence — feeling they were surrounded by enemies. The Mossad is famous, as the agency for foreign operations. But the largest agency is Aman, the military intelligence, which has a long record planting Israeli agents in enemy nations. The Israelis are innovative, and some might say they’re almost desperate — with a sense of having their backs against the wall. Have they managed to penetrate Iran, so they can carry out sabotage and assassinations? That’s part of the history of Israeli intelligence.
What’s new and different about Spies Against Armageddon? This is the first book that describes the entirety of Israel’s intelligence community, from the founding of the state in 1948 to today’s crisis with Iran. The book tries to clear up a misconception: that Israel’s intelligence community is simply the Mossad. The Mossad is only one of six agencies. The truth is that the Mossad is not the largest and most important. The most significant one is Aman – the Hebrew acronym for military intelligence.
In this video, Yossi Melman, award-winning co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, explains from Tel Aviv.
How can Israeli covert operations be so effective? Why is Mossad the controversial gold standard for intelligence? In this video, CBS News Correspondent Dan Raviv–the co-author of “Spies Against Armageddon,” set for publication in July 2012, explains there is a potent weapon enjoyed by Israel: the fact that people come to Israel from all over the world, including Arab countries, giving Israel a greater understanding of those who would destroy them.