Why Would Friendly Nations Spy on Each Other? (Think U.S., Israel) — To Check on Assurances Such as These on the Iran Nuclear Talks

Why do all nations — even friendly countries — spy on each other?  Sometimes it’s to check on the veracity of public declarations.

Here’s a very current example: The Obama Administration declares that it won’t let Iran develop nuclear weapons, and it agrees with Israel that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

We’re not reporting — not here and now — that America’s NSA is listening in to the personal cellphones of Israeli leaders.  And it is only the stuff of rumors that tiny Israel is using its mammoth electronic capabilities to monitor all sorts of secret circuits in Washington.

Wendy Sherman on Israel's Channel 10 (from TimesOfIsrael.com)

Wendy Sherman on Israel’s Channel 10 (from TimesOfIsrael.com)

But, as NSA officials and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have said recently: Assessing “leadership intentions” in foreign countries (whether allies or foes) has always been a significant part of routine espionage.

The kinds of statements that Israel would love to know more about include the latest — on Israeli TV — by Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs who’s been in charge of America’s team in the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

(Here is what the Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote about it.)  (Here is the Times of Israel version of the story.)

Sherman said, on Israel’s Channel 10, “Israel’s security is bedrock,” when the United States weighs how much to offer to Iran in exchange for a verifiable freeze — and vigorous inspections — of its nuclear program.

Yet she also hinted that some sanctions that were imposed on Iran might be eased soon — despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated call on the U.S. and the other 5 nations on America’s side of the table not to ease sanctions until Iran definitely stops enriching uranium.

Sherman indicated that if any restrictions on Iranian trade or travel are lifted, those concessions could easily be taken back.

As she told Channel 10: America and its partners might “offer limited, temporary reversible sanctions relief, but keep in place the fundamental architecture of oil and banking sanctions.”

The State Department official also said that Netanyahu joins America in believing that a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis would be best — because Israel, more than anyone else, would face potentially painful consequences of military action.

The Mossad, aided by the technological capabilities of the larger Aman (Military Intelligence) agency in Israel, would surely love to know with precision how Barack Obama feels about those life-or-death issues.

November 3, 2013

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