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Update Tues Nov 30th: The Guardian omitted some of the Israel-related cables. I will update this post during the course of the next few days to include them.
As expected, secret US embassy cables have been leaked by WikiLeaks, and the media and blogosphere are all over it.
Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of time that many others seem to have. Nevertheless, using The Guardian’s search-by-country feature, I managed to summarize the Israel-related cables.
Summary: Israel urges international pressure on Tehran but worries US may move towards a less tough EU position. Israel is aware that it will be harder to destroy Iranian nuclear sites than it was Iraq’s reactor in 1981. Expects Iran to hit back at coalition forces in Iraq and the Gulf and launch terrorist attacks
Key Passage: Public speculation about possible military strikes usually focuses on the differences from the Israeli Air Force’s attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981. In private, GOI officials have acknowledged that several factors would make any attack against Iran a much more difficult mission. A senior military intelligence official told the Embassy that the GOI does not know where all of the targets are located and said that any attack would only delay, not end, the Iranian program.
Summary: Meir Dagan, the Mossad chief, tells US congressmen that the EU nuclear dialogue with Iran will fail. Israel believes Arab foreign fighters are returning from Iraq to their homes in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria and Sudan to start new insurgencies
Key Passage: Dagan stressed that it is similarities rather than differences that are at the heart of the GOI-U.S. intelligence relationship, particularly on Iran. The facts themselves are not in dispute, Dagan continued, adding that the U.S. and Israeli assessments of Iran’s intentions and plans are largely in accord. Iran has decided to go nuclear, Dagan said, and nothing will stop it. Dagan predicted that the EU dialogue with Iran will not succeed and that the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions would eventually go to the UN Security Council.
Summary: The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, briefed that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, believed negotiations with Syria would be a trap as Damascus would use them to end international pressure on it and gain a freer hand in Lebanon. No negotiations would be possible until Syria reduced support for terrorism and/or took steps to secure the release of Israelis held by Hamas and Hezbollah.
Key Passage: Iran’s nuclear program continues to cause great anxiety in Israel. Given their history, Israelis across the political spectrum take very seriously Ahmadinejad’s threats to wipe Israel off the map. Olmert has been quite clear in his public comments that Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, a position stated even more emphatically by opposition leader Netanyahu, who compares today’s Iran to Nazi Germany in 1938.
Summary: Representative Gary Ackerman (D, New York), Chairman of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, accompanied by the Ambassador, met with Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu at the Knesset April 11. The discussion covered Netanyahu’s ideas on how to pressure Iran in order to block its nuclear program and topple President Ahmadinejad; Netanyahu’s views on dealing with the Palestinians; his critique of Prime Minister Olmert’s handling of the Second Lebanon War; and Netanyahu’s analysis of Israel’s domestic political situation. On Iran, Netanyahu advocated intensified financial pressures, including a U.S.-led divestment effort focused largely on European companies that invest in Iran, as the best way to topple Ahmadinejad. On the Palestinians, Netanyahu did not object to supporting President Abbas but said Israel and the U.S. should first focus more on “strangling” Hamas. Netanyahu asserted that Israel’s mishandling of the Lebanon war had strengthened Israel’s enemies. He predicted that Olmert would not be able to stay in power much longer, then described several different mechanisms for forming a new government. Netanyahu expressed confidence that the Israeli public recognized that he had been right, that unilateral withdrawals were a mistake, and that the priority now must be stopping Iran. Netanyahu noted that he thought dropping the “right of return” was the acid test of Arab intentions and insisted that he would never allow a single Palestinian refugee to return to Israel.
Summary: US homeland security chief briefs that Israel wants a concerted international effort to enforce UN resolutions in Lebanon as a means of removing Syria from Iranian influence. Spy chief says Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states all fear Iran but want someone else “to do the job”.
Key Passage: Dagan characterized Qatar as “a real problem,” and accused Sheikh Hamid of “annoying everyone.” In his view, Qatar is trying to play all sides — Syria, Iran, Hamas — in an effort to achieve security and some degree of independence. “I think you should remove your bases from there…seriously,” said Dagan. “They have confidence only because of the U.S. presence.” Dagan predicted, with some humor, that al-Jazeera would be the next cause of war in the Middle East as some Arab leaders (specifically Saudi Arabia) are willing to take drastic steps to shut down the channel, and hold Sheikh Hamid personally responsible for its provocations.
Summary: US undersecretary of state Nick Burns thanked by Mossad chief Meir Dagan for agreement providing Israel with US$30bn in security assistance from 2008-2018 and guarantees its “qualitative military edge” over any enemies. Laconic reference to “covert measures” against Iran.
Key Passage: Dagan urged more attention on regime change, asserting that more could be done to develop the identities of ethnic minorities in Iran. He said he was sure that Israel and the U.S. could “change the ruling regime in Iran, and its attitude towards backing terror regimes.” He added, “We could also get them to delay their nuclear project. Iran could become a normal state.”
Summary: General Omar Soliman, head of Egyptian intelligence, tells US ambassador that Cairo will keep up pressure on Palestinian Islamist movement. He sees Iran as a “significant threat” to Egypt and advises other Arab countries to keep their distance from it
Key Passage: The bottom line for Hamas, according to Soliman, is that they must be forced to choose between remaining a resistance movement or joining the political process. They cannot have it both ways, he said.
He continued that the GOE would keep pressure on Hamas but will maintain “low-level” contacts with Hamas. Egypt, he said, wants Hamas isolated. The Qassam rocket attacks must stop. When they do stop, the GOE will ask Israel to “meet quiet with quiet.”
Summary: An Iranian with detailed knowledge of the country’s Red Crescent – the Islamic version of the Red Cross – says the government is using it as a cover for its agents in Iran, Lebanon and elsewhere around the Middle East, and to smuggle weapons. This is a serious allegation, in breach of Red Crescent’s strict neutrality.
Key Passage: The IRC again facilitated the entry of Qods force officers to Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah war in summer 2006.
Summary: A ‘national human intelligence collection directive’ on Palestinian issues sent from Washington to Middle East embassies calls for detailed information on the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as the intelligence capabilities of the Palestinian secret services.
Key Passage: Details of travel plans such as routes and vehicles used by Palestinian Authority leaders and HAMAS members
Summary: Stuart Levey of the US treasury tells Israeli officials that Barack Obama will continue efforts to combat terrorist financing and maintain a financial squeeze on Iran. Mossad chief Meir Dagan reports sanctions are beginning to have a negative effect on Tehran.
Key Passage: Dagan told Levey that the economic problems Iran is experiencing as a result of sanctions are encouraging debate within the regime. He said that in order to preserve the revolution, some key figures have begun to consider the need for change. The pressure is on, Dagan said, but he could not estimate when Iran would hit the brink
Summary: US secretary of state briefed by ambassador Margaret Scobie on key Arab ally, which feels it did not receive fair treatment from the Bush administration. President Hosni Mubarak told Senator George Mitchell that he did not oppose Washington talking with the Iranians, as long as “you don’t believe a word they say”.
Key Passage: The Egyptians have long felt that, at best, we take them for granted; and at worst, we deliberately ignore their advice while trying to force our point of view on them
Although the Egyptians will react well to overtures of respect and appreciation, Egypt is very often a stubborn and recalcitrant ally. In addition, Egypt’s self-perception as the “indispensable Arab state” is contingent on Egyptian effectiveness on regional issues, including Sudan, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Summary: CODEL Kyl, accompanied by the Ambassador, called on Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu April 6 in the first official U.S. meeting with Netanyahu since he formed a government. The main topics of discussion were stopping Iran’s nuclear program and Netanyahu’s approach to peace-making with the Palestinians. On Iran, Senator Kyl raised ways to increase the effect of sanctions, including possible legislation targeting Iranian imports of refined petroleum. Adopting a forceful stance, Netanyahu asked repeatedly what the U.S. plans to do if sanctions and engagement fail to stop Iran’s program. Calling Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb a world-changing event, Netanyahu said all other issues become insignificant by comparison. On the Palestinians, Netanyahu reviewed his intent to pursue a three-track approach with political, economic, and security aspects. While noting that his government is conducting a review of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, Netanyahu asserted that there is agreement within the government and among 80% of Israelis that the Palestinians should be able to rule themselves, but with limits imposed by Israel’s security requirements. Netanyahu said the only difference between his position and that of opposition leader Tzipi Livni is over the name of the goal, i.e. the two-state solution. In response to comments by Senator Sessions that the Palestinian Authority needs functioning courts and jails as well as police, Netanyahu agreed but said he had not yet focused much on Palestinian governance issues. Netanyahu said he wants to show the Palestinians the benefits of peace, but with the proviso that if Iran goes nuclear, peace will fail. Predicting that his government would pleasantly surprise many critics, Netanyahu concluded that he hopes to come up with a common approach with President Obama.
Summary: Israel’s military intelligence chief, Major General Amos Yadlin, gives visiting US congressman the latest assessment of Iran’s nuclear intentions. “Israel is not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised like the US was on 11 September 2001,” he says.
Key Passage: Iran is in the position of wanting to pay only a minimum cost for its current program. It does not want to be North Korea or what Iraq was before 2003. Iran intends to keep resolutions and sanctions at a certain manageable level and continue to produce low enriched uranium until there is enough for several bombs. MG Yadlin stated that Iran could decide to produce a bomb by 2010, but Iran is waiting for the right time in the future and that there are some who will always doubt it despite the evidence.
Summary: Israeli defence minister warns that failure to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons will trigger an arms race in the region. He estimates that the window of opportunity to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions is about to close.
Key Passage: Barak estimated a window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable. After that, he said, any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage. He also expressed concern that should Iran develop nuclear capabilities, other rogue states and/or terrorist groups would not be far behind.
Summary: US assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs Andrew Shapiro hears Israeli concerns over the transfer of F-15SA fighters to Saudi Arabia and weapons for the Lebanese army. Israel says it understands US intentions to arm moderate Arab states in the region to counter the Iranian threat.
Key Passage: GOI interlocutors attempted to make the argument that moderate Arab countries could in the future become adversaries — and that this should be taken into account in the QME process. During a roundtable discussion led by the MFA’s Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar, the MFA’s Center for Policy Research gave intelligence briefs on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon to further support the argument that these countries could become future foes. Policy Research Center interlocutors reviewed succession concerns in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Bar argued that a perceived closure in the capability gap between Israel and Arab states, coupled with a nuclear-armed Iran, could compel moderate Arab states to reassess the notion that Israel was a fixture in the region
Summary: On November 1 and 2, Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for International Security Affairs, Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, met with a number of senior Israeli defense officials in Israel including: Ministry of Defense (MOD) Director General (DG)Pinchas Buchris; Head of MOD Political Military Bureau Amos Gilad; Assistant Chief of Defense Major General (MG) Benny Gantz; and Head of MOD Intelligence Analysis Production Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz. The Israelis expressed positive views on continued U.S.-Israel cooperation particularly on Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) and the ongoing Juniper Cobra missile defense exercise. Israeli officials explained that they were going through an unprecedented period of calm due to the deterrent effect of Operation CAST LEAD, but that below the surface were a number of significant dangers. They continued to emphasize that Iran represents the greatest strategic threat to the region, both its nuclear program and its “axis” with Syria, Hezbollah, and HAMAS. They also expressed skepticism about Palestinian President Abbas’s future, given his weakened position as a result of his handling of the Goldstone Report and his inability to get the full settlement freeze he had pushed for; they questioned his ability to restart peace negotiations. Israeli officials were concerned about the deteriorating Turkey-Israel relationship and discussed threats emanating from both Syria and Lebanon.
Summary: Senior officials from the US and Israel meet in Tel Aviv to discuss how to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over all potential enemies, and to co-ordinate approaches to tackling Iran’s nuclear programme after the disclosure of the nuclear facility in Qom.
Key Passage: The GOI described 2010 as a critical year — if the Iranians continue to protect and harden their nuclear sites, it will be more difficult to target and damage them. Both sides then discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.
Summary: US engagement with Tehran is not “open ended”, a senior state department official reassures the Israeli defence establishment. A nuclear-armed Iran will “impact the stability of the world”, the Israelis warn, saying Obama’s attempts at dialogue with Tehran are “Iran’s last chance”.
Key Passage: A representative from Mossad said Tehran understands that by reacting positively to engagement, Iran can continue to “play for time” and avoid sanctions while pursuing its strategic objective to obtain a military nuclear capability. From Mossad’s perspective, there is no reason to believe Iran will do anything but use negotiations to stall for time so that by 2010-2011, Iran will have the technological capability to build a nuclear weapon — essentially reducing the question of weaponizing to a political decision.
Summary: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher visited Israel December 1-2. U/S Tauscher focused her visit on setting the stage for a successful Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon) in May 2010. She consulted with GOI interlocutors on potential strategy in addressing Egyptian insistence on pushing for the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, as a way to divert attention from Iran to Israel.
U/S Tauscher reiterated that the United States will not take any action to compromise Israel’s security and would consult closely with Israel — which GOI officials greatly appreciated. Nevertheless, U/S Tauscher said the United States is interested in exploring possible small steps involving Israel to address some of Egypt’s NWFZ concerns regarding the lack of implementation of the 1995 resolution. GOI officials for the most part were critical of these tactics, questioning why Israel should be portrayed as part of the problem. They recommended a more direct approach to President Mubarak — thereby circumventing the Egyptian MFA — in which Egypt is reminded that Iran is the regional nuclear threat. Other topics discussed include President Obama’s arms control and nonproliferation agenda, the P5 1 process and Iran’s nuclear program, the FMCT and CTBT, Jordan’s plans for a nuclear reactor, and Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME).
Summary: CODEL Skelton met with Prime Minister Netanyahu November 16 at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. Their discussion covered Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama the previous week, Netanyahu’s interest in resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear program and options for tougher sanctions, possible negotiations with Syria, U.S.-Israeli cooperation on missile defense, and Israel’s objections to the Goldstone Report.
Netanyahu said his meeting with the President was the best meeting that they have had. He stressed that he had told the President that he is ready to negotiate with Abu Mazen now, and contrasted Israel’s position with the PA’s setting of preconditions for negotiations. Netanyahu listed steps the GOI has taken to support Abu Mazen, noting that the PA is “doing a good job” on security. A nuclear Iran, however, would “wash away” all progress as well as undermining Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. Netanyahu said that Iran is vulnerable to sanctions and urged the U.S. to increase the pressure on Iran, with likeminded countries if Russia and China will not support new sanctions in the Security Council. Netanyahu commented that there is broader Arab and European support for tough sanctions than in the past, although the Arabs may not say so publicly. Netanyahu praised President Obama’s commitment to missile defense, and commented that U.S.-Israeli cooperation on missile defense sends a strong signal to Israel’s enemies. He thanked the CODEL for the Congress’ support. Netanyahu said Israel faces three main threats: Iran’s nuclear program, the build-up of rockets and missiles in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and the Goldstone Report, which condemned Israel for defending its civilian population from years of rocket attacks. Netanyahu said Israel will need to ensure that a future Palestinian state cannot launch rockets at Israel’s international airport or critical facilities.
Summary: Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the amir of Qatar, tells Senator John Kerry, chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, that the US must do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He suggests the best way is to reach out to Syria and insists Iran cannot be trusted
Key Passage: The Amir cautioned that the Syrians will not accept everything the U.S. proposes, stressing that the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights continues and that the return of this land to Syria is paramount for Damascus. The Amir observed that the “Syrians have lost confidence in the U.S. and that the Israelis now have the upper hand in the region because of the support of the United States.” The Israeli leaders need to represent the people of Israel, who themselves do not trust Arabs. The Amir said this is understandable and “we can’t blame them” because the Israelis have been “under threat” for a long time.
The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100.