AFP – February 1, 2012
The head of Israel’s intelligence service paid a secret visit to Washington last week to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, the CIA director and a top U.S. lawmaker said Tuesday.
Mossad chief Tamir Pardo flew to the U.S. capital to consult with his American counterparts amid speculation over a possible Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, CIA director David Petraeus and Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed at a congressional hearing.
Sensitive trips by intelligence chiefs are usually kept secret but Ms. Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, mentioned Mr. Pardo’s visit at a televised hearing as she discussed how Israel views Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Well, the vice-chairman and I have just met this past week with the director of Mossad, so that is a classified meeting,” Ms. Feinstein said at the hearing.
The Central Intelligence Agency director confirmed the meeting and said he was frequently talking to Israel’s leaders, who he said viewed Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential threat.”
“Like you, obviously, I met with the head of Mossad when he was here,” Mr. Petraeus said.
“That is part of an ongoing dialogue that has also included conversations that I’ve had with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and with [Defense] Minister [Ehud] Barak — the latter almost on a monthly basis in the nearly five months that I’ve been in the job,” he said.
CIA Director David Petraeus, testifies before the US Senate Intelligence Committee during a full committee hearing on “World Wide Threats” on Tuesday.
Ms. Feinstein cited her meeting with the Mossad director after asking U.S. intelligence chiefs about the likelihood of possible pre-emptive military action by Israel against Iran’s nuclear sites.
U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper replied that sanctions would hopefully convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear work but said he would prefer to answer the question in a closed-door session.
Israeli officials have sent conflicting messages about potential military strikes on Iran.
President Shimon Peres on Tuesday reaffirmed that “no option should be excluded against the program of Iran, which seeks to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”
“The regime of the ayatollahs is the most corrupt in the world, from a moral point of view,” Mr. Peres told a conference in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.
The United States and other Western governments accuse Iran of seeking an atomic weapons capability, something Tehran has always denied.
Israeli leaders fear a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state, which has the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal.
Some Israeli media reported in October last year that the option of pre-emptive air strikes on Iran was opposed by the country’s intelligence services but favored by Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak.
Comment – February 2, 2012
There are NO indications that Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon. IF it had a compliant media certainly would have told us about it. They haven’t. Thus far the sum total of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear ambitions is that they want to keep that option open.
That option means that if Iran DOES decide it needs a nuclear weapon it can build one at short notice. And given the ongoing threats from nuclear armed Israel and America, who can blame them…
Feinstein offers peek at U.S.-Israeli talks on Iran
Greg Miller – Washington Post Feb 1, 2012
Open intelligence hearings on Capitol Hill are never completely open. Lawmakers and witnesses try to stick to what’s safe to say in public, without disclosing details on espionage operations or what’s happening behind the scenes in Washington.
But a bit of that backdrop was exposed on Tuesday, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and CIA Director David H. Petraeus mentioned their meetings last week with the head of Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad.
Feinstein, chairman of the committee, followed up her reference to Mossad chief Tamir Pardo by saying that she thought the public deserves to know what inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency uncover in their examination of Iran’s nuclear program.
A facts-based debate is critical, Feinstein said, “when you have a situation where one country views this as an existential threat. They believe it’s their survival. They are determined not to let it happen.”
Petraeus replied that he too had met with Pardo, and has been in dialogue with other senior Israeli officials “almost on a monthly basis in the nearly five months that I’ve been in the job.”
The discussions offer a glimpse into the delicate U.S.-Israeli relationship at a time when there are mounting concerns that Israel may launch a military strike — perhaps this year — to stop Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb.
A series of mysterious events — including explosions at Iranian missile facilities, assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, and a cyber attack on Iran’s largest uranium enrichment plant — suggest to some that a covert campaign has already begun.
Was the United States involved in those? Has it provided support to Israeli sabotage efforts? Do U.S. officials know whether Mossad carried out those attacks? If those questions came up in their meetings, Feinstein and Petraeus didn’t say.
U.S. officials including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have denied a U.S. role in “any kind of act of violence inside Iran.” The importance of conveying that message was underscored by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper’s warning that Iran now seems willing to launch retaliatory terrorist attacks inside the United States.
As to whether Iran actually intends to build a nuclear weapon, Clapper’s answer tracked with what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded for several years. “They are certainly moving on that path,” Clapper said. “But we – we don’t believe they’ve actually made a decision to go ahead.”