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Hichem Karoui: Spies, murders and secret wars
July 22, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

It is well the American intelligence services identified the suicide-bomber who had carried out the attack of Burgas  (July 18) as a “member of a Hizbollah cell operating in Bulgaria,” according to The New York Times (July 19). Israel’s own assertions have been, thus, confirmed.

What did Israeli and US intelligence services provide as evidence for their charges against Hizbollah and Iran? The question is still there. But maybe they think there is no need to answer.

In the shady world of wars between opposite spy services, every party knows his part and the part of the adversary in any case. The Israelis and the Americans have probably their reason to declare publicly that the attack was led under an Iranian steering, and the reason was they have struck the Iranians well before the attack in Burgas that killed five Israelis. Thus, they think the Burgas case was simply retaliation.

Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting on the Burgas bombing, admitted that a secret war was going on between Israel and Iran. He particularly mentioned “a number of attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli targets, in Thailand, Georgia, India, Greece, Cyprus, and other countries.”  The Israeli newspapers that reported the PM’s comment also reported a US anonymous official cited by The New York Times saying: “This was tit for tat.”

That was equal to saying: “We were expecting it, since we know what we’ve done to them!” The French dictum says: C’est de bonne guerre! (It is just fair war). This may also be taken as a tacit acknowledgement of the close cooperation between the Israeli and the US services about the targeting of Iranian scientists.

It is the story of the very intriguing book published recently by two Israeli authors: Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars. In their introduction, the authors say that Israel’s goal now “is to win – or, thinking of Iran, to distract and delay the enemy’s most dangerous plans – without committing large numbers of troops and planes, and without putting a major part of the Israeli population at risk from attacks by hostile neighbours’ forces.”  Thereupon, they add that their book “will reveal more than Israel has ever been willing to declare publicly about assassinations as a tool, about its flattening in 2007 of a nuclear reactor in Syria, and about the sabotage and murders aimed at choking Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

From 2002 to 2010, the head of Mossad was Meir Dagan. One of his most important tasks was to stop Iran before it builds a nuclear bomb. According to Raviv and Melman, before leaving Mossad in December 2010, Dagan made some revelations to the media that were intended to be off the record, but finished widely published. His revelations indisposed and embarrassed the Israeli establishment. Some were about the CIA-Mossad hatched plans to stop Iran’s nuclear programme, including the Stuxnet virus and the targeting of Iranian scientists.

Anyway, there is no doubt about the fact that Iran has since the revolution been suspected of terrorism. As far as 1985, a secret diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks in 2011, issued by the US Secretary of State and circulated over the US embassies, said: “Iranian-backed terrorist groups have been responsible for almost 30 attacks since September 1984. Iraq, France, and the United States continue to be the primary targets.” The cable also notes: “While most of the recent incidents attributable to Iranian-backed groups have occurred in the Middle East, there is ample evidence to indicate that Iranian operational activity is continuing in other parts of the world.”

This line of thought has been consistent in the United States under successive administrations.  We find the same pattern in several diplomatic cables about Iran. In 1996, during the Rafsanjani era, deemed to be more open to dialogue, a secret cable from the US Secretary of State to his embassies, described terrorism as “a tool of statecraft” in Iran. It said: “Since the clerics came to power, Iran and its surrogates have conducted kidnappings, assassinations, and bombings. Iran has also provided critical training, financing and arms to groups engaged in indiscriminate violence for political goals.”

Mostly, the Americans believe, as these cables show, that such activities “are conducted with full approval by the most senior levels of the Iranian government, who consider them to be legitimate tools of State policy.” One of the cables mentions the Intelligence and Security Ministry as first responsible for terrorist activities, “while the ministry of foreign affairs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards also play roles.” Besides, these activities are assumedly “supported by Iran’s Supreme Council for National Security,” whose membership includes the president, the Supreme Leader, and the ministers of foreign affairs, intelligence and justice.

It is noteworthy that such thinking was initially destined to inform and guide the ambassadors of the United States. Otherwise, it was not supposed to be a part of a broad anti-Iranian propaganda campaign, since the circulation of the cables was internally restricted. We have therefore no reason to think that a US Secretary of State was just “intoxicating” the staff of his department with these stories coming out of a bad thriller.

No. Beyond the media war still raging between the US, Israel and Iran, there are still real obsessions with highly explosive and delicate issues of security, and not one of them (ie the three parties) seems heading towards appeasing and trust-building over the years. Quite the contrary, suspicion has accumulated. Today, we see doubts, questions, and worries rising like mountains, and the three of them continue to build the tools and seek the means to destroy the adversary.

At this point, no real dialogue is possible, and today we are really facing the possibility of an all-out conflict. As the editorial of The Gulf Today (July 20) hinted, “Israel may have got its casus belli.” It may decide to act on its own or with the green light from Washington, although not everybody in DC would agree on such plans. For example, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski warned Newsmax.TV that a confrontation with Iran would be disastrous for the United States, lasting for years and possibly devastating America’s economy.

But who said that America itself would attack Iran?

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The author is an expert in US-Middle East
relations at the Arab Center for Research
and Policy Studies (Doha Institute)

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