A trove of leaked secret intelligence documents has revealed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 claim that Iran was a year away from building a nuclear bomb was roundly rejected by his own foreign intelligence agency.
The ‘Spy Cables,’ leaked to Al Jazeera and the Guardian by an unknown whistleblower, include hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s major intelligence services, making it one of the largest document dumps in recent years. The files, which span the years 2006 to 2014, include leaks from South African intelligence, as well as from the spy agencies of the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Oman and other nations.
In September 2012, Netanyahu delivered a dramatic address to the United Nations General Assembly, in which he infamously used a drawing of a cartoon bomb to assert that Iran was close to developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons and to urge the world to draw a “clear red line” to stop the Islamic Republic from getting nukes.
“It’s not a question of whether Iran will get the bomb. The question is at what stage can we stop Iran from getting the bomb,” said Netanyahu.
But according to a secret report shared with South African intelligence just weeks after the prime minister’s UN presentation, Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.” The discrepancy between Mossad’s assessment and Netanyahu’s claims raises serious questions about whether the Israeli leader has been misrepresenting the purported Iranian threat for purposes other than promoting Israel’s national security.
By the time Netanyahu had made his UN claims, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Meir Dagan, the outgoing Mossad chief, Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, head of Israeli military intelligence, and Leon Panetta, then US secretary of state, had all stated that Iran was not working to develop nuclear weapons. The 2011 US National Intelligence Estimate assessment, a consensus of America’s 16 spy agencies, concurred.
While the newly-leaked cache involves mostly exchanges between South African intelligence and other nations’ spy agencies—it confirms, for example, that South Africa’s former apartheid regime collaborated with Israel to develop their nuclear arsenals, other major revelations include:
-The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was “desperate” to contact the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, despite an official US prohibition on negotiating with what it considers terrorist groups.
-US President Barack Obama threatened Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to coerce him to withdraw his nation’s bid for UN recognition.
-South African intelligence assessments accuse Israel of operating “cynically” and with “arrogance” throughout Africa, actions which include “fueling insurrection,” “appropriating diamonds” and even sabotaging Egypt’s water supply by developing water-absorbing plants that could reduce the flow of the Nile, the lifeblood of a nation with which Israel is at peace.
-South Korean intelligence targeted the head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, as a potential security threat ahead of the 2010 G20 summit in Seoul.
Unlike the SIGINT (signals intelligence), the electronic data leaked by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, the latest leak deals with HUMINT, or human intelligence, the interpersonal affairs of various actors among global intelligence agencies, their associates and their targets.
The revelations come amid high tensions between President Obama and Netanyahu, who will address a joint session of Congress on March 3. Some Democrats have signaled that they will boycott the prime minister’s address, which was arranged not through the White House, as is customary, but rather through Republican leaders in Congress.
Netanyahu, who has long insisted that Iran was close to being able to build a nuclear bomb, is expected to discuss the alleged Iranian threat before Congress, part of an ongoing effort to drum up support for military action targeting the Islamic Republic.
Obama has announced he will not meet with Netanyahu while he is in Washington, citing the close proximity of Israeli elections and a desire to avoid the perception of US interference in Israeli politics.