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Saudis Bankrolling Israel’s Mossad: More confirmation?

11:24 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (then Crown Prince) with George W. Bush (then President), 2002

In October 12, 2012, I speculated there was a strong likelihood that Saudi Arabia was bankrolling Israel’s Mossad. Those funds paid for, among other things, the assassinations of several of Iran’s top nuclear experts over the past couple of years. That cooperation was, I wrote, the latest bizarre development in a clandestine alliance between the Zionist State of Israel and Saudi Arabia, guardian of Islam’s most holy site.

The Huffington Post refused to run that blog because I only had one source, which I was not allowed to name. Instead, I posted it on my own and other sites.

That blog went viral, particularly in Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where it was picked up by several news agencies. Now that claim has received new backing from a reputable Israeli source. But before getting to that, here is my original blog.

A friend, with good sources in the Israeli government, claims that the head of Israel’s Mossad has made several trips to deal with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia—one of the results: an agreement that the Saudis would bankroll the series of assassinations of several of Iran’s top nuclear experts that have occurred over the past couple of years. The amount involved, my friend claims, was $1 billion dollars. A sum, he says, the Saudis considered cheap for the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program.

At first blush, the tale sounds preposterous. On the other hand. it makes eminent sense. The murky swamp of Middle East politics has nothing to do with the easy slogans and 30 second sound bites of presidential debates.

After all, nowhere more than in the Middle East does the maxim hold true: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And both Israel and the Saudis have always detested Iran’s Shiite fundamentalist leaders. The feeling is mutual. Tehran has long been accused of stirring up trouble among Saudi’s restless Shiites.

Israeli and Saudi leaders particularly fear Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Thus, it would only be natural that (along with the U.S.) they would back a coordinated program to at least slow up, if not permanently cripple, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

It also makes perfect sense, that, in retaliation for the cyber attacks on their centrifuges, the Iranians reportedly launched their own cyber attack on a Saudi state-owned target: Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable company. Last August 15th, someone with privileged access to Aramco’s computers was able to unleash a virus that wreaked havoc with the company’s systems. U.S. intelligence experts point their finger at Tehran.

Indeed, a report earlier this year by Tel Aviv University cites Saudi Arabia as the last hope and defense line for Israel. With most of Israel’s traditional allies in the region sent packing or undermined by the Arab Spring, the Saudis are the Jewish State’s last chance to protect its political interests in the Arab world.

Now comes further confirmation of that strange alliance, from Richard Silverstein’s excellent blog Tikun Olam. Silverstein gets many of his scoops from Israeli reporters, often confiding information they’re not allowed to report in Israel. Silverstein also closely monitors the Israeli media.

He has been following the close cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia in targeting Syria and Iran. In his latest log he reports,

Shalom Yerushalmi, writing in Maariv, dropped an even more amazing bombshell.

Saudi Arabia isn’t just coordinating its own intelligence efforts with Israel. It’s actually financing a good deal of Israel’s very expensive campaign against Iran. As you know, this has involved massive sabotage against IRG missile bases, the assassination of five nuclear scientists, the creation of a series of computer cyber weapons like Stuxnet and Flame. It may also conceivably involve an entire class of electronic and conventional weapons that could be used in a full-scale attack on Iran. Who knows, this might even include the sorts of bunker buster bombs only the U.S. currently has access to, which could penetrate the Fordo facility. It might include scores more super-tankers which could provide the fuel necessary for Israeli planes to make it to Iran and return. All of this is expensive. Very expensive.

As background to his story, Yerushalmi, cited a recent speech by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Nethanyahu, referring to the possibility that Arab states, which privately maintain better relations with Israel today than does the European Union, would do so publicly if peace were to break out.

“Nethanyahu,” wrote the Israeli reporter, “referred almost certainly to Saudi Arabia which finances the expenses of the enormous campaign which we are conducting against Iran.”

“The question” Silverstein writes in his blog, “is how far is Saudi Arabia willing to go. If Bibi ever decided to launch an attack, would the Sunni nation fund that as well? The answer seems clearly to be yes.

The next question is, given there is airtight military censorship in Israel, why did the censor allow Maariv to publish this? Either someone was asleep at the switch or the IDF and Israel’s political and intelligence officials want the world to know of the Saudi-Israeli effort. Who specifically do they want to know? Obama, of course. In the event the nuclear talks go south, Bibi wants Obama to know there’s a new Sugar Daddy in town. No longer will Israel have only the U.S. to rely on if it decides to go to war. Saudi Arabia will be standing right behind….

I don’t think this news substantially alters the military calculus. Israel, even with unlimited funding, still can’t muster the weapons and armaments it would need to do the job properly. That will take time. But Israel isn’t going to war tomorrow. This news reported in Maariv is presumably Bibi playing one card from his hand. It’s an attempt to warn the president that the U.S. is no longer the only game in town. Personally, it’s the sort of huffing and puffing that I can’t imagine plays well in Washington. But it’s the way Bibi plays the game.

Barry Lando has just written a mystery, The Watchman’s File, about an American reporter attempting to unravel Israel’s most closely guarded secret. (It’s not the bomb). Available on Amazon in soft-cover and Kindle format. Read the rest of this entry →

Iran’s Nukes: The 2 elephants in the room.

4:05 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister, 1959.

You want chutzpah? This is chutzpah: an Oped piece this week in the New York Times by a prominent Israel journalist, Ari Shavit, lambasting George W. Bush—not Barack Obama—for the fact that Iran is on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power. Instead of going after Iraq in 2003, says Shavit, instead of fatally draining Americas’s resources and prestige, Bush should have organized a coordinated coalition of powers to throttle a much weaker Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Where’s the chutzpah? Well, for one thing, if you want to blame an American president for failing to prevent nuclear weapons being introduced into the Middle East—and then passively accepting their presence–the list of culprits begins with Dwight D. Eisenhower, and continues through just about every American President since.

The nuclear weapons we’re talking about are not Iran’s feared–but not yet existing-devices, but Israel’s very real nuclear arsenal.  Somehow Shavit, like most Israeli and American commentators analyzing the standoff with Iran, never gets around to the fact that Israel has had nuclear weapons for the past half a century.

The New York Time’s Tom Friedman—who also rarely mentions Israel’s nukes–points out that we’re right to distrust Iran’s assurances, because its government “has lied and cheated its way to the precipice of building a bomb.”  That’s an excellent description of the tactics Israel used to obtain its nuclear arsenal.  But it would never have succeeded without the willingness of so many leaders—American and others—to turn their back to what was going on.

For instance, in 1963-64, Argentina played a major role in providing Israel with 80-100 tons of uranium oxide (“yellowcake”) vital for Israel’s clandestine nuclear program.

Those secret Argentine shipments were quickly discovered by Canadian intelligence officials in 1964, who passed on the news to their British and American colleagues, who passed it on to their civilian leaders. That revelation cast strong doubts on Israel’s claims that its nuclear program was completely peaceful.

So, what happened? “In response to U.S. carefully worried diplomatic queries about the sale, the government of Israel spent years dancing around any straightforward replies. The U.S. and its allies showed no appetite to seriously challenge Israel’s on-going evasions.

Theirs, as I’ve previously blogged, was the continuation of an ostrich-like policy that began under Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950’s—and continues to this day.

As Seymour Hersh chronicled in “The Sampson Option,” in 1958 or 1959 America’s U2 spy planes spotted what looked almost certainly to be a nuclear reactor being built at Dimona in southern Israel. Two analysts rushed the raw images to the White House, expecting urgent demands from the Oval Office for more information: this was, after all, a development that could initiate a disastrous nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

But there was absolutely no follow-up from the White House.

“By the end of 1959,” writes Hersh, “the two analysts had no doubts that Israel was going for the bomb. They also had no doubts that President Eisenhower and his advisers were determined to look the other way.”

France—which is now in the forefront of nations demanding that Iran forswear the right to enrich uranium to its end–was also secretly helping the Israel build its nuclear facilities.

When the Eisenhower administration finally acted indirectly–leaking word of Dimona and France’s involvement to the New York Times in December 1960, Israel’s David Ben Gurion flatly denied the Times report.

He assured American officials –as well as the Israeli Knesset–that the Dimona reactor was completely benign. French officials guaranteed that any plutonium produced at Dimona would be returned to France for safekeeping (another lie).

The Eisenhower administration, however, had no stomach to take on Israel and its American lobby. Despite the continued reports of CIA analysts, Ben Gurion’s denials went unchallenged.

That hypocrisy remains official American policy—and mainline media coverage of Israel–to this day: a wink and a nod about Israel’s nuclear program. .

The hardnosed attitude is: Yeah, o.k. the Israelis have nukes. But, what the hell. They’re threatened with extinction by their neighbors, like that half-crazed Iranian-leader whatshisname? Amunjihad?, and terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas, eager to wipe Israel off the map.

The fact, however, is that Israel also has its share of  political crazies, some of whom have been increasingly powerful over the last few years, crazies who have talked openly of using nuclear weapons on Iran, and continue to advocate a Greater Israel free of all Arabs. And as far as attacking its neighbors, Israel has invaded Lebanon twice over the past few years, swarmed into Gaza, bombed and carried out air strikes in Iraq and Syria,

But it’s not just Israel’s nuclear weapons that are only whispered about in Washington, there’s another elephant in the room: the major force driving U.S. policy on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program is not cool, rational logic, but the pro-Israel lobby.

Twenty years ago, when we did a report at Sixty Minutes on the most influential part of that lobby, AIPAC, not a single sitting senator or congressman would talk to us on the record; though all agreed on the lobby’s enormous power, second only to the NRA. (As if to prove the point, when our report aired, it generated more vicious calls and condemnation than any other report I’d ever done. )

Twenty years later, the issue of the pro-Israel lobby is still so sensitive that the New York Time’s Tom Friedman, created a sensation of sorts by stating a fact that that most mainstream columnists have are still leery of tackling.

“Never,” Friedman wrote, “have I seen more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — more willing to take Israel’s side against their own president’s. I’m certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.”

For his efforts, Friedman’s column was viciously and immediately attacked by the usual suspects, with the usual charges.

[MJ Rosenberg, who spent 20 years dealing with AIPAC as an aide to a senator and several House members, has also written several accounts of Aipac’s influence. “Initially,” he wrote, “I felt like a voice in the wilderness.”

The bottom line is this — whatever your view about Iran or Israel’s right to nuclear weapons — how can statesmen or reporters or anyone seriously discuss the current crisis over Iran when a key part of the dispute is officially hidden from view?

How can the U.S. and Israel deal with proposals for non-proliferation and a nuclear free Middle East when they still refuse officially to acknowledge that the region is not nuclear free — and hasn’t been for the past 50 years?

How can they discuss and vote on these issues intelligently when many of the congressional players are acting not for the good of the country or the Middle East but according to the wishes of a very narrow and partisan lobby—whose influence many won’t even acknowledge?

Barry Lando has just recently finished a novel “The Watchman’s File” about the attempts of an American TV reporter to unravel the secret behind Israel’s most powerful weapon (it’s not the bomb). The book is available on Amazon in soft cover and Kindle edition.

Photo by Cohen Fritz, public domain

Iran: When a U.S. President Tried to Muzzle 60 Minutes

9:13 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

In his address to the U.N. a few days ago, President Obama came the closest any American leaders has come to acknowledging America’s shameful legacy with Iran: overthrowing a democratically- elected government, installing a corrupt, repressive dictatorship in its place. It was something of an apology-almost. In fact more than 30 years ago, during the hostage crisis, another American President, Jimmy Carter attempted to block a 60 Minutes broadcast that also suggested the U.S. owed Iran something of an apology.

60 Minutes logo

President Carter tried to block a 60 Minutes program on Iran.

At the time, I had already made several reporting trips to Iran for 60 Minutes; had met its young revolutionaries; knew of the past relations between Iran and the U.S. — of the close ties between the Shah’s secret police — the Savak — and the CIA. It was not difficult to understand the volatile anti-American emotions that had exploded with the revolution. They were being stoked by Khomeini’s more extremist followers. They had organized the taking of 54 American Embassy hostages to undermine the moderates in the new chaotic regime, and advance their own radical cause.

Indeed, the anti-Iranian outrage provoked by the hostage-taking was boiling in the United States. In Washington, I was shocked to see stickers on every door up and down the corridors of the State Department hallways backing “The 54”, and a huge billboard on in New York, right up the block from CBS, with the most diabolical image of Khomeini, glowering over 57th street. Americans I spoke with seemed to lack any understanding of the history and emotion driving the Iranians. I suggested we do a crash report on the subject for 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace and our executive producer, Don Hewitt, agreed.

Over the next four days, we stitched together a very strong segment based on a series of interviews in New York and Washington. Former officials from the State Department and the CIA gave vivid first hand accounts of the extremely close cooperation between the U.S. and the regime of the Shah, despite the mounting evidence of torture and corruption under his rule.

Jesse Leaf, for instance, a former CIA analyst, said that early on in the 70′s he had wanted to write a report on torture in Iran but was ordered not to. “You’d have to be blind deaf and dumb and a presidential candidate not to know there was torture going on in Iran, “Leaf said. “We knew what was happening and we did nothing about it, and I was told not to do anything about it. By definition, an enemy of the Shah was an enemy of the CIA. We were friends. This was a very close relationship between the United States and Iran.”

Another former CIA officer, Richard Cottam, also condemned the U.S. for turning a blind eye to the excesses of the Shah, and refusing to deal with minority opposition groups. Such were the policy guidelines, he said, laid down by Henry Kissinger.

Mike Wallace asked: “What you seem to be saying, Professor Cottam, is that when the question ‘Who lost Iran?’ is finally asked, Henry Kissinger is at the top of your culprit’s list.”

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